Our trip started out at about 4 a.m. Monday morning, February 13. We drove down to LAX to catch a 9:17 a.m. United plane to Dulles Int'l in Washington, D.C. The shortest flight on our journey (about 4 and a half hours), it was ironically the most miserable! The plane was pretty small (only seated about 150 people), extremely old, cramped, and just plain uncomfortable! We played a game of Parcheesi (I won, I am extremely proud to report!) and watched some movie with Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez (is it just me or do they both always play the same type of parts? He's always a rugged loner and she is always the pitiable single mom overcoming the odds.) Nothing too interesting happened on the flight except that the entire time, the guy sitting in front of Kevin was making conversation with one of the stewardesses. They were probably mid-forties. The guy was reading some book on building intimacy in relationships and the flight attendant was VERY interested. Then they got to talking about their failed marriages. It all culminated at the end of the flight when I saw the man pull a pen and piece of paper out and give the lady his number! Hee, hee!
After a short layover in DC we boarded Ethiopian Airlines. Most of the people on the flight were Ethiopians or former Ethiopians now living here but returning to visit family. It was an interesting blend of Westernized clothing and then also many people wearing traditional Ethiopian clothing.
The flight was EXTREMELY long. We stopped in Rome just to refuel (we didn't get off the plane though) and man oh man, several Italians came on board to "clean" the plane (I use that word loosely), yelling orders and vacuuming right over the poor pilot's foot. A man went walking up and down the aisles collecting trash from people, calling out "rubbish? rubbish?" I don't know why but this whole episode struck us as extremely funny! Kevin and I have been making jokes about it ever since. So that was our first experience in Italy! "Rubbish? Rubbish?" Too funny...
Ethiopian Airlines treated us like kings. They fed us the entire time, were always offering us things to drink, etc. Each seatback had an individual TV screen so you could choose a movie to watch, or you could see where we currently were, how fast we were going, time left to get to our destination, etc.
Our plane landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, February 14, Ethiopian time (they are 11 hours ahead of California.) It was 75 degrees out!!! And it was that warm the entire time! We got our tourist visas and were met at the airport by Jemal, one of AAI's drivers (he's Ethiopian) who we ended up becoming friends with. He was about Kevin's age and really awesome, and spoke good English.
Now the driving in Ethiopia is something else! The roads in Addis are paved, but everyone zips along, ignoring what to us are common rules of the road, coming within a hair of hitting other cars and pedestrians (who just march across the street whenever they feel like it), etc. There are HUGE round-a-bouts (kind of like the ones near our house) where no one yields to anyone else (also kind of like the ones near our house... :) ) It is crazy. Also all you can smell on the roads is exhaust, which is pretty gross. There are tons of taxis (how most people get around Addis besides walking or taking a bus), both large taxis (which just keep picking people up and dropping them off; they're basically vans) and then private taxis like the ones here. All the taxis are blue there (although there are yellow ones that only operate from hotels.)
We arrived at the Ritmo Guesthouse where we'd be staying. Jemal helped us unload our luggage and then we waited for Gail (the head of the orphanage there) and Nate (in charge of the orphanage volunteers) to come get us situated. They showed up shortly, showed us to our room, and introduced us to two other couples staying there. One couple from Washington state was adopting an 14 month old boy, and a couple from Wisconsin was adopting a brother and sister around 8 or 9 (the brother was older.) Their family friend Scott was also there, who provided lots of comic relief. He was hilarious!)
The accomodations were simple but nice enough. They put us up in the Africa Room, the biggest room with couches, lots of shelving and a huge bed for us, a twin bed for Biniam and a crib for Yosef. There was also a bathroom and then the guesthouse has a kitchen for everyone to share as well as a common eating area for the guests to share.
We went to sleep that evening eagerly anticipating what the next day would bring, us getting to meet our boys!!!