Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 2 at HH - Trip 1

On Thursday, we headed back to Hannah's Hope to spend some more time with S. The staff didn't have a van available at the time they were scheduled to pick us up, so while we waited in the lobby, Yikealo taught Mr. F to play "Ninja"...a game that seems to consist of striking "fighter" poses and making up rules as you go along.
On this particular day, we traded out S's little shirt for one that we had brought along. When we were shopping for Y's Easter outfit a few weeks earlier, David had seen "Big Bro" and "Little Bro" shirts that were clearanced and just happened to be the right size for our boys. He insisted on buying them for a photo op on our trip. Y and S actually played together quite a bit on that day. S was fascinated with some Ethiopian birr coins that Yikealo had in his pocket.
We repeated a lot of our activities from the day before: we played with rocket balloons and bubbles and spent lots of time looking at books and swinging with the kids.

I discovered that S loved looking at himself in the windows, and he also liked tickling my toes...and then laughing hysterically.

We saw the children playing games with their special mothers and eating lunch. It was really delightful to just relax and watch a "normal day" happen around us at the transition home.

I spent some time taking photos around the home:
 One of the baby rooms

rows and rows of laundry, hanging out to dry

 A few potted flowers and the tiny strip of grass in the laundry photo are the only sights of green around HH. The children are surrounded by brick and concrete.
 blankets and toys for the baby "sun-time"

 Office space for several of the staff members. The doors and windows are ususally open, but after we brought the annoying rocket balloons out, they were shut fairly quickly!
 This is where S sleeps...on the bottom bunk.
 His room is equipped to hold 8 older boys...there are currently 3 there.
 The swing-set

 The "Spiderman" themed lunch room

Shoes for the special mothers, drying in the sun after being washed
 The entrance to the house where all of the children sleep.
This picture stopped me in my tracks and made me cry.

The F family took our first family photos...and sorry about the smiley-face, but just picture a really cute little boy behind it! :-)

One of our highlights that day was seeing Tom, one of the guards, arrive at work and meet Yikealo. Tom and Yikealo had been great buddies at HH back in 2009, partly because they spoke the same language, but also because Tom is just a super, loving guy. Here are a couple of photos of them from three years ago:
Tom was so excited to see his little buddy again and kissed Yikealo over and over.

As we headed back to the hotel that afternoon, we watched the Fs say goodbye to their 6 year old son. They were so strong, but it was still hard to see. I understand the need for this whole 2-trip policy, but it is really, really tough to leave your child behind on the other side of the world while you wait for an unspecified amount of time. We're praying that we can all head back to Ethiopia very soon.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Meeting Mr. Smiley- Day 3 of Trip 1

It turns out that "S" stands for "Smiley!" April 18th, 2012 will be a day that lives in our memories forever, because it was the day that we met our second son....but let me start at the beginning.

We woke up at 6 am to the sounds of Ethiopian music being played in the gym directly under our room. Now, this didn't sound at all like what we would categorize at "work-out" music. Instead, it sounded much more like the chanting, wailing sounds of a muslim call-to-prayer, with the main difference being that it went on for hours! Between that, the smell of sewage wafting up through the floor drain in the bathroom, and the fact that we were using 2 liter bottles of water to brush our teeth, it was pretty clear that "we weren't in Kansas anymore." :-) We got ready for the day and headed down to breakfast at the hotel restaurant, where we met the "F" family, another AGCI family that we had connected with online. We hugged and enjoyed getting to know them for a bit before they left for their court appointment that morning. After breakfast, we lugged our heavy bags of donations down to the lobby, and caught up on some e-mails while we waited to be picked up for the trip to Hannah's Hope.

Before long, Wass showed up to get us. I recognized him immediately from the pictures that Erica had taken last year, and as we climbed into the van, I handed over a bag of candy that Shana had wanted me to give to him, along with her picture. He laughed and laughed, saying, "Of course, Shana would give me the candy!" He wanted to know how she was doing, how her schooling was going, and how the twins were doing. He taped her photo up in the window of the van, so that he could "see her whenever I am driving around!"
Wass did not work for AGCI yet when we adopted Yikealo, but he said that he had heard a lot about Y, and he recognized him from photos. We drove off toward HH, taking in the sights of an Addis morning on the way....people walking, crazy traffic, rickety looking scaffolding and distant mountains.
The drive was short, and before long, we were pulling up to the famous black gates.

Hannah's Hope has moved to a different location since Yikealo was there, and this home is much newer and more luxurious than the former one, although it was interesting to see that there was still a huge pile of rocks right outside the gate!  Wass took us inside and told Almaz that we were there. She came out to meet us and stopped in her tracks when she saw Yikealo. She just stared at him for a little bit and then enveloped him in a huge hug. She gave us hugs too, and then wiped tears away as she gazed back at Yikealo.
She took us into her office and asked all about Yikealo, Opiyew, and Uchan. We gave her photos of the three boys to hand out to the staff, and then she told us a little more about S. She said that he is very smart, that he thinks he is "big stuff", he loves to look at books and play with balls. She also wanted to be sure that we had received her most recent update...that he throws a lot of temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way! Our case worker had called us about an hour before we had left for the airport on Monday to let us know those details. I just had to laugh...we have NEVER experienced a temper tantrum from Mr. Y, so maybe we'll learn what real parenting is like this time around! She then asked Yikealo if he was ready to meet his new brother, which of course he was. She led us outside to where the "big kids" were, but S was nowhere around. One of the special mothers went to look for him, and a few minutes later, we caught our first glimpse of our little guy.
We are not allowed to post his name or any full-on face shots of him until we bring him home, but I'll probably cheat just a bit and show some photos anyway. :-) He walked up to us, and Almaz told him that Yikealo was his brother. He wasn't too sure what to make of that news!
Yikealo handed him a sucker, and then I scooped him up and held him for awhile. I got out some of the books that I had brought along, and he LOVED looking through them. He would sit quietly in my lap for long periods of time, paging through and looking at the pictures. David snapped some photos of us together, and then he got out some balloons and was immediately surrounded by the older kids.
S is the youngest of a group of 10 older children who all hang out together. There are 3 boys and 7 girls, and we had SO much fun playing with them all week. This trip was drastically different from our trip for Y's adoption due to the fact that there were only two adoptive families at HH while we were there, and for 2 of the days, we were the only family visiting. Our travel group in 2009 was made up of 12 families! It was such a blessing to have so much great one-on-one time with the children this time around, and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of their little personalities emerge as they grew more comfortable with us. For future travellers...the FAVORITE toys that we took were rocket balloons. The kids loved pumping them up and then letting them fly all over creation...although we did lose quite a few on the roofs or outside the gates!

We didn't really see any meltdowns from S on that day. He cried quietly once or twice when someone took something away from him, and he did NOT like any of the other children touching his books, but most of the time, he was smiling. David started referring to him as Mr. Smiley. He loved letting me hold him, although he was not as fond of David or Yikealo. When David tried to hold him, he would submit for a short time, but then he would start to whimper and reach for me. (That's okay though...Y greatly preferred David to me, so I should get my turn this time around, right?)

 Our schedule for the day had said that we would only be at HH for about 3 hours, but we were really there for closer to 7 hours! (Ethiopia is a great place for a type A person to learn to just go with the flow.) Except for a brief time during his lunch, when we filled out some paperwork with the staff, we spent the whole time playing with him. I got to feed him lunch,
 and then afterwards, we brought out some beads and string for the children to make necklaces. The children loved that, and so did the special mothers! One of the little girls made a bracelet for me, which I will treasure always.

Toward the end of the day, I got to give S his bath, lotion him up, and put his pajamas on. He giggled like crazy when I counted his toes in Amharic. He wanted to show me some of the toys, and I played with him for a little while beside his bed. He didn't cry at all when we left, but he gave me a big squeeze. What a great first day with our new son!

We headed back to the hotel, had dinner with the F family, and then put our VERY tired eldest child to bed. He'd had a big day too...getting hugged and kissed by every Ethiopian hotel staff member who saw him, meeting a new brother, learning to share his parents attention, playing some LONG games of soccer with some of his old buddies (the drivers and guards from HH), and eating a huge amount of shiro and injera for dinner. He was more than ready for bed, and while David caught up on devotions for the day, I headed down to the lobby, where I was able to Skype for awhile with my mom. It was a nice ending to an amazing day!