Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Two Months ... and Counting

As I think about the fact that we have been home with Kenen for 2 months, I wonder when it will happen ... when I will not be so aware that he has not alway been with us ....when we will feel like he is so much a part of us, that it doesn't make sense to count months.

Instead of focusing on the things that have been difficult these past two months, I thought I'd highlight some of the good things ...

* He sleeps!! In his own bed (which is currently in our room). He might wake up in the early morning hours, but usually it is to go to the bathroom. Then he snuggles up next to me, and falls back to sleep.  He sleeps peacefully and soundly.  This is by far the only thing that is keeping me sane most days. 

* Kenenisa is fearless.  He rides his scooter faster than many kids twice his age ... and it only took him a couple of weeks to go from tricycle to razor scooter.  I am hoping to keep him off a bike till Spring, since I will definitely not be able to catch him once he's on the bike.

* He loves water.  Loves taking showers, the sprinklers, water guns, pools and the ocean.  Can't wait till he gets to take swimming lessons.  I'm sure he will be a little fish!

* He seems to be comfortable with our family and delights in each person differently.  Though his favorite is no doubt, his sister, Kristen.  Before the kids went back to school, he would often refuse to eat breakfast till Kristen came down, and would wander the hall calling her name.  Bummer for him, she's the sleeper of the family, and can sleep till 9:30 or 10:00 most days.

* He has been great at sitting and watching soccer games.  This surprised me very much, as I expected him to want to run onto the field and kick the ball. A small bag of goodies has done the trick.  Since we have at least 3 a week ... this is a very good thing.

* He is smart. His language improves every day.  He even remembers which way we should turn when we are going places. The number of things he has learned in 2 months is phenomenal ... from just learning the things that are now familiar to him in our house, to a new language, to new faces.

* He is very confident in his abilities, and wants to try to do everything.  I'm pretty sure that he thinks that he could drive a car, if we would only give him the opportunity. 

* He prays each night before we turn out the lights ... "Kristen, Daddy, Kristen, Daddy, beans, makena (car), Fuh-ly-zun (Ryan), Efan, cake, food, Mommy, Kristen, Daddy, house, Nana, Grandpa's house, Sophie (their dog)... you get the idea.

Most importantly, he knows we are here for him ... this is progress ... to be sure.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Most of this blogging about the trip is to make up for the lack of journaling I did ... there are so many things that I know I've already forgotten from our trip.  Our flight home was scheduled to leave at 10:15pm ... we arrived at the airport by about 7:30pm.   My biggest concern was keeping Kenenisa attached to us and keeping him occupied for the hours that we had to pass.  Since we had not eaten anything before leaving the guest house, our first priority was getting some food.  Fortunately, there was a little restaurant near our gate where we unloaded all of our carry-ons and sat and relaxed for a bit.  Jennifer had not been feeling all that great the whole time that we were in Addis, and had not eaten much.  For some reason, she thought that egg rolls and fried rice sounded good ... so we ordered that plus some french fries and cake.  Kenenisa loved the egg rolls and the chocolate cake.  We all took turns taking our bathroom breaks and wandering around a bit ... and evidently, only "lost" Kenenisa once ... when he took off running after Kristen and I when we were headed to the "toilet".  I think it was Ryan that sprinted after him and caught up to him.  Oh, and it was around this time that we actually watched Kenen's hands everytime he needed to go to the bathroom. Jen finally said, is he making a sign language letter?  Oh ... he's signing the letter "T" for toilet ... after 3 days, that was quite helpful to realize.  Discovered after returning home, that waving the letter T is a universal sign for I need to go the restroom in the deaf community.  Would have been good to know.  And when we went through the last security check into the gate area, for some reason, Kenenisa got on the ground and crawled through the security check.  They didn't think too much of that.  I discovered that it is very important to the Ethiopians that "their" children are behaving well, because whenever someone would stop and speak to Kenenisa in Amharic, and I would then ask what they said to him, it was always something along the lines of "you are obeying and behaving, right?". 

While we were waiting for the plane, a very nice American gentleman came up to me and started asking about our story and if this was our new son.  He said it brought back fond memories of 2 years ago when he and his family brought back their son, who was about the same age.  He said several encouraging things that filled me with hope for this long journey.  Once I got on the plane, I saw all of these people in matching t-shirts ... and recognized them from an organization that I follow in the blogosphere called Ordinary Hero.  Click on the video to see the incredible work they were doing while they were in Ethiopia working among the people who live at the Addis trash dump.  I felt like we were traveling with famous people. :-) It is amazing to see what God can do through ordinary people who are compelled to make a difference in our world.  Only later when we landed in DC, did I find out that this nice man that spoke to me was the husband of Kelly Putty, who was the founder of Ordinary Hero.  :-)

Other memorable moments ... Ethiopian Air serving fish .. twice ....; rude man behind me who wouldn't let me recline my seat for the entire flight; Dave getting up to go to the bathroom and leaving Kenenisa with a plate full of food alone in his seat; Kenenisa locking himself in the airplane restroom ....

Pouring powdered creamer on his butter
 Overall, the flight went well, and Kenenisa was amazing. He was not afraid at all ...and slept great, with a little help from Dramamine.  We arrived in Wash., D.C. ... tired, glad to be on American soil ... and not happy at all to find out that our connecting flight to Chicago had been cancelled.  Despite our best efforts, we were going to be spending the night in D.C. ... delaying our arrival home by one more day. 

Monday, September 6, 2010


Day 6 - July 23rd   - Tour of the Coffee Factory and Packing to Head Home

In case you didn't know, Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee and it is it's leading export.  And in case you want to increase your Amharic vocab, Kenenisa taught us the word "boo-nah".  And yes, he wants to drink it each morning, and seems to enjoy it.  So I'm assuming that it was not a new taste for him.  Though I try to keep his decaf since he doesn't seem to need more energy.

Anyway, back to Ethiopia, we left early for a tour of the Robera's coffee factory.  It was fascinating to see all  the work that goes into preparing the beans.  This company supplies beans to Starbucks.  We were able to buy coffee to bring home, as well.  We never did get to participate in our much anticipated coffee ceremony that I had heard so much about.  Maybe next time ... :-)  Here are some pics from our visit that morning.
Very yummy bunna

Hundreds of women sorting beans

After the factory tour, we went and had lunch out one last time.  We ate at The Blue Top restaurant which is right across the street from Lucy's where we had eaten previously.  Since we still were unsure what Kenen would eat, we stuck with Ethiopian. Problem was we had him order, and he ordered "wot" which is Ethiopian stew, usually made with chicken.  When they brought it out, it was definitely not what he wanted.  So I described what it looked like when he had it at Lucy's, and we learned it was Shiro ... a dish made of ground chickpeas.  This is still his favorite!  We headed back to the Guest House, and had everyone shower and pack up ... thinking that we had plenty of time before we had to leave for the airport.  We were even hoping to get some dinner before leaving.  However, at the last minute, our driver, David, realized that a big storm was coming in, and since all of the luggage is carried on top of the van, it was important to get moving as quickly as possible.  So our departure from the Yebsabi Guest House was quick with very few good-byes to the people we had spent the week with.
We wanted a good-bye pic with Ashenafi, but Kenenisa was upset
about something (obviously) so this was as good as we could get.

I was more than a little saddened at the realization that we were taking Kenenisa away from the only life he had every known.  And even though, this new life would be filled with blessings ... for him, at this point, we were just strangers taking him away.  I wondered if he had any idea what an airplane was, and had they told him that we were getting on one, and was he scared ... all questions that I could not ask him.  So I hurriedly asked the driver (standing outside in the rain), "Does he know what's about to happen?"  So he bent down and told him we were getting on an airplane and going to America ... and the driver said Kenenisa already knew that and was excited.  And then we walked into the airport ... away from all that was familiar.

I hope that some day he will understand why he had to leave, and even more so, hope that he will still love Ethiopia and will have a desire to help the country that gave birth to him.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Days 5 - The Leprosy Hospital

One of the things that Dave was determined to do while we were in Ethiopia was go to the Leprosy Hospital.  He had been told by his brother, Eric, who brought home their 7 year old daughter from Ethiopia in May, that the gift shop there was great with lots of beautiful things at great prices.  I mentioned that my husband was REALLY into the shopping, right?

So this was not part of America World's schedule for us.  In fact, Thursday morning was the morning that was set aside to visit the Kids' Care orphanage in Addis where many of the children at AWAA's transition home come from.  I had concerns right away about taking Kenenisa to an orphanage when he had only been with us a little over a day ... and checked my thoughts with the psychologist at the TH, who agreed that taking him to an orphanage might be upsetting.  So that just confirmed that we were going to make our own arrangements and head to the Leprosy Hospital.

This was an amazingly large compound, and we would have loved to have learned a bit more about the work they do.  Instead, with our limited time, we went directly to the area of the gift shop. Many, if not all, of the gifts are made by patients at the hospital, and the money from the sales goes directly back to the work that they are doing there.  We saw many women who were doing embroidery and weaving work ... and most of them were missing at least some parts of their fingers, due to leprosy we presume. 

The funniest part of our shopping time was when the "sales girl" in the gift shop looked at Dave and said, "You're back?" with a confused look on her face.  Turns out that she remembered Dave's twin brother from when they were there in May ... she mentioned that he bought a LOT ... must be in the genes.  Here's a picture of Dave with her.

and another one of Dave and his brother, and his brother's son (who was also in Ethiopia) from a couple of years ago ... just a little family resemblance.

Here are a few pictures from the hospital

Some of the beautiful needle work

Done by these ladies

Jen handing out gifts to some of the children

The other memorable moment was the complete breakdown by Kenenisa while we were shopping. If you've read my previous posts, you will know that I did not do a great job having toys, food, etc. with us when we went out. This was just another of the "mom fail" moments.  His friend Ashenafi had a darling little backpack that his parents gave him when the first met him. It was filled with all sorts of goodies, and his mom said she could not get him to take it off for anything.  Obviously, possessions are important for these children who have never had any.  So understandably, Ashenafi was quite excited about his goodies, and decided to display them all to Kenen while we were shopping. It was actually kind of amusing to me to be able to hear the sing song tone of voice that totally transcended language, as he would pull things out, and say (in Amharic) so I'm just interpreting by body language and tone of voice ... "Kenenisa, look what I have".  "And you don't have anything." "Ha. Ha. Ha".  Now this is not meant to be a slam on sweet Ashenafi because I am confident that had their positions been switched, Kenenisa would have done the EXACT same thing.  But needless to say, it left poor K in a complete puddle of tears over the lameness of these new parents that he had been unlucky enough to receive ... :-)