Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 7: Breakthrough...then and now

On day 7, we decided to make a change. Terefech wasn't responding well to us in the presence of nannies coming and going, and the other children playing or napping. We packed our diaper bag on Monday with water, Cheerios and Gerber stars, books and toys.
We arrived at the Care Center, proceeded with the normal inventory: changed shoes, washed hands, sanitized hands, trek up the steps to the first door on the left. The nannies welcomed us in and handed Terefech to us. We indicated that we were taking her out of the room.
Terry and I headed to the basement of the Care Center and dug out our supplies. We started with a book, which she seemed to enjoy looking at. She noticed the child feeding himself, and mimicked this behavior. We got out the Oh's and Stars and that was a big hit!

After some initial trepidation, Terefech played and laughed with Terry; we gave her water out of a sippy and gave her more Oh's and Stars. We had finally made progress as she smiled, laughed a bit and generally loosened up. We were relieved. Here are pictures of our breakthrough day and pictures of her now (5 weeks later).

Then: 5 weeks ago

#1: Sporting the latest in polka-dot and bunny-wear. High-fashion.

#2: Everyone loves a brown-eyed girl... but not everyone loves W!

First PBJ sandwich! mmmm.....
First time in the new exersaucer! Penguin skis upon rolling of the ball. Now that is fun!

Regarding AHOPE

I received a some comments regarding my post about AHOPE. I would like to respond to the comments, which I have left and that you can see below in the original posting.

1. I have the utmost respect for the staff and institution of AHOPE. As I stated clearly in my original post, the staff were outstanding, nice and very helpful.

2. MOST IMPORTANTLY: HIV/AIDS CANNOT BE TRANSMITTED THROUGH TOUCH!!!! If you got this out of my post I am most sincerely apologetic. As a sexuality educator by training I am WELL AWARE of this fact but can see that I did not communicate clearly. In fact, many of the children were damp, and had colds (runny noses, coughing), and I did not want to transmit or carry any colds to the children at the care center. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE TO TRANSIT HIV to other children. For more information about HIV and its transmission, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/transmission.htm

3. There were a couple of familes at AHOPE adopting. They were so excited, nice and told us a bit about the little ones still at the care center. It was great to get to know more about them. The children were excited and it was nice to talk with them while we waited to meet the other children at the care center (AHOPE).

4. Yes, the children are as well cared for as they can be given the circumstances, and this is absolutely, without a doubt, better than the care they would have otherwise received. I would love to see a hundred more centers like this. I was well aware that the children were very cared for by the staff and visitors. It so happened, at the very time we were there, that there was a child who was extremely wet and who had been for some time (he may have just woken from nap). This is not necessarily commentary on the overall condition of the children. Also, probably due to the fact that it was damp during rainy season, there was definitely an odor about the place, but that was also generally true out and about in Ethiopia. As newcomers, we probably were simply not accustomed to this.

5. I am sorry that those of you who read the post were offended by my feelings. I was honest about them and perhaps I should not have been. I want to reiterate that AHOPE is remarkable and amazing. The children there were fun to play with. My commentary regarding how they behaved was largely accurate from my perspective, at that moment in time. Your children are, in fact beautiful and I am so very, very admiring of those of you who have adopted from AHOPE. Your children are an absolute gift and a blessing, and Carolyn, every bit as deserving of a mommy and daddy as our daughter. You are correct: Your children are beautiful and wonderful.

I hope this clears up the confusion. Other websites were given in the commentary, please see them for more information. Here they are again: http://projecthopeful.wordpress.com/ and http://www.ahopeforchildren.org/


Sunday, August 26, 2007

More of Day 6

Day six wasn't all pleasantries and beautiful sites. Indeed, one of our travel mates had a dreadful accident. Poor J and K were not having a good day. The vehicle rolled, but both came out fairing rather well. Within moments of the accident, Ethiopian villagers poured out of the fields, woods, and huts. Here are a few pictures of them...

While Terry and many of the drivers and villagers helped to upright the vehicle, Aimee and I took pictures of the villagers. This group of children, teenagers and adults stood by us and oohed and ahhed at their own images. At one point, I took a picture of Terry (unbeknownst to him), and showed the children. In unison, they gazed at the picture and then turned and pointed, laughing at poor Terry. It was absolutely hysterical, butTerry was a bit confused as to what all the pointing and commotion was about.

The three children pictured below were behind me while I was taking pictures. I turned and snapped a picture of them, but the boy (girl?) with braids was anything but amused. She looked away and I felt bad.

The young man wearing a turban scarf was great to photograph.

The old woman was a site to behold and I could have taken her picture a thousand times over. There was something about her that made me want to keep gazing at her, inspecting, wondering who she was, about her life, her children...

Addis, Day 5 and 6

Day 5 dawned on a Saturday in Ethiopia. We ventured back to the care center and went back and forth for most of the day. Our visits were difficult as Terefech was still petrified of us. Things only got worse when she started to recognize us and cried the instant we walked in the door. Soon, the nannies were leaving us be with her, but Terefech constantly reached out to them no matter how many toys we presented, songs we sang or how much hushing we did. What do you do? We felt sad and cried nearly each time we left. On Sunday, day 6 in Addis, we would most likely not see her, so we hatched a plan...

On Sunday, day 6, in Addis Ababa, we woke well before the sun crested the horizon. We joined the rest of our group in the kitchen at 4:30 am for some pot-boiled coffee, exchanged snacks in the living room, and headed to our caravan of trucks waiting outside. By 5:00 am, we hit the bumpy, wet roads. Our destination: Hosanna, where most of the children arrive into orphanage care. There, we would also meet her Ethiopian father.

The trip to Hosanna was filled with bumps, tons of watery streams and rivers, beautiful hills and valleys, and a spectacular sunrise muted by dense fog. After 4 hours, we arrived in Hosanna. We met Terefech's father (whom we later found out was actually her uncle), who was a beautiful, calm and serene man. He wished many things for her and told us of Terefech's home village. We took pictures of him and will keep them for Terefech.

On the way back, we stopped at a hut, which a family has always opened up to CHSFS for American families to visit; the villagers know that the Americans come on Sunday and wait. When we arrived, children and adults flocked to the thatch hut. The children know that we have digital cameras and ask to be shown a picture of themselves-- then they giggle and laugh, point at each other and tease. It's so fun!

A mother and her four children; there is an infant on her back and three little ones at her feet. She was so beautiful! We showed her her picture and she smiled just a tiny bit. I wished I had a printer and I could just give her one to keep right on the spot.

These are three boys who giggled and laughed and pointed at each other, teasing, and covering their mouths, when I showed them the pictures. They were so fun!

All three of these children, by the way, are boys. Color in Ethiopia doesn't really matter, hence the boy on the far left wearing pink and turquiose.

This is a father, who followed the cameras around, pointing to himself and his daughter. He was so proud!! We showed him the picture of himself and his daughter and he just beamed. It was heartwarming and beautiful. He was just amazing and really touched me. This father exemplified how much the Ethiopians care for their children and families.

The care center at Hosanna had a huge clothes line hanging in the back. The white cloth you see is cloth diapers hanging to dry. The picture that follows are the clothes hanging at the Addis care center. Because it is rainy season, the clothes never actually get dry. Instead, they are always damp, taking days just to get that way. Many of the children get fungus and skin irritations and wounds from the constantly damp conditions.

more to come...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Addis, Day 4... Meeting Day

On Friday, July 27th, we were to meet our daughter. We slept in a bit after our trip to the Blue Nile Gorge, had a yummy breakfast and waited for our clothes to finish drying. But, waiting for clothes to dry might not be the smartest thing to do during rainy season in Addis. Instead, we took the time to have Alex, our host, take us to the bank to exchange some $100 Birr for 100 $1 Birr to give to children and families whom we took pictures of. He also took us to a smaller merkado where we bought some traditional Ethiopian coffee pots, a coffee stand, some cups, a banner for Nerys's room, and several traditional outfits for her. She's going to be a stylish Ethiopian kid until she is almost 6.

We headed off to the care center at 12:00. We told them we would be there around 10:00, but it didn't seem to matter that we were "late" because we were immediately told we could not meet her until 5:00. Period. They hauled us off to the guest house to wait.

We met Aimee and Ben at around 2:00; we all headed off to AHOPE (www.ahopeforchildren.org/) to deliver some donations and play with the children there.

AHOPE was heartbreaking. The children, ages 2 months to roughly 5 years in the smaller children's compound were dirty, wet, and smelled of days old sweat and urine. However, the children's only real chance at survival lay in this small compound, where they received retro-viral medications for their HIV. The staff were outstanding, helpful and let us have a go with the children. We had balloons and rubbery bouncy balls. The children hoarded all of it, as well as your attention. Each child, no matter the age 2-5, made it their mission to attach themselves to you. They had the system figured out: If you saw them, and they were good, spoke some English, gave you kisses, and endeared you with coy smiles, you might take them home. At once I was repulsed by the children (smell, cleanliness, behavior) and devastated (poor health, poor living conditions, psychological damage). While I wanted to fall in love with them, I found myself barely able to remain in the room to play. One little boy around 4, made it his mission to love me. He showed me his room, told me the colors of the bouncy balls in English, then showed me around the care center. We left after an hour.

We were escorted back to the CHSFS office immediately afterwards thinking, however, that we were going back to the guesthouse. All of us wanted to change our clothes, wash our hands, faces and arms. However, instead we discovered we were about to meet our children. We all hit the bathroom where we washed ourselves the best we could, still wearing our same clothes.

The van took us to the CHSFS care center. We made our way up the steps, all the while being led by a video crew and a social worker. We made it to the entry, where we obligingly took off our shoes, put on new sandals, washed our hands again, rubbed our hands with sanitizer and made our way up the stairs to her room. The video crew pointed out Terefech to us. She looked so different... and scared. They kept imploring us to pick her up. I can still here them repeating it over and over in my head. Clearly this child was not ready to be picked up. She had a quivering lip, staring at us, surely not wanting to be held by these strange people who had showed up in her room.

But, pick her up we did, against our better judgment. Thank goodness they edited this out of our video, because she completely lost it, bursting into tears. We put her down and were promptly escorted out of the room and to the guesthouse for dinner. We were neither happy nor satisfied with this "introduction". We weren't quite sure what the next day would hold.

to be continued...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Addis Day 3, The Blue Nile Gorge

On day 3 of our trip to Addis Ababa, we woke up bright and early, and headed out to the Blue Nile Gorge. The Gorge is about 4 hours North of Addis, and is a spectacular drive.

Speaking of driving... well, don't try to do it in Ethiopia by yourself! Unlike here in the states, traffic signs (if there are any) are merely a suggestion. The rules are like this:
1) Cars first
2) People second
3) Goats, cows, donkeys, chickens, sheep, etc... Third.
4) Whatever else

This, of course, is opposite of the States where the rules are people, animals, whatever else, cars. If you go to Ethiopia, prepare to hold your breath, not react to quickly, and get very used to the sounds of car horns. In ET you honk at all things. Your honk means: "get out of the way!!" or, "Hey, just letting you know I am here". Learning which of these is intended is, well, experiential.

Us: Oh, no, an accident!
Tour Guide: No, he is washing his truck.
Us: Oh.
Of course, you have to keep in mind that the truck in the river is an Isuzu. We passed about 7 accidents--one fatal-- on the way north to the Blue Nile Gorge. At first, we were sad... say for the first three accidents. Then, we were astounded. Then we asked, "Why so many accidents?" The Guide replied, "oh, lots of Isuzu's have accidents. They chew Khat all night along to stay awake, then they are up for few days, then have accident. This is normal." Right. Later we learned that Ethiopians call the Isuzu trucks and their drivers "al Queda". That's right, Al Queda. Why? "They kill you and they kill themselves just like suicide bombers. You know Al Queda?" LOL. We know Al Queda. We were in total stitches. No kidding, for the rest of the trip, we'd here drivers point and say, "Al Queda". We'd just laugh.

This is a picture of the falls at the Portuguese Bridge. We stopped here on the way out of the Falls. This bridge (pic following) was thought to have been built in the 1500's by portuguese monastery residents to get to the monastery on the mountain.

This is the Gorge Valley. The winding road is what we traveled on. It was "under construction" which meant REALLY, REALLY bumpy. But, no matter, the views were incredibly gorgeous, breathtaking and awe inspiring. Ethiopia from the 80's is not the Ethiopia you should entirely have in mind. The country is blessed with bountiful and abundant natural resources, views and amazing people.

One of the spectacular falls.

To Be continued....

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Day 2

We arrived in Addis the night before and headed off to bed. At about 2:00 am, Terry and I were both awake, not yet adjusted to the time zone. Thank goodness for Harry Potter! At about 3:30 we dozed back off. Our driver arrived at 8:00 a.m. to take us on a tour of the city, Addis Ababa. We would visit churches, museums, see statues in the city and visit the famous Merkado, where an estimated 200,000 people are at any given time.

The signs on the left and right pertain to the Ethiopian Millenial New Year; Ethiopia runs on a unique 13 month calendar. This year for them is 1999, and on September 11th, they will celebrate January 1, 2000. These are one of thousands of billboards all over the enormous city. There are billboards for coke, pepsi, condoms (any fruit flavor!), food, clothing, etc. They are almost always very colorful and very busy. Nearly all signs are in Amharic and in English.

We visited the National Museum, which houses our friend Lucy. In a country where Christianity and Muslim religions reign and run strong, the beginnings of evolution are found. The Ethiopians find great pride in both. While they find the two (evolution and religion) difficult to mesh together, according to our guide, "you cannot deny either."

There are two types of Christian churches in Ethiopia: "Octangular or Rectangular". At every church we visited, we were consistently told this, along with the history of the churches and history of the country. Many of the churches are under construction or repair as the prepare for the millennial new year celebration.

We were allowed to take a picture of the outside of this church museum, but not allowed photos inside. This was plenty fine with us. Although many churches "invited" us to take pictures of the sanctuaries, we always denied. We both felt this was a bit sacrosanct. Nevertheless, we found out later we would be charged a fee if we did take pictures inside.
To be continued :)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ethiopia, Day 1

We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 24th after nearly 24 hours on planes and in airports. We were both tired, but relieved and excited to finally arrive 1/2 way around the world! It was about 7:00 pm in Addis and the sun had already set. We exited to the airplane to the strong and harsh smells of diesel fuel and campfire smoke; we wouldn't leave this smell for 12 more days. We made our way through customs and visa. We claimed our bags-- we got them all!!-- and headed out to find our driver.

Addis itself is home to more than 2 million people. Alex, the owner of the Addis B&B greeted us at the airport exit. As we left the airport, we were immediately surrounded by dozens of young men and older boys seeking to assist us with baggage and loading the car. So strange to be the stranger, sought after and pursued relentlessly in the quest for a few Birr. But, pay them we did and began our bumpy travel to the B&B.

Here are pictures of where we stayed for 2 days:
Each morning we had an "American" breakfast. The first day we had "french toast", which was more like eggs fried onto bread. The second day we had eggs, which were scrambled but VERY salty. The third day we had "pancakes", which were an interesting mix of a crepe and american pancake... flat, but moist and mildly chewy.

We had "western" style toilets, which was nice, but took some getting used to as they don't quite flush the same as our toilets here...

Our travel to the guest house was filled with new sites and smells. Thankfully, we had read up on what Addis might be like, and got some advice from some recent adoptees, otherwise the culture shock and despair may have been overwhelming. There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of homeless in Addis alone. Although dark, it was easy to see, in the middle of the city, campfires surrounded by homeless cooking a scavenged meal in front of a nightclub full of well-dressed, wealthy Ethiopian citizens. It may have been a strange apocolyptic movie, except it was here-- the sights, the smells, the feel-- of this disparity naked in front of our eyes. In the morning, during our tour of Addis, we would be witness to more of this heart-wrenching, yet intellectually stimulating disparity. Days later, we were honored to be guests at a local famiy's home, where we asked about this disparity and received stimulating and thought-provoking answers.

to be continued...

A few flowers in Ethiopia, near the CHSFS family guest house.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Our little one

Here are pics of Terefech Nerys.

This picture is our first day with her where we ACTUALLY got her to smile. Daddy is bouncing her and singing to her in the basement of the care center. After 3 days of greeting her and holding her that were met with hysterical cries and solemn glances towards the nannies, we decided we would actually take her from the care center room. We read books, gave her cheerios, water, and sweet potato stars. She finally lightened up, decided we were okay, and greeted us with this delightful smile.

Here is a close up of her sticking her tongue out. This is a frequent face that she makes, but also the first time we saw it. She's getting pretty tired and looks a bit tuckered out.

Here's the first night with us. The girl is about as flexible as anyone I've ever seen in my whole life. We'll frequently find her sleeping while holding her foot. Very strange...

As Terefech slept, Terry gently caressed her tiny, delicate foot. She loves having her feet rubbed and touched. Sometimes they are tickly and sometimes it comforts her. We can't believe how little her her toes are...

Playing with daddy some more. She now has her top and bottom two front teeth, which she now uses to knash away at O's and Stars.

This little girl is amazing. What an unbelievable gift from the People of Ethiopia. What an amazing joy to have this little one as our daughter. Surely, this is one gift we can never match.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


All THREE of us made it back from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia alive and well. Okay, several of us have your basic cold, but otherwise all is good. Our trip was amazing and I will be trying to give a play-by-play each day during Terefech's naptime.

We arrived at Mpls airport last night at 4:00 pm. After 24 hours on a plane, we were tired, a bit stupid, and more than willing to role with the punches. After you've been in Ethiopia for 12 days you learn that patience is indeed a virtue and that everything is chiggeryellum (phonetically written from Amharic) which means, "no problem!".

We arrived at Dulles airport at 9:30 am, and had the honor of getting through immigration and customs. When we got off the plane, and made it through the first set of US documentation processing, Terefech immediately christened the USA and moi with a blow-out, super poop diaper. Of course, I had no change of clothes and was covered in very stinky, runny poopy. My shirt now had children's tylenol, formula, spit, rice cereal, baby food and poo on it. I was dubbed officially a mom. I decided I qualified to be on the program "dirtiest jobs" which airs on the Discovery Channel. I stripped the cute (...and stinky) baby in the baggage claim at customs, got her a new diaper, some new clothes and she was raring to go. I was stinky.

So, we made it through immigration and customs, got upstairs to get our transfer tickets, fed the bambino, and waited to get through yet another round of security (this would be #4 since arriving at Dulles airport). We made it to our gate along with our travel companions and new BFF's, Jenny (mom), Patsy (grandma) and Zeta (baby). I ran and changed clothes, which I had grabbed out of our bags at immigration, then Terry and I traded baby. Terefech and I played and laughed while Terry took the suitcase and went to change out of his sweaty clothes. Soon, I hear and feel this toot. Water poop literally SPRAYS out the sides and back of her diaper, onto the floor, onto the chair, on to all of my fresh clothes. Patsy, Jenny and I laughed so hard we were crying...for at least 3 minutes. I was beside myself. While Terefech had new clothes to change into, I had nothing left that wasn't covered in poo. Patsy, The Savior, takes Terefech and I to the bathroom, where we strip baby again. I send Patsy and Terefech to find Terry while I then strip in the bathroom. Patsy comes back with my less poopy pair of pants and a new shirt that Terry bought at the airport. If I thought I had been christened mommy in customs, I was wrong. I made the flight back to MSP wearing my less poopy pants and a new white t-shirt. Terefech looked amazing in her fresh clothes. I stunk like poo. *sigh*

So, this was our entry into the United States. Terefech pooped on it, I stunk up the place, and Terry thought it was pretty humorous. Come to think of it, we all thought it was pretty humorous.

Addis Ababa Time