Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 2-Out and About in Addis Ababa and Gotcha Day!

Right, Little Miss Chicken Pox is resting, so I have a few free minutes. Having met Rosie on Monday, our Tuesday schedule was to go shopping in the morning, eat out for lunch, and then to go to the Transition Home to bring our children back to the hotel with us that afternoon.

To be completely honest with you, I really did not like Addis Ababa at first and wasn't really sure I wanted to go back out on Tuesday. Addis has most of my least favorite elements in a city. It is crowded, loud and (to my eyes) dirty. Add to that poverty on a level that I had not experienced before, and I felt really overwhelmed. This was the view from our hotel, and it was typical of the vast majority of what we saw in the city. Loads of tin shacks, all of which lie in very close proximity to each other. But, I went ahead and got myself together, packed a bag for the day, gathered my thank-you gifts for the nannies, the donations that were going to the Transition Home and headed out for the day.

Driving in Addis is definitely an experience. Part of the road are paved, but frequently you will come to large sections of road that have been ripped out and you just go anyway. If you head off of the main roads, it will be onto dirt paths, and frequently you find roads partially obstructed with mounds of dirt or ripped-paving. Our bus driver was amazing, and on several occasions we took routes I would have sworn that a bus that size couldn't go without tipping over.

People share the roads with the vehicles, and there seems to be no concept of giving way to vehicles, even if they are 20 times bigger than you are!
Most of the roads do not have lane markings, and vehicles just go wherever. On a couple of occasions we did see stop signs or traffic lights, but those were given no regard either. I asked a national about it, and his response was, "We have a democracy. That means we can go where we want to". A few of the large roads did have lane markings. At rush hour, we were on a 4-lane road. At one point in time, we counted 12 lanes of traffic using it! Horns are the most used part of Ethiopian vehicles. You honk if you want to greet someone, you honk if you want to complain about someone else's driving, you honk if you want through to go somewhere, you honk if you're going to turn, you honk to tell pedestrians not to go yet, or if you want them to go.
Yes, we did take the bus down several side-roads not much larger than this one. No, we didn't hit anyone. I'm still amazed by that. Add in the herds of goats, and you really do have an adventure.

The cattle being run down the road were more impressive, though. Once, we even saw a cow asleep in the divider in the middle of a busy main road. In preparation for Easter, thousands of chickens, goats and cows were being brought into the city. The chickens were destined to become sacrifices for the Orthodox, the goats to be dinner, and the cows to be part of the special Easter customs, which involves gathering friends and family for a 6 a.m. slaughtering, followed by the feast!

There are little shops all along the roads, and I had lots of fun looking at them. Especially all of the fruit stands.Clothes shopping, anyone? Or maybe you'd care to have a burger and a wedding cake. If you didn't own a shop, a strip of sidewalk, or just a blanket over the rubble at the side of the road, would work for setting out the things you had for sale.

In the midst of all the chaos, could you sleep? This was a sight I never did get used to-the homeless, who would sleep wherever, whenever. If they had a coat, they would put it over them, but we saw plenty of others just lying on the grass beside the road with nothing to cover them at all. In the rain, you would see homeless women squatting by the roadside, holding a shawl over themselves and their children.

What I didn't photograph, were the beggars. When the bus would be sitting in traffic, we would almost always have people begging at the windows. And, they were at the shopping areas, too. Following you along, hands stretched out, calling you Mother or Sister-the old ladies who would mime that they were hungry, young children who would rub their bellies and hold out their hands, mothers who would pull back their shawl to show you their nursing baby, the cripple who could barely hobble to the bus, the young man who was leading a blind sibling around, the leper with no legs pushing himself along on a skateboard, and all of them wanting money. I had made the decision based on others' prior experience not to hand out cash, but took bags of granola bars,fruit leather, candy and trail mix. Sometimes this was gratefully received, but sometimes there was just annoyance at the lack of cash. Yes, some of the kids were very pushy, and they would take what you had offered, stuff it up their shirts and then demand more, pushing aside others who were waiting. But overall, there was a dignity that even the poorest carried themselves with, which made the thought of photographing their misery seem wrong, somehow.

As Tuesday wore on and we were out longer, I began to enjoy Addis more. Not that the poverty was any less shocking or overwhelming, but there are beautiful aspects to the culture, too. Ethiopians are very loving to children, much more so than here in the States. The sight of every adult coming to a stop to ask their name and to give kisses when little ones were around was so much fun. The culture is very relational. I loved the people watching, especially watching people greet each other on the streets. I am sure that not everyone in Ethiopia knows everyone else, but to the foreign eye it sure can look like it. Overall, people were very friendly, and most of them looked out for the ferenge(foreigner), although I did not appreciate the guard who used a stick to drive away some of the street kids I was talking to and buying gum and kleenex from! Most of the kids knew at least a little English, and they loved to try it out on you. Some of the older ones actually spoke better English than some American teenagers I know!

Here is the market in the "Post Office District" where we shopped for souvenirs. The shops held a little bit of everything: carvings, drums, traditional dresses, scarves, silver jewellery, traditional Ethiopian crosses, t-shirt, coffee sets, purses, and books. Out on the street there were men trying to sell maps, belts, baskets and street kids selling gum and kleenex. One of the younger boys I met whittled sticks to make "toothbrushes". I bought lots of gum and kleenex and toothbrushes that I didn't need, but I was impressed with those people who were out actively trying to support themselves.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant. Italy occupied Ethiopia for a period of time, and their influence can still be seen in the food. Yet another different aspect of Ethiopian culture, is the relaxed attitude to time and schedules. It was a common theme, that it could take half an hour for your drink order to arrive and another half hour for your meal to arrive. While this could be frustrating when you were operating on a schedule, I also appreciated this more laid-back attitude. Meal times in American society are more and more pressured and shortened, and it is nice to see the social aspects of meals enjoyed without the rush to get out so someone else can be seated, or to rush off to your next appointment.

After lunch, it was Gotcha Day!-off to meet our kids and begin life as a forever family. When I got off of the bus, there was the most gorgeous little girl waiting for me! Her nanny had gotten her ready for the day, dressing her in the outfit we had sent to her in one of the outfits we had sent in her care package and including the little sunglasses that had been stuck in the care package at the last minute.

This is Rosie with her nanny, Zanesh. I am so grateful to this lady. She was obviously very fond of Rosie, and Rosie adored her. I credit much of Rosie's smooth transition to the work that Zanesh had put in to preparing Rosie for her new family. Zanesh had Rosie's photo album out and spent a few last minutes with Rosie interpreting some basic information for me as I told Rosie that Daddy was at home with Noah and Nathan and was waiting for us to come home to him. Many of the nannies cried as we prepared to take the little ones they had cared for away with us, but Zanesh only expressed excitement for Rosie that she was going home to her Daddy. I attempted to thank her, but words and even a gift seemed so inadequate. How could you ever sufficiently thank the person who has selflessly cared for children she loves, knowing that eventually they will be taken far away?

When it was time to board the bus, Rosie was excited to go. Halfway on she had a little panic about getting on, but as soon as she was sat on my lap she was fine. We went back to the hotel, where Rosie had a bath standing up. She was terrified having never been in a big bath tub, so we settled for a standing up bath and hair wash. Then, we spent a long time rubbing on lotion, which she loved. And when she saw her new clothes I thought she was going to burst! Such a girly girl. We got her clothes on, tried on her new shoes, and then set out to fix her hair. She insisted on wearing both hairbows. I tried my best to convince her otherwise, but she was adamant that she needed one on each side of her head. So, we went with it, and Rosie went to dinner looking like this:
Once again, I was in awe of the Ethiopian's love of children. The hostess came to ask Rosie her name and to kiss her. Then the waiter came to love on her. He asked if it was okay to ask her what she wanted to eat. And, Rosie, who very much knows her mind, promptly ordered herself a "chicken cutlet". While we waited, she had a Sprite, then a glass of warm milk, some cheerios I had packed in her bag, a bag of fruit snacks, then 2 slices of bread and butter. When her chicken came she couldn't eat it all, but when my sandwich arrived and she spied the fresh slices of tomato, she ripped my sandwich apart to get to the tomatoes.

After dinner, we went back to our room, enjoyed some more bonding time with the lotion, worked on a puzzle together, did some coloring, and then cuddled on the bed for a few minutes before putting her into the crib that had been brought up for her. She settled right down, and was asleep with in 3 minutes.

Having not really slept much since leaving the USA, I thought that I would finally be able to sleep now that Rosie was with me, but then found that my mind was so active processing everything that had happened and my heart was so full of wonder at this little one who would so readily accept me as Mommy, that sleep eluded me for most of another night.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that your sweet girl is sick:-( I look forward to meeting you all one day!!