Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Okay, so tomorrow, dear Rumsey goes to Rick, king of dog sitters, so I can pack a box and a suitcase without him having a heart attack. My mother asked, do you think E is going to be okay with all the changes? I said, E? He will be fine, it is the dog I am worried about. Poodles aren't really dogs, but just wait till the new baby shows up. He is going to flip. But at least this isnt the first time. He will be sad. Yet another lovely being that will need a big piece of me. He is a fabulous dog, just very sensitivo.

Today, I asked E twice if he is excited about the new house. He said, I am excited about Baby Sister. Oh, what a dear, dear boy.

5 and 3/4 is an incredible age. He loves to play, with all his attention, pirates, chess, with the shark cards, jump on the trampoline or just read the Dragon books that suddenly have invaded since we started reading How to Train a Dragon. This led to some fake textbook on dragons and we are off, the new trend has been started. Last week, Batty became BAT BOY, Snowy got a mask and a cape, (his super hero identity escapes me) London Frog, SUPER FROG and they were the hit of the week. What is next? Playing in the moving boxes? Driving us to distraction while we move? Oh well. He helped a bit today. In between taking toys out to play with them, getting play-dough all over the counter, taking the chess set out and wanting to create a new game called catapult. He is so wonderful.

i will miss him in Ethiopia this time. He is excited about going to his grandmothers. But we dont know when. I wish we knew when.

Not knowing when we go.....there is an Embassy date on May 17 for our agency....... Lets hope that is the one for us. May 17. May 17. Lulu-B, Lulu-B. I hope we get an Embassy date on May 17.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Almost there...

We are almost there, and this really is the hardest part. For me at least.

Having met her, left her in Ethiopia, and now waiting for our Embassy date. Our updated home-study/I-171h approval has to crawl across the US of A, from the Bay Area CIS to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire so we can get our Embassy date. The date to go get her in Ethiopia.

(If you move, in state, while adopting, you have to update your home-study, which we have done, but boy, oh boy, I wish it had been at a different time, like three weeks after she came home.)

I just wanted to go check weather in New Hampshire. I want to call the Post Office and ask how long it will take and can the mailman make sure to make all his rounds, please? Mitchel says next week, Andrea, tomorrow. I hope for Thursday, but I am probably just crazy.

Lulu's room is going to be sunny, bright yellow. With the elephant quilt my dear Aunt Judy made for Zeno, our baby who didnt come home. I couldn't use it for Eli, but I am ready to use it now, and I think Lulu will love all the color in it. I do wish I had something as beautiful for Eli. Lulu also has the most beautiful owl quilt that Alice made her, in orange, with fabulous owls all over it. She loved it in Ethiopia. Considering all her stuff is in storage until next week, she does have some nice quilts! I cant wait to get her room set up. She has a beautiful new round crib and changing table, from a family right near ours. I think it is going to be a wonderful room.

E's room is going to be orange. He picked it, orange. And he wants a bunk bed, so Lulu can sleep in the room with him. Not yet, I don't think, but maybe before we know it.

I think the house will be lovely. A wonderful place for us to grow and change. I wish it wasn't making our date to get our daughter be in the ether, but hopefully it will all fall into place and really soon.

I am actually hoping for a minor miracle. The mail to go on time, the info to be updated, extra fast and a Embassy date that doesn't conflict with the election and my one gig this month, and we get a date this Spring. May she come home this spring.

Still waiting.....still waiting.....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Birds, Juggling and waiting.....

Today was an okay day, not a great day, just a day.

We are waiting. Waiting to see if our expedited home study update, fresh from our new house, makes it from the local CIS office to the National Visa Center (in Texas? I think?) in time for the deadline for our hopeful Embassy Appointment. As of today, it is at CIS.

Okay, that might as well be Greek to most people, or Latin at least.

Said another way, our paperwork is done, legally updated, as we are moving and the government needs to know where we live right now, and the paper trail is trying to catch up with our daughter. Ethiopia has had a court date (we passed), in which the government of Ethiopia declared her part of our family, and her birth certificate has been issued and our final forms, the I-600, DS 230 and I-864, electronically filed with the US Embassy, so that the US Embassy can see our intentions are clear, we want this child to be ours....Our updated homestudy, giving our new address is in the channels, now, we wait, hoping everything makes this deadline. So, we wait.

And wait.

Tomorrow, I check and see if there is anyone I am supposed to call.

And then we wait some more. And check email.

No rehearsal this week. But, as we are moving, I need to pack. The house that is. I also may need to pack to go to Ethiopia, but I don't know yet, as we are waiting to have an appointment.

It sucks.

We picked some paint colors today. The painters started a week early because we decided not to tent the house. We have baby birds. Yes, small birds, with 3 multicolored eggs saved our house from tenting, thus leaving the road open to the termites. I am sure the termite company will be able to come spray in a more localized way the darn pests without killing the birds, in fact, they told me so today.

Maybe we are nesting. We unilaterally called off the tenting, so...I think it is true, in more way than one. We are nesting.

Turns out, after I called Wildcare, that California has bird protection laws. I really love that. Really. Let's keep the birds safe. And what would have told Eli, oh, yes, we killed the baby birds? I think that is not how we want to start our life in our new house. Okay, termites, go wild! Birds, have babies, LULU come home.

Can you move and adopt? Yes. Is it a pain in the neck? Sometimes, like when you are waiting for an Embassy date, the final call to bring home your child. But, at least we didn't move out of state. That would really be a pain. Our home-study agency is rocking this one. Hit it out of the ballpark and is trying to help us bring Lulu home.

On the colors for our new 1970's house, beautiful bright YELLOW for Lulu, E man picked ORANGE, PEACH in the master bedroom, APPLE GREEN in the family room, OCHRE in the guest room, and a warm BROWN in the office. The living room is still up for grabs, but Paul (check out his blog and Mitchl are still working it out. I was a bit freaked out by the idea of LIVER AND PORK, but mitch meant CORK. We totally cracked up when I drew the line at painting the dinning room the colors of MEAT! I did get a bit nervous when they started discussing disco, but I do like the black and gray shag carpet that has been picked out. As long as it doesn't get too shinny. There is really no good disco, but I know I will grow to like whatever they pick or it will change before too long! That is one thing about living with someone who loves design, don't get too attached. The design will change.

The house is pretty darn cool. I like it. It has a pool, which is gated with a 6 foot fence, yeah! And a huge yard, which the dog likes, and plenty of room for everyone. I am so excited. No matter when we go, we will be moved in, as we move in next week, after the paint drys, or I hope it drys. the rain is coming tomorrow, so....let's think dry. The process was so up and down, that I didnt think I even liked it anymore, but it is really cool. A great place for a family to live for a long, long time. Even the dog is happy. I hope Lulu is happy there.

I am thinking about the people at the home-study agency who came in on their day off and pushed our papers out the door and have the numbers of people to call to ask if the papers arrived. It makes me so pleased that they know what is going on. Lets just cross our fingers.

I have band work to do, but how I will get anything done with not knowing what we are going to do and with not having one box packed and the movers coming next week.

I did clean the refrigerator and the kitchen cupboards out, but I so wanted to avoid packing I made dinner. And anyone that knows me, knows how I LOVE to cook. NOT.

Waiting sucks, especially this last round. The election in Ethiopia makes everything so un-clear.

I hope, I hope, I hope she comes home in the middle of our move. Please, let her come home in May.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring, Spring, Spring

Spring. Okay, things change in the spring, but This IS Crazy.

Got the keys to the new house. It's pretty cool. Big, empty, with a park like yard, tons to do, but pretty darn cool. 1974, here we come.

Also, this is the week of final stretch paperwork for Lulu-B. Emailed the I-600, the DS 230 and the I-864. No, I am not making these forms up. I thought they had to be mailed in and then taken to the Embassy, as we did with Eli. But two months ago, the US government changed it's policy, and we needed to email them to our agency, which Mitch did this morning. The forms must be into the embassy two weeks before you can pick your child up. I will put them in a list for the adoptive families that might want to cut and paste:

DS 230

The DS 230 you fill out as if your child is filling it out. No, she is not married. No, she has no job history, etc....

And, on the first day we had keys to the house, our home study update.

Okay, why have we waited to update? I am no longer sure, but they were waiting for us to be in our new house. So nice to see our social worker, on this journey with us for 6 years now. Plastic pirate cups and folding chairs, as we move next week, after they paint. Well, it is going to be down to the wire, in the new house, expedite left, expedite right, call this person, call that, our homestudy agency has kindly offered to push it through, extra, extra fast, with people working on their birthday and coming in on their day off. Please, please, please, let it be enough.

Our fingers are crossed that we are assigned an appointment and our update gets in by the skin of it's teeth.

Fingers crossed. We want Lulu-B home.

Now all we have to do is pack, move, unpack and go to Ethiopia. Wait, the cable guy, the internet, the tree guy, the......

wait, we can even skip all that.....all we want is Lulu-B home.... May she fly home in the spring..... May.....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eli's Trip to Ethiopia

Andrea & Eli, with sky-ball, waiting outside at the doc's

Eli in Ethiopia at the YGF

Hey, Eli, what was the best part of Ethiopia?

"Seeing baby sister."

What did you like there?

The proudest brother

"Giving her a bottle, reading her a book, playing skyball and playing with the kids."

Do you miss anyone?

"Baby sister and Ibrihim......"

Eli's portrait of Ibrihim

Eli rocked the trip. Ethiopians honestly like children. They really do. They say hello, Salam to them, shake their hand, teach them language, grab their cheeks. They like kids. Even Eli was a bit taken aback, at first, by all the attention. A shy child might find it really disconcerting, but he got with the program learned to say thank you (amasayganalho) and he could say everyone's names almost right away.

The famous SKYBALL

But pretty much anywhere we went, Eli had fun. He liked the surrealism of the lawn gnomes and mushrooms at the Sheraton, and the playground, even if our stay was very short.

Who knew they would have Amanita muscaria in Ethiopia?

The way home from Dubai


April 9, 2010

The call to prayer is happening for the second time since we arrived from Ethiopia.

Do not leave the Dubai airport, unless you want to see Dubai, as you cannot re-enter until 3 or 4 hours before your flight, and the flight is at least 6 or 7 hours after the Dubai flight from Addis. You can, of course leave, and take a cab and dump your bags at a hotel outside of the airport, but we didnt do that on the way, and....thus we were a bit out of the loop. And you only have to leave the airport if you check your bags halfway for pickup in Dubai….the whole thing a pain the in the neck. We gave up after we figured it all out, 2 hours in, and waited around. Whatever.

If you like to shop, there is a lovely mall in the airport.

YES, this day does suck.

We said goodbye to Lulu-B yesterday at Toukoul. And to Ethiopia this morning. I cant believe we cant bring her home yet, even though I knew that was the story. No, orphanages are not a solution that truly benefits children, just as foster care is not a great solution either. I have read lots of criticisms of international adoption of late. Please, feel free to visit an orphanage, even as well run as Toukoul, and then lets talk. On that topic, just read in the NY Times about a new study on aging out of foster care in the US…guess what? Not a great way to start life either.

We were surprised to find that many of the children at Toukoul do not get adopted. It really is an orphanage, and some of the children get adopted, most through a French agency and a few through two US agencies. Many, many of the children stay and move through their various stages, even going into training programs as they get older, to try and help them prepare for work. One caretaker said they never know which children are going to be adopted and which will be there forever.

We went on a tour of the new orphanage, which is outside of Addis, near a town called Akaki . It is owned by Toukoul. The children from Toukoul 3 were just moved there, next children from Toukoul 2 and Toukoul 1 will be moved in. It will house many of the babies that are being adopted as well as children 0-5 years of age, with a special section for HIV positive children, some of whom will re-test HIV negative, after months of medication, which the director told me they felt is a huge success. It is a fairly open, airy space and will have a guest house a few minutes drive away, which is under construction. The whole thing will be very nice, and already has a classroom, a library, a toy room, and way the ratios like a typical daycare.

As wonderful as it is, it is still not a family; is still not a Reggio Emilia Preschool, a Montessori Preschool or even a typical US preschool, with a curated number of children to caregivers and a mother or a father to pick you up when you are tired and stressed out after 3 or 5 or 6 hours. It was a very emotional for the whole family, especially knowing that not every one of the children you see, will be adopted.

Eli noticed, the children don't own anything. No toy is theirs, no thing is theirs, just their name, and their person. What a difference, a childhood.

More families are needed, not less. Children deserve homes.

Saying goodbye is impossible. I hope she flies home to us, home to us soon.

(37 hours later, after our lovely layover in Dubai, we returned back home. Ethiopia is very far away, but it is very much in our hearts.)

More details about missing days as I can write them....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday in Ethiopia

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I re-learned today that one of Lulu’s nannies is named Fasika or Easter. She told me before, but I immediately forgot. Just like everything, our sea legs are now under us….we had no lost in translation moments today. A miracle! Everyone’s name here has a meaning or is from the bible, just about, but they can be so different and filled with vowels, it is hard for my dyslexic brain to connect.

We were going to go to the big market today, but stopped at the post office neighborhood and went to the shops there. The first stall got the most of our money, then we started to bargain. The silver rattle in the one shop really was nice, as was the ebony lion, but I will have to pack it and we will wait for the next trip. We never made it all the way down the block and we never saw the big market. Our guide and best hope for translation was a great bargainer.

I got a beautiful Ethiopian cross and some leather crosses. I wonder if they will be too religious to give to most people as gifts. They are really, really cool, all the various crosses. There are a zillion, in silver, leather, wood. We bought a cross from the Amahara region and some silver necklaces for Lulu-B. Mitchel managed to get a decent price for some traditional scarfs with the Ethiopian colors, but it took 4 stores and several visits and we still got the foreigner price. Eli picked out some rocks, which the man selling was so shocked by that he initially asked 100 birr each for the tiny rocks. The next guys sold them to Mitch, quietly, for 10 birr each, but said, keep it quiet, keep it quiet.

I found the most lovely bird book in English on Ethiopian birds. Our awesome driver from the Toukoul Guest House (YGF), Ibrihim, looked at it for about 5 minutes and knew some of the calls of the various birds and where one can see them. He is massively experienced in tours all over Ethiopia and loves going on them. If you stay at YGF, the Toukoul Guest House, once you arrive, it is easy to set up tours of the country with guides just like him. No tour is too long! He has spent days with many of the different tribes and knows so much about Ethiopia and it's peoples. We hope to come back, someday, and spend a month traveling around and visiting the tribes, seeing the birds and animals, and hanging out with him. He led tours around for a long time, but now has a wife and two daughters and would like to stay closer to home. Yes, you can book trips with him or one of the other drivers, easily though YGF, once you are in country.

Being white, a minority by far,( I think I saw less than 15 white people other than those in our party today) there are two or three price levels. One place we visited has it just about right, Foreigners, 20 birr, Resident Aliens, 10 Bir, Ethiopians, 2 birr. At the lions of Judah, the park, we had to pay a camera tax of 20 birr, in addition and then our guides got pinched for 2 more birr each at the gate, just because. The market is the same, Foreigners, 150 to 200%, Returned Ethiopians, without Amharic, 75% and locals, 5 to 10 % markup. But sometimes, there are special fees…double for taxis on holidays, for instance or extra mark up for rain or late night taxis. Also, almost everyone works for low wages and earns their money in tips. Frankly, as long as I don’t pay 400% markup, and am closer to the 150%, I am happy. It’s money into the economy.

And it is so safe. Before we came, I was afraid of going to the market, afraid of losing our wallet, afraid of getting sick. Yes, medicine is not as common here. Yes, there are no car seats, yes, pay attention to your wallet, yes, bring your own antibiotics, cold medicine, novels, pens and paper at your beck and call, but other than that, it is an amazing place. The people are so welcoming, so openhearted. Yes, like any market, many people want a piece of you. The other day, at the lion of Judah, following our guide's lead, Andrea gave our half empty big water bottles to the three girls that adopted us for the trip. Their names were impossible to remember, as I have never ever heard the words before, but they had the biggest smiles and really wanted to just be friends. Sure a piece of chocolate would be nice, but….just watching us hang out was entertaining. They were kind and intended no harm….

Yesterday, we had a really funny LOST IN TRANSLATION event. Andrea and I took apart the lonely planet, when we all decided we were not going to go trekking, when we decided that we needed to stay near Lulu, and tried to figure out what we wanted to do in Addis. We made a list and asked Ibrihim if he could help us out. He said, sure, one day, we can do all of that....well, we spread it out, what with seeing Lulu everyday, twice for up to 2 hours at a stretch! One thing we both liked the look of was the Lion of Judah. So, off we went on the Monday after Easter. Mitch had a mild stomach ache that passed after a few hours, but he stayed home, thank goodness. Andrea, Eli and I went off with our incredible hosts, to see the Lion of Judah.

Imagine our surprise, when low and behold, we arrived at the LIONS of JUDAH. Yes, Hallie Sallise's Lions, and, being a national holiday, half of Addis, off to the zoo for the day. The lions were beautiful, but we thought we were going to a monument made of black stone. Yes, The LIONS of Judah are live and right in the middle of Addis, and as you can tell, very, very close to you!

And our hosts never whispered a word that we were asking them to take us to the equivalent of Fisherman's Wharf on The 5 of July. Not a word. What an experience! And a perfect Lost in Translation moment. I thanked our guides a million times. (the turtle lives there too!)

Speaking of chocolate, I have not seen it here. We need to go walk through a drug store, but most people go to their equivalent of the corner store, a shack on a dirt road that sells stuff….water in bottles, and other things. People also walk over to hang out. The main roads are paved, but the neighborhoods are a mixup of old and new, with lots of dirt roads. Cows, sheep, dogs hanging out, next to a car, and a block away a medium size hotel, the JUPITER, with internet and doormen, but the street in front, unpaved. A local coffee-mega-cafe-equivalent in one place, then people living in the street down the way. A group of at least 50 men, hand digging the new broad band in. Construction, with handmade Eucalyptus scaffolding, everywhere. A wild jumble of sounds, images and life.

Tomorrow we are going to give our toy donations (balloons, sidewalk chalk, pens, super balls, a few toy cars…just little things that fit in the suitcase) to the orphanage and hopefully be allowed to let Eli share some of them. I don’t know how it works, but I do know that you are supposed to check the presents in at t he office. Because of the day tomorrow, we may not get to Toukoul until the afternoon visit and unlike the weekend, the kids were in school today, so not in the yard to play are rousing game of SKY Ball, a new target product that has been a huge hit. I want to bring a suitcase of SKY BALLS next time to give away. It wouldn’t weigh much, but it would be bulky.

I don’t really remember yesterday. I wrote my mom on a slow internet connection, downloaded some files for 15 minutes and my five minutes of fame was done. Sharing a computer an hour a day, at a spot a lovely walk from our house….nice, but not really a part of the intra web!

Things to bring as gifts: Little bound notebooks, pens and pencils to go with, things depicting your city, postcards…. balloons, cloth diapers, baby blankets, clothes for older kids, toys, games, books, whatever will fit. I packed some SF Giants baseball caps (I dont know how popular they were!) and I am psyched to give them away. The boys didn’t end up wearing them.

Last , but not least, LULU-B.

She was so cute today in her short sleeve outfit. Yes she had two undershirts and socks on, but you could see her arms and her calves. She SO likes us. The main doctor, who’s name I cant spell, much less say, stepped in to say hello and respond to a question that we had. She was lovely, kind and said that Lulu would be spoiled now….she obviously was responding so well to us. It was a sweet comment, very kind.

It’s true. Lulu really does seem to like us, although we are the only game in town. We show up, entertain her, give her kisses. Today, she really, really liked watching Eli play ball with this amazing cloth ball I got at the Ethnology Museum, or the University Museum. She was very, very happy and moving very well. We went down the checklist from Dr. Arnoson (finally got it downloaded, we forgot it had home.

Note to self, read it before you leave, duh) with Lulu, in person and she is doing great. She is a bit stiff, but I think it is just from her trying so hard to do things before she should. She can push herself up 90 degrees, she can move both arms and bring them together to stuff in her mouth, she follows sound, she watches Eli play ball across the room.

She is just a bit over 4 months. She is out of her mind with wanting to do stuff. She ROCKS.

The Ethnology Museum is housed in a main building of the University on the second floor. We loved it. Also, so cool to see the library, with the students studying, just like a college anywhere. I bought a beautiful little ball, which they don't have at the Toukoul gift shop. Which has a ton of stuff, but much of it is put away. It is directly across the courtyard from the room you get to hang out with your baby in. It is open during the week and you don't have to haggle. You can look at the book and then they will take things out for you. I wish they took credit cards, but almost NO ONE DOES. Well, the Sheraton and Hilton. The nice thing about the gift shop, no bargaining as the prices are set and the money goes to the orphanage. The market, getting a good price, takes FOREVER! (We did buy some absolutely fabulous art, on credit card at a special gallery. The paintings are now in my house!)

Outside the university ethnology museum is this arresting statue. Each step represents one year of the Italian rule. Andrea loved this statue.

We are going to go get some more money exchanged as we only changed $300, and with trying to shop for Lulu-B, gifts for people at home and wanting to tip at the guest house, as the people are so very cool….we just don’t want to run out and not have money for everything.

Yesterday, we went to the Entoto mountains for a few hours and saw Emperor Melika’s palace and the outside of a beautiful, the most traditional, Ethiopian Orthodox church.
The countryside is just a half hour away; the air is fabulous and the view of the city great. There is supposed to be a wildlife park up there, but we forgot to ask about it. The air was really clear and we even met, just for a moment, the caretaker's, a couple that live in the traditional way. The palace and the church were well worth the visit.

I hope someday to travel to see more of the animals. With Lulu.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter Sunday

April 4, 2010

Wow. The time is just so full. Today was Fasika, or Easter.

A beautiful thing we are experiencing about Ethiopia is how openhearted people are. Today really is a day of rest, especially after almost half the population stays up to go to Easter service from 11 pm to 3 am. You need a day of rest. Also, the Muslim population and the Christian population are very peaceful towards one another and everyone takes a holiday and gathers with family to eat traditional food and have coffee. The streets are empty the first half of the day and the roads almost silent. Then, people go out walking in their neighborhood, just to be friendly and to hang out.

We went to Toukoul in the morning and many, many of the children were dressed up in all white for the holiday. The children really played with Eli today, and he tried very hard to keep up. They are bigger kids and the difference in their lives is very clear to them, not so much to Eli. He just loves having new friends and he does pretty darn good sharing his sky-ball, but what a trip.

Today, we were treated to two special celebrations, both for Easter and both fabulous. Ethiopians are very proud of all their cultures and really enjoy celebrating by cooking, eating and having the coffee ceremony. I know I read this, but really, they are! Abyssinia, the restaurant is so cool, especially after seeing in the two houses we were lucky to go into, the TV tuned to Ethiopian television and Ethiopian tribal music and dance.

For lunch, at the Guest House, as they do for most holidays, they made traditional food, with the goat from last night, and kindly told us which foods were fully cooked and which ones were half cooked and we sat down with some of the staff and had lunch. The two cooks, Wendil and his assistant, the young owner of Toukoul, Gabriel and his friend, and afterward, everyone, the whole staff and us, shared coffee together.
A beautiful celebration and we ate way too much.

We feel very lucky to be meeting several Ethiopians that have returned after growing up in other places. Some were adult adoptee’s and culturally are from their new country, and some were raised more in Ethiopian culture, but have never lived here as adults. There is an ability to connect about life that is really interesting, and an amazing thing to meet these people, people who our children may some day become. One of the people who works for Toukoul and YGB said that the number of returning expatriates in her generation is about 20 thousand. She just returned from our collective hometown, San Francisco, and her nephew possibly goes to the same school in Oakland that some of our oldest friends children go to. What a small world.

We went and saw Lulu-B again in the afternoon. She is so beautiful. The nurse on her floor was so kind today, even though she was away from her 3 children on Easter, a major holiday. The nannies were just leaving for church, all dressed up, in beautiful dresses and such a wonderful thing to see the devotion of the people. I am not particularly religious, but it is an incredible reflection of their culture to see and meet so many devout an kind people.

Lulu. She is interested in everything.
The tree, us, me, Eli, the books I brought, the playing children. She loves the book Joshua gave Eli, about sounds. She loves the book about baby animals that my mom gave her. She even liked the book about all the different skin colors. I wish I had brought a rattle, as she loves to put them in her mouth. She came to see us today, all clean and in her heart outfit that I dropped off, with her nails clipped. Yesterday, she had been changed into a onesie,….yes on top of her undershirt. They kindly provided pink wool booties, sewed on with thread, as she would get cold. If you are bringing items to donate, bring some clothes with feet and long sleeves. Maybe in the summer they dress a bit less warmly, but if the sky is cloudy, the clothes go on. Just like in Guatemala!

Eli really wants to connect with Lulu, but doesnt quite know how, yet. I made sure to give him big hugs today and tell him what a great big brother he is, while lulu was in the room. He is rocking this trip; sharing his toys, playing with the kids, trying to listen, failing some, but generally, making eye contact and being a rock star. It is expected that he shake hands with everyone, every time he comes in a room. They LOVE kids and want to connect. It looks to me as if it makes even him just a bit shy. It is very directed attention and he is generally doing great. He is trying the food, playing hard and being super loving to HIS sister.
I am so very glad we brought him, my fabulous little ambassador. He is also getting more comfortable with staying home for next trip.

What we did this evening was go to another traditional dinner, the second celebration. Fabulous, and incredibly interesting. In the airport hotel that we stayed at in Atlanta, we met a wonderful woman, Marta. She found out we were going to Addis and said you MUST go see my sister in Addis. She invited Mitchel and Eli. He said, okay. We took some presents from her to the kids and added a few token items. They lived in a small, I think middle class neighborhood, 10 minutes from here in a very, very Ethiopian neighborhood which is about 15 to 20 years old. We were served dinner and hopefully ate the right things. Unfortunately, we were still so full from lunch, we couldn’t do the food justice. We avoided the lovely fresh salad and maybe accidentally drank some juice made with water, but I hope he didn’t know the word for tap water! I will let you know. We had no idea what it would be like to have to Ethiopian feasts in the same day. We couldn't do the food justice.

The house was modest, but inviting, and arranged for the coffee ceremony, with grass on the ground and our hosts so fabulous. They enjoyed meeting us and were surprised that we were, in their words, so nice, so willing to hang out and try to find some humor in simple things,
just like Ethiopians! We shared the family pictures in my little book I made, which has been a huge hit, and explained that we were adopting Lulu-B. The uncle, the patriarch, later made sure to say, there are so many, many children, even in his family. Hewit’s coffee was fantastic; even I had a sip, which may be why I am writing so much. We also took pictures for everyone and we will email the photos to Marta, the person that invited us. Marta has been working abroad for 3 years and they miss her and she them. They were so happy to see the picture we had stored on the phone, they each kissed the camera, as if they could kiss her. There were about 15 people, from children to brothers and we met them just a few at a time, so it was a bit confusing.

We learned that it is good to say their name and shake hands when meeting, and then again when you say goodbye. If you have forgotten their names, you can ask again at the end and say, goodbye. Luckily, their names were all biblical, so if you could figure out which bible persona, (they sometimes are very different), it was easier to remember. The mother was beautiful, modest and wore a head scarf. A teenage girl started the coffee ceremony. Marta’s sister finished the coffee ceremony. They kept sneaking more beer into our glasses. They almost all spoke English, at least a little. No one ate with us, but they asked Ibrihiam, our driver into join us. The oldest brother, Abrahiam, who is at home is in college, for accounting, was lovely. Hewit and her husband live, in Saudi Arabia with her son. Her daughter, who is 7, stayed home to be with her grandmother. Hewit, later, even told us that she felt it was too restrictive to have her daughter in Saudi, and that she cant stand not being able to drive and having to wear the full burka is so restrictive. Interesting to have a conversation about women's rights in Ethiopia, with and Ethiopian woman. Very cool.

There is a cool series on women in Ethiopia. I dont know how long it will be up, but check it out:

Saturday, day and late night Easter Service

April 3, 2010

Okay, so I don’t think we can go anywhere. What we need to do is stay here, do some small trips and hang with Lulu-B. She does need us, we need to be here.

She has a little cold, which in the US might require medicine. It made us worried so we asked to have a doctor listen to her chest. They arranged for the nurse on duty to listen to her chest; it was clear, thank goodness, as the doctor's were out for the weekend. The staff was very helpful in setting up the appointment, (and she got better every day we were there!)

As it is the Saturday before Fasika (Easter), which looks to be about the same as asking to see a doctor on Dec 24; everyone is out buying their lamb or goat and running around getting ready for church, going to see family, The city is filled and has been for a few days, filled to the brim with herds of cows, sheep, goats and chickens. Very common today to see someone walking along pushing or pulling a horned supper beast. Also, people waiting for rides and cars everywhere…just the same feeling of rush, rush everywhere, just like at home on the day before Christmas….

Mitchel is a bit overwhelmed, but doing okay. Between the huge diesel generator, which I believe Anton could make more acceptable, noise wise, roaring away, then, today, for Fasika…just add one bleating sheep. Yes, our own lamb/goat animal, knowing something is up, right across the street and brought in for its last night. As Eli likes to say, as we would see them passing by, their goes someone’s dinner.

We went on errands with the staff after a quick visit to listen to Lulu-B's chest with the nurse. Her chest was clear! We drove to a neighborhood, near Toukuol, got out of the jeep, and walked up to the goat people. Because we were there, they tried to charge double! But, the cook bargained them down, picked out a goat and into the jeep it came! We dropped it off at the butcher and then we were off to buy some meat somewhere else.

And here came the funniest "lost in translation" moment. On our way to the next errand, we were told we needed to buy dog meat. Mitch and I waited in the car this time, both trying to figure out how we were going to say no to dog meat at the special Ethiopian diner. When Wendil got back in the car, Mitchel asked, meat for dogs or dog meat? The whole car had a huge chuckle. The meat was for Gabriel's dogs, the G in YBF. They needed meat for dog food. Ethiopians dont eat dog! Boy, were we worried, for about 15 minutes. It was really funny.

We have been welcomed to celebrate Fasika in several ways….tomorrow, the chef Wendil is making a special Ethiopian celebratory meal for us to share with the staff. Yea! We requested it and they are making it. We, of course, have new fresh grass cuttings, for our own coffee ceremony. Some people make a living cutting the grass, tying it up and then selling it to people for their special coffee ceremony. And tomorrow night, we are going to dinner at a Ethiopian famiily's house. We met her sister in the hotel airport and have presents to bring to the children. I also asked, and we are to bring flowers and bread. (We ended up just bringing some token gifts for the children!)

But first, Andrea and I have a special invitation. Tonight, if we can wake up at 11, we will go to church. So many people go that someone is saving a space outside the church for us to come and participate. Church will go from 11 to 3 or so, then there is a special break-fast celebration….one of our new Toukoul friends, our main conduit to all things baby and many things Ethiopian invited us to go with her mother and sister. Yesterday, anyone who didn’t work, and who is Ethiopian Orthodox, went to church and did this super fast, Namast-like prayer. Siad (Asaide), the night manager at the reception desk went to church and prayed this week for six hours yesterday, on the day they do a special bow all day long. You can go for an hour or for all day….He called to wake us to go and said, hopefully, wear nice clothes. Andrea had come prepared, so we managed to be mostly in white and our heads covered in cloth. They were pleased we dressed in white.

The service was beautiful. We met and had a special bean (maybe something like soya bean) mixture, bread, like hot crossed bun bread, and Ethiopian spice tea, just a small snack before you break the fast after the service. The fast, I think, is no meat for 55 days, just vegetarian, for Lent. Then we drove to St. Mikael’s and sat outside. The chanting was amplified from inside the church, and then we just followed along.

It was a beautiful thing, everyone in white, men and women. People coming to sit as late as 1130, and people moving over to let them find a spot. Not so crowded to be uncomfortable. Some people were outside under trees and stars, we were in these covered open huts that surround the garden of the church, many, many inside church. To be inside you need to arrive before 3, as by then, all the space is taken. Sometimes, it was call and response, sometimes it was two people singing at once….a few drums and later, a bell that repeats, sometimes the singers did small variations, slightly behind the main voice of the priest. When our service would take a small pause, you could hear the church just a bit away and the echoes of their singing. It was such a treat to be part of a tradition that stretches back to the beginning of Christianity, in my daughter’s country.

Such a beautiful Easter morning.

Happy Fasika.
Melkam Fasika….I think that is how you say it!

Friday, Noontime & 3 AM Sat Morning

April 1 and 2, 2010

Today we woke up, had scrambled eggs at the Guest house and walked Mitchel to the Jupiter Hotel, walking distance from our guest house; they have free wi-fi. We are confused as to the name of where we are staying, but it IS the guest house for Toukoul, called YGF. Trying to figure simple things out in a new country is sometimes way more complicated than one would think. Like, why did the gate clerks in Dubai walk around the waiting room taking people’s bags? We got ours back, but it was a bit crazy. Gate check with a difference. Ordering dinner, the same. Any simple thing…the same.

We went and saw Lulu-B this morning. She remembered us, after just one visit, and was quite happy to see us. She gave us several smiles. They brought her wrapped in the blanket we brought her yesterday. Eli had a rousing game of SKY ball with his target sky ball with some of the children in the yard while we waited to see her. Eventually, a little boy got a bit upset and yard politics dictated that the nannies move the children away.

They have a nice room with lots of sofa’s and chairs to meet Lulu. One of the nannies brings her to the room and later they even brought a bottle for us to feed her. She ate it all up. She cooed and Andrea massaged her back. She looks as if she always turns to the right. Her left side is very stiff. We will definitely off to the osteopath when we get to take her home. But she was bright eyed and ready to hang out. I think more relaxed and engaged today than yesterday. Her body is really strong, and she is very alert and holds her head up well. She has a bit of a cold, but it is hard to tell if it is in her chest or just her nose.

She LOVES her big brother Eli. He is a big, big hit. He insisted on going back in the afternoon and he held her. He read her a book and is generally very, very engaged. We agreed that she is going to be a good sister. She really likes Mitchel; he sings her little songs and tells her things. I hog the baby most of the time and tell her sweet nothings. Today, she could look at me in the eye a bit. She really enjoyed her bottle.

Baby details may write boring….I don’t know. But saying goodbye chokes me up every time. The people are all lovely, but there are miles of laundry to do, too many children to caretakers. Each time she has been delivered by a different nanny and picked up by a different one. I remember reading that there were so many nannies. Now, I see what they mean. If one brought presents for four to six nannies; it would be a good start, but not begin to cover the staff.

There is also a beauty to the children playing in the yard. It would be a big cultural shift, to leave as an older child.I think the older kids are still enveloped by typical Ethiopian culture. If they go to the states or Europe, gone may be the hanging out with their peers, which appears to be such a normal part of Ethiopian culture. Just hanging out, playing, being part of things. There is similarity to traditional Latin culture; children are loved, talked to a played with, but they also get a bunch of time to just hang out.

I asked our host about the big kids. I presumed they were all going to adoptive homes, but no….Toukoul 1 and Toukoul 2 are basically what makes up the space where Lulu lives. All the children ask her name when they came in. They do know her name. Most of the older kids are not going to the US.. My heart aches. They are such lovely children.

This afternoon, the greeting room was full of two beautiful babies and their parents to be, so we went and hung out with Lulu-B in the nurse’s station, downstairs in the back. The nurse on duty was lovely. She told me she took care of 6 rooms of children. There are 4 nurses that rotate and each group of children have 4 nannies or babysitters that rotate. Lulu-B has 4 nurses, and then at least 8 nannies, along with all the other children and babies in her group.

Having Eli is like a passport to a different world. The children are small by US standards, I would have guessed closer to seven and eight. Three boys came in a played with Eli. He entertained them for about 15 minutes. They all could say, My name is….one boy was 9, another 10. They had huge smiles and thought Eli was a crack up. Everyone of the big kids wants a balloon.

We have toys to give out, but don’t know the best way. Just some matchbox cars, some super balls, side walk chalk and some thick balloons on a rubber band. I wish we had more. We are supposed to check them into the office, then we maybe, can give them out. I could see that if only a few children got toys, it could be a disaster. Maybe they wait until they have enough for everyone.

The battery is fading, and I should try to get some sleep. So many children here. I know our family can handle one at a time, that is what each child needs, but it is so hard to see the beautiful spirits and to be here for just one.

My heart breaks.

3 am Friday Morning, April 2, 2010

Addis Abba

Ethiopia is far away. That seems obvious, but it’s three in the morning and we are so darn jet lagged. Practically speaking we are just about 12 hours off. Mitch’s cell phone is even off by an hour. Who knows why, but there you are.

Yes, it does take forever to get here. Really, it took us forever!

Luckily, once everyone settled into it, it went really smoothly. Dubai is a trip; people from all over the world, and the first time where I experienced being in a group where people from the middle east were at least 40% of the population. Lots of Muslim men and women, people from India, Africa, many, many faces that reminded me of the silk route….it was really cool being in the minority.

In the Dubai airport we had a mediocre dinner at a forgettable place in the middle of the airport. Had a great breakfast at PAUL’s. Definitely will return. We tried to wake Eli up for dinner at YGF in Ethiopia, but he wouldn’t have it. I had to carry him upstairs after grabbing half a bite. The only time he really gets cranky is jet lag. He is my sweet boy.

The people at the Toukoul Guest House or YGF, are really nice. Andrea walked to the Jupiter Hotel to use the internet. We are slightly disappointed that they don’t serve Ethiopian food everyday, and the shower, of course, sucks. But, really nice people and I our driver is cool. Cant wait to have my sea legs and feel more used to the high altitude. Between that and jet lag it’s hard to have traction.

We met our daughter today. She is beyond compare. Words really fail me.

She was very, very excited and really likes to move around. She has a tight neck on one side and favors her other side. Andrea did some body work on it to loosen it up. She liked that. I held her almost the whole time, except, big brother, Eli was a great baby holder. SHE loved Eli. Wanted to know what THAT was all about. Got a bit stressed by all of us in the room and all the attention, but I just walked her.

She fell asleep in mitch’s hands, on his lap. Just for a moment. The time went way too fast. I don’t know if we will be able to go anywhere. I think we may just stay here and go see her twice a day.

She has a bit of a wheezy cough. We are going to email Dr. Aronson and ask for advice. We can also email Dr. Sofia and they have 3 docs at Toukoul. I don’t know if getting medicine here is even possible. I imagine for the cold, there isn’t much to do, but we will ask.

She has perfect feet, one ear that sticks out and a great spirit, both engaged and contained. I could go on all night, but I think getting some more sleep might be smart.

Upside down, downside up……we came to see her. I think it was important. She needs the love. We are so lucky.