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!
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 :)
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!