Saturday, October 31, 2009


I've finally put up Halloween pictures. We had a cute medieval theme going on, but unfortunately we never got the chance to have a family photo. Part of it because D. was gone so much and part because I, being the Primary secretary now, was very busy at the "Family Fall Festival" making sure the party (essentially the Primary activity) was going well. Here is a sampling of the few pictures I was able to take.
Here is D. looking spiffy in his knickers and vest.

You are going to see quite a bit of K. in these photos--he was everywhere, as long as it involved a ride in someone's arms. Here is Mommy in her pretty dress. We initially were going to go for knights and a princess, but it is nearly impossible to find an adult princess costume that doesn't involve involve showing a lot of skin. Thus we settled on lord and lady with our knights to protect us.

Here is knight number in his get-up (although he is missing his shield and sword). We found these great foam shields and swords at Legoland in Germany and they were wonderful! They were fun to play with, but could hardly do damage to the opponent.

I don't know where A. was hiding out at the Primary party so that I never got a picture of him there, but I did get a picture at his Kindergarten parade around the school lot. Behind him is his good friend that just happened to show up in the exact same costume! They were so excited. Here you can see what the sword and shield looked like.Here is K. all on his own! I tried to get him to match his brothers, but I couldn't find a size I thought would fit him, although it probably would have fit him better than this costume. While it was cute, it was too small from day one. It is hard when your only options are to buy online. So K. got to be the Prince elect! He sure thinks he's that already.

"I ate my last Daddy too! Ha ha!"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last Day in Ethiopia

Our last day in Ethiopia was also jam packed with adventure. After some mis-communication and the manager of the guest house missing church (which she told us later), we arranged to be taken to the Thomas Center one last time before we left that evening, and we planed a trip to Debre Zeyit. We spent the morning packing and generally just hanging around the house. Just before the trip to Debre Zeyit, we went to the Thomas Center. We arrived unannounced but were warmly welcomed by the staff. We went to T's room and romped around with her for a while. It was so much fun. She especially liked A's sunglasses.

We took some pictures and then after about ½ to 1 hour we got ready to leave. It was as hard as we had anticipated, leaving such a wonderful daughter there, not knowing when we would be back to bring her home. For me it was heat breaking. And then T realized that we were leaving and she was not going with us. She began to cry. Not like the first time where she cried some, but this time it was full tears and sobbing. I had some tears in my eyes when I walked down the stairs.

We planned a trip with the help of our Guest House to an area known for their beautiful “crater lakes.” Unlike the day before where we went to a place that seemed interesting to us (the water fall and the baboons), our guest house and tour guide insisted that this was “nice” place. Well, nice apparently meant a place that was developed with resorts, restaurants, and prepared activities such as boating and a swimming pool. While it was a nice place, it seemed to me and Vanessa that is was just another resort type hotel. We have found through our marriage that we prefer to see people how they really are and not how the rich tourists see them. To me the real Ethiopia was in downtown Addis Ababa and in the countryside town and villages. Nonetheless, we had fun canoeing in the lake and eating the resort quality Ethiopian food. Of note, when we ordered the Ethiopian food at the resort they said “Are you sure?! That IS traditional Ethiopian food!” Once we assured our waitress that we knew what we were doing she took our order. I got a lamb stew mixed with this really sour Injera bread and Vanessa got this amazing chicken dish with a side of Injera. We had a lot of fun and then we drove back to Addis Ababa to get ready for our flight home.

The resort

On the lake

We got to the airport at 11pm and had to scan our baggage right when we went in the door going into the building. After checking in we had to go through passport control. We had to fill out these little cards that looked exactly like the cards we filled out to get into the country only they said something like “Leaving” on the bottom. We stood in line for about 30 min and A was so tired that he fell asleep while I was holding him in line. This was a good thing because as I was standing there one of the security personnel saw this and asked our family to step to the VIP / First class passport line (go A, fall asleep on me any time). The funny thing was that he woke up almost the instant we finished at passport desk and did not fall asleep again until a couple hours later. Our plane from Ethiopia to Turkey was delayed an hour (we ended up getting on the airplane at 3am) and our connecting flight was also delayed two hours on the taxi way. Over all we arrived in Venice 2 hours late with Vanessa's sister, Erika, and her husband waiting for us (they landed 30 min before our original land time).

Overall a wonderful trip with some interesting moments and some heart wrenching moments. We cannot wait to go back and make T a permanent part of our family, never to be left behind again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ethiopia--Day Three

Poor Dan was sick pretty much this whole day, so I have to write about it instead. This was our greatest adventure day! I convinced the guide our guest house uses to take us to a place called Durba that I had read about in a travel book. I had picked it because it sounded both interesting and somewhat easy to get to. A relative term, as we were to learn. Our guide had never been there, but was willing to try. After driving on a main road out of town—which boasted some great sites because we saw a traditional funeral taking place on the side of the road, and it was “flag day” so we saw a bunch of horses dressed up for what I think was going to be a small parade-type thing—we turned off onto this dirt road.
Just one of the normal sites. So many donkeys!

This is where it got interesting. We would travel for a few minutes, and then our driver, Solomon, or the guide would yell out the window “Durba, Durba” and ask directions. They would keep telling him it was further. Even though it was only an hour out of town, they already spoke enough of a different dialect, that our guide sometimes had a hard time communicating. (I should also mention that the North must be more dangerous because we had to stop twice for police to check the vehicle and ask us where we were going. Our guide had also forgotten to get some vital paperwork from the guest house, so he had to bribe the guards to let us back into the city on our way home.) After doing this for some time, and traveling on a very rough road, we finally made it into Durba where we then found some local willing to show us where the waterfall was—the intended destination. Out of nowhere, we found ourselves driving on the side of a huge ravine. There isn’t much water that flows down the waterfall, but the drop is spectacular.

Also, this was one of those scene from National Geographic because once out of the car, we were surrounded by all the local children who proceeded to follow us everywhere we went. Even more strange was one of the local youths started asking us, in great English, about American politics. Turns out, he is an Ethiopian law student who was home for the summer. At the top of the waterfall, there was a whole family of baboons that we got to get pretty close to and watch for a while—well, as close as I was willing to go.
If you look closely, you can see one of the males, and behind him, many of the village women washing clothes in the river.

By the time we headed back, A had figured out what a novelty American children are (I think they see American tourists every once and awhile, but not American children since both I and A got quite a bit of attention everywhere we went). He would wave at every person we passed through the bus window and revel in how excited people were to wave back at him.

Since Dan was sick—which was not due to the food as I’m sure you are thinking. If it had been the food, we would all have been down, since we all ate the same things, and he didn’t have any of the normal food sickness symptoms—we just went back to the guest house and hung out there. Unfortunately, I don’t think Dan remembers much of this day at all. At the guest house, A, being his normal charming self, got nearly all the workers—a guard, a small boy who must live in the back part of the house, and the driver Solomon—to play different games with him. By the time we left, they were all deeply in love with A. They all gave him hugs and gifts when we left.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ethiopia--Day Two

Today we did the “City Tour” that our guest house arranged. It basically involved driving around town to have several main buildings pointed out to us and then stopping at a few key locations. Our first stop was at the Ethiopia National Museum. It wasn’t very big, but probably the right size for our boys—and it had a lot of history. Ethiopia is the origin of humanity, after all. Instead of audio sets that you can rent, they have a few people there waiting to be your guide. We hired one, and so got the full history. We also got to see the bones of Lucy, the oldest, most complete skeleton in the world (or actually a replica of her since she’s visiting the States right now). A. got bored pretty quickly, but I., as usual, was all questions. Our museum guide was so impressed by how curious he was about everything and by his pertinent questions.

We next visited the Lion Zoo—as per the kids request. Why is it called that, you ask? Well, that’s it—about 10-12 lions in a big circular building separated into pairs. You are separated from the lions by a chain link fence—and could easily reach in and pet them if you were so bold. It was quite worth it, though, since most of the lions were pretty active—I’m sure partly because they were in mating pairs. We got to watch and listen as some of the males roared to each other for quite a while. And we got to see a lioness slap the amorous male in her pen that wouldn’t leave her alone, after which she then had to jump on him to get her point across. Just not something you get to watch in the States. (We don’t have any photos because it would have cost us 10x the entry fee to take pictures.)

We also drove up on the side of the mountain to see the oldest Christian church in Ethiopia.
The drive was much more interesting than the church because of all the people and foot traffic we saw. Little old ladies which giant bunches of twigs strapped to their backs walking down the hill, an Ethiopia priest making a pilgrimage up to the church, and much more.
The priest (it would have been in focus, but A. bumped Dan at just the wrong moment)
Ladies with bundles
A view of Addis Ababa
We also got to stop at Ethiopia’s largest textile market and bought a nice tablecloth! We then went home and had some of the best soup I have ever tasted, brought to us by our great guest house cook.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ethiopia--Day One

Today we met a great family from Washington State, Seattle area. True to form I do not recall their last names, but they are Dennis, Gabe and Maggs. They were in Ethiopia adopting 2 children--to total for them 7 children. It was neat to meet someone who was completing their adoption through CHI (also our adoption agency). We didn’t have much planed for the day other than to visit T.. We had been told to show up and call Pastor Abdisa and he would take care of the arrangements to visit the Thomas Center Orphanage. Well come to find out that this week they were processing 5 adoptions at the same time and trying to meet all of the meetings and requirements, not an easy task. The first time we called Pastor Abdisa he was at the US embassy with one family and asked us to call back in 2 hours. When we called him back, he arranged a driver for us to go to the Thomas Center at 15:30. So we had some time. We went to the “Post Office” market. (Why is it called the postal market, not that you go postal from haggling, but because it is next to the national postal center, go figure). We found some cool stuff, this was after all the market for traditional souvenirs.

After a trip to the market we were able to finally visit T.. I do not think that I can explain what it is like to show up at an orphanage and have someone hand you your child to be. It is just as exciting as being able to hold your child in the hospital, only she is bigger and beginning to walk!!! We spent about 45 min at the orphanage with her, feeling like fish in a bowl. There were 3-4 nannies, our driver, and the orphanage patron all watching us interact with T.. It was an odd experience, it almost felt like we were being judged in a subtle way. Beyond that, our interaction with T. was wonderful. She warmed up to me somewhat quickly and then after some time went to Vanessa. She looked just like her pictures, absolutely beautiful, full of personality, and excited about life. It was interesting to see how quickly she attached to us after just an hour. When we were getting ready to leave, she knew that we were going and began to cry. She ran to me (Dan) to pick her up. I carried her downstairs to our waiting car but had to leave her. (One of the frustrations with our current visa process is that you HAVE TO visit the child before the adoption court proceedings, but being that you have not adopted her yet you cannot take her out of the orphanage. It was heart breaking to see her cry as we left. After much pondering about it and discussing it with other adopting parents, etc, we decided that we should limit our contact with her until we are able to bring her out of the orphanage with us. It was just too heart breaking to make her go through the same stress 4 days in a row. (see post for Oct 4 for further details on this).

We went back to our guest house both excited to be adopting this wonderful little girl, but heart broken that it would take another few months to process this adoption be fore we can bring her home. We had a wonderful traditional Ethiopian dinner, some was spicy (they said that they toned it down for us to a 5/10 if normal is 10/10, I was still the only one in our family who could eat the Doro Wat) and some was not, but it was all wonderful.

Ethiopia--Travel Day

We spent a long time on an Airplane, and the boys did amazingly. I think this is the best we have traveled in a long time. Granted this is the first time we have not traveled without a child 3 years old or less. Nonetheless, our plane was only 1 hour late into Addis Ababa Ethiopia, having us arrive at 2am. We had arranged with our guesthouse to pick us up from the airport, and so Tsebay (the manager) had been waiting outside for us until we cleared customs and immigration.

Immigration was interesting, we arrived and were required to fill out an entry card, then we went into this little room where they basically had 3 card tables, 2 people hand writing visas and one person accepting money. After that we had to go through the immigrations booth, just like every other airport. When all was said and done it was probably 02:45 before we got loaded in the van to go to the guest house. After a 15 min drive along the roughest finished road you have ever been on we arrived, stumbled our way upstairs and fell asleep in no time. The best part about traveling with small children is that they do not understand the meaning of sleeping-in, neither for its restorative properties nor for it’s more transient qualities. Our wonderful children were up at 06:30, oh happy day.