Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lost in Addis

Friday in Ethiopia was a busy day for us. We needed to reconfirm our flight back (apparently if you don't, Ethiopian Airlines sometimes sells your seat to someone else or something?), and our big plan was to visit the girls we sponsor at AHOPE later that afternoon. SO, I will cover it in two different posts.

There is an Ethiopian Airlines office at the Hilton, so we hailed a cab to take us there (to the sound of a Tina Turner tape--hee, hee.) It's a pretty long ride from the guesthouse to the Hilton, and right through town, so we saw many things on that cabride that quite frankly we had never seen before. There were so many beggars in the streets--men, women, and children. Many of them were disfigured/handicapped. Any time the cab would come to a stop or slow down enough, they would approach the car.

I have come away from Ethiopia SO GRATEFUL that our government is committed to caring for its citizens. We may disagree on how to best do that, but thank goodness we offer assistance programs for the down and out (and also different government-funded programs for people in general.) In Ethiopia, when you lose your job (which is very common apparently as the unemployment rate is 35-40%!), you are relegated to a life of poverty and begging. I for one will never complain again about my tax dollars going to public assistance programs. (On a side note, the potential to abuse these programs is well worth it to keep people fed.)

On that one cab ride alone two different Ethiopian women offered me their babies. They approached the window, covered in dirt head-to-toe, each holding a baby also covered in dirt, motioning to me and offering their babies towards me. I literally felt sick to my stomach. Here we sat, not a care in the world, and these poor mothers were so desperate and hungry that they wanted to give their babies up to foreign strangers...

I think that image will always haunt me. I am a mommy and I cannot IMAGINE the desperation I would feel, not having enough to feed myself or my baby, and knowing that there's no way out. I forgot to mention it but when we had gone to the grocery store the day before, we came outside and a dirty, haggard woman came up to us with a little boy maybe around age 4 or 5. She pushed the child towards me and he grabbed my hand. Our cab had arrived at that point and she was ushering the child forward to get in with us.

Ethiopian law does not allow for women to just give their children up for adoption (in fact it's illegal) UNLESS the woman or man has HIV. This may seem like a strange law but otherwise the orphan crisis would be even worse (if that is even possible) and the country doesn't want to lose an entire generation of people. At any rate this is just daily life for people in Ethiopia. You don't have to go to the "bad" part of town or the slums to find these people...they are everywhere.

It's hard because I feel so helpless. Before we left we felt like we were making a positive difference by adopting two children--I don't think we fully realized the gravity of the situation there (and really how can you if you've never truly seen it firsthand.) But now after having gone, the whole thing just feels sad and hopeless. One thing that I had felt before but was confirmed when we went is that international adoption is PART of the solution of helping these people (at least for now), not THE solution. It is a tragedy that many of Ethiopia's people have to live the way they do, and it is also a tragedy for them that they are losing so many of their beautiful children to international adoption. My hope for Ethiopia is that their government will get it together (and the governments of other more prosperous nations will get it together, especially ours!) and (with local churches) start helping their people, and that some day there won't be any need for them to send these wonderful children away. Will that ever happen? Sadly I doubt it. But I pray that it will.

We made it to the Hilton and headed to the Ethiopian Airlines office. The Hilton was pretty nice with lots of important-looking African businessmen and women inside. In the office I met a woman who with her husband is the first couple to be receiving their Ethiopian baby through the agency CWA (Christian World Adoption), which is not a new agency but is new to Ethiopian adoption. The poor lady was really upset because apparently CWA doesn't allow your child to stay with you until it's time to leave or something, you just get to visit them for a couple of hours a day at the facility where they are. None of the other American agencies in Ethiopia work that way, so I'm not sure why they do. Anyway I felt bad for her. They had a daughter with them there that they had adopted from China.

After reconfirming our flight we had lunch at one of the Hilton restaurants. We ordered standard Ethiopian food: injera with doro wat and beef wat. It was pretty yummy and very spicy! Surprisingly Kevin loved it! I will later explain what those foods are and show some pictures.

So have I mentioned that the Ethiopian people adore children? They just love them! The main hostess at this restaurant doted on the boys the entire time. She brought them free food, spoon fed it to them, and carried Ezra Yosef around just about the entire time we were in there. While there we met another American family adopting a baby boy through a different agency (CHSFS), and an American family adopting a girl through our agency! They weren't staying at the guesthouse (they were at the Hilton) and came over to us and asked if our boys were from Layla House. We said yes, and they said that their daughter was very excited because she said she knew them. They were super nice and their little girl was just so precious. We took a picture of her and the boys.

As we were leaving the Hilton Kevin approached the hostess and said how he thinks it's so wonderful how people in Ethiopia love and value children. She looked a bit dumbfounded and said, "Well we all have children," as if that would explain why she was so wonderful with the boys. Kevin explained that in our country, it's just not usually that way and just because people have children does not mean that they like them around, don't mind their whining, etc.

Now this is where the story gets a bit dicey. We got a cab and told the driver to take us to Kaldi's. We figured that was the best way to tell him the area we needed to get to, since we could give him directions to the guesthouse from there. So off we went to Kaldi's. We drove along for a long time, pull up to an unfamiliar building, and the cabdriver proudly points and says, "Kaldi's." WHAT?! Sure enough, there was "Kaldi's." No one told us it was a chain! This was NOT the same Kaldi's that we needed to get to and this poor man (who spoke VERY little English) had no clue where the other one was. So there we sat, sweating like crazy in the back of an old taxi cab (it is so hot there!), completely lost in a foreign country with someone who doesn't really speak our language. The whole city looks the same (or so it seems), we were all turned around...and we had to be ready to go to AHOPE in less than an hour.

We sat and tried to communicate with the driver, but we were all just clueless. Finally I remembered that the guesthouse is right near the Mozambique embassy, the guy seemed to know where that was, and off we went. Thankfully we arrived back at the guesthouse (several Birr poorer...he did a lot of driving!) unscathed, with just enough time to change some diapers before we had to leave for AHOPE!

(Here are some more pics from the Hilton)


shells said...

I am loving loving reading your entries!!!! I will tell you the truth about CWA when I get back. :) I almost started cry when reading some of the story. I think I am prepared to go, but I know I have no idea of the poverty. Thanks for keeping such a good record and sharing it with all of us waiting! :) I will email you back soon. I oh so much understand the business of three. :)

Brianna Heldt said...

I like that, the business of three! :) Yeah any tips on that will be appreciated.

Please do let me know about CWA after you go--it seemed odd, but maybe it's not like that for every situation, etc.

Yeah the poverty was crazy...the saddest thing to me was just the hopelessness I guess. I can't wait till you get to go and we can talk when you get back, compare stories, etc. It is the trip of a lifetime, for sure.

Megan said...

What an amazing trip you had. The poverty must have been striking. I worked with Peace Works Int'l. in high school and went to Costa Rica for three weeks to stay with a family, learn english and volunteer. The poverty there was devastating, yet still does not compare to what you describe. It make us appreciate what we have here in the States. Doug and I are well. Thanks for asking. I love reading your blog. Hi to Kevin!

Brianna Heldt said...

Oh Megan that is so neat that you got to do that in high school! I wish I would have been thinking about those things in high school or even college--good for you! I am grateful I have gotten to see something of the world now though and am now more aware of what's out there.

Glad all's well with you and Doug!

Anonymous said...


Just a note to thank you for keeping this blog. I have so enjoyed it, and am taking notes for our trip to pick up our son through AAI (Hopefully a referral any day now...)

Your family is beautiful, congratulations. Stephannie

Renee said...


I just came across your blog (via the AAI Yahoo Group). I LOVE it! Your boys are SOOOO adorable. Our Baby (John) is at Wanna.

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I know the Lord is going to bless you more and more through your precious children.


shells said...

FYI-talked with our worker this morning and you are able to get your child when you get there (with CWA). She said the woman you talked to was there way before the court date and they want to make sure the court date is offical (or atleast closer in time) before they let the child beginning attaching to yet another person. There are some other sides to the story, just wanted to make sure both are getting shared! This was there first family to travel for this program, so of course they are learning new things every day! Just some info... :)

Brianna Heldt said...

Shelley that is VERY interesting...I figured there must be something more to it. Was it before the court date or before the Embassy appt.? The lady said they wouldn't let her take the child until the embassy appt., which seemed strange. However before the court date? That sounds normal to me.

Anxiously awaiting some "Ben news", Brianna

Brianna Heldt said...

Hi Renee,
I am glad you've enjoyed the blog. It is a great way for us to journal our experience and hopefully provide a glimpse into the process, travel, etc. for people who would like it.

I checked out your blog as well (sometime last week I think)--it is awesome! We would like a big family as well and I love the picture of your 7 kids!

Are you adopting the baby John from the Sep. video??? He was so precious on there.


Kim said...

What an awesome priviledge to follow along on your journey. You are so incredibly blessed.

Renee said...

Hi Brianna,

Yes, that's our baby! Your boys are so cute in that video. I am sure they are even cuter in person!

Thank you for your kind words.

You have a beautiful family!


shells said...

I think they said before the court date. Some if it had to do with personality issues. :) I will leave it at that. I just keep reminding myself how thankful we should be that so many agencies are wanting to get these orphans adopted! Your boys are such cuties. Its gets easier, I promise. Built in playmates.

The Barr Family said...

To clarify- on this OLD post...but I came across it while doing a search- CWA does not allow you to take custody of your child until the embassy date- this women you met ( a wonderful woman!) - was correct in her story- she was not able to have custody until the embassy date- the court date occurred while she was still in the US- they then travelled to Addis- and thought they could take her when they arrived but could not. That was why they were upset. And after family number 7 travelled they closed the care center to the families altogether.


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