At 9am we had another one hour visit with our little girl at the care center. It was a great visit! There were not the nerves we had before the first visit wondering what it was going to be like meeting her and it wasn't the last visit where there was the fear of having to say goodbye for a long time before we'd be able to see her again.
We just enjoyed playing with her and all the kids in the room. She was really active this visit and was literally running back and forth in the room at one point! She also did a lot of leading us around by the hand, and she kept zipping the jacket my 8 year old son was wearing, like she just decided it should be zipped up! It was really pretty hilarious to be bossed around by a 2 year old Ethiopian girl who didn't even speak the same language as we do, but I'm sure once she comes home and the honeymoon period wears off, there will be many clashes of wills, hopefully we'll be able to keep our sense of humor about it as we teach her that she can't always get her way! Even pointing this out to the kids they still can't wait to have her home!
In the middle of this visit the nannies started playing some Ethiopian music and a few of the kids began dancing. Our little girl danced forever, bending her knees over and over again with her little hands on her hips. It was the cutest thing ever! We got it on video!
As soon our visit was over we had to hurry back to our guesthouse where we were to meet Mathews, the boy we sponsor through Compassion International. Mathews lives near Awassa which is a 4 to 6 hour drive from Addis Ababa where we were, but with God's miraculous help we were able to arrange it with Compassion on short notice (we only got 2 weeks notice of our court date) to have Mathews and his mom travel with an escort/translator to Addis Ababa.
Mathews is 8 years old, the same age as our oldest son. We began sponsoring him a couple years ago, and have written back and forth several times, exchanging pictures. His picture hangs on our refrigerator, we've prayed for him and sent him birthday gifts. When we began sponsoring him I never in a million years would have ever imagined meeting Mathews in person. But the dream and the praying began shortly after we heard about the change to the adoption process that required us to make two trips to Ethiopia, rather than just one. Still watching the dream and the miracle come to fruition was so amazing, I really felt the need to pinch myself that it was actually happening!
We'd told the ladies who work at our guesthouse to be expecting the visitors in case they got there before we did since we knew we'd be cutting it close to get back in time from the care center visit. It was so sweet, Marta told me, "Yes, we will welcome them in, invite them to sit on the couch, just like as if at your home." That's just the kind of ladies that work at BJoe's, really kind and warm, actually those traits are pretty applicable to most Ethiopians we met! We'd also let another American guest who would be around the house that morning know what was going on and when we pulled up she was sitting on the back porch and told us, "They're in there!"
I couldn't believe it! And then the moment was there. I walked through the door and saw him. Mathews looked just like his picture! We all hugged and then settled in on the couches to visit. It was Mathews, his mom, their escort who is the nurse for the entire compassion program in Awassa, and a man from the Addis Ababa Compassion office who spoke perfect English.
Here are the two 8 year olds together (and neither too thrilled with having their picture taken at this point, but humoring me -- so many things transcend culture and background differences!); I really just could not believe this moment was happening! And that's Mathews's mom in the picture, too.
We gave Mathews a backpack of goodies, which was a fun way to break the ice. The backpack had a Texans (our local NFL team) shirt in it, a soccer ball, a pump for the ball, a few small toys, a notebook and pencils and some candy. Compassion had given us some ideas of appropriate gifts.
Mathews put the shirt right on, over his clothes! Check out his three thousand watt smile! Oh how I love it! That boy can light up a room!
Then the kids went outside and played some soccer. Mathews completely smoked my American children's soccer abilities!
Then we asked the Compassion guide about arranging transportation so we could take the group out to lunch and then some place fun for Mathews, like the Lion Zoo. He was able to get a driver with a passenger van and we headed off for lunch at Lucy's since it had a variety of food (even traditional Ethiopian food) so everyone could find something they liked.
We learned more about Mathews and his family over lunch, even learning half-way through the meal that it was their first time to ever eat out in a restaurant! Wow!
After lunch we went to the Lion Zoo where they have lions and monkeys in cages (not at all like the natural habitat zoos we have all over the U.S., just cages and cement floors) and also a playground area for the kids with rides. Mathews and his mom were pretty shy and serious during lunch so I really loved the huge smile that came over his mom's face when she saw the lions. They'd never seen one before!
Family picture (minus our 2 youngest children and the little girl we sponsor in Uganda).
At the zoo it was so fun to watch Mathews relax and see he and my kids interact! Mathews thought it was hilarious when my 5 year old daughter began hollering "Ooh ooh ahh ahh!" at the monkeys! Those monkeys, by the way, were not that impressive to Mathews and his mom. They have monkeys just like that on their street! And they didn't seem to think too highly of the monkeys, apparently the monkeys steal their stuff sometimes!
Then we got to the amusement area and it really got fun!
Mathews really came out of his shell at the playground and rides area. I will never forget his huge smile riding the ferris wheel with me and 2 of my kids! All of our language, cultural, life style, and background differences were stripped away for a few minutes and we just had fun! Of course I also did a bit of making sure everyone was holding on tightly -- no seat belts or safety bars on those Ethiopian rides!!
I will say, though, you get your money's worth on Ethiopian rides. In America you pay a ton to go around like twice on the ferris wheel, but in Ethiopia the rides went on for a really long time!
My 8 year old sometimes gets a bit queazy on round and round rides, but he rode the swings with Mathews to be a good sport. Poor guy, those swings (and yes, the seats are baby seats!) just kept going and going. My 8 year old's face just kept getting paler with each circle, but he survived and didn't throw up! My 5 year old daughter and Mathews loved the swings, though!
After the Lion's Zoo we had to say goodbye to Mathews. We asked the translator to tell he and his mother how glad we were that we got to see them and that we think of them as part of our family. The nurse/translator kept telling us we could write to her, too. I promised we would and that we'd send them pictures, and I still need to do that -- so terrible, must get prioritized on the to-do list!
I'd highly recommend other families adopting from Ethiopia who are early in the process to sponsor a child from Ethiopia and maybe you can visit them when you travel for your adoption. We plan to sponsor Mathews even through college and write regularly and the relationship has just taken on a whole new level now having seen each other face to face, hugged necks, laughed together. Being able to visit him was an amazing, wonderful experience. I'll never forget it as long as I live, praying my Compassion son and other son and daughter never forget it, either!
That night we ate dinner with our travel group at Avanti. It's Italian food (Ethiopia was occupied by the Italians in World War II so that's where that influence comes in) and it was my favorite restaurant of our trip - super yummy baked pasta! I had another funny bathroom experience with my daughter at that restaurant, the toilet had a strange flushing mechanism, like you had to pull this chain straight up from the top of the tank, it wasn't obvious and took me several tries to figure it out. During that process when we couldn't seem to figure out how to flush, my daughter shrugged and said, "Maybe it's automatic." Which made me laugh so hard I cried! She wasn't trying to be funny, in America many, many public restrooms are now those automatic flush ones. But in Ethiopia where you're lucky to have a toilet seat or toilet paper, the idea of an automatic flush toilet was absolutely hilarious to me!!
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