Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mr. Pouty Face

Is that not the cutest thing you've ever seen?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Travel Journal Part Eight: Visiting Orphanages

Thursday, June 10th

Our second night with Benjamin was great. He slept from 8 pm till 6 am without waking up. Then he took a bottle and slept another hour. What a dream baby! Considering the fact that he was used to being awakened twice during the night for a bottle, I was really impressed that he began sleeping through the night so quickly. Sadly, it was the also first time that Daniel and I slept all the way through the night since arriving in Ethiopia. Every night before this we both woke up around 2 am. We were often hungry since it was dinner time at home. Often we would eat a snack, and then sometimes we could go back to sleep and sometimes not. It's too bad that it was almost time to go home before our bodies finally adjusted to Africa time.

We were amazed and thankful to realize today that B already seems to know who his mommy and daddy are. Several times today Ethiopian women asked to hold him, and I let them. (I know, I know, you're totally not supposed to do that with a newly adopted child... It was just so uncomfortable and awkward to say no. This is very normal in their culture, and they are VERY forward about it.) Every time he looked at me with a worried look. He wasn't playful and didn't smile at them UNTIL he is back in my arms and secure again. I praise God for how quickly the attachment process seems to be going for us.

Benjamin and Hope playing together

Hope is quite the little mover. She is a month younger than B and is crawling and pulling up already. She is right on the verge of walking!

An Ethiopian man that we did not know approached us in a restaurant after lunch today and said: "Thank you. We appreciate what you are doing. We are thankful to those of you who are taking our children and giving them a better life." It warmed my heart. I have felt very nervous among the Ethiopian since we have picked up B. We have heard many times that the Ethiopians don't look favorably upon American adopting their children. They don't like them to be "exported." I was appreciative for his affirmation that helped us be more at ease.

As soon as we arrived at the orphanage we were served coffee and bread. We appreciated the hospitality very much, but it felt so uncomfortable to accept food from them when we would have preferred to give it all to the children.

Coals that the coffee is heated over

This was a really good day with Benjamin, but a really hard day otherwise. We went to visit two orphanages: Kids Care and Gelgela. They are nothing like the AWAA Transition Home. We figured out after these visits that our children had been living at the Hilton of all orphanages in Ethiopia. The care givers and the directors of these orphanages are wonderful, loving people. But there are just so many children, and they have so little to give them. They kids were dirty, they seemed to have almost nothing to play with, they were all so thin...

Children's underwear drying in the windows


Our first visit was Kids Care. A little boy who looked to be about six grabbed my attention soon after we arrived, and I spent the rest of the time there with him. My mommy heart went out to him when I saw him was standing by himself silently crying, dirty from head to toe. I found out from other children that his name is Tariku, but that's about all that I know about him. He broke my heart. How often does he cry and no one stops to hug him and ask him what is wrong? How long had it been since someone cuddled him in their lap and rubbed his little back? Every little boy needs a mama. Tariku deserves one every bit as my children do. Why is Benjamin one of the "lucky" ones when so many millions more who are just as precious will never know the love of a mommy and daddy and the security of a family? What a broken, lonely world we live in. My heart hurts for all of the Tariku's out there.

It's easy to see the orphans of the world as statistics when you are sitting in your living room. It is impossible when you have one in your lap.

The AWAA Interns had the brilliant idea to bring bottles of nail polish to give the girls at Kid's Care. They LOVED it.

I painted lots of fingernails

And had MY nail painted three times! One coat on top of another...

Two of the AWAA employees goofing off :)

The second orphanage that we visited was Gelgela. Benjamin spent a week there before coming to the America World Transition Home. It was a sad place. The toddler room (1-3 years) was the worst. There were two kids in each tiny crib just laying there. We got the feeling that they spend a lot of time in those cribs. They were without playfulness, without the noise that you should hear when you are around young children. They did not clamor for our attention. They just lay in their beds, awake and looking at us. Everything smelled like urine, and it was so dirty. We didn't see any toys. All the kids just stared at us while we were there. We passed out candy and granola bars, and even then the children just sat quietly. We left feeling very sad.

I'm not sure who this woman and child were, but there were sitting together off in a corner alone. I think they are both beautiful.

We brought several duffel bags full of donations with us to Ethiopia. We left the diapers and wipes at the Transition Home, but we saved the formula, clothes, and shoes for the orphanages. I was so glad to have something to leave for the children there. I wished that I had ten times as much to donate. I kept thinking of all the clothes and shoes that are sitting in boxes at home that I could have brought with me for these kids. They need them way more than we do.

The Guest House has a porch on the roof where you can get a great view of the city. The colorful storefronts along the main street are typical of what you see in Addis Ababa.

Blue taxis like these are everywhere in the city.

I love the scaffolding surrounding buildings under construction made out of eucalyptus limbs.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Travel Journal Part Seven: Embassy Day and Trip to the Slums

Thursday, June 9th

A much better day. It was as if God hit the reset button for all of us as we slept during the night. It was wonderful to have a fresh start. Benjamin slept from 6 pm until 6 am, only waking once for a bottle at 2 am. He woke up his happy and charming self, full of giggles and flirtatious smiles.

We began to see how much Benjamin can eat this day. The child can put away massive amounts of food! He ate a whole avocado for breakfast. (We bought TEN avocados for A DOLLAR at a sidewalk produce stand. Avocados are so plentiful in Ethiopia that they can hardly give them away!) We quickly discovered that he was not interested in baby food. The pureed, jarred baby food that we are used to in America is not something that really exists in Ethiopia. We asked the Transition Home staff what type of baby food he had been eating, and they didn't really understand what we were asking. For the babies they simply mash up the food that they feed to the older children. We still tried to feed him some of the baby food that I had brought with us, but he was much more interested in the food on our plates. So we went straight to table food. Already I laugh at how differently I am handling all of the baby stuff the second time around. I did everything "by the book" with Madeline. Homemade baby food from organic produce... One new food every third day so that we could watch for allergic reactions... No sugar or salt until after she was a year old... All the rules are going out the window with baby number two! I am much more relaxed, and I love it. It is so nice to not live in constant fear that I am going to "ruin" my child if I don't follow all of the rules.

Our big event for the day was an appointment at the U.S. Embassy. We had to appear before a representative, present some paperwork, and answer a few questions. Finally our adoption became final, final, FINAL. Oh happy day! The man that we spoke with made it clear that there is no un-doing Ethiopian adoptions. I wanted to say - There had better not be!

Our first time to give B a bath

As we walked away from the Embassy, I tearfully whispered in Benjamin's ear, "You are an American now, sweet boy. Never ever take it for granted. We have more freedom, more opportunities, more choices, and more wealth than any other country in the world. It is a gift and a responsibility. Use it wisely, my son."

Flat tire before we left the Guest House. The amazing Ethiopian guys had it changed in 5 minutes flat.

We had some time back at the Guest House to let Benjamin nap and for us all to spend some relaxed time together. Then in the afternoon, we met our driver Dawit for a difficult and eye-opening excursion. I'm so thankful that God put us together with Dawit. Earlier in the week we had a conversation with him over macchiato's at Kaldi's about what life is really like in Ethiopia. Dawit is an Evangelical Christian, and he has been involved with orphan ministry in several different capacities. We were very interested to hear his insights. He offered to take us to his church and to show us how many people "really live" in Ethiopia. We were very excited to take him up on this.

Us with Dawit at the Guest House

We didn't realize it, but he had made an appointment for us to meet the pastor of his church. He drove us to the slums of the city where the church is located. To say that we went to the slums is saying a lot. The poverty all over Addis is overwhelming. But this was where the poorest of the poor people live. This church was planted there several years ago to reach out to the people who live there. They were going to have a fellowship meeting later that evening, and already people were starting to gather. We stuck out big time. All eyes were on us as we walked through the church. But we were used to that by this point. All eyes were on us the entire time we were in Ethiopia.

The pastor started out by telling us how happy he was that we had come and that he had been praying that God would send us. Then he began to tell us about the work of the church and the huge task they have to reach out to the people all around them who have nothing. Literally nothing. In America we really can't understand what it means to have nothing. We have no context for that. We've never known anyone who really has nothing. Many of the homeless in our cities have more than these people.

Earlier this year the church began a program to raise money from their members to send orphans that live in the surrounding neighborhood to school. There is no such thing as free education in Ethiopia. School is very cheap by our standards, but it is not free. Most of these orphans are living with extended family members, but in Ethiopia the culture dictates that a child who is not your own is treated as a servant. Even if it is your niece or nephew who has lost his parents, still he will never be treated as a full-fledged member of the family. There is no hope for these kids to be able to go to school unless someone outside the family pays their way.

So this pastor has rallied his congregation of people who have almost nothing so that these children can go to school. The individual Christians of this church are paying each month for the education of twenty-five children. One month of school costs 50 Birr - $3.50. Yep that's right, the cost of a latte at Starbucks. Actually I think a latte costs more than that. The cost of (less than) a latte is all that stands between orphaned children having a chance to get an education rather than ending up on the street someday with no way to make a living for themselves.

However for the people of this church who give each month, 50 Birr is a very big deal. To put it in perspective, our driver confided that his monthly salary is 1300 Birr - roughly $100. He sponsors FOUR CHILDREN. He gives 200 of his 1300 Birr, 15% of his income, to those who are poorer than he is.

II Corinthians chapter 8 comes to mind when Paul told a wealthier church about the generosity displayed in a poor church in order to both reprimand them and encourage them:

"Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more in their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift to the poor believers in Jerusalem. They even gave more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord..... Since you excel in so many ways...I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches."

It would be no problem for almost anyone reading this to gather enough money to sponsor the education of 25 children singlehandedly each month. $87.50. That's all it would take to educate all of them.

Now the church is trying to raise money to pay so that each of the 25 kids will have at least one meal per day. One meal. They are going to feed the children while they are at school because if they give the food or the money to the household where they live, there is a good chance that the child that it is intended for will never receive it. It takes about $1/day to do this, so it will take a lot more than the cost of sending a child to school.

We had $200 with us that several friends and family had given us to use as we saw fit while we were in Ethiopia. I had prayed that God would make it clear what he wanted us to do with the money. It couldn't have been any clearer. It seemed like a huge gift to this pastor, but it was so small for us. I want to do more. I can't wait to do more.

We exchanged information with the pastor so that we can keep in touch, and then Daniel went out with a couple of men to visit the households of some of the people who benefit from this program. I was sad to miss it, but I felt it was best to stay behind with Benjamin. Here is what he saw:

The street outside the church

A family receiving support from the church. Ten people live in a home roughly 10 ft. x 10 ft.

This lady was cooking over an wood fire in her tiny hut while Daniel was there.

I'm not sure exactly what the future of our relationship with Emmanuel United Church of Ethiopia Merkato will look like, but I know that it will not end because we have come back to the United States.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Update On How We Are Doing

Great! For the first few days things seemed to get a little harder every day. But after last Friday every day has gotten little better than the day before. We are having a blast as a family of four!

Jet lag was a major difficulty during the first week at home. Babies don't get over jet lag quite as quickly as adults do. The first night after we got home, Benjamin was wide awake and ready to go at 2:30 am! We were not quite so ready to go... Each night after that he began to sleep a little later than the night before. He is now sleeping until 5:45 or 6. I'd love an hour more sleep in the morning, but really I can't complain. :)

Gradually, we have been working on a daytime nap schedule too, and he is now taking two one-and-a-half to two hour naps at fairly consistent times. AND his afternoon nap coincides with Madeline's naptime. Woo hoo!

Napping on Mommy and Daddy's bed

During the first week that we were home, Benjamin was pretty fussy. He didn't want to ever be put down, even for a minute, and he cried a lot even when we held him all the time. It was pretty exhausting. On Friday we had our first appointment with our pediatrician, and his advice was to feed him constantly! That was not what I was expecting to hear! He explained that to Benjamin food means security and love. Because of his past he needs to feel certain that he is going to be able to eat all that he wants to eat, then he will relax and be able to bond with us more. Our pediatrician is a Christian, has an adopted daughter from China, and sees many adopted children, so I take his advice to heart. He was absolutely right! We started offering food or a bottle at his first whimper, and it has made a huge difference. We now have a happy baby on our hands again! And we are able to leave him on the floor with toys to play with for short periods, and he is just fine.

Learning how to hold two in my lap at once :)

Benjamin is fitting into our family so well. Now that we are past the bumps of the first week, he is great about going with the flow. We've been on several outings - to the zoo, shopping, to visit family, to the doctor - and he has done wonderfully everywhere we go. He loves his big sister, and he is already very attached to his mama and daddy. He clings to us whenever strangers are near, and he doesn't like for anybody else to hold him. That makes me so happy. The initial attachment period has gone faster and a lot easier than I ever expected.

Madeline is gradually getting used to sharing attention with Little Brother. It's hard when you are two years old and don't fully understand what is going on. She has been an only child and only grandchild (except for one out-of-town cousin), and the world has pretty much revolved around her up until this point. Considering that, I think she is doing great. We've had a few moments (like when she smacked Daniel in the face because he had transferred his attention from her to Little Brother), and she has been clingier than usual. But I have tried very hard to give her lots of extra love and hugs and reassurances of how treasured she is, and I think that she adjusting quite nicely. I give her opportunities to help take care of B as often as possible and then make a big deal out of what a good big sister she is.

At the zoo on a hot Tennessee day

It is so fun to finally see the two of them together. I've had a modified version of the first line of Nicole C. Mullen's song about inter-racial families running through my head ever since we got home: "Brother looks like coffee, sister looks like cream...." :) (The song is Black, White, Tan, by the way.)

Daniel had been saving up his vacation for some time, and so he was able to stay home with us for several extra days after we returned home. What a blessing to get to be together for an extra week and a half to bond and to get used to handling life as a family of four! Today was his first day back to work. I was a little nervous to be on my own, but everything has gone great.

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers and continued support during this adjustment period. We have also been blessed by so many wonderful meals brought by friends and family since we have been home too. Thank you! The pizza man would have been to our house every night if it wasn't for you. :)

First time on a swing!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Travel Journal Part Six: Gotcha Day

I've been putting off writing about Gotcha Day. It is so difficult to accurately convey all the complex emotions that we experienced on this monumental day. Truly, it was one of the hardest days of my life. Grief is a part of adoption that you don't hear much about. The Hallmark-movie-type Gotcha Day videos just don't tell the whole story.

I don't want to come across as negative. Adoption is a beautiful, wonderful thing. Please don't let this discourage you from doing it! Every day since Gotcha Day has gotten better and better. Really. Adoption is all about healing and redemption. I am learning that day by day.

Let me back up a bit... We spent the morning shopping (bought LOTS of souvenirs!) and went to lunch at Lucy's with the group before heading back to the Transition Home to pick up our children for good.

While we were at lunch, "T" (one of the AWAA employees) got a phone call letting us know that Benjamin's birth mom was in town and was going to be at the Transition Home when we got there in an hour or so. Oh. My. Goodness. I'm just assuming that God knows that I handle stressful situations better when I don't have much time to get nervous or to overthink what I am going to say or do. I'm trusting that he was taking care of me by allowing us to have so little notice before we first met Benjamin AND when we met his birth mom.

Instantly when we found out what was about to happen, I started crying. I cried off and on for most of the hour before we met her, anticipating the moment where I would come face to face with the woman who I know so little about but whose heart will forever be tied to mine. I have prayed for her so much. I know only a few details about her story, but I know that in order for her to leave her tiny son at an orphanage she must have been in an extremely difficult situation. She must have exhausted all other options. She must be desperate. She must be heart broken. And all of this breaks my heart.

When I walked into the room, shaking, I saw a beautiful young lady with long braided hair. She was composed. Nervous but peaceful. She kissed my cheeks, back and forth three times in the traditional way. Then I hugged her tight for a long time, trying to communicate to her what I could not with words. I told her that she is beautiful.

We communicated through an interpreter. It was awkward and difficult. There are such extreme differences between our cultures. I was very afraid that I was being impolite or offensive by asking the direct questions that we asked. And we did not get real answers to many of them. But regardless of that, it was a deeply moving experience. Despite her strength and composure, I felt such grief as I watched her walk away.

There is so much pain and suffering in this fallen world that we live in. This beautiful young mama was walking away from her baby boy forever. Why was she born into a family where she had no opportunity, no education, no money? Why is she now in a position where she cannot keep the baby she obviously cares for when I am in the position that I am in? It is so unfair and it hurts.

I have no desire to take her baby away from her. I do not want to rip Benjamin out of his culture, his heritage, and his beautiful homeland. At this moment it felt as though we were doing the totally wrong thing. But through prayer, I am reminded that I am not the one responsible for Birth Mom's situation. I am not responsible that B was left at an orphanage when he was tiny. I AM responsible to walk the path that we have been called to walk - to take a child home with us, to teach him about Jesus, and to give him opportunities that he never would have had so that some day he can help his people. Meanwhile I am to pray for and love all of the people of Ethiopia.

Adoption is about redemption, not perfection. It's about showing us how God can make something beautiful out of something broken. I sense that God has much to teach me about this. He has a plan and he works ALL things for good for those that love him. Even, and perhaps especially, the broken things.

We had only a few moments to ourselves after Birth Mom left (immediately I started crying my eyes out), and then Mulle (one of the AWAA employees) brought in the first of the the five children that we had promised to photograph for other adoptive families who are waiting to pass court. I tried my best to pull myself together. I had so been looking forward to doing this! Getting extra photographs was such a blessing to us during the long wait. I wanted to invest in each of these precious lives who were waiting for their parents. They needed my love. And I wanted to remember each of these moments so that I could send treasured tidbits of information back to the mommies waiting at home. I invested lots of energy, lots of emotion, lots of love.

The last baby had just left the room and I was hurriedly jotting down a few notes about her when I heard a wail. I looked up just in time to see a chocolate-colored nanny throw Benjamin into Daniel's arms, bury her face in her hands, and run away weeping. Oh the grief that these dear ladies have to endure! They have loved and nurtured my baby for six months, day in and day out, only to have to give him away, never to see him again. And they do this over and over and over. I can't imagine a job that could be much harder.

By this time I was crying uncontrollably. But B was with us and watching, and I knew that he needed to see joy and love in my eyes, not grief. I tried to pull myself together, but nanny after nanny came by to see B and to tell him goodbye. Many staff members who were not his actual caretakers who came by to say goodbye as well. When one of the nannies that Benjamin particularly liked left the room, he started to cry. I cried right alongside him. I don't know when, if ever, I have shed so many tears in one day.

Daniel held Benjamin as we rode away in the car. He whimpered a few times, but did pretty well. It wasn't until we arrived at the guest house that he fell apart. For six months he had not left the Transition Home. It was his whole world. He had been cared for by the same loving arms. Then suddenly he was ripped from his home and his "mommies" when two people who look funny, smell funny, and sound funny took him to a strange new place. His little world had been turned upside down. He was afraid and grieving. I was grieving with him.

He wailed for 45 minutes or so before passing out on Daniel's chest. He slept on us for several hours before we finally moved him to his bed. It was 6 in the evening when he fell asleep, and he did not awake until the next morning. He never had his supper or his nighttime bottle. He just passed out. I've heard that babies and young children sometimes deal with traumatic experiences by going to sleep. I kept praying over him as he slept on my chest that God would heal his little heart as he rested.

A birth mother walking away from her child forever, grieving nannies who have invested their lives in a child that they love, a sad and confused baby taken away from everything that he has known.... It was a hard day for all of us to say the least. But God is with us. He is making something beautiful out of something that was broken. I trust him in that, and I confidently anticipate watching him work.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Travel Journal Part Five: Official "Meetcha" Day and Traditional Dinner

Monday, June 7th

We started out the day with our "paperwork party." We met Duni, the director of the in-Ethiopia branch of America World, at the Hilton in Addis. (The Hilton is like little America in Ethiopia. It is huge and totally caters to Americans.) Duni walked us through all of the paperwork that we had to fill out for our Embassy appointment while we enjoyed a tasty lunch. We learned a lot from Duni about cool stuff that AWAA is doing in Ethiopia, including a program to educate Ethiopians about adoption and encourage more in-country adoptions AND a new micro-loan program to help destitute single moms who are considering abandoning their children because of poverty. I was so excited to learn about these things. Duni is so helpful and friendly. We really enjoyed getting to talk to her.

Paperwork at the Hilton

Amazing macchiato at the Hilton

Our travel group - John and Emily Weatherford, Taylor and Joanna Williams, and us

After that we went back to the transition home to spend three more hours with Benjamin!

Dear Benjamin,

We got to spend another precious three hours with you today. We are so in love with you. Already it felt like a sweet reunion to hold you in our arms again. Oh baby, I can't wait to bring you home forever. They had to wake you from a nap again. Poor little guy. You were so sleepy. We played for a little while - you thought it was so funny when I kissed your hand over and over - and then you fell asleep on daddy for an hour and a half. He said that it was a dream come true to get to snuggle you that way. I think you are already a daddy's boy. You smile and laugh for him almost every time he looks at you. After you woke up, he had a huge wet spot where you had drooled all over him. :) The nannies and the staff obviously have a special love for you. They all come over to play with you whenever they see you. Hanna is your special nanny that was there today. When I thanked her for taking care of you, she started crying. She is so sad that you are leaving. I hugged her and both of us cried. This is such a happy time and a sad time all together. I love you, sweet boy.


There were two additional families in our travel group: The Williams from Ohio, picking up an 8-month-old baby girl, and the Weatherfords from Arizona, picking up a 2 1/2-year-old girl. It's amazing how fast you bond with other people when you share such life-changing experiences with them. It was such fun to watch each family as they met their child for the first time and as they got to know each other over the next few days. We took turns taking photos and video for each other as our children were brought out to us one at a time. Every one was so nervous and filled with emotion. I was glad that we had already met Benjamin for the first time and this was a reunion, not a nerve-wracking first meeting.

The Weatherfords and Yemi

Yemi quickly went to sleep after meeting her new parents. :) It was the middle of her nap time.

The Taylors and Hope. It was her nap time too, and so she wasn't too happy the first day. But soon she was full of joy and so sweet.

It was so hard to leave him both times that we visited Benjamin at the Transition Home. However, in retrospect I am very thankful that it is done that way. It is much better for the children to have a chance to get to know their parents in their OWN environment where they feel safe. We are so very different to them. It's not just the color of our skin. We sound so dramatically different, we smell different, we behave quite differently with them (the Ethiopian women are in the babies' faces all the time and very noisy - opposite of how Daniel and I behave with our babies). I was thankful to have two visitation meetings with Benjamin before we ripped him out of the place where he was at home and the people who have cared for him for the last six months.

For any of you out there who have children in the AWAA Transition Home, please let me reassure you that they are very well cared for. Not just cared for, but LOVED. The nannies that we were around love the children like they are their own. They sing, play, and hold the babies all the time. I don't think that they are ever in their cribs unless they are asleep. Each child gets lots of attention. I think that each nanny is only caring for three children at a time. They are very well fed. A little too well fed actually! The nannies wake the babies twice per night until the time that they turn a year old to feed them bottles. They want to make sure that they are getting enough. There is a doctor on staff that takes care of the needs of all of the children, and the place is kept very clean. No shoes are allowed in the baby room. When we showed up unannounced our first day in Ethiopia, Benjamin was in clean clothes and his fingernails had been clipped recently. He was clean and happy. I was so relieved to see that. I wish I had known that over the last six months. I worried so much. (The other orphanages in Ethiopia are VERY different, however. More on that later...)

Benjamin's nanny, Hanna

Check out the major drool spot on Daniel's chest :)

Benjamin's bed

That evening we went to dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Daniel and I truly enjoy Ethiopian food, and we were really looking forward to this. (It is an acquired taste. If you are an adoptive family, don't give up! We kept eating it until we finally began to like it. There are plenty of dishes that you can select that aren't too spicy. You just have to learn what to order.)

We were seated on small stools around a mesob - a small basket-woven table that is just the right size for a tray of injera. A waiter first brought a basin and a pitcher of warm water and poured the water over our hands, one at a time, as we washed them. Then the yummy food was served. Injera is the centerpiece of Ethiopian cuisine. It is a type of bread, made out of a grain called teff, and cooked like a huge pancake. It is served on a tray with dollops of the different dishes being served on top of it. To eat, you tear off a piece of injera and use it to pick up the food. Once you get a little practice, it's not too messy and a lot of fun. The food was excellent.

The AWAA Interns who are working at the Transition Home for the next six weeks joined us for dinner

After dinner we were treated to a traditional coffee ceremony. This is a VERY important part of Ethiopian culture. First a little pot of burning incense is brought out. Then a distinctively-shaped coffee pot is brought to the table with tiny coffee cups, only slightly larger than Madeline's play tea cups. Each person's coffee is served with a flair. Then, of all things, popcorn is brought to the table. Traditionally, the coffee beans are roasted over a fire right before making the coffee. We didn't get to see that part, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had actually roasted them in the kitchen.

Throughout the evening, traditional Ethiopian music was being played and dancers entertained us with a variety of traditional dances. It sounds of the music are extremely different from what we are used to. It was so interesting. The dancers changed costumes between each dance. The music seemed to get louder and louder and the dance got more and more rambunctious as the evening went on. Their moves were so impressive. There is no way that my joints can do some of the things that they can do! At one point, the dancers came out into the crowd and danced with someone from every table. Taylor didn't seem to mind a bit jumping up and dancing with the professionals. :) It was all so fun to watch!