Addis was quite the culture shock, even though we've been to other countries outside the U.S. Tucson is a city with a small town feel. When we drove into Addis from the airport, we were overwhelmed with culture shock. Our first impression was a mix of broken sidewalks, trash, markets, pollution and grey buildings mingled with nicer restaurants. People poor and well off walking together, sharing the streets with tons of cars, burros and sheep herders. I had seen photos of Addis but nothing prepares you for the sights, smells, and sounds that hit you. We scanned the streets looking for some kind of "normal" that we could relate to but not finding anything. It took a few days for us to begin getting used to our surroundings.
The people we encountered at our TDS Guesthouse, in the restaurants, shops, and church were very friendly. Ethiopians have a graceful air to them. They are a slender people, stand very straight, walk and talk calmly and gracefully. To me they all looked like models! In fact, I felt under dressed in my casual cargos and capris when we went to the restaurants & cafes.
Walking around Addis is an experience. We stuck out like sore thumbs and were always approached by the many peddlers or beggars. Pickpockets are frequent on the streets (and our area was considered a safe area for walking). Trying to take photos out on the streets invites more people to hassle you or beggars so the majority of my photos were taken from our van or taxi.
One thing we quickly discovered is that the coffee in Ethiopia is EXCELLENT. In fact, I haven't found anything as good in our neck of the woods back home. That's one thing I'll miss for sure!
Meeting our child and spending several days with him was a mix of emotions. He is nearly 2 and understands perfect Amharic...but no English. Imagine this... he has had a structured schedule for the last several months in the transition home. Every day he does the same thing, goes to the same areas...except for one particular day. He wakes up from his nap, but instead of going to the playroom like he has every day, he's taken to a strange room where he's given to strange people who are saying things he can't understand. Then he turns around and sees the nanny leaving the room. Now it hits him that he's alone with these strangers and he's immediately frightened.
It was impossible to do any kind of bonding with our son while he was at the transition home. They take excellent care of him and the other kids and he's very attached to his nannies. He cried every time we came to visit but would calm down and play with us...until a nanny came in the room and then the cycle would start again. The people at the transition home were very friendly and the kids there were so much fun. They taught me a few Amharic words and phrases and loved playing with us.
On the day we went to court to be approved for adoption, we had just crossed the street when a truck snagged the power lines in front of the courthouse, and snapped the power pole. Sparks zapping and people scattering everywhere! It was quite the excitement. We waited in the court room with people from Canada & Germany who had been waiting 5-6 years for their kids. One of the family's at our guesthouse were from Ireland and just got their daughter. It was awesome to be united with other countries for the same purpose.
We also took a side trip to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia to visit our son's hometown and his finding place. That was one of the highlights of our trip and we loved the tropical, small town feel of Dire Dawa. It also helped give us some closure on his past...something we didn't have with our first son's adoption from China.
It was a great adventure and we're looking forward to bringing our son home in the next few weeks!