Embassy Trip: day 3 Addis Ababa

When the girls awoke our first morning together, I was readying myself for our day. As I went back into our bedroom, I heard Meseret speaking swiftly in a low tone. I turned the corner to find the girls kneeling on their bed, heads bowed low, praying to the Father. And they prayed and they prayed. For a good 10 minutes or more they prayed.  I was overwhelmed by God’s favor toward us to give us Ethiopian daughters who are worshipers. I continue to be awed by how intimate a relationship with the Lord can be when there are so few distractions. Poverty has many down sides, but that morning I was humbled by an upside. Our third day in Addis Ababa greeted Dennis with a bang. He was playing with Mes and Kam in our bedroom on the second floor of our guest house when out of the Norwegian guys’ room about 15 feet away pranced a 20-something Ethiopian woman…buck naked. Into the bathroom she went as if this was normal behavior. I suppose it was for her. Not normal or common for a guest house occupied by adoptive families. Two Norwegian men staying in our guest house (which was only for adoptive families last time we were here) were on holiday for a month partying, brought home some women and gave Dennis an eyeful. Thankfully Meseret and Kamise were facing Dennis instead of naked girl. A few minutes later out walked Norway guy in a towel. Good morning to us. Needless to say, this event was an opportunity to find another guest house for the remaining two and a half days of our stay. The providential aspect of naked lady and Norwegian party guy is that we ended moving to a guest house where our girls’ two closest friends from their village, Kamashi, were staying with their parents from Kentucky, whom we met in court in Oct. and easily adored. So after an amazing day, we headed to the Grace guest house and watched our four girls come to life.

We hired our agency’s liaison, Howie, to escort us out to the Blue Nile Gorge about two hours outside of Addis on Tuesday. I was determined to see how Ethiopians live in rural areas so I could taste an inkling of how our girls’ lives might have been. The bonus is that the Gorge, which is similar to our Grand Canyon, is only 2 hours through the country from Addis.  Howie hired a driver whom I think, might have killed us 5 times during our trip out to the Gorge. Somehow we survived Crazy Driver…must not have been our time yet b/c if it had been, he would have been the man to make it happen.  Kamise grew carsick within the first 10 minutes of the ride. Barf bag to face. Thankfully we moved her into the front seat before she lost her breakfast. Once we broke through the city line, a totally different side of Ethiopia greeted us. Miles and miles of teff, wheat and barley grain growing golden. Every few plots of land we’d see 4 Ethiopian men or women or both, on their knees and elbows, rears in the air, cutting teff grain with little knives. It’s hard to imagine people still doing it that way. There were little mud huts, or corrugated steel/mud huts, one room only, scattered around the vast land, maybe 3-5 in the same area then a long break. Repeat. A man churning butter. Children running raggedly free. Nowhere to go, nature was all they had. When we slowed down for any length of time, teenagers and young ones raced to our car, begging us to purchase their marble crosses. We passed a piece of land with honeybee boxes, orangutans and dogs, intermingling….tons of orangutans hanging out covering the land. We stopped to take it in, creation taking our breath away. Within 30 seconds, boys were surrounding our van, shoving their treasures through our windows, begging us to buy their goods. Dennis gave one of the boys 10 birr, the equivalent of $1, asking him to keep his treasures. The boy smiled wide, shocked. You would have thought it was $100 at the look on his face.

We began our time there at an Ethiopian Orthodox monastery/cathedral where we were given a tour by one of the monks. Haggard older women lounged on the floor, awaiting mass. Prayer shawls covering their heads, we learned these women sleep around the outskirts of the compound as homeless worshipers who spend every day fasting alongside the monks and priests til 3 pm and may eat and drink through the evening only and on weekends. There are about 5,000 monks/priests/homeless praying women residing in the area presently. They live a life of rigid law-keeping, hoping to make themselves acceptable to God. I would make for a terrible orthodox worshiper…that I know. I grew even more thankful for the undeserved grace of Christ which births life day after day within me, in spite of me.

The Gorge was breathtaking, being away from the crowded, chaotic city was restoring. We enjoyed lunch at the only restaurant there on the edge of the Gorge, wandered down to an overlook which I think freaked Kamise out. She was quite secure to stay a ways back from the edge. I, on the other hand, freaked Dennis out by how close I was to the edge. Hmmmm, that's how I roll. We could have been content there for days. Nature is so restoring. For a few hours I was able to escape the gnawing discomfort and impact of the poverty around me. I was grateful. I’d been uneasy during this trip in Addis, mores than our last visit.

I ached for what had become luxurious comforts!

I miss toilet seats that are attached so I’m not taken for a sleigh ride when I sit.

I miss toilet seats for that matter.

I miss toilet seat covers.

I miss manicured spaces.

I miss clean things.

I miss not feeling the freedom to safely walk around my living space barefoot.

I miss big, safe plates of salad and veggies!

I miss sinks and showers that drain.

I miss how beauty is deeply valued and the resources are available to create beauty.

I miss my safe fruit smoothies.

I miss my family.

I miss my friends.

I miss comfy beds and pillows.

I miss fresh smelling laundry detergent

I miss dryers which produce fluffily soft clothing/towels.

...and that’s merely the beginning of my list. How spoiled am I. How indulged is my life. As we headed into town and were stopped at a light for quite some minutes, immediately long-faced mothers with babies begged for anything. One in particular was asking for something in particular. Finally I connected the dots as she pointed to the 6 litres of water bottles on the floor of the van. I grabbed one and as she received it, her about two-year old boy lit up and exclaimed, “Waha!” It seemed like Christmas for him. Another momma pulled out one of her breasts and her two-year old looking son, grabbed it and began to ravenously suck for nourishment. She was unveiled for the world to see, seemingly oblivious to her exposure. Perhaps the other mothers around her equally desperate diffuse any self-consciousness. Poverty strips people of dignity, as does wealth. Yet in this place, it doesn’t feel like they’ve chosen this. How I am forced to wrestle in this place, which is why returning to America is so appealing to me each moment of every day. I wish I could say it was different.

When we walked into the Grace Guest House, our new living space filled with 3 other adoptive families and their children, Zemene and Agare ran and wrapped themselves around our girls. They laughed and talked a mile a minute and we, parents,  were so blessed to see our daughters come alive in the presence of one another. The girls' enthusiasm didn’t stop for the remaining 2 1/2 days in Addis. And we’re equally fond of their parents so Naked Lady proved to be a blessing (in not much of a disguise…HAH).

We were awakened at 4:30 am with the Muslim call to prayer which sounds like death to me every time I hear it. It not only stirs the people but the dogs, who begin barking incessantly for hours. Then at 5:30 the Orthodox church competes with their call to worship, which is equally obnoxious. Then the chickens chime in and it’s one loud and a wild free for all. And sleep is hard to come by. And the suburbs are that much more appealing.