The 411 on Ethiopia…Who Needs Google?

As I encounter friends and acquaintances, I keep hearing the same questions: How was Ethiopia? What were the boys like? What’s next? Does anyone know where they can get that info? You guessed it…this here blog! I’m pretty sure I detailed all 6 days. Oh, you don’t like to read? Well, I don’t like telling the same stories again and again and again and again. I know a lot of people. And, they are all curious. I only enjoy retelling stories in which I am nearly killed (or being ignored while in the midst of it).

Oh, you read the blog and still have questions? I have the answers. Anything more you want to know about Ethiopia can be found in this post. Wow! Right? You are welcome. Now, don’t go checking my facts on Google. I was there. Let me tell my biased story. And, by continuing to read this post, you are agreeing not to comment, email or tell me of any inaccuracies. Agreed? Oh, and feel free to skip to just the questions you want answers to.

What was the plane ride like?
Never ending. Going there was 7 hours on one and 14 on another, with a 4-hour layover. Great movies, not-so-great food, really cute uniforms for the flight attendants. Oh, and they gave us a tiny bag with an eye mask, toothbrush/paste, and socks. How sweet. Coming back? Our flight was canceled, so we were rerouted after a 4-hour stay in the business class lounge. Flight time was something insane like 17 on one and 12 on another. Not as nice on the way back, but that could have more to do with the fact that Keith started throwing up before we even took off. He wasn’t so careful with the free (yet still Ethiopian) lounge food and drinks.

What was the airport like in Ethiopia?
Scary. Small. Not so thorough. In general, a madhouse. Plus, a strange woman kept asking me if I needed help locating and collecting my bags. I continued to assure her that my very strong husband, who was lost in the mass of people and bags, would indeed take care of it. And, before the return flight, there was a power outage at 10:00 at night. We sat in the dark for several minutes because apparently there was no back-up generator for issues like this. Again, scary.

Where did we stay? What is a guest house?
Our choice was between a hotel and a guest house (Ethiopian Guest House), which is really a bed and breakfast. Keith was going to get a hotel because his biggest fear of the entire trip is that I would offend someone who offered me food. But on trip #2, we have to stay in a guest house if we want the boys with us while in the country. Ours was awesome. For Ethiopia. Our room had a bed and 2 night stands. Plus, Keith sprang for our own bathroom. All I could imagine at the thought of guest house is the part in the European Vacation movie where people keep walking in on each other in the common bathroom. Yikes. After surveying the rest of the people we met and traveled to and fro with, I’ve concluded that we had the best guest house Ethiopia has to offer. And, we will go to this exact place next time. We loved their staff. And, the cook didn’t mix all the food together, as the cook did in another guest house. My food is not allowed to touch.

What else can you tell me about the boys?
Well, they’re great. It’s hard to make an accurate observance in the few hours we spent with them. Things will change, some for the better and some for the worse, once they get home. Both are super sweet even though they seem to be total opposites. A few things I didn’t mention before: Ivan turned into a spaghetti noodle when anyone picked him up. Typical. But I’m not sure I’ll get to sit down when he’s around. He seemed to enjoy taking other kids’ toys and either running with them or throwing them more than he enjoyed actually playing with toys. Garrison knows some English. Counting, animals, colors. He initiated playing with and naming items on flash cards…I assume because it’s the only way he could communicate with us. One day while sitting on the rug, he gently took a chunk of my hair and braided it. He may be helping Avery get ready while I chase down and wrestle Ivan into his clothes.

What about their background?
We know as much as there is to know. And honestly, we’ve told as much as we’d like to tell. Our original plan was to share their information once they are here and no longer Ethiopian citizens. However, we’ve decided to wait and let the boys themselves share any information as they wish to. Knowing their background, whether good or bad, could influence your perception of them. That can’t be undone. I wouldn’t want to be in the position in which everyone knows all about me, before even I do, and without my consent. We hope you understand.

What was the country like?
We spent most of our time in areas surrounding the capital Addis Ababa with one trip to court (minus the airport). The majority of people were on the lower end of the income spectrum, with a smaller number of people living or working in the city on the other end. Outside the city there are entire towns of mud houses with either straw or metal roofs. Everything was hidden behind gates, most of which had guards. Our guest house, the orphanage, any space not taken up by a little shop. All behind a gate, concrete or metal wall. Oh, and very dry. My hair loved it!

What language do they speak?
The national language is Amharic (which written down looks very intimidating and a lot like Chinese), but each region has its own language or dialect (again, like China). Plus, any educated person has had English. Not like here where we take the required 2 years of a foreign language and barely know how to say hello, which is actually thanks to Dora. They take it for years, starting very young. Basically, if you want a good job, you learn enough English to be conversational. Our kids first learned their regional language, some Amharic and even less English. But, the language barrier is way down on my list of concerns.

Wait, you just said everyone learns English in school, right? So, they all speak some English?
Not so fast. I said in a previous blog that not all kids go to school, for various reasons. See “A View From Ethiopia.” Many of them are spent by the time they get home from fetching water miles away. So walking more miles to school? Not so important.

Were you ever scared? What’s the crime rate?
With the exception of thinking our first driver had stepped out of the movie Taken, we felt pretty safe. We had been told the only thing we have to worry about is pick-pocketing when in public, plus the general being swindled at the airport or when shopping.

What’s the weather like?
Although Ethiopia is basically on the equator, it’s also something like 8,500 feet. I will admit a slight inaccuracy as Keith looked it up last time. So, the weather is a perfect sunny and 75-80 during the day. A bit chilly early in the morning or at night, like 60. Oh, someone mentioned their rainy season. Maybe June to September or June and September? I heard one thing and Keith claims he heard the other. But, either way, sounds like a monsoon. Rains and pours on and off all day.

What are the people like?
Awesome. Everyone was super nice to us. Almost everyone. The day I had my near death experience and shortly before my insides were ripped out of me, I was sitting outside a little shop and a homeless man invaded my personal space. Rudenesss. Keith came to stand behind me protectively, but the guy just didn’t take the hint. So, a guard (a small girl in a not-so-professional looking brown uniform) threatened him with a big stick. That worked.

On the subject of guards, I'm guessing the qualifications for the position are 1) a stick and 2) the, um…guts…to use the stick. In the case of a bank, you’ll need a stick and a very long shotgun, plus a good attitude to pace back and forth just outside the front doors all the livelong day.

Back to the people. Seriously, they were great. I felt strangely at home there. Keith even ventured out by himself one day while I took a nap. Walked down the street and bought a locally brewed beer for 45 cents. How great is that? The only thing we found a bit peculiar was the way people showed affection. We rarely saw men and women (whether married or dating) holding hands. Or even walking together for that matter. Generally, it was groups of males together and groups of females. Usually several were holding hands, with fingers laced together and all. No way a guy here would lace his fingers with his buddy to walk down the street. Sometimes just the pinkies linked together. Arms hooked, the way middle school girls walk together. Or the arm around the shoulder, which always makes walking awkward.

Did anyone try this on us?
Unless you count the homeless man, no. But they are big into hand shakes, shoulder bumps and hugs. We welcomed lots of those. When a new Ethiopian entered, he’d walk around the room of sometimes 15 people and shake every hand. Even if it was someone you had met, if he is polite, he still greets each person individually. A general hello and wave to the small crowd just isn’t good enough.

What do they wear? These questions will start to get boring now because I’m stretching to think of anything you might want to know.
Well, there’s the blazing sun, so you’d think people would be dressed for something close to summertime. Nope. While I donned tank tops and short sleeves, they were covered literally from neck to toe. Sometimes even head to toe. And, it seems layering is popular as well. So, full body covering plus shirts hanging out underneath and jackets on top. I’m wondering if the boys are absolutely going to freeze here.

Are the boys excited about Simon?
Who wouldn’t be, right? He’s adorable, has a great personality and, in general, is just the best dog. Ever! However, they showed no interest in the pictures of him, even after the interpreter attempted to convey how much fun he would be. We later heard that Ethiopians don’t hold dogs in the same regard as we do. So, it may seem strange to them for Simon to join us in their everyday routine. From the wake-up call in the morning to stories at bedtime, he’s right there. And, usually sprawled across us. I hope they grow to love him as we do.

When do you get to bring them home? What’s next?
Well, we were told all necessary documents should be in place by March 11, and that we would then be in line for an embassy appointment in late April. I’ll brag about that news here as soon as it arrives. No clue if that will be the actual timeline though. It seems when we do get that THE CALL, meaning the boys are cleared for travel, we will basically leave ASAP.

Why does it cost so much?
There’s the obvious. Airfare, even with two trips, is a small chunk of the grand total. Someone, or many people, are doing all of this work while we stay in the comfort of the states. They don’t work for free. Each and every document that is completed has some fee attached to it. A legit person, a.k.a. a social worker, has to give you her stamp of approval. And, it’s a pricey stamp. Even all that combined isn’t very much. The last chunk, whether to our agency or the children’s country, supports orphans in that country. Some of these kids will eventually get a family, and some won’t. So, for however long they’re in that system (orphanage or foster care), someone’s gotta foot the bill.

Couldn’t that money be used for a better cause? Or at least stay in our own country?
Um, not according to the Bible. God has given us all of us the task of caring for orphans and widows. Even calls it “true religion.” This money will not only bring our boys here, it will also be used for the care of countless other orphans.

Why has it taken so long?
As of this month, we’ve been working on it for 26 months. All I can say is that we’re dealing with the government. Theirs and ours. In the end, we will add 2 boys to our family. Plus, hopefully we have also been a catalyst in our community, an advocate of adoption, and an example of the Gospel. If you look at it that way, 26 months seems quite efficient.

What can we pray for?
The major concern at the moment is the looming government shut-down, which has been postponed until March 18. If it does occur, ALL international adoptions will be put on hold. We want to bring our boys home. As soon as possible.

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