It is hard to feel you are having an "African adventure" when your hotel shower has three kinds of shower jets, a radio and an AccuWeather forecast. Dawitt and B joined us for breakfast and we were enjoying the fancy buffet on the hotel balcony overlooking Awassa when the kebele chief called. A's people were already at our meeting point in Hagere Mariam!
Earlier I posted about some good advice for planning a return trip. I would add scheduling the initial reunion away from the home village. We met our people in a hotel about an hour's drive from the village, and it was so much better to reunite without hundreds of people watching.
We got on the road and started driving south. Hagere Mariam is about 120 miles south of Awassa, so in theory it would take 3 hours to get there. But the road south of Awassa is incredibly bad, and gets worse the farther south you go. By the time we were past Dila, there were not only giant potholes everywhere but also the pavement had warped into "waves" so that driving was a little like riding a speedboat over a choppy ocean. So the trip took more than 6 hours. South of Dila Dawitt let me drive for a couple of hours, which was exhausting, but fun. Dawitt was wonderful about not saying anything when I hit a pothole particularly hard, just raising an eyebrow at me. I'm happy to report I did not hit any of the people, goats, donkeys or cows sharing the road with us.
There is road construction going on from Addis Ababa all the way to Kenya and beyond, and when it is done, the upgraded East African highway will make travel much faster.
We finally reached Hagere Mariam in the middle of the afternoon and checked into the Bule Hora hotel. B went to catch a bus to continue his trip south to his family in Yabelo. Then Dawitt went to get A's people.
A and I waited in the hotel courtyard. A chewed on some sugarcane. We both felt nervous and at the same time blank, from not knowing what was going to happen.
I asked the receptionist to videotape our reunion. A went upstairs to our hotel room for a few minutes. Then the van pulled in the courtyard.
Part of me wants to write about the moment of reunion, to show that moment to people who choose to not keep in touch with their child's first family, to say, They feel exactly as you would if you hadn't seen a beloved child in two years. But it is not my moment to share.
Later we were sitting together on the hotel balcony and Dawitt was showing our photo album. We had shown him the album a few days earlier in Addis and when he started talking, he remembered every detail and who everyone was. I will never forget that moment, looking at Dawitt and feeling such gratitude that I will never adequately express it.
That evening we all had dinner together at the hotel restaurant. It was actually very comfortable. I talked about the boys' school success, their personalities, the things they liked to do. It was like any other getting-to-know-you conversation I might have, except with an interpreter.
After dinner we had a partially successful attempt to Skype with my mom and D. We got a very pixelated video and were able to shout a few words at each other.
Finally A and I went back to our room, and everyone else went to sleep at the homes of nearby relatives.