We started our adventure at the MSP airport. Security was a breeze and we had plenty of time to walk around and hang out. We prayed that Rowan would be able to catch the flight in DC.
Rowan missed the DC flight by 15 minutes and we were so bummed! That meant his seat was open next to me. The flight attendant wanted to seat another person next to me, but when I looked at the man with pleading eyes he said, "You don't want me to sit next to you!" Oh- I was so grateful to have a place to lay down for short periods of time during the 18 hour flight especially since it was so hot on the plane.
I thought we were home free with one last screening and then we would officially be in Ethiopia. We are always stopped because of Carl's camera, not a big deal until they say to us, "You must leave this here." What? Are you kidding me? Leave our professional livelihood with some random people in a 3rd world country??? I was exhausted and emotionally drained. This couldn't be happening. We sat there for 2 hours trying to figure out what to do. By this time it was past 10pm Ethiopian time and there was only a few people left in the airport. At the end, we put our camera at what they called the "store" and tomorrow we had to go to an agency to get a slip of paper saying we could take our camera into the country. (They thought we would sell it on the black market...yeah right)
We finally were taken to the guest house - to find out that it was not the one we signed up for. But we were so tired we just went to bed to figure everything out in the morning.
Monday morning was spent driving around trying to get our camera out of the pound. As soon as we walked in, I knew we were not getting anywhere.
We decided to give up and go and meet the boys. At this point we are very discouraged because we had no video camera nor still camera because we didn't bring ours because we knew Rowan was bringing two. Now with the new information, we didn't know if Rowan would make it through customs.
Meeting the boys was very different that I expected. I kind of envisioned going to a separate room and they bringing them in. Nope...all the kids were running around and we were no more out of the van and they brought them over to us. The boys had no idea what was going on. We sent photobooks but they weren't allowed to look them because they were returned to us out of a locked cupboard. There was no emotion really. We played around for 45 mintues and they said, "Okay here is the sign out book." Carl and I looked at each other with big eyes and both of us thinking, "Is this for real? Are we really taking our boys?"
The boys thought we were kidnapping them and screamed the whole way back to the guest house. I thought they might hyperventilate from crying so much. Titus fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Silas just cried and cried.
When we arrived at the guesthouse we were able to bribe them with food. They both ate 3 bananas and drank a quart of water a piece. It was obvious they never had free access to food before. Plus I think they keep the kids dehydrated so they don't have to go to the bathroom very often.
We spent the afternoon getting to know each other and playing. It didn't take long before they were smiling and laughing.
Rowan came the following day around noon. I was on pins and needles watching him try to get through the last security checkpoint into the country. But as you know, he made it through with his camera and I was ever so glad to have him on this side. The poor guy was sick sick sick.
I don't remember doing much for the rest of the day.
Wednesday we went to the care center and two orphanages to take pictures of everyone's children. I wish we would have hired an interpreter because no one could speak English well enough to really communicate details. We could get the jest of what needed to be accomplished but we missed so many things.
We also stopped at the agency's office so that Kelly, who was also picking up her child, could fill out paperwork. It was stressful plus we hadn't really eaten anything yet. We arrived back at the guesthouse and ate lunch at 4pm. Beti, our cook, made us hamburgers and I think we ate the meal in 2 or 3 minutes. We told her we would like supper at 9pm, but she thought we ate out for lunch and that she just fed us super. She was so gracious and made us something anyway later that night.
Thursday was supposed to be a day of great joy with the last hurdle finally complete...the US Embassy. We made it through, but left with more questions than when we came. That is all that I can say at this point. Many questions were raised with our agency. The last family went up and we were going to all go out to eat afterward for a big celebration. They came back weeping - saying they couldn't bring their children home because the US didn't consider them orphans, yet according to their Ethiopian court decree, the children were legally theirs.
I can't even begin to tell you all the emotions that were in that room at that very minute. I was in complete shock. I have never heard of this happening. I was numb. I kept asking God why in the world would he bring this family all the way to this point to tell them that they cannot take their children home. In the eyes of the Ethiopian government, they were their children, but the US would not let them into the country.
I looked at Carl and said, "We gotta call someone. Get out your cell phone." Well, that opened another whole can of worms because someone how Carl's cellphone made it through the screenings and you can't have cell phone at the US Embassy. Guards came and it took a minute to get everything squared out. It was an honest mistake, but they didn't see it that way.
We went back to the guesthouse with both families and pulled out every number that we could think of. We were the only ones with an international cell phone and the phone at the guesthouse didn't work because the agency didn't pay their bill. The next few hours were a blur. We ordered pizza - the other family had a driver and an interpreter - who were able to deliver the food to our guesthouse. (We had told Beti she would have the night off because we would be out celebrating) We finally sent our friends back to their guesthouse with our cell phone praying that we would hear good news in the morning.
(Now this made me feel really unsafe because we had no way to communicate with the outside world. The guard had no phone, the phone did not work at the guesthouse and the cook wasn't going to come back that night. I laid my worries and fears upon the Lord. I kept repeating to myself over and over..."The Lord knew this would happen before the dawn of time. He has it all under control.")
I could not sleep that night - I maybe got 3hours. It felt like the drama of this week was more than the CBS Sunday night movie. I prayed hours and hours for the Hacker family. We were all supposed to fly out at 10:15pm on Friday night. The US Embassy was open from 8-12pm on Friday. By noon we would know their fate.
We were planning on going to the market on Friday morning at 8:30 am and meet a couple that we support for schooling but our driver from the agency never showed up. I was extremely bummed. He finally came after lunch. He brought news that the Hackers were going home with all of their children and they were coming to tell us. I have to admit, I didn't believe him. I wanted to hear it from the family. They showed up a little while later with the joyous news. Only by the grace of God were they able to get their children home - hundreds of phone calls later, they were able to get the right help here in the US. God had a mighty plan for these children. They are wanted, loved and finally belong.
Talk about roller coaster of emotions...
About 2pm Carl and Rowan and Kelly went to the market. I needed to stay back and pack with Titus and Kelly's little girl. I am glad that I stayed, but I never was able to get out and really see anything of Ethiopia all week. I did get to take home the two most precious boys though so it makes up for not experiencing anything else. Maybe we will go back when they are older.
The flight home...was LONG! I am so thankful that my boys were used to sitting for hours doing nothing because in all honesty...they were great. But sitting for 18 hours is the hardest mental and physical activity that I have ever done, all the while being 32 weeks pregnant.
Being on US soil makes me so thankful for the sacrifices of so many lives who made it possible for me to live here and now. I wanted to cry, but I didn't have any tears left at this point. I had to keep moving. We were standing in immigration and the fire alarms go off. All I could think was, "You've got to be kidding me. We are 20 feet away from being free and the fire alarms have to go off." Thankfully, it was set off by construction work so we were all able to stay where we were. After getting some weird news from the immigration officer that Silas, "kind of sort of tested positive for TB" we made it through.
Rowan met us on the other side and I was so thankful again to have him along. Two two-year-olds who just sat for 18 hours don't like to stand still and wait. He help us chase them down and keep track of them. We parted ways to meet in MSP again (we had to fly different airlines.) We had our funny moments of chasing them on dead sprints down the terminals.
We walked down to baggage and we first saw the director of our agency and I must admit I was not delighted to see her with all that went on this week. I looked beyond her and saw the Stacey family and my dear friend Betsy (She drove 6 plus hours just meet me at the airport - I told Carl in DC that I could really use a coffee date with her. We haven't been together for over a year.) I couldn't keep it in anymore. I felt like the week of emotions just gushed out of me. I was so tired, overwhelmed and happy all in the same breath. I am sure Titus and Silas had no idea what was going on. All they cared about was "mackeenas" (cars) They are 100% boy because they LOVE cars.
I thought the car seat was going to be a battle, but they were big eyed over what was going on that it was no big deal. I feel asleep in the backseat while Rowan drove and Carl kept him company.
We tucked the boys into bed and waited for our little girls to arrive home from the ranch with Nana and Papa. We then promptly all went to bed. The girls met their brothers in the morning. We spent the day playing and getting to know each other.
They have been home a week now and are doing amazing! They fit so well into our family. Titus has great dimples when he smiles and is more tender and doesn't like to be corrected. At the care center I don't think they were told, "no." Titus likes to push every button in the house...microwave, dishwasher, light switches, Daddy's computer. It is quite funny to watch him look around to see if anyone is looking at him and then go and push it.
Silas is the funny one. If anyone is crying, he will lay on the floor and do this fake cry/moan thing. I will tell him to stop it and he will look at me and start giggling. He also eats more than all three girls combined. Our food bill has now officially doubled and they aren't even teenagers yet.
Sleeping is going great! We have found the routine of putting them in their own bed and about 4ish they get up to go to the bathroom and then we put them in the toddler bed at the end of our bed. They just play around if we don't put them with us. Titus actually slept into 8:15 this morning. Another bonus is that Nana trained Adie so that I don't need to lay with her anymore for her to go to bed. I am simply in heaven! I have been going to bed before 9 all week because this three toddler thing is exhausting and we never left the house yet with all of them. Church will be a first tomorrow.
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