Monday, January 7, 2013

Melkam Genna, a year later

A year ago this morning in Addis Ababa, I anxiously awaited a driver named Binyam (who ran on Ethiopian time) to arrive at the guest house to drive me and the other parents who had arrived in Ethiopia before me over to the orphanage to meet my children!

I had consumed multiple cups of super strong coffee, forced down some eggs with shells mixed in for good measure, chatted with the families I had only previously met through emails, and kept glancing out the door like a crazy person.

Finally, he arrived, I ran around announcing to the other families that he was here and it was time to GO!

The long, bumpy ride through the streets of Addis seemed to take forever. It was a familiar ride - horns beeping, goats and cows interweaving with people on the sidewalks, children in tattered and torn clothing, mothers begging at cracked open car windows, buses crammed so full of people I started suffocating just looking. Finally, one of the other mommies said "this is the street" and I felt my heart rate triple instantly. I fumbled with my cameras, asked others to take photos, mumbled something about not photographing my hindquarters, wiped sweaty palms on my jeans and grabbed the seat in front of me as we hit every pot hole down the alley to the gate. The van stopped with a jerk and the driver turned off the engine. Immediately little hands and toes appeared at the gate as children were shouting that someone was here.

I was so incredibly nervous.

Would I recognize them from their photos? Would they know me? Would they run away? Would they even like me? Would they be afraid of me or turn into show-offs? Would I like them?

As we piled out of the van and fumbled towards the gate, I remember thinking this was lacking any sort of pomp and circumstance. I'm about to meet my children! Where is the ceremony? Where is the parade? Life just goes on all around us like the entire world isn't aware of how this meshing of two worlds is about to change the lives of 14 people forever!! Don't they care? Shouldn't there be a moment of silence and some sort of... something?? This is EPIC, people!! Somebody make an announcement or stack up some rocks as a monument to this moment!

Then the gate creaked open on it's rusty metal hinges in that sound that normally races up my spine like a horror film sound track... but I barely noticed. I was scanning the sea of faces looking for the ones that belong to me.

I saw her. The baby of the five... looking up at me with those big eyes that we now joke would allow her to get away with anything. She looked nervous, so I smiled and walked inside the gate. I recognized them immediately, even mingled in with the other children. In my head, I was matching names with faces and trying to absorb everything my senses were picking up.

In this 15 seconds of elapsed time, suddenly I realized I was standing within the same 4 walls as the children I'd been dreaming and praying about for the past 5 months and I reached down and scooped up that baby girl and squeezed her tight.

She giggled, hugged me back and started inspecting my necklace, sunglasses, ponytail and face. The other four were right behind her, clamoring for hugs and inspecting this white lady from their photo albums. There was this somewhat awkward moment when we were all just looking at each other and across the lines of two languages there was an understood emotion of "It's really YOU!" in the air. 

Photos were taken, videos were rolling, and I think the only word I was able to say was "Wow..." for about 5 minutes.

 This day was incredible to say the least. It also happened to be Genna - Christmas in Ethiopia where they follow the Julian calendar. We played and hugged some more, saw everything there was to see that they wanted to show me, and then had a Christmas feast together complete with goat, lots of things I couldn't identify, lots of injera and lots of coffee. The kids drank soda and I attempted to choke down a tiny glass of honey wine out of respect.

I don't remember much of the rest of this day except for an overwhelming sense of peace - I had met them, they were wonderful! Any fears I had previously had about adopting older kids, older boys, a large group of children all at once, or anything else I'd imagined or read about online... were gone.

Melkam Genna, Ethiopia.

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