We and the 4 other families with our agency who had the same court date arrived at our agency's office in Addis Ababa where we were to meet the attorney and be given a brief overview of what to expect at court. We all somehow got the time wrong and arrived one hour early, so we walked to a nearby coffee shop.
We rode with our individual drivers to court. We entered the large, crowded waiting room and spent a good 45 minutes to an hour waiting for our turn before the judge. I was glad I'd packed books and workbooks to entertain my kids, so the wait was easy!
There was a large group of adoptive families who were European and after they came out from the judge's room, they were rejoicing, hugging each other, crying joyful tears. I kept wondering if their MOWYCA letters were there because it really seemed like they had passed court. I'll never know, but the neatest thing was the look on the faces of many of the Ethiopians in the room. As they saw those adoptive families celebrate, their faces had looks of shared joy, like they were so happy for these families and touched by the meaningfulness of the moment, which was so great to see rather than any ill feelings that foreigners were adopting "their" children.
I spent some of the wait time coaching my children that unless the judge asked them a specific question, they were not to say anything once we were inside the judge's room. I told them that if they had any questions about what was going on to wait and ask us after we walked back out of the room. I could just imagine them asking a bunch of loud questions while in there like, "What are we doing? Is that lady the judge? Why is she wearing regular clothes? Why did she say that? When can we leave?" But, they did great and did not say a word!
The judge called us and the 4 other families with our same agency all in together. The room was not very big, so it was a tight squeeze, but we fit. The judge asked us questions as a group, yes or no questions. She seemed genuinely concerned that we understood the finality of adoption and the challenges adopted children often face and that we would incorporate the Ethiopian culture into the lives of the children we adopt. And had we met the child and did we still wish to adopt them? "Yes! Yes! Yes! and Yes!"
Then she told us all our cases were just lacking the positive opinion from the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs (MOWYCA) and we were dismissed. The outcome was completely expected as the MOWYCA was running about a month behind on writing opinions for cases.
We went out to lunch with our travel group at Island Breeze where even by Texas standards we had some pretty okay chips & salsa and quesadillas!
Then we did some souvenir shopping. First to the Kechene Girls Shop where 100% of the proceeds go to support women who have aged out of the government orphanage. We met a very sweet, articulate (in English!) young lady who worked there and said she had grown up in the Kechene Orphanage and now worked in the store. She made a lot of the jewelry they sold and another lady was behind the sewing machine and she showed me all the dresses she'd sewn. We bought some traditional Ethiopian dresses in a variety of sizes for both our daughters to wear throughout the coming years for special Ethiopian holidays or cultural days at school. We also bought some artwork and jewelry.
Then we hit the "Post Office Shops" which are completely geared towards tourists and the vendors really try to push their stuff on you. But, we did find a lot of things we had set out to buy in Ethiopia. The shops pretty much expect you to haggle with them, and my husband did a bit, but I just couldn't bear to. I knew this was their livelihood and the standard of living for those shop owners was way less than mine. I just couldn't bring myself to argue with them over 100 or 200 Birr which amounted to just about 10 US dollars (the conversion is roughly 17 Birr equals 1 USD)! We got some more dresses, an Ethiopian soccer jersey for my oldest son, a traditional Ethiopian shirt for my husband, an Amharic Bible, more artwork, little Ethiopian instruments, some crosses, a soft ball with Amharic letters and numbers on it.
Later we asked our driver take us to a music store and help us pick out some traditional Ethiopian music CDs. We got two and are so glad we did! Our 3 older children already enjoy playing the CDs here at home and I imagine our new daughter will enjoy dancing to the music after she comes home!
We had dinner that night at Shishu which doesn't feel like an Ethiopian restaurant at all. It was decorated in a modern style. They served cheeseburgers, had board games you could play at the table and a great kids playroom downstairs. There was a really neat big castle created out of plaster-coated cardboard and play shields and swords. Also a swing, a hammock and rocking boat. The kids loved it!