Sunday, August 8, 2010

Friday and Saturday in Addis


Friday we woke to a light rain that didn't last long. We had made arrangements the day before to visit AHOPE, an orphanage for children whom are HIV positive. We had also brought donations to give to the orphanage, and we were really looking forward to visiting.


When we arrived the children were playing in the courtyard. As most children do when they see Americans come to visit, they quickly ran to us and grabbed our hands to engage us in play.  So cute and sweet! Several parents of the children who are still waiting to visit Ethiopia had asked me to take photos of their children, which I gladly did. Some parents also sent letters and cards filled with lots of fun things like photos and stickers. I always love watching the children open up gifts from their parents, as they get so very excited. I tried my best to catch it all with my camera.  The only sad part about delivering letters and taking photos of certain children is that the ones who do not have parents yet are reminded of just that- they are still waiting for a family. One boy inparticular, probably about 8 or 9 nine years old, understood exactly what were doing. He also understood that we did not seem to be there to visit just one child, as we would if our child had been living in this orphanage. In the best English he could, he pointed at me and asked me to take him to America. How do you respond to a child when he asks something like this? My heart ached for this sweet young boy. II told him that he would be going to America sometime soon, though I know as well as he does that the chances of this happening are very slim. Most people who do consider adoption do not consider adopting an older child, let alone a child with HIV.  He made this clear by gesturing with his hands and saying that small children get to go to America- but not him. Again, he asked if we would take him to America. I pray that there is someone who will take him to America very soon. All this child wants is someone to love him.


After visiting AHOPE, we grabbed a quick bite to eat for breakfast, then headed to Layla House to check on Nigus.  When we arrived he was with the Kindergarten class, working on tracing the alphabet. He had on a purple vest, as did all the other Kindgergarten children. Each class wears different colored vests to identify their class. He seemed to be interacting well and we were really pleased to see that he felt comfortable enough to stay with his own age group.  When he saw us he seemed a little unsure, so we let him continue with his lesson and went into the courtyard to watch some of the other kids play soccer. The courtyard area at Layla House is entirely concrete, there is one basketball goal with no net, and two soccer goals with no net. The kids love to play soccer, and especially love it when the adults join in. Zack had a great time playing while I took pictures and videotaped. He isn't too bad for an old man.


When Noah finished his lessons, we went into the classroom. He didn't really acknowledge us, but we hugged him and sat with him and spoke to him the best we could. We can not imagine all he must be feeling at this point, so we are just trying to do our best to let him know how much we love him and how much we want to be his family,  and all that entails. When it was time for us to leave, he again began to cry a bit, so we do really believe that he cares for us too.  I admit, it is difficult to have a positive attitude when we are unsure of exactly how Nigus feels about us, especially when he seems to be so sad and despondent around us. However, we trust that God has called us to be his parents and that he will supply the strength, love, and wisdom to be parents to Noah. I can not wait to be able to bring him home and give him the love and care he needs. The nannies and other staff at Layla House do a great job, but with around twenty other children in Noah's class, there is no way he can get the attention and love a family will provide. I know that with time, love, and God's great mercy, his sad eyes will be full of life and joy and he will be enjoying life as any 4 year old boy should. I can't wait for that day!


Zack and I took a little break at the guest home after leaving Layla House. Good timing, as the first major rain had settled on Addis. If you like to take a nap while it is raining, I couldn't think of a better place to do it than Addis. The tin roofs create a beautiful sound, and because of the awesome weather in Addis, you can smell the rain through the open windows. I enjoyed a short nap and after waiting a few minutes for the rain to settle down, we headed to Kaldi's (a really awesome coffee place) for lunch. Kaldi's is a really cool place in Addis, similar to Starbuck's but with much more reasonable prices. But the food and drinks are just as good.


When we arrived back at Layla House, Noah was with his classmates listening to music and watching the Ethiopian Television Channel. Ethiopian Television has a music television program that shows music videos with traditional Ethiopian dancing. The kids love it and they can imitate the adults and dance very well. I was able to video tape the kids dancing- great memories. Noah did not participate much, just sat with the other children. His teacher told us that this is a big change for him, very new, but "step by step" he would adjust. She must have sensed our worry for him.


For dinner we vistited Metro Pizza again- yum! There really is nothing else like it in Ethiopia. Thank God for Metro Pizza. I would be pretty hungry here without it.


Before we left for Addis, I started reading a book called The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. This book is probably one of the most challenging, most heartbreaking, and yet most inspiring books I have ever read. It really is a book about what God expects of us, and unfortunately, how we as Christians have not done the best job of truly being his disciples. This book was amazing to read at home in the USA, but to be in a city with millions of orphans and with poverty that is truly imaginable, to see the tin shacks and smell the filth and pollution every day as we walk the streets, to have children, old people and disabled people come to you with their hands open for anything you would give, basically to be in a place where the content of this book is the reality you see daily has challenged my heart in ways that only God could. I have looked inside my own heart and evaluated my level of compassion and my willingness to care for the poor, the needy, the least of these.


As an example- We recently purchased a home that needed quite a bit of work (if you know anything about our real estate purchases, we just can't seem to get away from the ones that need work). It has one and a half bathrooms, and to be honest, I was really hoping for two full baths. Our previous home had only one a half bathrooms, and though it was all we needed, I was really hoping for the luxury of being able to take a shower and walk right into my bedroom. And when guests come, it is just easier to have your own shower. That's not too much to ask, right? So, we thought we had figured out a way to add a small stand up shower to our half bath. It was going to cost a little more than we had hoped, but we really needed that shower. Well, right before we left, we had consulted with the plumber and tile expert, and the project was really going over budget and we honestly weren't sure if it would even fit. So, we decided to ditch the idea and settle for the half bath. I was pretty disappointed and couldn't believe that I would again have to live in a house with just a bath and a half. And we were adding another family member. I was bummed.


After spending a week in Addis, yes, a town I have visited before, I am reminded of just how much I really need. How easily I had forgotten that many people here do not even have a place to use the restroom, let alone a place to bathe. The sanitation is not good. Most people here live in tin shacks with no electricity. They breathe air that is so full of pollution there is evidence when you blow your nose- this is gross, but this is true. They look through the most nasty garbage dumpsters I have ever seen or smelled for something to eat, or something to sell, hoping to have enough money to buy something to eat. They don't have access to proper medical care. They walk everywhere. They don't have a place to go when it rains, or storms, or when it is cold or hot. They truly have needs. 


Poor me, with only one and a half bathrooms with running water (hot and cold), proper sanitation, nice tile floors and lights that turn off and on. As Nicole Nordeman so beautifully sings, "Oh the differences that often are between, everything we want, and what we really need".  Lord, please break my heart for the things that break your heart. This is my prayer, and what I so desperately need.   


   Saturday morning there was no rain, and it was the one morning we chose to sleep in. We actually didn't make it out of our hotel until almost 11am! Since we had slept through breakfast, we headed to Layla House to check on Nigus. When we peeped in, they were already seated and preparing for lunch. His back was to us, and we really just wanted to watch him candidly, but the other kiddos gave us away. We waved at him and told the nannies we didn't want to disturb lunch. We walked out and Noah began eating on his own, which is really great. We enjoyed another game of soccer in the courtyard, and when we returned the kids had finished lunch and Noah was interacting very well with the other kids, even smiling! Praise the Lord! This is what we had been hoping to see. It seemed as if Nigus was really beginning to feel comfortable with his classmates. We visited with him for a while, doing what we had been doing all week. As I had mentioned in a previous post, it is hard to interact the way we want with Noah with so many other children around who are vying for your attention. But we do our best to let him know how much we love him.


It was getting close to nap time, so we headed out. I was hoping to go to one of the restaurants we had visited during our first trip to Addis, Blue Tops. It is about a 20 minute trip from where we are staying, so to save money, we took what is known as a mini-bus. It is basically a mini van that they (the driver and the money collector) pile about 20 people into and make frequent stops throughout the city. It is cheap transportation, but it is also very crowded (and old and dirty). Zack and I were the last two to get on, and there was no place for me to sit, so I sat on his knee. The money collector shook his head and pointed for me to go sit in the back of the van, where the back row was already completely full. Somehow I squeezed in between two Ethiopian gentlemen and enjoyed the ride. We made it as far as our money would take us, then got in a small taxi for the last leg of the trip. By this time it had began pouring the rain. Thankfully we had brought our rain gear, as yesterday we got caught without it! We enjoyed a really great meal. Zack ordered lasagna and I ordered penne with tomato sauce. One of the reasons I remember this place is because of the great ice cream, so for dessert we ordered Jamoca ice cream- yummy! This week in Addis my menu has consisted of pizza, French fries, toast, ice cream, egg sandwiches, more pizza, more fries and egg sandwiches, pizza again, and pasta. Oh, and I did try some potato skins (not really like the kind in America) and a sandwich with chicken (the only meat I ate). Zack is much more brave and ate all kinds of things. Maybe next time I will venture out more too.


So, on the way home, we decided to walk as far as we could. It had stopped raining for the time being and was very nice. As we walked, we were approached countless times by children asking for money. We gave them small amounts, and I gave them packages of fruit snacks. We could have literally given away every bit of money we had during our short walk- that is how many times we were approached.  As we were walking we came across two young Ethiopian fellows who stopped us and asked us where we were from. We told them and then were planning on going on our way, but they said they wanted to walk with us. I became a little skeptical, but what could we do? They also told us they would show us where we could catch a minibus that would take us back to the area where Layla House was. As we were walking it began raining pretty heavily. These guys had no rain gear, but seemed to care less. I was really getting skeptical now. We finally made it to the bus stop and I heard one of them ask Zack for money. They said they were tour guides, but that the rain had dampened their business and they were behind on their rent. We gave them a bit of money, and again piled onto a mini bus. Here is what was interesting about this ride- one guy sat on another mans lap, and no one said anything. But before, I was told not to sit on Zack's lap. Maybe it is a cultural thing? Interesting.


Anyway, the minibus took us to a familiar place, and we decided to walk the rest of the way to the Layla House. I had my first contact with the dangers of Ethiopian driving as I was crossing the road in a crosswalk. There were two "lanes" (if you can call it that) that were turning onto the road I was crossing. The van in the first "lane" stopped, but the second car did not and I found myself staring into the hood of a little white truck. It was a close call. Thankfully, I was not injured. Good lesson for me. Don't ever take any traffic here for granted!   


During this time I called home because I had received an email with the subject title "dad" from a church member back in the USA. It said they would be praying for my dad and asking for healing for his body. I was very confused by this email, because I had not heard anything from back home concerning this. I had waited as long as I could to call, and when I called and spoke to my dad, I found out he was in the hospital and had his gallbladder removed! Wow! A lot can happen in just a couple days of not communicating. He was doing well and everything went fine, but I was still very concerned for him.


We knew this would be our last visit with Nigus before leaving Ethiopia. We walked into the room and he was sitting with his classmates. I gestured and asked him if he wanted to sit in Zack's lap. He slowly got up and sat with Zack while the other children sang songs. A few minutes later he switched and sat with me. During our last visit, we really just tried to hug and assure him the best we could. We found one of the older children that could speak very good English and Amharic and asked him to translate for us, as we did our best to explain to Noah that we would be coming back for him soon, and that then he would be coming to America to be with us forever. He nodded his head and seemed to understand. In a way we think it would have been better for him if he had not even met us until the next trip, but of course we really wanted to meet him this trip. I think it has just been very hard on him, to see us come and go, and now to see us go for 7 weeks. It must be confusing to such a little guy who has been through so much already. We just have to trust him to the Lord as we leave and continue to pray for him each day.


After we left, we both talked a lot about our trip as we were walking. This trip has not necessarily been better, but we both feel that we have been able to experience parts of Addis that we did not experience during our last trip. Mainly because this trip we have walked so much, and because of this been forced to interact in ways with the people that we did not do during our last trip. During our first trip, we had a privately chartered van we took most places, so we were still kind of in a little bubble in a way. During the past 5 days,  I would say we have walked at least twenty miles, and experienced many things along the way. Speaking of walking, we walked again to Metro Pizza, (third time this trip), and then as a farewell to Addis, walked to Family Restaurant for some Mexican fried ice cream- yum. The two restaurants are about a mile apart. Not something you would probably do in the USA, but something you would do here J  Then, because it was such a nice night, we thought we would walk as far as we could towards our hotel, then catch a minibus. Our hotel was probably at least three miles away, and we had no intent of walking the entire way, but we just got talking and before we knew it, we were pretty close, so we just walked the rest of the way. This trip has been great for Zack and I, and though we have missed Caleb terribly, we have really enjoyed spending time together. I am very blessed. This has been a great trip, God has kept us safe and healthy, given us good times with our son, and renewed our passion for orphans. We leave for Germany in the morning.

Referral Received for our second son from Ethiopia! Court Date 7/21 & 8/5
Traveling to Ethiopia 8/1-8/9!!!
Home with our son, Caleb Samuel, from Ethiopia
Adoption is a GOoD thing :)


Lib said...

What a blessing it is to read about your experience with Noah in Ethiopia. My heart was so touched by how humbled you were. It is easy to compartmentalize poverty and orphans and suffering when we have so much here in America. I continue to pray for you and for Noah and for sweet little Caleb. I can't wait to see pictures of Noah but, even more so, I can't wait to see pictures of him in a few months when he knows that this new family is forever. God bless you and we'll be praying for your dad, too - how scary! Glad he is on the mend :o)

Charity Hildebrand said...

Thanks so much for sharing about your time! It helps me know a little bit better of what to expect when we go (our court trip is in the beginning of Oct - YAY!).