Sunday, April 17, 2011

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to the US Pacific Northwest

Arriving in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia our first time was an amazing experience. An African Union Conference was meeting there that weekend. In the airport, we were treated to a visual assault of vibrant colors. Flowing garments and headdresses moved effortlessly about us. The clothing depicted the vast diversity of Africa converging. We had the unusual experience of being both the drabbest in khakis and the most conspicuous with the lightest pigments (okay, way more true for me than my Greek born husband) in the sea of browns and blacks. As I sat quietly on a bench waiting for Michael to get our Visas, I thought, “This will be our daughter’s frequent experience in reverse.” It was humbling. I felt the weight of that responsibility settle on my shoulders.

During our brief stay in Addis, our Ethiopian lawyer wanted to sure the adoptive families (three of us met in Addis to pick up our daughters) got a taste of our kids' homeland. I sensed the grave mission he owned to instill a sense of his rich culture into adoptive parents who may never return. For their children, these brief experiences explained one day perhaps with accompanying photos may be all they have of their mother culture.

I discussed him previously as he left an indelible impression. He had strength of resolve you felt from the first meeting. He was not a man to be trifled with and these children were his life’s purpose. I recall some impatience with what felt like somewhat of a distraction from our main focus -- bringing home our child. As an new adoptive parent, I had so much worry permeating and swirling in my head it was hard for much else to register.

Meeting our child in such a foreign place and in such a foreign manner to us compared to our two biological sons made an unreal haze hang over all we did. As a new mother again, I worried about what my child might experience as she left the land of her birth and the comfortable reality of the transition house where she was clearly cherished. How would she handle the long trip back? And when we arrived home . .what will be her challenges?

One of the places we visited was the Ethiopian National Museum. Lucy, the oldest human skeletal remains, found a new resting place here. She was also given a second (Amharic) name: dinqineĊĦ, or Dinkenesh, meaning "you are amazing" which struck me as the more appropriate one. As irony would have it, Lucy was on tour and at that time on exhibit in our home town of Seattle. As we walked through the exhibits, I was struck by how many were in need of upkeep as well as the tremendously long and rich history they represented. Being in the birthplace of humankind and of new our daughter, took my breath away. We drank in our beautiful Ethiopian baby girl in the morning and these sights in the afternoon. It was almost too much to fully absorb.

As we plan a repeat visit, I look forward to introducing my sons and my now toddler daughter to their shared ancient history. Below are a series of photos taken on Leyla's first birthday. She is proudly perched between her adoring brothers. Both dressed in traditional Ethiopian garb with their ebony carved treasures we brought from their sister's homeland. Leyla is draped in an lovely Ethiopian scarf. (Leyla had already outgrown her matching outfit.) The backdrop is the purple rhododendrons marking the advent of spring in the Pacific Northwest -- a beautiful melding of beauty from two diverse parts of the globe. Looking at them again brought tears to my eyes. What amazing joy and color filled our lives since bringing home our daughter home from Addis.

In another twist, as we raised money through Ethiopia Reads to put libraries in schools in honor of our daughter, I received an interesting contact. An man named Yadesa Bojia, who identified himself as an Ethiopian artist, volunteered his services to aid our fundraising. As we exchanged information, I learned his family lives in the same general area we do. I looked at his artwork on line and learned he won a contest for the design of the new flag for the African Union shown above. The stars and light streaming out from backdrop of Africa wonderfully reflect our experience too. I thought back to that first day in Addis. I am honored to add one more special connection to the continent that gave us our daughter and enriched our lives. And I definitely plan to take Yaddi up on his generous offer . . stay tuned.