This morning as I was driving the boys to school I overheard a conversation between Noah and Sam.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
This morning as I was driving the boys to school I overheard a conversation between Noah and Sam.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
When I traveled to Ethiopia I brought my friend Cindy with me while Jeff stayed home with the other 4 kids. Cindy teaches 5th grade at the school Noah attends. When we arrived back in the states it was apparent Noah was ready to start school. He landed in America on September 26 and was in school by October 6. In the back of Cindy's mind she had been coming up with a possible plan with her 5th grade students to engage them in Noah's story. It could be a learning experience all the way around. She discussed a plan with Noah's 1st grade teacher of perhaps having some of the 5th grade students come over at set times during the day to work one-on -one with Noah. They created a schedule that would work with both classrooms. Cindy then asked her kids how many would be interested in being a mentor/tutor for Noah. Out of a class of 25 students 22 raised their hands. The final five tutors were selected through an application process and a contract was signed by both student and parent. Everyone understood the importance of this opportunity.
Almost 4 months have gone by since this began and I cannot begin to tell you the leaps and bounds Noah has made because of these 5 kids. He not only is learning academics, but he is also learning social skills and just how to communicate and be an American kid. He has also taught these kids a lesson or two on taking what life gives you and making the best of it. They know he came to our family with nothing but the clothes on his back. They know of his hardships. They have learned that succeeding is not about dwelling on the past but dealing with what is here and now. Noah's story has also come home to the dinner tables of the students helping and it has made a difference in their families life as well. I have spoken with a couple of parents of the 5th graders and they have said the experience has been invaluable for their child. Last week we were at a basketball game for my son Nick and one of the parents came up and introduced himself to Noah and I. He said this experience has changed his sons life.
Our local paper is doing a story about this amazing group of 5th graders. Two weeks ago a photographer and reporter spent several hours with Noah and the kids. Their story will be featured within the next week.
Through these wonderful kids Noah has learned how to count to 100 by 1's, 5's, and 10's, read books, socially interact, write stories, create story boards... to succeed in school. They are doing this not for the recognition, accolades, or grade but for the chance to say, "I made a difference in someones life." As an outside observer, and Noah's mom, I have to agree. They have made a big difference in Noah's life.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Happy Presidents Day! Yesterday Jeff was explaining to Noah that this was a three day weekend. He would have Monday off from school...we were celebrating two great American men who were our presidents...a very important day etc. etc. etc. Noah appeared to be listening quite attentively but Jeff soon realized he wasn't because when the explanation was complete Noah looked at him and asked, "Presents Day...more presents for Noah!" I'm sure he was thinking the entire time Jeff was talking, "America...you gotta love this place!"
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Noah had his first trip to the zoo not long ago. He was quite apprehensive to say the least when we told him we were going . In his mind he had conjured up the notion that the zoo had wild animals walking around. He was worried we would turn a corner and run into a lion. It took a lot of convincing to make him believe the zoo was a safe and fun place. I think what I loved the most about the trip was that he could care less about the things my kids go wild over and he went crazy over the animals my kids see, experience, and take for granted in the Pacific Northwest. For instance...we live very close to the Oregon coast. My kids have grown up visiting family who live on the Pacific Ocean. Sea lions, otter, star fish, and other marine wildlife are just kind of ho hum to them. But when Noah entered the underground viewing area for the sea lions he just about jumped out of his coat with excitement. The sea lions were performing for us...so they would swim right up to the glass and rub against the window. This absolutely excited Noah to no means. He could have sat their all day...but it was only the first stop of the afternoon. We had a lot more to see. We walked a little farther down the zoo path to the primate exhibit. The group of little boys I took with me for the afternoon were beyond excited...mimicking the monkeys...walking around like baboons etc. Noah just stood in his place, on the verge of a yawn. He saw monkeys in Ethiopia all the time. He had a band of baboons come into his shack and tear it apart. He says his aunt beat them off with a stick. Crazy how this world is. An American kid's excitement is an Ethiopian kid's tormentor. Noah just couldn't understand how come all the boys loved those monkeys because they are nothing but trouble where he came from.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
All is well around the house. Sam just finished getting over the flu...now I am just waiting for the next victim to succumb. I made it to the store today to stock up...just in case I am house bound with the plague for another 6 days when the next Barclay drops. : >)
While Sam’s been under the weather Noah has had to make it through his school days without his brother. He was very anxious to have to go through his school day “alone”. I hadn’t realized how much Noah relied on Sam for ‘safety’ until Sam wasn’t able to be there for him and Noah voiced his anxiousness of having to go it alone at school. He did fine. On Monday morning I broke the news to Noah that Sam had to be home again. He muttered something like, “Noah work, Sam work...too much.” But I didn’t really get what he was saying. That afternoon Noah came home very determined and sat down at the counter with homework. He had several letters cut out, one of them being the vowel “0” that is colored yellow. His homework, he explained, was to create words, “two letter words, three letter words” with those letters. So together Noah and I create words, “to, do, so, hop, mop, lop, bop” and so on. We came up with at least 10 words. He was very proud of himself as he wrote the words down. When the homework was completed I told him to write his name at the top of the paper. He wrote, “Sam”. I said, “Noah...you need to write YOUR name.” He said, “No mom, Noah does Sam’s work...Sam too sick...Noah do Sam’s work....Noah do Noah’s work....too much!” and then he smacked his forehead with palm and sighed. What a big big heart. : >)
Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Korean New Year!
We had quite a weekend criss-crossing Portland celebrating Zak and Sam’s New Year’s celebration. Most folks don’t know that Asian countries like Vietnam, Korea, and China all base their New Year celebrations off the Lunar calendar. It is not a set date from year to year but instead based off of the cycle of the moon and typically falls toward the end of January.
Noah was very excited to take part in his brother’s New Years celebrations but became disappointed when we arrived at Sol Nol (Korean New Year) pulling into our parking space. He looked out the van window, blinking through the ray of sunlight filtering through the dirty glass to a fog filled empty playground, and asked, after the 45 minute drive,
“Is this Korea?”
“No Noah, this the Central Church in Beaverton.”
“No Korea...no....?” , and then a sigh.
So he thought he was going to Korea. (note to self...tomorrow when we celebrate Chinese New Years spell it out to him...we are going to CELEBRATE China....NOT travel TO China.) He bucked up and gorged himself with rice, mandoo, and Bulgogi and announced that if he ever DOES make it to Korea he will LOVE it because he likes the food.
The image of Barak Obama privately being sworn in again by the Chief Justice after a miscue at the inauguration the day before was on TV last night. Both man's right hands were raised for the swearing in. Noah walke
d by the screen and in a very matter of fact and distinctly clear sentence he said, “Oh yeah....High Five Hobaba!”.
I guess he knows what a “high five” is...now he just has to get the name Obama figured out. Whenever he says Hobaba...the entire family collectively corrects him,“Obama...Noah...It’s Obama...Not Hobaba!” When he does eventually get it, I think we will all still refer to the 44th president of the United States as President Hobaba.
Barack Obama has been elected the first African-American president of the United States of America. As a mom of a recently adopted son from Ethiopia I celebrate this important piece of history but I also have to pose the question,
“Do you think Martin Luther King’s dream came true?”
My job description as Noah’s mom changed yesterday. In a brief exchange he had with a student on campus my title changed from guiding this happy go lucky little man into the ways of American living into his protector... his champion.
We were leaving the school when Noah called out to a familiar face walking about 20 feet in front of us. Noah yelled “Hello ______”. No answer. Noah called again, “Hello _____”. Still no answer. Once more time, Noah yelled, “Hello ______”. The little boy turned around and said, “Why should I say hi to you, African.”
Of course I was stunned and shocked. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Immediately I sped up my steps to walk stride for stride with the boy who was walking with his older sister. I asked the sister if she had heard what her brother had said. She said no. She asked him. He said he couldn't remember. I repeated what I had heard. “Why should I say hi to you , African?” He clammed up. She asked him again. He again claimed he could not remember. The sister was clearly upset with her brother and regardless of whether she heard it or not she made him apologize.
On my way down to pick up my other children from the middle school I called Noah’s school, somewhat taken back at what I should really do. What was my role? I gave them the facts of what just happened. Before I got back into the house after picking up everyone the phone was ringing. It was the school. The boy’s sister was extremely upset over what her brother had said and was in tears when she got home. His mom called the school to get my phone number so we could talk. The school would not give out my number to her but she gave permission for them to give me her number. I called her. She was very apologetic, very remorseful for what her son had said. “Why should I say hi to you, African?” I accepted her apology.
The following morning his teacher gave the child a stern talking to as well as he had a private conversation with the school counselor. My guess is he is in the process of ‘getting it’ now. As for Noah, although his language is still lacking in the understanding of every word spoken to him, he did understand the tone of the child’s voice as being negative. He also understood that along with that negative tone he heard the word African. However, instead of harboring angry feelings toward the boy, Noah drew him a picture of a flower and a rainbow and dictated to the school counselor three simple words, “I forgive you.”
So I pose the question again, “Do you think Martin Luther King’s dream came true?” Perhaps on the political stage where the world is watching...yes. For a child from Ethiopia who up until last week had never even heard of Martin Luther King Jr. but innately walks the walk that MKL embraced 40 years ago…yes. But at the level my African son has to walk every day of his life...that is yet to be determined.
In the back of our minds we have been hoping to baptize Noah sooner than later. Jeff’s best friend from Kindergarden through adult hood is a Catholic priest in Seattle. He married Jeff and I, blessed our house after it was built 10 years ago, and he has baptized each of our kids. When we contacted him about Noah’s baptism he said the best date for him would be January 11. Looking at our calendar we realized how perfect a date that would. This week in Noah’s homeland the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is celebrating the holiday Timkat. Timkat honors the baptism of Jesus. This event is considered to be the most important holiday on the Ethiopian calendar. Noah was raised Orthodox Christian. He knows the story of Jesus. He knows Timkat. How wonderful that his Ethiopian faith world and his American faith world would come together for a very special afternoon.
When it came time to pick out what Noah should wear he and I opened up his closet on a quest...my quest was a bit different than his. When I told him we were picking out a nice outfit to wear I was focusing on black slacks and a white button-up shirt. Noah immediately focused on the formal dressing outfit I bought him in Addis. He pulled it out of the closet and asked in a hopeful voice, “Can I wear this?” It was perfect. It was symbolic. It was Noah.
The ceremony was special and Noah understood what was going on. He may not be able to express himself but he seemed to be familiar with the concept of baptisms. In all it was a wonderful afternoon. I have posted pictures on the Album page.
And now on to the real news of the weekend...Noah lost a tooth.
Saturday evening Noah and Nick were wrestling and one of his baby teeth got knocked loose. Oh dear...you'd think he was getting another round of immunizations. The screaming...yikes. Hannah and I whisk him down to the bathroom to asses the damage. It was loose, it was bleeding, he was wailing. All the boys were huddled in the bathroom to assist anyway they could...which really was no help at all because the bigger the audience the louder the wails. I kicked the boys out and locked the door. I could hear their worried whispering between breaths of Noah's moaning. (Yeah, you can say Oh Brother about now because the drama king was in da house) I told Hannah to sit criss-cross on the floor and have Noah lay his head on her lap so I could get a good look at the damage. So there we were...Hannah holding Noah on the floor while I took a look. I reached in to his mouth grabbed that tooth and ...'pluck'... in a very brief half second yanked that tooth out of his mouth. Then the screams again...OY. You'd think he had given birth and the after birth was on its way. I took the tooth in my hand, unlocked the door and was met by 3 very worried brothers on the other side. I proudly presented the tooth to them, exclaiming..."It's a boy," As quickly as I opened the door I shut and locked the door and tended to Noah once more. Sam, Nick, and Zak were busting up on the other side of the door. Noah finally calmed down enough (after Hannah and I explained the concept of the tooth fairy and she probably would be not come anywhere near our house because he was screaming so loud.) to come out of the bathroom to display the bloody hole where his tooth once occupied. Cheers erupted from this brothers and dad. When I exchanged the tooth for $1 that night while Noah was sleeping I took a long look at that tooth. I saved it. Why you ask...well...when you are a mom you celebrate every little thing in the first few years of life. I remember the smile Nick, Sam, and Hannah had when they had those first few baby teeth. Precious. Why in my heart do I think maybe Noah's mom rejoiced at his smile when he laughed a 4 tooth smile with the tooth he lost tonight. That one little tooth is my connection to his mom...it's all I have of her...well that tooth and Noah. : >)
...You Can’t Take Ethiopia out of the Kid.
Exhibit A: Yesterday morning Noah was mad at Nick and said in a very clear sentence..."You woman...go back to kitchen and cook." Oh yeh...I heard it because I was right there in the kitchen cooking Noah his daily breakfast burrito...with salsa. Nick stopped in his tracks... and stared at me. Zak dropped his DS to his lap... and stared at me. Sam looked up from playing with the cats... and stared at me. They all knew what was coming because at one time or another they too had made that same error in chauvinist pig judgement. Not to worry though, I was kind to Noah and simply told him, spatula waving in hand, if he felt women were that low on the scale of life then I would just stop cooking for him as he didn't need a woman in his life. He got that part. I told him the right choice would be to never say that again in my house. He got that part. I told him those comments are wrong and someday he will get a slap in the face from some beautiful girl if he mutters a comment like that again. He got it. His big brown eyes looked back at me with much regret. He came up soon after and said he was very very sorry. I forgave him...as I wiped the ‘cooked with love’ breakfast burrito crumbs from his cheeks. ; >)
Exhibit B: Last night I stole away and took a bath. I came out calm and relaxed and Noah ambushed me with a hug from no where. He stepped back in despair after hugging me and said, "What happened mama...you grandma", and then he pointed at my chest. I had just got out of the tub and was in my PJ's...without any support if you know what I mean. Yeh...in his book I’ve got the chest of a grandmas. I guess that's ok being that the life expectancy in Ethiopia is 45 or so...so my 'grandma boobs' fit the age. Still, not exactly a sensitive delivery of the news.
The first snow flake in Noah’s life was really quite hilarious. We’ve been anxiously waiting for Noah’s first snow because as with every other new thing in Noah’s life, we knew this would be full of drama and excitement. "Cyber Zak" was monitoring the impending snow storm on the KATU.com satellite radar on the Mac...watching as the blue radar cloud of snow surrounding our ‘home’ was slowly closing in on the tiny ‘island’ of green on the radar. In Zak's words, "Snow... is... coming". Here's the blow by blow.
"Snow fall 1.33 miles away." 5 minutes later...reload. "Snow is now .94 miles away." 5 minutes later...reload. "Snow .26 miles away." Remember...these updates are not smooth and calming like those you would hear from Rhonda on Channel 2...these are all out bombastic yells.
Soon all the boys were huddled around the computer screen. Zak reloads the image and the arrow indicating our exact location is now covered in blue. Zak raises his arms to the sky and yells, "SNOW IS HERE!" The boys are jumping around dancing...staring at the computer and the blueness covering the map...backs totally turned to the window where if they had checked for themselves they would have seen the first snowflake fall. Jeff and I just sat at the table rolling our eyes. Zak does have a way of commanding attention...even when the first snow of winter is knocking at the back door.
So...on to Noah's reaction. After I told the kids to turn around and check out the real deal the race was on to see who could get out first. After years of practice Sam, Nick, and Zak knew the protocol for getting their snow clothes on. Noah...well...I kind of forgot to do the low down for getting dressed for snow. In the hustle and cloud of snow clothes I realized Noah was not among the others. Instead, he was already outside...boots but no socks...sweatshirt but no coat and no gloves...gazing out into our green field... snowboard tucked under his arm...starring down the green grass...waiting... as if he was a surfer on the oceans edge... waiting for that one big perfect wave. He waited and waited...but sadly the snow never came...just that first little flake and maybe about 5000 more.
Noah’s first snow was a bust...but I have a feeling come Wednesday or there about he will get another chance to actually experience his first taste of Pacific Northwest snowfall. I’ll keep you posted.
It comes with great relief and happiness that I can say we safely made it through our first major holiday with Noah. Not that is wasn’t without questioning glances and extensive Amharic commentary from him, but for the most part he rolled with it. Along the way he helped forge some unforgettable moments.
On the subject of Turkey:
This past month of school the subject of turkey was figuratively on the front burner. It took Noah a little time to realize that a turkey wasn’t a chicken and it wasn’t a duck and so for the first week or so he would call a turkey a ‘chuck’...the combination of chicken and a duck. Once he got the terminology figured we were ready to move on to introducing the concept of Pilgrims and their roll in the life (or death as it is) of a turkey. He found it fascinating that the men pilgrims would go out with their guns and shoot the wild turkey and the women would pluck and cook the bird. So... for several days leading up to Thanksgiving Noah would proudly state that Jeff was going to go turkey hunting. As he tells the story he takes his hand to his neck and mimics a knife cutting off the head of the turkey. Jeff would always stand behind Noah sheepishly smiling as I agreed that would be a very very cool thing for dad to do. So Thanksgiving morning arrived...and Noah’s face showed the excitement that should only be reserved for a child on Christmas morning. Today....his dad is going to cut the head off of a turkey. Instead of setting Noah straight by showing him a wrapped turkey in the fridge Jeff proudly displayed the turkey going into the oven plucked AND headless. Noah’s face dropped...tears filled his eyes...he thought HE was going to be able to be the one to cut the head off the turkey. So the family lost a little in translation of his Ethiopian excitement leading up to Thanksgiving day...none the less Noah still thinks his dad is so COOL for being a turkey hunter.
Praying at church:
We were at church Sunday and Noah knelt down to pray. With Noah everything is loud...and it’s not like our family doesn’t stand out in a crowd anyway. So Noah knelt in the middle of St. John’s church, eyes closed tight, hands clasped in prayer, palms together and he started his prayer on the high end of the volume scale, " I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America...." Hannah was mortified...because once again I say...Noah is loud so everyone around us heard. She was begging me to make him stop...I just couldn't. He was soooo sincere.
The Concept of Christmas:
The wonderful thing with Noah is he does have a comprehension of the true meaning of Christmas...that it is about the birth of Jesus. He was raised Orthodox Christian by his family. The questions about a tree in the house...and who is this Santa Claus and what does he have to do with Jesus, well that’s another story. On Sunday...Hannah, Noah, and Sam were putting up the nativity scene. We don't put out the baby until Christmas day because...well...that's when he was born. For the month of December Mary, Joseph and the various animals are just hanging around waiting for the signal from above to plop the baby in the hay. So there sits an empty manger...much to Noah’s displeasure. Sam slyly takes one of the sheep while Noah isn't looking, turns it upside down and lays it in the manger....legs pointing straight up to the angel on the top of the stable. Now Mary and Joseph are kneeling in prayer to a sheep that looks like rigor mortis has set in as IT lies away in the manger. Noah in the mean time had gone out to find Jeff to bring him back to show him the 'beautiful' baby sleeping, thinking I was going to bend on his argument that the baby must be put in the manger right now. Noah is not short on dramatics. So...when he came back in with Jeff and saw not Jesus but a sheep in the manger his eyes doubled in size and his voice rose and these are his exact words, "goodness gracious me...no no no baby in bed!!... Sheet (sheep)...no no no!!" Long story short...Noah knows the story of Christmas and that is making this season much easier to move forward with. Now the Santa thing...still not sure how I am going to approach that.
Right now Noah’s favorite past time is watching the classic cartoon Jonny Quest. He engages so much into it that he has renamed our dog, Duncan, Jonny’s dog’s name, Bandit. Last night he has asked if we could start calling him Haji, (Jonny’s faithful sidekick who is usually seen wearing a turban.) He’s starting to quote lines from the cartoon...and for the most part they are surprisingly in context to what we are doing at the time. We took him to his first movie last week, to see Madagascar 2 and since then every chance he gets he likes to break into song and dance from the movie... “I like to moj it, moj it...I like to moj it moj it...I like to MOJ IT.”
He keeps us giggling daily...his innocence and vitality are so refreshing.
Over the past several weeks we have been asked, “How is Noah doing?” Although our answer is typically a canned response, “fine...he’s really learning the language...has bonded with the family...blah blah blah....”, the fact of the matter is behind those beautiful eyes is a grieving little boy. As his language has developed so has his ability to express the losses he has experienced in his very young life. Last week his grief came to the surface in an emotional yet beautiful evening for the entire family. What began as a simple discipline issue erupted into an all out melt down for Noah. He was unapproachable in his room....crying...screaming. Then his cries and screams turned into moans and wails. Zak, who was standing by me the entire time, looked at me in concern and said, “Mom, that’s the sound I would make when there was nothing more I could do.” It triggered my memory and he was right it was the same sound Zak had made 5 years earlier...Noah was done and all he had left inside him was the moans of someone who had nothing left to give. I went back into his room and this time he let me pick him up and rock him in my arms...he completely melted into me sobbing, “I have no family, I have no family”. I motioned Zak to go get all the kids. Although difficult for them given the emotional state Noah was in, they needed to look Noah in the eye and let him know...he was loved and he had a family. Every one took their turn hugging him through the tears. He calmed down and began talking about his life...his life before us...before WACAP....before the orphanage. Some information we already knew and some we learned for the very first time sitting in a circle on the floor of his bedroom.
Thankful...once again because of this journey with Noah I have to express that I am now seeing this word...thankful...in a whole new light. Last week we realized the extent of love Noah still has for the people he left behind in Ethiopia. Both his parents passed away early in his life from Tuberculosis. His mom’s sister, who was raising her family alone as it was, took Noah in for two years. During that time she gave birth to a baby...a little girl named Galeila. Last week, through his tears Noah talked about Galeila. She was a good baby. He gave her water when she was thirsty. At night his aunt, Galeila, and Noah shared a bed and Galeila would cuddle into Noah and sleep. Noah loved Galeila. One day his aunt couldn’t feed everyone in the family...there was not enough food. Through tears Noah told us of the day his aunt had him say goodbye to Galeila and she walked the baby to the orphanage to relinquish her for adoption. Galeila was, we are guessing, about 8 months old. When she got back to their shack he and his aunt cried. I am not sure of the span of time before it was Noah’s turn to take the walk to the orphanage with his aunt, but it was long enough that by the time he got there Galeila was gone.
Thankful...a word that this time of year can be overused and misunderstood. My thanks this year extend to a lady surviving in a steel sided shack on the fringes of the poorest city in Ethiopia. My thanks this year extend to this lady who cared for my son when she could not even provide for her own child. I will honor the strength and courage of this brave lady this year and for years to come. She is the image I will see when I close my eyes and pray this Thanksgiving.
We are done with Homecoming week and have moved on to Halloween. I was just telling Nick this has been the quietest and least stressful Halloween on record. Why, I don’t know...maybe it’s because my older kids have chosen to sit out this year so I am only focusing on Sam and Noah. Sam is fine being a Clone Warrior again this year and Noah is basically happy being whatever as long as he is being something. He’s settled on Superman...you can check out the pictures on the album page.
We have come up with a nickname for our ‘twins’... Oscar and Felix. The revelation came to Jeff and I last weekend when we were carving pumpkins. Sam patiently sat criss-cross apple sauce carefully picking the pumpkin scum off of his Jack O Lantern with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Noah....well Noah not only scooped the pumpkin scum out with both arms buried to the elbow inside his Jack O Lantern but once he had the scum out on the ground he began doing a dance on the guts as if he were making pumpkin wine with his stomping. Guts were ooozing between his toes...seeds squirting from his heels...and a smile beyond wide crossed his face. At the end of the carving he happily turned his carved pumpkin upside down, the opening resting on his head, as if he was ready to deliver it to market. Every day is a new and fun day with Noah. : > )
Last Saturday we had a “Noah Moment of Perspective” in regards to Hannah’s homecoming evening. Noah’s reaction was a moment I will never forget. It is a reminder of how far apart our cultures really are. He walked in the room where all the girls were dressed up and just whispered to me, "beautiful girls." Then when the boys showed up he just stood silently in the wings watching as they exchanged corsages and boutonnieres. I could tell his mind was racing with thoughts. When everyone started filing out to the front yard for pictures Noah began to panic...he ran to me and started crying, "Hannah. Go. Boy." I think he really thought this was some ceremony where we were passing Hannah on to Ryan's family. Think about it...my mom, the elder, came in from out of town.... flowing dresses...fancy hair...the exchange of flowers....an American experience he has never witnessed. The only thing in his mind that was missing was a cow to pass on to Ryan’s family. So Hannah knelt down to Noah and talked to him, comforted him, told him she'd be back later, gave him big hugs, and told him she loves him. He calmed down enough for me to go outside with the rest of the mom’s for pictures. I'm in the middle of snapping pictures of the kids when I hear a drum beat behind me. He's gone inside and found the Ethiopian drum I brought home and is enthusiastically pounding the drum to a rhythmic beat...constant...over and over...for the next 15 minutes or so while pictures are being taken. Finally the kids are ready to file into the van. Wide eyed he watches as Hannah is climbing into the van and then turns his head into me and starts sobbing again. He thought she was leaving our home...for good. We brought him back inside and calmed him down again for the evening. You can only imagine his thrill when Hannah walked out of her bedroom Sunday morning. She smiled a good morning smile to him and he jumped into her arms and wouldn't let go. So my moment of perspective... how flowers, beautiful dresses, and fancy hair within two completely different cultures can have such different meanings in the eyes of a six year old little boy...and also how amazing it is that in just one months time this little boy has fallen so in love with his big sister that the thought of her not in his life brought him to genuine tears. Pretty cool....
Noah is doing great. We have setbacks now and then but overall he’s moving forward. I think the biggest challenge now is keeping him busy during the weekends. He loves the routine that Monday-Friday gives him. There’s just a little too much free time on the weekends. Last Saturday, for instance, I could not stop him from working around the house. He trimmed my roses and other plants...hauled two wheel barrow loads of compost down to the woods. I told him he didn’t have to do that, go and play. He washed my car with a rag and Duncan’s water dish...I told him he didn’t have to do that, go and play. He washed down the patio and scrubbed it with a push broom...I told him he didn’t have to do that, go and play. He folded a basket of laundry...I told him he didn’t have to do that, go and play. He mended a hole under the dog kennel with mud and river rock...I told him he didn’t have to do that, go and play. Finally I thought he was settled into hanging out with Nick at the tree fort. Jeff and I had a free moment to talk...when up from the woods Noah appears...carrying a wood crucifix about 3 feet tall on his back...like Jesus from the Passion of Christ. He had built Jeff and I a ‘mesket’ or wooded cross with some leftover wood from Nick’s tree fort and was walking up through the field with his creation resting on his back...once again, like Jesus. : >) He was SO proud of it and marched right inside with it and placed it on our fireplace. So....here comes the weekend and my challenge is having Noah try to act like a typical 6 year old... a challenge for which he has never been given the chance...until now.
It’s been a while since I last updated. Life’s busy...what can I say. : >) Noah Musse started first grade on October 6. So far so good...I’ve stayed close to home and the phone just in case but he has an amazing teacher who is going to make him soar over the next months. He will also be getting one-on-one pullout time several times a week to work on his language and reading development. One of the many benefits of Cindy teaching on his campus is her class has taken a genuine interest in Noah, his story, and his future. She had thrown out the idea of having a few students from her 5th grade class come to Noah’s class to give him some one-on-one help as well as work with him on his language development. Last week she asked her class who would be interested in being a tutor for Noah. 22 of her 26 students raised their hands! It’s such an exciting notion...how both sides will benefit from such a cool experience. Her students and Noah will grow so much from their time together.
On the home front we have morphed ourselves into a family of 7. For the most part he has settled in nicely to his role has the youngest ( by 79 days...and Sam won’t let you forget it) He’s finding that he doesn’t have to sweep the floor, do the dishes, fold laundry etc. in order to belong. Zak was the same way...you’d never know it now by the way he tosses his dirty clothes on the floor....but there was a time where all the families shoes were lined up and his clothes were neatly folded.
Hannah and Noah continue to have an amazing relationship. She can’t go through the day without at least 70 kisses laid upon her face. One on the forehead, one on the chin, one on the left cheek, one on the right cheek and one more on the forehead for good measure. Do the math...5 kisses x 14 encounters a day = 70 kisses. Personality wise I am seeing Noah and Hannah the more similar among our kids. The other night Hannah put on a woven skirt and top I bought for her at the weavers market in Addis. She came out and Noah’s eyes lit up...except he was quite concerned that she didn’t finish her outfit with the proper accessories so he motioned to her to go back into her room and find the scarf that went with the outfit. When she came out again with the scarf he taught her 5 different ways to wrap the scarf for different occasions. The next night at dinner he insisted she come to dinner dressed up and in a scarf....again. She loved every minute of it.
Nick and Noah have bonded over the tree fort Nick is building. I’m not sure if Noah knows it’s for fun and not Nick’s future home. : >) He’s taking the role of assistant seriously though. The other day they were down in the woods and Noah started to make a garden for Nick out of the fresh dirt of a mole hill. He came back up to the house and brought down some roses he had cut. He stuck them into the ground and then blew off the pedals and told Nick, in his own language of hand gestures, that the seeds he blew would make new flowers for Nick’s house.
Noah and Zak are probably to most opposite of the kids...but trust me, that is not a bad thing. I love all my kid’s individual personalities. It keeps me from getting bored. : >) Zak is a driven perfectionist who sees things only in black and white. Let’s just say at this point Noah leaves a lot of room for the grey in the middle. As far as roommates...they are perfect for each other. Zak’s working on the ‘alpha male’ role and is definitely making progress. : >) The other day we had a scare with Zak and his health. When Noah realized the seriousness of it, and that I was on the phone with Zak’s heart doctor, he became genuinely scared and kept a watchful eye on Zak all day. Zak is fine now...and he is back to ‘normal’ with his health.
Sam and Noah continue to grow everyday. It is a fun relationship to watch. One minute they are having a blast the next minute they are at opposite ends of the house doing their own thing. Works for me! The other day Sam came home from school with a fever. Noah, became very concerned, came up to me and said, “Ethiopia medicine.” He went outside and walked around the yard looking at the plants we have. He settled on the lavender. Plucked two stalks with a flower and came back inside. He walked over to Sam, who was crashed on the couch with a towel on his forehead (placed by Zak) and put one of the stalks on Sam’s head and the other he said, “Ethiopia medicine...Sam hot...eat,” while he mimicked eating the leaves of the lavender. Sam was in no mood to eat a lavender plant so I diverted Noah with hugs and thanks while placing his beautiful thought on the counter.
Every day is a new experience with Noah. He is so excited about every new thing he encounters. Last night he came running in from outside all excited that he was watching the monkeys play in the trees. His monkeys are our squirrels. He was watching the squirrels play. : >) So I got out the Pacific Northwest Mammal book and showed him a picture of a squirrel. He jumped up and down excitedly and said, “yes yes...American monkey!!” So...FYI....until further notice...at least in our house...we have American monkeys in our backyard.
Until next time.....
Hugs and Love,
Well we just finished our first week at home as a family of 7...yikes...I’ve never seen that in print. A family of SEVEN!
I have to admit that I am cautiously saying so far so good. Jeff did a great job of running the family her while I was with Noah Musse in Ethiopia.
Noah is doing well. He has definitely bonded with each family member on their own terms. He sees Hannah as more of an aunt figure and thus reveres her...something H said she could really get use to since the other three brothers don’t seem to. : >) A few days ago I was looking for Noah and H called down from her room to say he was with her. I went down there and she was standing in the middle of her room while Noah was picking up her clothes off the floor and folding them neatly on her bed he had just made for her. I looked at her and said, “this is SO wrong.” She smiled back at me and said, “maybe...but check out my clean room.” He has hence been banned from being Hannah’s personal servant. He just wants to please SO bad.
He really looks up to Nick...especially after the first morning he was home. Nick pulled out the frying pan and made Noah his first breakfast in America....scrambled eggs. He’s also watched Nick in his first football game and was really quite confused by the whole concept of American football...although he loved Nick’s helmet and pads. He used his first sani-can at the football game. You KNOW sani-cans are disgusting when someone who has just recently come over from Ethiopia, where pit toilets were the norm, turns up his nose at the inside of a Honey Bucket. Either that or he is really quickly conforming to elitist American standards. : >)
Zak has been a wonderful big brother to him. They share a room so Zak has bared the brunt of Noah’s early morning wakings. He’s gently guided Noah back to bed several mornings in the early hours. I think now Zak ‘gets’ what families go through during the transition phase of adoption. He was on the other side 5 years ago this month and every now and then he makes mention of his appreciation of the work we put into making him feel like he was home. Zak is growing during this process...I am so proud of him.
Sam...without question...has had the roughest go of it. We’ve had some tears and conversation about bringing in a new family member. Sam is analytical, thoughtful, quiet, and compassionate...he has had to process this change on his own terms. I have seen in the past 24 hours an accepting change taking place. Right now he, Jeff, and Noah are having an afternoon out together buying Bionicles at Target. Sam and Noah are going to build them together this evening. Sam is going to be fine. We would have never entered this adoption if we knew our children couldn’t handle it...fortunately we are seeing hearts opening in all the kids to their new little brother.
And now on to Noah...he is a character. It’s always a fear when you adopt that the child will not bond with the family. This is not the case with Noah. As I mentioned in my journal he ran to me and hasn’t let go of the concept of family from day one. He is very sweet...compassionate...curious. This new world of gadgets fascinates him. The phrase he learned first and foremost... “don’t touch”. We get a chuckle now and then when he pulls a “George of the Jungle” stunt....like a few nights ago he took a coon skin hat off the wall that was hung for a decoration and washed it by hand and hung it up to dry like a pelt. Then we have touching moments...he found Hannah’s old tea set and set up an Ethiopian coffee ceremony and invited our whole family to take part in it. Of course he kind of lost the seriousness of the moment when he served the coffee in Hannah’s blue taffeta princess dress and a purple and gold afro wig...but...it was the thought that counts. : >)
Noah’s health for the most part is good. His stomach/intestines are full of parasites etc. that he picked up in Africa, living in such poor unsanitary conditions. He’s on medications for all of the junk in his belly and it should be cleared out by mid-week. This is another concept Zak has forgotten from his early adoption days...and when I told him I had to do the same for him that I am doing for Noah (waiting for the poop to fall and then running the sample to the lab within one hour for a proper culture to be taken) he was speechless. It’s what we do...to make our sons better. So long story short...Noah and all of the Barclay’s are doing well. Noah starts school on Monday and of course I will be on call AND on pins and needles those first few days. Cindy teaches on the same campus and we have visited her class several times this week. It is comforting to know she is just footsteps away from him as well. They are quite a pair. :>)
Thanks to everyone for all their kind words of support over the past several weeks. It may not be acknowledged but it is appreciated more than I can ever express.
The Beginning of Firsts
How can I describe the past 36 hours but time passed laughing, crying, celebrating, hugging, sadness, exhaustion.. I haven’t laid down in over a day and a half now…as we filled our final day in Addis in Starlet, Helen’s car. She wanted to take us to a coffee factory for a tour as well as take us by one of her favorite shops. Starlet is a cute car by Addis standards but you are still taking our life into your own hands when you close the tin can doors of the blue Toyota hatchback. As Cindy said, she hasn’t got the shifting down so that makes it just about as nerve racking as it gets…especially when she stalls out at a major intersection or when a 1962 VW bug passes us on a steep hill because she forgets to put it in 1st gear. An adventure and laughs to say the least. Helen insisted on taking us to her favorite bathroom in the city…she goes there all the time when she is out and about. We crossed the poverty barrier that are the gates of the Sheraton Addis and treated ourselves to the luxury of actually sitting on a toilet and using toilet paper from a roll, not a wad from our backpacks, and washing our hands with liquid soap and not Purell. You honestly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. : >) After the Sheraton we drove to the Hilton to check in at the KLM office for our flight out later that night. We had a nice tour of the coffee factory and have walked away with a great appreciation of what goes into a single cup of coffee. The labor alone…amazing.
We treated Mr. Teklu and Helen for lunch at the Aladdin after the factory tour. Once again we had good laughs and good conversation. Mr. Teklu is such an amazing advocate for the children of Ethiopia as is Helen. I can see a great future of them working together for the children of their country.
Helen and her staff had a final coffee ceremony for us before we left for the airport. We gifted her with a book of the origin of coffee…Kaldi and the Dancing Goat…as the night before she attempted to tell us the story but completely botched the whole thing totally confusing us and leaving us in hysterics. We figured a book with the real story would keep other guests from being as confused as we were. : >) We gave the three ladies on staff scented candles and Solomon, a gentle soul of a man who really was such a positive male for Noah this week, a tool box I had picked up before we left for Ethiopia. I knew somewhere in Ethiopia there would be a man deserving of a set of tools and Solomon was that wonderful man.
Mr. Teklu and his driver took us to the airport around 7:30 pm. It was a very bitter sweet goodbye and I don’t think Noah really understood that this was really goodbye until we were at the ticket counter and tears just began to stream down his face. He realized that the wonderful kind Mr. Teklu would no longer be on this adoption journey with him. It was a sad realization for all of us.
We met up with Melat, Jennifer, and Tigist for the final step of this journey to bring Noah home. They flew with us to Amsterdam and are continuing on to Seattle on a separate flight. In the past 24 hours Noah has encountered many firsts…his first backpack…his first plane ride…his first escalator ride….his first moving sidewalk ride….his first drink from a drinking fountain…his first ice cube….his first listen to Rhianna, Coldplay, Madonna…and he has smiled his smile of amazement with each and every moment. This long long day is just the beginning of an amazing journey with Noah Musse Barclay.
We started our morning by going to the Heile Selasie market to buy souvenirs. Noah was not interested in a trip like that at all and chose to stay back at the guest house with the staff while Cindy and I had Ayella drive us. The Heile Selasie market is a no bartering store where can purchase wonderful items made in Ethiopia. We spent a couple hours just looking around and buying. We also made it back to the Weaver’s co-op to buy some more scarves. Funny story: We are in one store where the walls are just covered in colorful fabrics made into scarves and dresses. We are talking to one of the owners when the second owner sneaks in, a small woman with a scarf wrapped around her so the only thing showing is her face. She silently stands behind Cindy for a couple of minutes while Cindy peruses the scarf selection. Cindy turns around right when the lady makes a slight move and it sends Cindy to the ceiling with surprise. She thought the lady was a mannequin and when she moved she startled Cindy so much she screamed. We were all laughing about it when Cindy let out her trademark snort and that just sent the two ladies into doubled over laughter. The one lady with the scarf was laughing so hard she had to turn her head into the fabric to keep her composure. We all laughed for about 5 minutes and when Cindy walked out the one owner smiled at her and said, ‘this is good’…meaning we all crossed the language border with our laughter. It was priceless. Traveling with Cindy is a refreshing…she is quick to have conversations with anyone and can break the ice with a simple smile. I am grateful to have her along this adventure.
We made it back to the New Flower just in time for Mr. Teklu to drop by Noah’s passport and visa. He is officially cleared to come home. Yahoo! After that we drove to the WACAP house for a goodbye party for Noah. We brought gifts for the staff, played with the babies, and had more coffee. Love this coffee! It is clear that Noah was well loved at the WACAP house. They were all very excited to see him and were very sad to say good-bye. They are wonderful there…the have a genuine love for the children. It was a most memorable goodbye. I just pray that someday Noah can come back and give back to such a special place. I also told Mr. Teklu about Hana, the little girl in Nazareth who is orphaned and has HIV. Cindy gave him Mr. Dewit’s contact information and Teklu has promised us he will help Hana. She will have to be brought to an orphanage first and then hopefully will be processed at AHOPE so she can get the proper medicine to slow down the progression of the HIV. Her face will be in my thoughts…her heart and health in my prayers.
Tonight we took Helen out for dinner at a fine Italian restaurant. We had beautiful Ethiopian artwork surrounding us. We even caught a glimpse of one of Mr. Wassi Hu’s art, although Helen swears it isn’t the one and only one who gave Cindy his phone number earlier in the week. We had such a wonderful time…so much laughter…so much conversation. Noah was pretty bored for most of the meal and at one point even called the waiter over to clear our dishes off the table so we could leave. Helen explained to him that was not appropriate and that he is not the boss. He then said if we wanted to continue talking we should take him home so he could go to bed and we could stay up and talk. Hmmmmmm….maybe he is a descendant of the Emporer Heile Selasse as his last name by birth would indicate. So we get home and he gets his pj’s on and is expecting to watch tv tonight. Through Helen I tell him no…he was so tired at the restaurant that he needs to go to bed. Also his bossy behavior at the restaurant to a stranger is reason enough to have an early bedtime without the reward of t.v. He was truly sorry when he saw how disappointed I was and actually hugged me and said he was sorry..in English. I’ve got my work cut out for me…but deep down he’s a great kid.
So it’s my last night in Ethiopia and I have been changed forever. I LOVE this country, it’s people, it’s landscape. There is so much love among the people. Yes the poverty is overwhelming…yes their government is beyond corrupt and anyone you talk to will tell you as much…but I love this country and the people at the grassroots level who are trying to make a difference. I have been touched…by the families who were with us at the New Flower…the staff at the WACAP House…Mr. Teklu…Helen…Mr. Dewitt…our driver Ayalla…Wassi Hu : >)…a little girl named Hana…the beggars on the streets…a two month old baby at AHOPE with HIV…a little boy I am bringing home to his family forever… I am changed.
This morning we walked up to Kaldi’s coffee ( a very good knock off to Starbucks….even down to the trademark green sign) to meet Mr. Dawit who was driving us down to Nazareth to visit his schools. While we were waiting for him I took Noah up to the counter to see if there was anything he wanted, thinking a pastry or something. He exchanged conversation with one of the waitresses and I decided a guava juice would be perfect for him. So we sit down…and soon three blended smoothies arrive at our table. Hmmmmmm…Cindy and I look at each other and then the waitress and tell her we didn’t order anything for ourselves but I had ordered a single guava juice for Noah. Ok, so the waitress takes the two drinks away. Soon she arrives back with a giant hamburger and a plate of fries. I looked at the waitress and said…”we didn’t order this”…she looked at me and said, “he did” gesturing to Noah. The conversation Noah had with the waitress that I thought was idle chit-chat…he was ordering a hamburger and fries for himself AND drinks around the table for Cindy and I. So what should have been a simple 5 birr tab turned into a 37 birr table tab…still extremely cheap as all of that cost about $3.50 in US dollars. As ‘cute’ as it was I had to reprimand him…and the tears did not go over well with the waitresses as they stood by with evil eyes for the remainder of the time it took for Noah to finish his burger. ANYWAY….we got out of dodge quickly when Mr. Dawit arrived.
We drove south of Addis to Nazareth. He and his wife have dedicated their lives to educating the poorest of the poor children in that community. They have opened up two schools in the community, the English Alive Academy. Most of the children are there through sponsorships. Our first stop was a school for Pre K- 2nd grade. The children were in line washing up for snack time when we arrived. After snack they had playtime. It was during this time that we got to play with them…take pictures of them and show them on the digital screen of the camera…and just laugh with them. They were soooo cute and so happy to be in school. At the first school we visited there were 83 children in a school building and yard that would equal about 2 classrooms in size. After play time they went back to their classrooms. We had brought candy for them so Noah went into each classroom and handed out candy. He was very proud of the chance to share the candy. He really enjoyed playing with the kids as well.
Here’s today’s defining moment with Noah: We are in the ‘library’ (which consists of maybe 75 books for 83 children) when Noah comes running in. He asks for his blue bag that has all of his crayons. I get it out for him and he takes it to the 1st grade classroom and hands out all of his special crayons and colored pencils to the students in that classroom. I didn’t tell him to. He did it on his own. So there is my son…with nothing really to call his own except for the clothes on his back only days before…taking his new pencils and crayons and handing them out to someone who needs them more. A very proud moment for this new mom.
Next we traveled to the school for older children…2-4th grade but the students were as old as 13. Mr. Dawit had told us about one little girl who is a student in this school. Her name is Hana. Hana’s parents are both dead of AIDS and she had been living by herself since their death. Hana is 8 years old. Hana is HIV-positive. The neighbors told Mr. Dawit about Hana and he took her into his school. After school he believes she is taken care of by neighbors. We met Hana and yes, she does look sick but for 6 hours a day she can be the little girl she should be among the children of Mr. Dawit’s school. Cindy and I are hopeful in talking to Mr. Teklu about Hana in the hopes that he may advocate for her to enter the AHOPE orphanage where she can get proper medicine for her HIV. It would be a dream if she could eventually be advocated for adoption but first she must get her health back and so tomorrow we talk to Teklu.
Today I was hugged, kissed, and touched by 136 children in the poorest of the poor region of Ethiopia. By the end of the day Cindy and I conceded that there will be a ‘fungus among-us’ but how could you not be touched, both physically and emotionally by these children. I think we both agree as well that a piece of our hearts will forever be in beautiful little oasis of learning on the edge of the Great Rift Valley.
Today was our embassy appointment day. Mr. Teklu came over to the guest house with Jessica and Melat so we could all go together to file our papers. Unfortunately the embassy lost one document that had been cabled over from WACAP so there was a few hours where I honestly thought I would not be leaving on Thursday night. Fortunately Megan got on her e-mail right away at 3:00am and emailed the embassy insisting that she had filed it and it was their oversight. We returned to the embassy after coming back to the guest house for lunch and suddenly the document appeared. Phew…so I turned in the paperwork, answered 5 questions about Noah Musse’s life before he came into my custody and Waalaa…he was declared our son. Amazing how much anxiety can accompany what would seem to be a simple task.
Another defining moment today….we are in the van waiting in traffic (as it seems like we always do) when a woman whose eyes were clouded with cataracts appeared at our van door, begging for food. She stood at the window in front of Noah and motioned with her hands that she was hungry and wanted him to give her food. He locked eyes with her and in a very sad sorrowful glance shook his head and raised his hands up to the sky motioning that he could not. She asked again. This time his big brown beautiful eyes just took her in. He just stared at her as she continued to motion for just one piece of food. Cindy and I sat in silence…watching this little guy who, only months earlier was in that beggars shoes pleading for just one bite, be on the other side of the coin. I brought a new jacket for Noah to wear…he is so proud of it and he wore it today because it was bit rainy. He put on that new jacket today and suddenly in the eyes of those who beg…he was a ‘have’ to those who ‘have not’ on the streets of Addis. One clean new jacket…
After our embassy appt. we went to AHOPE an orphanage for HIV infected children. The children were beautiful, kind, respectful, funny…and were loved as best they could be. What a place. I held the hand of a 2 month old baby who had just been relinquished earlier that day. I laughed at an adorable little boy, Ebram, who did the old top of the thumb disconnecting from the rest of the thumb trick…and he was really good at it. I stood in line to use the bathroom ( if you gotta go, you gotta go) and we celebrated the adoption of a little girl with 23 beautiful children who are just a drop in the bucket of the children infected with HIV throughout Ethiopia. Almost one million…so now I am crying. The first tears I’ve shed in all the days we’ve been here. Yes…what is going on over here is mind boggling, unfair, wrong, and seemingly impossible to fix…but we cannot give up on these children. As we were leaving Mr. Teklu was taking the names of a couple of children. He will advocate for them. It’s people like Mr. Teklu who drive these streets every day and sees the despair, yet he forges on, he finds our children and he makes it his personal mission to fix this problem one child at a time. It’s the least any of us can do.
Yesterday we had a wonderful day. We hired a driver through Helen, Ayella, who drove us north of the city to and area called Debre Labanos. It was about a 2-3 hour drive. We saw the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. This is one part of Ethiopia where the new and successful floriculture industry is thriving. Leaving Addis we drove up and over Mt. Entoto…gave a quick wave to Mr. Wassi Hu…and descended down the other side of the mountain into sweeping green valleys lush with grasses and flowers. I am sure 75% of the population in Addis has know idea how beautiful their country is on the other side of the mountain. As we drove farther along round thatched roof huts with cow dung siding replaced the corrugated steel shacks of the city. We passed through a couple of bustling villages...maybe about a half mile strip of condensed shacks where children played in mud and standing water, older boys kicked soccer balls, fuse ball tables were crowded around, women tended to their daily chores, and buses loaded and unloaded their passengers. Donkeys, cows, goats, and dogs wandered the streets. I put dogs in the same category as the others because they really are not domesticated, as we would assume. If a person has a dog it is for guarding or herding…not for companionship. Most of the dogs in the city are stray and wild. Not to be approached of petted by any means.
We reached the Portuguese Bridge about midday. Any road not on the main road is exceptionally rough to travel. The roads we took yesterday were no exception. I’m not sure about the elevation we ascended to on our drive but the air was definitely thin. We went for a hike to the bridge. We paralleled the ridge of canyon that in width could easily be compared to the Grand Canyon. Baboons played and feasted on prickly pear cactus and grass just below us. On this canyon there were no safety rails, so there were a few times where there wasn’t a whole lot of room between the edge of the cliff and our path. We walked through a gate, which apparently was the border between private property and government land. A self-appointed ‘guide’ for the remainder of the hike joined each of us. We really had no choice as they wouldn’t take no for an answer. They all were around 20 years of age. The Portuguese Bridge crossed a river, which created a waterfall just beyond the bridge. It truly was a breathtaking site….and at times I was still pinching myself that I was standing at a waterfall in Ethiopia.
As I mentioned earlier, Noah loves taking Polaroid pictures and showing them off. At one point of our hike I was walking along and realized he wasn’t behind me. I went back a few hundred feet to look for him. Children of the local farmers, with their herding staffs, surrounded him in hand, showing off his pictures to them. I stood back and observed for a minute. He is very expressive in his hand gestures and was rattling off what I figured was an explanation of who he was and why he was with this white woman because all at once they took their eyes off him and all turned their eyes on me. I called his name and he ran to me and put his arms around me, glancing back to the children as if to say, “See…I told you so.” For the remainder of the trip they followed at a safe distance observing Noah and his new mom.
The only down part of the whole hike was at the end when we were finished and our guides become somewhat aggressive in wanting us to buy their souvenirs. Not only were they aggressive but also about 15 more boys came from nowhere to try to sell their things to us. One even tied a pendant around Noah’s neck and told him his mom would buy it for him. Fortunately Ayella stepped in and pushed them back for us and we made a quick walk to the other side of the gate where they could not follow.
Our next stop was the monastery at Debre Lebanos. The road into that was lined with lush forests. Every now and then we would spy families of baboons. There were also pockets of children who would chase our car for handouts. It’s so hard to ignore them…so very very hard. There were also large groups of elderly sitting on the side of the road holding their hands out for handouts. The actual monastery was an oasis in such a dire surrounding of poverty that lined the streets the mile or so before we reached the sacred grounds. Once inside the monastery, we were greeted by a very gentle and kind monk who gave us a tour. He reminded me of Jeff’s oldest brother Don in his quiet demeanor. When we approached the front of the building Noah did the sign of the cross. A defining moment that sealed the deal of our question of what faith, if any, was he raised in. Once inside the church he stayed by the side of the monk the entire time, asking questions, pointing to things etc. At one point he asked where the stain glass of Jesus was and was very relieved to find it front and center behind the alter. Noah is Christian.and last night he was telling Helen that he lived around the corner from a church in Dessie.
We had to stop and use a bathroom on our way back to Addis. Ayella pulled into a village and got out at a restaurant. (loosely used term: restaurant) We were traveling with another family, Lucy and her young daughter who she had recently adopted as well. Her daughter had to use the bathroom but when Ayella came around to her door to take her, Demamie went crazy. Something about where we were must have triggered a memory of her relinquishment because she screamed blood curdleing terror filled screams. Maybe on the day she was abandoned a man took her away from her mom in the back of a car. Who knows…except the screams she had were like no other I have ever heard. Ayalla shrugged his shoulders and took Musse to the bathroom and left Demamie to scream. When we figured out she thought she was going to be pulled from her mom again, Cindy, Lucy and I were able to piece together the sentence, “Mommy will go with you to the bathroom.” So Lucy, Demamie, and I got out of the car and ventured into the restaurant. When we walked in it was clear that it was no place where women were welcome. In the corner was a black and white tv flickering Aljazzera news while elderly men with their shephard staffs sat watching the going ons on the world. Of course there was no indoor plumbing so we walked past the men to the back door and saw Ayella in the very rear of the property. Musse came out from behind a thatched screen holding his nose, indicating that it was a pretty stinky hole on the other side of the curtain. Lucy led Demamie to the hole and stood watch on the other side. A very sweet older gentleman followed us to the back of the property and for a few moments stared at Lucy and I. He then motioned to her…he sensed her discomfort in the situation and surroundings that she was in. In very sweet broken English he spoke to Lucy…”Do not be scared…I am your brother…you are my sister.” Pretty cool. The men at the restaurant were very curious yet very kind to us. We shook hands when we left and when I got back to the car all I could say and think was, ‘that was SO cool!’ It was, beyond a doubt, the most enriching bathroom break I have or ever will have in my life. : >)
On our way out of Debre Lebanos I became overwhelmed with the contrast of beauty and poverty under the same sky. It can be overwhelming at times. For about 15 minutes I held my head out the window while the fresh Ethiopian mountain air blew on my face. Children tending their herds, women on the side of the streams doing their laundry waved excitedly when we passed. They have so little yet they have so much as they know no better. It was a defining day in my life…one I will never forget.
It’s Sunday morning around 6:30 am. Morning prayers are being chanting beyond my window. It is really a peaceful sound rising from this city that seems so restless. Of course the tortured dog next door at times drowns out the prayer but sadly I have become accustom to its periodic pain as well. I’ve learned to ignore it because I have no other choice. I can’t fix the problem and I can’t run from the problem so I must ignore the problem.
Yesterday we had a wonderful day. Mr. Teklu met us @ 9:00. We drove through the city to meet up with Jessica and her little daughter Melat. Teklu’s plan for us today was to drive south of the city to lakes created by volcanos. We had a wonderful lunch overlooking a large lake south of the city. A huge variety of African birds flew around our overlook. Parrots, ravens, storks. Every meal is followed by an offer for coffee. Today we said yes and incense, popcorn, and coffee were served. Musse has love his poloroid camera….it’s been a hit! He knows he is only allowed 10 pictures a day and he is very conscience of his choices of what to take for the day. Yesterday he took a picture of our beautiful waitress at Dreamland Family Resort. Although she was dressed in her waitress outfit and looked very put together I am guessing when she left the gates of the building her life was not as put together. She was SO thrilled when Musse gave her a copy of the picture (much to my selfish sadness because the pic Musse took was beautiful and I would have loved to have kept it) She immediately bent down and kissed Musse on the forehead and tucked her picture in her pocket. It was a prize for her…and she wasn’t going to let it go.
The drive to and from was beautiful if you could cast your eyes to the horizon and ignore the suffering and poverty along the roadsides. You truly never get a break from the despair when making your way around Addis. You turn a corner only to encounter worse suffering then what you were just witness to a minute sooner. I have seen a dead horse carcass rotting at an intersection, I’ve had a man with no legs come to my taxi window begging for a birr (= 10 cents), we’ve had a mother and her 4 children follow us back to the guest house so crazy with hunger and despair that they had a mad laughter rising from their tired souls.
Last night we topped off our day with dinner at Fastika…a restaurant that serves traditional Ethiopian cuisine. The building itself is this beautiful simulation of a grass hut. Inside the ceilings are painting with murals of Ethiopian life. Dinner is served on a giant silver pan resting inside a basket that is similar to the shape of a drum. After dinner we were entertained by tradition music and dance from Ethiopia. It was one of the best evenings I have ever had. Musse stayed back at the guest house with the other children so it was just the parents out on the town. It was a nice break for all of us and really and enjoyable evening all around.
I find it so ironic that through out all of this I sit here this morning on my bed and hear prayers being chanting across the rooftops…the people on the streets do not have anything material to hold onto but they have their God and that is enough to pick themselves up off the side of the road every morning and start their day of despair all over again. Are they happy? I can’t imagine. Are they at peace with their existence? I don’t know. Do the have faith? They must because they are still on our earth. I have come to witness that this situation…this situation of poverty is so big I cannot even begin to imagine how it can be fixed. This is one city in Africa…a city by some standards is said to be progressive. I cannot fix this on a grand scale but I can focus on Musse. I can fix Musse. The rest…I can just pray for them because that is the one thing both they and I share… we both share faith.