Finally. What follows are all the updates I made to Facebook during our time in Ethiopia. The updates were made to Facebook out of necessity. It was pretty much the only site I could connect to consistently while there. The posts are short (they were limited back then to the number of characters, I don't think that's the case anymore with Facebook). I tried to keep the narrative flow intact when the posts were broken up for size. Enjoy!
March 27, 2010
We made it. Safe and sound in Addis Ababa. Exhaused, excited, overwhelmed, exhausted. But, we're finally here!
Been wanting to update the blog, the internet here is horribly slow and for some reason Blogger isn't allowing me to update it. We picked up Chloë. It was an adventure. She had become severely attached to all the other babies and all the caretakers. She bawled and bawled. We're back at the guest house and she's still bawling. She's afraid of me, but that just shows she has good taste. More later.
March 28, 2010
Chloë is asleep in a small crib next to me right now. Julee is down stairs going over paperwork for tomorrow's US Embassy appointment. Last night, we bathed Chloë (an adventure...apparently water temp is important), then I held her for the first time without her going apeshit. She was sleepy and fell asleep in my arms.
Everytime I tried to move her, she woke with a startle and cried. So, I slept for 4 hours last night on a not-so-comfortable armchair, Chloë asleep on my chest. Around 2 I was able to get her in her crib and went into bed. I slept more last night than I had the previous 3 nights combined (and I only slept 6 hours last night). She is attached to Julee. Very. She's still afraid of me, despite last night.
Ethiopia is a crowded, yet beautiful country. The people are insanely nice. Always smiling. I'm convinced we're in on one big joke. It's wonderful. The driving is unlike anything. No lanes, any part of the street is game. The horn is more used than any part of the car save the accelerator.
Chloë is teething, too, and that might also lend to her grumpiness (with the fear). She looks so peaceful sleeping right now. So beautiful. I think I'll go take a nap.
I tried to upload pictures, but this 14.4 baud internet connection takes too long for even one. Sorry. I promise to when we return. Now, off to lunch at a place called Red Beans. Better than the place called Bean Coli right next door.
Chloë just finished eating. She allowed me to change her after her nap and to feed her a bottle, but she quickly tired of that. Jules is now finishing the feeding. It'll take some time. I just have to remember she rarely saw men in her life, and never one so tall, so pale, and so devastatingly handsome. :)
We went out for lunch today at a place called "Rodeo". So awesome. It had western American themed decor, even a picture of Will Smith from "Wild Wild West". Food was good, Chloë not so great. She was hungry since she wouldn't eat at all the last day. She finally broke down. Now, she's sleeping. Peace for an hour, perhaps? Tomorrow: the Embassy!
The people in Ethiopia are wonderful; kind, generous, quick with a smile. Our "chauffeur" for lack of a better word, gave me a cellphone to use during our stay here, and refuses to allow me to carry my shopping bags. The gate guards are always smiling. People all over here are smiling. It's amazing. And yet, there is so much filth and poverty and sadness. I've never seen anything like this. It can shake one's ideas.
And how, when you're out with your new baby, in western clothes, obviously "well off", do you say no to a cute little boy who comes up to you with the saddest puppy dog eyes, his hand moving towards his mouth, begging for food? He literally could be starving. It's not easy. The Ethiopians are a beautiful people, and their children are as adorable as any in the world, which makes the whole thing just that much harder.
A breakthrough? During dinner, served here in the guest house (and quite good), one of the guest house workers asked to hold Chloë. She held her as she slept for a good 30 minutes. When we went to get her, she smiled. The smallest smile a child has ever given, but it was a smile. She went straight into mommy's arms. Then, I reached my arms out and she went for me as well, and without a grimace. Little victories.
It's not the rainy season here, that is in 6 months, but it's raining right now in a way I've never see before. Not sheets of rain, but full duvets, entire fabric stores of rain. Nearly the entire town is cover in tin roofing and the most beautiful white noise suffuses the room. It's surreal.
Tomorrow is the big US Embassy day where we apply for Chloë's US Visa. We're gonna go over our paperwork, make sure we know the answers to the questions they're gonna ask us, and then get a good night's sleep if the rain will allow. It keeps coming. The ferocity builds. Just when you thought it couldn't get any louder, it surprises you. It's beyond white noise. It's a rainbow cacophony in the key of tin and cement.
March 29, 2010
Embassy was great. All our documents were in order, a few trivial questions and Chloë's visa is approved. She has a green card (we'll have to "re-adopt" her once we're back in the states to make her an American citizen) and a passport and everything that's needed. We celebrated by having a nice lunch at a restaurant called Lime Tree. Very good.
There was a little bookstore in the restaurant and we bought some Amharic/English kids books and children's music CDs. Very happy find. Last night, we had a bit of a setback as I was the one who got up to change Chloë in the middle of the night, but I must've scared her and she screamed bloody murder. It was a sound I had never heard before. Shook me something fierce. But today; today was the best day yet.
4 hour power outage later and I'm back. The generator here at the guest house didn't kick on for some reason so we were out of luck. Luckily, it was sunny today. And, today, I was able to make Chloë smile. It was a glorious moment. A little smile mind you, followed by a burp or a giggle. A burple. Made the day.
Julee went back to the orphanage today, sans me and Chloë, to drop off "thank you" cards with a monetary gift. Standard procedure. She found out the orphanage is planning a big going away party for Chloë this Thursday. We are reluctant to bring her back to the orphanage--that site of such trauma--but it's the right thing to do. Hopefully, it turns out well.
Chloë must, at all times, be held. You can't sit with her, you can't set her down, you must stand. And move. She loves moving. She falls asleep in the van almost instantaneously. We put her in the stroller, she's fine. On a chair or the floor and she bawls. When Jules was gone, and after orajel for her teeth, food, a change of diaper, everything I could think of I decided to take her for a walk.
I walked her up and the down the 5 flights of stairs in the guest house. With Addis Ababa being so high in altitude, it wore me out. Then, a stroke of genius. The terrace on the topmost floor. I took her outside, saw a standing porch swing and sat down. I swung her for a few minutes and she was out. Now, how to get that swing on the plane for the trip back.
While up on the terrace two jackdaws landed on the railing not too far from us. One sidled up to the other and squawked, then beaked at the feathers of the first. They rested there for quite some time, checking Chloë and I out, squawking, sidling along the railing. Then, in synchrony, they flew away. It was quite a moment. Beautiful.
Tonight, a nice traditional dinner at "Habesha Cultural Restaurant" where we will get to sample authentic Ethiopian food. We're looking forward to it. Tomorrow, perhaps the National Museum and some shopping.
Physical updates: Chloë is small for her age. The 6-12 month clothes fit easily, some are a little too big. She sits up on her own, and can walk with assistance, though she doesn't like to. I'm sure a first step isn't too far away. She has the most beautiful mocha skin and the biggest brownest eyes you've ever seen. Her hair is sparse. And her skin is so soft it's impossible to not touch her.
March 31, 2010
And down goes Frazier! Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but I got hit with a mother of a case of food poisoning. It knocked me out of commission for a night and a day, but unlike Frazier, I've answered the bell for the 15th round. Lots of things happening here. We're having a good time, made some good friends and aside from the severe food poisoning things are going well.
The "Habesha Cultural Restaurant" we went to 2 nights ago, where I was feeling the beginnings of the pain that was to come, was amazing. Traditional Ethiopian food with a band playing and traditional dancing. We tried Ethiopian honey wine (t'ej) and a lamb dish that was out of this world.
That night, however, was the worse night yet with Chloë. It seems the only way we can get her to sleep is by holding her. And only in a specific way. Her caregivers doted on her--which is better than ignoring her--but that night it culminated in a late night session. She woke up twice (diapers and bottle) and it was nearly impossible to get her back to sleep and in her crib.
Last night we let her play herself into a stupor and she passed out. Then we gave her a bottle in the crib. Seemed to work. We're slowly figuring this parenthood thing out. It's certainly a challenge being given a 1yr old and told to run with it, but we're doing our best.
Today we went shopping for some knick-knacks and traditional clothes for Chloë. It was a trip watching Julee haggle the sellers down. I'm sure we still got ripped off, but it was nice. Picked up some great things for her room. Tonight we go back to her orphanage for a farewell ceremony they always do. Julee's a little nervous, but Chloë has bonded hard to her and there's nothing to worry about.
Yesterday we went to the farewell ceremony at the orphanage where the other 3 babies in our "party" came from. It was nice. A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. (I hate coffee and even I liked this. Phenomenal.) So, we kinda know what to expect tonight, but we've heard it will be longer as our orphanage likes to make them nearly 4 hours. Yikes.
The children we saw at these orphanages, the older ones in particular, are heartbreaking. They are so quick with a smile, so happy, yet are likely never to be adopted. One child, a beautiful young boy of 10 with a smile unlike any I've ever seen, had polio. I mean Polio? My god! Almost too much to take. We'll see some of the same later tonight.
The bonding to us both, particularly Julee, is amazing to have witnessed. From the traumatic exchange at the orphanage to now, a short 4 days later, she is fully bonded to Jules. And even me. She loves her "da" and loves to be thrown in the air and caught, loves to put on his sunglasses, and loves to be tickled. Lucky for her, I love to do all those things.
Tomorrow, a trip to volcanic lakes with some swimming and kayaking. Friday, some more shopping to pick up last minute gifts and mementos, then a long, long flight back home. The volcanic lakes, though, are supposed to be absolutely gorgeous. Looking forward to that excursion.
Gotta head off to the orphanage farewell ceremony. Hope it's shorter than 4 hours and doesn't revert Chloë back too far in her bonding with us. Plenty of tears to come, I'm sure. More later.
Back from the farewell ceremony. It's was beautiful. A little tense in the beginning as Chloë was passed around to all the nannies, and didn't want to come back to us, initially. But, it turned out well and the bonding we'd had with her had stuck. 4 days vs. 11 months, and we did right. Another coffee ceremony, some food (popcorn is really popular in their ceremonies) and some singing. Quite touching.
I should probably mention how we are all getting from our guest house (which I'll talk about later) and to our destinations. We have a dedicated driver, named Abraham, who takes us wherever we need to be (or want to be). He's a wonderful man, kind and proud of his country, and showing it off to us. He's the one who brought us to the Habesha Cultural Restaurant.
Abraham plays his Ethiopian jazz music in the van all the time, too, and it's quite good. Enjoyable. And he's one helluva driver, which is definitely a requirement in a country with poor roads (seriously, potholes the size of Volkswagens and no lanes) and no traffic lights. It's a trip to move through the city, buffalo-ing everyone and they doing the same to you.
The guesthouse we are staying at is called Yebsabi. It's off of Djibouti St. down a dirt (neigh, rock-strewn, littered) road. It's 5 stories with the 5th story being a patio overlooking the city. We are on the 3rd floor. The altitude here is higher than at Salt Lake, so it is getting difficult to us climbing those stairs all the time, lugging a 20lb baby.
Amid the squalor and heart-wrenching suffering we see along the streets of Addis Ababa, there are moments of equally heart-wrenching beauty: a little girl, who we can see from the guesthouse stairwell window, doing her math homework with chalk on the side of a rusted piece of tin roofing in her backyard; a single flower growing in the foot-trampled mud on the shoulder of the road.
But, the squalor is plenty. Refuse litter the side of roads everywhere, cover just about every inch not driven on or walked upon. A tent city exists in the parking strip between two streets. Homeless sleep anywhere, urinate wherever. We see children walking alone along the sides of highways, crawling along the sidewalks. It's so different than anything we've ever experienced or expected.
Chloë just now took a big juicy dump on the changing pad while Julee was changing her. Then peed on herself. Hilarious. Gross, obviously, but hilarious. Her turds had been nothing but liquid since we got her until recently. They've begun to firm up, to our delight. This one was soft serve at its finest. What a mess.
Every other car (and I'm not exaggerating) is a blue and white taxi car or van. They are everywhere. Small and old and certainly not fuel efficient. The noxious exhaust fumes from the traffic are ubiquitous. And the horn is the most used part of the car, not in anger, but in warning: I'm here, or I see you, or I'm coming get out of my way.
April 1, 2010
Another long night with Chloë. These nights of no sleep are starting to take their toll. The only issue we have with her right now is her sleeping. She eats well, has even begun to eat wet and dry cereals (although reluctantly), she plays, she's bonding with us both quite nicely. The sleep issue is the biggie. She fights it every step of the way, and it's nearly impossible to move her once she falls asleep.
Last night, she fell asleep on the floor. We tried to move her, she woke. She fell asleep again. So, Jules took her pillow and a blanket and slept on the floor in the living room. Not ideal. Chloë slept 6 hours before waking up for a bottle; a record. She woke up again for a second bottle. Julee slept very little. I watched Chloë this morning as Jules slept 4 hours. Now, Chloë is fighting sleep again.
We have to be careful of not only what we eat, but also drink. No water, unless it's bottled and sealed (sealed cap and shrink wrapped). We have to brush our teeth with bottled water, be careful during showers to not get any water in our mouths. I was lucky I only had severe food poisoning. It could've been a parasite, or a bacterial infection or dysentery.
Though the Yebsabi House is nice, probably lavish compared to what most in Addis Ababa have for living quarters, there are still some annoyances. It is near an all night bar or club of some sort. Dance music plays all night long. Literally, all night. It is also right next to, like 10 feet, a bunch of tin-roof houses and there are feral dogs and cats who bark and fight and meow all night long as well.
April 2, 2010
Been having internet issues since yesterday afternoon. Updates: we got to record Chloë's second successful attempt at walking. 3 steps! She's eating wet and dry cereals like a champ, and last night was still pretty bad sleeping-wise, but not a total nightmare. Our flight leaves in 8 hours. We'll see what awaits.
Went to a few more markets today to pick up last minute dresses and gifts. Picked up 10 Kilos of Ethiopian coffee...only 720 birr (55 dollars)! Bought some nice wall hangings for Chloë's room and some traditional outfits for her. The markets are amazing. It's still wild to be able to haggle a price, then walk out and almost get trampled by a herd of goats being shepherded through the market.
We're a little sad to see our adventure here in Ethiopia come to a close. But, we're eager to get the rest of our life started again back in Utah. Our lives the last year have been on perpetual PAUSE. It'll be nice to get back, and press that PLAY button again. And to take a shower, and sleep in our bed, of course.
We found out that not only does Chloë love to be thrown into the air, and to be swung backwards until upside down, but she loves to put things on her head. She finds it hilarious. The best, to her, is when I put my hat on her head. She loves that. Pictures to come later.
April 3, 2010