Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ethiopia 1st Trip - Day Three/"Meetcha Day"!

(I never had a chance to journal about this day while we were in Ethiopia, so I am going to go back now and try to remember all the wonderful details!)

Saturday, July 20, 2013
"Meetcha Day!"

FINALLY!!!  After 13 hours in the air, we were about to land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!!!  We had tried to sleep a little on the flight, but it was pretty tough.  And we were just now starting to feel tired, as we were about to land.  It was almost 7:00 am, Ethiopia time, but it was 11:00 pm, Central time.  So, honestly, we were feeling like it was past time for bed, but it was time to start one of the most exciting days of our lives!!! So, we both made the choice to just try to mentally "get past the tiredness", and get ready to embrace the day ahead! :)

I was a bundle of nerves and excitement as our plane touched down!  We were finally on African soil, and we were just so THANKFUL!  And so ready to walk around and get off that plane!

This is the "Welcome to Ethiopia" billboard that greets you right as you get off the plane!  Love it!!!  Betsy and Greg took a picture of us in front of the sign, and then we did the same for them!

Then, we followed them off to customs!  It was great to have them to show us where to go and what to do!  We had already filled out our customs form on the plane before we landed, so it was really just standing in  line, and then going through the customs procedure.  They took a picture of me, and scanned our fingers, looked at our passports, and then we were off to baggage claim!  We said good-by to our friends, and wished them well with reuniting with their little boy!

All the carts are free at the Addis airport, so we quickly grabbed a cart.  We were so excited to see all 4 of our big suitcases coming around in baggage claim!   All of our stuff had made it!  Thank You, Jesus!!!

Then Jody wheeled our cart out to the front of the airport to look for our AGCI driver, Danny.  We couldn't find him, so we just decided to wait on Emma and Chris to get out with their bags.  It was very crowded with friends and family waiting on loved ones, and lots of drivers looking for who they were supposed to pick up.  We had several of them approach us with their sign trying to figure out if we were who they were looking for!

Finally, we found Danny, and just immediately liked him so much!  He has a smile that will light up a room, and a heart of gold!  Such a sweet guy!  We found Emma and Chris, and we all walked out of the airport to the world of Addis Ababa!  It was so surreal to breathe in the Ethiopian air for the first time!  I just still could not believe that we were finally here!  Such a breathtaking moment!  I could not stop smiling! :)

We got out to the van, and loaded up all of our stuff on top of tarps covering charcoal that had been brought back from Gambella.  So we had LOTS of charcoal and suitcases in that 5 people!  It was fun!!!  Then Danny took off with us to the streets of Addis.  We just stared and stared at all the beautiful people walking along the streets, the markets, the cows and goats everywhere, the buildings with wood scaffolding, and the crazy traffic!  Oh my!!!  I was so thankful that Danny was driving us!  There is no way we could have driven in that traffic! :)

We talked with Emma and Chris along the way, and we all peppered Danny with lots of questions.  And before we knew it, we were entering the famous black gates of AGCI's transition home, HANNAH'S HOPE!!!  Danny pulled the van into the courtyard, and the large black gates closed behind us!  We were finally here!  This is where our daughter had lived for the past 8 months...

and we were finally standing in that courtyard!  That is some pure JOY right there!  We were so tired, but so excited all at the same time!  And we were almost immediately surrounded by so many precious little faces!  I wish that I could post their beautiful pictures!  Before we knew it, we were hugging children, had some of them in our arms, and were just loving on them!  I told them I had surprises for them that I would bring out soon!

Danny showed us all to our rooms in the Hannah's Hope guest house, which is right next to the house where our daughter and the other children of HH live.  The staff guys brought all of our suitcases in, and then we grabbed some of the treats we had brought for the older children.  I have the cutest picture of them with their goodies!  Their faces are just so precious!!!  The guest house was packed with families staying there, which made it so much fun!  We loved meeting everyone!  Jody took a quick shower, and we changed clothes, so we would feel a little bit better as we started this day in Ethiopia! :)

Then the staff called us in to meet with them in living room of the guest house to bring our forms we brought for Embassy, go over our itinerary for the week, and to exchange money.  It was Saturday morning, and we really appreciated all the staff being there and being so helpful on their day off!  They were already taking such great care of us!  They told us that Almaz, our in-country director, would be in soon to meet us.

Soon, Almaz arrived,and we had another surreal moment as we finally got to meet this special, amazing lady in person!  Chris and Emma were with us, and she told us that our babies were in the courtyard, and we could go out to meet them!  Ahhhhh!!!  We got so excited and ran to grab our camera and video camera!  We asked another family there to video for us, and we headed outside to the courtyard area that is in between the two buildings.

We looked over at all the babies on the blanket, but I couldn't find our little one.  Then Almaz pointed out that she was over to the side being fed her baby food.  And then we spotted her.  It was a totally amazing moment!!!  She looked so precious and tiny in person!  Almaz (wisely) suggested that we may want to let her finish eating before we tried to hold her.  So I tried to approach her quietly because I didn't want to upset her.

Our first glimpse at our ADORABLE daughter in person!  We are here with her!  Thank You, Lord!!!

Her special mother fed her a little more, and then she said we could hold her!  This was her reaction when I held her in my arms and kissed her cheek for the first time...

You can see her little sad lips! Bless her heart!  I was crying as I held her for the first time...and she was too!  Poor baby, she was definitely scared and unsure about us!

I was just completely and totally in LOVE with her, even though she was really not crazy about me!  That little hand on my shoulder...oh my!!!  Melt my heart!!!

Then we passed her back to her special mother to calm her down, and tried to offer her some fruit puffs.  She pushed them away, and didn't even try to eat one.  So, Jody wanted to try to hold her.  He pretty much got the same reaction...

Precious baby girl in her Daddy's arms for the first time!!!

He got her calmed down a little by walking her around the courtyard to watch some of the older kids.  But she later got pretty upset again, and we passed back to her special mother to calm her down.  It broke our hearts to see her so scared of us, but we totally understood.  We were complete strangers, and she had no idea who we were!  And to an almost 1 year old, that can be really scary!  She is really attached to her special mothers at HH, and we are very thankful for that.  She has learned to bond and attach with her caregivers, and that is very healthy for her!

Almaz pulled us all aside and talked to us.  She told us not to really try to "bond and attach" with her on this trip because we would be leaving at the end of the week.  She encouraged us to just spend time with her, get to know her likes and dislikes and watch the special mothers to see how they take care of her.  Then they took the babies in for nap time, and Almaz gave us a quick tour of the guest house before lunch.

Our hearts and minds were reeling as we walked up the road to New Look restaurant with Chris and Emma.  And honestly, for the first time in weeks, I finally felt hungry!  Haha!  I think that the nerves and anticipation of this trip and meeting her for the first time were finally over, and I could finally just relax and enjoy the moment! :)

I ordered a plain cheese pizza and a Coke, and it was pretty good!  I really needed some caffeine at that point too!  It was great to be able to sit and talk with Emma and Chris about all our emotions and feelings after both meeting our children for the first time.  We were already starting to really connect with them, and were so thankful that they were with us.  It was such a blessing to have friends to be with during the week!

Well, it's the rainy season in Ethiopia, and we were the "rainy season rookies" that walked somewhere with no umbrella and no rain jackets!  Big mistake!  (A mistake that we never made again!  Haha!)  So, we had to run in the pouring down rain back to the guest house, and once we got there, we couldn't get in the gate! We were completely soaked!!!

Thankfully, Danny pulled up in the van about that same time, and we jumped in there with him!  Love my new friend, Emma!  We are bonded for life after all the fun adventures we had together in Ethiopia!!! :)

So, we all went in to take showers and rest some on that rainy afternoon.  The internet was really slow that day, and I couldn't send out an email but I was able to post an update on FB.  Later, while Jody took a short nap, I went over to the babies' room to our sweet girl.  I just tried to approach her a lot slower, and just kind of be around her without overwhelming her.  She warmed up to me a little bit, and she even let me hold her for a little bit without crying.  I wouldn't say she was loving me, but she was tolerating me!  :)  It was a step in the right direction, and I was THANKFUL!  It brought a lot of peace to my heart just having those sweet little moments with her of holding her and walking around the courtyard some with her.

Wass, one of the staff guys, (who we just LOVED!) asked us all if we wanted to go to the Ethiopian cultural dinner restaurant that night.  We were exhausted at this point, but we really wanted to experience this with all the other families that were there.  So we said yes, and got ready for dinner...and I am so glad we did!  It was a night I will never forget!  We had 4 families, plus Wass and Kiersten, and it was so much FUN!

Yes, we look so TIRED, I know!  We were tired...but still happy to be there! :)

The dancers were unbelievable!!!  Truly, this was more like a complete show with at least 10 costume changes!  I have never seen anything like it!  It was amazing!  I cannot believe it's possible to be able to dance and move your head and neck like they did!  It was something to see!!!  :)

There was a lady burning the incense and roasting the beans for the coffee ceremony that takes place after dinner.  We were sitting right next to her at the front of the stage.

 Then the Ethiopian food came out, and it was delicious!  Definitely the best Ethiopian food I had ever had, which was appropriate since it was our first time eating Ethiopian food IN ETHIOPIA!!! :)  Ethiopian food is traditional served family-style and you don't use utensils.  You tear off pieces of the bread called injera (kind of like a spongy, sour pancake) and you use it to dip in the different meats and vegetables.  The flavors are very spicy and bold, and it's very, very good!  The beef tibs are always our favorite!

There was plenty more dancing to come, and the dancers started coming out into the audience to dance...

and I was so embarrassed, but yes, one of the dancers came to me!  I love to dance, but I was no where close to the moves this guy was doing!  Ha!  But it was a fun memory!  It totally makes me laugh to look back at these pics now! :)

Then it was time for the after dinner coffee ceremony.  The coffee is traditionally served with popcorn!  So neat!  The coffee was really good, but strong!  I didn't drink much because it was getting really late at this point, and I was ready to go to bed!  Didn't want the coffee to keep me awake! :)

Around 10:30 that night, we finally made our way to the HH guest house, and all went straight to bed!  We slept so good that night!!!

What a DAY!!!  One of the longest and BEST days of my whole entire life!  My heart was so full!!!


Meaghan said...

Lovin' this post! :) Caroline Faith in your arms...even if she wasn't so psyched to be there! ha! I'm totally trying to prepare myself for Max screaming his head off at us so I'll be pleasantly surprised if he doesn't! It's so surreal to think that I'll be meeting my son in just days. Your recap is making me so excited!!! What an wonderful day!

Unknown said...

oh my goodness!!!!!! LOVE this post soooooo sooooo much!!!! She is IN your arms!! Praise God!! Love the details...and cannot wait to see these photos without the heart! :)

Sharon @ Texas to Ethiopia said...

Oh I greatly remember not being able to stop the tears the first time we held our daughter...even if she was kind of clueless about what was going on.

We ate at the same restaurant (popular, of course!)

Jared and Erica Wingler said...

Oh wow I barely made it past the first picture of u seeing her without crying my eyes out

Abby Blackburn said...

Love this post!! So happy for you guys!

cal+claire said...

Wow, I just cried in happiness for y'all as I saw the pictures of you holding your little one. So beautiful!