Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ethiopia Trip - Day 4 (June 30th)

It’s nearly impossible to hit REM sleep with a sweaty little body rolling back and forth across your bed and confiscating the only decent pillow (the Tempur-pedic that you brought with you from America.) Add in the random dogs barking, roosters crowing and calls to prayer, and needless to say, we DID NOT feel well rested when we learned that our brand-new son was a “morning person.” UGHHHH! One of those happy, smiley, singing, joyful-to-be-alive people that usually end up just irritating me because I am SO NOT any of those things at 5:30 AM.

Actually, in all seriousness, it was completely humbling and beautiful on our first morning as a family of three, to be awakened by a beaming child who was delighted to see his “Ababa and Amama” laying on either side of him He had to wrap his arms tightly around both of our necks, and then he alternated between us, kissing various facial features, and then pausing so that we could reciprocate. It was unexpected - I had imagined him waking up and being afraid of finding himself in strange surroundings, but he seemed overjoyed to see us, as he has been every morning since then. It reminds me of a line from a Sara Groves song - dedicated to people who have been through some truly horrendous situations - “Tell me what you know…about God, and the world, and the human soul. How so much can go wrong…and still, there are songs.” This little boy had just been taken away once again from people that he had grown to know and love, and yet he still had so much love and joy in his heart. No wonder God says that we are to become like little children.

Once the smooching was over, the very first thing he had to do, of course, was put on his shoes again. Everybody needs tennis shoes with pajamas, after all. We showed him a few more of the toys that we had brought for him, and he spent an hour or so chasing the motorized tractor and wagon all over the hotel room. Eventually, we headed down to breakfast, where he ate a couple of bites ( some of which he spit out onto the floor again -- GGGRRRRR.) While picking up wads of chewed-up, slimy food from the hotel floor tiles, I realized that it was my 34th birthday. Somehow, I had never quite envisioned this type of birthday activity, but hey, sometimes the Lord leads you to some unexpected places! After breakfast, we headed out to Hannah’s Hope. Tuesday was the shopping day for the parents, and the children were going to stay for the last time with their special mothers while we were out browsing the local wares.

It was a joy to see Yikealo’s reaction to Hannah’s Hope - he was so excited to see his special people! As soon as we stepped inside the gate, he was calling out names and passing out hugs right and left. We could certainly never doubt that our little guy had been VERY well cared for while living there. He took off down the path to the house where he slept, arms thrown open wide, and calling out “Alem! Genet!” -- the names of two of his own caretakers who were walking toward him carrying a basket of toys. This is a photo of Alem scooping him up and kissing him:

Yikealo really wanted nothing more to do with us right then, so we spent a couple of minutes walking around the grounds, taking it all in, before boarding another crowded bus into the city. We drove for about an hour to a market area, where we were given some basics in bartering etiquette and turned loose for an hour and a half. Johannes and Julie stayed close by to answer any questions that we had. The shops were fascinating: crowded, densely packed, tiny areas that were often too small to fit more than three people inside, crammed with a mixture of beautiful and hideous items.

David and I bought a blanket with some pillow covers, several beautiful scarves, traditional Ethiopian clothing for all three of us, some coasters with African animals painted on them, a zebra picture made from banana leaves, a coffee pot (which got smashed to pieces on the flight home), a book on the Ethiopian Orthodox church (Yikealo’s religious background), a New Testament printed in both English and Amharic, some berbere (a traditional mixture of spices used in many Ethiopian dishes) and a kilo of shiro (ground chickpeas - apparently, the children ate this daily at HH, and Yikealo loves it when I make it for him.) We got an “Ethiopian Millenium” t-shirt, which doesn’t come close to fitting either one of us, even though we bought the largest size they offered, and a pair of leather sandals, which apparently we lost on the bus -- they never made it to our room at any rate. We also bought a poster of the continent of Africa after being chased from store to store by a street vendor who WOULD NOT take no for an answer. He followed us around constantly unrolling the poster, saying in heavily accented English, “Is plastic, not paper - good price,” until we finally just gave in and bought the dumb thing. Eventually, I’ll get around to framing it and hanging it in Yikealo’s room, along with the zebra picture and a painting that we bought later that day at a restaurant. Here are a few more photos of the shops.

Several things that we learned while on our shopping trip: we are both terrible at bartering, Ethiopian prices are unbelievably low, and you will greatly amuse shopkeepers (as well as your husband) if you say “A-wed-eh-hallow” (I love you) instead of “A-muh-seg-uh-nah-lehu” (thank you) following a purchase. So much for my skill with Amharic! Also, don’t drink too much coffee before leaving your hotel and taking an hour long, jarring bus ride, because the restroom facilities in the local coffee shop are VERY sketchy, especially on a day when the entire city is without power, and you can’t see ANYTHING down the dark set of stairs to the toilet. Maybe that’s a good thing though, because I probably don’t really want to know what I was stepping in.

After meeting back at the bus, we drove a short distance to Makush, a great Italian restaurant and fine art gallery. The food was really good, and the art was beautiful.

David and I had made the decision to buy a piece for Yikealo’s room, and after going back and forth between several different paintings, we chose this one, to represent Yikealo‘s birth-mom Mihiret.

The frame ended up being smashed on the way home, but the actual painting is in perfect condition, thankfully. We loved the stained glass look and the very sad, yet somehow resigned look in the woman’s eyes, as if she’s missing someone.

The service at Makush was VERY slow, and we were a really big group, so I think we were actually there for over three hours. It had started to rain as we left the restaurant, and there were groups of young boys standing outside holding umbrellas, which they would place over your head and walk beside you all the way to the bus, hoping for a tip. I am glad that we bought the painting - however, it made us feel pretty guilty to know that we had just spent around $350 on it - more than a whole year’s living expenses for many Ethiopians. This was probably the day where we saw the most abject poverty on our bus-ride around the city. I've already posted several pictures in "Sights of Ethiopia." We also saw several amusing signs: one that read "Big Mak Cafe - burgers, coffee & tea, wedding cakes." What else do you really need, after all? Then there was this one:

We were dropped off at the hotel with all of our purchases, and after spending some time trying to organize our disaster of a room, we walked back up to Hannah’s Hope to retrieve Yikealo. David had really missed him and was looking forward to seeing him again - I couldn’t say the same thing. I had rather enjoyed the hours of freedom, and I was SO tired by that point. I had gotten approximately 13 hours of sleep out of the last 5 ½ days or so, and I was definitely feeling it. The concept of Yikealo seemed completely overwhelming to me. I remember telling David, “If he completely ignores us when we see him again, I am going to be so tempted to just turn around and walk back to the hotel without him.”

Of course, that’s not at all what happened. God always knows what I need, and Yikealo reacted to us the same way that he had reacted to Hannah’s Hope that morning. The instant he saw me, he started yelling, “Mama, Mama!” and he ran toward me with his arms open wide and a huge smile on his face. When I picked him up, he wrapped his arms around my neck, squeezed tight and gave me a resounding kiss on the cheek. Alem was standing right there, and she held her arms out to him, just to see what his response would be. When he pushed her hands away and said, “Aiy, Amama!”, she and some of the other women started cheering and saying, “That’s good! He loves you!” It was amazing to watch their excitement in the process of “turning over” these little ones that they loved deeply to strangers.

We went back to the hotel and took turns trying to keep Yikealo occupied in the room, but he really didn’t want to be there. He kept trying to leave, until we finally locked the door and hid the key from him. I don’t remember what finally caused it, but he and I reached our limit at about the same time - he was wailing and I was crying, and David just looked at me and said, “Honey, you need to sleep. Everything will look better after you’ve had some decent rest. Why don’t I take him downstairs and let him run wild in the lobby for awhile, and you pray for a bit and then try to get some sleep.” Have I ever mentioned that David is the best husband in the world?

I remember crying out to God after my guys left, asking Him to please pour His love through me to Yikealo, to soften my type-A-everything-needs-to-go-my-way personality, and to really become the mother that He wanted me to be. I knew that He had led us here, and I also knew that one of the reasons He had was so that I could be molded more completely into His image. I have a lot of growing to do, and there is no doubt in my mind that Yikealo is going to be a great facilitator! Parenting is such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us - he reaches out to us unconditionally, during the moments when we are the most unlovable, and offers over and over to pick us back up again, soothe away the pain caused by our stubbornness and pride, and offers a new start. I realized that I needed to do no less for the precious child who was now my son.

It didn’t take long at all for me to fall into an exhausted sleep, where I stayed for over two hours, until David returned with our well-fed, tired, happy boy. They’d had a grand time down in the lobby/restaurant with many of the other families and had a new "secret father/son handslap" to prove it. David had also managed to find something to eat that Yikealo couldn’t get enough of -- shiro and injera, which was what he was used to eating at Hannah‘s Hope, and which the hotel staff was happy to make, even though it wasn‘t on their menu. No more spitting on the floor? Excellent! Even better, God had either answered my prayers really quickly or getting some sleep had made all the difference in the world (and I'm not ruling out the possiblity of both!), because I felt sudden, overwhelming affection for Yikealo - much more than I had felt up to that point.

Yikealo fell asleep almost as soon as we got him into his pajamas, and then came one of the things that I had feared the most about this trip - the dreaded stoma-pouch change. Because David’s Ankylosing Spondylitis has locked his neck in an upright position, there is no way that he can see his abdominal area, so I’m the official pouch-changer in this house. (Hey, those of you who know me well have to admit that I’ve spent LOTS of time well outside of my comfort zones in recent months! I have also become convinced that enterostomal nurses are really angels in disguise.) We had been told not to use the water supply at the hotel to clean around the stoma area, as it was not a clean source, so we had to use bottled water. At times, David’s pouch changes can coincide with an extremely active time for the stoma, which means that he’s spending up to an hour and a half in the bathroom continually cleaning up before we can attach a new pouch - not a good scenario if you’re using a limited supply of bottled water. The electricity had been out almost all day, so we had also spent some time trying to figure out where to place the flashlights for optimum viewing. We also had to be quiet enough so as not to awaken our sleeping child. After spending some time praying that all would go well, we had what was probably the quickest, easiest pouch change that we’ve had since April -- oh yeah, and the electricity came back on in time -- just another reminder that God answers prayers, even when (and maybe especially when) they are about mundane, everyday things. I think that our Father loves it when we come to Him with anything and everything.

Finally, time for bed! I followed David’s example and took a sleeping pill to ensure a good night’s rest, and it worked like a charm. David claims that about 10 minutes after I took it, I was asking him why he had four eyes and three noses…but at least I finally got a decent amount of rest!

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