Monday, September 24, 2007

We're home!

We're safe and sound and the kids are loving every minute of Sophie, as she is loving them. It's amazing how quickly we've all come to feel comfortable around each other and how normal it all seems! I am exhausted and ready for bed. Although we are home, our bags didn't make the connection (though we had to recheck them in DC, so we're confident that we'll actually get them!). Once I get my cords to connect the cameras and computer, I will post many more pictures of our trip. I will also post about the final day and other thoughts. Thanks so much for all of your good wishes and prayers for our safe return home - it's been so nice knowing how many people are out there cheering us on!!

Day 5 - 9/23 & 9/24/2007

Well this is it, the last day – hard to believe that it’s the day that we go home today. Although I’m feeling like there must be so much more for us to see and do, I am definitely ready to get back to the kids and our own life. I think that “best pizza outside of Italy” finally put me over the edge, so today I will be having Immodium, water and bread all day long. At least if I starve myself for the day I know I can survive at least until we get home! This morning we laid low trying to sleep in, pack, etc. Basically, John had Eyasu take him to an Ethiopian Catholic mass (in English) while Sophie played and I packed. I did a little more souvenir shopping at the hotel – mostly books about Ethiopia that I had wanted to bring home. I had a lot of trouble finding any books at home on Ethiopia, so this would suffice. Some of the picture books are from 1995 and it looks like they must have had a “beautify Addis month” before the photos were taken. Granted, most of my pictures of the city are taken from the car window as we’re driving past the scenes, but it still is a very poor, run-down city.

At noon we headed back to the Gladney baby house for more pictures (I forgot to get any of the actual house and rooms during our whirlwind visit last time) and some last minute loving of Baby Zoe and the Mestas twins. Sophie’s primary caregiver, Almaz, was working today, so I was happy to be able to get a proper goodbye and more pictures with her. The twins were practicing sitting up and playing, which was very cute. There is so little space in the rooms (especially because they are in the middle of painting the upstairs, so 3 rooms worth of cribs and babies are in 2 rooms until that’s done), that I don’t think they get much time to practice sitting up, etc, so it was good to see that. We got lots of pictures and videos and then it was time to say goodbye. I don’t know who actually started, but saying goodbye to Almaz was one of the hardest goodbyes this week. We both were crying pretty hard and not wanting to let go. I’ve said it before, but it is so amazing to know how much your child was loved before you were able to get to her. We are so very lucky.

The outside of the baby home
The back - laundry day!
One of the three crib rooms - freshly painted
The many wonderful caregivers - many of whom were once orphans themselves.

Dear Almaz
Next stop was at the older Gladney foster home again, but unfortunately, it was naptime. We did get to peek in and some of the older kids were still awake, so we got some hugs and smiles and let them rest. They are so darn cute – I really hope that there are families waiting to come scoop them up soon.
After we said our goodbyes, we headed to a circus! Basically, Lucas, the director of Kechene orphanage sponsors a circus for underpriveleged kids in Addis. They must practice quite a bit to keep them active and out of trouble and they were PHENOMENAL! There was lots of acrobatics and more dancing. The kids were performing these unbelievable feats with huge smiles on their faces. Happiness seems to be a national trait amongst these kids – truly amazing. At the end of the show, they had an auction for a circus poster. The entire auditorium was filled with Ethiopian families and although we were helping Belay bid for the poster, when they heard that Americans were trying to win the auction, they would NOT let the poster out of Ethiopia. Everyone was laughing and it was all in good fun – they were really just trying to get the proud Ethiopians in the audience to be the ones to bid it up and raise money for the children’s organization. Unfortunately, we could not understand most of the auction (which lasted longer than the circus itself), but what we did understand is that Belay is THE man. He was cheered and cheered each time he got on stage. At another point, Lucas insisted that a foreigner get up on stage to voice their opinion about the show. Well, let’s see…it was either John, a German woman that works for Kechene, or me (out of a few hundred people). Lucas didn’t want to hear from his own employee and there was no way John was going up, so that left little old, emotional me. I’m sure John would have won a lot of money if he were a betting man – yes, surprise, surprise, I cried. I brought Sophie up with me and basically just said how amazing the show was and how proud I am that my daughter is from such a beautiful and interesting place. Everyone cheered and John was very proud. And I was very glad the circus was over :)

After the circus, we only had two hours until we had to leave for the airport, so Ryan and Abby came to the hotel to say goodbye and introduce us to Enoch and Marta – their children. Enoch is 1½ and adorable. Abby said she’s always thought that there was something similar about he and Sophie and I definitely agree – I don’t know what, but they do look similar to me. Marta is about 9 and is beautiful – she was very good with both Enoch and Sophie. We still had some packing to do, so the visit was short, but it was nice to meet their children and to thank them again for all they do. I think that they have a very fulfilling, yet difficult job. They get to help all of these adorable children get forever homes and see their hard work come to fruition. On the other hand, they also have a lot of “entertaining” to do – and so much of it is repetitive – they continually host families like us for a week at a time and they also have their own children that need them all the time. I have the utmost respect for them and all of the Gladney employees that we have workedwith. We certainly couldn’t have done it without them and I will remember that every time our sweet Sophie smiles.

We were able to have a last meal outside at the Hilton (we both stuck with chicken nuggets and fries!) and then head to the airport. The trip home was as good as we could have expected. For a 17 hour flight, Sophie did MUCH better than we did! She had a great bassinet attached right to the bulkhead in front of our seats, so she was either asleep or eating in our laps. The only problem was that Ethiopian Airlines decided that we needed to eat (with EVERY light on and all eyes open) every two hours. It was very annoying to me – I wish that they would have just let us sleep more than two hours at a time.

Final dinner in Addis
We were so happy to have a welcoming crew in DC. Customs/Immigration took a little longer than normal since Sophie has an Ethiopian passport, but it really wasn’t bad. Once we cleared through and rechecked our bags, we were greeted by John’s oldest brother’s wife and two of his daughters. We were also joined my one of my oldest friends (from nursery school), Melanie. It was SO nice to see familiar faces and to introduce Sophie to her new extended family. After a quick lunch (it’s amazing how good airport food tastes after being afraid to eat anything for days on end), it was back on a plane. Unfortunately, we had to sit on the tarmac in DC for an hour with no A/C , and it was HOT!). We stripped Sophie down to her diaper in DC so that she didn’t sweat through her clothes. Anyone who knows me probably wonders whether I was tempted to do the same (only because I’m a sweater of course)! At this point, we were so anxious to get home to the kids that we really didn’t care what happened.

Obviously, the best part of the whole trip home was actually getting home. We called ahead so my mom brought the kids out to the back yard so she could greet us and grab the video camera so we could record their reactions. They were so surprised to see us and it was SO GOOD to see them! Will was napping, but Matt and Katie couldn’t have been cuter. They were so gentle with her and very anxious to hold her, etc. When William finally came downstairs, I almost didn’t recognize him. He looked SO big to me! I remember that the biggest Matthew has ever looked to me was the day he came to see Katie in the hospital on her birthday. I guess it’s the relative size that really blows you away. My 2-year-old is a big boy now. All three of them were great with Sophie. I think having her smile and laugh right away makes the transition much easier than having a newborn that does nothing but takes Mommy’s time away. Of course, they all get over that anyway and are probably better for it, but nothing could beat watching the three of them make Sophie laugh on day one!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Original Day 4

Once we got home, I moved this posting to include the pictures, but wanted to keep the comments!

Day 4 - 9/22/2007

This morning we started with our usual coffee (coffee originated in the Kaffe area of Ethiopia by the way, so it’s pretty tasty) and then went to the National Museum. The building itself is not very big, but we spent about 2 hours learning all about Lucy and the other pre-human and human fossils that have been discovered in Ethiopia. This is considered the cradle of humanity b/c of all the discoveries that have been made here. Ethiopians are EXTREMELY proud of their heritage and all that originated here – humankind, coffee, but they are not overbearing about it, just very matter-of-fact. They also believe that the original Arc of the Covenant (with the ten commandment tablets) is located here. We found out more about Sophie’s given name, Yordanos. She was actually born on the day that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river, and that is why she is named after this river. When we have told any Ethiopian that (especially the tour guides at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the National Museum), they are very happy for us and tell us how much more special that makes our little girl. After the museum, we went to the “best pizza restaurant outside of Italy”. It was certainly delicious, but after spending so many years in NYC I’m not totally convinced J The power kept flickering on and off because of very heavy rains. Since this was really the only day that we dealt with the rain for more than a few minutes, we really didn’t mind. Yesterday was absolutely beautiful – it felt like 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky.

Since it was so rainy and Sophie could use a nap in the crib rather than trekking around on our laps, she and John went back to the hotel while I was driven to do some souvenir shopping. Apparently, the Mercato is the largest ourdoor market in all of Africa with everything from jewelry to tires for sale. All of the Gladney people here basically told us that it is a total nightmare and the biggest discount you would get on any one item (compared to more civilized areas) was $1. Apparently it is so full of people that it’s very easy to get lost in the crowd and if you are going to have any pick-pocketing issues, etc, that’s where they would be. With that in mind, I let them take me to the best alternative – the post office area. Once I can post pictures this might sink in a little better, but suffice it to say, I felt very uncomfortable pulling up on the side of this muddy road in a spankin’ clean white mercedes with my driver. Granted, I had no other option since I don’t speak Amharic and have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I felt like an idiot. In the 4 or 5 tiny store fronts, I was able to buy lots of souvenirs for very little money. I had picked out one pair of leather sandals with pretty beads on them for myself and when the saleswoman told Eyasu (my driver, bag handler, interpreter and guardian) the price, his eyebrows went way up and he said the equivalent of “WOW! in Amharic” He then looked at me and said, “these are very expensive”. I was prepared to put them back when I asked him how much. He told me 130 birr with a surprised tone in his voice. I pretended to think about it and then decided that I would splurge and spend the $14 or so. I’m sure he thought I was way too extravagant with my purchases, but I just told myself that it couldn’t have been the first or last time he would witness an American buying up the store (it was really just 1 or 2 bags, but it felt like the store!) I’m sure he was also wondering why I wasn’t bargaining, but to be honest, I just didn’t have it in me. I’m getting a HUGE bargain, and they’re barely making a living – let them charge me a little more than they would an Ethiopian – what do I really care?
After shopping, Eyasu and his cousin Tafesse took us to “Dreamland” (they’ve been alternating driving us, but Eyasu doesn’t speak very much English, so it’s nice to be able to quiz Tafesse along our journeys). We drove about an hour outside the city into the countryside a bit to this restaurant that sits on the edge of a volcano crater that has been transformed into a lake. While we weren’t able to see a sunset through the clouds, it was a magnificent view and well worth the trip. We had a delicious meal for four with the incredible view for a total of $15 – including tip!!! We had an interesting ride home in the dark along with all of the huge trucks on the main commerce route back into Addis. The sun sets here at about 6:30pm. It’s so hard for me to believe that we’re going home tomorrow. We are going to the Gladney foster home again tomorrow and then hopefully to a circus with some of the orphanage children. With all of the excitement of meeting Sophie, her birthmother and then having to rush off to our Embassy appointment the first time, I didn’t get any pictures of the actual house or the rooms and I want to make sure that Sophie can see as much about her first 8 months as possible. One other family got a referral of their beautiful 10 week old baby girl while we were here, so now I can find her there and take lots of pictures of her to send back to her mom and dad. I hope they don’t mind if I hold her and send some hugs and kisses from them too! Congrats again, Drew, Carey & baby Zoe!!Well I don’t think I’ll be posting again from here, so good luck to all of those others that are waiting for referrals. Belay, Ryan and Abby are bracing themselves for a VERY busy fall! Belay predicts that they will place 160 children this fiscal year (starting September 1) compared to only a third of that last year. Hang in there guys – you are almost here!!!!

Mommy & Sophie overlooking the volcanic crater lake - we didn't even get to see a sunset and it was still spectacular!
Daddy & Sophie at Dreamland Restaurant

Friday, September 21, 2007

Original Day 3

Once we got home, I moved this posting to include the pictures, but wanted to keep the comments!

Day 3 - 9/21/2007

Sophie slept all the way through the night last night and it was great! We’re finding out that when she wakes up, she isn’t very happy. I thought it was because she wanted food IMMEDIATELY, but I think it’s more of a scared, where am I? and where are all the people? cry. This morning we met Tafesse after breakfast He took us to Entoto, which is the highest mountain in Addis and was supposed to be where the Emperor was to build his palace way back when. But his wife discovered hot springs in the lower area of Addis, so she insisted that the palace be built right by the hot springs. Now Entoto is simply a beautiful mountain with amazing views of the city and fresh air (a rarity in the lower parts of the city where we’ve mostly been breathing diesel fuel). We saw another traditional Orthodox church and paid a man with a big gun $1 so that I could take his picture. We watched tens (hundreds?) of donkeys and women load their backs with dung patties, eucalyptus leaves and wood to bring down from the mountain to sell. Yes, the donkeys and women have the same job, but I think it’s a little easier for the donkeys because they were mostly running and the women were doubled over to carry the goods!

Sophie's favorite Hilton employee :) The donkeys at work The man with the gunThe view from Entoto The daily task of hauling eucalyptus branches to sellAfter walking around the top of Entoto breathing the air for as long as possible, we met Ryan for lunch at a delicious Chinese restaurant. He had spent the morning at the Embassy for us and we now have Sophie’s Ethiopian passport, US visa and all of her paperwork to bring her back home. After lunch we went to the Alert Hospital, which is a whole compound for the treatment of Leprosy, and is the only such hospital in all of Africa. The main reason for visiting there is because the people that have been treated there spin cotton and weave all of these beautiful cloths and clothing. We were able to see the whole process (all hand done) from pulling the raw cotton into yarn to the looms to the final embroidery. John even got to spin some cotton himself! We bought quite a few souvenirs for the kids and our home there and felt like we paid way to little for such beautiful handiwork.

John spinning cotton at the Leprosy Alert HospitalOur last stop before naptime was the Lion Zoo. For $1 a person (+ $2 for your camera), you can see the black maned lions in these horrible, cement cages. Although being that close up to the lions was absolutely amazing (and I think the kids will love the pictures), PETA would not be very happy. It was a little depressing and the raw slabs of meat in the cages leftover from lunch was not all that appetizing!

Close up at the lion zoo
A lot of people have asked whether Sophie is Ethiopian or foreign (and many people thinks she looks like John except for her button nose!) Ryan said it’s mostly a function of her lighter skin and slightly straight hair. It’s funny b/c I can almost see the people discussing and guessing before they ask. The people have been so great. It’s going to be hard to come home and not be able to have someone else hold her all the time while I get things done. Everyone here (stranger or not) wants to hold and kiss her!Well after lots of rest yesterday afternoon, we had a quiet dinner with Belay at a restaurant called Serenade. It felt very familiar – small, quaint and the food was delicious. John and I felt kind of guilty as we scarfed down our delicious meat dishes while Belay had to have a medley of vegetables served in halves of eggplant – Orthodox Ethiopians fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, which means no meat or any animal products on these days. After dinner Sophie and I passed out at about 9. For some reason, John and I have been on opposite nap schedules, so since he wasn’t tired, he hung out in the hotel lobby for a little while watching Rugby. We’re so conflicted because we want to spend every minute soaking in the city and the culture, but we are truly exhausted. Luckily, neither of us has gotten sick, but that being said, neither of us has felt “normal” since we arrived. I really don’t know if it’s jet lag, the altitude (~8,000 ft about sea level), the intense diesel fuel we’re breathing in, or just the fear of getting sick. I have been either freezing or really hot the entire time we’ve been here. I also have felt a little light-headed and my stomach sort of feels like the days after you’ve had a bad stomach bug and haven’t eaten for awhile. Although we are certainly ready to get home to the other kids and to resume a normal life, I’m afraid of all that we’ll miss. My body is definitely ready to come home though!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Original Day 2

I moved this to include the pictures, but wanted to keep the comments!

Day 2 - 9/20/2007

First of all, I’m so glad that Mom is posting all of this for me since I can’t for the life of me figure out how to do it from Ethiopia. I’ve been on the other side checking blogs every half hour to get a glimpse of someone’s trip knowing ours was coming, so I wanted to keep as up to date as possible. We’re having a great time bonding with Sophie. She is a power sleeper. John and I went to bed late last night (around midnight) and she woke up right about then. Since she seemed awake enough (and we were still awake), and since the foster home gives all the babies a bottle at 2am, we decided to give her a bottle then to see if she would last through. She’s certainly old and big enough to sleep through, but we just didn’t know about night #1. Well, since we had to meet Ryan and our driver at 8:45am in the lobby, we finally decided to wake her up at 8:30!! We were very happy – and only wished we had gone to bed sooner! Ryan brought us to Enrique’s – a cafe in the city that had great coffee and pastries.

Ready for the day....Today was the day that you need your strong hearts. Wow. Today is the day that we were able to visit the three government orphanages that Gladney is able to refer some children from. We started at Kolfe, which is the home for older boys. We had been warned about the conditions and Ryan told us that the boys (around 12 years and up to ~20 from what I could tell) do not get many visitors at all and barely any attention even from the employees there. To be honest, I think I was so well prepared for the conditions, that I thought it would be harder. Don’t get me wrong – they were certainly dire, but I think it helped to see one of the buildings that had been redone and knowing that Ryan, et al are working so hard to improve the conditions for them. The boys were all so welcoming and friendly. They clearly respect Ryan very much and were genuinely happy to see him. I think seeing so many of them smiling helped me to reconcile the entire situation. We started out with only a few of them around us – mostly the ones that Ryan knows the best. They all really loved Sophie and John and I didn’t hold her the entire time we were there – she was passed around by all the boys and hugged and kissed . I think the best ice breaker we could have imagined was the polaroid camera. Many of the boys were watching some old, grainy movie when we arrived and didn’t really even look up. The other boys were happy to have their pictures taken with my digital camera – and liked to look at the image, but when I pulled out the polariod and snapped the first picture, they literally came out of the woodwork to see us!! It was amazing to see how happy they were to have a picture of themselves. Some wanted pictures with their friends, some wanted a picture of themselves alone – smiling or serious, depending on the boy. They wanted pictures with us and Ryan and Sophie. It was great. By the end (only 30 pictures), it was hard to tell who had already had pictures – I wanted to make sure I had gotten everyone, but I’m still not sure. They were starting to get a little grabby and Ryan was getting a little disappointed in their behavior. I thought they were fine, especially since many had never before seen pictures of themselves, but he has been trying to work with them about appropriate behavior in the real world, which makes a lot of sense to me. They wanted us to leave the camera so that they could start a business on the side of the road and charge 5 birr (~45 cents) to take someone’s picture. I really wanted to leave it for them, but Ryan had to explain to them about the film and that it would cost them much more to get the film, etc. I ended up copying all of my digital pictures and gave them to Ryan to give them as well. I think that anything that brings a smile to their face made me happy to know that they are still even capable of smiling despite their circumstances. By the end they were all hugging us goodbye and many were even yelling we love you!

Kolfe - the older boys orphanageTesfa in the "kitchen". He was the nicest guy with the coolest hair. It was very difficult to breathe in here. Taking pictures right back at me! John and his buds. One had a name that meant "be large" and he was very proud of that! He also happened to be very personable, polite and smart. Big brothers and puppies Many of our new friendsThe next stop was to the largest orphanage in Addis – Kechene. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to bring our cameras into this one (per the Director), but it was great to spend time with these kids. Many of the Bright Futures campers are from here, so they are just waiting for their families to finish the paperwork and come take them home. It was funny because when they found out that we were from America they all wanted to know whether we lived in Texas or New York (where Gladney hosts Ethiopian camps in the summer to try and get more older kids adopted here). Although the conditions at the orphanages are nothing like we’ve seen back home, they seem to take great pride in keeping the babies well fed, and the rooms clean. The older girls’ rooms were immaculate – apparently they have competitions between rooms to see whose are the cleanest. They all loved to touch John’s hair because it is so straight and soft. John had a gaggle of older girls around him (12-15 years old) and I had three toddlers hold my hand everywhere we went. We were able to meet Renee and Geert’s little girl (and see their sleeping son). She is a firecracker! I know what people meant now – she was probably the smallest one following us around in our pack, but seemed as old and smart as the older girls! Ryan gave her your package right away (and lots of other kids letters from their families – I guess there are a lot of Bright Futures kids there waiting to go home). She would not let go of the bag for a minute. I have a feeling it will need a good washing when you get home b/c I think she will hold it until the day you arrive! She LOVED the pictures and was SO proud. She followed us around pointing to Renee and Geert saying “Mummy, Daddy” and proudly showing you to all of the kids. She must have come back over to me six times during our tour to point and say “Mummy, Daddy”. Sometimes she would say it with conviction, like, yup, they’re mine all mine and other times it was like she was checking again just to be sure. She’d say it and then point to her chest and have inquiring eyes. I think we succeeded in assuring her that they were her parents and were coming really soon to bring her home! Absolutely adorable. I really wished that I could have had my video camera for that – it was so incredibly heartwarming. She was very excited to see her room and the older girls loved seeing her house (very beautiful they all said) and their extended families. One boy in particular loved saying Nana, Papa, Oma and Opa – he thought that was very fun to say! The elephant was also a big hit. She carried it around for awhile and then I saw the tag that said pull me and I realized that she wouldn’t have known to do that. I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head when she heard the song! She loved it. While she went to lunch, she let one little boy guard her elephant and he played the song over and over and over against his ear with a big smile on his face.
Their son, Keller, was napping the whole time we were there. We did get to see him in his little bed – he had on a very cute, very pink one piece outfit with old fashioned looking shoes and appeared to be a great napper!!! He looked very peaceful and adorable.
After saying goodbye and promising to write to our posse, we went to lunch and then stopped at the final orphanage – Kibebe Tsehay. This is where Sophie was for 1 month and 2 days. For people who don’t necessarily remember their own birthdays, some things are very important for them to count – thank good ness for us. I am not sure that I can articulate why this was the hardest one for me. Maybe it was because this is where Sophie was, maybe it was because it was all being painted and spruced up so it appeared a little disheveled (although it was obviously for a good cause, there were cribs outside and I think it was also laundry day, so clothes hanging everywhere outside), maybe it was because many of the babies looked SO sad. We met some of the older kids here, but mainly stayed in the area with all of the babies. This is where we got to see Kozit! Maria – I was able to get an amazing video and lots of pictures of her opening her gifts from you. She was SO happy and recognized you and her sister right away and had a big smile on her face when she saw the pictures. I honestly don’t know who was happier about the bag – her or her caregiver! Her caregiver dove right in and put her new sneakers and shirt and hat and necklace on and Kozit had as much as she could possibly carry in her arms and wasn’t about to let go!! First and foremost was the snowman – it was almost as if she knew – she held onto that with all of her might. I promise to try to send the video while we’re here, but I tried to make it as long as possible, so I’m not confident that it will go through. We had coffee with the caregivers and I just sat holding one little boy around 2 years old who was so looked so sad. I asked if I could take him from his crib and as soon as I did he just held me around my neck so tight. I think it’s pretty common for them to pass colds and coughs around, so I really don’t think he felt well – he was sort of just staring out to space. That’s the moment I broke down. At least with the other kids, you know that they don’t have a great life, but they are so friendly and appear so happy that you have enormous hope for good things to come. With these little babes, you can’t talk to them or understand what they are thinking and it is so frustrating knowing that you just can’t take them all home. Harder than picking him up or holding him was having to put him down. That was the first emotion we saw from him and he just cried. Luckily Ryan had given us the 10 minute warning before we had to leave so I could prepare myself to let go. The woman are so loving and hold as many babies as they can at a time, but there’s just too many.I’m looking forward to seeing all of our pictures and watching the videos when we get home. As much emotion that is occuring on the spot, I think much of it won’t even sink in until we return and remember so many of these little faces. Luckily, I learned from Ryan that not only does Gladney have families matched to all of the babies in the foster house, they also have been given several referrals from the orphanages and those children will be moved to the foster home as soon as there is room. The good news out of all of this is that once the courts reopen, the process will get so much quicker and the Gladney home will be a revolving door bringing babies out from these conditions into loving homes.

Babies in every bed at Kibebe Tsehay Me and my sad friend. Hoping he'll be happy and with his forever family soon! Kibebe Tsehay Orphanage (Sophie's) Kibebe Tsehay Orphanage Sophie & her primary caregiver at the government orphanage, Kebebe TsehayAfter our orphanage tour, we came back to the hotel and rested – she took a good 3 hour nap – yippee! Luckily, we are so wiped out that we come back for nap time in the afternoons, which is a perfect time to update you all (and selfishly, this is my way of trying to keep all of these memories fresh because I know I’m going to forget so much!). Sophie’s primary caregiver from the Gladney house (Almaz - who we did not meet the other day) came to out hotel room to babysit while we went to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant called Fasika with Belay and Tafesse. It was SO fun to see Sophie’s reaction when Almaz walked into the room. I have not seen her that excited since I have known her! She was wriggling her legs and babbling and literally squealing with delight. It was great to see how much they really loved each other! Almaz gave her a beautiful traditional Ethiopian outfit and I was able to take a picture of Sophie in the outfit with Almaz.Dinner was phenomenal. The restaurant itself (Fasika) was down this long alleyway in what appeared to be a poor area of town (as opposed to…?). Then all of a sudden, you drive in this tin gate and there was this somewhat fancy restaurant appearing out of nowhere! The food was delicious. There were musicians, singers and tribal dancers with many different costumes and moves that you wouldn’t believe! They were all from a specific tribe in Eastern Ethiopian (I forget the name). I barely got to put my video camera down because it was all just so amazing! When we returned Almaz told us that Sophie had not slept a wink – oops, maybe it was the 3 hour afternoon nap? I actually think that Sophie just wanted to be with her and not sleep through the visit, because she fell asleep in my arms as soon as we got home! I will say that I was happy that she was almost as excited to see us when we returned as she was to see Almaz arrive.
Sophie & Almaz Traditional Ethiopian food The dancers and beautiful costumes The restaurant - Fasika John, Belay & Tafessa (in mid-blink - he doesn't even drink, so he's not tipsy!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sophie pics!!

Original Day 1

Once we got home, I moved this posting to include the pictures, but wanted to keep the comments!

Day 1 - 9/19/2007

We’re safe, sound and HAPPY!! View from the Hilton On the way to Sophie - a typical sceneWe arrived late last night, and by the time we got to the hotel we basically just crashed to prepare for our big meeting this morning. We arrived at the Gladney house at about 10am. We met Belay, Ryan and Abby and made small talk while my nerves calmed down a bit. I was shaking, I was so nervous! With Ryan and Abby armed with our video and regular cameras Belay brought down Sophie and it was love at first sight! Well, she was woken up from her nap to meet us, so maybe she had to warm up to us a bit, but we thought she was amazing from the first second! We were able to hold, hug and kiss her without completely freaking her out while we asked a few more questions. Belay told us that he did have her birthmother’s phone number, so he could contact her when we were ready to meet her. No more than 5 minutes after being introduced to Sophie, Belay was called into the “milk kitchen”. He came back with a very strange look on his face. He said, “well I am totally shocked by this, but Yordanos’s birth mother just arrived here”!!! I think that Belay, Ryan and Abby were way more surprised than we were by the coincidence. Since we had no idea what the timing of everything would be, we had tried to fully prepare ourselves for anything. Apparently, she had come to visit Sophie a few times since relinquishing her (and since going to our court date to do so legally). She knew we were coming sometime soon, but didn’t know exactly when. She gets one day off a month, and even though this was not her day off, she woke up this morning and told her employer that she could not work today because she HAD to come see Yordanos, but didn’t know exactly why. I think she was shocked that we were there. I will leave out the details of our meeting, but she was very sweet and loving towards the baby and I am actually very happy to have seen their interaction and to have met her. Of course it was very difficult for everyone, but am relieved to be able to show Sophie how loved she has been from day one.

After we spent more time with Sophie, we got a tour of the house and saw all 20 other babies. Yes, the house is very full right now (with 20 caregivers on shifts). For all of those waiting families – they are onto our ploy, so I didn’t get any specific info, but I do know that of the 20 babies, only 3 have already been referred, but all 17 others have been matched!! Sooo, as soon as the paperwork, medical testing, information gathering is complete, you will have your referral! Of course, this takes time for each child, but I can promise you that they are working very hard to get all of this done soon so they can take full advantage of the courts reopening. And amazingly, every baby there is under 9 months – and a few are only a month or so old!! Soo teensy – but not from lack of food – just from age!

They really want to see me RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?!

Belay on his way downstairs with Sophie!!! Sophie, her two moms and Daddy. Coffee ceremony to help us celebrate meeting Sophie and her birthmother. (I was shaking too much to eat popcorn or drink coffee!!) Gladney older home - girls' bedroom. Again, SO neat and bright. The "dining room" in the older Gladney house - it was SO clean, bright and airy - very cute! Caregivers at the older Gladney home - so nice! Gladney house neighborhood (very nice neighborhood compared to others in Addis) Rainy season
Watching the sights with Daddy Content in the car Holy Trinity Cathedral with Mommy
Meeting Sophie!!!!

After that, we went to the older children’s house with 12 kids aged three to eight there. They were all so sweet. One sibling group had two sisters and one brother (ages 3-8) and there was a set of sisters (probably 7 or 8). We did not get a chance to meet Abel (he was out having his haircut!). He was already referred to the Mestas family with his twin sisters (who are in the baby house). We did meet the twins and took lots of pictures. So cute!! We hope to return to the foster homes, so we’ll try to get more. The older kids were so outgoing and friendly, which apparently is a little different from how they were three weeks ago when the foster home first opened. They are all doing great. Although a few have been matched with families, these children tend to stay at the foster home much longer than the infants, so we will pray for loving families for them as well.

After the foster homes, we had lunch with Abby and Ryan (and Sophie) at a restaurant high above Addis called Top View. I think it poured rain every time we were inside today, but was totally clear when we were outside. Someone was looking out for us :) After that we visited the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral and learned more about their religion (an ancient form of Christianity (Ethiopian Orthodox) – a varient of Koptic) and some other things about Ethiopia in general. Then, we came back to the hotel to walk around, hang out with Sophie in the room, eat pizza and go to bed. Sophie started to lose it a little while we were eating, so John finished up while I brought her upstairs and while I was walking her from the hotel room door to her crib she fell fast asleep! We’re pretty tired but looking forward to the orphanage visits tomorrow.

It probably took a full six hours or so for Sophie to fully warm up to us. She was very quiet and just watching our every move. After her settling in period, she now can’t get enough of babbling, smiling, laughing and touching us. She has a very strong grip and loves to touch our faces while she eats. She seems very mellow righ tnow, but who knows how much of that is sensory overload and pure shell shock!!
Toby & Neile, please give the kids big hugs and kisses from us and tell them that we miss them like crazy. We can’t wait to bring Sophie home and all be together!!! xoxoxo