Here goes, there is so much to write that this might just take me forever, but my goal is simply to get it written; I hope you’ll bare with me!
Thanksgiving was the day before we left. We had accomplished most of the packing in the days before, but, as always on the day before a big trip, there were just a few things left for the last minute. After feasting and spending the day with family, we came home to all of the last minute tasks. We packed in some gifts from friends to family who live near Addis, cleaned various parts of the house, and hugged our children extra long at bedtime.
Amazingly, I slept fairly well, though I woke up thinking about a billion things. The morning was a blur, as I dashed around trying to get us ready to go, the children ready to stay, and the house ready for the in-laws! The whole time I was dreading the good-bye.
Then it came, sooner than I was ready. I had to say good-be to my children, the thing I had dreaded most about this whole adoption journey. I held Bubba on my lap for a while and told her I would be praying for her every day, that if she missed us, she could pray for us as well. Little Man was fairly distracted, so our hug was short but sweet. Then we drove away to the airport.
At the airport, I was much calmer than I expected. Check in was a breeze. The bags were all under weight, and they didn’t even question the large Rubbermaid tote we had. We walked to our gate, ate breakfast and eventually boarded the first flight of a very long journey.
We had a couple hours to waste at Dulles, so we bought ourselves dinner – California Tortilla – and settled in near the gate. I really enjoyed people watching at the international gate. Finally the boarding call came in German. We loaded onto the 747, peeking up the stairway and wondering what the upstairs is like. Our seats were the middle two (of four) in the middle isle – ug! It all worked out very well though; the isle seat was never claimed, so we ended up with three seats. That flight, while long, was not as long as I expected it to be; I read much of Redeeming Love (thanks to all of you who recommended it – I loved it and was completely drawn in!), slept, and listened to the I-Pod my sweet husband so thoughtfully bought for me.
Arrival at the Frankfurt airport was beautiful. It was that time of the morning when the sky is a deep, deep blue speckled with stars, yet the horizon is aglow with the tiniest bit of sunshine! We stepped off the airplane and were greeted with the cool, fresh morning air.
Then we entered the Frankfurt airport. This was certainly not my favorite part of the journey, as we found the airport to be somewhat confusing with relatively few places to sit (outside of the gates which are blocked off until they are used as a waiting area for a flight) and icky bathrooms.
Our last flight was relatively uneventful. We both dozed and read. When we landed in Khartoum, we both noticed that everything seemed so very brown, and the airport was one like I hadn’t seen since I was in Eastern Europe twelve years ago – very primitive and a little stinky.
When our plane descended again, it was night, just about 24 hours after we left home at breakfast time. We could see the city of Addis out our window. I was suddenly overcome with the thought that our children were very near. Yet I was also so very sad that our children were also so very far away. I wanted to go home, and I wanted to get off the plane; I wanted to be with my “old” children, and I wanted to be with my “new” children. I choked back the tears long enough to deplane.
Walking into Bole International was a bit surreal; it was the meeting of what I had been imagining for years and the reality of what is really there. Some things were just as I expected, and others were soberingly different. As I had read, the line to buy visas was right there, and just across the way was the place to exchange money. We did both fairly easily.
As we stood in line for our visas, I saw a couple families on the other side of the giant glass wall. White parents, beautiful Ethiopian babies. My guess was that they were ending their adoption journey as ours was just beginning. I so longed to be on that side of the wall. I longed to be that family – arms full! Yet my heart was sad to see those beautiful babies leaving their country, their home.
Once we got our visa, we waited in line again to go through customs. Just outside of customs we met the driver who was sent by our agency.
Then we went to fetch our luggage. I had heard it can take a while, so I wasn’t alarmed when we didn’t see anything at first. I was a bit alarmed, however, when we had three of our bags, and the fourth was no where to be seen. We waited and waited, our driver trying to tell us that it was no big deal. Once we agreed that we were seeing the same dozen bags go around and around with nothing new, we found our way to the luggage desk. She spent a lot of time typing on the computer and writing things down, but in the end we left the airport without our fourth bag.
To get out of the luggage area, one has to have their bags x-rayed. And the short conveyor belt to the machine is a free-for-all. People from all directions, just throwing their luggage on the belt and trying to inch their carts ever closer. There was NO line. Then on the other end, things were a bit less chaotic as people wait with their carts to collect their luggage, yet I was very thankful that we made it out with the luggage that was ours.
As we wove our way through the crowd to get out of the airport, I was very aware of the people watching us. Ferenge.
Kessahun had an awesome parking space, third from the end of the row closest to the airport. We loaded quickly, he did something under the hood, and we were off. As we drove down what I am guessing is Bole Road to the Hilton, I got my first glimpses of Addis Ababa. It was dark, but the roads were full of cars. We inched along at a snail’s pace for most of the drive.
There weren’t too many people on the sidewalks, but many of those that were out were dressed nicely. The exceptions were those that look like perhaps they made their home right where they were. In one instance, I saw a couple boys, one standing near the side of the road, the second hung by his arms around the first one’s neck, what was left of his legs holding on to the boys sides. I think they were begging, and it grieved my heart to leave them there.
Note: For those of you who have clicked over here from 5 Minutes for Parenting, you can find the rest of the To Ethiopia And Back posts under the “Adoption Travel” Category. Sorry, you’ll have to find your way through the numbers; I have been hoping to do some house cleaning…but it’s just not going to happen now. Thanks for reading!