Today was the day our travel group headed to Durame, a city south of Addis Ababa, to meet birth families. We were all understandably nervous and anxious about the trip. It was going to take us 5-6 hours to get there and Ben and I were very much looking forward to seeing the Ethiopian countryside.
The drive didn't disappoint. Ethiopia is gorgeous! Throughout the drive it reminded us of both Oregon and New Mexico at various times. Parts of the country are lush and green while other parts were flat, dry and filled with cacti. So diverse. We got stopped along the way by a family of baboons who had been crossing the road in front of one of the other vans. They were gorgeous!
Although most Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians, we were told that many Muslims live in the southern part of the country. During our drive we saw many mosques, humble but beautifully built. Mesfin, Holt's photographer, was in our van during the drive and told us that in Ethiopia Christians and Muslims live side by side and get along. A concept some people in the United States would do well to learn.
Photo of a mosque, you can just make out the top:
We got to stop in Shisendo and visit the site of the clinic that is being expanded by Holt. There is currently a small clinic there as well as a family preservation team. Holt is expanding the clinic into a much larger hospital to serve the people of Shisendo and the outlying area. This is a wonderful thing that our agency is doing. Although we have had our problems with Holt and have not been happy with them for a variety of reasons (mostly communication) Ben and I are very happy that they undertake other projects, particularly their family preservation project. They have successfully served 300 families so far, which means that there are 300 less children that are available for adoption - the best thing ever! I hope that they can serve more families and reduce the number of orphans available in Ethiopia.
Part of the clinic that is already built:
We headed to Durame. We had lunch in the hotel that families had been staying at for previous trips. The food was delicious but we were really all a little too nervous and anxious for our upcoming meetings. After lunch we headed to the Care Center to meet with the birth families.
We were the last of three groups to be called by the translator/social worker into the room to meet TK's father. Needless to say the waiting was excruciating. As soon as the first family came back to the waiting area with the birth grandmother I started to get teary-eyed.
Adoption is not for the weak of heart. It's love borne out of heartbreak, a completely selfish act that has encouraged the commodifying of children of color. Ben and I recognize the privilege we have which allows us to be adoptive parents and excludes other families. It disgusts us yet we have knowingly taken part in it because we truly believe that this is the only way for us to have built our family. We are not and will never be interested in having biological children for reasons that we feel very strongly about. Although we have taken part in this process I can say I understand why adult adoptees crusade for adoption reform, open adoptions and sometimes even the end to adoption at all. I know why people will be very angry with Ben and me for our decision to take part in this industry, and it IS an industry make no mistake. Knowing what I know now after going through this process, I would never do it again. I can honestly say that if Ben and I decide to add a second child to our family it would most likely be through a foster care adoption.
Meeting Kedir, TK's father, was an amazing experience and Ben and I will treasure it always. We won't share any of our time with him as that conversation is for our son only. I will say Kedir loved him, continues to love him and our greatest accomplishment will be to honor him and keep our promise to care for and love his son with all our hearts.
After the meeting, we got to tour the Care Center in Durame and meet the nannies who first took care of TK when he came to them. I showed them photos on my phone that I had of him from the day before and all of them kissed the phone, one nanny started to cry, they were all so very happy to see how he had grown and to meet Ben and me. It was a testimony to how well these children are loved and cared for and how much the nannies, despite missing them and wishing circumstances were different, want them to have loving homes. Again, Ben and I hope that we can live up to their hope and expectations to love TK as much as they have loved him.
We traveled about a half an hour to Awassa (also Hawassa, because of the alphabetic translation often means words are spelled multiple ways). Awassa is on Lake Awassa, famous for their hippos which you can travel by boat to see. We took a walk to the lake during sunset and many people were out for the view. After our walk, we went back to the hotel for dinner. It had been a long and emotionally exhausting day for us, we fell asleep fairly early.
A word about the accommodations: Apparently some of the adoptive parents complained about the hotel in Durame which is where past travel groups have stayed the night. They have said it didn't have running water or electricity. To those parents I say, "GET OVER YOURSELVES!" Most of the rest of the world lives like this and get along just fine. This is how your child would have probably lived for the entirety of their lives and you can't bring yourselves to spend one night like that? What's wrong with you? Yes, the hotel in Awassa was nice, very nice actually, but Awassa gets many tourists because of it's lake with hippos. Durame probably gets many less visitors and because of your whining Holt has removed a great source of income away from the town. Get over your privilege. Now. It will not serve your relationship with your child in the long run and you look like a complete ass.
Mental images to keep:
Kedir's face which is just like his son's
Kedir so happy to see photos of his growing boy - I have never and will never see such joy again
The nanny crying at the Care Center where TK was first brought upon seeing his recent photos