After landing in Addis, we headed through Customs (where I was chastised for taking a picture of Heather going through Customs - btw - the Customs guys are serious people!), then baggage, then baggage X-ray (they want to X-ray our luggage after landing?? Why?), then on to our hotel shuttle. After a couple of Ethiopian locals loaded our luggage on to the shuttle (you don't ask them to, they just grab your luggage and go), they looked at us and said, "we load lots of bags"...pause...."we load lots of bags".....pause...."we load lots of bags." Finally, the light bulb came on in the mind of someone in our travel group and realized that these guys want a tip! We paid them, loaded in the shuttle, and then our travel group of four families headed for the legendary Riviera hotel.
Upon arriving at the Riviera, we had hoped to receive our itinerary, so that we would know when we would meet our kiddos. To no one's surprise, there was no itinerary, so we were left to wait for further instructions. After traveling for 8,000 miles, we were ready to get to Hannah's Hope and see our little ones, but had no idea when.
Trying to get our minds around the fact that it was morning (our bodies said it was midnight), we had lunch and waited for our shuttle to Hannah's Hope....which we found out would come around 1:30 pm (in Africa the word "around" before a given time is very important).
Eventually the shuttle arrived and we headed for our girls. As we approached Hannah's Hope, the building and gates were so familiar from the many traveling families' pictures that we have seen. Our hearts raced as we knew the girl we had waited so long for was just moments away.
As we all entered through the gates, we looked around and saw only one girl. Heather and I gulped as we realized who the girl was. It was our Peaches. She was quietly standing on the porch of the toddler house. Not sure what to do, we began to call her name. She began to hobble toward us (we later found out many of the kids had received shots in their leg that day). As she reached us, she was extremely quiet and reserved and we were unsure whether to hold her or keep a cautious distance.
This girl that we had seen 50 or 60 pictures of over the last 3 months was now standing right before us. We had been called to adoption nearly a year and a half ago, and now there we were with the girl that would soon join our family. She, of course, was unaware of who we were or why these white people would be emotionally overrun and wanting to hold and touch and hug her and speak to her in a strange language.
Realizing our Peaches was isolating herself from us, the director at Hannah's Hope intervened and picked her up and as she did pinched Peaches' sore leg and she began to cry a very sad and scared and painful cry. She was sent away to one of the Special Mothers (workers at Hannah's Hope).
So there we stood. The whole thing lasted maybe two minutes. Our entrance into the gates of Hannah's Hope that we had dreamed of for so many months, turned into something completely different than we had expected. But that's adoption. That's the reality of dealing with a heart that has been broken. A soul that has been scarred. A mind that is confused.
We were later reunited with our Peaches and enjoyed getting to hold her and touch her (Heather added that she enjoyed getting to smell her too - but that apparently is a mom thing). Spending that first day with her was an exhausting time, considering we had started the day before on a plane in Washington DC and ended it by holding a beautiful little girl in a transition home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
We were overwhelmed with the utter exhaustion we felt after this first day. Thrilled and filled with adrenaline, yet our minds and bodies feeling the tug of the clock which said we should long ago have been asleep.
There is much more to the story of our interactions with Peaches that occurred over the next several days - highs and lows. But that will have to wait for another post.
For now, a few pics of us with our girl.
Looking at her photo album together
Sharing some bread at the end of the first day
Heather getting the chance to help feed our little girl in her "Feed 1" shirt