Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Journey to Joseph, Part 1

Even though we are now home safe and sound, I am backing up the story for you.  We did not have reliable internet service while in Ethiopia, so we were not able to blog along the way. I hope you enjoy Joseph's story...
June 13-15, 2011
Our adventure has begun! After Margaret's obligatory last-minute frenetic dash to pack and get everything settled for the kids while we're gone, she and Beth boarded the charter bus with her class to attend the 2nd grade Zoo field trip in Portland. We had a great time riding the bus, eating our sack lunches, seeing all the animals and just spending some time together! At five-o-clock, she and I hugged goodbye, shed a few tears, and then she boarded the bus to go home, while I took the MAX tram to Clackamas Town Center. Mitch drove the car up and met me there and we grabbed a quick dinner at a Thai BBQ. Yum! Then we headed to my Great-Aunt Nancy's place where she graciously said we could park our car while gone. And she even took us to the airport!!! Thanks, Aunt Nancy!

Check-in went reasonably smoothly (I say “reasonably” because I really think those self-serve kiosks take much longer to figure out than if a real-live person just took your documents and handed you the information you needed. Anyway...) We had some time before boarding to just sit and catch our breath. Portland to Chicago went just fine. Short layover. On to Dulles where we had a 3-hour layover. We found our gate and saw that the line to get boarding passes was already long so we figured we'd better jump in. Took an hour waiting in line, had one hour to get some breakfast and then boarding started an hour before take-off. So three hours wasn't much after all.

Our flight to Addis Ababa was looooong! About 13.5 hours long! We had pretty good seats and the service was satisfactory, but it was very crowded with no room to stretch. But we survived, landing in Addis Ababa safely in the midst of great sunny weather! Our first stop was to get Mitch's entrance visa. While waiting in line, we started chatting with a couple who, it turns out, was in the adoption process too. This was their first trip and they had unfortunately left all their cash in their checked luggage and had no way to pay for their entrance visas. I told them if they couldn't use a credit card, we would loan them the money and they could just pay us back when they found their luggage. Sure enough credit cards could not be used so we gave them the money and you could see the relief in their eyes. It all worked out just fine and we left them with some words of blessing to help ease their minds.

Theddros, our scout, looking over the Awash Falls
After getting our luggage, we walked out to the lobby and immediately saw our tour guide, Tsegaw, holding up a sign with our names on it. He had been waiting there for us for over two hours but was very gracious. He led us out to his waiting van, loaded our luggage, and we were off! Off to the Awash National Park and to see some of the countryside along the way. Tsegaw had brought some bread and fruit and some of his wife's homemade meatballs so that we could just picnic in the van and not have to stop for lunch. It took us about 4 hours to drive to the park where he paid the entrance fee and then an armed scout joined us in our van to help locate animals and provide protection in case some big animal got too close, I guess.

Our first glimpse of an oryx
The flat-topped trees are acacia trees, foreground has anthills
At the Awash Gorge Lodge
A warthog family
We saw a landscape that reminded us a lot of the High Desert of Eastern Oregon, just a lot of acacia trees added. And we saw at least eight species of animals: oryx, Soemmerings gazelle, buzzards, Salts dikdik, guinea fowl, warthog,
lesser kudu, and even a crocodile near the river when we arrived at the Awash River Gorge (looked a lot like the Snake River Gorge). There was a lodge there, where we ordered a light dinner/lunch? of beef shish kabobs and sat on the patio overlooking the gorge. It was very peaceful and praise-inspiring to the Creator. And the food was very good, too! Some of the best-tasting chile sauce I have ever had.

Awash River Falls aka Chocolate Falls
After leaving the gorge, we drove through the park some more to get to the Awash River Falls. So powerful and fascinating. The river was swollen and muddy from recent rains so the water looked like chocolate splashing over the edge (sure didn't smell like it though!)
We saw lots of camels!
More wildlife!
We got back in the van and headed back out, said goodbye to Theddros, our scout, at the gate and then back toward Nazreth, our stop for the night, feeling tired but happy that our trip has gone so smoothly thus far and that we are now two days closer to seeing our little boy and playing with him! God has surely been going before and behind us and we hope this journey will be one more testimony to the incredible plan He has for a little boy named Joseph.
The town of Nazreth

Monday, April 11, 2011

Our Case is approved!

Yeah!  We just got the word that our case was approved in the Ethiopian courts!  That means that the Holt staff in Ethiopia can begin the next step of scheduling our visa interview at the American embassy in Addis Ababa.  We have been told that this will take 8-12 weeks before we will travel again, putting our date to bring our boy home sometime in June or early July.  As long as this process seems to be taking, we feel at peace that God knows just the right timing for our family. One benefit to waiting a little longer is that Mitch will have time to get reacclimated to civilian life, get his business growing again, spend quality time with Jack and Beth, and take a deep breath of wonderful Oregon air!

We also received another health update on Joseph and learned that he has grown another 5 cm taller!  Praise God he is healthy!

A quick update on Jack and Beth...

Jack's first day of soccer
Jack is excelling in Kindergarten--reading at the 2nd grade level already--and enjoys playing soccer with his friends.  He also loves to play Wii, which can be an issue at times, but usually ends up being a good motivation factor for cleaning up his room or treating his sister with kindness instead of annoying her to death. 

Beth at the piano
Beth is also doing above average in 2nd grade--reading chapter books with ease and usually scoring 100% on her spelling tests.  She recently started piano lessons and learned so quickly, that her teacher had to give her more than the usual number of songs to keep her from getting bored.  She is enjoying the social aspect of public school and has a lot of friends.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our family!  Please continue to hold us up in prayer as we go through many transitions in the next few months!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ethiopia Flashback #5

At the risk of coming off anti-climatic (sp?), I just thought I'd finish blogging our trip, even though we really had only a VERY long series of VERY long flights home.  We had enough time to eat a meal at the hotel for dinner and relax a little bit before checking out and loading up the van for the short drive to the airport.  The other families' flight was set to leave an hour before ours, but we decided to just go ahead and wait at the airport.
When we arrived and the driver parked, our van was swarmed by people begging for money.  I think some of them wanted to take carry our luggage in for us, but we just grabbed our stuff, held on to our purses and headed away from them.  Unfortunately, we headed in the wrong direction!  Our driver waved us back the other way and we sighed with relief when we reached the terminal.  It's kind of strange to feel relief to be back in a security check line, but it was better than being accosted!  As we went through the security check and paused to put our shoes back on, a guy waved me over to the side.  I didn't recognize that he was one of the security guards and firmly told him "no thanks!" thinking he wanted to be my porter for a fee.  After two more attempts on his part, I finally realized who he was and that he wanted to search my bag!  Gosh, was I embarrassed or what?!  He didn't find anything suspicious in my bag so he let me go.  Whew!
We decided to exchange our Ethiopian birr back to dollars so we found the nearest exchange bank.  The teller ambled over to the window and asked what we wanted.  Problem was that we couldn't hear a word he was saying through the safety glass.  I kept asking him to repeat himself and he got really irked with me and finally told me I should go to a different exchange because he was sick and had lost his voice and was going to the hospital as soon as someone came to relieve him.  I told him I wanted to exchange there and wouldn't leave so he finally figured it out and made the exchange.  Geesh!  I was sorry for him that he was sick, but good grief, he acted like it was all my fault!  Oh well.
Next we went through the check-in line at the ticket counter to get our boarding passes.  While we waited in line, the woman behind us had the nerve to ask us to check some bags for her!  I was flabbergasted!  I suppose we should have reported her, but we just firmly said no and ignored her.  I was secretly hoping she wasn't on our flight.  Who knows what might have been in her bags?  Ah, I suppose she probably just went overboard on her shopping and didn't want to pay the extra luggage fee...When we made it to the front of the line, everything went smoothly and we got little green dots on our boarding passes to indicate with which group we could board.
The next line we had to wait in was the passport control line.  Only took about 20 minutes though and then we SHOPPED!  Hee hee.  We had a few items still to find for people back home so we searched every shop there.  It was interesting to see all the Ethiopian art/craft stuff.  My favorite find was a children's book (in English) that told the legend of Ethiopian coffee.  And my other favorite was a mobile of cats made out of fun fabrics that I secretly bought for Pat as a thank you for being my travel partner.  Pat was intent on finding just the right bracelets for her three best friends so she never even knew!  It was a fun surprise!
Pretty soon, it was time to go through the last security queue and we were finally at our gate.  We still had about an hour until our flight and by this time we were starting to feel drowsy.  Problem was, we didn't want to fall asleep until we were on the plane.  I decided to walk around the waiting area a little to try to stay awake.  I made a big circle and as I neared the gate, I saw a sign designating which colored dots corresponded to which boarding group.  I noticed that "green" boarded first because it corresponded to "Business class, passengers needing extra assistance, families with small children, and elderly passengers."  I hurried back to where Pat was waiting and told her, with a huge grin on my face, that I was glad she was "elderly" because that meant we got to board first.  Hee hee.  We had a good laugh about that one!
 Well, the rest of our journey was rather uneventful...refueled in Sudan, layover in Amsterdam (did a little more shopping), 5-hour layover in Seattle (not fun to be so close to home and yet so far away!) and finally we were landing in Eugene.  My mom had picked up Jack and Beth and met us at the airport.  It was wonderful to see the kids and give them great big hugs and lots of kisses!  What a journey!  What an experience!  God was so present to me the whole time, giving me peace and stability, calming my anxiety and I want to give Him all the glory!  I am simply in awe of Him, because I know He has an amazing plan for Joseph's life and for whatever reason, I get to be his mommy.
Took this one for Mitch in Seattle :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ethiopia Flashback #4

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Waiting for our breakfast

We hadn't really slept, but at least we "rested" and by 6 a.m. we were ready to get up and start another day in Ethiopia.  We got dressed and headed down to breakfast.  This time there were a few Ethiopian offerings on the buffet along with the usual "American" stuff.  I recognized the chachebsa that I had tried the previous morning and two dishes that looked like cooked grains--one tasted like hominy, the other was wheat, I think.  After plenty of coffee, we headed upstairs to the lobby to wait for our driver to arrive and take us to the Holt offices. 

While we were waiting, an Ethiopian woman, wearing traditional clothing,  performed a coffee ceremony for us right there in the lobby.  A mat of grass and flower petals is spread on the floor and a charcoal burner is lit, as well as an incense burner (which mostly smelled like smoke).  The green, raw coffee beans are then roasted over the burner until the beans turn dark brown.  Then the beans are placed in a clay bowl and passed around so that everyone can waft the aroma into their nostrils.  The whole room is permeated with smoke, the aroma of roasting coffee and incense.  Once everyone has "smelled" the coffee beans they are ground in a mortar and pestle.  While everyone waits, popcorn, roasted barley and peanuts are passed around to enjoy.  When the coffee has been finely ground, it is poured into a special pot with a rounded bottom and a long, skinny spout, which has already been filled with boiling water.  It sits on the charcoal burner to boil for a while and then placed on a special round stand to rest and let the grounds settle to the bottom.  When it is ready to serve, it is poured into demitasse cups (except no handles) and passed around on a large serving tray with plenty of sugar.  You are supposed to drink 3 cups: the first is to honor a guest, the second, a little bit weaker since water is added, is for good luck, the third, weaker still, is considered a blessing.  We were so surprised that they had so much smoke right there in the lobby of the hotel!  I don't think they had any smoke alarms...

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
Well, finally it was time to load up and drive to the Holt offices.  Another couple joined us, so there were four families altogether.  We arrived at the Holt offices and were ushered in to a large room where we were greeted warmly and watched a short power point presentation reminding us of some of the cultural issues and informing us what to expect that day.  Then the attorney spoke to us about our court hearing and explained what would happen.  Before we drove to the court, we filed upstairs to one of the large offices where we noticed rows and rows of large 3-ring binders, each one representing a child who was in the process of being adopted.  Each family had the opportunity to view their child's binder, which included all the paperwork , (everything from our dossiers, too), health reports, pictures, etc that had been gathered up to that point.  It struck me how much work had been poured into little Joseph's life just to get him to the place where he was ready to be adopted.  And thinking of my wonderful afternoon with him...was it already two days ago?...and glimpsing his magnetic personality made me pause and wonder to the Lord that He must have some special plans for Joseph's life!  I am in awe that God would consider me worthy of rearing up such a precious child.  Truth is, I'm not, but I just have to trust Him to be sufficient in me.
Anyway, we didn't have a lot of time, just flipped through the pages looking for anything that wasn't in Amharic or was a picture.  Then we filed back downstairs and into the van for the short ride to the courthouse.  It wasn't much to look at, just a plain multi-story building.  We entered and immediately began trudging up who knows how many flights of stairs on a narrow winding staircase.  I lost count.  We followed the attorney down a long hallway and into a fairly large waiting room.  It had chairs placed all the way around the room but was mostly open in the middle.  The attorney told us that normally the judge holds court in that room, but for some reason had decided to meet with people in her chambers that day.  We waited as group after group was called in for 10 minutes or so and then exited.  While we waited, Pat glanced around the room and all of a sudden leaned over to me and said she thought she recognized Joseph's birth mother, from a photo we had seen in his binder, sitting across the room.  My heart started pounding as I stole a glance.  She looked so forlorn sitting there and my heart went out to her as I thought about all this day meant for her.  For me it was the possibility of the judge saying, "The child is yours!"  For her it was the certainty that Joseph would never be hers again.  Oh my heart felt like it was breaking!
As we waited, each of the families in our group began to realize that the birth parents were all in the room and they began to recognize them from photos.  Finally all of the birth parents were ushered as a group into the judge's chambers and after they had met with her, they left the courthouse.  We were also ushered in as a group and asked a series of questions, which we answered as a group.  One couple had already adopted before from Ethiopia and the judge was particularly interested in their child and how well he had adapted to his new life, but the rest of the questions were for the group.  We were asked if we had met our child and if we still wanted to proceed with the adoption.  Of course, we all said, "YES!"  After only about 5 minutes, the judge declared to two families, "The child is yours!"  But to us and one other family, we were told that we would need another court appointment because a particular letter of approval had not been sent yet.  The attorney assured us that it was nothing to worry about and that we would not have to appear in person again.  It was somewhat disappointing, but I had already steeled myself for the possibility that Mitch's absence might present a problem (which it thankfully did not!) so hearing that there was a delay wasn't crushing.
More agonizing to me was the prospect of our impending meeting with Joseph's birth mother.  As we drove back to the Holt offices, where the meeting would take place, Pat reassured me that the Lord was with me and it would be okay.  I had so many anxious thoughts, though...would she resent me? or would she approve me? would she be emotional or stoic? would I break down and cry and if I did what would she think?  I tried to think of anything I could say or show her that might reassure her that she had made the best decision given the circumstance.  I think I was the most nervous at this point in the trip, more than meeting Joseph or the court hearing!  We came back into the waiting room at Holt and were told that there were only 3 interpreters so the fourth family, which of course was us, would have to wait until one of the others was done and then we would meet.  More agonizing!  I am more the type of person who would rather just get it over with first thing than have to wait to be last!  But finally we were shown in and introductions were made.  The conversation was slow because the translation went English to Amharic to Wolayita to Amharic to English through two interpreters.  Instead of really asking many questions, I felt like I was just telling her about our family and how I would take care of Joseph.  When I showed her pictures on my camera of Jack and Beth, she showed a faint smile and later, when I asked about Joseph's siblings, she said he has birth siblings who are the same ages as Jack and Beth!  It was otherwise such an emotional and personal conversation that I mostly want to treasure it in my heart.  Suffice it to say, she loves Joseph and truly wants him to have a better life, to know Jesus Christ, and she wants him to know about her.  I pray that God will give her peace even in her grief.
After a somewhat awkward photo session with all of the birth and adoptive families together, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  They had a long drive back south.  We were driven to a restaurant high up on a hill overlooking the city.  It was quite a nice place and as we drove higher and higher, there were fewer and fewer ramshackle houses along the alleys.  The menu had both pasta dishes and traditional Ethiopian fare, so I ordered a lamb stew with the traditional flatbread.  Yummmmm!  It was delicious!  When our escort from Holt dropped us off, he said he would be back in 2 hours so we could just relax and debrief together.  I still wasn't wanting to talk much.  I would have rather had some time by myself to process everything and maybe journal, so when the meal was done, Pat and I decided to go out to the outdoor seating and enjoy the view with our dessert and macchiatos.  What I really wanted was to talk to Mitch about everything.  Sigh.
Our driver finally returned to pick us up and then we headed to a market for a whole 45 minutes of shopping!  Talk about a change of pace!  It was a good thing we had limited space to take things home because it made it easier to choose.  I splurged on space a little bit when I chose a drum for Jack and some baskets for myself and for thank yous to a couple of people, but otherwise kept it small and simple.  It helped to know that I would be returning and could always do more shopping the second time around.  I suppose we should have haggled a bit over prices, but the prices were so reasonable to us that we didn't argue, just paid what they asked.  Besides, we didn't have much time.  When we made it back to the van, we discovered that our driver was Ciyun again and he asked if we wanted to get coffee.  At first I thought he meant to drink coffee at a coffee shop, but then realized he meant to buy coffee to take home.  How could I pass that up!!?  So we pulled over in front of a little shop on a busy street and ran inside to get a couple of bags of coffee.  While the others waited in the van, the van got swarmed by beggars and by street vendors.  It was so sad to see them trying so hard just to sell us a little package of gum or tissues!  We had been warned, though, not to give in because then we would really be swarmed once everyone saw that we would buy.  We have so much for which to be thankful here in America...
So it was back to the hotel, eat an early dinner, pack our bags and wait for the hotel van to drive us to the airport.  I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the hotel, the view, and the restaurant under construction behind the hotel which is built like a traditional round hut...okay, so my pictures won't upload tonight.  I'll just have to try again, maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ethiopia Flashback #3

Still Sunday, March 6, 2011...
By the time we had finished our visit at the Care Center, our driver had figured out how to start the van again and was waiting for us outside the gate.  The atmosphere in the van as we started out again was so charged with emotion--elation over finally seeing our little boys, mixed with sadness that we had to say goodbye so soon, joy at the wonderful  way in which Joseph accepted me and his new grandma, aching over Mitch having missed out this time...I felt drained more than anything and just wanted to process everything quietly.  Fortunately, most everyone must have felt similarly because when we met up with the other van, after the initial, "So how did it go?" and sharing the highlights with the other couple, almost everyone began to nod off and catch a few winks.  I say almost everyone because of all of us, Pat was the one who stayed wide awake the whole time!  I had to laugh because Mulu kept asking her, with great concern, if she felt okay.  I think he thought she might not be able to keep up with us young folks since she was "older."  Hee hee.  She showed him though...even he fell asleep while she remained wide awake!  Later, Pat explained to me that she was a "senior" NOT "elderly!"  (Remember that!)
Amazing scenery!

The courtyard of our hotel

Well the next leg of our journey was about 2 hours and took us to the city of Awassa, where we would stay the night.  It is situated at the edge of a large lake, looks very tropical and green and has some amazing birds and other wildlife.  We made it to the hotel shortly before some dark, menacing clouds rolled in.  We got situated in our room and relaxed for a few minutes while we waited for the scheduled time to meet for dinner.  The courtyard was quite inviting (although it was small), however there was an armed guard patrolling it.  We weren't sure whether to feel safer or threatened?  I went on a mission to discover whether the hotel had computers and wifi since I had still not contacted Mitch to let him know we were safe.  Besides, I was anxious to tell him all about our visit with Joseph.  No luck.  There was wifi but no computers--had to use your own.  One of the other couples had an iphone and offered to let me send an email after dinner.
Then, at dinner, the thunderstorm really hit!  We had just ordered our meals when all the power went out.  Everyone started whipping out their cell phones and using the screens like flashlights.  Not to worry, though.  A generator started up within a few minutes and when our food came it was plenty hot. :)  But, when we tried to use Steve's iphone to email Mitch, the wifi was out.  Not much else I could do.  We went back to our room and got ready for bed.  Pat took the first shower and has a story to tell about that!  It was quite the shower, I have to say.  I found my little flashlight that Jack had loaned me (he received it for Christmas in his stocking and said I could use it on my trip.) and kept it handy since the lights kept going off and then on again.  It felt so hot and stuffy in our room, but there was no screen on our first floor window and we didn't feel comfortable leaving the window open to mosquitoes and who knows what else!  So we just peeled back the covers and used the sheets only.  I fell asleep quickly, but awoke at 1:15, tossed and turned until 2 and then finally got the flashlight out and read my book until 6, wide awake!  Maybe I just never switched from Oregon time?
Monday, March 7, 2011
Breakfast was early so that we could make a quick stop at the lake to view some scenery.  I got brave and ordered an Ethiopian breakfast called chachebsa.  It had the texture of spaetzle or gnocchi, was in bite-sized pieces, was lightly fried and had a mild paprika-flavored seasoning.  I enjoyed it!   And so did everyone else at the table 'cause then they all wanted to try it.  We had discovered that the Ethiopian-style "macchiato" was the coffee drink for us and so we all had some with breakfast.


Pat found a kitty!

Back on the road again, we headed for the lake, specifically to a resort on the lake.  As we approached, we began to notice more and more monkeys!  What fun!  The resort was very nice and looked like a popular place to vacation.  We just walked around and took some pictures.  Pat found a kitty to hold and pet--surprise, surprise!  Back in the van, we headed North again, toward Addis Ababa. 

We saw lots of camels!

 This time, though, we travelled along a highway that was East of our previous route and it took us through some terrain with more lakes and green fields.  As we approached Addis Ababa, the highway became more and more congested with  trucks and Mulu told us that route was frequently used for moving freight.  I was so thankful for Ciyun, our driver!  The rules of the road are quite different in Ethiopia than here.  It's something more like "possession is 90%..." 
But we made it safely back to the Jemimah Guesthouse and had a few hours to relax.  Our plan had been to meet with the other couples and  go out to a restaurant and cultural show.  But, I was by then quite anxious to contact Mitch, and so Pat and I decided to stay at the hotel and try again to email or call or something.  I did get to send a couple of emails and had told Mitch that I would be back online at a particular time so that we could i.m. but those darned thunderstorms rolled in again and knocked out the wifi.  Thank the Lord I was able to at least let him know we were okay! 
I layed down to rest at 7 p.m. and fell asleep so soundly that when I awoke 2 hours later, I couldn't believe it was still only 9 p.m.  I thought my alarm clock battery had malfunctioned or something.  So I traipsed downstairs to the lobby to find out what time it really was.  In the meantime, I could hear a very loud machine operating outside the hotel.  It sounded like  road construction or something.  Just as I approached the front desk, it occurred to me that it must be the generators again keeping the power on.  Sure enough!  I had to use earplugs to get back to sleep!  Well, if you could call it sleep...more tossing and turning and checking the clock to see if it was finally time to get up.  Big day ahead...our court hearing.

P.S. More pics below...after 1 1/2 hours of trying to move them around on this post--I give up!

Lake Awassa

Ethiopian traffic jam

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ethiopia Flashback #2

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Finally, we got up to dress and prepare for our day!  On a humorous note, Pat thought she would investigate the Ethiopian-style bidet.  Just as she was saying, "How does this thing work?" she squeezed the handle and sprayed herself in the face!  I was rolling on floor laughing!

Breakfast was served in the Guesthouse basement and seemed more American  than Ethiopian--fried potatoes, toast with butter and jam, fried eggs, coffee/tea, oatmeal and real fruit smoothies with mango and banana.  We leisurely walked up to the lobby to wait for our guide and driver, who were expected at 6:00.  Much to our surprise, we discovered that our trip was to be an overnight trip and we were to stay in another city!  So much for our leisure!  We rushed up all four flights, huffing and puffing, mind you, threw our suitcases together and rushed back down.  No one seemed too disturbed by our tardiness and we hit the road.

There were three Ethiopians with us, Mulu, our host and a social worker with Holt, Ciyun, our driver, and another gentleman who also worked with Holt and just needed to travel down to the South care centers.  Then there were the three families: Me and Pat representing our family, Emily and Steve, and Liam and Melanie.  The van was large enough that we had room between us and felt quite comfortable.  Heading out of town on the main road, we saw people already out, sweeping and cleaning the road or just walking to their place of work.  

Sunrise over Addis Ababa

The sun was just coming up and, being Sunday, the traffic  was lighter than usual according to Mulu. 
Herding cattle along the road
As we drove further into the countryside, we noticed more and more people walking by the road, herding cows, donkeys, goats, carrying water containers to the local well, and many carrying Bibles on their way to church.  Mulu said that many people were on their way to church.  We saw children everywhere and so many toddlers without an adult in sight and so close to the road!  Some children looked only 5 or 6 years old, yet were waving sticks to guide several cows or donkeys across the road.
Local residents on their way to church
Our group having our first rest stop
We drove for a couple of hours before stopping at a hotel/cafe to use the restroom and have a cold beverage.  We were beginning to get to know the two other couples who were travelling with us as we shared our adoption experience thus far and took turns bragging on our children.

We continued south toward the towns  of Durame and Soto, the locations of the two care centers in which our children were residing.  At a junction, we met another van and Pat and I along with Steve and Emily, moved to the second van and continued down to Soto, while Liam and Melanie remained with Mulu and Ciyun and drove up to Durame.  Our new guide was Wolde, another Holt case worker in the Wolayita zone.  They took us to a hotel/restaurant in Soto to get some lunch, but when we found out that the care center was only 1 kilometer from the restaurant, we were all wishing we could just skip lunch and go straight there!  Sigh! 

It was hard to know what to order on the Ethiopian menu so I just had spaghetti with vegetable "sauce."  Service is different there--timing doesn't seem to matter so much.  First Steve got his meal, then about 10 minutes later, Emily got hers, and another 10 minutes later I finally got mine.  By that time, my stomach was in so many knots knowing that I would soon see my little boy, but I forced down a few bites.  While we were waiting for our lunch, Wolde asked with which children we had been matched.  When I told him ours was Yoseph Simon, he grinned and nodded his head and told me that Yoseph is "very active boy."  When I asked him what that meant, he told me that Yoseph was a little ringleader and would organize his little friends and get them to sing and dance together.  When I asked Wolde how much Yoseph knew about me and about his adoption, he made a phone call to the care center and asked the head nurse.  She told him that they had told Yoseph that we were coming and that he was "very excited."  I felt such relief upon hearing that as I had already played out every possible scenario, good and bad, in my head and had been praying that he would receive us well.

Finally, it was time to go.  We all piled back into the van and then...the driver couldn't get it to start!  Soooo, we all piled out again and started walking up the street.  Apparently seeing white people is still unusual enough that most everyone stared at us as we walked by, friendly though with some offering a greeting or a welcoming gesture.  We crossed a deep ditch and turned on a narrow dirt road with shacks lining it.  A pair of mothers with their children saw us and smiled.  One little girl, brightly dressed in a yellow African dress, came up to Pat and said "salem", the word for hello (meaning "peace") and shook her hand in the Ethiopian tradition with the left hand at the right elbow and right hand extended.  As we crossed the ditch and began the uphill climb to the Care Center, she fell in beside me and offered me her hand to hold.  It was so endearing, but frankly, all I wanted at that moment was to see my Joseph and hold him.

We turned right one more time and a few yards up and on the left was the Care Center compound.  As the gate swung open and we stepped inside, we were greeted by a whirlwind of a boy hopping from foot to foot and calling out something in Wolayita language, who was unmistakably Joseph!  His smile was radiant and his expression clearly said he was thrilled to see us.  I couldn't have imagined a better reception!
We took off our shoes and were given some "indoor shoes" to put on and then we were ushered inside and joined Joseph on the floor, where the doctor and a nanny introduced me to him as his mommy.  I pulled out my bag of toys and let him discover them while I peppered the doctor with questions.  Joseph kept trying to stow everything in a small box and couldn't make it all fit, so finally I gave him my little backpack so he could keep it all in one place.  His nanny kept teasing him that she wanted to have his toys but he was clearly insisting they were his.  I asked, through an interpreter, if he would sing me a song.  He didn't want to sing but he offered to pray.  He stood up, folded his hands, closed his eyes and prayed.  The doctor told me afterward that he had asked the Lord to bless the guests and the time there.  Wow!

As I showed him his photo album of our family back home, I said Jack and Beth's names and he repeated them so quickly and his pronunciation was excellent!  I think he will pick up English very quickly.
Joseph's backpack
We were served Ethiopian coffee with the traditional popcorn while we visited and played and took photos.  One of Joseph's friends begged to be allowed to come in and meet Joseph's new mommy so the nannies let him come in and greet us.  I hope that he will be adopted soon, too! 
 When we had finished our coffee, I asked Joseph to show me where he sleeps.  He jumped up and started to put on the backpack, not wanting to let it out of his sight, I guess.  Then he scampered out the back door without waiting for us to follow.  We had to change from indoor shoes to outdoor shoes again before we could catch up with him.  He was in the room  where he sleeps with 4 other young boys and the other boys were all hugging him and kissing him when we poked our heads in.  I asked if I could take a picture and then had someone take a photo with me and Joseph together.  I think I leaned over to give him a little kiss while my arm was around him and then one of the nannies apparently told him to kiss me.  The camera operator was having trouble and so they kept having to tell him to do it again and again.  I didn't care if it was staged or not, I was eating it up!  Oh, those kisses were sweeter than chocolate and melted my heart!  We ended up with me tickling him and laughing together. 

Joseph's not much for standing still, though.  As soon as he heard that it was time for the guests to leave, he started running for the gate and told the nanny he wanted to go with us.  Before they could even respond, he had run back to the room with the other boys and was starting to say his farewells.  They finally caught up with him and explained that I was his mommy, but I had to leave and take care of some paperwork and that I would be back.  Apparently he accepted that fairly well, as I didn't see any tears while I was there and he and I blew each other kisses as I backed out of the gate.  Oh, it was all too quick!  It felt like we had just arrived and then left again.  And boy did I wish I could have scooped him up and brought him with me!  What an amazing afternoon!  What an amazing little boy!  What an amazing God we serve!

P.S. I cannot post recognizable photos of Joseph until we officially adopt him, so if anyone wants me to email a photo, please email me at margwoff@hotmail.com and let me know.  And if you do, please don't post any either. :)  Thanks!