Today was a big day.
We woke up with a smiley, happy baby between us. Had another night of fitful sleep because I'm just not use to having a tiny being in bed with Ben and me. It's an adjustment like so many other things will be once we are back in Portland. 13 years is a long time to just be me and Ben. Hope our little baby likes our life as much as we do.
Today is the farewell ceremony. It is the day that the adoptive families go to their respective Care Centers and the children are dressed in their traditional Ethiopian outfits, reserved for special occasions, and the children, nannies and staff at the Care Centers get to say good-bye to them. There is cake and singing and it is a BIG DEAL.
We got to the Care Center and there were many little chairs set up. The other, older children (not older than 2 1/2) in our Care Center get to come down and watch the ceremony. There is a cake and popcorn (traditionally served during a coffee ceremony) set up on a little table in the front of the play area. TK is asleep when the nanny takes him from us to change him into his outfit. Sister Martha says a few words. While they are sad that the children are leaving Ethiopia, their home, they are happy about this mission that God has sent us to fulfill. Ben and I are not religious but it is a very touching talk that she gives and we do take seriously this "mission" on which we are about to embark.
The little children are brought into the room and they sit down on the plastic chairs. It hits me that these children are waiting. Waiting for a match with adoptive parents, waiting to be taken far away from their homeland and I am so saddened about all of it. Saddened that all of these children most likely have at least one birth parent who so greatly misses them and who was devastated at the loss of their most sweetest, dearest gift. Saddened that it will be a very long time, if ever, till they are reunited with a child that will probably no longer speak their language or know them at all. Like I said, adoption is not for the weak of heart. In a perfect world there would be reproductive rights for everyone, so that people may have the education and ability to choose when and if to have children. In a perfect world there would be systems in place to support families in their efforts to stay together, no matter how remote the home, no matter how expensive the cost. In a perfect world, adoption would have been impossible for Ben and me. In a perfect world.
But...here we are.
The nannies and staff sing us a farewell song in Amharic. There is a group prayer led by one of the adoptive fathers. Then each family and their child goes up and slices the cake. Once that and group photos are over, the cake (so amazing by the way) and soda are passed out to the families and all the children and staff. Incidentally, each child was given a cup of orange soda called Mirinda. I whispered in TK's ear not to get use to it.
There is a nanny that was especially enamored with TK. Her name is Sidamo and when she comes to pass us our cake she has tears in her eyes and has to go to another room. I am so glad that TK was loved by her.
The strange thing about the farewell ceremony is that afterwards we were scheduled to go shopping as a group. We are not allowed to take our children out into the city with us as a sign of respect to Ethiopians who might, understandably, get upset that groups of their children are being removed by foreigners. So if we wanted to go shopping we left our children in the care of the nannies. It seemed a little confusing and I can see how it would be upsetting for the older children to have a farewell ceremony only to then be back in the care center. Mixed message indeed.
We were taken to a little shop first, then to a touristy-type strip of stores. At the strip of stores we were surrounded by people trying to sell us a wide variety of things: banana gum (delicious!), maps (we bought one of Ethiopia), and a boy who kept trying to get me to let him shine my shoes (passed on that). We did end up buying a few things from the stores on the strip. I was a little disappointed that some of my travel group attempted to barter with the shop workers. Seriously? Things are already ridiculously cheap plus the exchange rate US dollars to Birr is completely skewed in our favor and you're going to try to barter? The arrogance of Americans never ceases to amaze and disgust.
We were taken next to a coffee shop. Smelled heavenly, I may not like the taste but, man, that smell. Ben was hoping to buy unroasted beans but they weren't available for purchase. Because we live in Portland, where I'm told the coffee is phenomenal (and I don't mean Starbucks because, gross) we have Ethiopian coffee readily available at every corner coffee shop. Ben decided to pass on buying any bags that we would have to lug home. At the coffee shop we were set upon by many women holding babies asking for money. Ben and I gave to all of them because it didn't seem fair to just give to one. In my mind any of those babes could have been TK, any of those hungry mouths could have been his that needed filling. I am not a religious person by any stretch of that word but one phrase that always comes to my mind whenever I think of charity or giving to those who were not as lucky as I was to be born into my circumstances is "There but for the grace of god go I." I also always think of this phrase when some religious right-winged jerk politician starts spouting off about cutting social services or complaining about foreign aid to places like Haiti. But that's a different post for another time.
Our next stop, and the one I was most looking forward to, was to the leper hospital. I think that's a generic descriptor for the complex we were taken to. It actually is a hospital, research facility and residential area for many people. It's full title is ALERT: All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Centre. The craft area was a small room where women were spinning yarn and crocheting and doing lace work and embroidery. I am a HUGE fan of fabric arts and know the time and effort it takes to produce something so beautiful. I couldn't wait to see the finished products which were fabulous. I bought an embroidered tablecloth and napkin set and a crocheted green shawl. While we were waiting for others to finish their shopping we hung out by the van where 5 children came up to us and asked for candy or chocolate. I had a bar of chocolate that I broke up into pieces and handed out (wonder if they were disappointed that it was bittersweet). There was one little girl who was hilarious. She might have been 4 or 5. She had a piece of an enset (false banana) leaf that she was using to whip the older kids with and chase after them. She was trying to be so tough and they just laughed at her. Adorable. (A note about the crafts at the hospital: some other adoptive parents have complained that the prices were too expensive at the hospital and they were angry to have been taken there first in the past instead of the way we were taken last. If you've read my other blog posts you know that I think those parents are jerks who need to shut up already and stop making the rest of us look like a-holes. We have money or else we wouldn't be on the receiving end of adoption. The one good thing we can do is stimulate the Ethiopian economy.)
When we got back to the care center TK was all smiles for us and we went back to the hotel to spend our last night there. Tomorrow we would be on our long journey to Portland.