Saturday, October 8, 2011

It has be crazy year

With several stays and trips to the hospital, problems with the IRS over the adoption,  changes in our jobs and moving of our vacation cottages business, and adjusting our new family family dynamic, I can say it has been a really crazy year. So I thought I was one of those people who would keep up on the blog even after our daughter was home. All I can say is sorry and all is well. We are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and life is finding a "new normal". Tarikua is thriving and now two years old. Yes her curls are real and about 8-10" long when pulled straight. The morning hair ritual can take around a half hour for a simple style and I am happy to share tricks with other moms & dads. When Tara finally decided to speak, it came out like a flood. She is now talking and singing non stop. She continues to progress physically at an amazing rate. She has not stopped jumping off the back of the couch or chasing her sister for the last year. Her flexibility is amazing. She can put her leg behind her head if she wants to. She is all over the place and never sits still even for a moment. When we are out in public the first comments always directed at Tara and her unique beauty and then after a minute the admirer always turns to me with the reminder that we have our hands full with her activity and strong will. She has a stubborn streak and knows what she wants. We have to be firm as it is a challenge to change her mind. Tara is intentional about her actions. When she wants you to know she loves you, it is serious and deliberate. She cares for everyone and everything. Don't put something in the wrong spot or Tarikua will correct you. So we think she is going to be a nurse (or a NFL cheerleader if she continues to be as active as she is now). She continues to be a smiley little girl who warms the hearts of about everyone she meets. Try not to love her!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tarikua Vianne Vos

Well it is official. We have named this little sweetie, bought her a few dresses and gave her a given her a little American Bling. I would say that she is as cute as ever, but judge for yourself.

We have decided to keep her Ethiopian name "Tarikua". We think it is fitting because names are very powerful in Ethiopia. She was given a name by her mother and it means "I have a story". She was born in the small town in the south. This town only 11% of the people have access to electricity. She was born at home (not in a hospital) and most likely with out any running water or power. Her mother spent some time with her before she relinquished her. She was placed in an orphanage in Dilla and moved to Awassa. There she lived at EVADO for several months until we adopted her. EVADO is not a luxury spa, they do not have running water, diapers or any of the items you would think to have while raising a baby. We visited there and it is a very poor orphanage, but know the people running are doing things for the right save lives. We then adopted little Tarikua and she moved to Enat Alem. This orphanage was in the capital and was just a transition home for Tarikua. We then put her on a plane and she traveled 31 hours through Sudan, Holland and finally into the USA where she met her new sister, friends and extended family. Here she has started an entire new story in her life.

Now some of you are now wondering how in the world am I going to say the name Tarikua? We are going to make it easy. You can just call her Tara (pronounced Tarr-ruh). We will say it as they say it in most of the world, not Terra like some Americans say it. Any easy way to remember is that it it is "tar" like we "are" family! Not tera, like terrible, terracotta, terrorist, tear a paper, and definitely not full of air.

For those who want to call her by her official Ethiopian name, go ahead. You pronounce it TaRR-Rea-kwa and roll the r on the Rea part. I had to practice this, so I am sure you will too.

When we look back at the conditions that Tara was born in and what might had happen to her if it was not for adoption, we are overwhelmed with joy that she is in our arms and flurishing. For this reason, we have given her the middle name Vianne, which means "Alive". We are grateful that she is able to have a life and that we will be blessed by her sharing it with us!

You pronounce Vianne, Vee-enne. Just like the heroine in the movie released in 2000 called Chocolat. A great fun romance flick. If you have not seen it, you should. Don't forget to buy a few dark chocolate truffles prior to playing it!

Tara is definitely full of life! She is constantly smiling, singing and touching you when ever she can. She is just beautiful! We have some minor health issues to clear up, but all easily solved with proper diet, a healthy environment and lots of tender care. We promise to give her all these plus some!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Praise God We are home!

Some may wonder if our plane has crashed do to the volcanic ash in Iceland, but that is not the case. We have actually arrived home safely and have been adjusting for the last few weeks.

Our trip home was eventful. The girls screamed pretty much the entire flight. The ear infections did not help a bit. Getting though customs and transfers through out the night were hectic. Ruhama (now Emiri) was having breathing issues. We ended up giving Rachel and Travis our bassinet seats in hope she would feel better and would take a snooze. We got to the airport in Addis around 7pm and our flight took off just before midnight. We flew to Khartoum, Sudan and then to Amsterdam, Holland. From Amsterdam to Detroit. Then Grand Rapids and finally home. The whole trip took just under 32 hours. We thought it might go faster if the girls screamed just a little be louder, but we found out that did not work. It was a toss up, which baby was the loudest, but they seemed to time it out so that at least one was screaming most of the time. By this point, we were like a big family and it did not matter which girl was unhappy, we still all felt bad.

There was a big scare in Detroit because Ruhama (now Emiri) was unresponsive. The paramedics piled over her in the main terminal. Our names were being paged over the loud speaker and our plane was already boarding. Slightly stressful would be an understatement. She seemed to have recovered and we jumped on the plane with only one word on our minds…home.

When we arrived in GR Travis and Rachel made it out of the gate first to meet up with Travis’s son and extended family. We did our best to get a quick “freshie” on Tara, because boy did her diaper stink. Then we made it down to our ride at the luggage area. We knew for sure that Jen, Frank and Ellen would be there to greet us. We also knew that my Aunt and Uncle would be there with our truck too. However we had no idea that there would be a big crowd.

Gobs of our friends cheered us in at our gate. Liviann ran full blast up the runway (yes past the legal security point). She said mommy-daddy-mommy-daddy over and over. I scooped her up and she just touched my face over and over (probably to make sure I was real). She was so happy to see us! From the corner of my eye I saw a big black curl. One I would know anywhere. I said, “Is that Tonie”? And it was. She had flown all the way from China to meet Tara on her got-cha day. Wow. And it just got even better. Tina too. Yes, all the way from Seattle. Both sisters were here in Grand Rapids at once, celebrating Tara’s arrival. I was so happy to see everyone in the crowd. Everyone looked so happy and most had one thing in common: A clenched tissue in one hand, a smile on their face and the other hand touching their chest as if they were checking that their hearts did not skip a beat. What a touching moment! Praise God we made it!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heading for home

We will be sure to post more when we get home. But for now wish us safe travels and low turbulence. Kristie HATES to fly. We hope to see everyone next week. For now we are going to be thinking of you while we are in the air.

Getting ready to leave

We are doing our final packing and getting ready to leave. I might not blog again for a few days as it takes at least two days to get home. Please pray for safe travels and a smooth flight.
Hopefully before we leave we will have a chance to see Tesefaye's family one more time!
Kristie, Rich and now baby Tara!

Friday- Day something or other ; )

Today we all slept in after a big day on Thursday. Thursday was not such a hot day. We also found out that our friend, Tanya's father had taken a turn for the worse. Jen and Ellen said they would step in and take care of little love.

Friday morning was a great time bonding with little Tara. She is so loving and smilie. She loves to touch your face and rub your arm. All the families had big breakfast. Todd had gotten his wallet picked. I felt really bad for him since it was a lot of money, but it also made me feel less incompetent when I got mine taken. He filed a police report. Ethiopia seems really safe. It is just very poor and this results in crime. They don't seem to want to hurt anyone, just take stuff. I still like it here and would not hesitate to come back again. However, I would not allow the safe "feeling" you get to effect making dumb choices (like carrying too much cash at once).

We all piled into Alemu's vans and went to his house for dinner. It really is possible to get 17 people into a 10 passenger van, we have proved it. It was a feast. All tradiontional foods and bananas. We were all together. Plus all our kidos. It was noisy and the kids were happy to all be together again. Tarikua remains among the favorite of the older kids. They all go to her and kiss her. They stroke her face and sing to her. Another funny thing is they always say Tarikua-Ruhammah when they talk with Tara and then they say the opposite (Ruhammah-Tarikua). For this reason you know they have always been thought of as one.

The food was wonderful and we had a traditional coffee ceremony with his house girl gizaya and Alemu's sister. They made this gigantic loaf of bread and all the men took turns cutting it. It was as big as a tire. They all had us dress in traditional coffee ceremony robes and they guys sometimes had a head wrap. We were all sweating to death! Alemu had a couple of bed mattresses spread out under a canopy for all the babies to lay on. There was grass cut and decorated and laid on the ground. Incents was burning in the background. The village that Alemu lived in was very nice and also very authentic Ethiopia style. A large thunderstorm came rolling in and we all huddled under the canopy. Water rushed through the cracks and everything got damp or completely wet.

We said good bye to several of the families and headed up to our room to pack. Rachael and Travis stopped in and we ate some small Thai dinners I had brought from home and we wrapped formula bags for the plane. Tarikua crashed out and slept well during the night only getting up a few times.

Finally…An uneventful non-stressful day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Our last full day

Today Rich and Kristie pick up the travel visa from the American Embassy to bring Tara into the states. Then we pack up to fly out. Most people say the flight home is pretty hard with a baby who is obviously confused and has pushed around from orphanage to orphanage. And now they are on a plane where everyone talks and smells funny. Pray for a safe and pleasant journey home for Tara. The travel takes two days home and they will not actually land in GR till Sunday night. They Tara will go to the Doctor on Monday.

Fun fact:
Tara’s name in Ethiopia means: I have as story

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Embassy Day

After a night that started a little rough, we decided to give Tara a little something to allow her to sleep through the night. We had a prescription congestion medicine for small babies and wow did it make a difference. Before the medication she could not sleep more than 40 minutes with out waking herself up choking. Then after she slept for 5 straight hours.

After a breakfast that was livelier now that all the kids were here, we hung out in our room. It was nice to play with Tara and get organized. The finely dress couples all poured into the vans all looking much nicer than the previous day. The kids were all dressed like in the latest baby gap ads.

We headed off to the American Embassy that looked like a military fort. We went through high security, x-ray and scanners. Then Ethiopian guards corralled us into rooms that looked like the DMV. We waited to what we thought was about an hour and we seen our assistant running around looking for our director. We knew instantly that something was wrong, but we did not with whom. Josh came running down the stairs and said "does anyone know where the director is?"At first we thought the problem might be with him and Keely, which we thought was a shame as they seemed to be showing the most signs worry of all the parents.

But then I knew. Rachael came walking down the stairs. Her eyes were bloodshot and transparent. I stood up and she brushed by me and said in an almost mournful tone with her New Zeeland accent…It arent going ta-happen

I was frozen and knew not to look back at her or we would both bust into tears. I had never heard of this happening before. Travis directed her to follow the director and several of the couples could here the director discussing the unacceptability of the situation with the Embassy staff. They were then all whisked away in a car as if they knew they were loosing time at the embassy and it was useless to stay there any longer. We were hoping what ever the problem, they went to work on it but we had no idea.

We waited till they finally called are name and went to the window #4 on the second floor. Through several layers of bullet proof glass you could see American UICIS women in her mid forties. Everyone around us was talking in many different languages. She spoke into a small microphone and we could barely hear her from the speaker on our end. Several questions under oath were asked of us. Tricky question like custom agent style questions. We can not talk about this on our blog, but we had some concerns with our paperwork and with the Rachael and Travis incident we now were very worried.

The agent approved our paperwork. Made us swear under oath that we knew the adoption was final and everlasting. I replied to that "Thank God". She smiled. She said the documents would be prepared and sealed for Friday pick up. We take the sealed documents to the USA customs agent. They would open them and it would be pretty much my potty pass to bring her into the states with us as a non-us resident alien. We then would need to apply for citizenship once we got in the states. More paperwork, goodie!

Back down stairs we all shared information and figure out that Ruhammah was considered to be too ill for Rachel and Travis as their home study had been written for a healthy child. Somehow the Embassy had documents claiming that Ruhammah was very ill (possibly even worse off than she truly was). Don't get me wrong, none of our children are "healthy" by American standards, but ours and soon to be on the mend. Even in the 24 hours we have had them most children have shown considerable improvement.

I guess the flood gates had been open for me at that point and I could no longer hold it back. I stared to ball. I would have never done this in front of Ruhammah parents, but know I could actually visualize Tara leaving with out her best friend Ruhammah. And the mom and dad had been through so much already this week. It just was not fair. It may have been a touch and relief on my part that we were finally through the last big paperwork approval. I will never forget the ka-chunk sound of the official stamp on the bottom of our paperwork.

We returned to our hotel to find the director on the front step with two phones in his hand. Rachael and Travis were in their room with Baby Ruhammah. He called for them to come urgently as he had made arrangement for them to meet with the director of the medical board.

Hours had passed. We all spread blankets on the floor of the empty breakfast room and ate take out pizza from the place up the road named yummy pizza. We got some for Ruhammah parents too and had it placed in their room. The pizza was actually yummy. I think I have come to Ethiopia and have actually gained wait. It is not that the food is bad, actually it is really good. It is just that for many people in the country they can not afford to buy it. They have actually talked about a stimulus plan (like the Americans have for cash for clunkers) where families would get rebates on food purchases. Ethiopia is a land of Extremes. Very high mountains to very low savannahs. Very hot areas to cool pleasant temps. Rich people and poor people. The poor are very poor. You see them lying in the ditches and on the sides of the road. In America if something is wrong with you it is fixed, here they often just live with it. You see people dragging themselves by their hands and missing an arm or leg. Some times large scars on their skin.  They come to your window holding starving children and kiss it while motioning the plea for something to eat. It is really hard. If you were to give them something, you would only cause more to arrive. The problem with this is that they put themselves in danger trying to get at the vehicle. Sometimes they almost are run down and we have seen this almost happen a few times. Because of this we can not do a thing but ignore them or say no.

Hours passed with no word from Rachael or Travis. Rich and Todd went to the internet café to print numbers of Vern Alders office in hopes they could do something form the US homeland. This issue had nothing to do with Ethiopia. It was the US Visa that was not going through. These kids were already legally ours before we arrived. Rachael and Travis could remain in Ethiopia but not with Ruhammah or they could remain in ET with her.

Finally at sunset we finally got a knock on our door. It was Rachael and she was smiling. Simply "were through" came from her lips and we became exhausted with relief. I think I could have curled up and slept for 30 hours! We sat with her and heard the whole long story. Nothing they did wrong or the embassy. The board that reviews the adoption cases made and error and declared Ruhammah more sick than she really was. For confidentiality reasons I will not say more. The director of the medical board re-checked her and actually drove to the embassy with them to hand in the official amended report. 

Ruhammah is actually doing better and better each day, but Tara is declining. She has not had a wet diaper in 24 hours since we got her. She has pooped fortunately but not pee. She has an upper repertory issue and definitely has some type of bugs. I think she was attached at the orphanage with scabies, lice, or mosquitoes. Ruhammah has them too, but Tara's seem to be spreading faster than Ruhammah. She is sleeping right now. She and I have both gone through 4 outfits each today from throw up. Thankfully she did not do it at the embassy! She is zonked out and I will soon be too. Let's hope Friday is a better day!

Best friends

Last night we had a great time playing in our room with Tara. She gigled and laughed as Rich clapped and I sang to her completely out of key. Rich and I ended up playing some noises from our video camera to Tara because she looked as if it was way to quiet in the hotel. Racheal and Travis stopped in. Ruhammah was totally sacked out on Racheals shoulder and they both sat down on the couch next to us to discuss formula. Tara looked around the room checking everything out. She saw sleeping Ruhammah and smiled then with out any prompting, she reached over and wrapped her tiny fingers around the hand of sleeping Ruhammah. Nothing more needed to be said except the words best friends… This was not the first time I held back a tear. I am so happy they will be able to see each other again.

Meeting Tara

We all nervously drove down bumpy uneven gravel allays in our van. Everyone was anxious to see their children. Through the big gates of Enet Alam we entered the orphanage. The brightly colored  laundry strung back and forth on stings across the courtyard like decorative flags at festival. We were asked to sit and participate in a coffee ceremony but all our focus was on all the little children surrounding us. Some of the families brought small toys and the children were giggling with amazement.

As quickly as we came in, the nannies were bringing out children and onioning the their names. I was first struck by the beauty of Dan and Sus's little girl (about 2) and her brother that followed. These children all seemed so beautiful in contrast to their American families. You could see the parents all attempting to bond with their kids and fishing their bags for toys and trinkets to entertain them. The smaller children started to come out in the arms of the nannies. First Ruhammah (Tara's best friend). You could see her bold eyes and identify her unique features as soon as she walked out the door. No one will ever look "like" Ruhammah. She is very exotic looking and fine. Immediately as soon as Rachael received her she went into inquiries about her health. Rachael was able to meet her daughter last Friday due to her health. I hope it is ok to tell you that she has Rickets in an effort to gain prayer for Ruhammah. You could tell by Travis's juicy eyes that he was very concerned for is daughter. If there is any way to keep this little girl in your prayer we would appreciate it.

Last Tara came out. The called her by her full Ethiopian name Tarikua. She was so cute and you could tell by the coo of the crowd that she admired. They poured her into Riches arms and she busted out in a smile from ear to ear. We took turns holding her and talking to her (yes it is on video) for about 30 minutes. During that entire time she was laughing and giggling.

All the children had been specially groomed and dressed in the finest clothes for our arrival. Little Tarikua had big tight curls and her hair was greased in a design. Rachel and I tried our best to do quick and unnoticed medical of our daughters. There was no need for privacy among the two of us as our goal was to both look at the "girls" and evaluate. Both girls were covered in mosquito bites from head to toe. Rumahah slightly worse than Tara. Both had a very bad respiratory issues, cough, issues breathing from congestion and a slight fever. We have concern of scabies, malaria and also parasites as well. All those will need to be checked in the states on both Tara and us as well.

 There was a nurse on staff. We asked about treat meant options as we had access to medicines. We were told by the nurse were viral and could just be treated with steaming the room with garlic. We told her that we had access to medicines and she suggested cough syrup. We would never give babies that young cough syrup in America. Looks like we are on our own : )

We did a lot more at the orphanage. We visited the babies room. Played with her little girl and video taped her. Amy if you are reading this she is doing great and crawling. Alert, happy and no issues that we could see. She slept one bed away from Tara and has her own mosquito net. No sign of a cold or any issues.

We gave gifts to the nannies and the director. They took our email addresses and passed out a nicely written thank you letter explaining the need. This was not necessary as it was obvious to us that they were thankful and the orphanages all were in great need. We gave an article of clothing to the orphanage director that was given to us by a friend at Display Pack. We used this to "pay" to take Tara away fully dressed. I think they would have allowed us anyway, but that is not the case with all orphanages.

All the parents took a big exhale as the van pulled away and one of the fathers whispered "finally". We brought her back to the hotel and she could barely keep her eyes open in the car. She is alert and playful. Very smile and happy. She explores everything and seems very bright. She got a kick out seeing a photo of herself and looking in a mirror. Rich claps for her and she trys to clap back. She can sit up with a little support and will be crawling soon. I would rate her progress as advanced. She is cutting two little teeth in the bottom on the front. We are in love!


Embassy day part 1

This is where we go to the American Embassy to try to get a visa for Tara to fly back home. We are all set with the paperwork so everything should be all set. Many people are nervous about this day, but I don't think we will be. This is the first day we will be in public with Tara. We need to keep her covered at all times.

If we get time we will be also getting some books from a friend of ours in Ethiopia...Tesfaye. He is in the US right now going to school, but his family (wife and kids) are still back in ET. We plan to bring some books home for his studies in the suit cases we have from the donations.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tara DAY

Today is the day we get Tara. Do we need to say more? This is a photo of Enat Alem where she is staying right now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 7 - In the big city capital

Today we woke up and went to the breakfast at our guest house. I had eggs and coffee, rich also had toast. Very good by my standards. We met a new couple that were just now joining our group. They flew in and the airline lost their bags. That would be not so great. It sort of took the edge off how mad I was this morning when I came up with my wallet missing. Either someone picked me, or I dropped it. Either way it made me very mad because I am better at this travel stuff than that. My expectation for myself was let down. There was just some Birr (ET money) and a credit card. In five years I will not even miss it. I skped Tonie who canceled the card.

We scrambled into the vans and went to the largest open air market in all of Africa. It was enormous! We were escorted by guards (several of them). They showed us all the cool stuff. Rachel and I barter for some baskets and I think we did a fine job. My goal is to get them at ¼ of the asking price (which we did). Everyone else paid near full price. I have my sister Tonie to thank for that. I have bartered a lot, but she challenged me in China to beat her and that got my skills up a bit.

We ran into some trouble in the Market. I am not sure what it was. The guards rushed us out of the market and into the van. I think we were getting halked by thieves. We traveled then to some traditional stores that sold hand made items and antiques. We loaded up an dresses for Tara and something special for my sister.

After shopping, 2 of the family's then went to Kunket to meet with the family of there children. Getting away from the group, Travis, Rachael, Rich and I went out for lunch and then to nearby café. We had pizza and fanta. Rachel had Indian. Our current location is Addis Ababa which is the capital of Ethiopia. All the embassies are located around our hotel so we are seeing people from all over the word. At lunch we had a german on one side of us and a beautiful Indian women on the other. It is very international were we are and the ritziest place to be in Ethiopia.

Near by was a super market (no- not like D&W at all) that we stopped by on the way back to the hotel. We needed to be checked by guards before entering the upscale market that looked like a save-a-lot located in Kentucky. We hauled a lot of items we could have purchased there (wet wipes and toilet paper for example). This is a good tip for future parents adopting from ET. Stay at the Sadula and you will be close to things. There were several shops also surrounding the store. We loaded up on a few trinkets to put in storage for our girls. We are hoping to give them an item from ET every year on their got-cha day.

It is funny how things work out. We have somehow got pulled together with this couple through our daughters adoption. I have to say they are pretty cool and if I was dongled to another adoptive couple this is a pretty good one to be tied to. They are a lot of fun, have similar drive, and are pretty insightful on most topics. Here are some of the crazy ties:

·         Our daughters both were turned in to the same orphanage

·         Both  at the dilla office

·         Both slept side by side at EVADO

·         They were both moved to Enet Alem on the same day

·         They both were placed in side by side beds at Enet Alem (yes again!)

·         They were both adopted to families in west Michigan (not the Netherlands, Italy or any other of the million places that they could have went).

·         Rachel and Kristie are both managers who work with printing

·         Both couples signed up with AAI in July 2008

·         We both got a referral on the same day

·         We both got the same exact court date & both passed court on the first try

·         We both booked the same airline and were seated by each other on every flight to ET

·         We both ended up in the same hotel and  travel vehicle in Ethiopia

·         When it was time to meet with the birth families they asked us to please meet the families together at the same time  – I think we may have been to speed up the time? Never seen that happen before! It was odd. The information in these interviews is highly personal and now we know everything about their kid and they know everything about ours.

This is just a small list of things that keep happening to us. When Rachael went to visit Ruhamma at Enet, she said that Tara cried when Ruhamma left the nannie because she was holding the two girls together. I think it is going to be important to keep these girls friends. This is why I decided to buy the Tara some similar gifts as Ruhammah as I do not want the girls to be jealous of each other! There is some very distinct difference between the girls! Tara has super curly hair and Rummah is straight, T is very dark skinned and R is extremely light. T is chunky and small and R is slim and tall, T has very round face and R is more square. I do not think anyone will mix these girls up! Oh by the way, we both land in GR at the same day and time. So if you see a white couple get off the plane with a dark skinned child, don't assume it is us!

Now I am back at the guest house. Drinking a cold coke in a glass bottle. The power just went out. It frequently does. Rich is taking a snooze. I think I will down load some photos for redundancy and then dress for supper. We are going out tonight to a traditional Ethiopian Restaurant. I am craving the Doro watt already!!! I am sure there will be music and dancing. I bet that Travis and Rich have one too many honey beers. I personally will not be partaking in the honey beer or any raw meets because I think both are gross. I might have a local beer called St George, or some wine. If time later tonight I will tell you more about the restaurant. This is our last night to whoop it up because Wednesday is the big day and we all need to be responsible!

If your reading our blog right now, thank you. Just knowing that someone is thinking of us right now is a blessing. We think of everyone back home often. Especially Liviann. We miss her a lot and keep emailing and begging for more updates on her, but I am sure the people watching her are being kept very busy. I just can't wait to see her and neezle nose with her. I know all of you might call them eskimo kisses, but Livi likes to call them neezle noses. Then give her a big sniff right in the middle of her belly. I love her Livi-smell. I mostly miss her smell...and her hugs, the funny things she says, the moooommmmmeeeeeyyy when she wants something and the low snicker laugh she has when she get caught doing something wrong, oh yeah, that big tow rubbing on my leg while reading a book and not last but least her twirling and dancing and singing and 5 thousand other things!

And in 15 hours we will have her sister!

Market day

Today we hope to go to the largest open air market in Ethiopia. We will have arm guards with us the whole time. We do not plan on buying souvenirs for anyone, but we do want to buy some things for Tara as she grows to remember her heritage.

Monday, March 22, 2010


We are taking lots of long breaks in Ethiopia, but it is not the kind I am used to!

City life

We drove through several large towns in the south. This is what city life looks like in south Ethiopia.

Sunset on the savannah

There are always kids chasing our van! It is as if they have spotted the rare white freckled endangered elephant. They can not believe it and they shout to all the neighbors "Look a white skinned person". Of course that is only what we think they are saying!

Life in the country...again

I thought it was cool when the rain clouds came in. Below is a typical country home. There are thousands and thousands of these type of homes in the country. I thought the land was extremely beautiful in the country! It reminded me of New Zeeland or Whistler area in British Columbia. Lush and mountainous. Extreme beauty, Extreme poverty.

Life in the country

I thought it was cool when the rain clouds came in. Below is a typical country home. There are thousands and thousands of these type of homes in the country. I thought the land was extremely beautiful in the country! It reminded me of New Zeeland or Whistler area in British Columbia. Lush and mountainous. Extreme beauty, Extreme poverty.

The big city

We drove through several large towns in the south. This is what city life looks like in south Ethiopia

I got in trouble

We were at a city in the far south. I can't even say the name. I got in trouble with Rich for giving this little girl a small 6 inch beach ball. She was so sad and lonely. I don't think she knew what it was. Soon there were about thirty kids looking up at us with big eyes. Everyone in the car wanted to kill me! I guess she was not able to keep our little secret very long. Other kids were all looking at the bag with the ball in it and touching it. I wonder if they will ever figure to blow it up?

Treated like it was our birthday

We visited Tesfayes wife and she made us dinner. Here is one of the dishes. It was served on a tray as big as a garbage can lid.

Typical kids

This is what a typical kid looks like in Ethiopia. This was taken in Dilla, the city tara was brought to and turned over to the EVADO director at the Dilla office. These kids were on the road outside the office.

day 6

Woke up early and had a breakfast at the hotel. The hotel was nice and clean. We drank coffee and then piled into the van and headed for a local resort just being built. It was an attraction to tour this because it was right on the lake and similar to a luxury resort in the Caribbean. Some of the parents were impressed but I felt like if you come to Ethiopia you should not hide out in a resort!

Then Alemu knew I wanted fresh coffee so we went to a crowded open air market and I purchased some fresh unroasted coffee beans. It was very muddy and there were many people and animals in the market. I am not sure how many people have seen what an open air market looks like, but just for fun google “Ethiopia market” and see what comes up. I am sure it will not look like the local Meijers!
We headed now to the lake. One of the Ethiopian men riding in the van with us (he was not a staff member, but just someone that needed a ride) spoke pretty good English. He read the Amharic translation of the letter we wrote to the mother of Tara. I wanted to see if once the letter had been translated if it still had the same meaning. It did. I was happy that nothing got lost in translation.

We stopped at another lake along the way back to Addis. This one has very large cliffs that plummeted in to the water like you might see along the lake shore of Lake Superior. Except 10 times higher. Here I picked up some pods off a tree that were along the ground. They were really cool. Rich and Rachel discover an old paddle boat left along the shore. They were excited and surprised that they have both worked on the design of that old boat. Rich at custom profile and Rachel for leisure life.

We had lunch at a restaurant and rich got a Hamburg. I got a traditional bean dish with Ingra bread. It was spicy and filled with hot peppers. It was wonderful. Along the side walk I spotted brightly colored bird with a long curly skinny beak. He was sticking his beak in long necked lilies. There were also weaver birds weaving these large nests that looked like big baskets shaped like a massive bee hive. Then I noticed that the leaves on the side walk were really dead roaches. Ick!

We headed back on the long road to Addis. Rachel and talked about gojos (small round huts made of stick and mud with a grass roof. It was odd that they were being built so close to the road. I did not imagine them being in the thousands and Rachael was surprised they were not more grouped in a “village” style.  It is very shocking to see how young the people working here are. I would say that 4 to 5 year olds were working in the fields and carrying supplies. Watching young siblings and combing the landscape for items. They would often be shepherding a group of animals or waling the street with a cow or donkey on a leash. The farmers and venders along the road were often in suit coats or nicer wardrobe and the women in long skirts with a t-shirt style shirt. Often it was accented by a head scarf or body wrap. We occasionally played the “what is it game” with Alemu’s brother translating for us the answers. I won once when I identified antifreeze style plastic bottles covered in twine. I said it was an Ethiopian coolie cup and I was right. They dip the container in water and the grassy twine keeps the contents (normally river water) cool for drinking.
The poor children in Ethiopia seem to share a common wardrobe style. This would consist of a long adult t-shirt acting as a dress. The color was all the same…mud brown. We believe they started white at some point but were washed in the river with minerals so many times that they had a permanent dye color to them. Often they had American writing on them (like pistons 1980 finals). A few holes reveal the latte colored skin. They would commonly walk arm in arm or with a sibling bound to their back. Always smiling, when they spot us they always call out, wave and run to catch a glimpse of the rare spotting of a white person. You so badly wanted to hand them a pencil, toy or a bite to eat. The dilemma quickly was apparent when I pass a small ball out the window early in the trip. The children would come flooding out of the landscape and of the put themselves in danger by diving into traffic for anything they could get. So sadly we passed by many need children with a van full of toys and food and could do nothing.

We arrived in Addis, checked into our guest house and unpacked. We walked to the lime tree café for some lasagna and dessert. It was  in the dark.  Addis has a whole different feel at night. I think in the future we will stick to the daylight walks. We also found that the beggars were thicker at night. Small babies lay in papers on the street edge with mothers crying for money. Hard to see. Made me think of my kids.

More on Tuesday! Any comments on the Tara photo we emailed? Yes I know I missed blogging day 4 but I need to sort out what to say about that day. It was a hard day meeting the birth mother of Tara.

Heading back to Addis

Today Rich and Kristie are heading back to Addis Ababa. It will be another full day of travel but they are looking forward to seeing some of the sites in Ethiopia and Addis. Addis has the largest open air market in all of Africa. They will be going there to buy a few items but will take armed guards with them. They are trying to learn as much about the history and culture as possible so if they get a chance to visit a museum or some historic sites they will.

Possibly we will get to see some hippos today too

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 5 Update

Today we woke up at our hotel in Awassa. It was the first night I actually slept. I got a good six hours in. We skyped with Tina, but there was about a ½ minute delay with all the sentences so it took her and I a while to figure that out and work with the system. I know now that we could not skype Liviann, but could skype with other adults.

I was hoping to skip breakfast, but alemu insisted that we go the restaurant and eat. We both had French toast and a maciono coffee. One of the birth mothers had been waiting at the hotel for their family. She had traveled 8 hours to spend just a few minutes with the adoptive family to tell them about the history of her family and express her gratitude. They have such dedication and are stronger than I could ever be if I were giving away the child I loved just so that child could survive. She then waited for 6 more hours for her appointment to meet the family.

After that we all piled in the car to see the orphanage where Tarikua lived for 3-4 months of her life. There was a small gate where van could barely squeeze in the door. The court yard had some sparse grass and clothes lines with linens hanging. The kitchen was room the size of my bedroom closet with a small cooking station. It looked like a Webber grill close to the ground. It was filled with wood sticks and a few coals with a pan over the top. On the side was a small shelf with a few canned items and little refrigerator to store some food. Off of that room was an outside “stall” with a hole in the bottom. There was no “seat” just a hole going into the ground. This was the bathroom for the orphanage. We saw the office where the records were kept. There was a photo on the wall of Ruhammah. Ruhammah is one of the babies our friends had adopted. The secretary had a special spot in her heart for that baby and had a photo of her taken. How special is that?

The room with the babies was about 10 by 10. Very clean. A small shelf held all the clothes for the children. I am sure if I checked at home, rich’s dirty clothes hamper has more clothes in it than the orphanage has all together.

Each baby has their own crib. More luxury than most orphages here in Ethiopia. Nothing but the best for our Tara! They keep very detailed records of each baby, the health and food so the next nanny will know what to do. They would not let me hold the babies (which is a good thing). The nannies were very protective. The kids were so cute and I photographed each as I know they will soon be adopted by AAI families. A few small toys (maybe enough to fill a shoe box) lined up on the ledge. Everything was very clean and organized in the orphanage.

Got a tour of the orphanage and saw the children’s room (bigger kids) and where they plan on helping desperate mothers with teaching a skill (hopefully sewing – the room is empty right now). Touring the orphanage is like touring a small dentist office. It did not take long to get through everything. We had a traditional coffee ceremony and some of the parents met with the mothers. There was a small kitten running around the orphanage with a string tied to his leg. I am sure he gets pulled around a bit.

During that time I spoke privately with the directors of the orphanage. I had a chance to ask the personal questions about Tarikua and her mother and even more became clear. The orphanage director is a really good guy. I had given him a few decorations for the orphanage walls. Nothing big money and he thanked me profusely for what I would consider dollar store change. Travis joined me and we asked him directly what things the orphanage was in need of. He said that he does not like to ask people for things. He has just a little English and used the word pulling instead of asking and we knew what he meant. He said he would only take things if the they came upon the idea them self. He trusted the lord would care for the children. Travis pressed him and said that the family wanted us to ask him for ideas on what to bring. The first thing he said was medicines. Then he said a few toys for the children as they have nothing to play with except this field of grass (to us was like a few parking spaces over grown with weedy grass, not a field). Then he said a table and I realized the orphanage did not have a table anywhere. He then showed a rickety old bike and said it was the only means of transportation for all the orphanages branches. Can you imagine going to get an abandon baby on a bike 80 miles away through the mountains? Now you can. Travis encouraged him further and he said all the branches share one desktop computer and it sure would be nice to have a portable laptop (I think it would be nice to have several). He was so kind and committed and kept going back to the children. He was genuine. At that point I figured out that we told to bring 6 gifts for the orphanage workers but there really was a staff of about 20 or more. Rachael and I both wish we had brought more.

The secretary helped me discuss Tara with the nannies. I asked what they liked about her or what she was like and they said smilely and like to eat. I asked them how often she ate and they said “all the time”. Then I asked about how many bottles a day? They said “when ever she cried… All the time”. They said “she is big”. They giggled.

Back on the road we consoled a family who was very sad. They had met the mother of their child and were not prepared for what they were told. Sometimes the information in these meetings is unexpected, ours certainly was too.

We landed at an upscale restaurant and had a very good meal. I had fish and rich had beef stir-fry. Some had traditional ET or Italian. All was fantastic and coffee at the end was grand.

Dropped off the bags at the hotel and went to Lake Awassa. We took a small boat to look at hippos in the wild. Some people were scared. It was classic that our boat had a small boy with a sponge and pail bailing the water from the boat as we traveled. The hippos were gigantic and weighed about one ton each. There were about 50 in the lake and mostly photographed a small heard of 14.

Then we headed into Sedoma area where Tara’s tribe is from. We met a local farmer who showed us how coffee grows. He showed us also sugar cane and false banana trees. They are giants. It was like walking among mini redwoods. Local children hid behind they trees and followed us. They dared a small girl about 4 years old to see me. I took their photo and showed it to them. The all busted out in giggles and bliss. Now all kinds of kids surfaced and wanted us to take their photos. It was really fun. The children were obviously poor. No shoes and torn shirts with holes and wear. Just like you see on those commercials for sponsoring a child. Later the children did a dance for us and sang a local song. The cow in the background moo’d loudly in protest. We toured the home of the farmer. A large stick and mud circular hut with a grass roof. Inside there was a woman and two small children. One the age of Livi and one about one year old. The children had only a shirt on, no pants. There was a small fire in the corner of the dark hut. The smoke was so thick you could not see to walk. The small baby coughed loudly. Several of the girls could not stay in the building be a few seconds. The smoke you could cut with a knife. We gave the owner of the farm some birr to help the children. By now neighbors had arrive to see the spectacular rare white people with blond hair. About 50 people now are watching us and of course most are children. Some small girls around seven or eight with babies strapped to their backs. The obviously were child run households. They followed us down the road for miles where the speed of the van out ran them.

We had a big dinner back at the hotel. We had white wine and lots of conversation. After that we met with Alemu to get our paperwork in order individually. We were last. Then we went to Rachel and Travis’s room and worked on documentation till about 2am. Now it is even later and I have to go because I have some bugs crawling on me. Yuck. Again. There is chanting out side and drums. It has to be close to three am.

sneak peak

I do not know it this will post, but is a sneak peak of Tara. Rachel had to visit the orphanage because her daughter is ill and Travis her hubby held tara and took this photo. His exact words were " you guys do not even know how cool your daughter is, she is really great and so beautiful"


We hope if we are lucky to meet someone from Tara’s tribe and talk to orphanage workers about Tara’s health history. This area is one of the most beautiful areas on the planet and some claim it is where the dawn of humanity started. It is known to be a combination of both extreme beauty and extreme poverty. Only about 11% of the people have access to electricity and only about 40% to a clean water source.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day three Ethiopia

After two days of travel we woke up in our suit at the sadula lodge. Rich had gotten a few hours of sleep, but I really only got two or three hours. There is something about the altitude that makes some people unable to sleep at such a high level and I am lucky to be one of those people who can’t fall asleep. The sounds of rosters and guard dogs fill the air through out the night. There is also two other people in our group that have the same problem. We are now 6 of 8 couples, with one couple in Dubi and another couple still in route.

Our room is lovely by Ethiopian Standards. In america it would be very much like a honey moon in Howard City. I requested a suit which means there is a large sitting area, a bedroom and a bath. We have lots of space which we need because we have so many items to sort out for the different orphanages.

We skipped breakfast to get the donations and gifts ready for the staff of AAI. It was big wrap job because we wanted them to look nice, but could not pre-wrap them or we would not be able to get through security. Rich had a slice of cold pizza that was left in our room along with brown bannas from Alemu.

With a hand full of peanuts and back packs we were the last to arrive down at the gates of the courtyard. We pile into two vans with our drivers. Rich and I seem to gravitate to a driver by the name of Sami. He is about 55 and very well dressed. A few key words like toilet and help me are clear to him and he is very much like a protector of sorts.

We head to the bank for smaller bills. We exchanged some money at the airport the night before. For a 1,000 American dollars (which Racheal and I guessed would be our budget), we received 13,000.00 in Bir. That looks like 130 bills in a big brick. Not many people can take a 100.00 bill so we changed 1000 bir into 10 dollar bills. Now we have another “brick” of tens to hid and stash among our items.

We headed of next to a tour of the city. For some they were emothionally moved by the poverty level and the beggers. With my experience in some other areas, this was something I could handle. Many of the men in our group were focused on thoughts of safety and the women were finding hard to overlook the starving mothers carring babies and the children with missing arms or other issues begging for change.

We headed off to the university museum. A student there took us through the historical information and other highlights of Ethiopia. History, crafts, homes, toys, tribes, cuture, art, music and other topics. The guide was good, but the crowds were showing major signs of jet lag. He did not think we were very bright.

Then we moved on to the national museum. We saw Lucy. She is a 3.2 million but not ape or chimp. We were shocked at the size of her. Very tiny. Look her up on line for more details. We also saw a young child who was recently futured on time magazine. Did you know that are brains were bigger at one time? Our tour guide was showing everyone how the Ethiopian finds prove out that the bible is right about creation and the therory that we came from Apes was wrong. They explained in detail how they believe that Ethiopia was the beginning of mankind and backed it up with a lot of facts and data.

The group of 6 couples then went out to lunch. The resturant had an english menu and everyone mostly got pizza and a few got fish or chicken. We got chicken. The waiter did not take Rich’s order for some reason so he had half of mine.

We then went back to our hotel and met Tesefaye’s wife. We took a taxi about ½ hour to their home. Rich’s first internation taxi : ) It was our pleasure. We both were overwhelmed with the hospitality and kindness you all have shown us. Now I can see why Tesaye is so proud of his family and friends. We had such a wonderful time and both feel forever connected with all of them. We had such a good time that I kept thinking over and over what a wonderful day it had been and how much fun it was that I could not even sleep when I went to bed that night

Tesefeye’s wife is Samrawite and thye have raised two very beautiful, smart and loving childern. Both her mother and Tesefeye’s mother were there and the kids too. They also have an IE of their own and she was there too. Also a frend of Tesfayes was there too. He is a single guy and he speaks English very well. Samrawite’s mother also speaks some English and Samrawite can understand it but say small phrases. Her sons can also understand and speak a little. Tesfayes’ mother not so much.

After meeting both mothers I see she has many people looking out for her!


Tesefeye’s wife is very pretty and smiles a lot. She has good fashion sense and is a good mother to her boys (keeping them in check). She welcomed us in to her home with open arms. I was amazed at how wise and insightful that Samrawit's mother was. A true women of faith and knowlege. If I lived in Addis we would surely be friends. And Tesfaye's mother has a heart of gold. Always looking to make sure everyone feels welcome and happy. I can not wait to describe the feast that was prepared for us to Tesfaye. The only thing I can compare it to is a wedding. During the entire night, Tesfayes friend Afework was the main translator. I have to say that the time really passed quickly and we had a great time. There was a lot of laughing and deep conversations. We had a traditional coffee cerimony and Rich is IN LOVE with Ethiopian coffe!!!! Later I learned how to roast beans and make it too. We made a video of the family for Tesfaye.


I hope they will be able to join us Saturday in the hotel and we will bring back to Tesfaye a full bag with some of his books and give Samrawite some items left over from the trip that she could donate locally.


Now it is a mad rush to get everything wrapped and packed for our trip to the south. This will take a few hours of time working and figuring out what we need and don’t need. Our un-needed items will be packed and stored. Tommarrow we meet the birth mother of Tara, so a lot of planning will be needed. It ended up being a very emotionally charged event. We hope to tell you more about day 4 later today. We are a day behind on our posts. We are just now waking up to day 5 and I have not blogged day four let.



Richard and Kristie

Misquotes, siders, giant bugs and more Misquotes

One thing that we were well warned about were the bugs. Lots of the following Misquotes with malaria. Rich and I are on heavy duty malaria meds to try to avoid it. We are using spray with 100% deet and picacardin. Below is a photo of my friend wendy from the last trip hanging out under the bug net. Some people sleep with full clothes even though it is super hot just to keep from getting ate alive by the bugs!

Visiting EVADO

If we are lucky, tonight we will be visiting EVADO orphanage. This is the orphanage where Tara stayed for some time. We will be interviewing the nannies and getting as much detail as we can about her habits. EVADO is clean and nice for Ethiopia standards. As an American we might find it lacking some of the basics like diapers, wall decor, good formula and medications. We all stuffed our suitcases with many donations to help the orphanages as much as we could. Here are some photos of EVADO

Heading south

Today we should be leaving the capital of Addis and heading south to Awassa. This will be our new but temporary home base where we will branch out from and see Dilla, Evado orphanage and even some of the nearby sites. It is a full travel day to get there by car. The road we will mostly be on is paved, but it is a narrow road and is the main road between Addis and Kenya. There is a ton of traffic, animals and people walking on this road. It is known accross Africa as one of the most dangerous roads. I am not looking forward to it. Here are some of the sites we hope to see...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our first day in Ethiopia

Our first day in Ethiopia is today. Our goal is to get to know a little bit about he culture and the people. A few interesting facts about Ethiopia...Did you know this is the birthplace of coffee? Yup it is where coffee was founded and became the popular drink of America today

Ethiopia is a landlocked state in the Horn of Africa, is one of the most ancient countries in the world. it is the second most populous nation in Africa with over 79.2 million people. 5 million are said to be orphans.

There is tons of history in Ethiopia. Besides being an ancient country, Ethiopia is one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today—here has been found some of humanity's oldest traces, they claim it might be the place where Homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and points beyond. Lucy, discovered in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia's Afar region, is considered the world’s second oldest, but most complete, and best preserved adult Australopithecine fossil. Lucy's species is named Australopithecus afarensis, which means 'southern ape of Afar', after the Ethiopian region where the discovery was made. Lucy is estimated to have lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago. There have been other fossil findings including early hominin Ardipithicus ramidus, Ardi.

It is the only country in Africa that claims it has never been colonized. What this means is that Ethiopia (formerly Abbysinia) was never concured and the people were not turned to slaves. It would be very unlikely that an African American that had roots going back to the times of the slaves could ever say they were Ethiopian.

Ethiopia has some of Africa's highest mountains as well as some of the world's lowest points below sea level. There are altogether around 80 different ethnic groups (tribes) in Ethiopia today. They speak Amharic and a few people know English. Also the blue Nile runs into Ethiopia from the North. This is part of the waters so famous in Egypt which is north west of Ethiopia.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today we arrive at our hotel

But not till almost midnight!

By now we will have been traveling for over 24 hours and we still have about 12 more hours to go of air travel and then car travel. The hotel we are staying at is really more like a lodge. It is very nice for Ethiopia standards. They advertise having your very own bathroom and the following written exactly this way on their website:
  • Granite floor
  • Luxurious complimentary bath amenities
  • All rooms include a sink
  • Shaving mirrors and shavers including but not limited to aftershaves
  • Hair dryer machines are available up on request
  • All rooms comes with new slippers, teeth brush, comb, swing kit and shower cup
When we finally arrive in Addis Ababa it is supposed to be raining. This is a large city with two classes. Wealthy and poor. We will be staying in the nicest part of two among the embassy. It is also where the African Union resides.