It was 13 hours of slow torture in the middle seat as we crossed the Atlantic ocean. We slept a couple of hours, but just couldn’t seem to get comfy. And my mind was racing.
After landing, it took us almost 2 hours to get an airport visa, then change money, then go through customs, then go through security. And then we found Semmey. He’ll be our guide for the next week, and we think he’s pretty great.
Completely jetlagged, but running on adrenaline, we set out for Adama. Everyone knows Americans are spoiled rotten, but oh my, was it ever obvious on our drive to Adama as I snapped some photos out the window. Ethiopians are such beautiful people, and many of them lead lives of severe hardship. We’ve visited our share of underdeveloped countries before this, but you see it all through a different lens when you know your child lives among the poverty. We’ve seen lots of cargo-carrying donkeys, and horses, and goats. Many of the buildings are simply makeshift shacks built of sticks and sheets of scrap metal. Children roam the unpaved streets in tattered clothes and bare feet. Other children were tilling fields using livestock as machinery. Poverty is much more heartbreaking when your own child is one of its victims. Knowledge brings responsibility, and friends, may we all be compelled to do something about this.
We stopped by the hotel to check in and quickly change clothes before heading to the orphanage. Unfortunately, I can’t show you pictures of our time at the orphanage just yet. Malachi legally becomes our child on Thursday at court, and I will be able to share them then.
At the orphanage, we walked up to an outdoor courtyard with open-air rooms surrounding us. And within minutes, Malachi was walking toward us with assistance. Yes! He was walking! The last videos we had seen of him were in November, and then, he could barely take a step. What a sweet surprise – a miracle, certainly.
I walked toward him. “Tadias.” (Amharic for Hello.) I reached out my hand and he reached for mine in return. We helped him down a few steps and the three of us sat down in the courtyard where the orphanage workers had arranged three chairs. He didn’t seem scared at all, just really curious. He was soaking it all in. The workers had told him we would be coming, and that we wanted him to become a part of our family. I can’t even begin to imagine what must have been going through his head. Nor can I imagine what all of the other children were thinking as they watched us play, likely hoping that their family might arrive soon too.
We handed him a Lightning McQueen puzzle. “Wanna play?” The three of us got down to business on that puzzle with Semmey sometimes chiming in with Amaharic to help. As the minutes moved forward, Malachi became even more comfortable and began jabbering at us in Amharic as though we could understand.
We shared a photo album we had created for him with pictures of our home, his room, Maddox, Mia, and other close family. He rubbed the photos on each page almost endearingly. He was enamored with his room. The kid absolutely loves cars. So how did I know to make cars and trucks the theme of his room? We’ll just call it a God thing, for sure.
The car obsession also means bringing five of Maddox’s matchbox cars was a great idea. We zoomed and zoomed those cars around the brick pavers in the orphanage courtyard. When we had to leave for lunch, Semmey told Malachi we would be back. Malachi said, “Bring some more cars when you come back.” Ah. Never before has an expression of American entitlement made me smile so big.
Malachi likes both of us, but he really really likes Mitch. Maybe it’s because he is so tall, or maybe because he wore a soccer jersey with his jeans today. Or maybe just because the kid already has a sense that Mitch really is the most wonderful dad ever. Whatever it was, my heart was happy watching those two play. We brought one of those big rubber band punching balloons to bat around. For not being able to walk without help, that kid sure can move. He does this super fast and super sweet bear crawl running thing. His ankles are rough and calloused from dragging them on the pavers, as it seems he is usually barefoot.
We were shocked at how well he does with English. We simply point to an object, say the English word, and he will immediately repeat it with the most precious accent you have ever heard. He knows his ABCs and can also write some English letters. He was sure to show off his skills. Videos to come later!
Oh happy day. I know we had many fears going into that first meeting, but now I can’t even remember what they all were. My heart is full.
Now to another favorite part of the day. In addition to all of the donations of clothes and diapers and hygiene products that we brought, many people had also given us cash to use toward helping the orphanage. We ended up with about $600 from friends, my work family, and the kids that attended Skycrest VBS. The orphanage has about 58 children and receives no government assistance. It is funded solely through donations.
Semmey told Selam, the orphanage director, that we would like to buy something that the orphanage really needed. She shared that what they needed most right now was a printer/copier/scanner. The orphanage has been operating all this time without one! Maybe this helps to explain why every document takes weeks to obtain. The adoption process is sometimes so highly inefficient because some of the offices involved do not have these basic necessities. The printer/copier/scanner would allow Selam to complete the necessary paperwork to accept new children into the orphanage and to complete the needed documents to facilitate adoptions that would take children out of the orphanage.
So in the afternoon, we drove with Selam and Semmey to a small, dim shop that sold every kind of appliance, including printers. And we used that money from our friends and family to buy the orphanage a mac daddy printer/copier/scanner. It was absolutely the perfect gift! Here’s to renewed efficiency in document preparation. Future adoptive families, you’re welcome. Love my generous friends.
We went to bed super jet lagged, and I woke up four hours later unable to sleep. I arose to write and reflect on all of the day’s life-changing happenings. Back to bed with heart overflowing.