The days on the long road of one families Ethiopian Adoption

This blog started out as a way to record the twists, turns, highs and lows in my families journey to adopt siblings from Ethiopia. Now our children are home and we have just finished celebrating our first year as a family.

I'm Kimberly (or Fendesha), an adventurous person who aspires to be a vagabond- but for now- I spend all of my free time travelling and my down time thinking of travelling. I'm a mom of 3 (the oldest being my gorgeous canine companion), a IT project manager, and on occasion I find myself the primary writer of this blog.

Happy Reading and thank you for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Late night visitor

Denis let Geneva out into our back yard last night- around 10:30 for her usual evening stroll and pee before bed. This has been her routine for the past 3 years that we have lived in this house.

Denis began to hear noises – unusual noises-coming from the night-darkened area where the newly placed swing-set and little play house are in the back yard. As the noise increased in intensity - he called up stairs to me – “honey, I think we have a problem- do you know where the flashlight is?” He looks for the flashlight and I react in my normal- "knee jerk" way and run outside to see where/how my dog is. What in the world could she be getting into- is she stuck in that house?? Ughghghg....

As I approach the tree lined area of our yard, my heart pounding- the noise in the plastic house gets very loud and I turn abruptly around –running and screaming as I find myself being “chased” by a smelly skunk- Did I say SMELLY!!. The odor was awful- and right behind the skunk comes running – my wonderful but dopey St. Bernard! She is very excited to have an animal that she can CATCH!!! My dog was running up to this skunk over and over trying to catch it (insert dumb dog here).

Denis and I are yelling the usual amount of banter you would hear “get in the house, what are you thinking, dumb dog- come, COme and more COME, get over here.. etc!!!” Now he's joined me in our attempt to a) get the dog that is near the skunk, but each time the skunk runs in our direction we run for our “lives” back toward the house. Geneva picking up on our fear and the energy (???) – lifts the skunk with her mouth- throws it- and eventually but unhappily strolls our way.

SHE STINKS.. it’s now 11:00 or later and Denis and I are completely confused. What do we do?? She's really upset and asks for help- her eyes are all red and she's scratching at her nose Dawn dish detergent- somebody once told us about Dawn Dish Detergent. I think we should try it! Denis says “I’ll go inside and research what to do” –laugh. I’m like get me the dish detergent- we’ll try it and then figure it all out afterwards- she smells so bad….

So- 2 hours later we have a very well washed dog and we are walking with the little flashlight we found- around our neighborhood hoping she will dry well enough. Between the laughter- during our walk we discuss in depth our options for the night- sincerely confused about what to do with her when we return to the house. She has never spent the night in the basement and will probably be very unhappy. How about the garage-but there’s still a lot of construction materials around- will she be safe? Of course-there’s also that, we just had the basement finished- do we want the newest addition to the house to Smell like a skunk?? Outside? Should we tie her up outside? Hmm- options seem limited..

In the end- all of us exhausted, squeaky clean (or as much as you can be in this situation) and somewhat dry- her sweet dad (my dear husband) –totally caves in – gives her a good sniff test and says – “come on baby, It’s been a long night for all of us- let’s go to bed”….

Laugh- yes folks, the dog slept in our room with us. Now that’s true love!!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Americans abroad--the bad and good

My brother in-law who lives in Norway recently wrote to me and said ‘I can’t wait to chat with you about what it is like to be an American abroad’ giving me this idea for this blog entry.

As you know, America’s policies and actions greatly affect other countries- more so than other countries affect us. You know the saying “when America catches a cold the whole world sneezes”. It’s difficult to understand this statement until you’ve traveled and really acquainted yourselves with individuals that are not from the US.

You will find that most educated people worldwide-know more about US domestic and international policies than you do. I attributed this to the vast news channels they access and they don’t spend so much time polluting their minds with the crap masked as news that we see on Fox or other local broadcasts (I mean who really cares who Edwards slept with-JFK was actually a decent president wasn’t he- one would have to question his bedroom choices- of course it's all about rating not quality - and quality unfortunately doesn't sell (look at Walmart's popularity).

In fact why are we so obsessed with what happens in other peoples bedrooms after all (sex sells of course)????Most other countries don’t air their dirty laundry out for everyone to see (okay-so let's limit this by adding- other countries without a royal family –laugh).

Why do we avoid the tough questions and focus on our petty little issues?? –Simply look at the “issues” being discussed in the presidential debate… for god sake people- did McCain take advantage of Obama being on vacation- is this really a BBC segment worth listening to ??

So – you get my point- when some countries are dealing with issues of food costs, corruption, media prohibitions, educational challenges- we are critically talking about peoples vacations, bedroom behaviors and whining about our (still low from a global standpoint)- gas costs for our monster vehicles.

Enough on that- It’s challenging; the perception people have of Americans- some of them are more obvious and well known like that we are seen as gluttonous (we’re FAT- seriously folks- we are obscenely obese), and rich (we shop and shop and shop). Just look at the size of the vehicles parents drive- and how much "stuff" we insist on bringing when we "go anywhere". You should take a look at the list of the items- future adoptive parents- bring to Ethiopia with them- is hysterical-let's just stop there and say that it's clear that most of the world is also far less materialistically motivated than we are. These are the kind of humorous ones.

The one that troubles me the most is that we are seen as bullies in our international policies.

This is difficult for me as I am not –let’s say- politically inclined- in any way shape or form-and my opinions are usually harsh, candid and difficult to listen to-so I am going to "abstain" on elaborating on this subject.

As an American in Ethiopia- I really felt ignorant in the middle of many conversations ( and the few Americans I met that I discussed this with said they feel the same way when they travel). I did not know as much about the global economy. I learned how very geocentric the US -we have become (or always were, I'm not certain) fairly isolated from the rest of the world. I was surprised by how little I knew or really understood about global events. I didn’t know as much about world history, current events, heck I didn’t know as much about my own political situation.

I paled in comparison with my vocabulary, of course I can only speak (well) one language- the list goes on and on.. but basically- compared to the average upper middle income Ethiopian- I felt pretty damn stupid (more so than I do at home). Thank god people noticed I had a good heart and giving nature.

In most of the countries I’ve visited people are less cynical of others (than I found that we are but perhaps this is a "northeastern US attitude-giggle)- and have different expectations of people-overall as I travel I find most locations are more open and accepting to vast personality types.

American's are seen as doing a lot of good internationally on a personal level. People love the extrinsic nature most Americans are seen as possessing. This was a highlight of my feeling as an American. To be seen as charitable, giving and loving as a populace was a pleasure for me to hear.

American's are organized and clear in thought. Many other countries- specifically Ethiopia here- have difficulty planning things. We are a far more efficient culture - and I think it's because of how much we juggle in a day. Although they are very busy in Ethiopia- they are not efficient as a populace- in their day to day activities. Their thought process is not as analytical or all encompassing as many of ours are- true "planning" seems to seriously be lacking in everything from business construction to an individual's dinner plans.

That's all I can think of at the moment- and I’m not sure this topic is of interest to anyone- but I thought I’d put it out there…

Non-profits, NGOs and children

Children need so much in Ethiopia. But, it's really through education that we can truly help people elevate their day to day social status. When you are educated you can not only help yourself but your family members and when you educate a group of children- you are elevating an entire community. It's amazing to see the impact the teachers have on the children's lives in a developing nation like Ethiopia.

While I was in Ethiopia, so many families opened their lives and doors to teach me about life there. I saw a need - and I'm working on opening an NGO (international non-profit) to keep these poor children in school. Also, on a personal level to do what little bit I can to make a big difference in some of these families lives. It's amazing how many families need help to keep their children in school. Schools provided me with of pictures of children and their background information- children that are the poorest of the poor in these schools - many of the children I have met personally- that need assistance- and I'm very excited about having the opportunity to bring the information/awareness about these children to your doorstep. Together you and I can really impact a growing nation.

When you hear the stories, the reason for starting this NGO –and see how much you can affect one person’s life with very little money you'll be excited (I hope anyway). Our money goes so far in developing countries and I've seen firsthand what a small amount of money can do. It'll shock you. Soon the organization will be set up (a couple of months and finally I'll be happily asking you all for money- giggle.

I’d like to comment on another company doing a lot of “good” in Uganda:
Johnny Long has helped us get in touch with some people that work with Hackers for Charities (he's so awesome- everyone really in the hacking community is). So - while you are waiting for me- if you have the desire to give away any of your money- I strongly recommend that you give it to them. In-case you missed that - it's And if you don’t know the name Johnny Long- look it up, if you’re into computers or hacking at all- you’ll be intrigued.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

There is something Magical about Ethiopia

There is something Magical about Ethiopia

Have you ever met anyone that went to Africa- came home and said "boy that sucked"??

My trip to Ethiopia was life changing. Ethiopia has this magical power that pulls at the heart strings of people who visit her. Ethiopia expertly played mine as if my heart were a harp and it an expert harpsichordist.

The unmasked poverty, the innocence of its children, the tribal diversity of its people and the rich cultural traditions fed my heart and soul what it had been missing in the rich but empty western life I lead.

On my arrival I was shocked by the things I saw: Poverty presented to me in the streets and in the villages. Poverty represented by her people in an unimaginable volume, presented in every imaginable way. There were so many children begging along in the streets- big kids, little kids- kids holding smaller kids, groups of boys sleeping together on the crowded, diesel intoxicating sidewalks- often protected by a dog or two. Men with deformities, disgustingly exposing their deformity, hoping to extract what little sympathy you may have left in you- asking for 10 Cents, or men with really thin bodies holding a letter in Amharic saying that they were diagnosed with Aids, gave it to their wives, lost their jobs, their wives and now live on the streets trying to support their non-infected children, women with children at the car windows begging –with a similar story. Soon you become desensitized to it- you eventually walk down the street saying hello to them all- saying “ Eg-zabia-estaling” or-“may god provide you with all of your needs”. You can’t support them all- so you find more effective ways to funnel money into the communities (or given the corruption you have learned about you hope that they are more effective). Money to the churches for specific functions, money to food banks, money to orphanages, money money money. “Misses Money” has a small amount to share- and so many places will take it- who will use it best and who needs it the most????

The electricity and water rotate on and off throughout the week but it’s hardly noticeable. You work around it. Big corporations work around it, the locals drink a Macchiato at the shops that have generators. They sit and talk- a little about the government and recent events, then family, then friends- sometimes about a school or their education. And the poor people look in- sometimes walking into the restaurant in their ripped up rural clothing asking for a Birr (10Cents) – sometimes receiving some change, mostly not. The lucky poor have become entrepreneurs- they sell lottery tickets or sing for the money-but not so many. Most are so destitute that they sleep or sit rocking them-selves back and forth while they beg –noticing you as little as you notice them-some mothers asking their children to beg (teaching them what they need to know to survive). There are so many-that at times- you’ll find yourself tripping over one-as you hurry to your class or on through the congested taxi area-trying to score a spot for yourself on that mini-bus. That mini-bus you need to catch, they are going to stand outside the windows of, looking in- with their hand raised- the children -happy to receive even a half of piece of gum from you. They will wonder around the mini-bus standing – asking for some change- at the door while you are sitting sometimes for 15-20 minutes for the bus to fill up. Mostly the buses fill up quickly because of the transportation shortage (in that case you’ve waited outside for that 15-20 minutes to catch the bus) but sometimes you will sit there waiting for your ride-while the poor person stands there staring at you – asking for money. All he wants is 10Cents or 1 birr… but you do not give it. You hold onto it- tired of the requests- tired of feeling like a walking ATM. Tired- of not knowing what your 1 birr can do to really help. These poverty stricken people are not like the poor at home. They are barefoot, hungry, barely clothed. As you walk around you see little to no drug use- even cigarettes are not popular. Especially not with the hungry- they are a luxury- these are the world’s real poor people you are saying no to.

You are a foreigner and are reminded by the children every day that you are different- that your white skin, blue eyes- stand out. They call to you “Fereng or Ferengi”. At first you hate this, then you make a game of it and play with the children.. Calling back or giving them the smile they desire (only encouraging this behavior you dislike-but you laugh at the irony). I would joke fully yell back – Habesha, Habesha- or “Ethiopian/local” and the children would giggle some-more. The poor children laugh and play in the streets – the middle class children seeing you as an example of what they see on TV. Do you have a boat, do you have a house? Have you been on a plane? If you are alone- Are you lost? They come up to you- hold your hand and practice their English. Some ask for a Birr, or Dabo “bread” after being with you for a while, some right away, some not at all. You never know.. but all of them want to be with you. I would sometimes have 10-12 children walking to the bus with me. Sometimes just one would come and we could have a nice talk, sometimes a small group of 4-5 boys wanting to know where I was going or if I knew about football- often they would ask me to buy them a football.

I would meet other volunteers that would say- they didn’t like Ethiopia- that the poverty was too much or that the culture is learning to beg and has become a culture of aggressive begging to foreigners. That other African nations have not been affected by this and that foreigners created this behavior with the hand outs in the first place. There is always a westerner blaming something on somebody it seems. The the reality is- they are begging for food- not for beer money- or shelter (they probably have some sort of plastic to cover themselves with on the street during the rainy season). The poor that we see in Addis, they are lucky, they are the countries are the rich poor people.

There is something magical about Ethiopia. I believe the magic that touched me was finally the ability to really make a difference. Ethiopia is a place in the world where you leave feeling like you can really do something to help. The little bit that you as a single person can do, really will impact people’s lives- perhaps an entire communities. In Ethiopia, your time, education, a little bit of hard work and some money -can really make a difference. In the western world where we hurry past the street bum that has a shelter to sleep in and Nike's on his feet-and we think about the time we volunteered at the food kitchen or the money we gave to the church, where we recycle and drive our hybrids to shrink our “carbon footprint”, where buying the fair trade “label” is how we are “empowering” a farmer, a real impact is seldom tangible.

In Ethiopia- what you can do for the “world” is Tangible. You can see it, hug it, watch them smile-laugh- and sadly- even be thanked for it. And for this reason alone- Ethiopia really is magical.

Friday, August 15, 2008

NGO and NON-Profits

For those that do not know- I'm in the very very early stages of starting up an International NGO (non-government office). We call them 501 (c)3 or Tax Exempt Non-Profits :-). It's focus- educating the needy children of Ethiopia.

It's amazing how many families need help to keep their children in school. I have tons of pictures of children- most I have met personally- that need assistance.

In terms of the NGO- The database that was developed for AOET was just offered to us to utilize and a web developer has offed to develop the webite.

Johnny Long has helped us get in touch with some people that work with (he's so awesome- everyone really in the hacking community is. So, if by chance- while you are waiting for me- if you ever have the desire to give away any of your money- I strongly recommend that you give it to them. Incase you missed that URL- it's

Our money goes so far in developing countries and I've seen first hand what a small amount of money can do in Africa. It'll shock you. I'm handling the paperwork and the reading up on starting it all.... so, soon the organization will be set up and finally I'll be happily asking you all for money- giggle.

When you hear the story, the reason for starting this and see how much you can affect one persons life you'll be excited (I hope anyway- stay tuned for announcement on the website- it'll be a couple of months).

Anyway- children need so much in Ethiopia. But, it's really through education that we can truly help people elevate their day to day social status. When you are educated you can not only help yourself but your family members and when you educate a group of children- you are elevating an entire community. It's amazing to see the impact the teachers have on the children's lives in a developing nation like Ethiopia.

So many families openned their lives and doors to teach me. I saw a need - and I'm working on moving forward in life and doing what little bit I can to make a big difference in some of theses families lives.

Stay tuned... :-)

Getting Back in touch

I've been slow to re-integrate back into my life here at home. Focusing on the millions of photos I've misplaced through out the house, sending thank you cards, updating this blog, our adoption paperwork and dealing with some personal stuff that I've not been good to myself and reached out to my loved ones here.

If you've been looking for me- please call and invite me out someplace or ask me to make you dinner-etc. I've been absolutely terrible about leaving the house and need to get off my freaking @## and start living here again.

News for the day:
our adoption is pretty much officially off hold. Our social worker has a few last minute things to do and we are waiting on a government office or two-but we're in good hands and well- pretty much active on the magical and mysterious "list" that never seems to move in terms of our place on in referrals (good lord people- we only moved forward by a month or two in the 6 months we were on hold). The on hold part simply provided us with a much needed mental break in this whole process-giggle.

Anyway- here's our latest in changes we've made to our child request- it might surprise you:
we're now approved for: Twins under 4 or Siblings (one under 2 and one under 4).


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why do we change an Ethiopian's name when they visit ?

I read some posts/news articles today that got me thinking about the Ethiopian Naming system and how it interacts with the West (and my experience while I was out there).

Some background Naming information-
The north and the south are very different in their thoughts and traditions and customs (note that the government that is in power currently is from a tribe in the north and this has it's impacts with-in the country). And understand that tribal segregation with-in the country is active, alive and well. Families often do not want their children marrying outside of their tribal back grounds and it seems that this tribal segregation keep the naming traditions for each tribe clearly delineated from another's.

Since a majority of Ethiopians often do not migrate far from where their family originated from- many tribes live in certain areas of the country. This creates divides or lines between each tribal region. You can often tell when you are driving with in the country when you have crossed a "tribal" line- the population (rural) will be dressed differently and the houses/landscape will often be different as well.

For those that are not familiar with Ethiopian naming it is widely practiced (although not entirely the case) that Children are given a name (usually given by their parents and significant in meaning to them)- then the first name of their father and then the first of their Grandfather. If you ask an Ethiopian their name (in Addis) they will generally say their given name and their father's first name in response along with it's meaning. Their grandfather's name is not recognized locally- it's mostly just for documentation purposes and unless you are very close to the individual and specifically ask it is unlikely you will learn the grandfathers name.

Now if you travel to the south and small sections of the north (to be fair in this discussion) - certain tribes use their father's given name and then their given name in response- you can learn more about this in this discussion on the following blog url:

So to my point-
When you look at an Ethiopian's passport it "in general" contains- Their given name as their first name- their fathers first name as their middle name and their grandfathers first name as their last name. This is very confusing for a person coming to the west because they are then called by their Grandfathers first name. Now if you look at all of their documentation - Diploma's from HS or College, Doctor's information-etc.. it will only contain (again in general) their fathers first name and their given name

For example I'll utilize a couple of my friends names:
Eldana ........... Berhene . Eldana has never utilized Berhene but when she filled out her Visa paperwork- I laughed and said to her in a joking way- in America you would be known as Miss Berhene (she's a teacher). She laughed and said she'd have to teach herself to respond to that-because she never really knew her grandfather and that if she did respond she would think they were looking for her father. Although in Ethiopia she is Ms. Eldana- because they utilize first names.

Another example- Aron ......... Hagos. Aron's father passed away when he was young and he is known locally as Aron ......... He has a strong attachment to his "sur name" because of this-but when he comes to America he will be known as Mr. Hagos. Having not known his grandfather and his father dying at a young age- he does not associate with the name Hagos at all-but has a strong identity with ..........- so- as he fills out his visa paperwork and considers what his name would be in America he feels uncomfortable in some ways with going by Mr. Hagos- as it feels like he is disconnecting with his life (and perhaps his father) on this journey.

It's interesting when you take in different cultures- look at the migratory patterns of the world and it's people and how names change when you move or visit from one culture to another. Aron and Eldana are perfect cases of in the culture they will be visiting in the future- they will be recognized by a name that they have never heard themselves called by.

Often times I was asked what my fathers first name was- and would giggle at the idea of being called Kimberly Robert. Or better yet- Kimberly Robert Robert. Thank goodness that they go by first names and called me Wassero Kimberly. I think Being Kimberly Robert (being that I didn't know my father)- is not something I could have easily gotten use to.

But in my Ethiopian visa It still read - Kimberly Calderone. So, Why is it-that the Western Visa's change their name to conform to our naming standards but their Visa's do not make me "conform" to theirs? They also use western naming conventions. I also find it interesting that each countries own Passport system follows the standards developed by the Western system. Obviously there's a global passport standard out there and we know who produced it (laugh).

When we adopt our children- their new Ethiopian passport names will become (from what I understand) - Given Name- Biological Father's name- then Denis (Adoptive father's first name). I am entertained by the idea that our children will have Den's first name as their last name until we legally change them here.

In the process of Adoption - We often want to do all we can to keep the given family name intact thus allowing them to maintain some of their identity/connection to their culture. But it's interesting to consider that if an Ethiopian simply choses to visit America as an adult- that we "respectfully" call them by something they've never been referred to as.

Here are some additional links if you want to learn more about Ethiopian naming (although they do not directly and completely relate to the discussion above):

Ethiopian Jews and their names:

Let me know your thoughts-

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Meringe Cha

This is popular Ethiopian Song ( a few years old) that the children did a dance to on parents day at Lem Lem school. They were so cute- wearing hats, holding canes and doing the twist as well as dancing around as if they were in the video while they sang on a stage of a building that was rented out for Parent's day. Parent's day is when the Kindergarten children graduate (big deal with caps and gowns-etc) and when the kids perform dances, songs and skits that they've practiced with their teachers and others. Awards are given out to the top students as well. It was a chance for me to thank the teachers and the students for the opportunity to teach at Lem Lem.

On Parent's day- The other teachers got me on the stage to do one of the dances that I had a lot of fun doing. It's called the "grage". I can't spell it sorry. I just love it. You move your legs back and forth and kind of clap while moving your shoulders. It's great fun. There are many dances and during my visit I was presented with a lot of time to practice them. But the Gragge was a blast. The Meringe Cha is not Gragge but it's an enjoyable little ditty that you'll have fun listening to. I was also able to give some of the students awards and give a little speech (that I didn't know I'd be doing and wasn't prepared for-laugh). There's nothing like winging it in front of hundreds of Ethiopians. I kept my calm but making myself believe that the majority of the crowd was not going to be able to fully understand me- so I sad what few words I know in Amharic-and then jabbered on in English using a nice and thank full tone in my voice.

I just love the song- almost as much as I like Teddy Afro- so I couldn't help but post it here.
There's a bit of advertising before it starts- enjoy. It's one of those snappy contagious tunes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meeting my host family

I don't have a lot of interest in witting in detail about my trip today so I'm copy and pasting this from my "journal".

Happy reading...

When I entered my host family’s home first I noticed how western it really looked.

Upon arriving at their home we honked our horn, the compound doors opened and the family came out with the servants to help me take my stuff out of the car. I was lead ahead of my stuff and showed my room- once they determined I was pleased with it my luggage was carried into the room. My room contained a silver blinking cross up in the corner-a wardrobe, a desk and a bed with a hand made crochet quilt on it. It was a gorgeous room and to my embarrassment later one of the larger rooms in the home. We then went out into the living room where there was the typical western couch/chair and attached dining room configurations. One couch, two chairs, a coffee table, a TV in the corner that is always on (the TVs were almost always on in all of the homes during my visit)- and in the attached dining room a large dining table and a china cabinet. The curtains in both rooms were noticeable handmade. And a beautiful carpet on the floor of the living room that in the rainy season will be covered with a plastic so that it is not soiled.

The home I lived in had 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, an outdoor kitchen and an indoor kitchen. The house was modern in feel but had painted mud walls – a common kind of construction – you’d never know it if you were not told, and part concrete. One of the bathrooms was more modern than the other. Although the owners of the home live in this modest house with much happiness and pleasure they are sometimes embarrassed of the stature they hold in society as school owners and lawyers –but have this modest home. For me, it truly envelops the feeling I have for this family. They are people who work so very hard for their country- knowing that education is the path to empowering the future of their country but for themselves they have what they need.

During my visits to other homes I began to notice that my home was very modest indeed but as I visited these more western dwellings I became more and more attached to the place I learned not only to call but also felt like home.

When we sat down in the living room on my first day- I as the guest of honor cut a beautiful piece of Ambasha. Ambasha is a northern Ethiopian bread common for Tingrean and other northern cultures to celebrate an event with. The guest of honor cuts the first piece and then it is served to others. Learning that sharing your food is a sign of affection – I then took my piece of bread and fed both Sami (the director of the volunteer organization I traveled with) and my host Mother Atsede. This is also the first moment I met somebody that will change my life- my host sister Eldana. While eating the bread and drinking Axum wine (a local Ethiopian wine that is a bit bitter and drank mixed with Coke by the locals- note that the Coke in my humble opinion does not make it taste any better- I stuck with the south African imported wine after giving up on drinking the local wines on my visit there). I learned about their family history and some about the school I would be teaching at. Looking around the room you notice a picture of a previous king of Ethiopia- in the line of their family photos. As the family was introduced to me I inquired about each member on the wall of the family. There was Atsede’s grandmother, great grandfather and eventually Ras (King) Yohannes (sp). This was her great great grandfather. (I think- I Need to get this right for the future). The story of her family follows this introduction and also my first glimpse into the struggles of the people in Ethiopia’s turbulent political history. After a delightful introduction I had my first Ethiopian home-made dinner. It was during fasting season (prior to Easter) and it was all vegetables. When Ethiopians fast there is no meat or dairy in their diets. My first meal was delightfully similar to the Ethiopian food I had been eating in the United States. It was exciting to learn that the food I had fallen in love with at Fasika and at some of my friends houses was the food I’d be eating for the next few months. After dinner my host sister Eldana helped me unpack my multitude of things and I began to see the wonders of her personality. I already could tell I had so much to learn from her acceptance and excitement for the world.

My first night at my host families home I could hear dogs barking, music playing and eventually the Orthodox Christian church and Muslim Mosques nearby chanting their calls to service. I quickly discovered how valuable those earplugs I brought with me were going to be. For the next 2 months I slept fairly peacefully with my earplugs in. Did I mention if you are going to Ethiopia- bring earplugs :)

Goodbye and Thank you Ms. Rocky

I called Ethiopia this morning- and chatted with a good friend to see how everyone is. People are finishing up on their college final exams and since it's rainy - they are all working a lot right now- waiting for the nice weather to come back. I can't wait to call my host sister- a little later this week. I just learned that Rocky the family dog Died - and it's made me very sad. She died while giving birth to puppies- none of them survived. Female dogs are not as desirable as male dogs (so I've been told) because of the fact that they sometimes get out of the compounds and can become pregnant. (For many there's just not the extra money to spay or neuter your pet that it's not popular practice).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Random thoughts that may not matter-"adoption" and "the birth family"

There are times as an future adopting parent -when you are in line with the other future adopting parents and making connections with adoptive parents in other agencies and your own- when you see the sheer number of children being "processed" by the orphanages/agencies shocks you. You get this impression of a "revolving door" at the orphanages. It begins to look more and more like a "business" or a "process" than a family event (which a business it is, but it's muttled with a ton of emotion). With this in mind-it amazes me that the people that work in these orphanages can treat each new child so lovingly and attach themselves knowing that most of them will be there for such a short time. I'm not certain I could do this.

The Ethiopian culture loves their children and there is nothing more valuable to them. If there's something I can hope anyone understands about my visit - by reading my blog- I hope it's that you learn how precious it is that they allow "fereng" to come in and take their "gold" to another culture.

It is because they desperately need to. (it's a shame that we cannot/do not do more to allow/encourage the ability for the children to stay in Ethiopia). If we all spent the money we are spending, to adopt these children, to build an infrastructure to keep them there Ethiopia would have an excellent system for dealing with the sheer number of children that need help. Our money goes so very far there that it's difficult for a white person from the west to not be "rich". The thoughts that go on in my head at times sure are difficult to live with at times.

But reality being what it is -international adoption is a possitive option in this bleak and difficult situation deveoping countries face with their orphaned child population. The scary thing is-all families I met there- (wealthy and poor) would ethusiastically be willing to "give their children up" if there was any chance possible for them to come to America.

I saw so much beauty and richness in the lives of Ethiopia's people. Where the people of Ethiopia make you feel embraced (not empowered but embraced), the people of America often feel void of this warm hug like feeling that was overwhelmingly present in the families in Ethiopia. There is so much the culture has to offer it's youth that the apparent willingness of the people to break up their families for a chance at a life in America, would eventually upset me. But I would later learn how difficult it is to get a Visa as an adult to come to America "the beautiful" and began to understand why a parent would happily give their child this amazing opportunity- but it still upset me.

It also helped me understand the legislation going into place with the Hague Convention as well as the biological parent meeting/introduction restrictions. Although I was very upset with the restricted policy added and the treat to remove them from the adoption process earlier this year. So much so, that we told our social worker that if they cancelled them entirely- that we'd have to talk about alternative options. The sentiment of an open international adoption became very important to Denis and I over time. After all we aren't just adding children to our lives we're adding a culture too.

This "threat" was probably the most compelling reason for me to "up and go" to Ethiopia. 6 weeks after dealing with the reality that my children may not have had the opportunity to meet their extended relatives should any be available- I found myself on a plane to Ethiopia. I'd be damned if my children were not going to have any connection with their native country. Even if it ment that I couldn't afford to adopt them when we finally did receive a referal. It's difficult to recover financially from this decision.. I feel very worried today about how we are going to "finance" the cost of the referal if it comes our way "very soon". But, I'm more ready now to adopt than ever before and I'm certain we'll find a way to pay for it all(does anyone have a black mask I can borrow?? Quick before my fingerprints expire-laugh).

Eventually I came to the realization that my perception of family or birth parent meeting- was going to have too much weight/expectation on it anyway. It was really the best thing that could have happened to us in this process of "waiting" for our children. I use to think the birth family meeting would give my children a connection to their culture. In reality- it would only provide pictures of them with people they were related to that I could potentially match up to a story on paper or a location that I saw for a brief moment. I still very much want this meeting for my children to happen and I still want the children to have some "brief" sentiment that their families that surrendered them love them very much-but I not longer hope it will also provide them with a partial connection to their culture.

Now, I'm pleased to think that it is the relationships I made while in the country that are going to provide myself and them with a connection to their culture. And perhaps if later in life they want to look for their "birth family relatives" - there will be an additional avenue and support system in country for them to utilize.

Heck- maybe I'll even find myself retiring there.

Meeting Haregewoin Teferra

There are certain times in your life when you wish you had a camera- and hope that your memory can hold the precious moment in your head until you die. I can say that these days were definately part of one of those moments.

I went to visit an orphanage with a couple of new Austrailian friends of mine half way through my trip. After having been to a few orphanages already I was a bit reluctant to visit this one with them- but luckly my husband and some of our friends was visiting Ethiopia and it was a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to an orphanage setting.

Denis and I had not been to (or made arrangements to) visit our agency's orphanage unlike the other couple that came with him (they are with a different agency). I had found it difficult to find out how to visit before I left and was too busy learning the culture to focus on the run around emails you generally get when you contact them about personal items- so I gave up and happily visited many others while in Ethiopia. Once that are large and ones that are small- so it happens that while Denis was on his short 2 week visit we decided to spend some time visiting one. It's a great opportunity to go and play with the children and if you ever have a chance please go- the kiddo's love it (and bring some soccer balls or frisbees with you).

It's an amazing feeling - entering a building most often filled with laughter and children playing and deep down as you enter these buildings- you know that they don't have parents. In our culture the though of not having parents is so drastic- but as you spend time in Ethiopia and make friends- you will learn that intact families are not as much of the norm or assumed in the same way that our "world" assumes that your family was intact in one way or another.

When I walked into the building and saw this woman- a stout woman - later middle aged- with graying hair- I knew immediately that there was something familiar about her. Somebody, funny enough, that I knew was visiting with her, so we did a round of hello's and then we sat with her for a little while. We asked about the children currently in the orphanage we were at and about the children at the HIV setting. She told us all about the stages of adoption some of them were in and a little something special about most of the children. We independently went up and played with the nannies that were with the babies- and then we brought some balls and some soda out to play with the children. We'd walk in and out of her office-and she'd stop what she was doing and talk about the kids or about a difficulty she was experiencing. You felt very comfortable with her. She knew each and everyone of the children- even though they seem to come in and out of the building in relatively short time. Each one was happy and special to her.

After a little bit of time there- still feeling there was something familiar about her- I asked her what her name was. When she introduced herself- an "awe" factor set in. I was so pleasantly surprised- I came to play with some children at an orphanage and here I was in front of the "Haregewoin Teferra" from there's "No me with out you". Her English was fantasic- as was her enthusiasm about her adventures with her current children. I instantly felt uncomfortable in a way. Suddenly I knew so much personal information about this woman I just met. My eyes openned to her office surroundings and I noticed the picture of her daughter Atetegeb. Who died of aids, bore her a grandson she barely knows due to cercimstances beyond her control etc. There were beautful curtains surrounding big window leading to the area the children play in. The dining table covered with information regarding child sponsorship and her next stage planned to help the people of her country.

Strangely enough- she seemed a lot like my host mom, and other strong Ethiopian women I had met on my visit. And after the Awe factor subsided, additional time with the children, and most of all my discomfort about knowing her personal life with out admitting to it or referring to the book (I didn't want our current experience to change so I didn't want to meantion the book- it was delightful to meet her with out having to "refer" to her life in anyway but just to let her meet me and me her with out her knowing that I knew about her)- we just talked and then I went out to play with the children some more.

it was amazing- to be in the presence of somebody I admired. When I imagined meetin her before I went it was simply that- a fantasy. But to find myself in her presence - enjoying her company- and pleased to be invited to visit with her and the children- then to have her "fame" added to my awareness was really overwhelming. Saying thank you to her on my last visit at the orphanage was one of the most Genuine thank you's I'd ever said. Although she'll never know it- visiting with this "ordinary" "strong" "stubborn" and just wonderful woman - was an inspiring time for me.

About Wassero Haregewoin- When you meet her she talks about her children at the orphanage. Her orphanage is clean, welcoming and fun. If prompted she'll talk about the book (she talked with one of our friends about it). She has worries and concerns about the children like any mom would. It's amazing that her emotions show like they do-because she has seen so many children come through her doors(orphans). She admits there are some that are more special than others at time-but they are all loved by her and you can tell by her sentiments and knowledge of them.

There was a specific child with special needs that touched me at her orphanage. She was blind but I was thrilled to sit with her and talk with her. She was already assigned to be transferred to a location that could help her with her special needs. Haregewoin travelled to the south to learn about and then fight for her to have this opportunity and we were all so happy for her. But Denis knew from the moment I sat with her that I was smitten. She was not young- nor was she part of sibling group that I want-but if the transfer wasn't planned -I would have asked to try to adopt her. She was an amazing little girl that touched me that day- deeply. Denis spent time with her too- and Haregewoin told us so much about her- it was delightful to learn about her and through this story- learn about how much Haregewoin continues to work for the better lives for the children of Ethiopia.

She's an amazing "ordinary" woman who has big dreams -and a lot of connections to make them start to happen. The book is one side of this complex and delightful woman that I was honored and blessed with the opportunity to meet.

Visting Wenchi Crater

Project Abroad’s Ethiopian Volunteers and Staff went on a trip together to Wenchi from Addis Ababa. On the way we visited the Ambo farmers market, passed a number of buildings dedicated to horticulture and Ethiopia’s booming flower industry and travelled for over an hour on a dirt road stopping only briefly to watch an annual athletic competition between the areas. At the athletic competition we had the privilege of watching with the local population a short distance running competition. The best short distance runner from each kebele completed for the honor of being the fastest. The locals were exuberant as their runners passed. Running on a gravel track I was impressed at their speed as they primarily ran barefoot. Eventually, feeling slightly fatigued from the experience of riding on a dirt road for so long, we arrived at Wenchi Crater. We hired horses on the craters rim and rode them down a very curvy dirt road that leads to spring fed, Wenchi Lake.
In just under an hour we reached the lake, where we hired a boat to take us to an island that is the home of Wenchi Chirkos, a 13-15th century monastery. We all enjoyed a traditional picnic lunch and some laughs on the beautiful island and then we walked around to visit the monastery. The monastery (like most Orthodox Christian Churches) is hexagonal in shape and located proximately on a hill with a gorgeous view of the lake. As you look around you the ledges of the crater surround you and appear to touch the sky.
We learned the history of the church and met the priest of Chirkos. The priest invited us into home, a small wooden structure with a fire pit, bed and some logs for inviting guests. He offered us all some local honey and blessed our journey. The surprise and delight of being invited into his home stayed with the group for some time.
We boarded our hired boat again where some of the volunteers took a shot at rowing the boat back across the island. If you look over the edge of the boat you can see some petrified wood at the lakes bottom. This wood is apparently left from the forests that use to reside in the lakes location prior to the volcanic activity that created the crater. Boarding the horses again – we proceeded back up the crater, into the mini-bus and again onto the bumpy road for another hour or so.
At the end of this very long day we found ourselves checked into our hotel- cleaned up and settling in to a dinner at the hotel.
The next morning we went to breakfast and drove to Negash Lodge, where we spent the afternoon enjoying a hot spring fed swimming pool, a bountiful wildlife that included many birds, monkeys, and foliage. We enjoyed a good laugh as the driver of the mini-bus was being chased by a turkey. At the end of a restful and enjoyable afternoon we boarded our mini-bus and drove back to Addis. Stopping briefly at the Meta Beer factory to ride camels, see a waterfall and feed some monkeys.
The two days provided the volunteers, most of which had not yet left Addis Ababa yet, a delightful glimpse at the diversity that is Ethiopia.

Friday, August 8, 2008

stepping back into America- from Ethiopia

I have been home now almost 1 month and day to day life is finally feeling normal again. It is difficult to explain normal unless I explain my wonder at my life as I walked back into it.

When I walked into my house it was as if I had never left. Magazines in the same place, my eye glasses where I left them, even my winter clothes (some dirty) sitting where they had been placed- but inside I felt totally different.

I was amazed at the size of my home- having thought it was small when I left I was shocked by how "large" it was on my return. How open our home is to other peoples homes- there are no gates and there is much more to be aware of to look at with out the gates.

I was surprised by how "kid" ready/friendly my home is. But wait- I don't have kids, It's been months since I considered having children- and yet my home felt sad - ready for children but with no children in it. In fact- there's no one but Geneva and I in it during the day..with Denis joining us in the evenings.

Lonely- after living in a community it is lonely to walk around this big house- find only the dog to chat with- occasionally a husband :-) and then have to alone - get in my car to drive and see somebody after calling them to make arrangements to get together. There are no crowded buses- no one to visit with when you walk around your house- and no children outdoors playing in the neighborhood (even though there are 26 kids on our street and it's the middle of the day). People don't leave their homes unless they are in their cars and they wave as they drive by. Most even drive up to their mailboxes.

It's also amazing how the food here- has little flavor, of course when compared to Ethiopian food, giggle. The texture of our chicken/ meats was strange on my tongue. Our veggies are so pretty - but they taste different too, perhaps it's the wax, their age- I'm not sure. Our fruit-I bought a mango the other day and wanted to gag-it was terrible. The banana's here are sweeter and huge. Apples though- boy did I miss our variety of apples.

Clean- there are no smells either- life in America feels sterile when compared to live in Ethiopia. Not that I miss the diesel.

Overwhelming- the choices we have in our stores both in product and in the number of stores and in the size of the stores- it's all overwhelming.

But now that it's been awhile- I'm getting back into our life and find a sense of enjoyment in this peacefulness that also feels so lonely. Now the noise from the heat bugs and the hum of the distant highway are becoming noticeable again (even perhaps a bit annoying-laugh). I even noticed the light from the street-light last night- as I went outside to look and figure out what light it was that I had left on.

Man shopping here is great though- can I tell you how much shopping in Ethiopia sucks? I use to hate shopping here and now it feels like an oasis!

What all of this has me thinking about is I think I now have a slight idea of how overwhelming this is for adopted children. Only they didn't make the choice to be here- they are not in control of these changes that just happened to them-sometimes don't even understand them. They go from leaving their rooms and seeing tons of people to hug them, pick them up, love them or just another child to play with (this would be at home or at the orphanage) to our lives which are much more isolated, smell free, noise free, taste free and well shockingly different.

I just want to point out that after 4 months with little contact with home and life here- that I was not prepared for the difficulty or challenges that re-integrating into my life would come with. Because I was not prepared (at all)- it seems to bring me closer to understanding the experiences our adopted children will have. And that, although it is difficult, I am thankful to have experienced these difficulties. It's all a part of the process our children are going to face.

Life in America is really amazing folks- we have so much- and we should be sensitive to the immigrants and adopted individuals as they try to integrate into our culture. I grew up here, it was all I knew minus some extensive traveling in developed nations and if I'm having difficult imagine the wonder you would experience if you were someone who has never seen a sprinkler system the sprays our veggies in the grocery store- never mind a grocery store itself in all the size and wonder that ours contain.

Meme Stevens- Beautiful Song- get Kleenex

Oh the places I've Been (and might go again)