Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 1

I’m sitting in the living room of our guest house, and I don’t even know where to begin. The last 24 hours have been incredible, amazing, life-changing – and the trip has barely begun. I guess I’ll start from the beginning.

The flights were uneventful. I guess that’s not the life-changing part I was referring to. We arrived at our guest house last night around 10pm. Although our house would not qualify as luxury accommodations, considering we’re in Ethiopia, I have no complaints. The living area has lovely leather furniture and a large screen television. There are two terraces outside, with swings and lounge chairs, and beautiful landscaping. The bedrooms are fairly separated from each other, which affords us quite a bit of privacy. Our room has its own spacious bathroom, a queen bed, and a small toddler bed, lots of closet space, and plenty of room to store our luggage and other belongings. Something in the bathroom consistently leaks a bit of water, so the floor is always wet. But we were warned about this and brought flip-flops.

Paul and I fell asleep soon after hitting the sheets. The sounds of the mosque calling everyone to prayer woke us up at 7am, which was great because we needed to be ready for breakfast at 8. The prayer call reminded me that I was in a country quite unlike my own, a culture new and exciting and definitely worth exploring. Ethiopia has robust Muslim and Christian populations, and from what I can tell, they manage to co-exist quite peacefully.

On the way to the office, I noticed that we were surrounded by low mountains. The elevation here is very high (not sure how high, but given how hard it is to breathe when going up stairs, I’m going to say it’s probably like Denver). The countryside is beautiful. It was also impossible to miss the street scenes around us. Bumpy dirt roads are full of cars, people, goats, and donkeys. I don’t understand how they are all able to use the same roads without constant casualties, but from what I can tell, they make it work. The houses in our area are quite nice, and it’s clear that we are separated from the poverty that I know is not too far away.

First, we stopped at the office to sign some papers, and then it was off to meet our daughter. We waited on a balcony while the cameraman made sure everything was ready to film our encounter. I was nervous. I don’t know why I was nervous, but I was very aware of my heart beating quickly, my hands shaking, and my eyes filling up with tears before I’d even headed into the building where she lives.

I walked into the nursery, and immediately knew which baby was mine. She was laying in her crib, looking up at the ceiling, and I turned to the nannies and asked if I could pick her up. I suspect that was a dumb question, since she is my baby and all, but it seemed like the polite thing to do. When I picked her up, the first thing I noticed was that she was so tiny. I was crying by this time, so I don’t remember in great detail what happened next. I know that I introduced myself to her while she stared into my face, neither crying nor smiling. She just stared. Paul then held her for a while, and within minutes she was laying her head on his chest. He was a pretty proud papa, I’ll tell you that. Then we took her over to the part of the floor where the babies play, and we sat her down and played with her for a little while, and watched her interact with the other babies and the nannies. I loved watching her face light up with a smile when her nanny would walk through the door. I can’t wait until she smiles like that when she sees me. After about 10 minutes of playing, she lunged forward a little and nudged my arm with her head. She repeated this a couple of times, and I finally figured out that she wanted me to hold her again. So I picked her up and held her so that she was laying in my arms, facing up at me.

This next part is the part I will never forget. Meron Tihun stared up at me, with an intensity I can’t really describe. She was studying me, though, that’s for certain. This baby has the most intense gaze I’ve ever seen. To be on the receiving end of it is quite an experience. She put her tiny hand toward my mouth, and put her thumb on my lips. I started kissing it. She seemed to enjoy this, and kept putting her thumb back on my lips. Then she took another finger and did the same thing. This game went on for some time, after which she took her hand and held onto my nose for a while (she’s probably never seen a nose this, um, prominent before), and then moved on to feel my face, and then pulled some of my hair from out behind my ear. That seemed to surprise her, and I realized that she has probably never seen hair down before as all of the nannies keep their hair tightly pulled back. Well, that and she’s probably never seen hair that isn’t black before. Anyway, she continued exploring my hair and face for a few more minutes, all the while staring intently into my face, and then she closed her eyes and fell asleep. Paul and I both teared up as our new baby lay asleep and content in my arms. I passed the mommy test, and we’re well on our way to forming a bond.

The rest of the day so far hasn’t been quite as emotional, but is going well. We had a great lunch – the food so far has been fantastic – and spent quite a while at the office for our “orientation.” Tomorrow we go to Hosanna to meet Tihun’s first mom. If I thought today was life-changing…

I will have much, much more to write, but Paul unfortunately needs the computer to do some work, so I will end today’s post. By tomorrow I hope to post some pictures as well!

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