Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Court Day! April 20th, 2012

This was our busiest day in Ethiopia by far. We packed in lots of activities, and the day felt like a whirlwind. It didn't help that things began MUCH earlier than we had bargained for. After the emotional drain of the night before, David and I both used sleep aids when we headed to bed, so we were out sound in a matter of minutes. A few hours later, the sound of frantic pounding at our door finally made its way through my drug-induced state of unconsciousness, and I stumbled to the door. A hotel employee was standing there who said that he had a message for us. He handed over an umbrella and a bottle of water. I'm sure that I looked extremely confused, staring out at him with my blood-shot eyes and disastrous hair, because he apologized profusely before hurrying away. I closed the door and took a look at the paper wrapped around the umbrella. It was a sweet note from the F family. They had left the items for us when they had left the hotel around 6 that evening. We had forgotten to bring an umbrella, and it had rained a little bit every day, so it was a lovely gesture on their part. I'm sure that they didn't intend for the staff to deliver them to our room at 12:35 AM, however! Typical Ethiopia! Thankfully, David and Yikealo didn't wake up, and I didn't have any trouble getting back to sleep...

After our day had begun in earnest (much later, thankfully!) we were picked up by Danny at 8:30 to head to our court appointment. Danny is one of the drivers at HH, and he was one of the people that Yikealo remembered from his past.
We headed off into the crazy morning traffic of Addis Ababa. Our drive to court was a long one, and we stopped to pick up Haile, our case-processor, on the way. We told both men that we were convinced that you have to be VERY brave to drive in Ethiopia, and they just laughed. Seriously, though, the traffic is unbelievable!  Addis has an estimated 5 million people. There are no lanes on the roads, there are no traffic signs anywhere, and we saw a total of 3 working traffic lights in all of our travels about the city. The streets are filled with herds of animals and hordes of people, as well as hundreds of cars and vans...most of which desperately need an oil change and many of which do not have working signals. The Ethiopian culture really doesn't understand the concept of "taking turns" or "forming a queue", which creates its own set of issues. The chief means of communication between drivers is the continual honking of horns and simply pulling out fearlessly into oncoming traffic. Obviously, things like seat-belt or car-seat laws are completely unheard of, so Yikealo quite enjoyed his freedom in the van!
 Crazy morning traffic
Herd of cows being driven down the center of at least 6 lanes of traffic.
 This public taxi (the white-topped van just two vehicles in front of us) blew a tire as we all waited at an intersection. It was startling how many people came piling out as the driver prepared to fix it! It was also quite interesting trying to inch our way around it, considering that we were quite literally in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with more cars packed around us on both sides!
I know that this picture is a little hard to see, but this is what happens at a 4-way intersection when there are no lights and no rules! The cars were wedged in together like puzzle pieces, and it took us awhile to get out of this little snarl!

Thanks to Danny's stellar driving, we finally made it to court, where we sat in a crowded waiting room for about an hour and a half. We saw lots of adoptive parents and quite a few birth families as well. There were signs on the walls commanding "Silence!" which everyone was completely ignoring. Yikealo kept busy playing David's i-phone or coloring in his Spiderman travel book. When it was finally our turn, we followed Haile into the judge's office. It was a crowded little room with at least 3 desks jammed into the tiny space, and the chairs where we were to sit were positioned perpendicular to the Judge's desk, making our conversation feel a bit awkward. She asked us some simple yes/no questions: Had we met the child we were intending to adopt? Wasn't our other son also adopted from Ethiopia? Did we have any other children? Had we told our son that he was adopted? Had we done research and taken classes on issues that can arise from adoption? Were we in contact with other adoptive families? Did we understand that this adoption was going to be full and final, and could not be reversed for any reason? When we had answered "Yes" to everything, she stamped a page in our file and said, "Okay, he is yours!" Oh....if only it were that simple!

We followed Haile back to the street level, and while we waited for Danny to come around to pick us up, a tiny girl dressed in rags walked up hesitantly and held her hand out. We gave her some money and a few granola bars. She lit up like a Christmas tree, kissed my hand, and then took off across six lanes of traffic to return to her family on the opposite side of the street. When she reached her little brother and her mother, who had a baby strapped to her back, she danced up and down in delight, and handed out her treasures. The little boy began to walk up and down, looking for a way across the street to us, but by the then the traffic had picked up, and Danny had pulled up to get us. This is the back of the mother, as they moved on to try their luck somewhere else.
We dropped Haile off, and Danny took us to a shopping area. We had a list of items that we wished to buy, and discovered rather quickly that Yikealo was NOT an asset to the venture! Needless to say, we cut our time rather short, as he was constantly grabbing things from shelves and baskets the hooks on the walls. We were able to find pretty much everything that we wanted in our first shop anyway, so while I'm sure that we could've found a better deal had we shopped around, we decided to be as efficient as possible and get out of there. Toward the end, while I was haggling with the shop-owner, Danny was keeping Yikealo occupied by playing games with him on the floor of the tiny, cramped shop. The owner, in typical Ethiopian fashion, kissed Yikealo repeatedly on both cheeks, gave him a huge hug, and threw in an extra bracelet for him. Since we already own a number of Ethiopian items from our former trip, we were just "filling in" a bit this time: traditional clothing for all 4 of us, some books on the history of Ethiopia and the Orthodox church, a silver cross from Yikealo's region, some banana leaf pictures, some wooden children's puzzles, lots of colorful scarves and an Ethiopian nativity carved from ebony. Oh yes, and the sketchy "zebra" drum that Y insisted upon having....made from wood, cardboard and some kind of hair. Here are some of the items that we purchased:
Following our shopping, we went to lunch. We asked Danny to take us to Makush, an Italian restaurant and fine art gallery that we had visited during Yikealo's adoption. The food was great, and as I walked around looking at the various paintings that were displayed, the owner came up to me and introduced himself. He said, "I want you to know that we greatly appreciate people like you who come from another culture to adopt an Ethiopian child. That might be very different from what you hear on the street. Some people say, 'But why are they taking our children?', but we know that those people will not take care of all of the Ethiopian children who need help. Any family who adopts a child and also buys a painting from us will receive a discount, because we know that adoption is very expensive and that is our way of helping just a little." I thanked him and told him that we loved the painting that we had purchased 3 years ago for our first son, and now we wanted to buy one for our second son. He was so courteous and kind, and he did indeed give us a very nice discount once we had decided on the painting that we liked best.
After lunch, we picked up some Ethiopian food at the grocery store next door to Makush, and then headed back to HH to spend a little time with our son. Danny took us on the scenic route, and we saw some really beautiful views of the city.

It was after 2:00 PM when we got to HH, and S was a little out of sorts. He seemed really tired, and we definitely saw a few temper tantrums during our short time there! The other kids were very comfortable around us by this time, so they were constantly chattering away and giving us huge hugs, and grabbing my camera out of my hands so they could fight over whose turn it was to take photos. It's always fun to see the world through childrens' eyes, and I ended up with lots of pictures that look like this:
but someone also managed to catch a picture of us holding S right as he began yet another melt-down.
When we arrived at HH that afternoon, he had been holding a toy cell phone up to his ear and listening repeatedly to the tinny music coming from the speakers. I had decided to let him listen to Yikealo's i-pod shuffle for awhile, which he loved, but unfortunately the battery was not charged, and it didn't last long enough to suit him. When we took it away and attempted to explain that we would bring it back tomorrow, he started wailing broken-heartedly.

I had brought over a children's book about Ethiopia, and everyone at HH (kids and staff alike) LOVED looking through it. I'm definitely going to buy a copy to leave there when we return.

 The little girl dressed in pink just arrived home with her new family last weekend!

After about an hour and a half, Wass took us back to the hotel to rest up for our cultural dinner that evening. He picked us up again at 6:30, and we headed off to dinner at Yod Abyssinia. The food was excellent, and Wass is a wealth of knowledge about the various cultures and people groups in Ethiopia.
He even kept Yikealo entertained by playing tic-tac-toe over and over with him, and he tried his best to teach Y to dance, but our little guy couldn't quite get it.  Here is a video of Wass showing off his moves with one of the restaurant's dancers. You can see Yikealo trying to join in just a bit.  (Warning: you might want to have your sound turned WAY down for this. Unbeknowst to me, the HH kids had turned the sound settings on my camera  up all the way, and it's very distorted and static-y.)

It had been a long day, and it was late by the time we got back to the hotel. Yikealo was very tired, so we put him to bed right away. As he said his prayers, he asked Jesus to "please change the laws tonight so that we can take my little brother home with us tomorrow." Awwwww!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes, the wonderful traffic and driving in Addis! I remember it well. I also remember wondering if we were going to make it back in one piece! Love Yikealo's prayer! :)