Disclaimers: This post is incredibly long! Feel free to skim if you'd like. For blogging purposes, I’m going to call the boys Lao Da (what the Chinese call the oldest child) and Lao Er (what the Chinese call the second child). Once they’re legally ours, I’ll go ahead and share their names. I still can't post their full faces yet, but I tried to do the best I can with the pictures I can share.
We’re here! We’re actually here! We survived our “vacation” in Beijing, which ended up being more like a series of marathon shopping trips, dentist appointments, and last minute packing. I will say that the best part of our two days in Beijing was our time with our friends Justin & Lauren.
We boarded our plane to Ethiopia on Friday night at 9:30. Our original seats were in the very back of the plane. It would have been fine, but we were more than thankful when the flight attendant told us that there were two open seats in the emergency row. For 7 lovely hours, Kevin actually got to stretch his legs. But when more passengers boarded during our one-hour layover in Delhi, India, we had to move back to our row 40 seats. In total, the flight was about 15 hours and we landed in Addis at 6:30 AM. The visa issuing process was surprisingly easy—much more organized than Nepal’s visa system and much cheaper than China’s. We went through baggage claim and easily pulled two of our bags off the conveyor belt. Around and around it went a few more times with no sign of our third bag. My heart sunk. That was the bag that had some toys & clothes for the boys. But my eagle eye of a husband spotted a black suitcase that had fallen off the belt. Thankfully, it was ours! My pulse still racing from the averted crisis, we moved onto customs for another adventure.
It is customary for adoptive families to bring a donation for the care center where our kids are staying. Since crocs are incredibly durable and so cheap to purchase in China, I figured this would be a great way for us to contribute. I even called my little mission Crocs for Kids because everything sounds better when alliterated. We made a shoe seller’s day when we went to Silk Market in Beijing and purchased 44 pairs with the $100 that my mom donated. Good intentions always seem to find a way of going awry, however, as our goods were confiscated at customs since we had no way to prove they we had no intent to sell them. The customs officers were really nice and explained to us that all we have to do is have our agency provide some extra information to resolve the situation. Hopefully we’ll have that taken care of in the next few days!
The guest house where we are staying is only about 10 minutes from the airport, so the driver that came to pick us up had us “home” really quickly. We are staying at the Addis Guest House, and it has surpassed my expectations in every way. The manager grew up in America, and he came to our room to personally welcome us and answer any questions we had about the city or our stay here. Our room is simple but more than adequate. We have our own bathroom with a hot water heater, a mini-fridge, free wi-fi internet, and a mattress that is much more comfortable than any I’ve slept on in a Chinese hotel. We even have an English movie channel!
After settling in, showering, and resting a bit, we set out to meander around town. We stopped at the Ethiopian “Starbucks” called Kaldi’s for a cappuccino that cost about $.15. This place is a coffee lover’s heaven! We sat at a little outdoor table at Kaldi’s and watched the world go by. What has struck me most so far has been the sweeping blue sky overhead. There are so few towering buildings, so the stretch of blue expanse and fluffy white clouds truly take center stage. There is no pollution to impede the sun, so my eyes have had to adjust to how bright everything is here. Also, it is impossible not to notice how beautiful Ethiopian people are. The women are slender & graceful, and the men are have a commandingly handsome presence. I’m always wondering if my sons will resemble any of the men I’m seeing on the street here—so much so that I have to be careful not to stare!
We finally went to the care center at around 3:30 to meet our boys. Surprisingly, our emotions were pretty even keeled as we made the half-hour drive out there. The care center is a simple residential house tucked in a small neighborhood. There is a gated front yard where the kids can play hopscotch and other outside games. The baby room is downstairs and is well stocked with toys, pack & play cribs, and several loving nurses who look after them all. The upstairs is where most of the older children live.
When we first entered the baby room, it was not difficult to pick out Lao Da from the other 20 or so babies & toddlers that were in there. His soft curls, delicate features, and the fact that he can stand & walk made him stand out from the others. He seemed a little shy at first but didn’t cry. He didn’t come to me when I opened my arms to him but also didn’t protest when I picked him up. I counted all his toes, stroked his curls, kissed his fat cheeks, and told him all the things I’ve been longing to say over the past four months. He seems to be a really mellow guy and likes toys that make noise. Unfortunately, all the noise-making toys available to him at the moment are dolls or cheerleader toys! Lao Da is walking, pointing, and trying to communicate with simple sounds. We spent a good fifteen minutes trying to figure out what he was pointing at on top of a large wardrobe.
Lao Er, on the other hand, was a little bit trickier to find. He has changed some much since we first "met" him in December. In his first pictures, his six-pound frame was redolent of a wet cat. Now he is a huge chunk of a child, and it seems his onesie can barely contain his generous belly. He is still only five months old, so he doesn’t really do much but lie there and be fat and cute. We gave him some “tummy time” and were pleased to see that he is able to raise his head by himself.
We were not expecting a dramatic family reunion and were prepared for almost any reaction the boys would have to us. We hoped for any kind of connection at all, and God was faithful to provide that. After about an hour and a half of being with the boys, Lao Er was getting sleepy so we decided it was time to leave. I never thought I would be thankful to see a kid cry (especially my own son!) but as I put Lao Da down and said goodbye, he reached for me and started to cry. Melt my heart! We finally managed to leave without any further tears and headed back to our guest house. We had dinner at the downstairs restaurant and were in bed by 9 PM. Long and full but sweeter than we could have asked for.