Sunday, May 29, 2011

Travel Journal: Day 3

May 20, 2011

First Day @ HH, Meeting Our Girl!

Dear Lil' Miss,

Happy 5 Month Birthday Sweet Girl!!!

We feel beyond blessed that TODAY of all days, we got to meet you – ON your 5 month birthday! 

This morning had a very early start as we were both WIDE awake at 4am.  Probably a combination of a hot room (no air conditioning, no fan…which we later remedied), upset stomachs, sore muscles (from the flights), and a thrown off internal clock.  Regardless, we agreed that we actually felt sort of rested…but we had HOURS before our driver would pick us up to meet you!

Classic face
We dinked around the room for a while.  Daddy worked on his travel journal a bit before we decided to take showers.  After hearing some squealing from Daddy’s end, I figured I better go check on him.  Turns out – we have no hot water!  So we took turns soaping up as fast as possible and getting a kick out of rinsing the other person off.  Daddy said I made QUITE the expressions and definitely got his morning laugh out of it!  We could whine and grumble that we spoiled Americans didn’t have hot water in our room…OR we could just be thankful that we have running water and make the best out of an, ummm…interesting situation! =) 

SOOOO excited to meetcha!
I think daddy spent most of the rest of the morning trying to figure out the converters and adapters and running up and down the stairs to the front desk (we’re on the 4th floor) while I got myself all pretty-fied for meeting you!  Not that having make-up on would be the difference in you liking mama or not…but these are pictures I have to look at forever (and WANT to) so I gotta look at least decent!  Well, unfortunately most of my attempts were in vain.  I’m pretty sure my make-up was melted off before the end of breakfast and all that time I spent (*AHEM* daddy spent!) figuring out how to plug in that curling iron??  Yeah….those curls disappeared even faster!  I ended up heading back up to the room to brush them out.  (I think tomorrow I’m letting it just go natural…it wasn’t worth the fight!) 

1st cup of Ethiopian Coffee
WHILE we were down for breakfast, however, we ran into some other traveling families that were ending their second trip.  They had great advice to hand down – from food, to shopping, to bonding with our kids…they hooked us up!  PLUS they told us that they were supposed to be headed to Hannah’s Hope just a couple hours before our itinerary said.  Let’s just say we quickly headed back up to our rooms (waking up the other traveling families on the way) so that we could get to see YOU as soon as possible!!!  True to “Ethiopian Time” it was about an hour or so after they had been told…but still earlier than our itinerary said!  We were SO excited to finally be on our way!

Looking out the lobby of the Riviera

To the left

To the right (towards HH)

The Riviera Hotel

Van ride over to HH
In the van on the way over, we divvied up our cameras to the families that had spent all week there.  It was such a blessing to see their excitement to capture these precious moments FOR us!  We pulled off the main road, and when someone mentioned Hannah’s Hope was JUST around the corner, the tears were already dripping!  Our sweet new friend Teresa was recording with our flip in her left hand and snapping AWAY with her right hand!  They climbed off the van ahead of us so that they could get our faces the whole way through.

Looking for our "T"
Once we went through the infamous gates of Hannah’s Hope, we were greeted by a few young children excited to see us!  Our “camera crew” led us to the baby room where there was an overwhelming amount of babies everywhere you looked!  Babies on pillows, in bouncers, crawling, crying, being rocked, being fed!  We looked around desperately trying to find the sweet little face we recognized, but we didn’t see you anywhere.  We finally asked for you by name, in which your special mother (who I recognized from previous photos) pointed to a bouncer on the side of the couch, kind of tucked away.  Phew – we felt better about the fact that we didn’t see you instantaneously!  We walked over – and there you were!  I couldn’t even see your face because you were sleeping soundly, wrapped so tight in a warm, cozy blanket.  I asked if it was okay to pick you up and Mekdes, your special mother, told me to go ahead and wake you!  My heart skipped a beat as I glanced over once more – you were SO much tinier than your pictures had revealed!  I instantly scooped up your tiny little body and began to unwrap you from the fleece blanket so I could study every little feature!  I woke you from your gentle slumber, but instead of crying you stared into our souls with sincere curiosity!  And it seemed not a moment later that the corners of your mouth turned up into that perfect smile!  And right there, at that moment – we were not only smitten and completely in love...  No, we were puddles on the floor!  You captivated us with your beauty, with your charm!  I smothered you with kisses…and you smiled.  Daddy made noise after silly noise…and you smiled.  I bounced you up and down, gave you tummy time, helped you sit up, stand up, and rocked you in my arms and you just kept smiling!  In fact, you smiled so big you had a blow out!  Minutes into our first meeting and there was ALREADY an outfit change taking place – you are SO my daughter!!! =)

First glimpse

With permission, we woke her up

We've waited SO long for this moment

Love that girl!

She's in my arms - at last!


First Daddy/Daughter moment

He's in love too =)

Wide eyed and curious at who these white faces were =)

She pee'd on daddy, time for a diaper change!

Beautiful brown skin

The special mothers who love on our kids while we're worlds away.

Tummy Time

Beautiful feet

Loving playtime
I don’t know how long that moment went on, but I then remember trying to put a headband on you and all of a sudden you were in tears!  But before I could assume that I had been responsible for the outburst, your special mother handed me a bottle – and once it was within site you whined and fussed until it was in your mouth properly.  And before I knew it – that one wasn’t good enough…you needed more!  It put such a huge smile on my face to see how much you were drinking and how much you had grown since we first saw your face back in February.  Once that bottle was finished you couldn’t quite calm down.  You were restless and obviously tired, so Mekdes came over to show me how you liked to be put to sleep.  In some sense it made me sad that I couldn’t figure it out on my own…but at the same time I was sitting there so grateful for this woman who was teaching me everything she knew to make you happy!  She could have so easily just handed her over and left the room for me to figure it out OR taken over and not let me in on the secret.  But she didn’t do that.  She sat there next to me answering my every question.  So now that I know how you like that blanket wrapped around you when you drink your bottle, and that you want your face mostly covered so you can fall asleep – I feel like I can do it on my own now!  Or at least I hope I can... ;)

Mama's first bottle

Holding my hand tight

Once you zonked out, Mekdes handed you right back…which I was very grateful for.  I got to gaze at your beautiful face the entire time you slept.  While we rocked on the couch, daddy went off to take pictures of the other babies.  Because of that warm blanket you were wrapped in, beads of sweat began running down your forehead in no time.  I tried to carefully loosen the blanket around you to give you some more breathing room and that seemed to help some.  Now that I didn’t have that interaction time with you, I got to check on the other traveling families, who had just met their children too!  Every baby and child there was so beautiful in their own special way!  It was like I had died and gone to baby heaven! 

Tears for both of us ;)
When you woke up, I think you were rather surprised to see me.  I giggled to myself at the way your face crinkled as you immediately started fussing...and then it turned to crying.  But instead of taking over, your special mother let me soothe you!  It seems you are a lot like your big brother already – the wide curiosity in your eyes, and the needing a moment to wake up after a nap!  =D  Of course as soon as I had calmed you down, daddy came in, noticed you were awake, and started snapping pictures!  I had to tell him to put the camera away and let you get used to us again.  Don’t worry darling, you didn’t hurt our feelings!  We came in there with a very real expectation that you would be scared of us because even though we had been gazing at your pictures for three months, you were just seeing us for the first time!  And it wasn’t long until I was smothering those smiling cheeks in kisses again! =) 

Familiar faces bringing smiles to yours =)

Headed to your room
Then daddy went to show me where your crib was and gave me a tour of the baby house!  I snapped some pictures, but after just a few minutes Wass began gathering our group for orientation.  Immediately I had that panicked feeling that I would have to give you up, but they assured me that I could take you to orientation!  Phew!  I grabbed the blanket Auntie Annika made you (which I had only been sleeping with for 3 weeks to get it to smell like mama!) and a few toys!  We walked into a small class room (which they used to teach the older kids English) where we filled out paperwork and learned more about what to expect on court day.  We learned that once you were away from your special mothers and all the other babies that you were quite content with us!  You had a couple very sweet moments with daddy where you would strain to see his face when you heard his voice, and once when he was holding you you reached up to touch his face!  Even though all that time and talk over money and court was a bit stressful to me, I cherished those precious moments with you where you felt like mine and only mine (okay...and maybe daddy's)!

"Sign" above our daughter's room

Into the room we go...

She has a beautiful little bed right in front of the window!

Daddy is SMITTEN by his little princess!

The beautiful room

We love how colorful and cheerful it is =)

Daddy filling out T's paperwork as she snuggles up close

She discovered daddy's fingers

1st time in the Moby


On the wall in the toddler house =)

On the way back for lunch we stopped for water.
Ironic scene: our guys buying water, cows walking by, beef
hanging in the next store =)
Once we headed back to the baby house, I began to feed you another bottle when someone from our travel group informed me that if we wanted lunch, now was the time.  Looking back, I wish I would have just stayed and had someone bring me food…mostly because by the time we got back to see you we only had about an hour or so before they were putting all the babes down for the night and we had to head home.  I had come in just after you took a bath, and your special mother was finishing giving you your bottle.  She handed you to me and told me to change your diaper (which I gladly agreed – for the 3rd time!).  She said it was bed time but that it was fine to put you in my Moby to get you to sleep.  I layed you in your crib as I got the baby wrap in place and then put you in.  You seemed rather cozy in there if I do say so myself! =)  It was a long time that you sat there fighting sleep and staring into space with those big brown eyes, and finally I tucked your head deep into the Moby, pulling that last flap over your face.  It was only then that you actually zonked out, just in time for Wass to come up the stairs and tell me it was time to leave.  =(  WHAT a bummer!  I put it off as long as I could, but finally daddy helped unwrap your legs from the Moby so I could lay you down.  I must have worn you out because you didn’t make a PEEP!  In fact, it wasn’t until I kissed your cheek that you sleepily opened those little eyes!  I got right down on eye level and whispered “I love you” as you closed them again.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect first day with you!  The ONLY thing that could make it better is to take you with me back to the hotel, and then at the end of the week – home.

Right outside the gates of HH

View from the HH balcony outside the baby room

Sweet little hand
Sound asleep

Deliciously beautiful
Daddy love =)

Until the morning, my lovely baby girl!
Your Mama


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Travel Journal: Day 2

May 19, 2011

KLM Flight: Amsterdam to Addis Ababa
Arriving in Ethiopia

Dear Lil' Miss,

We have just arrived in Ethiopia (Africa!!!) after a loooong trip!!  Much to my disappointment, it is really too dark to see anything.  But at this point, all we care about is getting back to the hotel, settling in, and getting some rest before going to see YOU tomorrow! 

The rest of our first flight to Amsterdam went really smoothly!  Probably one of the smoothest flights and softest landings we’ve been on – and we’ve been on more than a few.  Food was delicious!  Pasta, salad and bread for lunch/dinner – very good, but VERY rich…we made sure to pop some pepto tablets after it so our stomachs wouldn’t hurt.  Somehow, as always, I still ended up eating too much too fast and felt full for quite a while (not comfortable on a plane).  We also had a small snack right before landing that I think was a croissant with pepper jack cheese melted into it?  Whatever it was – mmmm!  We BOTH were fans! 

We got off our flight at Amsterdam, however, and had NO idea where to go!  Most things were in Dutch (blast-it – why didn’t we learn more of that growing up?!?) and there were almost ZERO employees anywhere!  Daddy had to go seek someone out to show us where to go, and all they did was point us to a huge billboard and tell us to look for our flight.  It was sooo helpful (note the sarcasm).  It was several minutes until we saw “Addis Ababa 0545 Gate D07” on there and we could begin heading in that direction.  A couple gates down there was a check in center.  In Seattle, they had warned us to be sure to check in for our connecting flight because it was very full, so we took a moment to do that.  Of course it said we were already checked in, but then we noticed that our flight was leaving at 1:45 rather than 2:15!  And boarding at 1:09, when it was currently five minutes to 1:00 – let’s just say we BOOKED it, (!!!) ONLY to arrive to everyone just standing around in a big line.  It seriously seemed so unorganized and crazy – but it’s okay because we made it!  And honestly, it was a great opportunity to stretch and meet up with the other traveling families.

We went through a security check AT the gate (new for me) and then that put us in a small little room with everyone on who would be getting on board.  And then without a word, all of a sudden everyone got up and rushed into the corridor to get onto the plane.  We figured we better follow. =)

KLM was a pretty amazing flight – smooth and even more importantly, everyone was SOO friendly!  By the time we got on though, it was about midnight our time and we were exhausted.  Unfortunately, the plane was BOOKED (so booked that there was too much carryon luggage, so they had to check some in which caused delays) and even though the seats were more comfortable than the last flight, somehow the seats managed to be squeezed even closer together!  Ugh…I was feeling claustrophobic already!  I’m not exactly tall or large and my knees were PRESSED into the seat in front of me.  I started feeling that anxiety creep in, so I pulled out your little baby book I brought along to calm me down by reminding me WHY I was on this long, agonizing flight!  You are worth it baby!  =)

Off the plane - at last!
Love the cankles??  Stayin' true to my sexy side! =)
Shortly after we took off, I realized that I was not going to get any more comfy that I was, so I decided to take a sleeping pill to sleep.  NOT my best idea.  Although I seemed to get sleepy and doze off rather quickly, I woke up not much later feeling miserable.  Daddy said my skin was wet, cold, and clammy…but I felt like I was burning up and dripping with sweat.  On top of that my stomach was churning.  After a couple of “runs” to the bathroom (pun intended!) we figured out that I took that sleeping pill on an empty stomach!  And since my stomach was on the fritz even before that, I was in for a world of hurt.  I spare you all the gory details, but let me just say that I never wanted to be the girl who needed use of that paper bag on the airplane.  Twice.  Maybe three times.  During landing (in Khartoum, Sudan for refueling).  However, after the fact I began feeling much better by the time we landed in Addis – thankfully, since we had a huge wait to get our visas and go through immigration.

How does daddy always wind up looking breath-taking
after no sleep while mama looks mangled?
After visas, after immi- gration, after getting our luggage, and after going through customs we finally walked into the main part of the airport to look for our driver with that “AGCI” sign, but we couldn’t find one.  So our three families stood as the only 6 white people in an airport in Africa with no phones.  A really sweet man came up and offered to call our hotel for us.  Thank goodness for him, but we were informed (in a nice way) that we needed to tip for that service.  =)  *Found out later from HH staff that phone calls are quite expensive there, even for the locals!

Our driver showed up all apologetic (another family landed only 20 minutes before us but since our visa and custom lines took so long he ended up taking them back to the hotel and then came back for us) but it really wasn’t a huge deal.  We stepped out of the airport for the first time onto Ethiopian soil with tired smiles and loaded our stuff in the van that took us to the Riviera Hotel!

We were warned about the crazy driving, but since it was night there, there weren’t a lot of people on the roads so it wasn’t bad at all.  Although after a trip to the Dominican Republic…I don’t think it gets much worse than that and I feel kind of prepared for anything!  As we drove along the damp roads (yes, we left sunny Seattle to come to a rainy Africa – quite the rare phenomenon if you ask me!) I took in the smells, the sounds, and as much as I could see in the dark.  It strangely felt like home, for I had grown to love Ethiopia long before we had our tickets and itinerary! 

The hotel was closer than I thought, and even more beautiful than I had imagined!  The hotel lobby had beautiful flowers and crown molding and intricate chandeliers!  It was a beautiful!  And somehow we ended up with a HUGE room with a king size bed and beautiful old furniture (just a standard room - but it looked more like a suite to us)!  It is really just lovely here.

Our bed at the Riviera

Room 403

Great storage for suitcases and clothes

It was too dark to see at this hour, but beautiful view out the windows!

Bathroom (traveling families be sure to bring scented garbage
bags - you can't flush that toilet paper and the bags at least HELP with the stink)

Shower - and NO shower curtain...thankful
for the hand-held!

Just the start of our stash!

The pharmacy drawer =)

More snacks...

And MORE snacks...

Flower clips to bring to the girls @ HH!

My cankles and much-in-need-of-a-pedicure
toes after two days of traveling!
I was too antsy to climb straight in bed, even though it was close to midnight by the time we arrived, so I started unpacking and organizing the dresser while daddy crawled into bed.  It wasn’t long before he was begging me to turn off the lights, so we both turned in for the night.  Despite the unfamiliarity of our surroundings, we fell right asleep….for a whole 4 hours!

See you tomorrow love!!
Your Mama