This was the day we had been waiting for!
The day we meet our children for the first time!
We woke up at 7am to a very chilly room! July in Ethiopia is more like October in Tennessee.
I walked out on the balcony to take a look around and see Addis Ababa in the daylight. I saw nannies at work over at the care center, a small child waving at me from a make shift building across the street, and a gorgeous view of the mountains in the fog.
The strangest thing about Ethiopia so far is the diversity. We are staying at a hotel with solid marble front steps, marble floors, and probably the nicest accommodations anyone in this area has ever seen… but in the back of the hotel are shacks you would think were abandoned. There are packs of dogs roaming the streets, cats crying, chickens and roosters crowing, huge potholes that resemble small lakes and people pushing wheelbarrows full of potatoes for sale.
We debated what to wear, (“does this outfit say ‘Hello, I am your mommy and I am so incredibly happy to be here to meet you today!’”), then Paul went downstairs to ask for an iron. He was told they would bring one up. He went to shave and shower and while he was in the bathroom, I heard faint knocking. I figured someone was knocking down the hall it was so barely audible. After the 3rd time I heard it, I went to the door to see if someone needed something… and it was the guy bringing us the iron! He was knocking on OUR door! Oops!
He came in and removed the TV and other items from the desk, then laid a bright red towel out on the desk to make an ironing board. I thanked him and gave him a tip – 10birr, about .70, but figured it was about right based on other prices and tips I had heard of.
He then proceeded to actually iron Paul’s shirt and pants!
I didn’t realize he was going to do that! Not sure if I had then invited myself to pay another tip… I knocked on the door and told Paul he was here and ironing. Eventually, he was finished, and yes – he got another tip and was on his way to go fix someone’s shower! I guess this guy was the hotel’s Jack of All Trades.
After we were dressed, we went downstairs for breakfast and met several of the other families in our travel group. First was Kimberly – who I had emailed several times over the course of our adoption. Next, Heather, Chonda, Wendy and their husbands joined us. Emma and Michael were on their way still after being delayed due to weather.
We had breakfast – some strange looking and tasting eggs – and many, many cups of coffee!
One of the Holt staff arrived and gave me our itinerary. It was a little confusing since they thought we were not arriving until today at noon, not last night at midnight. I think military time notation would be a good idea for in the future. At least this explains why we had no driver!
After some discussion about our schedule, Paul and I decided to jump in on the rest of the travel groups schedule and go to the Holt office right then. I am glad that we did because we got to meet the staff, see our babies’ big binder that contained our dossier and the intake photos I have never seen, and learn more about our trip and hear the Holt staff’s heart for our kids. They really do love them all so much. They are so proud of what they are doing and you can tell it is their life’s calling.
As soon as our meeting was over, the driver loaded up the two families who had children at the second care center. I believe they called it Care Center 3. Our children are at Care Center 2… which we thought was Care Center 1. I don’t know if there is a center 1… but I know which they are talking about now at least.
We waited what seemed like an hour for the driver to come back to take us to OUR care center to meet our children!
When we arrived, we honked and were let inside. The Holt staff photographer/videographer got ready and Sister Martha came to speak with us. She was SO kind and sweet and sincerely loves these children SO much. She explained that they would bring the kids down the stairs one at a time and we would know them. Well, I was sure I would be the only one seeing three at once, so I was not nervous, but I can see how it could cause some stress! Sometimes families travel having only seen one photo from many months prior! They change SO much SO fast!
We were the last ones to be introduced to our children. I loved seeing the other families meeting their kids for the first time! Finally, I stood up so I could get a better look, and I saw a nanny leading the children down the stairs! They were walking and holding hands. As soon as they got to the bottom of the stairs, Z** took off running for me! She ran right into my arms, baby boy tackled Paul with a big hug, and B** came to me! I kneeled there crying and smiling this huge goofy smile while holding my girls! Paul was videotaping as best as possible given the circumstances, but I am so happy the Holt staff has someone who does that too!
We went and sat together on the couch and just absorbed as much of them as we could! We had quite awhile to play together and we got to see smiles and personalities coming out very quickly! B** (oldest girl) is so incredibly beautiful and very smart! She takes wonderful care of the younger two. You can see how she has loved and cared for them for nearly a year now. She acts very much like an oldest child. She has a smile and a voice of an angel! Z** (middle girl) also is gorgeous! She has these high cheek bones and an adorable freckle on her right cheek! She smiles and laughs and just seems to enjoy being with people. She stayed with us for the most part and kept returning when she would wander away. D** (baby boy) is such a sweet baby! I know they say he is almost 3, but he seems so much younger than that! He seems barely 2 to me. He is a snuggle bug and has a great smile! He is still in diapers and just seems like such a wonderful baby boy! He threw the ball with us, was scared of playing chasing games, and just loved to be held!
After our meeting, we went upstairs to feed them lunch! I got to help feed all three kiddos!
They brought out this bowl and pitcher of water to wash their hands, then gave each child a huge plate of injera and “wat” and something that looked like potatoes with chopped up ham. They ate ALL of it! Each one of them! Baby boy tried to feed me his first bite! How sweet! I took it and fed it to him instead. He smiled at me! I fed some to B** (oldest girl) but she was doing better on her own. She's a very efficient eater!
While we were eating, Emma and Michael arrived directly from the airport and 30 hours of flights to meet their daughter! Our travel group was now completely here and accounted for!
After lunch, they went to the potty and we went back downstairs to play! This is when the true personalities came out! We had some Magnadoodles in the bag and they were a huge hit! They carried them around and learned to erase the screens. Many more smiles, many more giggles, much more hugs and kisses! The nannies eventually came to tell us it was time for their naps. We took them upstairs and I helped tuck them all into bed. It was so sad to leave them, but also so incredibly amazing to have met them and to have fallen totally, head-over-heels in love with them so instantly!
We walked back to the hotel in a daze.
We had just met our children!
They are wonderful!
They are so sweet, and smart and amazingly beautiful!
We were just FULL!
Everyone was having lunch, but Paul and I weren’t really hungry. We went up to the room where I had some of the food we brought for me and we downloaded the videos and photos from our first meeting to the computer. Sister Martha had asked B** if she would sing and she sang this adorable song for us!
We watched that video several times!
Soon it was time to get back in the van and go to the Holt office again. On the drive there we saw many shocking things. We saw a man with contorted limbs dragging his body, clothed in rags, across the sidewalk. Children were selling food on the streets, men urinating just wherever the urge hit them, bulls and cows in the street, herds of goats with pink markings on them, chickens scratching in the runoff area next to a fence.
At the Holt office, we filled out our 1600 forms (times 3) and the I184 forms (times 3) with the help of the Holt staff. We were hoping this would go by quickly so we could get back to the care center and see our babies again soon! Once we were finished, we waited on the paperwork to be verified then loaded back in the vans again. First we drove to Care Center 3 to drop off those two families to visit their children. That was an amazing place! SO many children there! Many older, most all were over 3 or 4 years old… but they were so beautiful and had such sweet faces! We dropped those families off and went back to our center to see our babies! First the girls were brought downstairs. They had on different clothes this time and I thought Z** was D** from up the balcony! Oops! Z** sat in my lap, B** in Paul’s lap and we looked at the photo albums we brought. The girls loved looking at the photos! I tried in my best Southern/ Amharic to explain who and what items were in the photos. Soon, baby boy was brought downstairs and we looked at his book together! They all three carried their books around and showed each nanny who came through the room! They were so happy to show off their gifts!
We had also brought party favor bubbles this visit! They were a huge hit! The girls loved them, but baby boy was scared at first. He liked to blow them, but didn’t want to touch them. He would pop them with his photo album, but that was a close as he would get! B** said her first taught-by-us English word – Bubbles! She also repeated after me the names of all her siblings as we pointed to her siblings in the book! We laughed at Daddy’s picture with the Woo-shah (dog), Ricotta!
It was clear that the kids were getting tired. It was an overwhelming day for all of us! So many emotions and new experiences at once! Around 6:30, the nannies came to get them cleaned up, fed dinner and off to bed. We reluctantly said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel for dinner. It’s not like me to not have many words, but I was just trying to process and soak up everything I had seen and felt!
We ate in the hotel lobby and I had Injera and Tibs for the first time! It was really good! I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did! We sat with the other families and enjoyed recounting stories from our day!
Paul and I went to bed around 9:00, worn out from all of the excitement!
(trying to find photos of this day that I can share... if I find them I will add them here!)