This will be my last post before returning to the States. And quite frankly, I’ll be lucky if I’m able to make it over to the office to post before we leave. Of course, now we have Meron in our care full-time, which gives me less time to write. So forgive me if I leave out some details.
Speaking of having Meron with us full-time, our little trooper surprised us last night by sleeping 10 hours straight! I have no expectations that this will last, and the days after our return when she is recovering from jet lag are likely to be a real treat. But for now, she is sleeping well at night, and taking a couple of decent (albeit a bit short) naps. It can’t help that our house here is constantly chaotic. There are a total of 12 kids under the age of 19, and over half of them are under the age of 6. So things get pretty crazy and loud, and I’m surprised Meron is able to sleep at all. Right now I am sitting on my bed typing on my computer, and Meron is in her crib, having just woken up from her nap, and she’s playing with her sock, sucking her thumb, and staring at me, without making so much as a peep. The weirdest part of her napping behavior is her tendency to sleep with her eyes partly open. That’s totally creepy. My theory is that it’s just too much work for her eyelids to cover that much surface area.
Oh, there she goes again – she’s pretty much nodded off to sleep again, but her eyes are half-way open. So bizarre.
Anyway, we went back to the market today to get a few more gifts, memorabilia, and the like. So to all family members reading this: don’t be surprised if your Christmas gift looks like it may have come from Ethiopia. Things aren’t as cheap here as I had hoped, so we didn’t go overboard with the souvenirs, but I bought another shawl, and some nice jewelry, plus a traditional Ethiopian dress for Eliana.
Yesterday afternoon we went to the farewell ceremony. It was pretty emotional, and I cried through most of it. They asked if we had anything we wanted to say, and while I most certainly did, I couldn’t talk because I was crying and knew that talking about my appreciation for everything the nannies have done for our baby would tip me right over the edge. So I communicated to Paul in sobbing whispers what I wanted him to say, and he told the staff how much we value the care they have given our daughter, and that we promise to raise her as a proud Ethiopian-American and to teach her all about her heritage and her home country. We mean it, too. There is so much about this culture that we have come to love, and we want our daughter to be proud to say that she was born in Ethiopia. I also have to interject that only the men spoke at the ceremony, which bothered me a little. We have some fairly conservative, traditional families in our group, and there seems to be a man-in-charge atmosphere around here. Had I had the wherewithal to speak, I would have done so at the ceremony to not only express my heartfelt appreciation for the staff, but also to make a little tiny bit of a point. Oh, and they also asked if anyone wanted to pray during the final prayer circle part of the ceremony, and again, it was only the men who spoke up. I’m not a big public prayer, so I was less tempted to interject my voice during that part.
After the ceremony, everyone ate cake, including all of the toddlers at the Care Center who attend the ceremony every Thursday. I’m guessing for these kids, the weekly farewell parties are a highlight, since they get to eat cake and sing songs, knowing that one day it will be their turn to put their hand print on the wall and go back to the guest house with their new parents.
Meron is asleep again, and her eyes are completely closed.
I think it’s fair to say that both Paul and I are ready to return home now. We miss Eliana a bunch, and I’ll be ready to go back to cooking my own meals, sleeping in my own bed, and driving along paved roads. Boy, that’s something I will appreciate way more than before: paved roads. The roads here are just awful. It’s appalling that the government can’t prioritize the public enough to pave the freakin’ roads. The downtown streets are paved, but as you head to the outskirts of town, the roads are more what you would expect driving through the uninhabited mountains of Montana than a large, densely populated city. This is a city in which owning a Humvee would make sense. Other things I am looking forward to: sleeping in a city where wild dogs do not own the night. I am so tired of stray dogs barking and fighting from 10pm until dawn. It’s a nightmare. I’m not a violent woman, but if I had a gun on my person, I cannot say for certain that I would not use it at 3am, when I simply cannot take any more barking. I also won’t miss being stared at, being asked for money, or getting mud all over my shoes and pants. I won’t miss having to use bottled water for everything. I feel very guilty when I look at the hundreds of water bottles piling up outside the guest house, waiting to be taken to the nearby landfill (I’m assuming this, anyway; I don’t actually know where they take the bottles, but I’d be stunned if they recycled them). I won’t miss the pollution, the questionable toilet situation, or the daily stroll past the decapitated goats lying on the side of the road next to their heads and viscera. I won’t miss having my bathroom floor constantly covered in dirty water. I guess in the end I am truly a spoiled American, used to the comforts that come with privilege, and eager to get back to them.
But I will miss the beautiful women walking down the street on their way to church, cloaked in their traditional white shawls they wear on Sundays and holidays, carrying their parasols that are also part of the Orthodox tradition. I will actually miss the Muslim call to prayer every couple of hours, as I found it very peaceful and meditative. I will miss the sense of accomplishment that I had at the end of every day for navigating my way through my little corner of the city. I wish I could return to the Ethiopian countryside, as I already miss that, even though things did not turn out as I had hoped. But my goodness, was it beautiful.
Well, it looks like Meron is waking up for good, and she has perfect timing, for it is time for dinner.
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It’s Friday morning, and this is definitely the last entry I’ll be able to make before we leave. We’ll be heading to the office to hopefully access the Internet and send this last update to my friend Jessica, who’s been kind enough to post my entries onto my blog, as I can’t access blogspot from Ethiopia.
All of the children seem to have something wrong with them. Meron has an ear infection, congestion in her lungs, and is most definitely teething. Another child has a blister on his thumb, origin unknown. One of the girls has some yellow puss-y thing on her lip, the other baby has an infected scratch on her back, and both the two year old and I have pink eye. It’s time to go back to the land of modern medicine and relatively sterile environments, so that we can all get healthy.
We heard some sad, or at least strange, news about Meron’s first mother. Because it is unusual and could be interpreted a number of ways, I think Meron should be the first to hear it, so I won’t go into details here. The bottom line is that we have no idea if she will ever receive the picture we brought of Meron and of us, or if she will ever know for certain that her daughter is in good hands, will receive a good education, and will be loved beyond all reason. I am thankful that I have a few years to figure out how to tell Meron all of what we have learned, and to help her make sense of something that cannot truly make sense to someone living in America.
Lastly, as I held a sleeping Meron in my arms this morning, I knew for certain that I will be able to develop as strong an attachment to her as I do to Eliana. I do not look at her and think, “Well, this is not my real child and I cannot imagine loving her as much as Eliana.” It seems ridiculous to even type the words. She is my real child, I already love her (which surprises me somewhat), and I know that it won’t be long before I have that throw-myself-in-front-of-a-train-for-her love that I have for Eliana. I can feel it coming on every time I look at my little peanut.
I imagine my next post will be from the U.S., and unless things go much better than expected, it may be a while before I’ve had enough sleep to post anything coherent. Thank you for following along with our journey to Ethiopia. I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings and musing, and I’m sure there are more to follow. Wish us luck on our journey home and for the days the follow as we all adjust to being a family of four.