Aug 3, 2009

Ethiopia Trip, Part I

There has been so much, that I have felt too exhausted to do anything when our day's routine was done. Traveling with the kiddoes from Utah to Missouri was an interesting and bonding experience. Of course, being members of the Nosurf family, our kids have been camping with us before. But man oh man, squirt is at an akward age when it comes to sleeping through the night... he's just been able to get a leg up over his crib wall and get out, and so he's taken to waking up in the middle of the night and crying and coming down the stairs. And of course any change in routine will throw everything off, too. That first nights' camping was difficult. But it worked out... we got some sleep, and neither of us fell asleep the next day driving, so it was all good.

At the inlaws we enjoyed being with Skywalker's parents and two sisters, and Loli and Jaws and Squirt looooved the animals, especially the baby chickens. If Jaws had it her way, I think she'd want to hold a baby chicken every second of every single day.

We were off a few mornings after, to the airport. I was so nervous I couldn't eat any breakfast.

The plane ride was looong and exhausting, but oddly restful as Skywalker and I were on our own without the kids. We have only had one other week during our marriage (and actually, even when we were dating) where that has been the case, and it was strange and exhillarating and sad and homesick at the same time.

When we got to Ethiopia, the customs in the airport, after the long plane ride, was so overwhelming. I snapped at Skywalker a couple of times when normally I probably wouldn't have said anything, I would have just let it go. There was a lady at one of the exchange places who told us not to go to the other because the other place charged a service fee, so Skywalker called out to the other couple, and the lady was displeased because she said it was something to keep quiet, that she could get in trouble or cause trouble. So Skywalker called out to the couple, about to tell them this and I pretty much slugged him and told him to stop talking. It was probably the mment of highest tension and greatest disorientation of the entire trip, and things looked up afterward. All in all, I look back on it and chuckle and realize that Skylwalker's lack of pretensions and openness is one of the biggest reasons I love him so much.

The week flew by in a puzzling kind of montage. Jet-lag has a way of blending experiences together, plus my nausea didn't go away at all, and the guest house serves only lovely, wonderfullly cooked Italian food which normally I would love but just then my body was rejecting. It was difficult, the food. In a way I wish they had served traditional Ethiopian food some of the time, I think I could have handled that better.

We met our girls and they were quiet and calm, and didn't protest at being held. We brought them over to the guest house that first day and we blew bubbles together. It was a stroke of inspiration; the perfect way to break the ice and get the girls to make eye contact, which is an important part of bonding. They loved the bubbles, and we played together, catching each others' bubbles and commenting on the size, “teleg” or “tinish” (big or small) Or bizoo (many). They had lunch with us, and then a nap, and then we played for a while on our balcony with play dough, making animals and exchanging words for them. I learned that cat is “dimat” and turtle, “Aylee” and fish, “asa” and for some reason, “ducky” is the word they used for ducks. I don't know if they learned it at the orphanage or if the word is the same in both languages.

We brought them back after having seemed to warm up to us really well. We couldn't see them the next day, but we saw them the day after that for a couple of hours. They were much shyer that time, hardly looked at us at all... we were at the orphanage.

We went back the next day and took them with us, and they warmed up again but MayMay cried every time I left the room. It was difficult. I was gratified at first because that is a sign of attachment. But as time wore on it got difficult... she'd cry every time she didn't get something she wanted. Finally on the last day, (today), I'd had enough and just let her cry a little, didn't pay attention to the crying but instead did my best to engage her in play and play with Bella, too, giving them equal attention instead of letting MayMay monopolize mine, and she was OK. Boundaries are tricky when you're working in different languages. MayMay has not warmed up as much to Skywalker, yet. She prefers me, and she seems to be pretty single-minded at this point when it comes to getting what she wants. Today at lunch she refused to eat any of the food and then as soon as we got upstairs for nap, she asked for a certain barley snack that Ethiopian kids really love. I said no, and put her to bed. So that was that. She had a good nap and was in good humor when she woke up, and had a little bit of her snack then.

Ethiopia is an amazing place. I wish my first visit could have come at a time when there were less riding on the trip, less stressful things happening on the trip. But I can't think of any other time we would have been able to justify the cost of plane tickets, so I'm not complaining at all. The food is delicious, the people beautiful (and if you think that saying that makes me prejudiced somehow, I defy you to find anyone who has visited Ethiopia who will say otherwise. Even beggars on the street, crippled, dirty, living in poverty... the faces are beautiful and startling, the smiles like rays of sunshine.)

We went out to a traditional restaurant night before last, and the food and the experience was amazing There were traditional dancers. The subtle movements of the dancing were amazing, and there was an Arsi Oromo dance with some amazing hair-swinging action... we'll post them on youtube and link here at some point.

In short, Ethiopia is amazing, our girls are woooonderful, well-adjusted girls with only (so far) the normal types of difficulties that kids tend to go through when huge changes happen. Bella is smart as a whip and has amazing courage and curiosity and ingenuity; she'll try things when she's scared of them. Being scared almost seems to make her more determined to try. She figured out the seat-belt, the car window, she uses a fork even though it's harder for her, because she sees us doing it and wants to try.

MayMay is a sweet, loving, cuddly girl who loves and seeks approval, with irresistible, huge brown eyes that she knows how to use!! and the ability to take correction in stride. She's got a soulful giggle that makes me chuckle every time I hear it. She can make everything into a joke. She is very strong-willed, and doesn't always feel a need to go along with what others tell her to do (which is a quality I am intimiately familiar with! I'll either be the best or the worst mother for her).

Both girls are active and happy most of the time (except around naptime when they start getting droopy eyed, that orphanage obviously had them on a pretty strict schedule.)

I'll add more later... this is a long summary of many days and many experiences. Right now, I'm ready to go home... I love this place but I miss America and I miss my babies, especially little Sam. I missed him enough last night that I had a hard time going to sleep.

So... My sight is set on 36 hours from now when we'll have both halves of our families together for the first time... lots of prayers, for us. This will not be easy, but of course there is that really annoying adage that anything easy isn't worth much. That much I have learned from being a mother. :) And I'm sure I'll learn it even more thoroughly as an adoptive parent.

:) Love you all, will write again, soon.


These are pics of the day we met them. We spent five hours with them, including giving them a naptime. By the end they were warming up and starting to giggle and play with me and peek at Skywalker, too. They're less sure of him, I think because they've not had a lot of men in their lives, particularly in the caregiver role, so they don't know what to make of him. But after having had them around for more than a week, they're starting to thaw toward him, too. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my patient, long-suffering, wise husband?

Toukoul orphanage sign. I was so nervous, not only that first day but every day after until we checked them out. My advice: check them out as soon as you've got everything done that you can't do and bring them along. It's so much more relaxing when they're with you the whole time... instead of the giving them back and renewed nervousness and anticipation when bringing them out again.

Bubbles--the first thing we did together. (BTW... a very good idea, for those of you about to travel and pick up kids that are a little older. Involves eye contact (paramount for attachment!), lots of game possibilities, and our kids were enthralled. I don't think they had played with them much before. They could have gone for hours.)

First day went a lot better than I had imagined. I think a lot of it had to do with the pictures we sent... they knew who we were and were familiar with our faces. They were ready to come home with us.


the nice one said...

i love their smiles!

Hannah said...

They are ADORABLE! I'm excited to meet them!

Steve said...

Hey, I'm kind of new to your blog so catching up, but wanted to know more about your Ethiopia experience. I was there for a few weeks in summer of 08. Were you in Addis or did you stay outside the city? You can email me directly sbb11578 AT if you'd like!