Ok... I might have a few things to say. Shocking, I know. I have to write about our last day in Ethiopia. I'll probably gloss over the details of the trip home for reasons of self preservation. The horror! Oh, the horror!
But first I have to spin in a circle and scream, SHE'S HERE! She is really, really here!
Phew. She came home 2 years 25 days after I first met her. There were absolutely so many times when we doubted whether it would ever happen. But she is home now, and while I won't forget the heartache of the wait... she is here, and we're so happy to start building our new normal. Everything is new, everything is a first. Every single thing. Soon, we'll just Be.
Friday. Our last day in Africa. We had a quiet day at the guest house, packing, bathing... packing. We spent some time talking with the other 2 families that were there. We had lunch there and finished up our packing. In the afternoon, the women who work at the guest house had a coffee ceremony for us and another couple who left the same day... Also, fundisha! Popcorn! The coffee ceremony process is so time consuming. They start with raw coffee beans, roasting them over charcoal. When they are perfectly roasted, they walk around to everyone to get an up close and personal smell. Sandalwood is commonly burnt in a smaller burner at the same time. At the orphanages and care centers the grinding of the beans usually happens in a mortar and pestle thingy. It's not quite as authentic as that at the guest house... as we heard the electric coffee grinder... but it's still pretty far from Keurig. The coffee is brewed in a clay coffee pot called a Jebena. They serve strong coffee (buna) with sugar in small coffee cups called cini. I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but it is absolutely delicious.
After the coffee ceremony we were picked up by Dani and 2 of his friends. We crammed everyone and all of our luggage into Dani's little car and headed to Dani's house. It was so fun to be with these young people. We immediately sank into some fun conversations and got to know more about these twenty-somethings. Best friends for (literally) ever, one is finishing a computer engineering degree, the other about to start her medical internship, on her way to becoming a gynecologist. With flawless English, they joked and shared with us.
When we arrived at Dani's house his little girl came running right out to see him. She spent her infancy in the same orphanage as Sitota, but Dani's family adopted her when she was younger. We were so honored to join Dani and his family for dinner. His mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins were so welcoming and kind to us. We had a delicious meal and shared a lot of laughs.
Shock of shocks, it was incredibly moving for us. Dani's grandmother is so warm, with a beautiful smile and a warmth that closes the gap of the language barrier. She seemed to delight in Sitota. Showering her with blessings and well wishes. It was a feeling like no other to be hugged by this sweet woman. Oh, the warmth. Pure love.
Dani's been so encouraging during this process. He's helpful and fun when we are together in Ethiopia. He is smart, entrepreneurial, talented, and his life's mission is to “help the children of Ethiopia by telling stories.” He will be opening a daycare to support young families. He'll provide daycare and other services to help the orphan crisis by focusing on education and family preservation.
Dani's friends being at dinner with us was again, wonderful. Such fun. Masters of sarcasm. Beautiful, strong, smart, funny, and welcoming. In the car on the way to the airport we were tossing around our favorite animated movies. We agreed that Despicable Me and Finding Nemo and The Incredibles are all great... and we quoted the movies back and forth.
Then we were looking at a spanish language app. Rob and I both remembered some Spanish, and we laughed about how when we are trying to communicate with Sitota but are struggling, we fall into this combination of English/Amharic/Spanish thing. It's so stupid, but we laughed and laughed about speaking Span-mar-ish. We laughed about so many things. Another absolutely perfect way to end a visit to Ethiopia, brought to you by Dani.
Sitota was absolutely perfect on the 1st leg of our flight. We left at 11 pm and went from Addis to Frankfurt with an hour stop in Khartoum. Sitota fell asleep in the first 15 minutes of the flight, and woke up in time for breakfast and disembarking. We weathered the layover in Germany fine and were so thankful for the umbrella stroller that our friends sent to us. There is SO MUCH walking in that airport.
The flight from Germany to Boston was tortuous from the start. She slept for maybe 20 minutes. Somewhere along the way, despite all of the love she had for Rob all week, it was all Mama all the time. Which would've been fine but she was freaked right out and completely spazzed out. Poor kiddo. I confess, I was a wreck for a good part of the flight... feeling a million times a flop. I knew that it had more to do with being sleep deprived and off schedule and the reality of mothering this complicated sweet Punk... but in the moment is was just sheer sadness that our girl was having such a hard time and I was questioning every little thing we had and hadn't done so far.
Oh, the poor plane. It was ugly. We suddenly and overwhelmingly regretted inviting our family to the airport. They'd be driving from Maine and Connecticut to welcome us home, and we were messy balls of goo. What a disaster.
We made it through customs and immigration, collected our bags, and walked out into the lobby. Everything washed away and all I could feel was gratitude that they were there. It was an incredible opportunity to share our new family with them. Like a really crowded hospital room after a long delivery. I am overwhelmingly proud to bring our daughter into this family- these families who make such inspiring choices to be together. To celebrate Family. There's no doubt that without the support of our families (those that came to Boston and those that couldn't) we wouldn't be sitting here listening to the crazy silliness that are our Punks.
Oh, the laughter! Oh, the noise! Oh, the joy! Oh, the way the Littlest Punk is wrapping her brothers and sister around her finger... A couple of highlights...
“I realized it doesn't really make sense to pretend my thumb is her nose...” -Aidan
The kids took her for a walk around our house- down the driveway and sidewalk in front of our house about 100 times. One Punk would push the stroller, but she wanted to hold the hands of the other 2 the entire time.
Lucy and Aidan have been playing a peek-a-boo game with her. They go up to the girl's room, then walk down the stairs counting each step, come down the hallway, Sitota pauses at the corner and peaks around and yells “Boo!” then she will walk sassily into the room, turns on her heel and says, “Ciao, Mommy. I love you, Mommy. Ewedechalu, Mommy.” Ewedechalu is “I love you” in Amharic. Sometimes it's a variation of those and a lot of kiss blowing and waving. Usually with a big smile, but occasionally with a fake crying voice. Oh, this kid. Aidan also taught her to make a mustache with her finger over her lip. I know, blink, blink, blink...
She's still been "off" of me, and today was no different- I was good from a distance, but upfront was another story. When the kids were doing their chores I brought her upstairs. She cleaned up all of her kitchen stuff (they played with the kitchen so much today), got her pjs on, and figured out the night-time routine. Funny the excitement when you teach your new punk to put her clothes in the hamper at night... anyway- we had a few minutes of great play- when she was trying to sneak by me while my eyes were closed. I would try to grab her and tickle her. Oh, that laugh. It was good, trust building, affectionate, silly play. Happy, happy heart.
Still surreal. Still will randomly take my breath away when I hear her call one of the other Punks, or see her holding one of their hands. When Clay was born, Aidan was 22 months old. When he came to the hospital to meet his brother, it was as though he'd grown overnight. He seemed so much older. That is true now, too. The original 3 punks are enjoying every single 1st with their sister. They all seem to have grown a foot during the week we were away. They all seem older.
I added a folder called Sitota's home to my flickr site. I obviously didn't have a camera at the airport, so I am waiting for peple to send me some pictures. Hint hint.
Here are some highlights from the last day or 2...all from my phone. I have a lot of pictures to go through from the trip... I'll get to it...