Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 5

Even though we had a really special time at the goodbye ceremony on Tuesday  I came back to the guesthouse that day overcome with a lot of emotions.  After our nap, I started to feel super restless and kind of depressed.  I was feeling SO done being at the guesthouse.  We were the only people staying there and although it was 'kid friendly' in the ethiopian sense, it was far from easy having a toddler there.  The whole area was gated, so it wasn't unsafe, but the way it was laid out made it difficult to keep track of Elliot.  He couln't just run around free because there were many steps and drop offs at random places.  We literally had to follow him around the whole time he was outside, and HE was (and still is) totally obsessed with being outside.  On top of all that, I was just desperate to get home and see the rest of my family.  Having my mom there was so huge for so many reasons, one of which was she really helped keep my spirits up.

Waking up Wednesday morning, I was SO happy thinking that it was my last day there.  Unfortunately our flight wasn't out until 10:15 that evening, so we had the whole day with nothing to do.  There are no parks, or kid things, and we had no car even if there was somewhere we wanted to go.  The guesthouse that we were staying at has a ministry that they founded in in Addis  They encourage their guests to go tour the grounds of the ministry when they stay at the guesthouse.  Since we really had nothing else going, we decided to go check it out.  We had arranged to go the day before at 10, but in true ET fashion, when we arrived at 10 in the lobby, they were far from ready.  At about 10:30 they finally enlightened us that they were having a hard time finding a car to take us.  No problem, we'd just keep chasing Elliot around until they got there.  At about 11:15, a van pulled up.  In some of the reading I've been doing, they say it's important to really study your child, to find the things that can be fear triggers for your adopted child. I noticed on our drive from the orphanage that first day to our embassy appointment that Elliot's body kind of just went limp.  Sure he was holding on to me, but his overall disposition was extremely passive (not the boy we've come to know).  He barely moved, spoke or smiled-- he just fell limp in my arms.  When we got in the van to go to Mission Ethiopia, he started to do the same thing.  I felt so bad thinking that he was scared that we were going somewhere that wasn't safe.  I tried to comfort him and even asked the girl we were with to explain where we were going.  He loosened up a bit once we arrived, but still I felt sad.

We drove through the city for about 10 minutes then kind of pulled off the road onto a dirt road.  Houses and buildings were replaced by shacks and shanties.  We were in the slum.  It's hard enough being in the city, but being in the slum is a whole other experience.  The poverty and depravity is just staggering.  It pierces through your heart and steals the breath right from your chest.  To think this is the only reality these people have ever and will ever know is so defeating.  The girl began explaining what the Mission was as we pulled into the gates.  They are ministry that serves HIV positive women, widows, single mothers and their children.  They provide jobs for them.  They make necklaces that they call 'chunky beads'-- they are essentially necklaces with beads made of compressed paper- very common in certain parts of Africa, though called different names.  They then sell these necklaces at the guesthouses.  It's pretty rad, and I really commend the guy that started it all.  Like so many of us, his heart broke for the people of Ethiopia when he adopted his 2 kids a few years back, so he started this all up.  While touring the grounds we met many of the workers.  One guy with leprosy weaving door mats.  His fingers were pretty much non existent from the leprosy, but he smiled continually at us and you could tell that he had a real pride in his craft.  While the mom's are at work, there is a room for their non school age children to play and learn.  The kids were so excited to see us and kept yelling 'ferenge' (ET word for white people).  For some reason, seeing all this was incredibly overwhelming for me and I fought to keep my tears under control.  I was thankful that these kids had their mom so close by, but heartbroken for the poverty they had to face day in and day out.
Goodbye Addis

After our visit, we faced a long afternoon waiting for our flights.  I packed and re-packed and organized.  Finally it was time for dinner and before I knew it, Abe poked his head in and said it was time!  I was so happy to finally be beginning our journey home, but also incredibly overwhelmed at the first flight being 17 hours!!! Abe's fiance met us at the airport to say goodbye. They were so cute and gracious-- I can't wait for them to get married in a couple months!  After our goodbye we made our way into the airport.  I tried putting Elliot in the ergo, but after a few minutes he was pretty over it.  He wanted to run around.  We checked in with no problems and made our way to our gate.  Elliot didn't seem to concerned about the airplane once we made our way on.  He sat in his seat, then my lap, then back in his seat.  He hadn't napped that day, and it was 10:15 his time, so I was anticipating some good sleeping in his future.  I can't tell you how incredibly thankful I was that we flew Ethiopian Air this trip.  The whole staff from airport to flight attendants are so kid friendly and just generally awesome.  Once it was time to buckle up, Elliot started to get restless-- it was clear he did NOT like being restrained.  I asked the flight attendant to please explain in Amharic what was going on.  She did and he relaxed considerably.  But after about 5 mins more of this he was getting antsy again.  After crying for about 2 minutes, he fell asleep, and slept for.... 6 HOURS STRAIGHT!!! I was so relieved and happy.  I took advantage of sleeping as best I could with his head on my lap.  Part of the reason the flight home was 3 hours longer than flight there was because we had to stop in Rome to refuel.  By the time we landed in Rome, lights were on and people moving around made it so Elliot began to wake up.  He had a little snack as we waited to take off again.  The whole stop from touchdown to takeoff was about 2 hours.  Once the seat-belt had to come on again, he started to cry again.  I tried to comfort him from my seat, but again without the language I was feeling very inadequate.  Next thing I know, the angel flight attendant leans over me and starts rubbing his back and whispering to him in Amharic   As a mother of three, I feel like I know a thing or two about parenting, but I can't tell you how incredibly humbled I was in that moment. Humbled and overcome with gratitude.  It's never easy to see your kids suffer-- especially when there is a way to alleviate it.  Not being able to be the mom I wanted in that moment was just another reminder of just how little control I have over anything-- big or small.  Next thing I know, his little body gave way to sleep and he slept for another 2 hours.

So that made for 8 hours of sleep!  YES!  However, this led to a wake time of 7 hours.  On an airplane.  With a two year old.  I barely know.  Let's just say we did a lot of 'laps.'  We walked and walked and walked around that plane.  He just about won the heart of every soul on that plane.  And the flight attendants .. have mercy!  They scooped him up more than I could ever ask and just took him to their little hangout spot and loved on him.  It was so RAD! When we weren't walking around, we were trying to entertain him with play-doh, markers, and food. We had some success, but it always came back to the walking. Finally after 7 hours of this, he fell back asleep and slept the next 2 hours until we landed in DC.  As we deplaned in DC, I started to feel sad thinking this was the last time he would hear his language for a long time... The next few days and weeks would be incredibly lonely for him.  Again, I began feeling inadequate and sad that I couldn't fix this for him...
Sweet angel of a flight attendent

As many of you know, I'm not the most patriotic gal.  But landing on American soil that day was one of the best feelings ever.  I wasn't sure how it would work with customs and immigration, but the officer handled our paperwork in about 2 mins and passed us through-- like it was NO big deal to bring an Ethiopian toddler to America as your own.  As we walked through the airport to our next gate, I was holding Elliot and looking around the unusually quiet airport.  I suddenly became so overwhelmed looking at him taking it all in.  To think that walking through that gate, Elliot's life was changed forever.  He could BE anything now, he could GO anywhere.  EVERY opportunity is at his fingertips.  He could BE any kind of man he wants to.  At the risk of sounding totally cliche, this new world was his oyster.  If nothing else, I'm so thankful for the great opportunity this land will give him. (To clairfy- I'm not saying he couldn't do all this growing up as an orphan in Ethiopia- our God is very big and can do what He wants, yet I'm not totally ignorant and recognize the opportunities America affords all its people is incredibly unique and wonderful- and for that I am very thankful).

We stopped off at the food court to refuel before our last flight home-- a mere 5 hour jaunt across the states.  My mom took him on a little walk while I caught up on some texts and calls and generally just sat down feeling more exhausted (physically, spirituality, emotionally) than I had in long time.  My mom and him stumbled upon pretzel annie's where it turned out the girl working could speak Amharic   Elliot just lit up as she asked him his name (Tegegn), his age (2) and where he was from (Addis)-. He answered all of them.   (Side note, apparently he told one of the flight attendants that he was from Addis, but he wasn't going back!)  The pretzel girl then asked  him who his mom was, and he totally turned and hugged me! It just melted my heart.

Finally it was time to board our last flight...I love flying Virgin, but not with a 2 year old.  We were surrounded by a bunch of young career types all dressed in biz cas doing a lot of talk about re-branding, public radio, and ski trip to aspen with colleagues.  The irony was so thick to me as I sat there with my 1 day old adopted son coming off a 17 hour flight from a third world country.  Irony lost on them, but I was cracking up inside... they have nooooooo idea.  Probably about anything.  Harsh I know, but you know I couldn't resist.  After about 2 hours of fidgeting, Elliot finally fell asleep and slept the last 3 hours home.

When the captain finally uttered those sweet words, 'Folks we will be landing in San Francisco in about 20 minutes, please fasten your seat belts,' I just about died of relief.  It was finally ALL over.  I honestly can't think of a time in my life I was more thankful.

As we turned the corner to baggage claim, I laid eyes on the sweetest thing... there was my man.  My partner, my besty.  We hugged and rejoiced-- grabbed our stuff and began the drive home.

The care ride was relatively uneventful- Elliot struggled a bit with the car seat, but eventually sleep won him (and me) again.  Pulling up to Fearn ave, our new life officially began....


Cheer up, Old Bean! said...

Holly!! I'm tearing up here!! So incredible!!! Congrats on your new family unit and cheers to life's new adventures!!! Can't wait to meet the kiddo!!

Katrina said...

What an incredible story. I felt like I was experiencing it too.Thank you for sharing your heart! xo

Erin said...

Oh Holly! I'm crying my eyes out! Reading all of this brought back so many emotions for me... It's hard to express in words how hard, emotional and draining that journey home is. And how freaking good it feels to land in America!!! Seriously, I'm so happy for you guys that that part of your journey is over and done with... now the real journey begins. Know that I'm praying for you guys. I think of Elliot a lot throughout the day and I just pray for his lttle heart. Praying that he continues to thrive and be content and that he let's you guys waaaaaay into his heart. God is so good. Thank you for sharing your story. Hope I see you Sunday!

Rhiannon said...

I love reading your story! It makes me want to adopt which is just crazy since I already have four! Thank you so much for sharing. -Rhiannon

Julie higgins said...

tears of joy! I LOVED reading this Holly...I seriously can't WAIT to meet Elliot and see that beautiful smile in person :) xoxo