Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Days 4 and 5

I am sitting on my bed in the guest house, wrapped in my Ethiopian shawl that I purchased from the market today. I imagine I might wear this a great deal back home, once the chilly weather sets in. It's cold here in Addis, and women everywhere are wrapped in these white cotton embroidered blankets. I can see why they are so fond of them. I wish I had purchased more.

We're a little over half-way through our trip to Ethiopia, and I feel like we've settled into a groove. Of course, we don't have Meron 24/7 yet (that happens later today), but things are going very smoothly for us. I think Paul and I have benefited from traveling internationally before. I think you get better at adjusting to newness with each trip beyond U.S. borders. Having said that, last night we ate at the local pizza shop, a nicely decorated restaurant with a brick oven, delicious food, and lovely red wine, and it was really nice to escape Ethiopia, if only for an hour. For that one peaceful hour, I didn't have to put forth that little extra effort that comes with being in a completely foreign environment. We walk over muddy, rugged roads every day to the Care Center, occasionally having to head up to the grass to avoid the goats being slaughtered right there on the street. People are staring at us wherever we go, and very few people in our neighborhood speak English.

Another difficult aspect of being in Ethiopia is there is no fumbling one's way through Amharic, because they use characters, not letters. In, say, Mexico I can put my pathetic Spanish to use, and can at least read the letters on signs, menus, and in stores, and sound them out loud with some accuracy. I've also heard enough Spanish to understand what someone is saying to me (as long as they speak slowly and simply). But here, there is none of that. If they can't speak English, I'm screwed. Our driver for the Guest House doesn't speak English well at all, and the lack of communication between the clueless Americans and our Amharic driver has caused some mild frustration.

So as I said before, it is chilly here. Yesterday was downright cold. It's been raining quite a lot, which we expected, but I did not expect the cold temperatures. I did not bring enough warm clothing for Meron, so my hope is that she doesn't spit up too much or blow out her 3 warmish outfits.

Speaking of Meron, we got to spend a lot of time with her yesterday, since our U.S. Embassy visit took longer that we expected. We have great news: she took a bottle. The other baby here did not, so we're feeling pretty lucky. They cup feed the infants here – which is quite a spectacle – and so none have ever taken a bottle before. But our spunky little Meron took one right away. Granted, it took her about a half hour to drink an 8 oz bottle, but I imagine that will get better with practice. She seemed to enjoy the experience, and was in a fantastic mood the rest of the afternoon. And then she fell asleep in my arms. Oh, and that reminds me of our other great piece of news: she reached for me! Paul was holding her and she was having a great time playing with his face and looking out the window of our van, and then she started to fuss and reached over for me. Soon after that, she fell asleep. I'm going to take this as a sign that Meron is attaching to her new mother. When she woke up about 90 minutes later, she seemed pretty happy to see us. She is such a chatty baby, and so intense!! She smiles more every time we see her, and reveals more of her personality every day. I think she's a good match for Eliana. So far, she doesn't strike me as the kind of kid who will let her older sister push her around. She also seems pretty extroverted, from what we can tell at this young age. She is intensely curious about everybody in our travel group, and loves playing with the other baby. She is outward-focused, as was Eliana. She reminds me a great deal of Eliana when she was a baby, with the notable exception of her ability and willingness to sleep in a car. I sure hope that doesn't change. She's also pretty easy to entertain. She thought Paul's buttons were pretty fascinating, and couldn't get enough of the square cement pillar in the middle of the Embassy waiting room. She felt each side with her hands, then pulled Paul around to explore what was around the corner, and each time she discovered a new side of the pillar, she would look up at Paul in surprise, as if to say, "Would ya' look at that – there's another side!!" A curious child indeed.

As I said earlier, we went to the market today. They basically take us to the tourist market, where I'm pretty sure we got ripped off. But they apparently don't think we'd be safe at the regular, open air market that Ethiopians go to. That bums me out, because we drove through it and there are so many things I'd like to look at. And I know we'd get better prices than what we got at the markets they took us to. Nevertheless, we bought some interesting gifts and souvenirs, and we're hoping to go back tomorrow. I think our shopping trip was somewhat shorter than usual because the other families brought their newly adopted older children, and their attention spans are pretty short. Granted, they are very well-behaved children, but children are children, after all, and they only want to spend so much time in teeny-tiny little shops full of breakable goods and other items they're not allowed to touch. On the way home, we saw many beggars and people sleeping on the sidewalks. I notice myself hardening my heart here, separating myself from the reality of this place, in order to cope with the poverty, the likes of which I have never seen. I turn away from the blind man whose irises are covered with cataracts. I avoid looking at the three crippled women begging on the sidewalks, or the man who approached us outside the shops, whose feet were completely disfigured and useless, painfully dragging his way along the sidewalk on an old pair of crutches, hoping to get a few birr from the Americans.

This afternoon we will go to the good-bye ceremony, where the nannies and Care Center staff officially say farewell to the children they have cared for and loved, and entrust them to their new parents. I imagine it's very sad for Ethiopians to see their children leave the country with American parents. They are such proud people, and they value their children above all else. It must be very difficult to be confronted with the reality that they cannot care for them all.


Rachel B. said...

You write so beautifully - I'm loving reading your entries! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and best of luck with the rest of the trip. Meron is beautiful!


Heather & Adam said...

I am reading your updates over and over. Thanks for letting us into your week, and describing it all so beautifully. Congratulations on your gorgeous Meron!

Mama Papaya said...

Such a sweetheart. Thank you for letting me follow your journey.

LynnandMike said...

Please write more. Somehow I landed on your site through the forum and I love your entries. You are a great writer. Please update if you ever meet the birth mom. Reading that made me long for our trip to Addis and the hope of meeting the birth family.