Tuesday morning we loaded up in the vans to bring our kids to Hannah’s Hope. After all the talk of bonding and attachment, it seemed a little strange to be dropping our children back off at the orphanage while we hit the town. But in the end it worked out well and ensured we would get a chance to see the place our sons and daughters came from, and buy things that they would keep as mementos of their birth country.
We had one of the best experiences on the van ride just before we arrived. We passed and waved to two young men, an accountant and a maintenance worker, who had just finished the night shift at Hannah’s Hope. Then, we saw a group of young women who came up to the windows as we slowed down and looked in at the children.
These were the “Special Mothers,” who care for the children at Hannah’s Hope. The titles were good descriptors of their roles. They helped children who arrived in many states. This included those who had lost their parents or had been given up as unwanted or unable to be cared for. Some were sad and flat and had already begun to shut down. These Special Mothers gave them love and energy and a new life and new hope.
We opened the doors of the van and the first woman reached out for Abby, calling, “Abeeeebech! Abeeeebech!” She embraced her and kissed her, as the two other Special Mothers reached out for other kids. They were a little tearful, knowing that this would be the last time they would see these babies. Abby has been at Hannah’s Hope since January 18. Since arriving, she has gained weight, improved her health, fought a bout of pneumonia – and likely formed strong bonds with several Special Mothers. It was very touching to us to see this love, and we gave them hugs and tearful thanks before Was ordered us back in the van.
We saw a small bit more of Hannah’s Hope as we dropped off our kids. It took a good half hour to separate from them. The babies were being laid in one of the courtyards for their daily sun bath. We got to meet a few other Special Mothers, and recognized one of the babies as one being adopted by Kristi’s friend from the Yahoo listserv.
Next it was off to the market. We had the best tour guide and host in Was, whose signature quote was, “No problem!” He could tell us about the history of Ethiopia: the fierce fighters, the oppression of the Derg, the pending elections or the culture of the Wolyatta region, where Abby is from. He talked about important people, like the owner of Pepsi-Cola in Addis, whose philanthropy supports many people and children in Ethiopia. He talked about how safe it is in Addis, where even 50 Cent recently walked the streets without being harassed, and women can walk alone at night, only fearing the occasional wild animal that finds its way into the city.
At the market, we were left alone to wander and haggle among dozens of small stores, offering traditional white clothes with embroidered designs, carved wooden decorations, local coffee (coffee as a drink started in Ethiopia, and it is one of the country’s major exports), hand-made jewelry, local music. There were Rastafarian clothes and decorations (Rastafari is a religion based on following former Ethiopian King Selassie as a kind of messiah, and many of the followers are in Jamaica). Street kids selling gum would occasionally wander up, although they were soon chased away by women with large sticks employed by the city, and tipped by our drivers to keep beggars at bay.
Everyone wanted to show us their unique wares, but none were overly aggressive. One proprietor called me into his store, no bigger than an elevator, to show me something special. He pulled out a book with wooden covers and pages that looked old but had some kind of laminate on them. It was a Bible in Amharic, with ancient pictures from medieval times. I thought it was great, even if it probably was not the aged, priceless artifact from Lalibela or Axum that he claimed. Two hundred Birr (14 Birr to 1 Dollar) sounded like a great deal, until I realized he wanted two hundred US Dollars. After much pleading on his part and offering cheaper alternatives, I had to move on. We did a bit of haggling on our purchases, but easily gave in because it all seemed like good deals to us, and profits going to good people who need them.
We had lunch at an Italian restaurant as a group. The Italians ruled over Ethiopia for around four years, but were pushed out after an overwhelming defeat at the Battle of Adwa. As a result, Ethiopia is the only African country not to be colonized. Italy did not leave behind its language or major parts of its culture, but you can get a good cappuccino in Addis, and a great Italian meal.
There were beautiful paintings at the restaurant, all for sale. We couldn’t find just the right one for us, but took some pictures of a few of the most beautiful. A man working there asked Kristi about our adoption, and thanked us for caring enough about Ethiopia and the children to be willing to raise them as our own. He wouldn’t be the first person to thank our group.
I talked to a couple in our group from Minneapolis. They are adopting a little boy who is nearly two. The dad is an orthopedic resident at the Mayo Clinic, and they have a good personal and professional network of doctors and specialists who they call friends. Because of this, they felt they could take on their boy, who is a little undeveloped for his age, possibly from malnutrition, but shows good promise now that he will have the resources of a great family with lots of love. They have three other children, including one who was adopted domestically, and has the same skin color as their son. They had a very similar adoption journey in how they came to choose Ethiopia and All God’s Children. Being there, we all felt at peace about our decisions.
Back at Hannah’s Hope, we were reunited with Abby and explored the infant area. Hannah’s Hope recently moved into a new building. The two joined homes were owned by brothers who must’ve been very wealthy, because they are more like two mansions (even by US standards), converted into rooms for children.
They showed us Abby’s crib, which was next to a window on the second story, looking out over the city. The walls were pink, with flowers painted on. In fact, all rooms are bright and colorful, everything is clean and organized, and while the rooms are full of children, there are plenty of other areas to play and sit. It is a special, happy place where children find healing and hope for a new future.
They had bathed, lotioned and changed Abby into a new set of clothes for us. We finally returned to the hotel, where we ate and napped and spent the remainder of the day. Abby woke up looking a little perplexed at seeing us again. But she quickly relaxed. She is a very content and happy girl, who has her own cycles of eating, playing, sleeping and repeating.
The hotel phones are not easy to use, and expensive, but we were able to talk to the kids both Monday and Tuesday night. We’ve had some great support at home, with family, friends and neighbors shuttling kids around to school, preschool, soccer, music and play dates. They all seem to be doing well and having a good time in these special circumstances. But I suspect there are times when they miss us as much as we miss them, and we look forward to sharing these experiences with them.
It was another beautiful day in Ethiopia, and there was a light rain that evening. The kids still practiced soccer in the field across the street. The restaurant was still full of adoptive families and world travelers, and we were still finding a smooth transition to being an adoptive family.