Monday, August 31, 2009

July 24

Solomon picked me up at 10:00 am and drove me to the orphanage where Denver spent the first month of his life. I was a little bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect and I was totally on my own. Solomon talked to the director of the orphanage who agreed to arrange a ride home for me back to the Weygoss at the end of my visit. Unfortunately the director was unable to stay with me because he had to be at court all day. I was hoping he could translate for me if and when I met Denver's birthmother because he spoke English really well. He introduced me to the head caregiver, the lady in charge, who was so kind to me. She was ecstatic to see Baheran (Denver) and took him right out of my arms to hug and kiss him. She told me that he was a gift from God and I agreed with her. She was so happy to find out that I too believed in God and that Baheran would be living in a Christian home. She was very open and shared some more information with me about when Denver first came into their care. She gave me a tour of the entire orphanage which was beautiful. I could tell she was really proud of the place. Every time we came across another caregiver, I would hear an excited, “Baheran!!!” and she would proceed to take him from me. They were all so happy to see him and I could tell that he was very loved in the short time he spent there. I got to see every single room in the orphanage – the newborn room, the baby rooms, the toddler rooms, the older kids rooms, the office, the nurse’s room, the kitchen, etc. They were very open to letting me take photos of everything. The caregivers loved to have their picture taken with Denver and kept saying, “take another one”. And then they wanted to see the back of my digital camera to see the picture. The older kids also loved to see themselves on my camera. They were all working hard on their schoolwork so I ended up being a distraction. Oops.

At some point on my tour I met an American couple that was adopting twins from the orphanage. It was really neat to talk with them about the process and just about adoption in general. They also have another child at home that they adopted from Ethiopia a few years ago.

I spent the most time in the toddler room. The kids in there were hilarious and they loved all the attention I was giving them. I had some pockets with zippers on my pants and they loved zipping them up and down. One little girl kept walking right through my legs as though it were a tunnel. It went on forever and she thought it was the greatest thing ever. Another little girl got into my bag when I wasn’t looking and I caught her just in time – she was just about to put Denver’s bottle into her mouth!
(I wish I could insert so many pictures at this point. The kids and the caregivers were all so beautiful and I have so many amazing photos but I want to protect their privacy and therefore won't post them).
Here's one of me at the orphanage with Denver. One of the caregivers was so eager to try out my camera!

I still didn’t know at this point if I was going to be able to meet Denver's birthmother but I kept watching out the window to see if I could see her arrive. At one point I saw the man at the gate let a woman in and wondered if it was her.

After playing with the kids for a while longer, Denver had fallen asleep in my arms. At this point, the head caregiver came and told me that the birthmother was ready to see me. I went into the main lobby and there she was. We were both very emotional. The head caregiver acted as our translator. I asked her if she wanted to hold Baheran and she nodded. The first thing she did was put a bracelet on his arm. What an awesome keepsake for him. She was wearing a matching one. I was able to ask her some questions and she asked me some. She let me take a lot of pictures of her alone, of her with Denver and of the three of us. I’m so glad I had this opportunity and I’m happy for Denver that he will have this extra information about the beginning of his life. His birthmother held him for a long time and when he finally woke up he just stared at her and studied her face. She fed him his bottle and eventually got him to smile when she was talking to him. We spent a lot of time together and I will always cherish it.

At that point I got a phone call and it was the director. He was just calling to see how things were going and if he could call me a cab yet. I said yes and before I knew it, the car was there to pick me up. I walked out to the courtyard with Denver’s birthmother and we hugged as we said goodbye. She left and Denver and I got into the cab. Just as I was settling in, a few of the caregivers came out and told me I couldn’t leave without having a coffee ceremony. They told the cabdriver to leave and I went back in for some coffee. It was so nice of them to do this for me and I’m glad I had the time to stay. More pictures were taken and I chatted with the head caregiver’s son, aged 11, and another girl that spoke really good English. They asked me all about my stay in Addis and we also talked about Canada. They were really interested in all the pictures on my camera and the boy even took a picture of himself.
Finally it was time for me to go. I said my goodbyes and thank you, although thank you didn’t seem quite like enough. I got the director's contact information so that we can send updates and they will pass them on to Denver’s birthmother. My driver was ready and I headed back to the Weygoss.

When I got back, we went out with another couple and their kids to go get ice cream. Apparently the New York Café on Bole Road has the best ice cream so we wanted to check it out. When we got there, they were all sold out. We went into a few shops around there and I bought a shirt for myself. We decided to go the Cloud Nine Restaurant and have ice cream there. It was beautiful weather so we sat outside on the rooftop. Took some great shots of the city of Addis.

(This is where I'll end this post. The next will be about my journey home).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Introducing . . .

. . . my future daughter-in-law!

Finally my friend Catherine got to view the face of her beautiful daughter, Hannah. Life will never be the same! Congratulations again Catherine - she's absolutely gorgeous! Can't wait to see her in your arms.

And seriously, do you not think Hannah and Denver will make the most adorable couple?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

July 23

I feel like I was awake all night last night. I’m sure I must have dozed at some point but it didn’t seem like it. Denver was also quite restless and he sounds like he’s stuffed up in his nose. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was from the poor air quality here. The exhaust from the vehicles is horrible. When we go out for the day, I usually come back with a sore throat from breathing in so much dirty air. Plus I already find it harder to breathe here because of the altitude. The first few days here were horrible. My chest felt really heavy and at night I would wake up thinking I was having an anxiety attack (which wouldn’t have been surprising with everything going on!) It was always worse when I was lying down. Going up a few flights of stairs always caused me to be short of breath too – felt like I was really out of shape. Thankfully this is all from the altitude and nothing physically wrong with me. You do get used to it though and it gets better every day.

After breakfast a bunch of us went shopping with Solomon again. Some people had never been to the scarf place so we stopped there first. After that we went to a place to buy some coffee. It took forever because the owner of the store was being audited for his taxes. So we all had our purchased picked out but we had to stand in line until they were done. It was probably just us Canadians that were totally impatient – perhaps we can learn something from these laid back, relaxed Ethiopians. After that we stopped at a place to buy silver. I didn’t get anything there. Then it was time to get back to the Weygoss for some lunch.

At 2:00 Solomon picked J and I up to go to the German Embassy to get our transit visas. We got there at around 2:40 and had to wait for them to open at 3:00. They let us through the big grey gate and through security one at a time. Once through, J and I met in the waiting area. We didn’t know where to sit or what to do. I asked everyone else if we needed a number but they all said no. So we sat and waited. Then one of the officials had some paperwork in his hands and pointed at me and motioned for me to come over. J came with me and he had both of our transit visas ready to go. We had to sign a paper and he handed them over. We both automatically kissed the passports feeling relieved to finally have them in our hands and the man just laughed at us.

Then Solomon took us to do some more shopping. We went to Misrach Handicraft Training and Rehabilitation Centre. They have a shop there were you can buy items that are made by blind people. It was great and I got a whole bunch of note cards, puzzles, a leather hippo for Denver and a little change purse. The stuff was so nice. Then we did some more shopping for souvenirs. I got some African items to hang in our house and some other little things like a little drum for Denver. It was a lot of fun but I was very tired at the end of the day.

I had an interesting conversation with Solomon today. Last week I had asked him if there was a possibility for me to visit Denver’s orphanage. He asked me where he was from and I said Kingdom Vision International. He told me that was in Adama so we would arrange to go there one day. Well because we’ve been busy with paperwork and such, we haven’t gotten around to it. So yesterday I asked him if it was still a possibility – maybe for Friday. He said yes and we set it up to go. Then today he said something else came up for him to do and he wasn’t sure what to say to me. I said don’t worry about – just do what you have to do. So he arranged for the director of the orphanage to come and get me and take me there and back again. It’s an hour and a half drive one way. So I was kind of excited about going there and seeing where Denver spent the first month of his life.

Later in the day today, Solomon told me that I don’t have to go to Adama anymore because Denver’s birth mom is here in Addis. That actually didn’t surprise me because I know that Denver was born in Addis. I asked Solomon why she would have a baby in Addis and then bring him to an orphanage in Adama – 1 ½ hours away. He said, no, no, no – he was at the Kingdom Vision International Orphanage here in Addis. I had no idea there were two. So as it turns out, he is going to pick me up at 10:00 tomorrow morning and bring me to Denver’s orphanage. There’s also a possibility that I may meet his birth mother. Because of the circumstances I didn’t think this would be an option but apparently the orphanage director thinks he can get her to come. I’m feeling kind of nervous but I know that it will be good and a great opportunity to be able to share with Denver more about his life before joining the Carmody family.

I called Mike tonight to let him know about the birth mother and asked him if there was anything he wanted me to ask her. He said he couldn’t think of anything off the top of his head – I think he wasn’t expecting this (nor was I). We talked about it more and came up with some things we would like to ask. I’m hoping the conversation will flow fairly smoothly if I do end up meeting her.

This was the last time I talked to Mike before I'll see him at the Toronto Airport. Just before I hung up, I said, “See you soon!” That’s a great feeling.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One month home

Saturday marked one month since Denver and I landed on Canadian soil. I can't believe it. Where has the time gone? He's been such a joy to have around and despite getting four teeth all at the same time the first week or so of being home, overall he's been a content and happy little guy. Since being home he has learned (with the help of Victoria, Austin and Samara) how to clap, how to wave and now he puts his little arms up in the air when he wants to be picked up. Talk about melting your heart!

Only a couple more days of the Ethiopia journal left to post. It's been a bit of a chore to get it all together with the pictures but I'm happy to do it - it will be a nice keepsake for Denver to read through when he gets older.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

July 22

Just as I was getting ready to get into bed last night, mom called from BC. It was so good to hear her voice. The connection was really clear on the phone and we chatted for a bit. I also talked very briefly to David and Christel.

The lawyer came by the guest house again this morning but couldn’t stay too long. He asked me to make the call to Nick Firlotte at the Canadian Embassy at 10:00 this morning. It was tricky to reach him as the phone just rang and rang. I did get an answering machine at one point so I left a message. As I was waiting around by the front desk to call him again, the man in the room beside mine came down. He said there was a phone call for me in his room and I should go take it. He said it’s my husband and that he was having a hard time getting a hold of me. I was really worried as I made my way upstairs wondering why Mike would be calling me – especially in the middle of the night in Canada. Anyway, I picked up the phone and it was Nick Firlotte. He had gotten my message but was having a hard time getting a hold of me. (On days when the power is out, we can call out from here but people have a hard time getting through to the front desk at the Weygoss. If they do get through, it’s often to another room). Anyway, he said he had the package there with the visas and if I could round up the families in the front lobby, I should call him back and we could just confirm whose are there in his hands. So that’s what I did. There were four families that wanted to pick up their visas today. I thanked him again (for about the hundredth time) and said we’d be there at some point today. He said we could just ask for the immigration assistant when we got there but not to come between 12:15 and 1:00 because that was her lunch break. We waited for one of the families (S & J) who had to go get their kids’ passport pictures done first so that we could go to the German Embassy right after we pick up our visas (they’re also traveling through Frankfurt on the way home).

When we arrived at the Canadian Embassy (around 1:30ish), we knocked on the door and asked to see the immigration assistant. We were told she wasn’t there. (I just about had a heart attack). I explained that we were there to pick up our visas for our children and that I had talked to Nick Firlotte and he said we could come at this time. He made a phone call and then let us in. You have to go through a lot of security to get into the Canadian Embassy but we got right through to the immigration assistant who had our packages. As we were signing for them, Nick came out to say hi and wish us all the best. I hugged him and thanked him – again. He was also very gracious to let us have our picture taken with him by the Canadian flag. You are not supposed to take pictures of or in any government buildings in Ethiopia so we made sure there were no buildings in the picture. We said our goodbyes and we were off to the German Embassy to get the transit visas for our kids.

This is me with the envelope that contains the long awaited visa:

When we arrived at the German Embassy they wouldn’t let us in. They said we had to come back the next morning between 9:00 and 12:00. We pleaded with them saying that we didn’t have much time to get this all done because our flight was leaving Friday night (we knew there was a 24 hour turn around to get the transit visas). They still wouldn’t let us in but they did give us the phone number and told us to call. When we got back to the taxi, the driver let us use his phone. It took us a few tries to get through but I finally ended up talking to a woman at the embassy. She explained to me again that we had to come back the next morning and gave me a huge list of everything we needed to bring with us. (I thought for sure I would have to call Mike and get him to email me some of the paperwork which would mean another frustrating visit to the internet café). I still tried to convince her to let us in and she finally said that if I gave her our names, we could come in and just get the paperwork to fill out. We would still have to bring it in the next day and then pick them up on Friday. It was so frustrating because we were leaving Friday night and the timing was way too tight. But anyway, J and I went back and knocked on the gate. When we told them our names they let us in. We met the woman that I had talked to on the phone and she gave us the forms. Then she asked us if we had everything with us so we started sorting through our stacks of paperwork. Miraculously J and I both found everything we needed except the Adoption Agreement. We both didn’t know what this was and couldn’t remember ever seeing it. The woman told us it would have come from our adoption agency and showed us a sample of what it should look like. I think at this point we both wanted to cry but after the week we had, I’m not sure we had any tears left. We explained to the woman that our agency had gone bankrupt and there was probably no way to get that paper anymore. As I was still frantically flipping through all my paperwork, I looked in the envelope we had just picked up from the Canadian Embassy and there it was! The Adoption Agreement had been in Nairobi and now we had it in our hands with the visa and other documents. Hooray!!! Even though we were supposed to bring copies of everything, we gave the woman our originals and she made the copies for us. She let us fill out the three page forms right then and there. I had Denver with me but J was supposed to have her kids with her as well but the woman let that one go too. We were there for at least an hour filling out forms and sorting through paperwork but we got it all done and submitted. (We also had a serious case of the giggles - I think we were nervous and relieved all at once and laughing was all we had left to do). Now we just have to go back tomorrow to pick it up at 3:00 in the afternoon. Thankfully these transit visas are free for minors.
When we got back to the guest house, the lawyer was there again. He knows that Mary Catherine is a friend of mine and so he wanted to tell me some good news about her file. The medical form came in today and so Samuel will have his medical done even before the court date. Also, the court date has been rescheduled for the beginning of August. I called Mike right away to tell him to email Mary Catherine this great news. It’s really neat to be able to be here and find some of these things out for friends back home. When I was talking to Mike he also told me that Steve and Tracy had emailed to say that the MP’s office can’t find a paper trail at all for them and their adoption process for their little girl here in the transition home. I told Mike I would look into it and call him right back. The lawyer was just packing up to head back to his hotel but I was able to ask him about their file. He said he has a note that everything is there in Nairobi and they’re just waiting for their visa to be issued. I told him what the MP found out and he said he would look into it. I called Mike back to let him know and hopefully tomorrow he will give me more good news about their file.

We were going to go shopping still this afternoon but everything took a lot longer than expected at the Embassies and I really didn’t feel like it anymore. I talked to Solomon who said he would take us shopping tomorrow morning. I still want to get some coffee to take home and some t-shirts for the kids. Solomon will also take J and I to the German Embassy again tomorrow afternoon to pick up the transit visas for our kids.

Denver had his first play date today. We went to another adoptive mom's room for cookies and tea. I sat on the floor with him while he played with the blocks. He had a great time and was talking and laughing the whole time. So cute.

We went out for dinner at the Makush again – with another mom and her kids. We said goodbye to another family and thier kids who are heading home to BC. Their flight leaves at 4:00 am. They’re such a great family and it’s been really good hanging out with them and getting to know them. I’m going to miss them.

Off to bed around 9:30.

I had a hard time finding pictures to post for this day. Most of the good ones have people in them that I don't have permission to put on this blog so I don't want to go there. So here are some pictures of a rainy day in Addis:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Very Exciting News!!!

I got a call from my dear friend Catherine this afternoon . . . she's finally a mommy!!! She received "THE CALL" this afternoon with the details about her daughter Hannah - after waiting more than three years! Hannah was born in China, in the province of Hunan and she's only 5 1/2 months old! Unbelievable. Head on over to her blog at Catherine's Chatter to congratulate her.

Congratulations again Catherine. I can't wait to see Hannah's precious little face.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

July 21

I fell asleep almost right away last night. I think that’s a first. Denver stirred a few times in the night but I just had to rub his back and he went right back to sleep. I woke up around 4:00 am and then just laid there the rest of the time. Denver got up around 6:15 am.

I had breakfast and then went to the internet café with another adoptive mom. There are only four computers there and they were all taken so we had to wait a bit. When I finally got online, I printed out Denver’s airline ticket for Friday night that Mike had emailed to me. It took forever because it was such a slow connection. I read one email that Mike had sent out to family and friends and copied me on but it was too emotional to read. This other adoptive mom and I were sitting there hugging and crying together. She’s been a good friend – we’re both really homesick – she’s here without her husband too. After that I decided not to read any more emails from Mike. Besides it was so slow and we had to get back to the guest house.

When we got back, Solomon was waiting for us. We headed out with three other families to Entoto Mountain. We drove all the way up to a high point and looked out over Addis Ababa. The view was beautiful. There were lots of goats and donkeys along the way. We also saw many of the women carrying the firewood down the mountain – what a brutal life. At the top of the mountain, there were many kids there and one of the couples handed out McDonald’s treat of the week toys to them. They loved it and were so happy.

We drove halfway down the mountain and stopped at the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Entoto St. Mary Emperor Menelik and Emperess Taitu’s Memorial Museum. It was quite interesting. We had a tour at the museum and then walked around the church grounds. The buildings where the Emperor used to live was really cool.

The kids were all getting hungry at this point so we opted to have lunch before doing some shopping. We ate at the University in Addis.

After lunch we visited the Former Women Wood Carriers Association. These are mostly women that used to carry the firewood up and down the mountain but they’ve now been taught a skill – weaving. We got to see them weaving the scarves and they loved to have their picture taken and then asked to see it on the back of the digital camera. Then we shopped. And boy did we shop. I bought 12 scarves. I couldn’t pick – they were all so beautiful. They'll make nice gifts for people back home.

The next stop was a pottery shop. Again, we got to see the women making the pottery. It was beautiful. I bought a few keepsakes for the kids and for Mike and me.

By this time, the kids had had enough and the adults were also tired. So we headed back to the guest house. Solomon was kind enough to stop at the grocery store we were at the first day I had Denver so that I could buy some more formula. I was almost out of it and I couldn’t find it in any stores around the guest house.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this computer store for Mike:

When we got back to the Weygoss, the lawyer was there again. He had had a really good day and accomplished a lot more again. He pushed to get more LONO’s, more letters from the MOWA, birth certificates, passports, etc. He’s done so much since he came here and we couldn’t have gotten this far without him. He also arranged to have some more of our stuff brought to the Weygoss from the transition home. So I got Denver’s little journal that was kept under his crib. It’s very interesting to read and I found out a few more things about his short life before we met him. I was chatting with the lawyer for a while about everything and as it turns out, he is going to be on the same flight home on Friday night that I am – through Frankfurt to Toronto. I teased him about maybe babysitting for me but he didn’t go for it. We also talked about Denver’s visa and when it would arrive. The Consul at the Canadian Embassy said if we didn’t hear from him on Tuesday, then he would call us on Wednesday when it arrived. I told the lawyer that if I didn’t hear from the Consul by 12:00 noon, then I would call him. He said if he didn’t hear from him by 10:00 am, he would call him. I see why he’s been able to get so much done since he’s been here!

We just ordered in for dinner and ate in the lobby with some other families.

Denver went to bed around 8:30 . . . here’s hoping it’s a good night with lots of sleep – for him and me!