Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Part I

OK first my little disclaimers before really going into our thoughts and experiences about our journey to Tessa.  

I think everyone's experience in Ethiopia is inherently unique and special.  Circumstances, while on the surfacing appearing the same, are really quite different family to family. Additionally, we were in the first group affected by the new rules about not having your child out in public with you. That alone made our trip very different from what other families in the past have experienced.  

I don't think you can truly know a place or a people after 10 days.  You can scratch the surface but to get deeper you need to be able to spend the time - really live the place.  We have a snap shot of Ethiopia in our minds but with only 10 days in Addis that's all it is - a snap shot.  We would like it to be more and for Tessa to have more so we will be going back in the future and hopefully we will be able to build a much deeper and truer picture.

Finally, all children are so unique and react differently to what's happening to them.  Tessa was by far and away the most 'upset' of the children in our group of families.  She cried and fussed and was miserable.  She was sick and scared and missed her caregivers.  The transition was made harder for her because of the new rules.  It was not a fun 10 days for her and frankly by day 9 I was pretty miserable and scared myself.  However, many of the other kiddos seemed to glide through it. Again, each families' experiences are very unique.

So after all that, here goes.... Part I... From the beginning!  (And feel free to skip any of the boring parts!)

Luggage from hell?  Not so bad!!   When we checked into United at LAX for the fist leg of our trip we made sure our bags were tagged all the way through to Addis. Once they were checked in and gone we never had to deal with them again  and all 7 pieces made it to Addis in one piece!  Amazing!

Which leads to - Fly Emirates Air.  Yes we had the overnight in Dubai but for us that turned out to be a plus (we weren't nearly so jet lagged when we got to Addis). The service was very good. Emirates very obviously hires young, good looking, enthusiastic people from around the world. Seriously, this must have been what airlines in the US were like in the 60's.  Coach is coach but they have a great entertainment system at every seat with movies, TV shows and video games. It made a long flight bearable through the power of distraction.  They also had a flight information channel which showed exactly were the airplane was.  We could clearly see where we were and how much further the flight had to go.  Weird as this sounds it helped in dealing with the length of the flight since we had a real sense of things moving along.  The food was more then just edible it was actually good - very unairline like!  Emirates also paid for the hotel room in Dubai since it's a 'forced layover'.  No problems getting through the airport in Dubai and the van for the hotel was waiting outside.  I can't say the hotel room was all that great but hey, we were tired, jet lagged and happy to lay down.  We got a solid 8 hours of sleep and a hot shower.  Breakfast was also provided (as was a dinner we were just to tired to eat). The shuttle took us back to the airport and since we didn't have any luggage except the carry-ons it was easy to check in for our next flight.  A relatively short plane ride later and we were in Addis!  
                                                                                                             (Arriving in Dubai from NY)

The Addis airport can be a little confusing in finding the visa office but as other bloggers had advised we just kept turning and following. There was NO line and we got our first sample of how things are done in Ethiopia. The visas and receipts are all processed by hand. Literally the ladies were using carbon paper between the copies so it took a little time for them to get it done. We were also glad we’d taken Gladney’s advice about no money being older then 2002. The gentleman in front of us had two bills from 2001 neither of which were accept much to his great frustration.  I changed $100 at the airport money exchange as Joe collected our bags. Which leads to - use the baggage handlers at the luggage carousels!! These gentlemen loaded our bags onto the carts and then hustled us to the front of the customs/baggage check line. They exchanged a few quick words with the people running the customs/ baggage check and we were through! I think it took less then 2 minutes and no one looked at or asked us about anything!! And we’re talking 7 big heavy bags here. I can’t even remember how much they asked for but it couldn't have been more then 5 dollars.

Travis and Ryan were waiting outside customs and here is where the new rules were really starting to make things tricky. We needed to go to the Hilton to check in and they were able to go with us to the hotel to help with our luggage but normally Travis would have brought Tessa to us there or he would have brought her to us in the living room of the Gladney baby house. With the new rules newly in place, we couldn't have her with us at the hotel and Travis and Ryan were being run ragged trying to take care of all the families at different guest houses and hotels as well as figure out childcare so people could get out. That left us to check in, dump our bags in our room, get our driver and go to the Gladney foster care home on our own. We literally walked in by ourselves, found our way up the stairs,  said her Ethiopian name a few times and were pointed to her crib by the caregivers.

And here is the very, very best part because...... there she was!!! There was Tessa Kidist looking out at us with her big soulful eyes!! We finally, really, truly had our daughter in our arms!! It felt like a dream we’d both had for so long had suddenly magically materialized right before our eyes! And it still has that half real, half dreamlike quality even remembering it now! Still Magic!

                                      (Seeing our beautiful daughter for the first time!)

And here is the not so great part. It was not the best thing for Tessa to have us meet her with all her caregivers there and for her not to come with us right away.  She let us hold her and love her for a few precious minutes but then she wanted her caregivers back. They were right there and she kept lifting her little arms to them and they kept taking her out of ours – even when we didn’t want them to.  I can’t completely blame the caregivers - in the past they wouldn't have been there for the transition but the whole situation with the new rules made it hard.  And, they're very sweet women who love the children. But every time they would take her from me it made Tessa not want to come to us even more which resulted in a traumatized baby who cried simply looking at us which, of course, made the caregivers reach for her more. 

                                         (Tessa with one of her favorite caregivers)

The situation set a pattern for her that was almost impossible to overcome the entire time we were there – even after we moved to the guest house because we still needed a caregiver in order to go out at all since we couldn't have Tessa with us in public. We had thought a few days of transition at the Gladney house followed by a move to the guest house with us would be easier for Tessa.  Boy were we wrong.

Coming soon ( I hope) ..... Part II

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