My first thought as I sit down to write again is that I can’t believe it’s only been a day. Holy cow, I can hardly remember breakfast.
Yesterday after our big embassy morning and ‘orientation’ back at the guest house, Gail came back and picked us up to go back to Layla to meet the boys’ birth mother. We had a number of anxieties about this, both for ourselves and for the kids, but we’re IN at this point, and meeting their birth mom, who relinquished them, is an important piece of history we’ll be able to offer the kids someday when they really want to know about their past.
I’m reluctant to over-share this most personal of details here on such a public forum, but I can tell you a bit: The meeting was surprisingly unemotional. Melkam drew back when she reached for his hand; both boys were quiet and downcast. Her face is the spitting image of Alex’s…her eyes, her smile, even mannerisms. She is a small woman and seemed very young, almost child-like to me. We all went together to sit in the social workers’ office to talk. She had a translator with her to translate Amharic to Sidamo, and one of the AAI social workers first translated English to Amharic for him. This is probably part of where the emotion got lost, our questions were to our translator, who then asked them of her translator, you get the picture. She seemed shyly happy to see the boys, but accepted when they didn’t seem so happy to see her.
We asked her what questions she had for us. The only things she asked about at first were if we were married and if we were Christians. She indicated that she felt we were an answer to her prayers for the boys. We asked if there was anything she most hoped for her children that she wanted us to know about. She said that she wanted us to “pray for them every time,” which I took to mean every day, and that she wanted us to raise them up with a good education so that they could be useful “to the people.” I think she means the Ethiopian people, but I also took it to mean that she wants to know that we will do everything we can to help them become productive members of society.
We learned that their father was a soldier and died somewhere in an altercation with the Eritreans. She confirmed that the boys have the same father. She told us she is working sometimes as a maid going from house to house.
All in all, I’m so glad we got to meet her, especially for the boys’ sake. All were willing to be in photos together, an important piece of history we’re glad to have for the boys. It was surreal, and honestly I don’t know how much to believe, but that doesn’t really matter either. The point is, the relinquishment in both her eyes and in Alex and Melkam’s seems to be unquestionable.
We prayed with her and for her, which was really beautiful. At the very end, after the photos and after she wasn’t so nervous or afraid of us, she asked for our email address. We declined, but told her she could contact us through the agency (this is actually a rule). We gave her a small photo album of the boys, of us with the boys, and a shot of our home.
And then we all returned to the guest house, exhausted!
Today we took the KG-1 class on a field trip to the playground at the Hilton. Eliana cried basically the whole time because she was overtired and I’m sure overwhelmed, but the rest of the children had a great time. We keep trying to figure out where Alex is with his English, because he appears to understand way more than he speaks. I just keep naming things for him, like today at the playground they had these big plastic animals and he was climbing on one. I said “Alligator, Alex that’s an alligator!” He looked at me, pointed to the next animal and very correctly said “Frog. F-R-O-G, frog.” and then he scampered off to play somewhere else. Ok, got it!
We are so grateful for how this trip worked out and that it is short. Yesterday I got a massive nose bleed like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t get it to stop and by the time I got it under control the bathroom sink area was splattered with blood and I had soaked through a wash cloth. I’m sure in the panic process I got unfiltered water from the sink in my mouth. Excellent.
Today Charles and I were sitting in a very, very hot van with one tired baby and thirteen or so excited kindergarteners, several staffers, and a severely handicapped little boy for whom they brought along a dusty old sports stroller because he is too heavy to carry. After placing Danny in the car, they were unsuccessful at wedging the stroller into the van with all of us, so they strapped it to the roof. The great thing is that when we were waiting for the kids to be rounded up we were getting a little tired, hot and irritable and wondering what the holdup was. When Danny (pretty sure that’s how they were pronouncing his name) was brought out in his stroller, Alex got a big smile on his face and ran up and kissed him on the cheek. The KG-1 class was complete and we could proceed to the playground. I LOVE that Alex! And my point in this story is just how much selfless love we witness here in the most challenging circumstances.
At any rate, just really ready to be dealing with the challenges of parenting in a place where the sewer system works well, the water is clean, and there’s an abundance of paper products. The sleeping options for the baby here are A) the bottom bunk of a steel-framed bunk bed with a euro-style outlet on the wall an inch above the top of the mattress, or B) a metal infant crib with low bars and chipped paint. We’ve tried both, as well as letting her nap in the middle of the queen bed. I’m doing my best not to have an American approach. After all, she’s survived worse. Going to the Hilton today didn’t help our perspective. Flowers and manicured lawns and clean surfaces and swimming pools…we LIKE those things!
I’m so sorry, I’m trying to upload photos and the internet connection just can’t hack it. I’ll see if I can post some to facebook!
tomorrow we meet Eliana’s aunt, and have a farewell party at the orphanage for all the kids. won’t be long now!