November 30, 2010

The Trip

The post that I'd like to write is not bubbling up to the surface.

That amazing post reflecting on the trip...I still haven't written the one I intended to write after my first trip to Ethiopia well over two years ago. I would like to say that I have many brilliant tidbits to share. I don't. This trip was at least as overwhelming as our adoption trip, though for very different reasons. I still haven't just sat down and thought about it. I locked up the raw emotions that might come pouring out. Just like two years ago. Home with two new children, medical issues, attachment and bonding going on, trying to understand how to parent five children...the busyness alone kept us from really trying to understand Ethiopia. Thanksgiving and Black Friday greeted me on this return trip. I had to guard myself against becoming Scrooge to my children. Will Christmas be pared down this year? You betcha. Did our children get an earful of, "The kids in Ethiopia were ecstatic to have a marker..."? I haven't gone there with them. Though it does seem like I mentioned to one of the kids something about lack of clean water and please stop letting that faucet run like that...

I'm so trying not to be a lunatic.

And that means I'm kind of avoiding writing anything meaningful. So, I decided the best way to explain what we did is to just introduce each of the care points that we visited and perhaps one of them will tug on your heart and you'll feel compelled to sponsor one of these beautiful children.

November 22, 2010

Meeting Jirigna

One of the most amazing opportunities during our week was meeting Jirigna, our sponsor child. He's been a part of our life since earlier this year. We've prayed for him, talked about him, and written to him. But, he still seemed so far away. When we arrived at Kind Hearts we were overwhelmed with the dozens of children scrabbling for our attention. I scanned the little faces in the crowd and didn't see the one that I had become familiar with. After the chaos died down, we found out that Jirigna goes to a school for older kids during the day and comes later to Kind Hearts.

Later in the afternoon some of us went down to the polluted river that acts as a boundary for the care point's property. The property is dotted with acacia trees and in the distance you can see rolling hills covered with fields of teff. The once beautiful river is now black because of pollution from the local tannery. The tributary coming into the blackened water along the other side of the property comes from the alcohol production factory. As we discussed the director's hopes for a self-sustaining care point, I saw one lone child playing soccer in the schoolyard. I couldn't see the little boy's face, but I immediately recognized his sweatshirt. The sweatshirt that Jirigna is wearing in the photo on our fridge at home. And here he is, nine months later, still wearing that shirt. I was thrilled to see him, but he was standoffish. After talking to the translator, he posed for a photo, still uncertain.
The next morning we arrived at the locked gates. Children ran alongside the van and a crowd had formed in the alleyway. As the guard unlocked the gate, I saw Jirigna's face in the crowd. When we got out of the vans, I could see that he was still outside of the gate, his face peering through a hole in the fence. He watched me as I spoke to our translator, who took me to the guard to open the gates.

A moment later, Jirigna was at my side, fiercely holding my hand and fending off children who might try to get my attention. I had made a friend. The afternoon was busy with activities for the children, but Jirigna would catch my eye and wave whenever he saw me. Late that day, it was my turn to give Jirigna his care package.

I was emotional looking at the care package. It signified a little piece of home for me. It was such a small bag, no sacrifice at all for us to fill it. We made an afternoon of picking out things we thought he would like, then crammed it all into a gallon bag with a letter and pictures. I teared up as I introduced our family to him and read the letter explaining that we pray for him and are proud of his hard work. He smiled and nodded. As he held up our family photo for a picture, he grabbed my face and kissed me on the cheek.

"Thank you, thank you!" he said.

On the afternoon that we were saying goodbye, I brought Jirigna the picture that we had taken the first day that we met. He protectively held it in the air, away from smaller hands and I carefully slid it into his pocket. A little later, he held it out to me asking me to keep it safe as he played. The time passed quickly and we gathered to say our final farewells. Jirigna stood before the entire group and asked, "When will you come again?"

I left a little piece of my heart standing on a sandy schoolyard in Addis Ababa clutching a photo of a smiling American mom and an uncertain Ethiopian boy.

November 13, 2010

It's here!

After months of anticipation the day is finally here. I wasn't ready to say good-bye this morning. I'm always the one leaving with a full van, waving to Seth as we pull away from the house. Early this morning, racing around I held onto them a little longer than I should have. Extra hugs and kisses...reassurances that they will, indeed, be able to have fun without me. I think, because I am such a huge jovial presence.

Have I packed? If you count the five suitcases that drove off this morning. Yes, I packed. I packed all week. Am I ready to leave in a few hours? Nope. My suitcases exploded into the kitchen after the family left. I'm weighing and moving and drying clothes and making my thirtieth list of the week. I work well under pressure. Figuring that the donations I'm bringing are more important than what I'm wearing, I have waited until the absolute last minute to pack for myself. I may be in the same outfit for the entire week because notebook paper is really heavy, folks. I'm talking, REALLY, heavy. And, Bibles, let's not even go there, because those guys are like three pounds a piece. I won't even start on crayons.

So, if all of the pictures of me show that I'm wearing the same jeans and shirt then you can assume I managed to fit both boxes of notebooks into my carry-on. Or the dryer didn't get my other clothes dry before I had to leave.

Either way, today is the big day. Tomorrow we'll be in Ethiopia. My mom, and I, and a team of people we haven't met face-to-face, spending a week with an amazing group of children.

November 2, 2010

A Dream Realized

Elijah became obsessed with horses while Seth and I were in Ukraine getting Ella. He was 18 months old. He couldn't even say 'horse'. He made this windy, sloppy horse sound. We guessed that he was emotionally a mess because his parents disappeared for a few weeks. He got a plastic horse shortly after our departure and carried that Clydesdale around with him for the next three weeks. For years all he wanted for birthdays and Christmas were horses. Stuffed or plastic, brown, black, white...all were greeted with jubilation. His obsession has cooled, but his one 'sport' request last year was for riding lessons.

Last month his dream became a reality when we found a perfect (low cost) program. He gets to spend two hours a week at the stables and ends each lesson with an hour ride on 'Smokey,' his pony of choice. I know a cowboy doesn't want his Momma calling him (or his steed) cute, but...shucks those two are real cuties!