Sunday, May 24, 2015

That day I skipped down the road with an old lady and found my avacado guy.

So today I declared "Ethiopian B&B" day. I stuck to this declaration. It's is election day today, so I wanted to stick close just in case there were any rallies/riots popping up.

Prior to the last two nights, my sleep issues have involved falling asleep sitting up at 7pm and then waking up through the night multiple times. I was really excited to make it to 5am the other day. Since the night before Ted left, I'm now having a hard time falling asleep/relaxing, and then having to make myself get up at the right hour to my alarm.

Well as of this morning, all patterns have come full circle. I hit my alarm, then slept through it more, and then decided at 8:30am that I should get my butt out to the common area before they shut breakfast down on me. Usually, Ted and I are up a few hours just waiting for breakfast to open. I wandered out there straight out of bed (I decided we're all family now so they could live with my mascara everywhere). Then I came back in here and sat on my butt some more. Then I decided I should probably be less gross so the ladies could get into my room to do what they do everyday in here.

I then read all morning.

Then I decided I really did need to do something with myself on this day. I had already made a deal with myself that I needed to conquer new experiences with the street vendors here.

Being here is nothing like being in Bogota so let's just get that straight. In Bogota, I'm in the fancy pants part of town and I speak the language (or close enough to do what I want). There are parks every 5 minutes. There is every kind of store from street vendor to fancy mall. There are street people, but it is minimal. There is grass. The skin tones really vary in Colombia, so even though people are primarily Latino, there are also white people or Latino people with pretty light skin. I don't stand out nearly as much as I do here.

Here, I am luminescent and stop traffic. Most are very poor, and there are street folks and children everywhere. There are randomly new buildings, but mostly, there is a reason I'm not taking pictures, and that is because I am attempting to preserve dignity. I stand out so loudly, that to carry a photo taking device with me is spitting in the face of what these people are living in. I've never walked alone (ie: without a man) in Ethiopia before, so this was a maiden voyage. It's not that I feel unsafe. My biggest concern is just that someone who is not in their right mind will follow me and not let up (that did happen, but not too bad).

So I set out with nothing but a few birr for my street vendors and a bottled water (for the heat and altitude) so that when people want stuff I can wave my arms and they can see I have no wallet/purse.

So like I said, I'm luminescent and stop traffic. Like, cars stop to point. Groups of people turn around from what they are doing to point. An entire bar cheered. The most common reaction, however, was to practice your English skills on me... that is, unless you are female, in which case you could care less about my existence.

So I had gone about a mile or so in my chosen direction, when I was passing a little old lady (I'm talking 4.5 feet tall, looked about 80 years old but probably 65, about 3 teeth) and I think I accidentally brushed her hand.. and I turned to say some gesture of an "Oops sorry" where she then grabbed my hand. I thought we were just doing an awkward handshake then.. but then she wouldn't let go of my hand.. and then I think was explaining about how people hold hands when they walk. So, I do have some Amharic words, but they are directed at a child to "not bite" me, "sit", "give me that", and "it's time to play" etc. I didn't think any of these phrases fit the scenario. So I played muted and happy. So then she patted my hand, and kept talking (no idea....) and basically gestured that we were going to be holding hands and walking from henceforth. I laughed.. .okay.... so THIS is happening now..

So at intersections she wanted me to skip. So I skipped. We were quite the spectacle. I think she was telling the people that we passed that "she found a friend." After about 3 blocks of this, it was starting to get a bit awkward because I didn't really know how much longer this was going to be going on. Right around that time, she patted my hand and said "Caio!!" and ducked her head under one of the many tin lean-to's all along the road. Turns out that was her stop. So I kept going.

Good times.

Not too long after that, I saw I was coming up to a man begging in the road with stumps for legs at the shins. It was hot out. I had mostly sweat through my shirt. He was smiling with his hands out and bowed his head at people going past. Here's the thing about very handicapped people here, there are no services or welfare or problems for people with this level of disability here. If there are, I haven't heard of one. So here is when I regretted having nothing on me. So he got my bottled water. He gave me a low bow and kept smiling and saying "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" which I think he meant as "thank you" and it was the only word he had. I saw him on my return trip and he had downed that water pretty quickly.

After an hour or so, I was getting back to my place of origin. Near the British Embassy, a group of young taxi drivers hang out. Ted and I had seen them on Friday when we were out mapping the area. They were a new level of friendly now that I didn't have a man with me. Not scary, just friendly. So all along this walk, while people practiced their English, there was also a lot of high fiving from kids and the occasional college aged male. So when the high fiving was offered from the taxi guys, there I was. One very friendly one caught my hand (again, not menacing) and says "I am Yari, and I really do love you with my hearts!!" This was met with lots of cheering from the group at his boldness and I laughed pretty hard and walked away.

I'm telling you, single ladies. Forget bars. Just take a walk over here and you will be HOT STUFF. As I told Ted today, if he ever leaves me, I have now found a line of new husbands in the Ethiopian taxi profession.

I had previously selected my avacado and banana people on my walk, and I got this taken care of. Today was not mango day, as tomorrow is mango day and I found that vendor as well. On my 2nd walk today in the opposite direction, I have also located a woman roasting corn on the side of the roundabout so that is happening too.

Behold, my spoils.

I am living off the land on this continent on the other side of the world from every friend and family member I have. I ate one of those fantastic avacadoes outside tonight while reading a book.

P.S. There was a British family with 2 Ethiopian twins about 5 years old that was here staying for a few days on family heritage trip. It's like Mary Poppins and the most stereotypical 50 year old British guy you could imagine. Add this to the list of things that are TOO AWESOME: 5 year old Ethiopian children running around with CRAZY British accents. It's the most adorable thing you have ever heard. "But Huuuuuuubert, whyyyyy won't you pass the teeeeeeeaa???? Seriously. I needed a recording device.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Trent hugs, Trent tests, and a sweet juice bar.

I couldn't come up with a catchy title, but after spending more time with my little man, I thought I could share more about what he can and cannot do as of yet.

Negatives first:
1. No words- perhaps the most striking developmental delay is his speech (or lack there of). He verbalizes and sings to himself, but no words. He communicates through gesture, however. I usually have a good idea what he wants or wants more of.
2. Attention seeking behavior- he spits, throws things, and sometimes hits. The thing about these behaviors, however, is that they are done with a smile. It's not a "stink eye" look, followed by this. I choose to completely ignore the spitting. Today, while we were having a bit of a "moment", he started spitting and was waiting for my reaction to fuss over it. I choose not to. Spitting is gross, but in his mind any attention is good attention, even if it is the nanny coming over to get you to stop doing that. I can't figure out if the throwing is just enjoying watching things fly or if he is trying to get attention for it. Jury still out on that one. Now, I did get a smack across the face today. He wasn't upset at me, and he was smiling. I think it was just a test to see what this nice lady will do when I hit her. He found out and his eyes went a little wide for a minute. He is learning that I give many many "yes"s, but my "no" is a firm no and I save it for when I need it. After spending the hours that we have together, the testing is coming out. This is fine, it's not like I didn't know it was coming.


1)I have been claimed- when I arrived today, I stepped through the door into the court yard and folks started yelling back to the toddler room to get Eskedar because his mommy was here. About 5 seconds later he toddles out and scans the yard and when he saw me the arms went up with a big smile and he started moving quick towards me. A bunch of nannies jumped out in front of him because he can't do the stairs unless he really concentrates and we were all worried about a face plant. Face plant averted, I scooped him up and got good hugs.
2)He problem solves- He can open stuff with his teeth. He tries to figure things out and how they work. I brought his "backpack of happiness" as it shall henceforth be called with a snack, pants pack, and some more toys. He knew there was good stuff in there. He tossed his snack container at one point before he knew there was snacks in there. It broke open and some goldfish flew out which was a very exciting development. Problem is, then he assumed that was how you open a snack container and he tried it again a few minutes later.
3) Even 10 seconds after he hit me across the face, he was still looking for my attention and to be near me.
4) We spent 20 minutes of our snack time eating Goldfish one by one on purpose. He puts out his little hand to ask for more and I say "Ebahke, emama" (please mom) and then I give him a Goldfish and we say "awo, Trenton Eskedar". He chews. If he wants another one he asks me again. So we did a dance of 50 practices of asking Mommy for something and Mommy saying yes. He seems to be pretty patient when he can tell that you are present and working towards it. One funny moment was when I motioned that he needed to sit down for me to give him something (as he had done about 3 times for me before), except this time he decided to be silly and he signed back to me to sit down too!
5) He has learned to do stuff that my kids at home can barely do. Example: So while we were playing, the nanny brought in what I think was supposed to be his morning snack or a small lunch. It was a roll of bread and an actual mug of really hot milk. He breaks up his roll to eat that so that was not an issue.. but I'm staring at this really hot milk like.. "what am I supposed to do with that? I wouldn't give my 7 year old that!" After awhile it cooled, and he was asking for it.. so I'm all trying to do hand over hand to help him because surely he can't do this and if he does its going to go everywhere and I'll be mopping it up. He was kind of fighting me on having my hands on his cup, but given some of his behaviors, I couldn't tell if he was trying to get away with something since I didn't know the rules of this. After what felt like many awkward attempts to help, I finally let him do it himself and prepared to ask for a mop. When I finally left him alone, he got one little hand underneath it, one hand on the handle, and curled all the way over and sipped his hot milk like a little old British man. I have a hilarious picture of this. My point, is that this kid has learned to DO stuff and has survived. He is doing something I don't let his brothers do. He spilled a little on his pants, but really people.
6) I'm starting to make an impression. Our time needed to be done for today so we picked up our toys and we walked hand in hand back to the toy room to send him with his nannies. With our visits in the past, he went back to nannies without much issue, because he doesn't really understand that we are mom and Dad. We aren't much different than every other adoptive family coming to pick up their kid in that they give him some attention and he sees them a few times and that is it. Today though you could tell a switch had flipped. He began a "sit in" when I took him back to the nannies. He wouldn't go with them and he sat down on the ground and the little sad eyes came out and the bottom lip came out and he wouldn't look at me or them. I think I turned around to try to lovingly steer him back over there, and the second I did he jumped up with arms up and jumped into me again. I had to pull him off for the nanny.

At that point I made a swift exit because clearly my standing there was not helping them get on with their day or helping him.

I also decided that I likely won't go back until it's custody day, which should be Monday, maybe Tuesday. There is no reason to show up there and play with him and snuggle him and then suddenly walk away and hurt him. He has been hurt enough. He doesn't need one single more tear that Mommy goes away. We've established he likes me and recognizes me, and I don't think he will forget that in the next 2 days. I don't anticipate any issue of him wanting to go in the car with me. So if the goal is to warm up and like each other, we accomplished that goal! No need for any more tears.

So after that, Sisay took me grocery shopping so that I have lunch items for him set up. After that, Sisay is like "I have to take care of you for Ted. How do you like juices?" and I'm like " I love juices!!" which resulted in Sisay taking me to a fantastic juice bar where they servie up bad boys like this.

Then my tummy was full of about 24 ounces of straight raspberry, strawberry, banana, mango, and probably other stuff. It was awesome.

Today I got his toy box in the room all set up and most of the babyproofing. I don't know how much notice I will get before I get to go take custody, so I want to be totally ready Monday morning.

Tomorrow I am declaring "Mommy's Ethiopian B&B" day. It's actually election day here tomorrow so I'm staying in other than possibly going on a walk. Books will be read. Spiritual tanks refilled. I may be getting my 4th son on Monday!

The day we looked at really old stuff.

We were up early on Friday morning to drive a few hours outside of Addis for a last day of seeing ancient things before Ted headed home. Our first stop, an archeological dig site.

This door, is clearly to Jurassic Park

After walking through part of the dig site, we went through more buildings that had examples of tools/bones/skull replicas from the area.

Next, we were off to Adadi Meriam stone church. This church was also ground out of stone by King Lalibela to prevent being burned by the Muslims. It is a smaller version of the stone churches in Lalbela in the north (but much closer and more convenient for us to visit).

Last on our little trip was some of the ancient grave stones from the nomadic tribes. I'm posting some pictures, but you really did have to be there to get the "coolness" on these, otherwise they do just look like big rocks. I admit this.

This also gave us a little time driving through rural farm homes. We got a lot of waving from the children along the road walking to school as well as the kids walking for water.

We made the long drive back in the afternoon, and I had to switch gears to preparing for Ted to leave. It's not really about being apart (as we often are) as much as it is doing a rather complicated life event from the other side of the world on my own. So there was some crying, but then the crying stopped and I read my book and eventually got to sleep.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Court Day!! ... and some paperwork drama.. and some Trent snuggles

So we were up early again to get ourselves presentable and back to Ethiopian court!

Court is at a new building verses 4 years ago so that was a change. This time it was full of Europeans and we were the only Americans. We were also last this time instead of first. We were also a lot more relaxed this time around. What are you going to do? Deny us now? Doubtful. Last time we had a female judge. This time we had Ethiopian "Usher" (he looked like a hip hop dancer). He seemed pleased that we already had an Ethiopian son and that all our children are adopted (because that slashes all the bio kid questions and can we handle race etc). He then asked "Do you love him?". That was an easy yes. He didn't ask me if I was "ready" lol. Joking aside though, now that he is ours, the anxiety is different. I no longer have to ask if I "can" do this, because "this" has already happened. He is a Sibley now, that is that. Visiting him later in the day was that much sweeter, because now I know something he doesn't yet.

So that was it. We were done. I double checked with our lawyer and director that we really DID pass. The judge spoke quickly and it was hard to understand questions not directed right to me. Everybody is planning on a court decree on Monday, perhaps Tuesday.

So being done with that, we came back to Yeka guest house to eat, change, and try really hard not to fall asleep (where I was not successful).


So I was borderline aggressive today with our agency staff today to make sure that everything paperwork wise was lined up perfectly for Ted's departure tomorrow night. Unlike Colombia, there is a lot more involved from the adoptive parent end for embassy submission here. I was really missing Maria Teresa Perez in Colombia that just does my stuff. Here, I sat down with the staff and went line item by line item because there were some discrepancies between the information I had when I was prepping papers back at home. Specifically two things- one item that didn't say anywhere it needed to be notarized (and the only notary in Ethiopia is at the US Embassy that can only be used by appointment and begging and $50 USD) and the I864w that is only supposed to be done after his passport is issued by the petitioner (Ted) and notarized.. which is a conflict.
In the end, we really did have to go to the US Embassy today to beg due to our time crunch. We got the one thing fixed by begging and smiling and begging and thanking loudly. I may have even bowed. I got confirmation directly from the Embassy that my POA from Ted empowers me to do the I864w. It was challenging, as this is not the first time this has been done and I couldn't get clear answers.. and this is a time that clear answers are needed. Ted will be in Colombia after June 10th. If we screw something up, I'm stuck in Ethiopia and he can't fix it until June 20th and then Fed Exing original documents to Ethiopia takes a week at minimum... so that would have been really ridiculous over such time paperwork items.
After me going over every piece 3 times between agency and Embassy, I feel **confident** that I can put Ted on a plane tomorrow and I won't get stuck here.

We only had enough time then for a really quick visit with Trent. We just wanted to get eyes on him one last time for Ted before he doesn't see him for a month. I'm going to be a good little girl and not share face pictures until I get my decree in a few more days, but I am finding this challenging. So once that decree is in hand, your facebook and computer will blow up with forced cuteness from me. Here is where little man has been sleeping for the past two years, in with the babies.

So we snuggled and we hugged and we played. We are seeing some attention seeking "naughty" behaviors, mostly spitting or giving something a toss, because then he gets a reaction. There was less of this today than yesterday. We are really encouraged to watch him problem solve. He knows how things work, where they are, and how to ask for what he wants. One of my favorite moves is to point to which part of his face he wants kisses and to remind me to rub his hair. Back rubs and compressions are happy things. He likes to wave, do kisses, and give high fives. I can tell he is well loved and that they will miss him there, but I can also tell that they are happy that he seems to have parents who aren't freaked by what they are seeing.

We also asked to go into another room to check all of his skin, including his privates. I didn't want any infections or skin issue surprises next week without Dad here to look. He does have a lot of marks all over him and his skin is very dry and cracked. An entire tub of Babycakes will be slathered on this child next week. I'll be treating his skin for buggies and other things all over, but his scalp and privates are in good condition. He was very cooperative with all of this checking and I know I made the correct selection in the diaper department. Here are a few pictures we can sneak from today :-)

Tomorrow we get a break from adoption processing and obsessing and will spend the day driving to Adami Meriam ancient stone churches about two hours away as well as an archeological dig site. We will be back to Addis by the time Ted and another couple leave for their overnight direct flights back to DC.. and then I will be here like the rockstar that I am just waiting to take custody of little man!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Getting back to Addis, eating food, not eating food, Addis marketa, and meeting Trenton Eskedar!

May 19th

So we got back on Monday evening and resettled in to Yeka guest house and got you all updated via Facebook.
The middle of the night into Tuesday morning was “not good times” for Erin. Bad, bad, things were happening in my internals. I woke up ill enough on Tuesday morning that there was no way I could go.

There were tears. I was concerned that I had to have enough hours of “Trent time” clocked before court, but apparently this wasn’t the case, just that I did have to meet him before court.

Ted went on without me and did a great job getting pictures and videos of their time together. For now, all of those pictures will have to wait until next week.

While he was gone, I epic slept. After epic sleeping and drug taking, I was eventually able to get to a sitting position and then progress to a showering position. By the time he got back 5 hours later, I was at least clean and functioning. He and I had our family meeting about the little man and his observations regarding what we were dealing with.
Then I went back to night night time for another 5 hours. I was feeling normal enough that evening to accompany him to Habesha 2000 traditional restaurant, where I enjoyed an endless buffet of Sprite. Ted, however, was able to enjoy more of the local fare.

Towards the end of our time, I was even a good sport with the female dancer in front of the crowd, and Ted was smart enough to not video tape this situation.

Wednesday, May 20th

We felt very accomplished to wake up this morning around 5am instead of 11:30pm or 2:30am which has been our normal so far. This was very exciting.

**** I’ll post these photos once I have permission to after I have my court decree hopefully early next week*****

We were off to Miskaye this morning at 8am for me to finally meet Trent!! He gave me a wonderful welcome and we will have a video to show you when we have the internet connection to upload it for you and permission to share it. He went to me willingly, but he was pointing for Dad not long after that, because he rather liked Dad the day before (my feelings were not hurt).

We will continue to share regarding Trent’s abilities and disabilities as we move forward with his care. We felt after 2 days of observation, that we will be able to parent this child. In some ways, it is helpful to attachment that he is so toddler-like and seems open to us helping him “regress” so that he can re-learn activities through the view of a loving parent. Miskaye workers continued to ask us if we really were “okay” with his level of disability. I don’t think anyone will be throwing parties over this, but he is within the spectrum of what we expected and were prepared for. He is actually smaller than I anticipated, which is to my advantage. He seems taller than he actually is. He is definitely not strong, nor are any of his muscles tight. He is kind of a rag doll baby, but he does hold on when you pick him up to some extent. After an hour, we loaded back up and kissed him goodbye. He didn’t seem very excited to go back with his nanny, but he doesn’t really understand that we are Mom and Dad, just that we were 2 people that gave him undivided attention for 2 hours of his life and maybe that was it. After our time together, I don’t think he will have any issue coming with me. He is so hungry for attention that he will happily go where the attention goes.

So we got back, we chatted, we downed some protein shakes.

This afternoon, Sisay picked us up with nothing but a little Ethiopian burr in Teds pocket just in case. We were on our way to the large “Merkato” central market of Addis. This is not a normal tourist destination, as it’s not the safest place in the world. We didn’t take any electronics or wallets or purses.

I really wish I could have strapped a “Go Pro” camera to my head for you to see this. It was like something you would see on a travel documentary (that I once saw featured on Andrew Zimmern “Bizarre Foods” as one of the potentially nastiest places he has seen while during the raining season when it’s a solid mix of human and animal waste, mud, and rotten food). We really just wanted to see it, but not be ugly Americans WHILE seeing it. There is a time to have your camera out (like, while seeing your kid) but this is where every day Ethiopians are just trying to do business and survive and they are not a zoo for our enjoyment. We intentionally didn’t take money, so that when we said we didn’t have anything, we were being truthful.
Ironically, no beggers approached us, which was odd because I’m usually a beggar magnet. We didn’t see a single other “ferenji” and I was of course, a spectacle just by being there. Most people were really sweet. A few practiced their English on me. We got a few “Brad and Angelina!!!” calls. Ted had one older man get right up in his face and yell “WHAT IS THIS??!!” Ted was like “a receipt?” then the guy threw it in his face and walked away.
We were surprised that the inner spaces of this hub. They packed as many human beings and animals and goods into every square inch. While walking through the inner paths that are only about 12” wide (don’t be fat in Ethiopia, it’s not built for you), there were many women and children on the ground grinding spices under tables and up above tables. If you wanted your share of poultry, you would find giant wooden cages full of chickens balanced on peoples heads.
Basically, we learned that anything and any amount of things can be balanced on ones head if you work hard and believe in yourself.

From what we understood from Sisay, this was all whole-sale bulk items and were priced as such. This is where almost every restaurant and store along the side of the road in Addis goes to by the ingredients for their livelihood. Per Sisay, this is also where all of the importers sell all of the stuff they have brought into the country. It was quite the spread.
Half of my time was spent looking at my next step on the ground to avoid poo, nails, stepping on a person or their goods.. or trying not to get hit by a car. I about got trampled by some donkeys. I can see how that place would get very messy very fast during the rainy season. This is also a place I would really not want to be after dark.

After about an hour of marching through all of this, I was hot enough and swetty enough, winded from the altitude, and still dehydrated from yesterday enough that loopiness began to set in, as though I had just run a 10 miler. I had to signal that it was time for liquid. Sisay got us out of the area, where Ted and I downed 2 liters of water in 5 minutes.

Following all that, we wandered back to our car and set out for Tomoca coffee where we also chugged to Macchiatos. It would have been nice to show you the awesomeness that Tomoca and these Macchiatos were, but we were still Americans without cameras, and it probably isn’t the last time I’ll be stopping by there before I go back home.
We got back to the guest house with just enough time for a Facebook update before we left for a meeting with Trent’s neurologist for the past few years.

My brain is still very full from this detailed visit. All of those details will fit under Trents developmental issues and disabilities that will continue to come out moving forward. For now, Ted is comfortable that no new information came out that wasn’t already on our radar. At some point, I’ll have him put all that out there as it involves big words. We snagged some take out, and we are back here at Yeka currently without internet for the first time.

We will be picked up tomorrow morning at 8am to head to court to become Trent’s legal parents. Whether we are ready for this or not, Trent becomes a Sibley tomorrow!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Roots Ethiopia visit and Lewi Resort getaway

We packed up from the Lemma Hotel, drank 6 Macchiatos, and headed out into the streets of Hosanna to the Roots headquarters. There we were able to ask a lot of specific questions regarding the projects of greatest need. Elsae is on their leadership team. We were able to meet with Pastor Legese as well.

My favorite thing about this picture, is that Ted is so very interested in this map of the region. The thing is, this exact same map has hung in our house since last fall. But now, NOW, we are into this map.

After asking a lot of deep questions and writing my notes on "post-its of purpose", we headed out to see some of the folks working entrepreneurial businesses that we started with help from Roots.

First, this is Tsehay, who started this coffee businesses. Her husband is a day worker, which is great, where is work that he can be hired for. She is able to run this business while still feeding her baby.

After drinking some majorly strong coffee, we headed over to Zinash's store. Roots originally helped her start up an injera business, where she would sell injera in the street and at the market. She was able to save up, and purchase this store, where she also lives with her two young children. She even had stuff I really needed at the time, like a flashlight.

Our brains and hearts were full of possibility. We will wait to fully move forward with some school development plans until we are home, but it was all very very good things.

We said a fond farewell to Elsae in Hosanna, and started our drive to Hawassa for our couple getaway before Hurricane Trent.

Welcome to the Lewi Resort!! Below, the shenanigans.

While there, we also walked to the Hawassa fish market where we ate the freshest tillapia possible. Watch out for the fish soup though, it's way hotter than you think. We had to choke that one down slowly.

This is a "bajaj" or a "tuktuk". It basically made my life.

We checked out this morning and started our drive back up to Addis. On the way, we found the Castel French winery, but they were reluctant to let us in (lol). We were so very close to the Ziway Lifesong for Orphans school that we support, that we popped in for a very quick hello so as not to disturb the kiddos and staff.

We got back. We hosed off 6 hours of road dust... and we pack the day bag tomorrow for a certain little boy we will finally meet in the morning!!