>A WIN! Changing Lives, Families!

>For all you families waiting to travel and about to travel to go get your kids from Ethiopia, there is great news! The kids are coming home! If they are 10 or under, they can come home. No more waiting for cultures, now they can come home. Wahoo! Read below for the particulars.

As you all know, this is an issue close to our hearts. Our daughter Marta was stuck in Addis and not allowed to come home for eleven weeks, waiting on a TB culture. We fought, screamed, pushed, shoved, and prayed. And still we waited. Many others have done the same, causing much anguish and many problems. However, times are changing!

Many people have been working very hard to get the Technical Instructions changed and get our kids home. It has taken much work and pushing and researching and talking and meeting by many amazing dedicated people: lawyers, adoption professionals, doctors, families, all sorts of folks. And now, change has happened, for good! This is a big darn deal and while it would not have helped us in our situation, it will help the vast majority of most of the families who might otherwise be stuck. It is a huge step forward and worth a big cheer and shout of joy, even clapping for the CDC, who agreed to make the changes. So, without further ado:

2007 Technical Instructions for Tuberculosis Screening and Treatment Addendum: Instructions for Applicants 10 Years of Age or Younger

September 18, 2009

CDC has developed the following addendum instructions for travel clearances for 10 years of age or younger. The criteria described in these addendum Technical Instructions are based on physiologic
aspects of childhood tuberculosis disease and children’s ability to transmit tuberculosis disease.
These criteria do not apply to adults or children with tuberculosis disease associated with higher
levels of transmissibility.

Applicants 10 years of age or younger who require sputum cultures, regardless of HIV infection
status, may travel to the United States immediately after sputum smear analysis (while culture results
are pending) if none of the following conditions exist:
 Sputum smears are positive for acid-fast bacilli (AFB). If the applicant could not provide
sputum specimens and gastric aspirates were obtained, positive gastric aspirates for AFB do
not prevent travel while culture results are pending.
 Chest radiograph findings include―
o One or more cavities
o Extensive disease (e.g., particularly if involving both upper lobes)
 Respiratory symptoms include forceful and productive cough
 Known contact with a person with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) who was
infectious at the time of contact

For applicants 10 years of age or younger who travel to the United States while results of cultures
are pending, panel physicians should―
 Give the applicant a Class B1 TB, Pulmonary classification
 Document that culture results are pending on the Chest X-Ray Worksheet (DS 3024 [until
September 30, 2009] or DS 3030 [beginning October 1, 2009]
 Forward culture results to DGMQ “Quality Assessment Program” via fax at 404-639-4441
so that DGMQ can forward the culture results to the receiving health departments

Panel physicians should provide the DS Forms based on the date of intended travel. If an applicant
10 years of age or younger will not travel until after culture results are to be reported (assuming they
are negative), the panel physicians should wait until that time before completing the DS Forms. If
the applicant 10 years of age or younger will travel while results of cultures are pending, the panel
physician should provide DS Forms while cultures are pending.

Panel physicians should not delay treatment on applicants 10 years of age or younger for whom
there is high suspicion of tuberculosis disease and who would benefit from therapy being started
prior to departure to the United States. Consistent with other applicants started on tuberculosis
treatment prior to travel, if therapy is started for an applicant 10 years of age or younger, the
applicant is Class A for tuberculosis. A Class A Waiver petition can be filed so that the waiver
petition could be reviewed and the applicant can travel to the United States before completion of therapy. CDC supports the filing of waiver requests for young children with tuberculosis disease so that the waiver application may be reviewed and adjudicated in a timely manner.


>I don’t have a picture yet, can’t upload yet, I’m surprised I can even access Blogger.

That said…
We are here, we are here! In Addis Ababa!
And we are all together, finally!!!!

We have our Marta and I can’t describe it. This is as best as I can do before my minutes run out, I promise more and better later but right now my muzzy jet lagged emotion whipped brain can only babble:
Tiny, sweet, smiling, shy, sweet, happy, overwhelmed, shy, tiny, nervous me, waiting to meet, leaping bear hugs, tearing up mom, unexpected, surprise, smiling, holding on, exhausted us, jet lag, long flight, good flight, Ayat house, hoorah, lots of rain, no language, pointing, laughing, looking, smiling, shy, eyebrow lifts, breaths intake, hugs, squeezes, hands holding, sitting close, sleepy, smiling, happy, crazy language gap, smiles, shy, sweet, tiny, together.

Sisters, all FOUR, together and smiling!!
Family no longer apart (soon all to be in same place, but for now, together) and smiling.



>We got the all clear!
Marta‘s cultures are all clear!
We have an embassy date of next Wednesday, July 8th (my brother’s 50th bday!)!

Natalie called this morning, early, right after Belay emailed her to say that the final report is in, it’s all clear and the embassy will have the papers for Wednesday and we are good to travel.
I started to cry, because I’m a dork.
I couldn’t help it and didn’t expect to.
(Stop laughing, I know what you’re thinking..but really I didn’t expect to.)

And now it begins.
We travel today to go home, to do the final whirlwind of prep to leave for Ethiopia!
We go to bring home our new daughter and become a family of ten.
It’s a good thing Coffeedad was right there and heard it all too as I keep having to double check to make sure it’s real…it feels almost surreal.

Just. Wow.
Thanks be to God!!
And to all of you, every one, for your prayers and support and, everything….and now I’m starting to cry again, so I’d better go pack.

Tolo! That’s Amharic for “hurry, go fast!”
We are going, to Addis Ababa.
Gabey says this: “Fast fast fast!”
Marta too, I think, will say, “Tolo, tolo tolo!”

>Mothers connected united

>It’s Mother’s Day. And I’m missing my daughter.

So, I’m stewing and reaching further and further the only way I can in my effort to bring my girl home. I’m sending this out to the world of moms, a plea that is relying on our connectedness, our unity as moms.

You see, you all know that we are having a hard time getting the right person to hear us. To HEAR us, see us, really look at this as a real live girl who is stuck away from her family, her mom….

And so today my mind is spinning..who can help people be heard? Who gets heard and seen? If Oprah Winfrey had a daughter stuck in this, would she be heard? Would Hilary Clinton be heard? Would Michelle Obama? Do you have to be a major world leader or celebrity to be heard or seen?

I don’t know….but I do know the power of connection.
I know the power of women to reach out to each other.

I know the amazing surprising connectedness of the blogosphere.

So, I’m taking a giant step. I’m posting this letter. It is a letter that was sent to join with other stories of the human cost of this policy. It’s about us. It’s about what this means to my family. This letter IS about us, our family, our daughter. However, this policy will snare other families, it already has and it will more. This policy has to change. So this letter is for the families coming behind us too.

And if you know anyone who might be able to hear and see this and make a difference, or just plain care….to try, to pray, to help – us or the next family snared by this..then please, pass it on.
Because we are united, we moms, I think…in wanting our children to be with us, safe, happy, ok. We want all the kids to be home, to find a home.
To come home.

That’s what we moms do….every day.

It’s long…but it’s real. It’s not meant to be along whining rant: it’s an attempt to show the layers of personal cost. Thank you for indulging a mom who will do whatever it takes to get her daughter home safe, now.

To whom it may concern:

We have a daughter in Africa, an AIDS orphan . . . placed in limbo by our own government. We are Tom and Michele Gautsch, we live in Tennessee. Tom is an Orthopedic Surgeon and Michele is a full time mom. We have a total of eight children now that we have adopted Marta (12 yrs old) in Ethiopia. Three of our children are biological and now five are adopted, three from the U.S. and two from Ethiopia.

We are very, very anxious to unite our family. We had the unfortunate timing of our court date being scheduled just behind the new TB screening regulations and we have been stopped in our effort to go and bring home our daughter, Marta, from Ethiopia.

We passed court successfully March 31, 2009, after just short of a year of work in the extensive adoption process. According to the Ethiopian government, Marta is our daughter in all ways, most certainly, legally. We know she is our daughter not only legally, but spiritually, morally, ethically – in all ways, she is our daughter. However, on March 23, 2009, the U.S. CDC began phasing in new TB SCREENING requirements, and it is the rigid interpretation of this protocol which is preventing us from bringing our daughter home, for at least two more months and possibly many more. Marta is a post tb patient, however her tb left a scar on her lungs, and thus on her chest xray. It will never be normal. The rigid application of this screening protocol doesn’t allow the panel physician to clear Marta to travel, even though she has a known tb status: post treatment. This protocol was for screening unknown tb status. Our Marta’s status is documented: adequate treatment, successfully completed.

The screening that Marta is being delayed for has never been proven to effectively reduce the rates of tuberculosis in the immigrant population. In fact, the vast majority of first world countries don’t do this screening at all, and the ones that do, screen the immigrants after they arrive in the country. If we were British, or French, or Norwegian, Marta would be home with us, right now. The CDC has arbitrarily decided to implement this policy in only twenty countries. There are seven countries with a higher endemic incidence of TB than Ethiopia, where the CDC does not require screening with TB cultures. If Marta was from China or India, both countries with ten times more TB prevalence than the U.S., she’d be home right now.

Our family was supposed to travel Saturday, April 25th to Addis Ababa to meet our daughter again and bring her home. We had an Embassy appointment for our visa scheduled on April 29th. On Friday afternoon, April 24th, the day before we were to travel, we were called by our agency and told not to come. This news, to say the least, was devastating. We had spent the past many weeks organizing and preparing for our trip. We had to make arrangements for the younger children to have a good caregiver in our home, plus of course prepare them for our time away. We had been gathering and organizing and packing our donations and humanitarian aid for many weeks. Thomas, the dad, had to make extensive arrangements to be away from his solo surgical practice, schedule patients for surgery around his planned trip in order to maximize their care as well. By Friday we were packed and ready to go, the excitement at the house was at a peak for all…until that call came. Then it all came crashing down.

In disbelief, Tom started manning the phones, trying to find a way, any way to talk to someone about this. Michele was simply devastated, crying, trying to console the kids while her heart was breaking. Tom spent until almost four a.m. researching the protocols, the actual risks of a post TB patient and learning the data on TB in immigrants in the US and around the world. He spoke with contacts at the CDC, as far away as Kenya, and everyone said, “This is silly, she should be able to travel, she’s post treatment.” So, until sometime after 4 a.m., the morning of the 25th, (we had to leave by 5:30 a.m.), we hoped to still make our flights and go meet our girl. However, we hit a wall of bureaucracy and were told, again, in the early hours of that morning, “don’t come.”

And so we did not go. Full stop. We have been wracked with worry over our daughter and depression over the situation. This manifests physically, in all the normal ways. It is hard to not be depressed, it is hard to kick back into the regular cheerful routines of a busy family life.

On a practical, material level, this has also had a tremendous cost. For Tom, he lost a week of work. When you schedule 10 days out of a solo surgical practice, it is not a simple matter to just fill your work schedule back up on the spur of the moment. You lose the days and the income that would have been generated. In fact, you continue to pay the normal operating expenses, but are not, literally, operating. This would have been a planned financial cost. But now, having to plan for an entire new trip, we will have to incur it twice. That is a very significant, large, financial burden. Of course our plane tickets, six of them, had to be returned, with penalties for cancellation and changes. Many other summer plans have had to be reworked and still have not been able to be figured out; this delay affects our children and extended families and their plans – put on hold – as well. Our bags of humanitarian aid remain stacked in our foyer. Our suitcases with personal clothes have been unpacked, but our smallest children still ask when we are going, confused.

For Marta’s health, she needs to come home and have adequate nutrition, safe surroundings and the love of a family to help her heal from the many traumas she has experienced in her life. Staying in an orphanage, half a world away from her parents and family, does nothing to help heal the heart and body of this child, our daughter. Even several months away from her family makes a difference to a child, especially one this age and with her life experiences.

The hardest part, perhaps, for our hearts as parents, is Marta’s experience. Marta is not a toddler or infant. She is an older child. She is twelve. So she has awareness of what is going on, but is not yet old enough to fully understand the details. Any older orphan, in particular, is going to really wonder if it could possibly be true: “do they really have a family? For real? Is it really going to happen?” Because to an orphan, one who has already lost both her parents and everything she ever had, ANYTHING can happen and NOTHING is forever or for sure. And this is what our Marta now has experienced: she wondered if we were really coming…they said we were. But – we didn’t show. And that was explained to her, they said, and they tried to make her understand the delays and that we would come as soon as we could. However, even if her head can hear and understand a bit of the explanation, what is imprinted on her psyche and her heart is the confirmation of her deepest fear: we didn’t show. Period. And that will have a long term cost to this young girl, and our family, that you can’t measure in computer data.

The CDC cannot measure the scar that is left by this. They can quantify the scar left on her lungs by the TB. But they cannot, nor do they care to, measure the scar left by this unwarranted delay. We can, we will live with it and try to help her over it. But this didn’t have to happen.

This can be changed with a simple decision to see Marta as an individual, as a patient if you like, but best, as a child. Marta is not a random immigrant who will vanish into the unknown masses in our country. She will not drain the country’s resources, nor will she be a risk to the health of the greater population. She is our child. She is coming into a family where her dad is a doctor. We had to prove we were willing and able to care of her, to the fullest extent, in every way and document this with Homeland Security, even before we were allowed to proceed with the long adoption process. We think you would be hard pressed to have a more documented or well tracked person come into the U.S. than an adopted child.

Marta is a child of U.S. citizens, her life and family is here. She is our daughter, and she needs to come home.


Tom and Michele Gautsch

>Where’s the Map?


** warning**
I process things by talking and typing…
it’s how I do it, ‘thinking out loud, so to speak/type’
and so I have to post and then I’ll try to stop whining.
But I will put up a kid pic tomorrow instead, I promise, you’ve done your time.**

Here we are.
We’ve been over the what’s and why’s, below.
We are stuck, my daughter is stuck in a bureaucratic mill.

And so now, while Coffeedoc still tries to figure out how to turn this around, if remotely possible, we have to move forward.
And I want to know: where’s the map?

I know, I know.
There IS NO map.
I am to move forward in faith.
Next step, pitch black.
Next step, go.
Well….I’m trying.
I really am.

I’d just dearly love to do this with tremendous grace and ease and show that it’s not so hard, it can be done with a minimum of effort and a smidgeon of faith.

But you know, I am not graceful, never have been.
I am a clumsy mess, most of the time.
And apparently, especially now.

And, even for those with faith, this sort of thing is a challenge.
And I DO believe God knows what the perfect timing is, and I do really want His choice….but I’d sure really like it to jive up with mine, when push comes to shove.
So, yeah, I’d like to holler out: “I want a map, please.”

How do we move forward?
This is uncharted water, in many ways.
What do I do with this grief and this worry and fear?
Do I just set it aside and pray over it and look at it as I pass by in the normal hectic rush of my days?
Do I just set it aside and ignore it, hoping it will go away if I don’t give it any attention?
Do I ogle it and lose myself inside it, my very own “precious” as I morph into Gollum?
Do we blithely throw ourselves back into the hum of our busy lives here, and just kind of not think about it all, lose ourselves in the busy?
Can I?
I don’t know what to do with all this.
I want a map.

What do I do with the very real fact that I have a daughter, there, not here…
in every way she is mine: legally, sacredly, morally, committedly (I know it’s not a real word, but I don’t care), ethically, our responsibility, and growing in our hearts to what degree she can at this point.
What do we tell the world? “Yeah, we have a daughter, she’s in a foster home, in Ethiopia.”
{Not that the world is so important here; I find this not sitting well within my own chest either}
According to the Ethiopian government, she is our responsibility.
Our child.
According to the US govt, that may be true but we can’t get her.
What do we do with that?
How long? What if it’s for so very, very long?
Do we set her up with a Nanny in a separate home?
Do we move there and ditch the business and life we’ve built here?
What’s realistic?
Do we move over there temporarily, also ditching the business and school and doctors and life here that we have built and also need and others who need us?
Do we split the family up to move there for awhile?
Live separately?
How do we honor our ties to her and care for her from here, when our hands are tied in so many ways?


I don’t know what to do with all this, this grief and worry and wonder.
I DO so so want a map.
But I know, in faith, that I don’t get one.

So, I will do the only thing I know how: I will hurt through this and I will do the next thing.
I will do the next load of laundry.
I will make the next meal.
I will referee the next fuss.
I will pick up that set of shoes off the floor.
I will hug my sweaty toddler, Gabey, when he wakes up from his nap.
And I will think about her, aching, every single step of the way.
And I will offer it all up, in faith, and hope, and a little bit of kvetching in my prayers.

And I will remember God’s answer to one who was truly really hurt {Yeah, Job} when He said “Did you hang the moon, the sun, the heavens?” (That’s my paraphrase, you get the idea…I say the same thing in essence to my kids:’I know what you want, leave me alone I know what I”m doing and you don’t have a clue’).

Yesterday, I read this, it helped a bit, it’s from a French Carthusian, named Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart.

In all that we do, and at every moment, God has ordained an exact balance between what we have to do and the necessary strength to do it; and this we call grace. Our part is to bring ourselves into line with grace.
God uses all the horrors of this world for an infinitely perfect end, and always with an infinite calm. It is part of his plan that we should feel the blows and experience the wounds of life: but more than anything else he wants us to dominate them by virtues of faith, hope and charity, and so live on his level. It is these latter which will raise us up to him, and then we shall share in his calm, and in the highest part of our being.

So I will do the next thing, again and ongoing: pray for the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and so hope to find the calm in the ache.
And try hard to stop searching for that map and just keep taking the next step.

>Full Stop: No Go Pt 2

>Well, here we are.
And here we will be.

Despite Coffeedoc’s superhuman effort for the past 48 hours {and still he keeps turning things over in his head, stewing, examining, looking for a way}, we now know: we don’t go.

We are full of those fruitless useless “what if’s”: “if only the embassy doc interpreted the protocol more specifically” “if only the embassy doc had her classified properly” “if we had only had a court date a few weeks earlier” “if they didn’t have such a lag when our papers hit” etc etc etc.
Recrimination and fretting is ridiculous selfish sad bitter taste.
Those “ifs” are pure torture and pure pity party, but almost impossible to stem {and I’d by lying if I said they didn’t flit through our heads}.

Make no mistake, while our pity party has been thrown for us to be sure, it is ever more so iced with the deep worry over our Marta, what this means for her, to her, how she is understanding and dealing with it all and how it might pan out. And that worry is deep and true. She is a child, caught in a bureaucratic machine.
And I can find myself frozen in the fears of that.

But. Here is where we are, on the objective surface of things:
New proposed Embassy date: July 8 (my big brother’s bday).
New proposed travel date: July 4

New prayer bleg, even more serious: please please pray for a clear culture (our CDC friend pointed out that cultures in kids are always dicey, easily contaminated, unpredictable..frequent false positives….which would lead to disaster for our girl).
That’s it. Just a clear culture, no growth, heck, sterile even!

My unspeakable thanks and gratitude for the support and prayers and emails.
They mean the world and help so much. Thank you.
And I do trust in God’s will, even when I cannot fathom it and it’s hard to walk through…
I choose to trust it {even when my controlling reflex is to rail at it and cause a scene in Barnes and Noble}.

And, in the meantime, we try to stand back up and catch back our breath from the hollowed out cavity in our chest that is scraped clean and raw but is somehow so much heavier.
And we pray through the hurt and sorrow of it all, pray through the hard.

Because even though, even that, is so hard and our words are gone….
what else do we have to do, or hang on to, but that?

>No Go

>One last, last ditch effort to explore.
Otherwise it’s July, at the earliest.
Govt’ protocols are complex, and you can get caught by them when they are left to individual interpretation.
International adoption is not for the faint of heart.

Ours hurt.
We are devastated.

>Packing in Prayer


Yup. Packing. Praying.Not done yet.

{You might think so….but NO,
still missing three more suitcases
and three more backpacks.
And quite a bit more prayer for good news to go.}



>Axum Cathedral Fresco, Madonna and Child

Just in: Marta had her Embassy doctor visit who was in touch with the Gladney pediatrician, {who gave her an all clear}, and has the documentation of Marta’s series of meds, finished, {and then some}. But the doc wants, and did, a short saliva test, and will know enough by Friday to say “come on” or “not yet.” We are booked to leave Saturday, before dawn….but even so….

We wait.
Two days.

We keep acting like we are going, and try to step through the next two days in faith and hope.
We pray, hard, for God’s will, and only that, because I obviously am nonfunctional, left to my own devices.

And I beg, shamelessly, for my daughter, for me, for us, for your prayers if you have any mind to do so.
I thank you for the ones you’ve sent forth and for the support I’ve received (I am humbled and unspeakably grateful for that), but still…
I beg, I bleg, because even though much of this is about ME, it’s hard on me, it’s making me cry….It is ever so much more so, about HER, my daughter…..who was at the doctor, who waits to come home.
I beg for your prayers.

Two days….I’m hoping, not sure why it makes me cry, but still, it does.
And all, ALL I can do, is pray.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother;
to thee do I come, before thee I stand,sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.



>Well, this pretty much sums it up, right above.
That is what it is looking like in my house of late, and I am guessing it will for the rest of this week. And that is if we get GOOD news on Wednesday!
If we get bad news….well, I’m not sure anyone wants to see a picture of me sitting on the floor crying and holding my heart. I’ll try to spare you that, at least.

But, we had the insane prom-o-rama this past weekend.
It was wonderful but the days of crazy prep?

Yesterday every one of us simply crashed into still prone states of migraine and/or sheer exhausted sleep deprivation, with an icing on top of too much sugar (amazing food by Mrs. DelG, one of the moms). Because when you have twenty teens in the house for an “up all night” party, you provide sugary and salty things. And when you are chaperoning twenty teens all night, you eat sugary and salty things. So…you can imagine the crash the next day. I’ll let you do that.

Now. It’s Monday.
And maybe, maybe we are flying halfway across the world in five days, half of us.
And it’s another whole round of it.
Packing, soothing, stopping, starting, finding, copying, typing, sorting, zipping, folding, washing, cooking, hugging, listening, stopping, referring, directing, sighing, smiling.
From us all.

The kids sense it, I swear they are like dogs that way. (As soon as I move the duffels downstairs the dog will switch into anxiety too, I promise.)
And so, um, there is just a touch more work to do….
And the girls who are traveling know it, and are starting to move into overdrive: “Will we need this? Did you get that? Have you seen my shoes? Will I need this? What will I do for this?” and so on.
And the little boys and one big one who are not traveling are starting to move into underdrive: “I’m so tired. I have homework (the teen) and more concerning to this mom’s heart, “How long will you be gone? Will you call? Who is staying with us? Where will you be? When are you coming back? What if I have bad dreams?”

And I worry that they will have bad dreams.
And I worry that they will miss me.
And I worry that they will fall ill.
And I worry that they will fuss and fight.
And I worry that they won’t miss me.
And I worry that my Gabey will not want me when I get home
(I KNOW better, it’s primal I can’t help it).

I worry about changing long standing doc appointments for next week, and know that I’ll be thrilled to do so, but cannot yet. Everything I say is with a caveat, “We might be gone.” “If we go, we will need to do this…” “I might not be able to…” and so on.

This week, these three days to be exact, is a balancing act. One foot on one side of a cliff, one foot on the other, don’t look down, just look ahead and keep the balls juggling as you wiggle for balance.

So I am balancing, even as I am moving into final packing overdrive too, and pretending we are flying out on Saturday. Trying to slow down enough for the small boys {and the teen too}, for us all to get our fill of each other for a week or so, if you can do such a thing. But you know, there is really no balance, not really.

But there is one thing, inescapably, and I think it’s best to accept it and move through it:

>At the Gate

>And we wait.

Last year, waiting for our plane to be fixed on our way to Addis.

Do we stay or do we go??

On the one hand, we have been given the good news of TENTATIVE travel dates!
IF we get the go-ahead, we fly out April 25th.

BUT, and this is a big but, we won’t know for sure until April 22.

And, on the other hand, there is a chance we will be asked to wait, possibly for a good while and I can’t even really type it out because it stresses me and I am in denial for the moment and I am happy here in my hopeful spot.
Don’t ask about the ‘what if’s’ right now. Just tear a page from my current book of hope and say a prayer for us to have lift off.

We are in something of a travel gate/limbo.
And that’s ok with us, because HEY we live for this kind of excitement!
Um, ok, maybe not so much.
It’s yet another step forward on that dimly lit path of faith, for me, aka “Miss Control Freak.”

But I am hopeful.
I am even maybe a little bit more than hopeful, I am, shhhh, anticipating.

I keep telling myself, on the one hand, that I should hold back and brace myself for not going.
But somehow, even for a cynical control freak like me, that just seems like such a downer and well….I am too selfish to rob even myself of the joy. I’m not going whole hog, there is a tiny little twinge of “but maybe not” every time I think of getting on that plane, early that Saturday morning.

But a bigger part of me can’t help it, and I feel like maybe, just maybe, it’s really gonna happen and we can go. We got good news from the agency last week that signals that it is very possible we might be able to go get our girl. On April 25th. I stood in Target and cried, making a minor spectacle of myself when I got the email. And Belay himself, kind of like the “Great Oz” of Gladney adoptions in Ethiopia, he himself said to give us the dates.

So I’m running with it.
I’m hoping like mad.
I’m praying even more so.

And I’m packing like a dervish.
Because prepping a babysitter, the teen and the small ones to stay and the others to go across the world is like coordinating troop movements, realigning the planets, or some other crazy humongous game show task….it takes some doing folks!

And we have made an important decision, much discussed and debated: we are taking all the girls to go and welcome our new daughter into the family!

Yes, this pic is old, but goofy fun.

It will be an all girl trip (except for dear Coffeedad, of course!).
We are very excited about it and think it will be a lifelong neat and good thing, even if it has it’s own particular ups and downs. And the little girls are excited about it too, really. Or, they will be once they get over the three shots they need and then eat the ice cream promised to make it all easier. One scoop per shot. Yeah, that’s not a bad deal….score!

So that’s the update. We knew we’d be in a little limbo after court.
That’s why I have been silent on this. I debated putting this up.
But I’ve decided that I’d rather have the prayers that might be thrown our way to go, instead of pacing in worry alone. And because I know from experience how awesome this blog community is, I’m also thanking you for those very prayers, deeply, in advance.

So, we wait to the 22nd for firm news.
Or no go.
We hope.
We pray.
We beg for prayers in blogland: I believe it’s called a “bleg.”
I’m blegging.

And we’re waiting at the gate.

>Risks of Adoption

>There are many risks in adoption.
The list can be long: time, money, public perception and opinion, exhaustion, attachment issues and so on and so on.

But one of the risks is specific to international adoption, and the travel.
This risk is not written about so much, specifically. It is alluded to.
It is often tossed around in conversation; sometimes in a flip dismissive cocktail party comment.

But it is a real risk.
It is more real than some, maybe many, would like to admit.

It is the risk of tearing your heart.
It is NOT the risk of opening your heart, the stretching that you do to make room for your next child – the one you have jumped through hoops for and finally, blissfully, amazingly have in your arms. That expansion is a known, accepted and expected event and/or process.I want to talk about the surprising hole that is torn in your heart, your soul if you will, after visiting these kids in the orphanages.
I know, it’s an old story. Drippy songs have been sung. Boxes have been stood upon to make speeches. Just by typing this I know I lost a chunk o’ readers. Yadda yadda.
It’s been done. It’s been said. I know.

But it’s a whole ‘nother thing to go and see and touch these kids, big or small. Jen Cantwell writes about this. Go, read if you dare (bring a tissue).
I am putting this out there, again, because it’s been more than three months now since we were there: in Addis Ababa, at the orphanages. Time enough for the hectic balm of our modern life to fuse those shredded seams…right? You would think so. But, no.
There are seemingly permanent jagged ragged edges now. A gash. More than one.
We were wounded, and didn’t know the risk. And it’s done. No bandaid is gonna cover it up and smooth it out. Or should, maybe. And I’m not complaining. I’m just saying…it’s the risk that goes kind of unspoken.
They don’t have a chapter on this in the books. They don’t have a page in the agency manual or travel info:

Warning: upon meeting the children in the local orphanages you might experience a certain sorrow. This is likely to continue and in fact can manifest in the positive upswing in overall gratitude and a more global perspective and outreach but it is important to consider that it is also a fairly certain risk of a significant shear in the fabric of your heart.”

So, for those in the process and paperchase, or considering international adoption:
Fair Warning. There are risks below the surface of adoption.
You could be torn, just a bit, but forever.

>Alert Hospital

>I’ve been meaning to post about the Alert Hospital, the leprosy rehabilitation center. It’s one of the places recommended to us to visit while in Addis. With an upsurge in traveling families once again, I figured I should mention this.


It’s worth it.

Go. See. Buy.

Even the archicture of the old stone complex is interesting, a nice change from the downtown.

It’s outside of Addis downtown, you drive up and out of the city. It doesn’t take too long, although there is a fair bit of traffic, but it’s maybe 45 minutes out. And it’s so pretty up there. Just to drive up and out of the city where the air is fresher and you can feel the breeze, that’s a treat, right there.
The women you meet are wonderful. They invite you (ok, me) to sit and visit for a bit. They laugh and you smile back and get your driver to help translate. Mostly, like women, you talk about children, and the baby. You ask about the work, they show you and laugh when you try and muff it up. Nice. Awkward a bit, of course, but you know, it’s better to sit and talk and touch and look each other in the eyes.
After visiting with some of the women, we were able to walk around and watch the weaving and spinning and carding of the cotton. SO cool. I love looms and think they are almost mesmerizing, the clack and rhythm and click clack back and forth.
After tearing ourselves away from the looms, we wandered to the gift shop, onsite. It was peaceful and empty, quiet. We were the only folks there, and that was ok. All the items were made here: textiles, scarves, purses, clothes, tablecloths, robes, table runners, hangings. All beautiful, all different.
All the proceeds go to support the hospital – so what’s not to like? If you’re going to spend money, buy souvenirs, christmas presents, treasured mementos to become heirlooms…you feel pretty good about spending your money here.
At first, when we were told to go to leprosy hospital…I think we all thought, uh, really? My teens were not sure about this venue…I mean, you know, they’ve seen the movies and the old biblical epics with Charlton Heston and technicolor imaginings of “untouchables””lepers.” Such a stigma, right? Then my husband pointed out that it is a treatable condition in todays world, though not always caught and treated in time.

And so they came with us, with no nudges or comments. They came with us respectfully. And they saw. And they sat. And they chatted. We all did and what we saw were real people.

NOT untouchables.
Real people with beautiful skills and even more beautiful eyes and smiles.

I have talked about how the faces of Ethiopia pull at me. They do. And it’s not just the faces of the children, although surely it is those faces too.

It is this face.
This is one of those faces that you want to grab on either side and sort of smush just a bit as you hold it in your hands and say “such a beautiful face!” (But I didn’t, of course, that would be rude…)
These faces…

I might just have to carve out some time to paint some more, again. Although I (the perfectionist) hamstring and stop myself before I start, knowing I can never capture them right or do them justice – but that is fodder for another post….
But this face. These faces. With smiling sparkling eyes and a beautiful smile. These are the faces in God’s own heart and mind. And now, indelibly, in mine.

Go. See. Visit. Buy. It’s worth it, every awkward guilty joy gilded minute, it’s worth it.

>Travel Treat: BUNA!!

>I find myself in a bit of an Ethiopian funk, and have to sort it out some before I post about it, or not.

However, in the excitement over referrals received by Gladney families, I thought I would add to it by posting about one of the great treats in going to Ethiopia: BUNA!!!

That’s coffee. The best coffee on earth. No kidding.

The legend on how coffee got it’s start (and the name for the Addis version of Starbucks) can be found here, among other places. I won’t tell the whole story, go read. But suffice to say it’s got all the good stuff: sheperd named Kaldi, goats, monks, roasting beans, prayers. What’s not to like?

The coffee ceremony starts with aesthetics. The flower petals were laid out around the cups and roaster, the cups were set out and the coals lit. How pretty is that? Seeing those petals laid out and stools waiting for us to sit and visit was a welcome treat after a long hard day! A straw fan was waved over them until they are hot, sometimes an incense of sorts is added to them.
The coffee ceremony is about more than coffee however. It is about connecting. Like any real coffee break, it is about relaxing and enjoying a visit with a friend, old or new, learning more about another person. It is a gift of time and attention, a gift of self on multiple levels. This one was Wagayu’s gift to us. And we were grateful.
Just for fun, they had us girls try our hand at roasting the coffee. Not the men. Apparently, it is tradition that women do the roasting. So, Bananas gave it a go.
Then it was my turn. I’m no pro, that’s for sure. But it was oddly relaxing to kind of sit and stir, listening to the conversation.
After getting a good laugh, politely and kindly, on our inept roasting skills, Tsemest ground the roasted beans with a steel cut rod and wooden pestle. Next she boiled, pouring it in and out of the traditional pot.
Finally, to our great anticipation, Tsemest poured the dark coffee into the small white porcelain cups. She offered it with raw sugar (and I tasted it with and without – to Wagayu’s dismay. Good either way).They traditionally serve popcorn with the coffee, often spicy, and while it sounds different…oddly enough, works. It’s good.
Maybe it’s the smell of the coffee and incense, maybe it’s the smell of the popcorn. But I’m guessing that neighbor children know it’s a great time to wander over for a visit. They’re right. That’s Jess.
Suffice it to say, coffee is a big deal in Ethiopia! A country after my own heart (it got it!). While the coffee ceremony is too much production for most folks on any given morning, even coffee on the run is fantastic in Addis Ababa. It is different than American coffee, to be sure. It is maybe most like coffee in Italy. It is close to espresso but not exactly the same; it is smoother, less bitter, with a full flavor. It is certainly worth a try, even by those who aren’t coffee afficionados….add a little of the sugar and give it a shot. You might be surprised and really, it’s worth a try because it is a part of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian culture. That alone makes it special.

We are so grateful that Wagayu asked us to have coffee with him! It was one of the special treats of our trip. It saved an afternoon that, for me, had careened off course. We had had our embassy appointment canceled with no news of our paperwork arriving and a migraine had started it’s tsunami in my head. Braking, breaking, for coffee……it helped get the day back on course, pull it out of the slide.

So, if anyone asks you if you’d have coffee with them, say, “Yes!” And if anyone travels and has room to bring back some roasted beans, um, drop me an email – I’ll reimburse! (kidding….maybe).

>Ayat House, Addis

>It feels like there might be some traveling going on….sooner rather than later. So, in the spirit of optimism, I figured I’d once again post my opinion….this time on accommodations.

There are many choices when you travel to Addis: hotels, bed and breakfast’s, guest houses. I hear Belay has opened a guest house and I bet it is great, a good bet. However, IMHO, and since it’s my blog you guys will get ONLY that…..Ayat House is the happening place, the only place to stay. It looks just like the pic above, that’s a shot of the neighborhood, one of the nicer ones in Addis.

It IS a nice neighborhood (by Ethiopian standards, we are not talking Beverly Hills so, careful on your expectations), it is gated (they all are) and guarded (they all are) and I felt totally utterly safe there. It is a stone’s throw from the baby houses, the foster care homes of our agency: Gladney. The in country families – the reps and even Belay – live in this area and so you can know it’s a good spot to be, all the hip people hang out there. Kidding, but really, it is a very good choice if you are traveling.

This (below) is Wagayu. He is the owner of Ayat House and the most gracious host you could ask for. He is sitting with Jess, the cute sweet next door neighbor who likes to wander over for a visit now and then.
Wagayu keeps his property spotless, and has a beautiful garden with all kinds of different flowering plants and has made a little fresh air oasis in a dusty city.
When we were lucky enough to reserve the Ayat House we were not sure what it would be like. And while we specifically wanted a more “local” experience, I am a wuss about places to stay and I truly relish a posh hotel and so we were very curious to see how this would turn out. Turns out, we got so lucky! Better than a posh hotel, for us, for this trip. Once we arrived we went through the whole house, ever so amazed and grateful. It had been 30 hours of travel and we were all grubby, tired, and starving and we could instantly spread out and relax in this comfortable, welcoming home, just for us. What a great blessing. It was NOT as swishy as the Hilton or the Sheraton, it was not a McMansion, but it was perfect for this trip.

Some details to follow. But first, we have talked about and everyone has heard about lack of power and the blackouts. Well, it’s true. It was a lot of the time; no power. But. It was no big deal. Really. Wagayu had candles and matches handy, we brought (and left) a couple of tiny LED lanterns that gave off enough light. If you planned your showers (and you need to as the water heaters need a while to heat up) then you just worked around the power outs. The lack of power didn’t adversely impact our trip as far as our lodging, at all.
This is the master bedroom, where we stayed with Tariku. Very comfortable, simple, bath attached to room. Huge amount of closet space.
This was the second bedroom, slightly smaller than the master, Bananas stayed in here and was very comfy.
This, as you can see, was the bedroom for the teen boys (bet ya can’t tell that one!), they were comfy and happy too.
The living room was bright and spacious and very comfortable, but also private, with room for us all. We played with the baby, napped, and just generally crashed here.
This dining table was lovely and very useful. We ate our crazy dinner late that Sunday night, typed on the computer to upload later, and even during the blackouts, all my big kids sat around this table late into the night playing cards by tiny portable lamplight.
The kitchen, very basic, but you’re not gonna be whipping up gourmet meals in Addis anyhow. It was handy to have and well used for bottle prep and storing munchies and such.
We even cooked a bit, that first night on this stove(it has a lid that closes) and Wagayu scolded us for doing the dishes!? Turns out, he has a wonderful girl who helps him: Tsemest, and she is awesome. She did the dishes if we didn’t get to them first, she did laundry which was tremendously appreciated (and a far far better job at it than I EVER do), and in addition to working full time for Wagayu, she goes to night school. She is like a daughter to him and is sweet and awesome. I will post her pic in my coffee post – to come.
To sit and visit with Wagayu (and the shy Tsemest) was a wonderful relaxing treat, on a particularly tough afternoon. He told us of his children, showed us pictures (a handsome bunch!) and we talked easily about all sorts of things. He is just a really nice man.

And when my husband and big kids left for their brief sojourn in Egypt, he took care of me like a father. He brought me coffee in the morning and despite my protests (true) that I don’t eat much breakfast, he fussed at me and decided I’d better have some eggs. Beaten, I relented with a grin, and Tsemest made me the ever fantastic coffee and fresh scrambled eggs with fresh made bread. Bliss.
So, for us, the greatest reason to stay at a guest house and at Ayat House in particular is to experience a bit more, a bit more intimately, the Ethiopian culture. It is beautiful there. From the baskets and mesobs (above, in the dining room at Ayat), to the neighbors to the people we got to know for a moment, it was a priceless time. We aren’t fooling ourselves to think we lived like most Ethiopians. No, we lived like royalty – relative to Ethiopian standards (meaning we were escorted and driven and assisted the whole way, very cared for). But we got to skim the surface of Addis Ababa, with a slightly deeper groove than if we had isolated ourselves in our American comfort zone, with our needs for comfort and our naive worries.

Staying at this guest house made our lives and this trip so much richer. To lie in bed in the early morning and wake to the call to prayer, and a few guard dogs at night, is an experience you won’t get in the Spielberg subdivisions that reach throughout our nation. To have your laundry flapping in the wind, for all to see, at first is disconcerting and then just makes you smile and laugh…because it just doesn’t get much more real than seeing your bloomers blowing in the breeze now does it? But so are everyone else’s. And that’s ok. It’s great. To be greeted each time you leave or return with a big smile by this man and Tsemest, to practice your pitiful Amharic with him and have him help your pronunciation and understanding and laugh with you when you screw it up….it’s fun, it’s kind. It makes you feel just a little more connected, a little more like a piece of you found a home for a moment.

All that being said, THIS is the reason you stay at Ayat House. Wagayu.
That’s the bottom line, you’ll miss out if you miss him.

>"Give to everyone who asks of you". More from Doc:

> My access to pics is limited while we are visiting family (only have what was loaded on son’s sd card) but these boys are just a few the beautiful faces you see on the street. Also, having a really hard time formatting with blogger lately, the spaces and such just aren’t coming through, so if it looks bunchy and such, bear with me.

Another guest post from Doc. (this first bit is me, you’ll be able to tell the diff, although doc talks/types almost as much as I do! It’s one reason we get along so well!)
This time, this post, on how do you handle the people who approach you in the city, when your car is stopped at a light, as you walk through the sights….what do you do for the begging?
In America, it is a different problem in many ways and we are trained to do different things. But what about in Addis? The guidebooks say, “do not give money or food to the beggars, it only exacerbates the problem. If you must, give scrip for a free meal that you can buy at XX shelter.”
Well, yes, hmmm, we understand that concept. Sounds good. But frankly, we didn’t find XX shelter (it’s a very large city) and really….well, when true poverty holds out it’s hand, the poorest of the poor – the crippled, lame, children, moms, blind – how can your hearts be of stone and not hurt for them? And how can you not want to do something, anything, to help, even if only for a moment? And if you do feel that ache, then what, exactly do you do??
We cannot fix the overwhelming problems of the poverty in Ethiopia, it’s huge. We certainly don’t want to add to it, and hope and pray that we did not. But when it’s one on one, or three at a window, how can you not do something, however small?
So, we did. It was our choice, and this is not a travel tip. This is opinion and our response to an overwhelming issue, a complicated and difficult one. So take it for what it is, I’m sure others will have other and better ways and ideas and responses and I’m sure others will have conflicting opinions. That’s ok, go see what they say too. But this is ours, courtesy of my strongly opinionated husband: Here goes:
Give to everyone who asks of you…

It’s a bit of a long quotation, but worth it:
“Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:30-38)
A traveller to Addis can encounter the impoverished people there in one of several ways: Some people will consciously or unconsciously try to ignore it and go all the way there without anything to give.
Some will find themselves embarrassed, shunning or distancing themselves or ignoring those who beg from them.
Some will find themselves wanting to give to those in need but will not be prepared with anything to offer.
Not one person who asked us for something was one thousandth as well off as we are or had eaten as much in the previous week as we had in the previous day or two.
The best way treat beggars is to be ready with an abundance to give them, even to those who may not appear as if they really need it, (if you hadn’t eaten in two days would you look a lot different than you do now?) especially to those who don’t ask but clearly need it.
This is what we did: we brought cases of those peanut butter crackers and cheese crackers. Those peanut butter crackers are high in protein, taste good and were less than 10 cents each by the case. We carried on more than enough and when we ran out we bought bananas and oranges for less than the cost of one of our restaurant meals at the local stand to give away. Everyone was grateful and we almost always had something to give to someone who asked, mostly children — two or three for those who clearly needed it.
Our Father is much more generous to us. We can only show God our love of Him by showering that love upon His children, whom He loves and sent you to love.
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “

>A few more medical travel tips from Doc


Almost the same photo, yes, but my dear Doc is next to me, in the white, w/ beard!

(From the comments, but moved here too: additional info from my dear husband, Doc G, a guest writer here this evening, and a personal favorite of mine!):
A couple of additional points to increase the odds of getting to the end of the trip successfully:
It’s probably not the obvious thing that gets most people, it’s the thing that sneaks under your radar.
Needless to say, only drink bottled water but be sure to check the seal on the bottle.
No seal, don’t drink it. Squeeze the bottle before you break the seal; if it hisses or leaks a little, the seal is broken, don’t drink it.
Avoid drinks with ice; that bit about bottled water cubes — right.
No smoothies or slushies.”I’ll have the fresh squeezed orange juice” gong! pineapple juice, gong!, tomato juice, gong!, lemonade gong!, iced tea gong!!.
Unless you know it comes directly out of a commercial container from which it’s poured in front of you (and then it’s OK), don’t risk the possibility that it’s from concentrate or homemade with water you won’t like later.
Don’t confuse American “healthy eating” with third world foreign country “healthy eating”. Not the same — and it’s only a week or two.
Canned or commercially bottled anything will be fine. Only eat food that is thoroughly cooked. Thoroughly washed is not good enough and in fact may be the source of problems — the contamination may come from the prep area or water itself.
You’re hungry and the waiter brings some tasty little appetizers. You nibble while you scrutinize the menu. Doesn’t matter, you’ve already lost.The main course may be very carefully chosen by you, safe and cooked and then you eat the side or garnish of “that looks interesting” and you’ve possibly just sealed your fate.
“But I like salad, and besides it’s good for you.” Gong!!!”I’m just going to eat healthy” Gong!
Uncooked thin skinned fruits and fresh vegetables (grapes, tomatoes, apples, pears, zucchini, carrots, lettuce etc., etc,) can harbor bacteria under their skin. Even the “good” restaurants are not going to wash them with bottled water. Spam, Oreos, Twinkies and beer will treat you better.
If something comes that you are suspicious of, don’t make a stink or even call attention to it, just leave it alone and congratulate yourself for your vigilance and the fact that you’ve avoided getting sick for only the cost of that item — oh how you’ll long for that deal if you miss it on the first pass!
Take your pepto capsules before everything you eat or as soon after if you forget no matter where you eat.
Ask your PCP for a Ciprofloxacin or Bactrim DS prescription and get it filled to take with you.
One or two doses at the very first sign or even preventively if you suddenly realize what you ate is much easier and more effective than trying to get rid of the problem once established. (Do not get Bactrim if any of you have sulfa allergy — get the cipro)and take 8 pepto capsules per person per day with you plus extras to give to the poor fellow travelers who forgot or didn’t know to bring them. Two capsules before every meal or non commercial snack without exception. (Five of us for 11 days; 55 times 8 equals 440 capsules. They come in 48 capsule bottles, consolidate and put them in everybody’s backpack so you always have them. This is one of the secrets we docs use on medical mission trips.
Do it and you can just be vigilant not paranoid.
It will be an awesome trip, but you will enjoy and experience very little after the moment you get sick — so, an ounce of prevention.
P.S. Immodium is helpful to decrease the frequency of visits to the bathroom, or if one simply has a sensitive system. However, if you have an intestinal infection you defeat your body’s natural attempt to rid you of it partly by decreasing the volume of bacteria in there, and can make yourself less trips but actually sicker longer.
God Bless! TLG, M.D

>Travel Tips: Part 2: the Doc

> Ok, this is a shortish but important set of tips that I’ve been meaning to post. And in the ongoing hope that travel for our Gladney families will resume sooner rather than later, I’m gonna post these before I forget again for awhile.

In my opinion, they are critical to the success of traveling to adopt your child. This is a set of suggestions compiled by my dear husband, previously referred to as Prof. To be accurate and in order to provide some creds for this set of tips, from now on he will be called “Doc.”

So. Traveling to Addis Ababa to pick up your child is a rigorous trip in many ways: emotionally, sometimes spiritually, and certainly physically (I mean, 17 hours from DC to Addis, right there, it’s a toughie!). You are not traveling to a resort or vacation experience. You are traveling halfway around the world to a vastly different country. A gorgeous country, a gorgeous continent, with gorgeous culture and people; but make no mistake, this is a tremendously different world and culture and you are not just hopping a shuttle to Jersey!

In order to travel and really enjoy it fully, you need to keep yourself healthy and strong and feeling your best, of course! In order to do this, I think these tips, provided by me personal favorite doc, to be essential.

Medicine: While you can get over the counter meds in Addis Ababa {and I did, for my husband who had a bronchial cough at the end of our trip and the cough medicine I got worked wonderfully} bring some of your own with you. You know the brands and types you like and need and will have them on hand when you might need them. {Of course, bring any Rx meds w/ you in your carry on}. But Doc points out that these listed below are terrific to have on hand and they can make the difference in how well the trip ends up:

Advil or Tylenol
Pepto Bismol (and NOT really Immodium or that sort. The Bismuth in the Bismol actually kills the bugs that make your stomach cramp up and you don’t want your system shut down {which can lead to it’s own problems}, you want the different bacteria dead)
An antibiotic, broad spectrum, like Cipro or Bactrim. Head to a doc before you go and tell them you are traveling to Africa and you would like to have some on hand just in case. They will usually get you a Rx for a small amount, which will be all you might need and a generic version is usually really cheap.

The reason for the Cipro or antibiotic is that if you start having an intestinal reaction to whatever you might have ingested that your system is not used to and it is, um, rebelling, the antibiotic and help knock out those bugs fast too. Doc had us take an antibiotic at the first sign of distress, which only happened a few times, and we only had to take one or two.

He also had us each take two Pepto tablets before each meal, no matter where or what we ate. And while that might seem like overkill or paranoid, it worked for us. Only a very few times did any of us think, “uh-oh, did I eat the wrong thing?” Now, we were very discreet with this practice and worked hard to not be popping them in front of waiters and such; we had no wish to offend. But practically speaking, we have wussy American digestive systems and it is simply that new and different items can easily cause rebellion. Stomach’s often don’t like new things, no matter where those new things are from: fritters from the south or foi gras from France. So, the upshot from the Doc (no pun intended) is do some math and bring plenty of pepto to cover those meals and then maybe some extra, you might end up giving some away and it’s a cheap insurance to help make the trip more comfortable and worry free.

All that said, we ate very well in Addis! Though that, the food, is the subject of another post, I’d say. But the Ethiopian cultural food was very good, (I especially liked the lentils) much better than what we’ve had in the states. And the Beef Tibs are also very good if you go to Dreamland or other places where they have those. So, don’t be scared of eating in Addis, enjoy, but it won’t hurt you to take those Pepto’s and to have those antibiotics and advil as well. A healthy trip and tummy is most certainly a happier trip!

>Travel tips: Prep

> There are a few things I’ve been meaning to mention, so before I forget, I’ll put them up now.

For those of you with travel to Addis ahead of you, two things.

The first one: get in shape people! {Thank you Shelly for the reminder!}
Really, no kidding. I had thought that I was in shape. I am pretty strong, I am fit and high energy. So, hey, traveling across the world to pick up a baby? No problem! Ha! My baby is now 26 pounds and despite the slings (NoloWear slings are fantastic) and such, my back is all spazzed out. I know what you are saying, “Hey, you are no spring chicken, of course it’s hard.” Well, touche’, it’s true. But I do stay fit, I ran a marathon last December, and one other unofficial one, not to mention oh, training for months and months and months. I bring this up not to brag (and if you saw me run, or run/walk {see Galloway} you’d understand that I never could} but rather to point out that it’s easy to presume you are in shape. But oh so different to live it…. So, I THOUGHT I was ready. My back begs to differ.

So, do the work: the crunches, the ab work, the lifts…..you’re gonna need it. Even those little bitty babies get heavy after a while and it’s a lifting that you are ecstatic to do, but well, it’s nice to be able to keep on doing it instead of being on the floor on your back, stuck in a spasm. {NO, that has NOT happened to me, yet….but it could happen}. And really, it’s MUCH nicer to coo and grin at your little one as you pick them up, again, than to groan as you lift them, don’t ya think? Better form and all?

Now for the picture above of Booboo and Little Man.
Prepping donations.
If you are bringing any new items into Addis, particularly anything that could conceivably be sold, try to get Gladney to give you a letter here that you can have on your person when you face the customs guy there. If not, more than likely they will hold your stuff and you will create a huge hassle for Travis and Belay and their attorney there. Anything new that comes into Addis has to pay 100% tax on it. Yes, I said 100%. So, they try hard to get around that and humanitarian aid fits the bill, but you need proof if it’s new stuff.

We brought in a bunch of deflated but new playground balls. We thought, “kids and balls, fun.” We didn’t realize it actually meant: new balls, crashing halt at customs, three hours wrangling with them, four days of hassle for in country staff. They finally got them out, but it was a problem. Our bad. Also, if I had just said “personal” as they asked what was in the duffels, they might have let it through (and it was “personal” it was ours, so that would have been legit, but I didn’t, who knew?). Or they might not have, but it’s worth a try.

Customs in Addis is like that, sometimes it’s easy and apparently, sometimes it’s not. But for a heads up, I suspect a lot of the hassle could have been avoided if we had a letter. The customs guy asked for one and we were clueless. Letter? What do you mean? It’s for an orphanage……and we naively presumed it would go through, no problem. Um. No. So, bring the stuff, but try to get a letter on the front end stating the contents and it’s purpose and where it’s going etc etc etc.

And yeah, let the kids at home play with them as they pack them up…it just adds to the fun!

>"While we are there……"

>Those are the words that made me do a double take. Anytime you hear a spouse say “While we are there….” or “While we are at it…..” you can pretty much fill in the blank with a dismayed cry inside your (ok, my) head of “are you kidding? really?” We’ve ripped out all sorts of plumbing and kitchen cabinets with that phrase and found ourselves in various spots around the globe and country. Living with my dear husband is never, ever dull and I am so grateful!

This time, as the fantastic Susan Parr Travel worked feverishly on our travel arrangements my husband said, “while we are in Africa, we could stop in Egypt!”

I don’t know why that surprised me, really. That sort of phrase is actually SO typical of my husband. Because what some might know about him, but many do not, is that one of his great passions in life is travel. He is a travel maniac. Anytime he gets a chance, anywhere, anyhow….he’s game!

So that is the start of the how and why these teens and my adventurous husband found themselves in the desert sun, on a camel, in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza. (for those of you nudging me about this story, you know who you are ….here goes!)
Anyhow, as I said, we passed court and we were ecstatic and immediately switched into “hair on fire” mode and started making travel plans.

As we were having flying emails and phone calls my husband said, “ask them if we can get to Cairo.” What??!

So then we talked. He pointed out that it was so close, we might not get another chance and if so not for a long time, hard to pass up opportunity etc etc. I was a wee bit balky, ok more than a wee bit. Of course, he felt like that was no big deal. Hmmm. We had thought about going on a stopover beforehand and had talked about that, but as it turned out, both BuddyBug’s finals and my babysitter’s finals got in the way. Those darn college tests! So we couldn’t go before we were supposed to be there {and there was NO way either one of us wanted to postpone our arrival date and get that baby in our arms}, and we couldn’t go after as Booboo had finals as well. Hmmmmm. That left either cutting it short for all of us or splitting up.

So, not sure how it could possibly work out, surely it was impossible…… but what could it hurt to get more info?
As the travel agent checked into it, we were going ’round and ’round with this crazy idea – should we, could we?
And besides…… we needed one more thing to try to figure out as we prepped to go to Africa in two weeks, right? It’s not like we were leaving our kiddos for the longest time ever and going halfway around the world or anything……oh yeah, yes, it was.

My husband made the excellent point that we homeschool and Bananas had been studying ancient Egypt all year long. It was a homeschool mom’s field trip opp of a lifetime!

Oh. Score!

But the baby couldn’t get a visa to Egypt. We even checked. Not that I was wild about taking a new (to us) baby to Egypt anyhow. Staying and bonding sounded good to me. It is required to present yourselves in person in Addis at the Egyptian embassy and then wait for 6-8 weeks to see if you get a visa for Ethiopian nationals (as opposed to American’s getting visa’s in a few hours). Oh. Score for staying. And yes, we called the embassy’s. In Addis. And Cairo. And D.C. We are thorough.

So we were at a stalemate.
He wouldn’t go if I gave it the big VETO. I didn’t want to do it but hadn’t hit a comfort level.

And no, the issue at this point was not be being in Addis alone w/ baby. At this point the only option was them going for a few days and leaving me in Addis. For my part, I was totally ok with that. I knew I could handle the time. I knew I would have the baby safe and sound. I knew I had helpers in the Gladney staff and if I needed anything it was for the asking. So that wasn’t it. At this point it was the money and the security and having my family spread out in three different countries. I didn’t like that.
But then we got the call from Kari at Susan Parr agency, “Did you know, I found that we can book your husband and teens with a stopover in Addis and all the way to Cairo, and it doesn’t change the fare.” Excuse me? We can fly them five hours to Cairo and it is the same cost as DC to Addis and back? Yup. The Addis part is considered layover, albeit a long one.

SCORE for the Egypt leg.
Slam dunk. Final Game.

As a homeschool mom, this was pretty hard to turn down. It WAS that opportunity of a lifetime that he said it was. Dang.
So, I still had security concerns. I didn’t want to sit in Addis and worry myself sick over them. I do that sort of thing.
But I really DIDN’T want to play that big veto card. I could have. They would have accepted it with grace. I know it. But I didn’t want to.
So, my husband agreed to use the travel agent recommended by Susan Parr, Yalla Tours, someone that they had used with success in Egypt before (and therefore accountable and with a track record instead of the hundreds, literally, who were sending me info on my email after I put in a search. Travel tip: don’t do that, use an info search for foreign travel agents website. But I digress).
So, in another flurry of emails and faxes and phone calls, we settled on all the travel arrangements and travel insurance (travel tip: GET THE TRAVEL INSURANCE, things happen) and we had a once in a lifetime trip planned.

My big kids were going on the most amazing homeschool field trip. Ever.
Now we had to get BuddyBug home and BooBoo off crutches. Because we were going to Ethiopia, and Egypt!

Buddybug’s last final was the day before we left. His school is eight hours away by car. Bananas and I were going to drive up get him, but it would mean two extra days gone from the littles. Not good. Happily, a dear friend (thanks MA!) was going to pick up her daughter on the campus next door to my son’s and she agreed to get my boy home. So she did, she brought helper sons to get them all moved out of their dorms (they had to do that too!) and into the van and home. They got in just before midnight. We had to be leaving for the airport by nine a.m. But luckily, we didn’t cut it close or anything.
So, after all this crazyness, we flew to Addis. We met our sweet Gabriel Tariku. We had an amazing week.
You know all this if you’ve been reading, if not, scroll down.

On Friday, one of the hardest days, we woke up early and met Tariku’s extended family. That was amazing and profound and made me/us cry. And that’s for another post. Then we went to Enrico’s and had a nosh and some coffee. Thank goodness! Also another post. We met up with other traveling families and Travis and Belay at Kolfe. Also another post. Then Kebebetsehay and Kechene. These orphanges were wrenching and wonderful all at the same time.

We had to leave Kechene to bolt back to Wagayu’s and throw clothes in bags for them to make their flight. As they packed, I found their tickets. It said “all travelers MUST confirm their return flights within 48 hours of arrival.” {That’s another, kind of buried but important travel tip…I’m gonna have to make a list, I know.} uh oh. We didn’t do that. Who knew?? So now I worried about them being allowed to get on their flight to Egypt, plus us being allowed to leave on our scheduled return home, if our embassy date passed after all. I kissed them all goodbye with tears and then went in to start calling Ethiopian Airlines. Until my cell phone (borrowed from Wagayu) died. And the power was out for the night.

Heartsick. Exhausted. So baby and I decided call it a night and take a much needed early bedtime. I went to sleep praying for a safe flight and trip for my bunch to Cairo.Later that night, I was awakened by Wagayu. My husband was calling him, for me. He couldn’t get through on my cell. Because it died. Wagayu woke me and then took me to his house and gave me his land line phone so I could speak to my husband in private. He told me to take it into the house for the weekend. He is a dear man, Wagayu. A bit later, they called. They were boarding! All was a go. They were on their way to Cairo. I didn’t think I’d talk with them again until I saw them the following Monday night. But oh, it was so good to know that they were good to go and on their way!Next stop for the adventurers: Luxor!
More to come (don’t worry…more pictures less talk).

Note: I know there are a lot of camel pics. I love camels and these pics. Camels are fun to draw and paint and just look at…I mean come on. They are on CAMELS! In Egypt!! How can I not put them up? Crazy!

>Away we went

>Yes, there is a man on the engine of that plane. And so goes the story of our travel to Addis.

Ok, I know, how tardy am I? Very. Get used to it. We now say we are “seven kids late.” We used to say “we are six kids late.” Works every time. Try it.

But anyhow, I figured I should give you the rundown of the actual trip, with a few travel tips embedded. That way those of you compulsive types will read the whole thing and the rest of you…well, you probably wouldn’t care to be bored but of course read along if you like! But for those of you still in process and eagerly anticipating that long flight – here ya go.
This is us, waiting for something like six hours, waiting for our plane to be either cancelled or fly. In our hometown airport. With no other flights out to D.C. that day, on any airliner. Most of the passengers stood in line forever and got other flights. This was it for us. We passed the time watching the mechanics crawl all over the engines. It was fun. Comforting. ha. So we stress snacked. I know, it’s another picture of the same plane. Looks a lot like the first picture doesn’t it? Try watching it for six hours as your departure time for your Addis flight looms closer. This is just to get you the feel of it….the ‘you were there’ factor.

As you know, I ended up posting and begging for prayers to make that flight. And I hate little planes. But I didn’t care, if this one was cleared for takeoff, I was gonna be on it! Thanks for the prayers, of course, they worked.

After we got to D.C. we tried to make Mass in the chapel in the airport, knowing we’d be flying all day Sunday. We missed that too. But we sure tried, we went as fast as Booboo’s braced leg would walk! So we said a few quick prayers and read the Mass readings and then hoofed it to the other concourse which meant taking multiple escalators up and down and down and up and then waiting for the shuttle to load us up and spit us out again. By this time I was a stressed maniac, wanting to sprint to the gate. We were cutting it super close, and had conflicting info on when you had to check in at the gate. One woman told us an hour, one told us 45 mins.
Travel Tip: Don’t do this:
on your way to the Ethiopian Airlines Gate. I know. It’s tempting. However, it might cause the mom person to almost stroke and it just causes general discord. Wait until you’ve checked in. There is another one of these photo ops not far from the Addis gate, really like 30 yards or so.

No kidding. We got there, ok, me first, as I can move in a speed walk and I shamelessly belted it to get there faster than my boy could walk. I know, bad mom, he’ll need therapy later, we’ll add it to his list. But the desk guy was calling us by name as I approached, being the last white family, and family period, not checked in. That is never a good sign. Then he shuffled our papers a bit as the others caught up behind me and had a bit of discussion with his co-desk buddy. As I caught my breath (I told you, it’s a long walk and we were going as fast as possible) he finally handed me our passes and said “you guys are really lucky today.” “Huh?” “You almost didn’t make it. We are boarding now, he’s in a good mood.” Yikes!!! So, they are serious about that check in time and don’t push it. ONE HOUR BEFORE DEPARTURE, MINIMUM, NO KIDDING. That’s the most important travel tip of my entire journey. You can stop reading now if you like, you’re good to go.

We boarded immediately. Well, as we got in line to be boarding (and it was moving) my husband was buying sandwiches from the shop across from the gate. Expensive but decent and better than the food you’ll have for the next 18 hours. Think about that too. That’s travel tip number two.
Next travel tip: Not much room for carry-on or even largish purses/totes on Ethiopian Airlines. Travel light and sparingly. Also, they are serious when you are in an exit row (where we were moved) and you cannot keep your purse and such with you, it has to go up, so get your book and Ipod before you stow it in the hold above you. The stewards and stewardesses (do they still call them that?) were very helpful and very kind, the whole flight. You get two crews so they aren’t burnt out and exhausted and they are nothing but helpful and patient with a bunch of sleepy tired travelers.

Next tip, it’s a long flight, so settle in and sleep as much as you can. Even though it will be full and cramped, be flexible and patient as there is nothing to do but wait for it to be over. It’s a long haul and everyone just waits it out, but really, very patiently and nicely, considering.
Booboo studied for finals. BuddyBug and Bananas played a looong game of squares {yes on a motion sickness bag, you use what you got folks!}.Finally, after two hours on tarmac in Rome for refueling (no you don’t get off, you try to sleep some more), and another 6 in the air, we were in Ethiopia. I must say, it was exciting to be flying over Africa and see the desert and then start seeing Addis coming into view. What a thrill for us all!
And then, after landing, you wait again, for what seems like far too long (but I think that is typical of every international flight I’ve ever been on as everybody is just twitching to get off that plane). And you are there. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I swear my daughter and I were bouncing with excitement. I know, dorky tourists, but it’s not like we could pretend we were locals so we threw cool to the wind. We were all excited! We had arrived in Africa!!!
To finally BE there after all the reading and thinking and dreaming of it. After almost NOT making it and making our flights, we were just all SO thankful and grateful to be in Addis Ababa at last! It was a little surreal, our bodies didn’t know what time it was but we were ready to GO!

More to come…..

>Almost Wordless Wednesday

>Ok, I’m almost never wordless, as you have surely figured out by now. But this picture also cracks me up. It’s during that long flight to Addis from DC. I have much more to post on this trip, the actual travel of it. It’s just that the overwhelming emotions and tsunami of impressions and feelings have been first, of course. But I will be posting travel tips and experiences only because I know I was greedy for them before I went. So this, this not-at-all-wordless Wednesday picture is to let you know, there is more coming, as soon as I get a few more spare minutes! In the meantime, both for Addis and Egypt, Booboo will hold the promise for more.

>Home Again: part two. Or, how to know when you are REALLY home.

You know, traveling is a funny thing.
It’s always great to go.
It’s always great to come home.

Adoption travel is even more so.

It is amazing to go.
And it is life-changing to both go and come home.

Whenever we go on a trip, I half joke about the hellish nature of “re-entry.” It’s somewhat akin to the re-entry of astronauts; burning through the ozone layers, possible cramping, careful debriefing and adjusting back to life on earth.

After a trip, with a big family, you have that sort of re-entry: debriefing, cramping, layers of laundry and chores just to breath again. Adjusting to life after a break.

Traveling around the world to adopt a child, we were braced for the worst of re-entry.

We had left our smallest (shh, hardest) three at home. For eleven days. An unprecedented amount of time. And they all grew at least a foot, I swear. So, as joyful as we were to be reunited, we were braced for major upheaval.

And….it didn’t happen.
They accepted the new toddler baby boy with joy and laughter.
My four year old accepted his mauling and baby wrestling with a smile and gentleness (only one small football body check in a crawling race to a car, easily corrected).

So then we waited for the meltdowns of temper and fussing.
It didn’t happen. The house exploded with the clutter of suitcases and unpacking and souvenirs. That was expected.
We waited for Gabriel Tariku to cling to me and shriek and wail or huff and puff at the unfamiliar faces and places. It didn’t happen.

Just when we started to think, “Wow, who’da thunk it, we landed in the twilight zone!?”……Buddybug was changing a light bulb as I was fixing dinner……and the water started streaming through the fixture. Raining indoors, in our hall bath. Then too the water started coming through the next ceiling light, in the hall. I ran upstairs to find my daughter in the shower (directly over the hall and bath) and the toilet overflowing and flooding her bathroom and her upper hallway as she sang away, oblivious. As I called to my

husband to come and help, quickly, my Little Man shouted from his room, “Mommy, my tummy hurts!” and ran into his bathroom. My son ran up, my husband ran up and we all grinned, “Ok NOW we are home.”


So, now, life has returned to normal. The kids grouse about chores and squabble with each other. The baby is still trying to wrestle his next biggest brother and Little Man loves it. Our lights and baths are fixed, for now I guess. Our dishwasher is broken and needs to be replaced. And now, we are home again. And happy.

>Notes from Addis: Indescribable

Notes from Addis:

How do you describe the indescribable?

You don’t.
Not well anyhow.

You can’t, of course. I guess it’s like being pregnant, you can read about it, hear others talk about it, ad nauseum (pun intended), and yet, you cannot fathom it, or begin to “get” it until you are yourself. That’s what it’s like coming to Addis to adopt a child. Indescribable.

So, all I can offer are moments of what I saw, here and there.

So many people. So many different people. All over. All over the streets, the alleys, everywhere. Rich people, poor people, suffering disabled people, happy laughing people, socializing people,
working people. Babies on their mother’s backs in scarves, children by their side, men walking arm in arm, women alone or laughing with a girlfriend, old people, young, strong and quick,
feeble. But always worth seeing people, real


The children. Big and small.

Dust. Construction, everywhere, from small shops to large skyscrapers to modern apartments to luxurious homes. Construction. With wooden scaffolding that boggled the American mind on how it held. Construction behind the scaffolding of cement stories; donkeys and burros with wooden saddles to hold cement for the building. Aluminum sides of homes and shops and roofs. Doors that opened for the day in shops by being taken off and leaned against the front wall.

Things for sale. ANYTHING for sale. Everywhere. Seems like almost anything available. clothing, shoes, electronics, music, goats, lamb, trinkets, pots, pans, flowers, cokes, juice, food, gum, maps, hats, balls, wood, rebar, tires, gum…..it’s all there. And if you need or want it, your driver will help you get it.

Gardens, lush gardens and gorgeous flowers. Color, everywhere so much color a feast. NOT a colorless dry land. A city and land FULL of color. From the sky and plants and flowers to the brightly colored tin shops to the beautiful colored scarves on the women. Color. Everywhere.

The poor. It is a city full of visible poverty. Seems like much much more than the U.S., but then again we tend to hide our poor (unsightly). Here it just is. Yet, there is great wealth here and it’s also side by side with the poor. It all just slips by together. It is a city of constant juxtaposition, which can make your head spin, almost literally. I suppose you get used to it some if you live here for a long time. Maybe.

The countryside. Beautiful. Breathtaking. As far as the eye can see: hills, trees, browns and greens, rolling terrain. YOu can see why people who grow here would never leave. Lakes outside the city, made from old craters; gorgeous views. Belay said he would like to retire here, I can see why.

Cars. Cars and trucks and cars. Everywhere. Honks and beeps. Buses filled with people, standing room only. Taxis filled to overflowing. Cars careening around streets with no lanes, swerving and braking and swerving again. And yet, no crashes. Roads that are fine and sided by gardens. Roads that are bumps and broken rock and patchy asphalt. Solomon, our driver, stopping for pedestrians who need a minute more to cross, the blind, the old. Solomon, shouting away men too pushy to sell through the window but buying gum from the boy with the big smile as he laughs. The dust of pollution and exhaust held in the valley of Addis downtown, a layer blanketing the city. The fresh air of the hilltops as you rise out of the city and open the window.

The traffic police at all the roundabouts that are spotted throughout the city. The armed guards at the Hilton Hotel entrance. The parking meter ladies who have turf from one light pole to the next and have baseball caps on over their scarf covered hair, writing on their tiny notepads and in their dayglo green plastic vests. The stark naked man standing bolt upright, holding a plastic shopping bag on a main thoroughfare, waiting to cross the road or something else. Hard to guess on that one.

The leper colony and rehabilitation center. Seeing them take tufts of cotton wool and then spin it and weave it on large looms and then decorate it into the beautiful textiles that are for sale, to support their center. Buying bunches of linens from them because they are beautiful and they are truly handmade and well, that’s a good spot to spend some money.

Haggling with street vendors, selling the same things in shop after shop. Or my son haggling with the man carrying the handful of fake sunglasses, being thrilled with the ultimate bargain.

The food. Terrific Italian food and pastas. Fantastic pizza’s from woodburning ovens. Italian pastries and french crepes and croissants. The Ethiopian cultural dinner with injera and chickpeas and music filling the room, eating from a basket woven table called a mesob. The beef tibs in a small black iron pot, like Ethiopian fajitas, to be rolled up in injera.

The coffee! The best coffee I’ve ever had. Fresh roasted in front of you, served in espresso cups and with a bit of crystal sugar. Smoother than espresso, richer without a bite. Fantastic. Served with popcorn, that somehow works.

The call to prayer. Morning and sometimes evening the call to prayer calling me from a sleep, just before it calls to wake my new son. Listening to it being broadcast, the sound of the words unknown to me, it becoming a cascading river of sounds in the background. The extra long, multiple hours, long call to prayer on Sunday. And seeing all the people dressed in white on Sunday as I too was called to prayer at Mass.

The bark of guard dogs. The creaking hinges of the iron gates at all the homes. The wraithlike men who sit all night next to or in a small tin hut by the gates to each road in the neighborhood, keeping ones who don’t belong there out and letting the drivers who do, in. A long lonely job.

The power outages. Most nights in a restaurant the power goes out one, two, three times, then comes right back up. Rolling blackouts throughout the city. People live around it. Power out often in the guest house, we use a small lantern or some candles and plan our showers for later if we can. Not a big deal, surprisingly. Quiet.

Safety. I never felt unsafe. Not once. Granted I had a sheltered pampered life while here. I am no fool. But even so, as an ignorant American, I suspected I might feel unsafe some of the time. I did not. Not once.

So many impressions. Even remembering conjures more. It will take a long time to process it all, if it is even possible. Ethiopia. It’s a big place, in so many ways…even the smallest ways are a universe of thought. This trip changes you, if only on the most superficial level to make you so grateful for the simple practical abundance in your daily life.

Images seared into my brain and heart. We have 1600 photos. We cannot post the most electric ones, the ones that grip my heart. The Ethiopian government won’t allow it. But they are indescribable. And without a doubt, indelible.

>Embassy and Last Monday, in Addis (the 19th)

>Well I am waiting for Tom and big kids to return from Egypt. {that side trip is a series of posts, in and of themselves! Soon soon.}

I have not heard from them so I am guessing their flight is en route. I hope so. It’s been fine here w/out them but I am ready for them to return. Wagayu and Solomon have fussed over me like mother hens. They have won me over! I am not really one to be fussed over, usually I am the fusser (so to speak), but it is sweet and has made me feel safe and snug. And I suppose, so far away from home and with my family in three different countries, unable to contact each other, that is an ok feeling after all.

Being a bad wife and mom, I have asked Solomon to go to the airport and let me stay here w/ Tariku instead of all of us going to greet them. Travis mentioned lines for 45 minutes just to enter the airport and then longer again to get through security to greet them. Considering that and the fact that they will once again have to pass through customs, I figured I would rather the baby goes to bed peacefully and myself too. We will wake once they arrive.

Happily, joyfully, miraculously, we passed through the Embassy date today!!! FINALLY!!!!!!!! Belay is a miracle worker. Truly. He is the man that makes things happen. Period. Our visa paperwork doesn’t get picked up until 2 pm tomorrow, and we leave for airport a little after 6 pm, so it feels like it’s cutting it close, but Belay doesn’t seem worried so I will try not to be as well. I am so happy to be going home!!! I have had an amazing trip here, and really think Ethiopia is simply beautiful and Addis is a fascinating city. But I need to go home to my other children who are needing me back. I need to have all my children together, with me. So I need to return home.

But Africa, Ethiopia, will hold a special place in my heart. THe people I have met, the few I have gotten to know a little, and the faces of strangers and the strangers who approached me to talk about this sweet boy…..they have carved a niche in my heart. The woman who came up to me at a restaurant and asked if this was my new child and was I adopting him? I said, happily, yes! And she complimented me and said it was a great thing for him and she was so glad. We had a nice visit for a few minutes and compared children (yes she spoke english). The several women who asked me, “adopting” and I said “yes!” with a smile and they said “thank you.” Or they said, “God bless you” and I said, “He did, this boy blesses us.” This humbled me. Made me blink and almost cry.

The faces of the people we passed in the streets. The faces of the children at the orphanages. Hugging the children who would nestle up close. The littler ones would casually lean in toward me until they were touching me. Except one sweet girl who just climbed up in my lap and wouldn’t get down. ANd I hugged them all. Tight. And kissed their heads. And blinked back my tears. And hugged them again. The older boys at Kolfe, who would come and practice their English, show me their math books, and just kind of hang around. They got hugs too if it looked like they might accept them. The girls at Kechene, Arazune, who came and sat next to me on the steps to say hello, and then showed me a card she had made with stars and hearts. We talked a little, what little we could and just sat together, close by. Then she said as it was time to leave, “Don’t forget me.” Oh. How could I???

So, my son is now on his way home. But I now have a part of my heart in Africa.

>Last Sunday in Addis: Mass

>Ok, if I wait for these to be put in nice order….well, I’ll never post. Perhaps that would be better for all of you. But well, tough. I’m just gonna put up what I can, so I don’t forget either. Bear with me. These will all be jumbled and not in trip time order. Sorry.

Today (last Sunday actually, the 18th) Tariku and I went to mass in Addis, at Holy Saviour Church.

It is (was…ok, I’m done now. Please figure out this was written a week ago..ahem: Buddy Bug!) Trinity Sunday, the Feast of the Family, and also vocations Sunday. A triple header!

And how perfect that this is the first sunday my new son gets to go to mass, his first.

My vocation is to be a mom. It might not be glamorous, but it’s what I do. Period. So, today was that in a nutshell. And the Feast of the Family, well, our family just grew. Perfect. And Trinity Sunday, where we celebrate the Trinity…where God so loved His Son that the love formed another: the Holy Spirit. Love become person, love not a frilly notion, love so real it has a name. And now we have another love so real, that he has a name, he is getting heavy to carry already and he scrunches up his nose when he laughs.

How cool it is when life mirrors what is most true and most real, how your life can parallel the liturgical calendar and life in the church, how each small family can parallel the larger church family.

Trinity Sunday, Feast of the Family. Mass with Tariku. Today is a good day.

These pics were actually from the Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral. I forgot to bring my camera to Holy Savior….because that’s how I travel. Doh.
Almost all pics of this trip were courtesy of my sons photo efforts. Thanks guys!

>That’s what’s fun about a brother

>I’m not feeling my best this weekend, so I am linking to my eldest’s new goofy blog. Where he disparages his mother but gushes about his new brother.

We are all super great. Gabriel Tariku is doing surprisingly well, really seems comfy and relaxed. Likes to be held best by mom, but also very gleeful to baby wrestle with his newest big brother, the very big four year old! More tomorrow, after hopefully I am back to my normal self. We are all just head over heels in love with this wonderful little boy! God is so good it blows our minds.

And if you’re wondering about the pic: That’s a baby Gabriel kiss and hug, that is! Who can resist??

>One of the Heroes

Notes from Addis:

“My Hero”: Solomon.

Solomon is (was) our driver. He carts us around, patiently, in a red toyota van. He has been trying to woo Tariku since we met….and he is winning. Tariku now reaches for him and plays with him. Solomon will help cheer Tariku if he is cranky. Solomon will ignore us if we are cranky.

He patiently answers our surely stupid questions that are the same ones he’s been asked hundreds of times before. He is a whiz driver, expertly maneuvering between trucks and buses and cows, coming within inches of all, and squeezing by. Even with the careening traffic in Addis, Solomon stops to let any person who might need a bit more time across the road – he hangs out the window and tells them something akin to “Hey, it’s ok, go now, I’ll wait for you.” He has done this with elderly, lame, blind.

He is such a gentleman. My husband and big kids left for a few days in Egypt, and I am alone with Tariku here for three days and nights. He has been like a big brother taking care of me {even as I am quite a bit older than him}. He has helped me find a bathroom where none would be found and waited a short distance away to escort me safely back. Last night, as we returned from a late dinner, he dropped off the Lake family. As I started to get out of the van to head to our guest house, Solomon blocked the door. I said “Solomon, the house is right there! We can walk!” And he laughed and said, “Oh no, it’s dark” and slammed the door shut and drove me the thirty yards to our gate. Today he earned my undying devotion: he stopped and bought me a coke, wouldn’t let me pay, just because I had asked about Coke’s in the market. That coke was much needed as I was flagging in the afternoon….and it tasted so extra good. So I told him, “Solomon, you are my hero today! Thank you!!”

Anyone who travels and is lucky enough to find Solomon as their driver: be very happy and tell him we all send our best!