Friday, April 25, 2014

Ethiopia return trip Part 1

Day 1

Our plane from DC was a little late, so A and I had to rush through the Dubai airport. We got to our gate just as the flight started boarding. A few hours later we were arriving in Ethiopia. It was early afternoon. As we dipped below the clouds, A got his first glimpse of Addis Ababa and said, "I like it."

We got our bags with no problems and the owner of the guesthouse was waiting outside. The guesthouse was on a side road a little bit behind Addis Ababa University, between Arat Kilo (Fourth Kilometer) and Sidist Kilo (Sixth Kilometer). After we got settled in, we set out to find some dinner and an ATM. We walked along the side of the university and then down the main road (King George St.). We had no luck with a working ATM, but I had some cash from our last trip. We found a little restaurant with courtyard seating and had shiro for our first dinner in Ethiopia. Being back was wonderful. A seemed a little intimidated and commented that there were more cars and more people in the streets than he thought there would be. He had no conscious memories of Addis (but unconscious memories are there. By the next morning he felt completely comfortable, which is not like him in a new place).

We were both jetlagged and A fell asleep at the table. After dinner we stumbled back to the guesthouse and were asleep by 6PM.

Day 2

B, the cousin of my Colorado friend, is a student at the university and he had asked me to call him when we arrived. I called him before breakfast and he came over mid-morning with Dawitt, my Colorado friend's brother. Dawitt was to be our driver, interpreter, host and guide during our trip south. I'm going to use his name because I want to shout it from the rooftops how wonderful he is. Where do you go when you've gone above and beyond above and beyond? That's where Dawitt went.

After we all got to know each other a little, we set out to run some errands in Addis. Dawitt was driving. We went down toward the city center and tried a few spots until we found an ATM that accepted my card. We picked up a plug adapter for charging my camera. And we drove to the transition home where our boys had spent ten weeks while waiting for their visas to be processed. I expected it to be mostly empty because I knew our agency had drastically decreased the number of adoptions they were processing. But it was completely empty. I found out later that the agency had moved out of that building almost a year ago. Now there was no one there but a young security guard. He was nice (and curious) enough to let us come in and take photos. We went up to the roof deck and I showed A where he and D liked to stand and watch the nearby construction (still going on). We took photos of the living room where the kids had performed their goodbye ceremonies.

For lunch, Dawitt and B wanted to take us somewhere special. We went to a Yemeni restaurant and they gave A piles of all kinds of meat, including goat liver. I told him he had to at least try everything. Since I'm a vegetarian, I got away with bringing in shiro from the restaurant next door.

We went back to the guesthouse in the late afternoon, and B entertained A with arm-wrestling, ninja battles, and a push-up competition while I took a nap (thank you!). He stayed until our friend S came to take us to his house for dinner. S is the brother of our old Amharic tutor, and we had met him and his lovely family on our previous trips. He has three very entertaining children who speak pretty good English. Every time the littlest one did something mischievous, his slightly older brother would shake his head and say wearily, "This is so embarrassing." The night ended with the kids chasing each other around the coffee table. A had so much fun he didn't want to leave.

Day 3

In the morning we walked over to the National Museum. The human evolution exhibit had been my favorite on our first trip, and I wanted to show A. He preferred the imperial crowns and especially the swords, which reminded him of Ninjago. There were several school field trips at the museum, and the youngest students were far more interested in me than in Lucy. A did not like that at all, so we hopscotched around the museum avoiding the kids.

After the museum we walked south along the main road and had lunch at a restaurant with outdoor seating, then we walked back to the guesthouse for a rest. By this point A was already feeling comfortable and he walked ahead of me. I let him get a good way ahead and just watched him walk. He looked completely at home. He never once looked back. My heart felt like it would swell right out of my chest.

In the afternoon we met up with B at the university. We visited the Ethnological Museum (more swords) and walked around the campus.

Back at the guesthouse, B gave A some sugarcane. Now, in two years, A has only shared about five memories of his life in Ethiopia. But as soon as he bit into the sugarcane he said, "We had this in Burji." B confirmed that there is even a kind of sugarcane called Burji sugarcane. When we went out again, A was chewing and spitting like an old pro. He and B walked ahead of me arm in arm and my heart got really big again.

In the evening we had a special visitor at the guesthouse, the man who works as a driver for our adoption agency. When our kids were in Addis they loved this man, because he was very kind to them and because his presence meant a ride in a car. When they first came to the U.S. we spent hours looking at his pictures on facebook. It was wonderful to see him again.

That night we went out to dinner with another American adoptive family who was in Ethiopia for their first return trip. I think it was great for A to see other kids who were in a situation similar to his.

Day 4

We had a lot of delays this day. First we were supposed to meet B at 9AM but he couldn't get anyone to check him out of his dorm room until 11AM. Then we walked to Piazza to buy some school bags. (Earlier I had told Dawitt I wanted to make a donation to a school in Burji. He had called the kebele chief of our boys' village and had reported that the students needed backpacks.) But we couldn't find the right kind of bags at Piazza, so we decided to go to Merkato instead. We tried for a long time to catch a minibus. There was traffic everywhere, both in front of us and on the sidewalk behind us. Then we moved to an even busier spot full of minibuses, cars, beggars... we were darting around the minibuses trying to get one before the rush of people who were all trying to get on the same vehicle. A was not too excited about shoving his way onto a minibus, but finally B found one that was practically empty.

At Merkato we bought a pile of backpacks and B went to find Dawitt. A and I hung out at the backpack stall having a nice cup of coffee and talking with the stall owner. When B came back with Dawitt we drove back to the guesthouse, got all our stuff and drove to the garage where our van for the trip south was being checked over.

The garage was a business owned by Dawitt's family, so we got to meet his sister and a couple of his brothers (there are 18 of them in all!). A got to practice being hugged and kissed a lot. We had lunch near the garage while we waited for the van to be ready. And waited. And waited. Waiting is a characteristic of every African society I have been in across the continent. I might be a little sad if I ever have a trip to Africa that doesn't involve a long wait somewhere. Ordinarily A hates to wait, but maybe he was getting in the swing of things - or maybe it was his new tablet - but he was perfectly happy hanging out by the garage all afternoon.

The van was finally ready at 6PM. I was so happy to be on the road. We reached Awassa around midnight, checked into a swank hotel and went right to bed.

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