Before I forget all of the details about our trip, I figure I need to write about it. It's a long post...
Our trip began on Saturday morning, May 30th, with a quick flight to Washington DC. We hung around the airport there so we could meet the other family we were traveling to Ethiopia with. After getting to know them briefly, Sara and I set off towards downtown DC, as we had a 10 hour layover and thought we should at least head down and take in a few sights. I had read and heard about how down to Earth the Obama family was, so we were a bit surprised not to see them walking the streets, grabbing some ice cream, or playing catch in the in the National Mall.
After our time had expired in DC, we boarded the Ethiopian Airlines flight bound for Addis Ababa, with a quick stop for fuel in Rome. The total duration of that flight was about 15 hours.
Upon arriving in Addis, we joined about 6 other families who were staying at the same guest house as us and headed towards our accommodations. That is our 8 pieces of luggage in the foreground of this picture. The 5 big suitcases were full to the brim of orphanage donations. Thank you again to all of you that helped make all of those donations possible.
We stayed the first night in the Ethiopian Guest Home. Guest houses in Ethiopia are homes that people have built or remodeled that serve as sort of a bed and breakfast for adoptive families. Most adoptive families stay in one of the many guest houses throughout Addis. After trying to get settled in and sorting through all of our donations to the orphanages, we laid down for for our last night of sleep before meeting Parker Lelesa. Upon waking up the next morning, we were greeted by a beautiful day and a very cold shower.
As we found out right away, the power supply to the city goes out very often in Addis, thus leaving no way to heat the water. Needless to say, we took quick showers. We then did our best to contact our adoption coordinator, as we were to meet her that morning to visit an orphanage and ultimately meet Parker. Along with the power going out very often, so too do the phones. So we battled through that for about an hour or so before finally getting ahold of her and receiving our instructions as to where to proceed to.
This was the view from our balcony at the guest house.
Our first stop, and arguably the most enjoyable stop of the trip, was to an orphanage in Addis. We had such a nice time meeting and playing with all of the children. They are such great kids, and almost all of them are still in need of a loving home. I reflect on all of the life changing experiences we have had over the last two years during our trips to Russia and Ethiopia. This visit to the orphanage in Addis ranks right at the top. These kids are so happy and well behaved and yearning to be one of the lucky ones who have parents coming to pick them up and take them to America. The need throughout the world for adoptive parents is almost too great to comprehend, but when you get to spend quality time with a few of those in need, and you get to see them smile and just act like any other kid, it becomes much more clear.
After our time at the orphanage we took a short ride through the outskirts of city to the house that Parker was living in with his other friends that were also waiting for their new parents to arrive.
This was a very common sight when driving through Addis.
Parker was taking a nap when we arrived, so he was a bit tired when they brought him out to meet us. We spent a few minutes with him outside before following him inside to meet all of the others that lived there with him.
Upon seeing how much Parker and the other family's daughter enjoy being together, and seeing how comfortable their hotel was, I began to try to work my magic and switch our accommodations from our guest house to their hotel. Thank goodness the owner of the guest house was very understanding, and allowed us out of our commitment.
Quick note: The Ethiopian Guest House, the house we were staying in, is very nice, and the staff is second to none. If you are interested in staying in a guest house, I highly recommend it. (www.ethiopiaguesthome.com)
It was just that after getting to Ethiopia and meeting Parker and starting to get to know him, we decided it was in everyone's best interest to try to stay in the same place as the other family, and stay in the most comfortable setting we could. Frankly, the process of adjusting and getting to know an older child that you have just met, and you are now trying to parent, is difficult under any circumstances. So, with that being true, we didn't want to add to the difficulty by taking him away from his friend for the week or by having to worry about hot water for showers, or the internet or phones being down.
The next couple days of our visit included lots of pool time, plenty of shopping, and the all important Embassy visit. As in Russia, the Embassy visit was a breeze. You jump through so many hoops in the world of international adoption, I think it is only right that the US Embassy tries to make the final step in the process relatively painless.
The sights and sounds of Ethiopia are something I will not soon forget. The conditions in which people live, and by many accounts, live happily, are far from conditions that I have ever seen before. The poverty is mind boggling. The love Ethiopians have for each other and openly share is eye opening (it is not uncommon to see two men walking down the street hand in hand). The pride Ethiopians take in their culture is something unfamiliar to me, as we were stopped numerous times by locals that would come up to Parker and hug and kiss him and wish us well, all while asking us to keep his culture strong. The intrigue in children's eyes when they see a white person is unforgettable. On more than one occasion, a small child walked up to Sara and just gently touched her arm, almost seemingly wondering what a white person felt like.
On our last night in Ethiopia, a group including us, the other family we were traveling with, our adoption coordinator and her daughter, and a couple of others made our way to a restaurant for an authentic meal and a performance by some very entertaining and talented Ethiopian dancers. It was a very enjoyable meal. I was also quite pleased to be able to enjoy a couple Ethiopian beers at dinner.
Our last afternoon consisted of lounging by the pool and having a nice meal before heading to the airport. Parker and his friend enjoyed a large plate of injera, and enjoy it they did. The devoured it. It was alot of fun to watch.
Parker definitely wanted to make sure that Daddy tried some of his Ethiopian food as well. I, of course, obliged.
The flight home, although extremely long (16 hours from ET to Washington, DC), was fairly uneventful. Parker slept a bit, we read some books, and Parker realized how loud an airplane toilet is (he is not a big fan of that noise).
In summation, I really enjoyed the relatively short period of time we spent in Parker's homeland. I am excited about one day, hopefully soon, venturing back there and experiencing it all again.