Monday, February 28, 2011

What Was Court Like?


This is a question I've gotten quite a few times since I've been back from our trip to Ethiopia. I thought it might be helpful for others who follow my intermittent blogging to have at least one perspective of what that day is like.

On December 23, we woke early and had another wonderful breakfast at our Guest House. Tsebaye's mom makes great buna, eggs, injera and some other oatmeal-type thing that I never got the name for. After breakfast, we gathered with the other families we were traveling with and waited in the courtyard for our van to come pick us up. I wore a dress I'd bought for D & K's wedding in Jamaica - it had a happy aura! I also wore a beautiful scarf that my dear friend T let me borrow. We all wanted to be sure that we were dressed in a way that would show our respect for the traditions of our children's heritage. Everyone looked bright and shiny!

Once the van arrived, the drive to the court building felt like it took forever. I think it was 30 minutes. We spent another 15-20 minutes standing on the sidewalk waiting for something, though I'm still not sure what. There is a lot of putting your trust/faith in others required on this journey :-). Then we headed into the building...and that's where it hit me.

The second my foot set down inside the courthouse, the emotions that must have been building inside of me the entire week just rushed to the surface. I couldn't breathe, the tears just came. It only lasted a few seconds, but the enormity of what we were about to do...what S's aunt was about to do if she had made was all so overwhelming. Scott was amazing and helped me get centered enough to climb the three floors to the waiting area for the judge's chambers.

At first we lined the hallway...there were so many people there all the seats in the waiting room were full. This is when we started to look around and wonder if S's aunt had made it. We knew that it was a very real possibility that she wouldn't. Gambella is a 3-4 day journey away from Addis. It is not easy for these families to make the trip - financially or emotionally. I was braced for the disappointment that she wouldn't be there and we would miss the opportunity to meet her.

After about 20 minutes, we were able to file into the waiting room and find a seat. As I walked in, I couldn't look around. It seemed like the energy in the room was so conflicted - pain and heartache mixed with anticipation and joy. Then Scott told me to look across the room. I did. On the chair at the end of our row sat a beautiful, young (very young) woman with S's eyes...I knew it had to be her. It had to be S's aunt. This was confirmed when the judge's clerk called her into chambers along with the birth mother of a little boy whose family we'd gotten to know so well over the last few days. Then, so quickly, they came out and our names were called...we went into the chambers with the parents of little E. This was unexpected, to go in with another family but given the number of people waiting outside, I guess it was the only way to get everything done.

We sat in chairs across and next to the judge's desk. She was a lovely young woman with a soft voice. In a matter of 2-3 minutes she asked us just a few questions -
Judge: Do you have other children?
Us: Yes
Judge: Have you discussed the adoption with them?
Us: Yes
Judge: Do you understand that this adoption is permanent and cannot be undone?
Us: Yes
Judge: Congratulations
Well at that point, there were no words. My dear friend and I burst into tears...I still don't know why other than they just needed to come out. The dad's shook hands, and I think there was a man hug there too. We filed out into the waiting room and then into the hall (my tears felt inappropriate for that room). After a minute or two I was able to get control and stop crying. They were definitely tears of sadness for how S had arrived at this place in her life, for her aunt for the most difficult task she'd had to do in the two years she'd been caring for her, and also joy knowing that we would be here for S for the rest of her life - loving and supporting her.

The rest of the day was equally emotional, but that will have to wait for another's another photo from our amazing trip.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Foto Friday

So much cuteness for Foto Friday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Yafi's Family


Yafi's Family is a great book. These are the things I love about this book:
1. the child is a boy
2. he is adopted as an older child
3. he is orphaned by death
4. he is Ethiopian
5. his parents retained his birth name
6. He has siblings in his adoptive home

I like these things because my boys can relate to each of these things very very well. It is a story about another boy, yet a story about themselves as well. The story is unique in that there are very few books about Ethiopian adoption, few books about older child adoption and even fewer about children who were orphaned by death rather than relinquished or abandoned. I would highly recommend this book for your home library. I think we will read this one over and over. As a note, I would suggest talking about feelings after you read this book and giving lots of affirmation. It triggered some sad feelings of loss the first time we read it for one of my sons. He likes this book, because it helps him feel like he is not alone in his loss. That is valuable.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Foto Friday

Hope these pics of adorable IAN kids keep you warm this wintry Friday!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Guest house review: Yebsabi & Ethiopia Guesthouse

From an IAN mom:

We have stayed at both the Yebsabi (Feb. 2010) and the Ethiopia Guesthouse
(Jan. 2011). I would choose the Yebsabi if I were to go again, but it is more

Yebsabi: Super, super clean and the staff are very helpful. The food is
amazing-and a large variety. We stayed in the single room (smallest they have).
All rooms have private baths and we never had a problem with hot water! We
spent a lot of time downstairs in the lobby area talking with other families and
playing outside. We had a few days with power outages while we were there and
they always asked us if we needed the generator on for anything. Laundry
service is fine-our clothes were returned in one day. Programmable safes in
every room. They have a computer in the lobby with internet access. We were
able to skype in the lobby without problem.

Ethiopia Guesthouse: They have a nice grassy area for kids to play (well, maybe
not all of the buildings do, but ours did). I enjoyed the Ethiopian food there,
but not the western food that they made. Breakfast was minimal (plain oatmeal
one morning). There is one bathroom for the floor (sharing with 3/4 other
rooms). We were without water at times, and most of the time had no hot water.
No safe in the room. Small lobby area and they had toys for children. The staff
was very helpful. They also have computer in the lobby for use, and we were able
to skype without problem.

I would stay at both of these places again, it just depends on what you are
looking for!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

Sweet IAN kiddos!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Foto Friday

Baby, it's cold outside...but hopefully these sunshiny sweet IAN faces with add warmth to your day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Biographies/Autobiographies featuring Ethiopia

There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene

From Publishers Weekly: Not unlike the AIDS pandemic itself, the odyssey of Haregewoin Teferra, who took in AIDS orphans, began in small stages and grew to irrevocably transform her life from that of "a nice neighborhood lady" to a figure of fame, infamy and ultimate restoration. In telling her story, journalist Greene who had adopted two Ethiopian children before meeting Teferra, juggles political history, medical reportage and personal memoir. While succinctly interspersing a history of Ethiopia, lucidly tracing the history of AIDS from its early manifestation as "slim disease" in the late 1970s to its appearance as a bizarrely aggressive [form] of Kaposi's sarcoma in the early 1980s, and following the complex path of medication (a super highway in the West, a trail in Africa), Greene rescues Teferra from undeserved oblivion as well as rescuing her from undeserved obloquy (false accusations of child selling). As with her previous books (Praying for Sheetrock; The Temple Bombing; Last Man Out), Greene takes a very close look at what appears to be the fringe of an important social event and illuminates the entire subject. Ethiopia is home to "the second-highest concentration of AIDS orphans in the world"; even as some of the orphans find happy endings in American homes, Greene keeps the urgency of the greater crisis before us in this moving, impassioned narrative.

From Booklist: Haile's parents fled Ethiopia in 1976, two years after a brutal coup and the beatings that resulted in her father's paralysis. Her family relocated to central Minnesota, her father regained professional status as a scholar, and she eventually went to law school. The coup ended a centuries-old monarchy, replacing it with a dictatorship that was ousted by rebels in 1991. Twenty-five years after departing Ethiopia, Haile returns with her husband to explore the effect of the revolution and the upheaval that took away a sense of community. Although her family was reconstituted in the U.S., it was never the same. She gauges the change and measures the extent of her loss, even as she learns of her uncle's valiant efforts to maintain his engineering business and create jobs in a nation suffering from a faltering economy. Haile also sees firsthand remnants of timeless tradition and culture as well as a multicultural nation torn by ethnic divisions that threaten its sense of nationhood. This is a riveting and personal look at a nation still in turmoil.

From Amazon: In 1974 Hannah Pool was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea and brought to England by her white adoptive father. She grew up unable to imagine what it must be like to look into the eyes of a blood relative until one day a letter arrived from a brother she never knew she had. Not knowing what to do with the letter, Hannah hid it away. But she was unable to forget it, and ten years later she finally decided to track down her surviving Eritrean family and embarked upon a journey that would take her far from the comfort zone of her metropolitan lifestye to confront the poverty and oppression of a life that could so easily have been her own.

From Publishers Weekly: "Hyenas are the most common, notorious predators in Ethiopia," notes Mezlekia, thus their power in local myth and as a metaphor for the forces that have torn Ethiopia apart in recent decades. This lyrical memoir of an Ethiopian childhood echoes both the myth and the violence of the hyena. In the first third of his literary debut, Mezlekia intersperses accounts of his mischievous, rebellious childhood with the magical tales told by his family to interpret various experiences: magic and spirits were part of everyday life for young Mezlekia. He also carefully delineates the customs of and relations between the Christian and Muslim communities in his hometown of Jijiga. (Mezlekia's mother, though a Christian, took her son to a Muslim medicine man to cleanse him following a series of boyish escapades.) But a third of the way through the text, the material world supplants the world of the spirit and innocence that governed Mezlekia's early childhoodAsocial and political upheaval ruled Ethiopian life in the late 1970s and '80s. At times, Mezlekia, who now lives in Canada, does not clearly describe the various factions that wrestled for power when he was a teenager and college student. But he treats the chaos and famine that enveloped his country with seriousness and styleA"The revolution was eating Ethiopian children at an alarming rate"Aand even while recounting famine and war, he never loses the wit that no doubt helped him to survive some of the worst humanity has to offer. (Jan.) Forecast: This lovely and terrible memoir will undoubtedly be well reviewed and thus reach readers interested not only in the fate of Africa but also in a lyrical account of a foreign childhood,

This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes by Marilyn Berger

From Amazon: Dr. Rick Hodes arrived in Africa more than two decades ago to help the victims of a famine, but he never expected to call this extremely poor continent his home. Twenty-eight years later, he is still there.

This Is a Soul tells the remarkable story of Rick Hodes's journey from suburban America to Mother Teresa's clinic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As a boy, Rick was devoted to helping those in need, and eventually he determined that becoming a doctor would allow him to do the most good. When he heard about famine in Africa, that's where he went, and when genocide convulsed Rwanda, he went into the refugee camps to minister to the victims. When he was told that Ethiopia was allowing its Jews to emigrate to Israel, he went to help. While there, he was drawn to Mother Teresa's mission in Addis Ababa. It was there that Rick found his calling when he began caring for the sickest children in one of the world's poorest countries. But he did more than that—he began taking them into his home and officially adopted five of them.

This Is a Soul is also a book filled with great joy and triumph. When Rick's kids return from surgery or life-saving treatments, he is exultant. "Seeing these people after surgery is like going to heaven," he says.

Marilyn Berger went to Africa to write about Dr. Hodes, but while there, she became involved with the story. When she came upon a small, deformed, and malnourished boy begging on the street, she recognized immediately that he had the exact disease Rick could cure. She took him to Rick, who eventually arranged for the boy to have a complicated and risky surgery, which turned out to be incredibly successful. The boy's story—intertwined with Rick's, and Marilyn's as well—is unforgettable in its pathos and subtle humor.

This Is a Soul is not just a story of the savior and the saved, it is a celebration of love and wisdom, and an exploration of how charity and devotion can actually change lives in an overcrowded, unjust, and often harsh world.

If you've read any of these books, please feel free to review them in the comments. Know of other bios or autobiographies featuring Ethiopia? Please leave a comment too!