Friday, January 31, 2014


I have been reading a lot about Ethiopia lately. I'm doing it because I want to learn more, but I've also noticed that the kids seem to love seeing me do it. When I talk about what I've read, A always pays close attention. And D appears to not be listening, but later he may insert Menelik or Haile Selassie into a Jedi vs. Sith light saber battle. I think it's important that the kids see that Ethiopia is valuable not just to them, but to all of our family.

Here are some of the books I have enjoyed the most:

The Battle of Adwa (Raymond Jonas) - I love history books that read like novels. Menelik II in his campaign against the Italians comes across as a genius.

The Sign and the Seal (Graham Hancock) - Part history, part "Raiders of the Lost Ark," part "Da Vinci Code." You need to take it with a large grain of salt, but you will learn a lot about Ethiopian history.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze (Maaza Mengiste) - Very good novel about the fall of Halie Selassie, the Derg, and the Red Terror.

Three Famines (Thomas Keneally) - About Ethiopia, Ireland, and Bengal. Whatever your problems are, at least your government is not purposely trying to starve you to death.

Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa: Ethiopia and Kenya (Gunther Schlee and Elizabeth E. Watson) - Catchy title, huh? I bought this book because up to this point, the history that I was reading was the history of northern Ethiopia. When Menelik came to power, Addis Ababa was at the southern end of Ethiopia. The land that is currently southern Ethiopia, including Burjii, was not part of Ethiopia at all. This book is ethnography, not history, but it has two whole chapters on the Burjii. I'm trying to pull together what little information on Burjii history I can find, and I'll write more about it later.

What books about Ethiopia, especially about the south, would you add to this list?

Monday, January 20, 2014

48 Hours: International Adoption (about Celebrate Children International CCI)

If anyone you know is considering using CCI, please urge them to watch the CBS 48 Hours piece called "Perilous Journey." It is about Celebrate Children International (CCI) and Sue Hedberg. 

It is my fervent hope that this report will finally put CCI out of business. If people don't care about adopting stolen children, then maybe they will be moved by the closing statement: "If CCI is not Hague accredited by July, it will no longer be able to initiate international adoptions."

Find more information from the U.S. State Department:

I notice an uptick in people reading my old post on CCI. And look at Google Trends for people searching CCI adoption:
Check out the spike for January 2014.
Maybe people are coming to their senses and finally doing a little research before selecting this terrible agency.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is anyone talking about it?

One of the main reasons we picked Ethiopia was the likelihood of contact with our children's family. Starting out, we understood that we were expected to work through our adoption agency. We planned and fretted about how we could get around that. It turned out to be easy - we just learned to ask for phone numbers in Amharic and got the kebele chief's number at our meeting with the family.

It wasn't until much later that we realized just how many families have ongoing contact, including phone calls and visits. Online groups are full of talk of packages and searchers and trips. As I write this, two families I know - one in real life, one online - are in Ethiopia visiting family. Two more families I know will be there in April, when we go. Five others have recently made this trip. Continued contact is not only possible, it's common.

But so far I haven't found anyone who has blogged about it. Obviously there would be many parts of the trip that would be very personal and that anyone concerned with their children's privacy would be reluctant to share. But there would be other parts that would be about logistics and normal family time, not that different from organizing a trip to visit a relative in another state. I would love to find a blog that tells the story of a trip back.

Does anyone know any?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

One and not the other

Our plan from the beginning was to return within the first two years for a visit. Around the 15-month mark, we started wondering how that would be possible. It was very clear that D was not ready. He has come very far, but he still has a hard time with unexpected changes in plans, waiting, and crowded or noisy places. We didn't want a trip that would be ten days of non-stop stress for him. Then it occurred to us that we didn't have to wait until both kids were ready. A is emotionally mature enough. He can handle uncertainty and talk through difficult feelings. This trip could be just for him.

We very cautiously floated this idea to see what reaction we would get. D was upset, but it turned out that he was only upset about A getting to go on an airplane. He didn't really care about not going to Ethiopia; he just wanted to go on a plane again. So we promised him that he would get to go on a plane too. Then we bought tickets to Florida for early March. Shhh... it's a birthday surprise.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Going back

Big news! We are going to Ethiopia! A and I are. We leave April 5th.

Here's a preliminary list of things to do before we leave:
  • passport for A - DONE
  • Ethiopian visas
  • UAE visas? Do we need to get these in advance? Advice please!?
  • shots and other vaccinations
  • accommodation in Addis Ababa
  • driver to take us south
  • accommodation in the south.  Not sure if we'll stay in Burjii or somewhere where there's a hotel. Closest hotel I know of is about four hours away.
  • interpreter. We would much rather have an English-Burjinya interpreter instead of an English-Amharic-Burjinya team of interpreters.
  • tell family we are coming
  • try to prepare family with realistic expectations (A no longer speaks Burjinya etc.)
  • photo albums for family
  • videos of D to show family
  • gifts/donations?
  • prepare A emotionally
  • prepare D for our absence
I've recently been in touch with many people who have made this return trip and gotten great advice. Am I still missing anything?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Holidays 2013

We had a good holiday. We learned some things from last year and kept things very low-key this year. We didn't get a Christmas tree until ten days before Christmas. We didn't put any gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. A few boxes that arrived in the mail were put briefly under the tree, but then D had a huge meltdown over his breakfast choices and I realized it was really about the boxes and put them safely away. The weekend before Christmas we drove down to Virginia to visit grandparents and friends; the 65-degree weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the weekend and the distraction.  When we came back the kids both decided to spend the day before Christmas doing homework packets as a way to soothe holiday nerves - you can call addition worksheets many things, but "filled with anticipation" is not one of them. We let Christmas sneak up on us stealthily, and that worked for us.

The evening before Christmas we had our now traditional Ethiopian feast. Christmas morning we opened presents, then we spent the day playing games. Right after opening new games and toys the kids wanted to play with old ones - another way to lessen anxiety about the unknown. Eventually we moved on to the new things, racetracks were set up, helicopters were flown, and it was a great day.

On New Year's we went to our neighbors' house for a party. I had the kids nap with me in the afternoon. A actually stayed up until midnight, having a blast. We arrived at the eleventh hour to the "Year of the Selfie" and had lots of fun with the camera. D crashed in a corner, but woke up at midnight for the Happy New Year's. New Year's Day we took the train to Philly and caught part of the Mummers Parade.

In between there were museum visits, bounce houses, play dates and lots and lots of Star Wars. My goal was to keep the kids busy but relaxed and myself sane. T was also able to take time off here and there and be around for lots of family time. It was a good break.