Verse of the Day

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 6: Ethiopian Court Visit, 11-30-2011

... from the pages of my personal journal. Photos withheld pending finalized court proceedings.

Wednesday morning, Kassa, T-Man, and I headed back to the Thomas Center. S. ran straight to Kassa, who then pointed to me. Kassa reminded Mr. S. that I was his mommy; S. ran to me and enthusiastically hugged me... then he ran to T-Man and grabbed his hand. He just stood there--- looking up at his older, taller brother. S.'s small face absolutely beamed--- joy spilling from his heart onto his beautiful face.

Within minutes, the kids escorted us into the main lobby of the Thomas Center where we again enjoyed orange soda, cookies, and roasted chick peas. This time, however, S. was given his very own soda. To say the boy was delighted would be a total understatement!  He literally chugged the entire soda--- extending his neck back, opening his mouth and guzzling the contents--- pausing only to insert about 8 small biscuit-type cookies and a couple handfuls of chickpeas! I don't even know how he had time to breathe. It was funny to watch him, although in the back of my mind I'm guessing I may have another child with eating issues. Hmmm.

After the food-fest, we moved outside to get some fresh air and some exercise. S. ran around happily with all the other kids, but was careful to involve T-Man and Kassa in the fun. He liked to keep his eye on me. I was sitting in the shade of the building, trying my best not be try to bond (bonding was not encouraged by CHI at this point in the process). This is pretty much impossible--- not to bond! Your mind says one thing, and your heart, another.

S. seemed to tire easily today; he also seemed to limp a bit more. Dear husband (also a physician) has suggested he may have a simple limb length discrepancy. Who knows. Perhaps it was just the excitement of the day. 

A wonderful addition to the day was having S. cozy right next to me, our backs leaning up against an old mattress and foam pad. The African sun felt splendid, as the breeze was rather cool for a person living in the Southwest desert. S. and I mirrored each other's actions, showing each other how funny we could be. We both thoroughly enjoyed just sitting together and goofing around with each other. We compared each other's foot, hand, and head sizes; then we compared our fingernails. His were way prettier than mine, as his had been painted a beautiful shade of sparkly pink that very morning by a sweet 12 year old girl in the complex. He was quite proud of the polish, and he wondered why mine were so white. He actually tried to scratch off the white color... to no avail.

We continued to play and to follow each other around the front area. S. seemed to prefer hanging out with me today, as opposed to playing a rough and tumble game of soccer with the other boys. My heart was bonding. I was not really following the guidelines--- hard for me. But I figured if something happened and this adoption did not go through, at least this child--- this day-- would feel like the most loved child in the world. I would give him today. I loved him.

All was going fabulously until S. was asked to wash his hand for lunch. Suddenly, this sweet child's disposition turned to a blank stare with seemingly endless tears streaming down his dusty cheeks. Okay. What's going on?

An older girl tried to help S.; she led him to the outdoor faucet to wash his hands. He stubbornly refused. He just stood there, weeping as he clutched on to his photo book.

After about 10 minutes of silent crying--- and seeing T-Man, all his buddies, and me wash our hands--- he reluctantly gave his hands a quick rinse. We walked into the Thomas Center and saw the other younger kids already sitting down to lunch. For some reason, the nanny brought his plate of food to him where I was sitting. He was the only child with the adults. I don't know where he wanted to be... he just seemed torn and totally unable to process what was going on. He refused to eat for quite a while. Kassa was finally able to coax him into eating; the food seemed to soothe him somewhat.

We were all puzzled by the meltdown. Had he been hurt? Was he scared? Hungry? Overwhelmed?

Turns out he simply knew what was about to happen. As soon as lunch was set out for the kids, the prospective adoptive parents were ushered out the front door. Then he bolted to me. He clung to T-Man, and then to me. He would not let go. All the other court and Embassy families were in the van, and I had this sweet boy clinging to me as if his life depended on it. It broke my heart when the nanny had to pry him off of me. How painful it is to leave someone you just fell in love with! Now I understood why the staff advises you not to bond... but I don't know if I could have done this any other way.

I am happy that I was rather clueless and did not anticipate the abrupt departure. I didn't have time to cry--- which was probably good. Crying wouldn't have helped the situation. I just prayed for my little guy, and hoped that somehow he would understand that we would be back for him.

After leaving S., the van load of prospective and newly adoptive parents (with their kids) headed for the other Thomas Center. Somehow I had failed to remember that there are two facilities named The Thomas Center. One has babies, the staff offices, and a playground--- the other has the older children. (I think that's right!) Anyway, the luncheon was at the baby house. I had mistakenly assumed that we would be eating together with the kids at the first Thomas Center; I thought I'd have more time with S. Oh well. Go with the flow, Crazy Woman!

The Thomas Center luncheon was its usual delicious self: traditional Ethiopian food and lots of it. I did not have the nerve to try Kitfo--- just couldn't do it! Although it was a very amiable group gathered for lunch, I couldn't help but to compare the experience the last time I was there. This time, all the newly adopted were babies. Two years ago, most of the kids were 3 years and up... and they were loud, crazy, hyper, and exceedingly happy. This group was very "tame" in comparison!

Kassa had arranged for his driver to pick us up near the Thomas Center so that we could venture out and enjoy some shopping. I welcomed the distraction. Last time we were in Ethiopia, we did not shop or do anything--- the three kids were so hyperactive, we opted out of all activities. But this was our chance! We headed to a shopping area near the main post office in Addis. It was an crazy, colorful mix of honking cars, swarms of pedestrians, and little shops teeming with all different sorts of goods. I am not someone who enjoys shopping, but this looked fun!

Kassa warned us: let HIM bargain. He gave us strict guidelines: scope out the store, see what you like--- if anything-- and then let him negotiate the price. T-Man had great fun, trying to participate in the haggling process. I, on the other hand, winced at the shouting and bickering. Seriously? Do we have to act like this? All part of the Ethiopian shopping experience, I am told. In the end, we came away with some awesome souvenirs for the kids... and T-Man and I again understood just how important it is to shop with an Ethiopian guide! The prices kept changing, even for Kassa. A tourist would get eaten for lunch, so to speak. Thank you, Lord, for Kassa.

After a couple hours of shopping, we headed back to the Ethio-Comfort for another great evening of delicious food and wonderful company.

I really enjoy staying at the Ethio-Comfort. First, I like the homey environment. People lodging in a guest home are typically looking for a more relaxed environment with family-like interaction. This interaction adds a significant, positive aspect to travel. Families get to talk, cry, and help each other. We had a chance to interact with other adoptive families, families serving as missionaries, and families traveling the globe. It was an education and a great pleasure. Second, the Ethio-Comfort provides adequate accommodations at a reasonable price. Although I never shopped around too much when deciding on a place to stay, I did investigate other traveler recommendations through Travel Advisor and through CHI. I don't really know if there are significantly less expensive places to stay, but I am very impressed that I've managed to stay healthy during 2 trips, and I trust the staff.  That goes a long way. Finally, the main reason I love the Ethio-Comfort is the manager: Tsebay.

Ever since meeting Tsebay, we have had the "bond." I think it is the Holy Spirit, uniting new friends. Very sweet. Tsebay is a self-controlled, gentle, strong, determined young woman. She runs two guest houses with ease, despite the fact that she is a very pregnant 7 months. I love Tsebay's "way" with people. She truly has a servant's heart. You can see that demonstrated in the way she listens, attends to, and supports her guests. He guests are her friends, and while you're there, you are family... plain and simple. The wonderful part of this type of hospitality is that it's contagious. I want to be like Tsebay. She has taught me a great deal about Biblical hospitality; I am so blessed by her ongoing friendship and devotion. I love my Tsebay!

The other unexpectedly sweet friendship I have made in Ethiopia is with our Lalibela tour guide, Kassa. Since our connection just 2 years ago, our friendship has grown stronger and more blessed. 2 years ago, we were enjoying sightseeing, talking, and laughing together. Then, I had the lovely opportunity to meet and interact with his family. Since then, we've helped him grieve the loss of his beloved parents to a tragic house fire. Kassa lost all of their household belonging, and then was made financially responsible for his sister, who was physically and psychologically damaged by the fire. His family was awarded a lot of land to relocate in Lalibela, but the law stipulated that he had to build a house on the property or forfeit the land. He had to let the land go, as he did not have the financial resources to pay for construction. This is a lot to handle for a twenty-something.

We have tried to financially supported him--- paid for his driver's license and for his sister's medical bills. But our few thousand dollars are not enough to help him realize his dreams of becoming a sight-see tour bus guide. He needs his own vehicle.

I do not understand the politics or the financial realm of Ethiopia. People can't get loans. The people I talked with who do run businesses in Ethiopia do so because of initial foreign investment. Someone took a chance and offered another person an opportunity to succeed in the business world. This is something Americans don't understand. We complain because we can't get a mortgage for a house, but these people are frustrated because many want to work but don't have the finances to start a business or to follow through with an idea or a dream. There just isn't money in Ethiopia, except, perhaps Chinese money...(the Chinese have funded road-building projects and have imported lots of big, red buses, and who knows what else). Anyway, God willing, we will be instrumental in securing donors for him: Kassa needs $10K to qualify for a loan to purchase a mini bus. Without a vehicle, his work aspirations will remain frustrated. I find that unacceptable.

Kassa has an entrepreneurial spirit: he is smart, funny, multi-lingual. He can look at a situation and see what needs to be done to improve it. I think he would do very well as part of the Ethiopian tourist business. He just needs a chance. Lord, I want to help him. Show me how.

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