August 22, 2009
Today we woke up early and ate breakfast at the guest house. We couldn't wait to walk over to the orphanage to pick up Mekonen.
It is a short walk between the Ritmo Guest House (above) and the orphanage. What a walk it was! My words and video don't do justice to all that happened everyday on that short walk. Ethiopia is one of the friendliest places I have ever been. The people are so genuine and happy, even though they literally have nothing. There are kids everywhere!
Each morning as we left the guest house and walked up the hill to the road, we were met with kids, goats, and sheep running all over the pathway. The kids usually run by with a loud "hello!" and some would come up and ask for money. This is real stuff, horrible reality for them. This is not someone begging who isn't in need of it. It's not someone who is on the streets due to poor life choices or mental issues compounded by drugs and alcohol. This is real stuff. Children who were wearing the same raggedy outfit the entire 10 days we were there. Children running barefoot to their small shack on the side of the road with the biggest smiles on their faces. These are children who after we walk by will go back to their square of home on the side of the road. Their houses are small tents/shacks the size of a pup tent with old dirty rags on top. It broke my heart. It's strange though- I felt God giving me such a gentle peace in my soul and felt him guarding me from the earth shattering emotions that can accompany some of the tragedy we saw everyday in Ethiopia. (Pictures by our friend Donovan Witmer)
Here is a picture of the final destination of our daily walk...The Layla House. There are the big blue doors we had to knock on every time we showed up so someone could let us in. This is where Mekonen has spent the last 6 months of his life. The small white sign in the upper left hand corner says, AAI.Here is a short video of some of the sights on our daily walk.
When we arrived at the Layla House, I felt so terrible for leaving him back at the orphanage overnight. Even though I didn't say it to Jon at that moment, I knew I wasn't going to leave him there again.
We got there and he was sleeping in his crib. I wanted to pick him up so badly, but I decided to let him sleep since we were on our way to Opportunity House, which is the orphanage where AAI's special needs children are. I really wanted to take Mekonen with us, so we tried to buy some time by completing our photo request list and hanging out with the other kids. But he was still sleeping by the time Larry, a fellow adoptive parent, showed up, who was going to Opportunity House with us. We decided to let Mekonen continue his morning nap and get him on the way back from Opportunity House. I knew we would only be gone a half hour or so, but I almost started crying as we walked away from him sleeping in his crib.
Opportunity House definitely pulled on my heart strings. There were many children there with physical and mental disabilities and although they are cared for, it is not the same kind of care that children with disabilities would receive here. Larry has knowledge of disabilities and physical therapies and did evaluations on most of the children there. I recorded his notes and Jon took pictures to hopefully help these children find families. They were precious. Many of them would be doing much better with consistent, good therapy and medical care. All of the children went crazy when we walked in the door. They were so excited to have visitors! There were several very energetic children and they loved to see themselves on the digital camera. They just laughed and laughed. It was an eye-opening experience into the lives that children with disabilities will have if they stay in Ethiopia and don't find families. My heart goes out to these precious ones and pray that God leads families to them.
After Opportunity House, I rushed back to the orphanage to get my boy. He was drinking a bottle and I took right over. I just wanted to take him with us. I stuck him in the carrier and off to the guest house we went!
After an afternoon hanging out the guest house, we went back to Layla for the going away party for the kids who were leaving to go home that week. (More on this to come with the older child adoption post). Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
While we were sitting on the porch with Mekonen saying goodbye to the families leaving for the U.S., we both began to say the same thing...that we did not want to leave Mekonen at the orphanage to sleep, but wanted to keep him with us instead. I was sooo glad that Jon felt the same way!!! What sweetness! It was the first night with our baby boy!
Then Jon, Mekonen, and I went to the Caribou for dinner. This is the only public place adoptive families can take their newly adopted children, so we went here a lot! It was pretty good food, although I didn't have much of an appetite while in Ethiopia. This was the first time the three of us were out alone together and it was wonderful. Mekonen fell fast asleep in my arms and was perfectly peaceful.