Saturday, April 10, 2010

Home and Days 11-13

We’re home. I never thought it would take me so long to catch up on my blog, but life has been busy. The jet lag has knocked us down. I finally got a good nights sleep the past two nights and feel like somewhat of a human being. Sophie is doing well and feeling much better, as am I. We arrived Wednesday night and she loved all of her family who was waiting to meet her.

She had a really rough day Thursday and was fussy most of the day, which is not at all her personality. Friday we took her to her pediatrician. He changed her formula, which we hope will stop her from spitting up half of what she eats and will get some other discomforts under control. He is going to do some lab work next week and we go back in two weeks for a follow up appointment. He thought she was right on target for her age and doing well, which was great to hear. Friday night we went out to dinner with my family to celebrate my Grandma’s 87th birthday. This was Sophie’s first time meeting her ReRe (this is what my sister thinks she should call her, because her name is Reba). She was, of course, the focus of the evening.

I didn’t have time the last couple of days in Ethiopia to update my blog, so I am doing it now.

Day 11

Monday we tried to finish our souvenir shopping. We wanted to get Sophia Mekdes some traditional Ethiopian dresses, so Beky took us to the big market in town. We bought several dresses, probably more than we should have, but they are precious. We got several different sizes and styles. We really wanted to make sure we got a dress that was the same style dress they wear in Gonder and we found one we both loved. She should be able to wear it in a couple of years.

The market is right by Entoto Mountain, so Beky took us there next. We saw many people walking from the market area to their homes at the top of the mountain. He said they were returning from church and made the climb everyday. It is STEEP. Women carry wood down from the mountain everyday. I can’t imagine how taxing this must be on there bodies. We stopped about half way up, so we could take pictures. We were greeted by four boys. This is how our conversation went:

Boy: Welcome!
Me: Thank you.
Boy: What is your country?
Me: America. I like Ethiopia.
Boy: We like America.
Me: This is a long, steep climb. Do you get tired?
Boy: Yes, very. Eucalyptus. (One of the boys handed me a piece of eucalyptus, while the others kicked around a deflated soccer ball).

The boys were precious. When we left Michael gave them each a couple of pieces of candy. They were so excited. I wish we could have done more for them. I am so grateful to have met these boys. As I have been thinking and praying about what God might have in store for us in the future, I have spent a lot of time focusing on the needs of orphans in Ethiopia and in other countries, as well. Being in Ethiopia allowed me to cross paths with children, like these boys, a boy begging to shine my shoes (Tom’s don’t shine!), little girls begging for money and so many others. These kids have families, but they still need so much.

Now, I obviously think adoption is a wonderful and beautiful thing. However, I truly believe more needs to be done to enable parents to raise their children. The ideal situation is for parents to have the resources to care for the children and raise them in a stable environment. This is not always possible and that is where adoption comes in. These children made me think more about what could be done to strengthen family groups and the resources available to them.

We stopped in at Island Breeze for lunch. Michael LOVED this restaurant. We had burgers that were very close to what we might have here in the States. Michael keeps referring to this restaurant as, “Ethiopia’s best kept secret.” I thought it was good, but he might have been a little too eager for some American food.

One thing I really wanted to do while in Ethiopia, was visit AHOPE. When we first decided to adopt, my sister created Project 8256, an etsy shop she created to sell her artwork online. The proceeds went to our adoption fund. We wanted to help other children with the money, so we donated 20% of the proceeds to AHOPE. For those of you who do not know, AHOPE is an orphanage in Ethiopia for children living with HIV.

I really wanted to visit their facility, so we asked one of the in-country staff if they knew where it was and they gave us a general idea. We drove around and found it. We honked the horn several times, hoping they would let us in and they did! I told them we would love to tour their facility and they let us. I won’t post pictures of the children, but will post a few pics of their happy facility. This orphanage was drastically different from the government run orphanages we had encountered the day before. They had bright murals on the walls, playgrounds, organization and more. When we walked in, many of the children were coloring. It was so nice to see the kids engaged in an activity. AHOPE was a very peaceful, happy place. I am so glad we stopped by!

We spent the rest of the evening trying to get packed and ready to leave the next day! Meanwhile Sophie fell asleep in this position…

I think she was practicing for dance classes with Aunt Cheryl or hoping to be a track star and working on her hurdling moves!

Day 12

We had a few more places we wanted to shop, because many of the shops were closed on Monday due to the Easter holiday. We wanted to get an Amharic Bible, which we did. I told Michael it could be Gone With The Wind and we would never know. They did assure us it was a Bible!

We also wanted to get some music from Gonder. Beky took us to a store and we got two CDs and a dance DVD. Thankfully, Travis suggested we test them, because one of them wasn’t working. The CDs are really cheep, so check them before you leave the country. Beky exchanged the blank one later that day.

Tuesday morning we also visited the National Museum of Ethiopia. It was pretty interesting. We found it very sad that they do not have a better facility. Their artifacts were not preserved well at all. Some were in display cases with skylights in them. The paper was starting to bubble inside and the sun was shining down on them.

After the museum we met up with the Knights, another Gladney family, and Travis, Joanna and Belay, Gladney in-country staff. We went to Island Breeze again. Michael couldn’t have been happier. This time we had pizza. It was nice to be able to visit with our new friends one last time.

After lunch we swung over to Tomoca, Michael’s favorite coffee shop. He and Beky had to get coffee one last time! We then went back to the Leprosy Hospital to shop again in their craft shop. We just loved it there and got some new things for our home and for our family.

We went back to the guest house after that and got ready to leave. We were very sad to leave Ethiopia and especially to say goodbye to the staff at Bejoe’s. They became our friends and loved on our daughter more than we could have ever expected them to. They are wonderful ladies and we miss them dearly.

Part of me wanted to stay longer, because I felt like God had more to teach us. There is a common game played at wedding showers that involves yarn. One of the hostesses goes around the room and starts unraveling a spool of yarn and you tell them when to stop. After everyone has their yarn, you go around the room and wrap the yarn around your finger. Each time you wrap it around, you must share something about yourself. The person with the longest piece, obviously has to say the most. While we were in Ethiopia, I felt like God was wrapping yarn around our fingers, slowly teaching us more about Him and about ourselves.

I started feeling nauseous before we left and feared that it would be a long trip home. Luckily it went away a few hours later! Sophie, however, had a fever the entire way home.

We headed to the airport about 8:00 pm and finally boarded the plane headed for Amsterdam.

Day 13

We slept a little bit on the plane, but not very much. We were lucky to have an extra seat on our row, so we could lay Sophie down to sleep. She did really well on the plane, but she seemed very lethargic and uncomfortable. I am sure the fever wasn’t helping that too much.

We had a five hour layover in Amsterdam. We ate breakfast and hung out in the very peaceful airport. We boarded the plane for Minneapolis and sat across the aisle from a 2.5 year old boy who screamed a good portion of the flight. Not fun. He did NOT want to buckle his seatbelt and the flight attendant kept telling him, “It’s the law.” Really? Your going to try that logic with a 2.5 year old?

When we landed in Minneapolis we went through customs, got her green card and had to recheck all of our luggage. We only had a two hour layover and we were concerned this would not be enough time. It was, so I am glad we didn’t change our flight! I wasn’t too thrilled to get on another plane, because we had a lot of turbulence when we landed in Minneapolis and I was still feeling a bit queasy! The flight was short and sweet. We could not have been happier to land in OKC and introduce our little darling to her family who had been praying for her and falling in love with her for three months.
I know I have more to share about our trip, but this is all I have time for now. I have pictures of the nursery to share and will try and get those up in the next couple of days. Thank you all for following our journey and for your sweet and encouraging comments while we were in Ethiopia!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Journey

This is Katie's sister, Amy:

Katie, Michael and Sophia Mekdes will begin their journey home in about an hour. I know that they are so excited for their families to meet Sophia (and believe me...we are SO excited to meet her!), but I think leaving Ethiopia is a little bittersweet for them as well. As I am certain you can tell from her blog posts, this has been an amazing time for them and while they have grown together as a family they have experienced tremendous personal growth as well. I can't wait to see all of the pictures, watch the videos, and hear all of the amazing stories that are not easily conveyed through choppy phone connections and text messages.

Please pray for safe travels and good health. I received an email from Katie about an hour ago saying that she was feeling nauseous and that Sophia had a fever earlier in the day. Traveling internationally (with a baby) is, I'm sure, rarely enjoyable -- but bearable...tolerable.. would be nice. Let's keep our fingers crossed for that.

While Katie has had some internet access, she has not been able to read the comments posted on her blog. I have been emailing them to her, and I know that they have meant so much to both of them. Thank you for your constant support and encouragement. Many of you have adopted or are in the process currently, and you have been able to provide a form of support that we cannot. For that I am extremely grateful.

When Katie decided on the title of her blog, "Journey From Ethiopia", I suggested that "From" should perhaps be "To". This is the story of your adoption process, your journey to Ethiopia. But Katie responded - No, this is the story of us coming home as a family. It's been a long journey, but it's finally happening! And this story is sweet, and perfect and definitely worth the wait.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Days 9 and 10

Day 9
Day 9 began with a trip to the Gladney Care Center for a follow-up appointment with the doctor. He said Sophia Mekdes was doing much better and to just continue her medicine until it was finished. We came home for a little bit and then headed to Dreamland.

This is a view of Gladney Care Center #4, for those of you with children there.


Dreamland is a hotel and restaurant about an hour away on Crater Lake. It is beautiful. The drive was much smoother than I had been told, which I appreciated. The road is very busy and is a main route to Djibouti, so it has a lot of importing and exporting going on. It was nice to get out of the city and see a little bit of a different side of Ethiopia. We had a nice meal and headed back to the city.



Day 10
Today we began our day with an attempted Easter photo shoot with miss Sophie. It wasn’t too successful, but I will post a few of the pics we captured.



Today we had the VERY emotional journey to the government run orphanages. We visited all three and I can’t even put it into words what it was like. Belay, the Gladney in-country director, was our guide through the orphanages. We video-taped him talking about all of the needs of each orphanage. He also spoke about all of the programs Gladney has implemented. Gladney is the main adoption agency involved with the orphanages and impacting the lives of the orphans there. I so wish I could post pictures of the children, but it is not allowed. I can show them in person, but I can't post them online.

The first orphanage we visited was Kolfe, which is for older boys. I think they take boys in the 11-20 age range. I am sure that is not the exact range, but close. Here are a few pictures from Kolfe. They are working on renovating the facility and also developing income generating programs for the boys.



The next orphanage was Kebebe Tsehay. It is home to babies up to seven year olds. The baby room was one of the saddest things I have EVER seen. It reeked of spit-up. They had three workers for probably 25-30 babies. The babies had their bottles propped up and they were the tiniest babies you have ever seen. They have a big problem with communicable diseases. One of the babies got chicken pox and they didn’t catch it until it had spread. They lost eight babies in one week. Think on that for a minute. I asked Belay how much it would take to pay the salary of one caregiver. His response, “$50 a month”. Please think about that. $600 a year could be the difference between life and death for these children. $600.


There were so many precious children. Michael and I fell in love with a little girl about five or six years old. She was so sweet and loved Michael. She has a little brother who looked to be about two. We asked if they were available to adopt and Belay said their mother refused to relinquish them, meaning they would stay in the orphanage forever, if that didn’t change. I teared up watching her and leaving the orphanage today.

The final orphanage we went to was Kechene. This orphanage is home to babies, younger children and older girls. We loved it. It was very peaceful. The children seemed so happy and LOVED having their pictures taken. I need to get them all printed and send them with another traveling family, so the girls can have them. Pictures are like money here. EVERYONE wants pictures.



We have so many thoughts running through our head. You cannot see what we have seen and not do something. Part of our hearts will always be here. I can’t wait to share the pictures and videos with our family and friends. Please pray about what God might be calling you to do today. Is it adopt? Is it to finance a project? Maybe it is something small or something great. Please ask God to open your hearts to the possibilities ahead of you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Days 7 & 8

Day 7 started out with me getting sick and spending too much time in the bathroom.  I’ll leave it at that!  Our Embassy appointment was moved to the morning and we had to be there at 8:40 am.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  It wasn’t really what I had anticipated.  We went through all of the security measures and then stood as a group, as they called each family one by one upstairs.  They asked us a few questions and then gave us the stamp of approval.  Later that day her visa was delivered to us.  We also received her birth certificate, vaccination report and other important documents. We were told, in our referral, that her birthday was October 22, 2009, but the birth certificate says October 12.  It’s not a huge difference, but we will have to go with what is on her birth certificate.  Here is our princess holding her passport with each of us.  She doesn’t seem nearly as excited as we are!



Gladney staff takes families on a tour of the Church of the Holy Trinity.  Religion is extremely important here.  I stayed at the guest house, because I was feeling so terrible.  Michael went and took a lot of pictures and video and I will have to have him write a blog about it sometime.  Ethiopian Christians are fasting right now from all animal products.  They fast for 55 days and break the fast at about 2:00 am Easter morning.  We can hear them singing prayers from our bedroom window.  It is amazing.

Here are a few pictures from the church:



The Ethiopian Orthodox Pope was at the church when they visited:


The day ended with a trip to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  Thankfully, I was feeling better and was able to attend.  They served a wonderful meal and had traditional dancing and singing from different regions of Ethiopia.  It was amazing.  I cannot even begin to imagine how they move their bodies that quickly.  They spent about 30-45 minutes just on dances from Gonder, where Mekdes was born.  We videotaped the entire Gonder section and will put some of it up when we return.  It was so special to be able to get a glimpse of Gonder. 

We have really enjoyed our time here.  The people are so beautiful and kind.  It will be bittersweet to leave on Tuesday, knowing that we are taking our daughter away from the people and country of her birth.  She will naturally lose that part of her identity and that makes me sad.  She won’t know Ethiopian heritage like she would if she lived here.  We will do our best to teach her and we hope to bring her back someday, but that is not the same.   


Day 8

Well, I was really sick in the middle of the night and threw up.  We decided to chill at the guest house all day.  I was really thankful for all of the meds I brought.  I am feeling better now and I really hope I am back to normal tomorrow, because I don’t want to miss anything else. 

There were five Gladney families here this week and three of them departed tonight.  Two of those families were staying at the Bejoe Guest House with us, so we are now the only family.  It will sure be quiet.  Here is a picture of our house mates:


 Mike, Denise and Gatiso, Michael, myself and Mekdes, Robyn, Ryan and Madabo

More pictures of sweet Sophia Mekdes…


Can you get any cuter?!?!?!


Watching TV with Daddy (with the bib on, of course!)