Monday, September 14, 2009
To Addis and Back
Dear Friends, I am back home now after a two week trip to Ethiopia. I didn't have much chance to update this blog before leaving, as I was constantly re-packing and getting all the medical supplies to fit into the bags. My friend Z. accompanied me on the flight so it passed quickly enough. As a native Ethiopian, she served as my interpreter, guide, optimist, and bargain hunter. I loved getting to know her better on this voyage! As we flew, I just could not believe that I would be meeting my daughter the next day. I felt nervous, more nervous that I have ever felt. What would she think of me?? We arrived in Addis and were told that no one had expected my arrival so soon at AHOPE. I am not sure why this is the case since I'm pretty sure that our social worker had alerted them. However, I wanted to get over and see Mareshet right away, not wait the weekend as was suggested to me. All the children were excited to see us arrive, asking for photos to be taken of them and calling for Mareshet. Eventually she emerged from the crowd, hair wet, trembling. One of the caregivers asked her to give me a hug and before I knew it, her little dripping self was tentatively around my waist. I recognized her immediately, and as she ran back in to have her hair pulled back, I just stood there stuck by the enormity of the moment. She came back to the guest house with me on a trial basis, and ended up wanting to spend the night. The staff were surprised that she would want to stay with me in the first day. But she seems to be a child who is ready for a mother. She spent the night mastering the use of the iPod, bouncy, with her nervous system juiced up. I felt exactly like I had a newborn baby all over again. I didn't sleep much that first night. But Mareshet eventually threw her arm over my shoulder and slept like a rock. She never did go back to sleep at AHOPE, prompting questions from staff. I think their feelings were a bit hurt that she didn't want to be there more. However, we started the work of bonding with meals taken together, playing cards (she is a card shark), coloring, taking pictures of one another, kicking the soccer ball. When Z was not around, she tested limits like any intelligent kid. However, it was not long before I realized that she will find attachment without too much difficulty, and she is very bright. She can read and write in Amharic and English, and do sums. She constantly studies people and reads expressions. And she has a wry sense of humor, and loves to tease and be teased. I did get to meet her birth family, and take video and photos. Her auntie who helped raise her told me, tearfully, that she was passing along the responsibility, just as her mother did to her. I could see how much she loved Mareshet, like her only child. We both cried and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I struggled with feelings of guilt over my privilege in this world, and the awfulness of the idea of having to give up my child for a better future elsewhere. I do think her aunt's words helped give Mareshet permission to bond with me, because she seemed to be more at peace and to hug and snuggle more. Honestly, I was surprised that she would want to be so physical in the first weeks, but she seems to follow her desire for nurturing, rather than try and suppress it. The plane ride was challenging and I was never more happy to arrive safely in Seattle after the ordeal. We left behind many loved ones new and old, and I really feel like we have family in Ethiopia.