Wow. It has been a crazy two weeks. Fifteen days ago I was curled in a ball on the living room floor, in hysterics because things were so bad with the adoption that we thought we might not be able to proceed. It was a bad, bad night. Three days later, we got a call from our agency and were told that they found Little Dude and that we needed to be on standby – ready to go to Ethiopia as early as that night. It takes me longer than 8 hours to even figure out if I want to go shopping or not, so the idea of flying halfway around the world that day freaked me out. We decided that S would go alone for the court hearing, and then I would join later. We thought he had to fly out after lunch on Monday, so we were FLYING around Linglestown on Monday morning trying to get stuff notarized, get money, get snacks for the plane, etc.
S flew out of HIA early on Tuesday morning after a wonderful send-off from our neighborhood gang the night before. (We are truly blessed to have awesome friends who will show up at the last minute with beer, champagne, Skinny Girl margaritas and a veggie tray . . . all decked out in their finest PJs and sweats.) The only ticket left that would ensure he got there in enough time for the court hearing was a first-class one. Yikes! Thankfully Ethiopian Airlines offers an adoption discount. That helped. A bit. I still told him to eat and drink his face off to try to get our money’s worth.
After he left, I was a mess. I was trying to get someone lined up to take care of the dog while we were in Ethiopia, get my own airline tickets, get myself transportation to and from JFK, get packed, figure out what to pack for a 6-month old, get a dog-sitter lined up for while we were in Vegas, etc. I was crazy stressed about all of that, plus the fact that I was going to have to fly solo to ET. I hate flying.
Everything fell into place. People lined up to help us and it was great. We passed court on Thursday and got the adoption deed on Friday. Once I got to JFK (with a 4 hour buffer), I started to settle down. It seemed that all of the hard stuff was behind us. I grabbed a beer, made some new friends at the airport bar, boarded the plane, and fell asleep.
I got to ET at about 1:30am on Sunday morning. S and the owner of the guest house picked me up. S and I stayed up until about 3am chatting about the recent days’ events. I tried to sleep but was kept awake most of the night by the packs of wild dogs fighting in the streets, the call to prayer from the local mosque, and the service being piped out of the Orthodox church. Note to self: next time, pack ear plugs.
We got up early on Sunday morning, ate breakfast, and all (9 of us) piled into two vans. We were heading south to where the regional government offices are. We took our time getting there since it was the weekend. We stopped at a lakeside restaurant and grabbed a leisurely lunch. We looked at the red lake, felt it’s slimy water (gross), ate the delicious food, and then got back in the vans for the rest of the journey. The roads are so hard to describe in limited blogspace. In a nutshell: they have two lanes; they are sometimes paved but sometimes not; passing is just about always “legal”; there is very little vehicular traffic; there are tons of pedestrians; there are lots of herds of livestock; and there are random donkeys and dogs. There is one rule of the road: don’t hit anything. We saw only one accident and one roadkill. Not bad.
We booked hotel rooms (in addition to the ones we already had in Addis) and settled in for the night. S got sick, so he and I stayed behind while most of the others went to another lake to look for hippos. The rooms there were bigger and the showers nicer, but there were mosquitoes there. Now I am banned from donating blood for yet another year due to the malaria risk. Crap. All in all, it was a decent night. We had the best wifi we had all week. I started looking at baby registries.
We were all up bright and early on Monday morning, ready to head to the regional court. I won’t go into all of the details, but will give a quick, quick rundown. Though the federal-level government said we were the legal parents of the kids, we were not necessarily going to be able to retrieve our kids from their current location. (If you remember, I mentioned once before that the government closed several orphanages and “took” the kids. Until Sunday, their location was unknown.) We needed the regional government to issue a letter telling the orphanage to release the kids to us. We waited on a cement slab outside the office for about 3 hours. The only “toilet” was a hole in a cement floor in a metal shack. And it was BYOTP. Awesome.
After 3 hours, we were told that the individual who needed to write the letter would not be available until 2pm. We were shuttled to a restaurant for lunch and returned at 2pm. We waited another 90 minutes and then were told by our amazing representative (truly a man of God) that the individual who needed to write the letter was actually not coming that day and that she would not be able to be back in town for another 5-6 days. Without that letter we could not bring our kids back to the transition house in Addis Ababa. We were in shock.
During all of this, the social worker from the orphanage joined us. When we got the bad news, she told us that we could still come down to visit with the kids. Though it was not what we had expected, it was still better than not seeing the kids at all. We embarked on the remainder of the trip south.
As I mentioned earlier, the roads there are a little scary during the day. As we drove, the sun began to set. I just kept praying that we would arrive before dark. That did not happen. We were driving on unpaved, unmarked, unlit roads, in the heaviest fog I have ever seen, with random people walking alongside of us. They looked like zombies or something! I was so afraid we were going to hit someone and have an international incident. I was never so scared in my life in a car. But our driver – who was already amazing in my book – was cool as a cucumber. He reached up to the dash with his right hand, while steering with his left, and grabbed a bag. He proceeded to pull out a sandwich while driving in these crazy conditions. After offering S half of it, he began to chow down. If that is what the man needed to get through the foggy darkness, we weren’t going to get in his way. After we finally arrived, S asked him if he had ever driven in anything like that before. He said no. He had us all fooled.
It was too late to see the kids, so we rented yet another hotel room. We had no more clothes with us, so we just sucked it up and decided that there were worse things than wearing the same clothes twice. The rooms were the cheapest yet (about $17USD) and were pretty darned decent. We figured that the sooner we went to bed, the sooner it would be morning, and the sooner it would be until we saw our kids.
We woke up the next morning and saw that the town wasn’t so scary in the daylight. The 9 parents were ready to eat breakfast pretty early, but our drivers were a little slower. We finally got on our way around 8:30, having lost 30 precious minutes with our kiddos. We arrived at the orphanage a few minutes later.
****To be continued****