Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Quick entry before leaving tomorrow

It has been much harder than anticipated to get access to e-mail to post this blog (much less upload and post interesting pictures) but we wanted to post this brief update before we leave.

On Thursday we visited the Toukoul Orphanage and met our two children and, improbable as it would seem, they were JUST the way they looked in their pictures! Avi/Befekadu was a smiling, happy, and laughing baby of 6 months, and Raizel/Bemnet was an impish, bold, and playful two-year-old who was firmly attached to her caretakers and (at first) did NOT want to be with us.

We decided to take Raizel home with us to the guesthouse for Shabbat and the last days of Passover, doting on her every need. She became so glued to Kerith that she would not laugh or play with anyone but her Mama. Slowly, she began to range further and let her papa hold her. Her first stages of adjustment have gone very well indeed!

Another case of "no surprise there" has been the Ethiopian people we've met so far. All those in the USA we've known have been kind, warm, happy individuals; however, it had been pointed out to us that those are just Ethiopians who left Ethiopia. Well, they're the same way at home in Ethiopia. We went to the most incredible market, one of many we've been to around the world, and Kerith commented that these people were the most polite sellers and buyers she had ever been around. The Ethiopians working at the embassies have also been unfailingly helpful and understanding, the guards equally nice not Ethiopians and foreigners. We also got multiple thank yous for taking care of two of their country's children. If it were not for the grinding poverty, this place would be a paradise.

Gotta get going now, but more to follow, plus pictures, in the coming weeks!

--Dean and Kerith

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quick Update

Friday, April 25

We are leaving in 5 minutes to see Raizel & Avi. We will spend the morning with them, leave them for lunch and nap, then we hope to bring Raizel back to the guesthouse with us in the afternoon for shabbat. That way, we can focus just on her for a couple of days and get her more accustomed to us since her transition will be a bit trickier than Avi's. More information to follow... and pictures soon too, if we remember the camera cable (bli neder!!)

Shabbat shalom to all!!!

Guest House Hopping

The flight to Ethiopia left and arrived on time. We got in a little more power napping this time, bringing us to a total of at least 3 hours during the last 48 hours! It took about two hours to get off the plane, get our Ethiopian visas, go through passport control, change our money to birr, and pick up our luggage. We caught a taxi to our hotel, checked in, and went to our room to call our lawyer. He seemed rather surprised that we were at the Simien Hotel. Apparently, many arrangements had been made for us, including an airport pickup, a guesthouse, and a driver. We had made alternate arrangements because of needing our own kitchen (it's the middle of Passover), but apparently all that hadn't been communicated to anyone in Ethiopia.

The lawyer sprung us out of the hotel (we had realized it was perhaps not the bet place for us... and there would be almost NOTHING to do with the kids during shabbat). We paid for 1/2 day, and he drove us to the guesthouse to get us settled in. We took lots of pictures of Addis along the way. We'll add those later... no camera cable right now.

Short story - the guesthouse is wonderful, the grounds are beautiful, quiet, and peaceful, and it's the best place we could be. We'll tell more about our helpers there and the other families that are staying with us... but first, THE CHILDREN!

We were driven to the orphanage around 4:00. First we met with Malat, the orphange director to discuss our plans for our children. There were some very confusing conversations at first, due to our tired brains, and others pitching in "helpful" advice, so that I (Kerith) felt like 20 people were jabbering at me at once about what was best for our children. OY! We forgot about all the confusion at the surprise moment when our children were brought into the room (without warning!).

We handed the camera to Malat (which then ran out of batteries... We think she got 1 picture!) They looked exactly like their pictures, and we also discovered that their personalities were exactly as we had imagined. Avi smiled and laughed as he touched his papa's beard. Mama gave Raizel a tiny little brown doll, and she loved that. We played with the doll together and after a few minutes she was willing to sit in mama's lap. A little while later we were playing a game where she would stick out her finger and have her stuffed teddy bear kiss it. And she kissed the bear too! The time flew by, and we left them there for the night.

The Eagle Alights

April 23, Frankfurt, Germany

We landed in Germany for our 15-hour layover at 7:00 in the morning. Neither of us slept on our overnight flight from Portland, OR, except for maybe a couple of 5-minute power naps. Nonetheless, we were actually kind of awake when we landed. Rather than just crashing at a hotel (and further messing up our sleep schedule), we flung on our backpacks and headed for the train to take a self-guided tour of Frankfurt (after having turned down the $2,000 guided tour we looked into the week before!).

Our first stop was the Jewish Community Center in Frankfurt. We imagined showers (if we were lucky), a place to take a mini-nap, a place to get information about the community, maybe a place for Dean to exercise (his best migraine prevention routine), in other words, a Jewish community center like we have at home, more or less. HOWEVER... when we arrived we passed by the police officers who were staked outside, then a remote-controlled door opened for us and we were interrogated by an Israeli security guard, who quickly explained that the center was just administrative offices and NOTHING to see or do. They didn't even have maps or any information about the community available there! We were able to get chicken-scratch notes from the two other security guards behind the bulletproof glass - about museums, the restaurant (which was indeed open for passover), and the two shuls. We thanked them and walked out.

Our feet (and brains) were pretty tired, so we sat on a bench in the plaza nearby and had a snack. We rested for a while, then after lunch we headed over to the Main river for a snooze in the sun and a stroll along the river. Then we walked over to the Jewish museum and spent about an hour there learning about the history of the Jewish community in Frankfurt. Dean took a picture of the wall filled with names of Frankfurt Jews that perished during the shoah. That list was overwhelmingly long, especially considering it was only one of thousands of lists. It made us feel very grateful for how good life in America has historically been for the Jews.

After the museum visit our feet and brains were REALLY tired. We would have loved to go to the nearby botanical gardens, but our energy was GONE. So we walked back to the Hauptbanhof (train station). The central train station is magnificent. We probably walked around for an hour or so, looking at shops, the incredibly high, detailed ceilings, the high-speed trains, and did some people-watching.

Overall, our main impression of Frankfurt was that it was pretty much like any large city, USA. We decided that our best option was to go back to the airport (where they reportedly had shower rooms), and take a nap, and wait for our 11:20 pm flight to Ethiopia. So, back on the train we went and arrived in a few minutes at the airport.

Long story, short - there were only two showers, and neither of them was working. With seven hours to kill before our flight to come in we, well, set out to kill seven hours. Hours 1-2: oohing and ahhing at the groceries in the grocery store. Hours 3-4: not taking a shower and playing cards. Hours 5-6: standing in line for our flight check-in (and turning down many requests to check baggage for people who had too much), finding out we could take cuts and not stand in line (no baggage to check), walking to our gate. Hour 7: more cards. Yay. Throughout those hours we also sprinkled in several 5- to 15-minute power naps. And at the end of the wait we just said to each other, "Yes, it really was worth saving $500 each on the airfare for this experience (we think...), and THANK GOODNESS no children had to go through it with us!!!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Passover Field Headquarters

Good friends help you move, but *real* friends put you up for shabbat and the first days of Pesach (Passover) then let your (first pair of) children move in for two weeks while you head to the other side of the planet to bring your other children home. Words cannot express our gratitude for all they are doing (and our gratitude to them for us not having to clean for pesach!). We are comforted that our children (and us) are warmly welcomed into this family. In less than 2 hours, we head to the airport, so there's that last bit of hugging, kissing, and packing to do now. We'll try to log back in once we get to our layover in Frankfurt, Germany, and attempt to upload some pictures too! --DE and KE