Saturday, May 10, 2014

Traveling Back to Ethiopia, Part 3

We have a new background photo on our home computer, and it makes me smile and laugh a little bit whenever I see it. It's a group photo... two tall, very pale white people on one side, a brown couple on the other side and in the front a bunch of brown kids of various ages. All of us are wearing big goofy grins, like we just won the lottery or something.

And we did. Because that is a photo of our Ethiopia family, whom we saw on the second day of our trip to Ethiopia.

It is very difficult to write about our visit with our birth family for two reasons.

One, I hesitate to share too much about them or the story that led to the adoption of our children. They don't have the Internet, and while I'm sure our family photo has been shared all over their village, sharing it here seems like a huge leap of privacy invasion.  The story that led to Daniel and Lily being relinquished for adoption is a sad one, and fairly typical of Ethiopian adoption stories. The only thing I will say is that our family has recovered from those tragedies, and they seem to be doing okay. Hopefully, our family is Ethiopia will remain intact, safe and healthy. Daniel and Lily are doing great, and there is no reason for us not to have contact with their first family.  We have not discovered any of the frauds or abuses that have led to American adoptions closing down in Ethiopia.*

Two, I know that it is hard for non-adoptive families, or families with challenging adoption histories or difficult relationships with birth families to believe that we flew all the way to Ethiopia to see our children's first family for a few hours, and that everyone had the most wonderful, joyful time and it was great. That seems like too good to be true.

But it is true.

Here is a photo of Daniel with two of his brothers. Three boys, two languages, heading to lunch. Laughing, playing games, making silly noises and smiling, smiling, smiling...

We flew all the way to Ethiopia. (Part 1. Part 2.) We enjoyed a day at the pool and a early room service dinner. The next morning we woke up early, met our guide/translator and drove into the countryside.

It was a beautiful four hour drive. We stopped at a nice little hotel on the way for a coffee break. Conveniently, this hotel has the only Western style toilets in the area. I'm big fan, especially after using some non-western style bathrooms later that day. (French style, you might say. Hole in the ground campground style.)

Along the road we saw gorgeous mountains, small farms, lots of chickens and goats, small mosques, Churches, marketplaces, little villages and small towns, and a few very crowded taxis**.

We met our family at a local school. We arrived first and sat down on one side of a big table. Then our family walked in and saw us.  Oh, the joy. We all could not stop smiling and laughing. They could not keep their eyes off Daniel and Lily. We gave them the small presents we'd brought: some t-shirts, some dresses, and a couple of toys. The children put the clothing on right away and clapped their happiness and thanks. Lily went to the other side of the table and sat with her big sister.  Daniel went and sat in between his brothers. They remained inseparable for the rest of the day.

We talked briefly. Talking was very difficult, as everything had to be translated twice. First into Amharic by our guide, and then into the local dialect our family speaks by their translator/guide.  We spent about 10 hilarious minutes trying to explain snow.  Then we decided to go outside and play. And that was much better.

Here is Daniel playing soccer with his family. (The children in red are students at the school.) This is one of our favorite pictures.

The girls, sitting tightly together.  I wish I could show you this sister's smile, she is so beautiful.

We ate a big lunch together at a local hotel. The kids devoured their Fanta and beef stew (beef tibs, a regional speciality).  Lily did her best imitation of an ill behaved American child at a restaurant. Prayers and thanks and happiness and photos were shared.

And then it was time to go.

Daniel climbed into the van and said, "I already know what was the best part of the trip. Seeing my family."

The kids sat and watched out the back window for while, and then slept most of the long, long drive back to the hotel.

Imagine that through challenging and sad circumstances you were separated from people you love. Imagine you thought you would never see them again. Imagine that you did, by great good luck, see your loved ones again, after all the dust had cleared and the circumstances had changed. Four hours with them would seem a miracle - a gift of grace. That is what our visit felt like. There was no crying, because we were too joyful for tears. There was no confusion, because everyone knew that they were loved immensely. There was no recrimination, because we were all too filled with gratitude. And there was not much sorrow in parting, because our hearts were filled to the brim.

We are very lucky. I only hope we can visit again soon.

* We did see several European adoptive families will newly adopted infants. And we did visit our children's former care center/orphanage. That story is a whole other post.

** We got a lot of stares as we drove down the road, not only because we were two white people traveling with two brown children but because there were only 5 of us in the whole big van. Vans in Ethiopia typically hold about 25 people!

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying reading about your trip. Thank you for sharing.


Add your comment here. Don't worry about logging in... you can just use your name, and leave the "URL" box blank. Thank you! -Becky