Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Travel Journal: Day 4 - Durame

Sunday –
5am came REALLY early. We got up, got dressed, got packed, made sure we had the right paperwork, then went down stairs for breakfast and coffee before our driver arrived to take us to Durame. Coffee was great, the eggs were a little strange as always. The driver was on time and we got ready to leave.  We managed to pack all 10 of us, our bags of clothing and supplies, plus 3 staff into a 14 passenger van.  It was not the most comfortable arrangement, but it worked.

The drive to Durame was gorgeous! 

So much lush greenery, mountain scenes, cool trees, rushing rivers of rain water, fog and farm land… it was beautiful. We stopped about 2 hours into our trip at a hotel/restaurant and had coffee. After piling back into the van, we drove another 2-3 hours to Durame. 

We arrived at our hotel and got our key. The hotel was indeed "rustic". The mattresses are as hard as were described – like someone forgot the mattress over the box spring. Things are broken, wires hanging down, no shower walls or curtain, moldy/mildewed ceiling tiles in the bathroom, muddy floors, peeling wall paper… and a menu that is hand written on one piece of paper and you put a tic-mark next to what you want. It is very primitive... but it is the best they can offer in the town of Durame. 

After quickly changing clothes, we went back downstairs for lunch. Lunch was rice with a spicy tomato sauce on top. It looked more like chili paste and it was very spicy. We were all preoccupied with our pending birth parent meetings, so there was a lot of small talk. Lunch was quickly over so we headed to the Holt Care Center in Durame (just down the road) for our important meeting.

We were brought into a room and introduced to the men who would be doing the translating for our meetings and given our schedule. Our family was to go last. We waited in a room with plastic yard-style chairs and were served more coffee and our first popcorn of the trip. The coffee was quite chunky, so Paul drank his and most of mine so that I would not appear rude. Thanks again, honey!

While waiting for our turn, my nerves finally got the best of me and I had to run to the potty. I asked the staff where a toilet was located. One of the non-English speaking staff showed me to the “toilet”. It was outside and around the corner in a room with a corrugated metal, non-closing door and was actually more like a toilet seat cemented into the floor over a large hole in the ground.  It was really smelly, lots of bugs, and about the most rustic toilet I have ever seen or used. It was quite an experience!

(And no... unfortunately I did not have my camera. boo...)

We had our birth relative meeting and I am saving those details for our children for when they are older. The meeting was one of the most emotional, powerful, God-sanctioned times of my entire life. We were able to experience an amazing moment with our birth relative and God that still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. I truly feel as though God ordained this entire adoption, but to see His hand so clearly in this moment took my breath away.

If you are an adoptive family who is weighing the decision to make the trip or not... do it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. You will never have the opportunity again and you would miss the biggest blessing you can imagine by not going!

I was shell-shocked from the intensity of the meeting and knew that I had just been a part of a divine appointment.
After the birth parent meeting we walked next door to visit the Durame intake center. The transition from the meeting to the care center was so abrupt and so sudden that my mind and heart couldn't take it. We walked through the gate into the care center and Paul turned to look at me and asked if I was okay... and I fell apart. I fell into his arms by a coffee tree and sobbed (that ugly, can't-catch-your-breath sob).
Yes, this is the coffee tree. Those berries turn red when they are ripe.

I was a little glazed-over once I got myself together, but I was still glad to see the center where so many of Holt’s children spend time before coming to Addis Ababa. It was very sweet to see all of the young children there.  

We met these two boys who were around 5 years old each. They were SO sweet and SO funny! They would repeat ANYTHING you said to them! It was hilarious! Paul had them saying Hello, Aloha, Howdy, Hi, What’s up, and several other phrases! Our whole group was laughing at how cute they were! Unfortunately, we found out they are still waiting and are not brothers, so they will be placed separately by Holt. It would be wonderful if they could stay together or at least be adopted by people in the same community. 
(edited to say - These boys both have families! I have spoken with one of the moms who lives only 15 minutes from me! They will not live near by one another, but we are praying that they are in the same travel group when they come home from Ethiopia! Isn't that awesome?)
The courtyard at the care center. 

We left the Durame care center and drove back over to the hotel where we dropped our things off in our rooms, then several of us sat and decompressed in a small sitting area upstairs near our bedrooms.

The hotel was really something. I don’t think I normally complain about accommodations, but this was really not nice. It felt unsafe, and unsanitary. I was very happy to know we were only there for a few hours! This hotel was the very best one in Durame. It was the best they could do given their supplies and abilities, and I felt guilty and like a spoiled American even thinking these things.
Bucket filled with water so you can flush, plug hanging down is 
for the water heater should you desire to shower.

Bathroom in the lobby.

We went down to dinner where I had the injera special with several types of meat and vegetables. I am so thankful that the Lord allowed us to find our children in a country filled with gluten-free food! Paul had ordered the “special pizza” which came with a raw egg cracked right in the center and barely cooked. It was special alright. 
Not the pizza, but check out that boiled egg in the center. See the yolk? Keep reading.

Side note about Ethiopian food: It has been our observation (well, Chef Paul's observation that he shared with me) that Ethiopians eat for sustenance, not just for pleasure. The pleasure in eating for them comes in the friends they share the meal with as eating together is an expression of friendship. There has been nothing that we have seen so far that has looked like someone decided to make food that would be pleasing for the eye or seasoned to taste really wonderful. The meats are from the oldest animals, so they are tough and chewy. They are also so heavily spiced so that they can cover up the taste of the gamey-ness and old-tasting meats. The egg yolks are white. I am not sure if it is because the chickens do not eat anything that would sustain their bodies well enough to produce yellow yolks, but they are certainly not the health-benefit eggs I love at home. The saddest part of this is that the people here really NEED high quality proteins and sustaining foods, not the older cuts of meat and produce.

After our dinner, we went up to the room where we quickly got under the covers, I took a sleeping pill, and we went to bed. 6am could not come soon enough! Tomorrow morning we head back "home" to Addis and we take custody of our babies!


  1. Ah.Thank you for sharing this. So many things are running through my heart and brain right now...just remembering our trip and our experience there. It makes me sad, happy, tired, and in awe of God's love all at once. Oh. And, your pizza definitely wins the prize. My husband ordered one, too. Much more benign ;-)

  2. If you are an adoptive family who is weighing the decision to make the trip or not... do it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. You will never have the opportunity again and you would miss the biggest blessing you can imagine by not going!


    While "fun" isn't a word that would ever come close to describing our experience in Durame, I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's a tiny treasure that I'm thankful we'll be able to share with our daughter. And I'm doing my best to encourage any and all who have the opportunity to do it it!

    After experiencing the toilets in Durame, it certainly opens your eyes to how dire many people's situation really is, doesn't it?

  3. I found your analysis of Ethiopian food really interesting. I have never met anyone who doesn't love Ethiopian food and as far as I can tell it is one of only a handful of African nations whose cuisine inspires restaurants around the world. Maybe it has a bit to do with the places we ate in Ethiopia. Probably if you came to the right area of the USA and kept seeing chicken-fried steak on a menu you might think we have to bread and deep fry our beef to make it tasty (why the dish was originally invented). And I loved the eggs on the buffet at the Union Hotel. But I have to admit, your husband's pizza is too strange.

  4. "Ethiopians eat for sustenance, not just for pleasure." - Who doesn't?

    "They are also so heavily spiced so that they can cover up the taste of the gamey-ness and old-tasting meats" Completely untrue!

    Exactly WHERE in Ethiopia were you? And does this make you an expert to make these unfounded conclusions for ALL of Ethiopia?

    As an Ethiopian-American, I'm appalled and these generalizations are unfair.

    It’s one thing to adopt children from a country and another thing to be condescending towards that country without any knowledge.

    I’m outraged!

    I strongly suggest you review this post and include facts instead of prejudice.

  5. By the way, I'll promoting this post on my Facebook page and wonder how many of our comments you'll conveniently moderate so as not to let them appear on your post.

  6. Not sure why you are so upset... but I DID publish BOTH of your ranting comments. I'm a big girl... I can take it.


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