I began writing this at the Ethiopian airport and finished in my backyard two days later. Although hours passed, it seemed like one long day…
Part One: New Parents
Well, we are officially new parents! We had a roughly wonderful day today, it was great, hard, bittersweet, and awesome; and I am so tired right now that I can’t believe I am awake. Let me start at the beginning. We had our Ethiopian court appointment today for the judge to approve our adoption. After a quick breakfast we get in the bus with our new found friends Camille and Matt who are on the same mission as us and we are all nervous. There is always a chance that it can be delayed to another date and this would just lengthen the time between trips. We drive through the streets of Ethiopia and then pull off near what looks like a city square and just wait. Not nervous, because our driver (one of two), Danny says, “Here we wait. It’s no problem!” After a while the passenger door opens and in walks our court representative and we are on our way again. We get to the court, no marble, no columns, and no parking, so we are dropped off and head inside. Here another strange thing, I walk right through but the female security guard stops Karie and pats her down… and I mean pats her down. It is a good thing she was a female security or it would have been really uncomfortable!
Then we go up several flights of stairs and enter the waiting room. We are prepared for a long wait, books ready, settling in when we hear our representative’s name called. I can’t remember a time in my mind when I have been more nervous. I don’t even know how to address an Ethiopian judge! Will she ask us questions? Is she in a good mood? We head in and sit down and wouldn’t you know it we go first. “I will call you by the children’s names… Ubang and Chad?” I croak out a yes maam’ to her next several questions, “Do you have children currently? What our their ages? Are they happy about the adoption? Have you had training on international adoption? Have you spent time with the children?” And then she stops and says, “Ethiopian adoption is final. Once you take these children they are yours forever. If you do not return for them they will be your children that you left in Ethiopia. Do you understand this? Do you want these children?”
“Yes maam’” I say.
Then she stamps a paper and says, “They are all yours.” Walking out I hold hands with Karie and say in her ear, “We’ve got two more kids… was this a painful as the last two?” And we head back to the car ready to spend the rest of our last day with our two official children.
Part Two: At the Orphanage
We get an unexpected surprise and get to spend the rest of the day until dinner time with the kids. It is hard when they find out that there is no “tomorrow” with us. Chad is the first to learn as she is told by one of the staff before lunch. She cried as Karie rocked her and I watched them both knowing that we would be back as soon as possible but my heart breaking because I don’t know how to say it so she will understand. Ubang insists that we take the toys we brought the first day. He had boxed everything up into the bowling set we brought and gave it to me, pointing to the sky saying, “America”. I tried over and again to explain that he could keep them here, that we would have more at home, but in frustration he finally ran off and when I found him in a hallway he was crying. I hugged him and told him I would take everything home, to his home and it would be there waiting for him. “America, America, Ubang’s home. I will take it. Ubang’s home.” It was hard.
Not long after this, we have lunch and I sit with them both. Chad is fine but I can tell Ubang is more distant than usual and when he finishes early we sneak off to the balcony again. And this is the best part of the day. We take turns drawing something on the iPad and guessing what it is. He is much better than me, but it doesn’t matter because I know that time is passing and soon we will say goodbye.
Its not fair. As I look at him as we play a puzzle game and I think about how much I will miss him… and his sister. I have seen the t-shirts, heard the stories, and read the blogs about how “half my heart is in Africa” but until this moment I didn’t fully understand. It is not natural to leave your kids thousands of miles away and count the days until they can come home. Half my heart is in Africa, and this is not a cool feeling. It hurts.
We play for a few more hours. They have to shower and both he and Chad come out at least three times before they go in to make sure we are still there. It is like we all understand how precious a moment is and we don’t want to waste one. Finally it is dinner time and we say goodbye. For the first time we ride back to the hotel in silence. Wass is great, but we don’t talk. He knows.
Part Three: Coming Home
Finally we pack up and get ready for the long journey home. It is filled with crappy airline food, running to make connections and the boring mundane stuff that used to stress me out but seems to have less meaning now. We showed the videos and pictures to Zach and Liz and they seem to catch our spirit. We all can’t wait for them to come home. When I look at my watch I count 7 hours ahead and think about what my two kids are doing right now. If I could ask you all for anything it would be that time would fly, that paperwork would be filed and that we would get the sacred email that tells us we can go back and get our own, and bring our two kids home. Until then, it is my prayer that God would continue to watch over Ubang and Chad even though they are no longer orphans. Their Forever Family is longing to bring them home for good.