Our guest house is a ways away from the orphanages, so we had about a forty minute drive. But it was nice to watch Addis out the window. I got to know the route pretty well - we'd pass the brewery, two sheep/goat markets (one little one, then a bigger one), then the airport, then it would start to look less city-ish and we'd see the little taxis that are just converted motorcycles that they only use outside the city. And then we'd be there.
We stopped in front of the orphanage and Anbes, one of the in-country staff, led us up to his room. This was not a bonding trip. We didn't meet with our boy alone - we just went into his room and played with all the kids. I will never forget the moment they opened the door. I scanned all the kids' faces and saw his right away. He was crawling and looked up as we walked in. I knew that face immediately but was struck by how much bigger he is now than in the pictures we have.
Here's the funny part. I thought I had done so well by not running in and scooping him up right away. I sat down near him and kind of played with him and the other kids for a long time before I just couldn't stand it anymore and I picked him up. At least I thought it was a long time. Anbes videotaped our first meeting for us. When we watched it that night, I watched the time counter at the bottom of the video... it was only a minute and thirty-four seconds before I picked him up! Ha ha! Longest minute & a half of my life!
Let me tell y'all... he is SWEET! He's really a happy baby. We saw him grin and giggle and it doesn't take much to get him to smile. And he LOVED Riley. He didn't take his eyes off of him the entire visit. We had given Riley the job of blowing bubbles for the kids and he was diligent about his job! :) Our boy is crawling really well, can pull himself up and even takes about a half step by himself before falling over. He's cutting teeth (he has 5 already) and was in serious drool-mode. Sometimes Riley would take his hands and then say, "Ugh! He's all wet!" We'd just laugh and tell him babies are like that. Riley didn't let it phase him.
I wish I could describe for y'all what it feels like to meet a child that you have loved from afar. I have loved this sweet boy from the moment I laid eyes on those referral pictures. I studied those precious 6 pictures I had until I had memorized every inch of his little face. And seeing him in person was just amazing. Those same eyes, his smooth eyebrows and his ears - all the features I'd been looking at in pictures were finally right there in front of me... but this time I could see the person behind the eyes, we could get to know his personality, learn what makes him laugh. He has a funny little habit of clasping his hands together in front of him, like a little old man. Meeting him was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. It was cool to meet a child when you're not exhausted from labor. I was much more focused! ha ha :)
The other thing I did in my crazy, I'm-about-to-meet-my-child stupor was completely forget that I had shoes on and that they were MUDDY! The streets aren't paved at the orphanage so of course we all stepped in big mud puddles when we got there. I scraped off my shoes the best I could and then immediately forgot about the mud the minute I saw A's face. I sat cross-legged on the mat in front of him and then when I went to move a few minutes later, there was a GIANT mud splotch! Oops! At that point, I realized that of course you don't wear shoes in there. I just was so overwhelmed with meeting him! So we took off our shoes, and I flipped the mat over as quickly as I could! :) We remembered to take off shoes after that! ha ha.
|oh those little hands!|
Our visit was an hour. It was the shortest hour ever. And I'm not sure if we did a great job of acting as if we were there to visit all the kids. A tried to crawl out of the room after us as we left. It struck me at that moment that we probably had just given him the most individual attention he's ever had in his life. Don't get me wrong, the caregivers in his room are amazing. They are wonderful and it is obvious that they love the kids very much. But they have 6 kids in there and they do a great job of spreading the love around evenly. I watched the caregivers pick up one and love on her and then after a minute put her back down and pick the next one up. Sort of like a neverending rotation. But it really was obvious that they love the kids. My first choice would be for A to be home with us, but I'd pick these women to care for him in my absence if the choice was mine.
|This is his room - those are the cribs for each of the six kiddos in there|
After our visit, we had some incredibly good Ethiopian food at Kategna for lunch. Abey, our driver, ate with us and explained what everything was. My new favorite is Chickena Tibs (which is like bits of meat with green peppers) with mit mita powder (a really spicy orange powder you dip the meat in). Riley loves Ethiopian food so he went crazy at lunch. His favorite is Shiro - I like that a lot too. Oh how we love Ethiopian food!
From lunch, we went to Sabahar, a silk factory. They have silkworms there you can touch and you can see each stage of their life cycle, including the silk they produce. Women then comb the silk and spin it into thread and you can watch them. We also saw some men dying the silk thread and thread drying outside. They don't let you in where they're weaving, but the door was open so could you kind of peek in as you walked by. It was a really neat place. Riley LOVED seeing the silkworms. And the entire place is an empowerment initiative for women, so we were happy to make a purchase in the store - it's all fair trade.
It had been a big day, and as we were driving around we'd noticed a playground in a park. We asked our driver about it and he took us there. Apparently it's owned by the Hilton and you have to pay to enter, but for the three of us to go in, it was just under $4. Definitley worth it. We hung out there for 2 hours, just letting Riley play. This was like a playground on steroids - tons of climbing structures and some swings and lots of space to run. The best part was that they had those big plastic frogs that we have at the Natural Science Center - the same ones! It made me laugh. They also had some of the same dinosaurs that they have at Bur Mill park here. It was great to let Riley run around and just be a kid after all our traveling. We made a mental note to return later in the week (unfortunately, we didn't make it - but I'll write about that later). I have no pictures from our time there because they don't let you bring a camera in! The playground is right across the street from the Prime Minister's House so they have guards all over the place and they check your bags as you come in! I understand why, but it's too bad 'cause Riley had a blast and I would have had some cool pictures. You'll just have to imagine Riley climbing up this big dragon and jumping off. Over and over again.
We came back to Oziopia to eat dinner with the family. Yummy Ethiopian food again! And after dinner - a coffee ceremony! The coffee ceremony is a really important part of Ethiopian culture... but really it's just an excuse to sit with friends and talk. We loved it and Ethiopian coffee is by far the best coffee I have ever had. The only downside was that after having 2 cups of REALLY strong coffee, I couldn't go to sleep at all that night! It was worth it though.
A coffee ceremony has several components. First they take raw coffee beans (see them in the scoop at the bottom) and roast them in that scoop over the fire, stirring them as they go. Then they pass it around so everyone can smell (it's heavenly). Then they take a mortar & pestle and someone grinds the beans until they become a really fine powder (they don't use coffee filters so it has to dissolve in the water). This takes awhile so everyone just talks & hangs out and eats popcorn while we wait. Meanwhile, water is boiling in the coffee pot (it's on the left side of the picture). When the coffee's ground, they put it directly in with the boiling water and put it back on the fire. When it boils over, it's done. Then they take those little cups and pour everyone a cup. This is the strongest coffee you'll ever taste. You add a big ol' scoop of sugar to it and it is amazing. This is the first round. Once you're done, you hand your cup back, it gets rinsed out and they serve a second round of coffee. After everyone got their first cup, more water is added to the pot and it boils again. The second round of coffee is slightly weaker (still stronger than ours though). You do this for three rounds. And the funny saying is that the guest who arrives late and gets there during the last round is unlucky, 'cause they get the weakest coffee. So a typical coffee ceremony is three cups of coffee. I could only drink one and a half 'cause I was worried about being up all night. I was right. Though I should have gone ahead & enjoyed every cup since I wound up being up all night anyway!
Check out this video of Riley grinding the coffee beans:
During the ceremony, Abebe shared the story of his family. He has a drawing on one wall that depicts the family history and it's really cool. Their family, in particular Ayalech (his mom) has been through a lot. We felt honored that he would share his family history with us.
I was so happy to go to bed that night knowing we'd see our boy again the next morning...