I have sat down to write about 8 times, but inevitably something comes up and I can not start, or finish, whichever the case may be. Life seems to get in the way. I have been home for 3 days. Everyone asks me, "How did you leave her?" and seem to expect me to burst into tears. I think I was so happy to see my boys and my husband that I was able to compartmentalize and deal with the goodbye quite stoically. Now... not so much. Today, right now, I feel like I was punched in the stomach. Perhaps it is that when I pointed out to our agency that we had been assigned a court date (Dec. 12th) on a Saturday, their response was "it will likely be the 11th or 14th". I think Samantha's dad, who needs to travel many, many long hours, would like to know the specific date. Why have I had to point out so many inaccuracies since our referral (and including our referral!)? Why is that suddenly making me sad? I have been angry, but now I am disillusioned and sad. Maybe because I know that every one delays Samantha's arrival. Now that I have held her, kissed her, and fallen in love with her, delays seem unusually cruel.
I will back track to my trip. It was amazing! Jennifer was a great travel buddy. We spent 24/7 together for 10 days and got along incredibly well! She was a great photographer too. We arrived at the transition house and were immediately greeted by the older children. They quickly stole our hearts - lots of hugs and kisses and smiles. They were so happy to see new people (and I think they know that new people often mean treats! We were quite happy to keep this trend alive!) We played with them for 20 or 30 minutes the first day. It was sad to see that for the 15 or 20 kids there was one old soccer ball and one dirty tennis ball. I tossed the tennis ball back and forth with a few. The driveway has a fence on one side and it is only about 8 feet high. Apparently the kids kick a lot of balls over and they are not returned to them. We went out at lunch time and bought several new soccer balls, hand balls, and a basketball. We also bought a pump so future families can bring deflated balls. The look on their faces when we returned with the balls was priceless. We found ourselves in quite a heated soccer match!
The transition house isn't what I expected. It is a somewhat converted single family home (housing 70 kids!). I spent most of my time with Samantha on the front porch or in the small yard. She is in the 1-2 year old room. It must have been the living room in the original house. Now, the perimeter walls are lined with toddler beds (they were cribs when we arrived but they switched them out while we were there; FYI, the toddler beds would not pass American safety standards - they had giant bolts in the corners!). The front wall of the room had floor to ceiling plate glass doors. The kids would get excited to see us on the porch and come over and bang on the glass. It totally made me nervous. Also, the room had a fireplace with a marble hearth! It wasn't covered in foam or anything! It just seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I saw a few of the baby rooms (two rooms full of little ones, and then there was a room that was maybe used as the sick room - with only a few kids in it), and a small room used as the doctor's office. There was a kitchen and two bathrooms as well. I never saw the big kids' rooms - there may have been some sort of addition in the back.
The nannies work hard. There are a lot of kids and the nannies rarely are idle. In the toddler room especially, there was always a baby crying, falling, bopping another on the head with a rattle, needing a diaper change, etc. So they were busy. For the most part, I was impressed. They do pick up crying babies, they do give kisses and cuddles, and they do smile and make eye contact with the kids. I wasn't so impressed when Samantha peed through her outfit (perhaps because she was in a diaper at least two sizes too small - which matched her dress that was equally too small) and they changed the diaper, but not the wet onesie! Jennifer put her foot down on that one and asked them nicely to provide another outfit. I had brought 5, but I noticed a 4 year old was wearing one of the 2T outfits the next day. hmmmmm.
Our guide T and driver, David, were awesome. They were incredibly accommodating and helpful. We had them driving us all over - from shopping to lunch to picking up more supplies for the kids, (ok, or Kaldi's coffee for us!) they just smiled and went with it. I can't imagine us trying to navigate the trip without them. Thanks guys!
Addis is beyond description. I have been exposed to poverty. I have worked with the homeless. I have doled out meals at shelters. I have been approached by beggars in big cities. None of that prepared me to see Addis. Multiply all that you have seen by about 100, and you might be prepared. It is a huge city - dirty, smelly and full of smog. The cars are old and beat up (perhaps due to the bizarre lack of traffic rules and regulations!), but they are everywhere. I didn't really expect that. There are people everywhere as well. In every direction, you can see the tin roofed shanties (envision Slum Dog Millionaire) and it becomes understandable why there are people all over - who wants to sit around in that? So they take to the streets. Women with small babies approach the car windows and beg. T asked us not to give money, rather food (in the form of granola bars and packets of nuts), because some will just keep having babies to play on the sympathies of others. I will say that the people are gracious. They are not aggressive, but seemed genuinely appreciative of the food. The street kids make me sad - it was very "Oliver Twist". They would approach us, but there was always a handler nearby. I knew the money went straight to him, so it was good to be able to give them food that they could enjoy and benefit from.
I was very surprised by how global Addis was. When we sat at the Lucy Gazebo for lunch, we were surrounded by about 6 tables, and at each were folks from different countries. I heard German, Spanish, Italian, and what sounded like either Finnish or Swedish being spoken. T told us that in Ethiopia alone there are 82 languages spoken. This has me wondering - what if my daughter's family spoke one language, a different was spoken at the orphanage, and now Amharic at the transition house. When we introduce English it could be her 4th language in less than 2 years! I think sign language will be important!
Samantha is a doll. So cute. She loved hugs and kisses and really didn't reflect what I had gotten in her update. I expected her to be shy and withdrawn at first, but she really wasn't. By the last day she had bonded well and must have been confused when the fun white ladies didn't show up! She called me mama the last day and leaned in for an unsolicited kiss. Talk about owning my heart!!!! She was also much larger than I expected. She gets little to no exercise. (which, if you know me, is a scary thought! She will have to get used to moving around when she hits our house!) She is very chubby and has a gigantic belly. Of course, one day they let me feed her lunch and it was a big bowl of mashed potatoes. After that she got formula - the Ethiopian brand which is mostly carbs. Hmmm, perhaps this is what is puffing her up like the stay puff marshmallow man? I did switch her to the Toddler Formula (Target brand) that I had brought. I brought a dozen cans and just gave the Catletts 10 more cans to bring this week when they go to pick up sweet Daniel. I encouraged them to switch as many of the toddlers as possible. They need those fatty acids.
Anyway, I am rambling. It was a lot to process. Heading to Dubai for 4 days after was a mixed blessing. We needed the day at the spa, but the opulence was somewhat over the top and after Ethiopia, a bit disgusting.
So... now we wait for our court date - whenever that will turn out to be - and pray her dad shows up and the paperwork is correct. I have a bad feeling, given all the other strange mistakes, but I have to hold on to hope.