Reflections on our Travel


I had big ideas of posting every day while we were in Ethiopia, but the connection was SO slow, I went low tech and just wrote a journal, which I will share anyway for those that are interested.  If I can't figure out how to timestamp it right, this was from the first day, 7/29/06.

Today has been a long day of rushing and waiting in airports.  we had a bit of a scare when two of our bags were over 50lbs, but then I mentioned we were bringing donations for orphans in them and also that we were flying business class, and the check-in guy was just like, "business class: why didn't you say so?"  and was very nice and we didn't have to pay anything for going over.  We actually didn't fly business class until the Dulles to Addis leg of the flights.  We only chose it because 1.  It was the only way we could get the flight dates we wanted and 2. Chuck is obscenely tall and really has a hard time fitting into plane seats.  I've flown coach international several times before and knew he would be miserable.  He was miserable on the way from Chicago to D.C. when the guy in front of him put his seat back.  I don't know how that guy wasn't really uncomfortable feeling legs smashed into the back of his seat, but Chuck resembled an unhappy sardine the whole way.  On another funny Chuck note, he was also able to hit his head on the ceiling of both of our short flights.

And then we got to Ethiopian Air.  My God, it was SO worth going deeper into debt to fly business class!  Chuck couldn't kick the seat in front of him if he tried to.  They gave us champagne as we boarded, we chose our dinner from a menu, watched an endearing Queen Latifah movie, and mostly just kicked back and chilled out.  

There are a few other white folks on the plane besides me, and two couples have already told us they were there to adopt, though with other agencies.  One of the couples brought a gaggle of kids with them – more power to them, but wow that's a lot of plane fares!

We also happen to be on the flight with the head of the Ethiopian Adoption program from our agency, Asnake.  He was in Minnesota for some annual meetings and a "reunion" picnic for the kids adopted from Ethiopia.  He comes over and introduces himself and is super-nice.

The whole thing – that we are flying to a country to bring home a child – is a fantastic and amazing thought.  I am having a bit of an out-of-body experience about it right now.  I am not sure why, but at certain times I am able to behave in a dispassionate, entirely reasonable way despite exciting and/or stressful circumstances.  I tend to be pretty level-headed under pressure.  Like doing a crossword puzzle in the dressing room while I was waiting to get married.  Despite everyone else being all panicky and nervous – we were starting late, the photographer wasn't there, the flowers were wrong, etc.- I was pretty cool.  I guess I just thought, "is my becoming bridezilla going to help the situation?" It's not.  So, then…

I had a similar thing going on when I was giving birth to Dillon (and no, I don't think it was the drugs).  I just sort of felt like I was watching this crazy situation happen to someone else.  Like it was a terrible episode of ER-the one where this girl comes in to have a baby and they have to perform every conceivable procedure on her to show the viewers what can happen.

So it's weird.  I am really looking forward to everything but at the same time it just feels so strange and surreal, like this can't possibly be happening so soon.  

Meanwhile, on the flight I've been reading the story of Dan Savage's adoption called The Kid (thanks Kate for the present!) and it's a fantastic book.  And I can emphasize with Dan's reluctance to jinx things with overly high expectations.

Arriving in Ethiopia Chuck pretty much has to physically restrain me so that I don't jump out of my seat to find the camera.  The arrival is breathtakingly beautiful.   The farmlands around Addis Ababa are all different shades of green and brown, sort of triangle-shaped, and arranged into this beautiful abstract pattern that reminds me of a Chagall painting or something.   I wanted to photograph it so badly (we're flying out at night so that's not an option).

The advantages of business class reared its head again  as we got to get off the plane first and there was almost no waiting to get through customs.   Asnake's wife, Tsewai (pretty sure I'm not spelling that right) asked me to carry their camera through customs so they don't have to pay duties on it or whatever.  The import taxes here are pretty weird and outrageous.   Taxes on a car are like, 150% or something.  So your $40K car costs like $100K and most people take taxis, which are either old Fiats or old BMW vans.

We waited forever for our baggage.  I grew more and more paranoid by the minute that all our stuff was lost.  Then at least the bag with our clothes came through, eventually followed by the others.  (I found out later that one of the families on another flight lost 3 out of 4 bags and didn't get them back until Wednesday, which had to be pretty tough!)

The agency's driver, Tesfaye, drove us to the guest house in a van with another family and an escort who was traveling from Minnesota to bring someone's child home to the US for them.  

When we arrived at the guest house for the orphanage, I was pleasantly surprised at the room, which even had two little toddler beds and an attached bathroom (some of the bathrooms are shared).  However, because Chuck and I are fantastic people, we gave up what was probably one of the best rooms in the house to the other family that arrived with us, because they were picking up twin infants.  So we wound up in a basement room without any power in the bedroom but a light in the bathroom.  I questioned the soundness of our decision as I unpacked some of our bags by flashlight (which I had been warned to bring) and tried in the dark to find out what had leaked all over some of the luggage (turned out to be cocoa butter in one of the donation bags, but nothing was ruined or anything).

Ethiopia is about 8 hours ahead, so when we tried to sleep at about 11pm their time, it was only 3pm in Milwaukee, which made it quite difficult to fall asleep, despite only having slept about 3 hours on the plane in anticipation of this moment.  Add to that "Christmas eve" feeling from childhood where something HUGE is happening the next day, and it was pretty much impossible to sleep through the night.  We awoke repeatedly, then got up when we thought the sun had risen, but it turned out to be a room in a building next door with an incredibly bright light coming in to our window.  It was about 4:45 am here.  Chuck managed to fall back asleep, (or at least, he is snoring) but I just can't.  So I get up and organize the donations we brought into about 25 grocery store shopping bags.  Most of the toys, clothes, shoes, toiletries are going to the Orphanage that Rose is coming from.  A few bags of the more critical medical stuff I set aside for a separate orphanage that works with HIV+ children.  I hope to visit them over the course of the week as well.

One Response to “Reflections on our Travel”

  1. patti says:

    Welcome Home!!!!!

    I can’t wait to hear more….

    love you!

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