Friday, July 29, 2011

An update and a favor. (by Killeen)

I've gotten a lot of face-to-face and written inquiries about where we are at with Acacia and the adoption process. I wanted to give a quick update.

Our court date, in which we consented to adopt Acacia and accept her as a permanent member of our family, took place on July 8th. It was quick, to the point, and so efficient it almost baffled me that we had to be there in person. Regardless, we made the trip, had an amazing, eye-popping, heart-warming experience, and happily acknowledged that this "irreversible adoption was forever in the eyes of the law" before an incredibly serious judge.

Then I cried, not from joy, but from the knowledge that we had to say goodbye for what suddenly felt like a very long time. The approval letter will come in approximately 3 weeks, they said. We could go back another 6 weeks after that, they told us. So, about 2 1/2 months. It didn't seem like a very long time. Not until I left.

I had planned to write a letter to Acacia on the plane ride home. Something that I could give her on a later birthday; something that explained as much as I could possibly gather about where she was from and what I knew of her life thus far, and explained how it felt to meet her. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't even think about her without feeling absolute grief. It took many days before I could look at any pictures or watch any videos we took. I liken it to giving birth, and having to leave the hospital without your baby. The feeling is no different, and I never could have believed that until now.

Today marks 3 weeks since our court date. I've had ups and downs. Zinnia has made it bearable. She's such a bright light in my world, and even in moments of sheer tantrum, I haven't taken her for granted for one second since we returned. I have also learned that the love for one child cannot make up for the feelings of loss of another. As much as Zinnia is the perfect daughter, she does not replace the void of Acacia. Again, I wouldn't have believed it could be so hard had I not met Acacia already. I guess, in some ways, it's a good thing to learn: I love that kid as my own, official or not.

Still... that official part is pivotal in getting her home. The Ethiopian courts close in a week or two. We need that letter before closure, or else we won't get it until they reopen in October. Two months could turn into five. It's the worst case scenario for us, but a scenario none-the-less.

In closing, please keep us in your thoughts this week as we hope for good news. Saturday, 8/6, is Acacia's first birthday, and it's all I can do to hope that she receives the (official) gift of a family. I have created an "event" on Facebook with the thought that I can save a copy of her virtual birthday party. I know, it's a little silly sounding, but I think it may mean something to her someday, to know that she was thought of by multiple people on a big day in her life, regardless of where she was. Please click attend & send her a birthday wish on Saturday if you can. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


(I suggest watching in full screen:)

The Amharic word for thank you is pronounced Ah-Meh-Seg-Hay-Nah-Lay-Hoo. Which is not easy to recall when an Ethiopian stands before you deserving this salutation. Most of the time the familiar "thank you" slips out, but there have been a few times in a day I can recall the word.

It's 4:00 AM in Addis Ababa on Friday morning and my mind will not let me rest. The task of processing my relationship with Acacia and my first trip to Africa is too consuming. I could watch television, but the rainy season results in daily power outages. We are located at our agency's guest house, about 15 minutes from the children's transitional facility. The area is a blend of residential and commercial that would induce a cold sweat for even the most relaxed zoning board in New Hampshire. There are major roads that are paved, with the look of a drive down Main Street in Derry, NH or Gravois in St. Louis. Turning off the main roads you reach an extensive network of dirt paths that are more densely populated. These paths are full of stone and metal shacks without a hint of open space. When all the doors and gates are closed, it has the feel of an open air multi-colored tunnel. Nearly everything is painted a bright color, regardless if its a make shift door out of scrap metal or an ornate wooden gate.

Behind each wall is a family, a court yard, or a shop. During the day the city opens many of their doors affording you a chance to see what's inside. For the shacks there are the expected produce and variety shops. Then there are the less expected auto part shops, which would lead me to believe that Ethiopia supplies the world, but we are told this is just the district for such goods. Finally, there are open doors that just reveal families sitting on the floor with exhausted faces and a general ambivalence about what they should be doing.

The stone walls with metal gates provide a different picture. While adjacent to the shacks they only seem to open for entry and exit. When returning to our guest house, a quick horn from the van is followed by a guard sticking his head out of the gate. The gate opens and we enter into a sizable stone courtyard. I've seen a few others and they all appear to have a similar layout. Enough room to park two cars, allow walking access to one or two building/room(s) that are located inside the walls of the property, space for a few plants and maybe a small table. While a bit cramped, I believe it is considered spacious for Addis.

Our days have been spent between our guest house and the transitional facility. We make the round trip at least twice a day via our agency's transport van. Each time we arrive our driver washes the van. Every time, even though we will just get back in the van and rive on the same muddy path in a few short hours. There is just something important about that van being clean. This is not a unique phenomena to this single driver. I'm beginning to realize that if it can be cleaned, someone in Addis is ALREADY cleaning it. Everyone is washing either a car, laundry, a wall, a floor, a tire, a chair, etc... All is being purified, even though we are in the middle of the rainy season. Soon the sky will cloud over, the rain will fall, the earth will soften and whatever it was that you cleaned will be dirty again. Yet it doesn't matter, that is the pattern, and the society embraces it.

There is little wasted in Addis. I've seen many delivery boys moving carts full of glass coke bottles. Coke that is so delicious by the absence of plastic bottles and high fructose corn syrup. While I've seen these bottles on our dinning room table, I've also seen them strategically broken and installed on the tops of shack walls to prevent intruders. Even further I saw two men playing checkers with the metal cap, while sitting on old tires. Caps up and down distinguishing the allegiance of each game piece. I am so inspired by the resourcefulness of the population and an acceptance of working with what they have. Of course I'm not naive enough to believe they necessarily have a choice.

I could say that work is hard to find in Addis and wages are low so the majority of this neighborhood sits around. But I don't know that this is true. What I do know is that I am thankful that I have a family and a wonderful new daughter. A daughter that can embrace where she comes from, but doesn't have to struggle through the hardships that I've seen over the last few days. It is important to understand that we are not saving her. She would have had a life in Ethiopia and from my brief experience with her personality, I know she would have had a good life. What we are offering her is a platform to further reach her greatest potential.

We leave for the US soon, and I say Amesegenalehew for my safe and comfortable life, as this trip has further let me appreciate this.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Greetings from Ethiopia

The less interesting 14 hour (sold out) flight, was full of near attempts at sleep that were thwarted by midnight dinners on Addis Ababa Time, and charged up missionary groups. Most noteworthy was the general energy that all of us were traveling for a BIG reason. The airport was the size of Manchester, but let's just say that it was operated with a slightly different management syle. It was here that I firt learned Ethiopia's operations are based on a "functional chaos." Long-lines, multiple checks, no traffic lights, few crosswalks, four lane roads with only space for two cars...but it all works.

After checking into our room, the transition home was our first destination. Up to this point we had relied on complex manual mathematical equations to pinpoint the exact moment we would meet Acacia. These calculations were inhibited by the answer to an equally complex manual mathematical equation to determine the amount of sleep we achieved. The simple answer to this equations was NOT ENOUGH. Now that we were on the road, we knew it would be 15 minutes until we met her. We were brought to a pleasant living room, that provided the idea of a western home. Shortly after our guide Hermissa brought Acacia into the room, emotions were surging to the same degree as the moment Zinnia was born. What was different was Acacia's quiet nature. She was set in our laps, as calm as a 150 old yogi. She scanned us with great suspicion. Her dark eyes were consuming in a way that didn't allow you to keep secrets. She was in a pretty white polka dot dress with a pink ribbon attached to a lace headband. I whispered, "Your lucky kid. Frills aren't our style, so you just have to ride this one out a little longer." On e of her favorite past times appears to be grabbing fingers and other small objects that aren't bolted to the floor. She's equally skilleed at safely sorring those items out of your reach, a practice she's perfected in the orphanage. I did manage to retrieve my finger. At 11 months she is walking with help. Due to the small size of her orphanage, it's clear that she doesn't get the exercise she needs. In general the standards at the oprhanage would make my collegues at the Child Development Bureau cringe. Too be fair, it is inspiring to see what they have done with the resources they have.

Yesterday, we spent 5 hours with Acacia. Killeen and I are both amazed by how naural it has felt. She is so sweet and calm. I do recognize that we are in a bit of a honeymoon phase. Acacia is a hugger and cuddler. She nearly feel asleep laying on our chests. She has a personality that she is starting to show. So far, we've brought her to the decision point, "should I laugh or cry." She hasn't quite made a choice, but it's early.

Now I'm scared about leaving her. Even in five short hours we've established a level of trust with her. Whie I know she'll be alright, I'm scared of leaving her behind. We can see that she nees us to read what may be her first book, her first run through the grass, and provide her with a more nutrient rich diet. But for now I am thankful that she is safe with a group that I trust to guide her through the functional chaos that is Ethiopia.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

All is the same and nothing is the same

The house is quiet and our tummies are full after the annual family BBQ. Everyone is one year older, but little has changed. The house looks the same. The dog is barking at the neighbors. The cat is demanding more food, even though his bowl is already full. A grocery list sits on the counter waiting for the weekly trip to the market. All is the same and nothing is the same.

Tomorrow Killeen and I will start a seven thousand mile journey. We’ll take anti-malaria medication, forget the concept of drinking water from a faucet, and play the part of a jet lagged zombies. Zinnia will begin the longest break from her parents. She will sleep in a new bed, eat at a new table, and ride in another car. A house sitter will walk the dog, feed the cat, and keep the neighbors from thinking we’ve abandoned our home.

Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia) sits at an elevation of 7,726 feet above sea level. A city in the clouds. My head is hard at work, searching for this city. Floating and hunting for Acacia in my thoughts. To me she is a picture, a concept, and a goal. But a mile above my head she is very much a one-year old baby girl. What is she doing up there? Is she crawling, walking, eating solid foods, or sitting on the potty? Only a few more hours and we’ll know. Foot by foot we’ve been climbing towards her and soon we’ll swing the doors open and have our moment. This will probably be a crying baby that is terrified of our two white faces, smells, and odd sounding language. Which is expected and totally okay.

Yet, maybe somewhere deep inside she has a unique feeling. Maybe right before she goes to bed tonight, everything appears to be the same, but the winds of change are telling her something different. This is stretch for an atheist like myself. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of change lately, and I’m opening myself to the possibility of a greater force that connects us all. I’m opening myself to this in the same way that I’m embracing the belief that somewhere inside; Acacia already understands what’s happening.

Right now, everything is quiet. Quiet as we have one last peaceful night before our lives change forever.

***To catch you up to speed on the specifics*****

Monday – Killeen and I depart and stay over in Washington DC for the night.

Tuesday – We depart early in the morning on a 14 hour direct flight to Ethiopia.

Wednesday – We arrive in Ethiopia early in the morning. We are transported to our guest house, run by our adoption agency. After a quick meal we’re transported to the transitional home where we will meet Acacia. We will continue to spend time with her for the remainder of our time in the country. Our last day we’ll go before an Ethiopian judge and attests that Acacia is the child we wish to adopt. We will then leave the country and say goodbye to our baby girl.

In an estimated eight weeks (after the paperwork is processed), we’ll return to Ethiopia to take custody of Acacia and bring her back to New Hampshire.