Sunday, June 07, 2015

Bringing Dawit Home - Days 3 & 4

On Friday, we woke early again but this time at Negash Lodge.  Negash is know for their black and white monkeys that live in the trees there and honestly, this is the main reason I wanted to stay here.  So, we got ready and headed down to the green area (everything there is green) with the big trees the monkeys like to hang out in.  We looked and looked and saw nothing.  I have to say, I was disappointed, but of course, our main and most important reason for coming to Woliso happened, so I got over it.  We ate breakfast with Alemu and then headed down the road back to Addis.  About 10 minutes later, we stopped at a traditional home for the Woliso region.  Nope, Alemu didn't know this farmer, but said that we could stop anyway and they would welcome us into their home with open arms.  So we did!  I posted a ton of pictures on Facebook that I took while we stopped.

When we arrived back in Addis, we ate lunch at a restaurant called Green View and had pizza.  Well, Alemu still had injera and fish.  Then we went a couple businesses down the sidewalk and had Macchiatos again at a coffee place.  This is where we met our driver for the rest of our trip, Joel.  Joel has a small car so we crammed all our luggage in, said goodbye to Alemu and Biniyam, and then Joel took us to the Family Morning Coffee Guesthouse where we would be staying the rest of our trip.   Joel is super nice and speaks English very well and is super knowledgable about Ethiopian as he is Ethiopian.  He also knows a lot about international adoption as he has worked for an agency in the past.

When we arrived at the guesthouse, we met Birtukan, the wife of the owner of the guesthouse.  Birtukan also knows a ton of English and runs the guesthouse with her 5 children, a niece and several others.  She led us to our room and it immediately felt like home.  There is a queen bed, twi bunkbeds, a crib she added the next morning, a bathroom with a shower, and a balcony.  This guesthouse has 5 stories and a tiled roof which has amazing views of Addis.  The building right next to the guesthouse is under construction so we have been able to witness men using the crazy scaffolding firsthand.    

We met a family of 9 staying here (2 sets of Grandparents, 2 daughters not related, and 3 children adopted from Ethiopia about 5 years ago).  Crazy story about how this blended family came to be and why they are traveling in Ethiopia right now.  Ask me later about their awesome story.

We ate dinner Friday night at the guesthouse with this group of 9.    It is amazing how quickly you can get to know people when your hearts share similar passions!

Saturday morning, we ate breakfast again with the group of 9 (pancakes, bananas and mangos, coffee and fresh squeezed juice).   Then we got ready for Joel to pick us up at 10 to TAKE CUSTODY OF DAWIT! I have to admit, I was quite scared about how Dawit would react to us taking him away from everything and everyone he knows.  And how I would respond to him.  I admitted these feelings at breakfast and these two amazing adoptive mamas totally related and understood.   They were leaving at 10 as well for their day and we made a circle and they prayed for us and Dawit.  Like I said, amazing new friends!

We drove about 10-15 minutes to Engida and had to walk down the gravel road again as it was "closed" for repairs (large rocks were put on the road at the end to block cars from driving through).  We rang the bell and knocked on the metal gate and were let inside the Engida gate.  Dawit was playing with his friends in the first room inside, which is the playroom (maybe 10' by 14'?)  Our awesome driver started taking pictures with our camera for us so we got our first picture with all three of us.

Dawit found my sunglasses in his diaper bag. What a cutie pie!!

Then the nurse called us in another room with Dawit to change the bandage on his finger.  His finger got caught in a door hinge when another child was closing a door - maybe a week ago or so.  It was ex-rayed and it is not broken, but he did loose his little finger nail.  He did not like getting the bandage changed at all, but he was so brave despite.

After this time, Josh asked the nurse all of our questions about Dawit so that we could make his adjustment as seamless as possible.  Joel helped us translate when we couldn't understand eachother, which was wonderful.

 Then we gathered in the playroom again for a group picture.  After the picture, the caregivers all gave Dawit very quick and loving hugs and sort of shuffled us out the door.  And that was it, we were walking down the road on our way back to Joel's car but this time with Dawit on my hip.  I had tears streaming down my face as I tried to pull it together for my son.

All four of the caregivers that were there that morning were fighting tears as we said goodbye.  I cannot imagine how difficult it is for them to say goodbye.  And in the next 2 weeks, there will be several more goodbyes as there are 6 other families coming to finalize their adoptions.  Please pray with me both for the children being adopted, the children left behind and these precious caregivers.

While Joel drove us back to the guesthouse, I sat in the back with Dawit on my lap.  He was doing great until all of a sudden he got scared and started crying.  But the snack cup with sweet potato puffs did wonders by distracting him.

We spent most of the afternoon and evening in our room getting to know each other.  Josh was able to get him to smile and giggle.  He says "ababa", which means Daddy, but he has not said Mommy yet.  He loved infant Oatmeal cereal and the puffs.  He definitely knows what he likes and doesn't like.  He also loves the board book that I made him with pictures of him and his new family and home.  He carried it with him everywhere on Saturday.  He took a 2 and a half hour nap on Saturday and slept through the night without any struggles.  We are in awe of how well he is doing so far, but I can also tell it will take a lot more time to attach to us.  Thank you for your continued prayers.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Bringing Dawit Home - Day 2

Wow!! I am not even sure where to start. We have been sooo busy.

Thursday morning, Josh and I woke up around 3AM and could not fall back asleep. We got ready and went down for breakfast on the 2nd floor of our hotel around 6:30A. There was a huge buffet of foods, mostly Ethiopian, which of course, Josh was very eager to try. We checked out of the hotel, bought more water at the bar, and then our driver, Biniyam, picked us up and started driving. Around 30 minutes in, we stopped along the side of the road and picked up Gezahegne (our legal support here in Addis). Another 15 minutes of driving and we were at the Ethiopian courthouse - a large building with numerous floors. We were patted down by police officers at the door and then we proceeded to the 3rd floor to a small courtroom. No cameras were allowed and we were told to leave our backpacks in the car. In the room, there were 6 pews, the judge’s desk and chair with a railing around 3 sides for someone to testify. Nothing on the cement walls or floors. While we waited around 15 minutes, several more groups of people were ushered in the room and they all looked like they were parents preparing to adopt. Some had their other children along too. And all had an Ethiopian legal representative with them. Then, a side door opened and we were led into the judge’s chambers, a small office with a desk and 6 or so guest chairs. The judge sat at his desk and his assistant sat next to the desk. For the next 5 minutes, he asked us many yes or no questions and checked off our responses on a form. He asked us questions about our family and if we had other children, if we lived in the country or city, if we knew others who had adopted from Ethiopia and if we maintained contact with them. He talked in English and very quietly. I remember Josh and I both sitting on the edges of our seats and leaning in so we could understand him At the end of the form, he signed his name really big at the bottom and we were done. Then I asked (because our agency told me to) if he would expedite the official final letter as were staying in country, and he smiled and said he would do so and it would be done in 15 minutes. When we left the chambers, the courtroom was standing room only, so we waited in the lobby area of the third floor. The center of every floor in the building was open air and the walls came up to a railing so you could see both up and down every floor. There was a skylight at the top, so everything was all lit up with daylight. After 15 minutes the assistant came out and gave Gezahegne a piece of paper. For the next hour and half we followed him around the building to get copies in a room with a copy machine and someone working it, then we went to another room where someone did something and then back to the copy machine room and then back to the room we came from, and then finally to a room upstairs again where we waited and waited. We ended up leaving before we got the official letter and Gezahegne said he would return in the afternoon to get it.

I asked if we could go back to Engida to see Dawit and Alemu said it was not possible today. Honestly, I was very disappointed because this is what we were planning on and had been told would happen. However, I didn’t push it.

We dropped Gezahegne off on the side of the road and then our driver took us to a museum at the Addis Ababa University. We were led by a guide who talked our way through every display. The electricity was out so the only light was that from the windows. And if you know me, backlight almost always gives me a migraine - and lo and behold - a migraine came 5 minutes into the tour. I couldn’t read anything, but Josh said he had a good time. Unfortunately, the aura flashes from the migraine wouldn’t go away even after 40 minutes, so we cut the tour short and left.

Then we drove to Alemu’s office, a green door in the wall, and waited to pick him up. Alemu joined us and this was the first we had really seen him, other than meeting him in the lobby the first day. Alemu speaks English, but our driver, Biniyam, not so much. So it was nice to have Alemu with us. Then we started the drive to Woliso, Ethiopia - Dawit’s hometown. But, on the way, we stopped at Engida to see Dawit. But he was sleeping, so we just peeked in and watched him sleep.
Dawit, sound asleep in his crib at Engida Orphanage, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Then we got back in the car and headed for Woliso.  On the way we stopped at a hotel to eat lunch. I ordered roasted chicken and it sure was roasted. I never did get to eat any of the chicken. It had been roasted and re-roasted so many times I couldn’t physically pull the leg from the thigh. Even Josh tried but it never came apart. No way was I going to be able to bite into it. So I ate some rice and a roll. I also tried injera with some beef from Alemu’s plate. I swallowed the injera fine, but the beef was a different story. It was all fat and no meat. Oh well.  After lunch we each had Macchiatos, which are Alemu's favorite, it seems.  

After a 2.5 hour drive we made it to the town of Woliso. We first went to AbdiWaq Orphanage where Dawit spent the first 8 months of his life. This was a very large orphanage with many children of all ages. None of the babies had diapers on. There were four different children sitting on potty chairs outside on the walkway. We didn’t stay long, but long enough to see which crib was Dawit’s.
Dawit's bed was the one with the yellow sheet.  

Then we went to St. Lukas Catholic Hospital. Two nurses brought us around the maternity ward. We were not allowed to take cameras into the hospital. The recovery room was lined with hospital beds on each side of the room like what we see today in WW2 movies.  This was an emotional stop for both of us.

We got in the car again and drove another 5 minutes to the Negash Lodge where we stayed the night. We checked in and had 50 minutes before we had to meet Alemu for dinner. Apparently our driver walked down the road and stayed at a different hotel. Josh and I walked around a bit before it got dark and took pictures of some of the other houses/rooms. This lodge was originally built by the government but is now privately owned. Each room is a type of traditional home from one of Ethiopia’s regions or states. We were in the Hugare House.
Our room for the night with 2 twin beds. 

The ceiling/roof of our room.
Our entryway to our room which was half of the house.

There was a beautiful fountain in the main entryway of the building where the restaurant was located.
Negash Lodge was so beautiful and had paths made of pavers leading to all the homes.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Bringing Dawit Home - Day 1

Here I sit, in the middle of the night, in the hotel room’s bathroom, sitting in the dry bathtub on my computer.  Josh is trying to sleep but of course, my mind is racing and will not let me.  We have been in Ethiopia almost 24 hours and have met our son, Dawit. 

We arrived via Ethiopian Airlines yesterday morning around 7:30 a.m.  After climbing down stairs that were wheeled over to the plane, we took a super short shuttle bus ride to the airport terminal.  Inside, we waited in lines to get our visitor’s Visas, go through immigration, gather our luggage and go through customs.  Then we wheeled our luggage on a cart outside where we met a shuttle van driver from the Friendship International Hotel. 

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the hotel and checked in.  When we made it to our room on the 3rd floor, we showered and attempted a couple hours of sleep. Around 12:30, we woke up and got ready to head to the orphanage.    

We brought 2 suitcases completely full of diapers (disposable and cloth), formula and a few toothbrushes.  We met Alemu (our agency’s on the ground contact) down in the hotel’s lobby at 2 p.m., but not before quickly gulping down to Coke’s in the hotel lobby bar.  Yes, Coke, no Mountain Dew anywhere in country. 

After meeting our driver and loading up his SUV, we drove around 45 minutes to Engida Orphanage.  Both side roads to get to Engida were closed and under construction, so we walked from one of the main roads carrying our backpacks and 2 huge pieces of luggage across a pile of large rocks, a pile of dirt and finally down the road they were working on.

Our driver rang the doorbell and knocked on the metal gate, much like the one my home had in Haiti, and we were greeted by a staff member of the orphanage.  She walked us to the back door and when she opened it, Dawit was sitting right there in the middle of the room on the floor, playing with a toy.
We immediately knew it was him.  I went right to him and sat down by him to start playing.  He was rather unsure of us at first.  I tried to sit him in my lap to play with some of the bubbles we brought, but he immediately climbed out and sat in front of me on the floor again. 

For an hour or so, we played with bubbles with the children on the floor, making a mess and cleaning it up with toilet paper.  Josh and I were both covered with bubble solution by the end.  Dawit hadn’t quite mastered blowing into the wand, but I am sure that is soon to come. 

Halfway in, one of the caregivers brought a tray with 6 or 7 Ikea plastic cups and spoons with mashed avocado.  They gave me Dawit’s portion and I tried to feed him but he cried and went to another caregiver.  She came back a few minutes later with baby cereal in a new cup and said he just doesn’t like avocado.  She fed him the cereal just fine with him sitting on the floor in front of her.   

Then I thought I might have smelled a dirty diaper, so a nanny took us upstairs to have his diaper changed, we were able to see his room and three of the other children who were either sleeping or playing upstairs with another nanny.  I think there are a total of 10 children at his orphanage right now… 4 girls and 6 boys.

You will notice when I post pictures after court, that Dawit has many Molluscum open sores on his face and neck.  He is being treated for this and apparently it has gotten better.   He also has a bandage on his finger.  Recently, his finger got caught in a door hinge.  We were told he went to the doctor for it for x-rays and there are no broken bones but I guess his finger nail is pretty damaged and sore.   We haven’t seen it yet and probably won’t till Saturday. 

This morning, we are checking out of our hotel and meeting in the lobby at 8 a.m. to head to an Ethiopian Court for a final hearing in our case.  If the judge is happy with our answers, we will officially be able to say Dawit is ours and FINALLY show pictures of him online.

The sights, sounds and smells here are all so similar to what I remember in Port-au-Prince.  Razor wire on the top of cement walls surrounding businesses and homes, right next to homes and buildings made entirely of corrugated sheet metal.  I think the extremes might be bigger here in Ethiopia though.  There is also a TON of construction in Addis, everywhere you look it seems.   Here is a picture of some scaffolding that looks so much like that is shown in “The Prince of Egypt” when the Egyptians force the Israelites to build things for them.  

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Our God is Faithful!

We are shouting it from the mountaintops: GOD ANSWERED OUR PRAYERS!!

Today, after receiving a suggestive hint from a fellow adoptive mama (thank you Chandra), I called our USCIS Case Officer, Ms. Higgins.  For the first time in 8 months, I reached her directly and did not have to leave a message.  I let her know I was calling to check on our case.  Every other time we have called, she would ask for our super long case number in order to locate our case info in her files.  Today, she immediately said, “oh yeah, I think I just approved your case.”  (Shock and awe and I think I stopped breathing.)  “Let me check.”  I think my heart was beating outside of my chest, it was so loud.  She asked me how I spelled my first name - J-A-C-L-Y-N - and then she found the file.   SHE HAD APPROVED OUR CASE YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Tears started flowing immediately and I asked her if she was serious.  “Yes, I sent it to my supervisor this morning for her approval.”  I said, “Praise God!  Thank you so much Officer Higgins for advocating for our son so he can come home.”  Then I asked about a timeline and what’s next.  Our official PAIR letter saying that Dawit has been approved as an orphan and is adoptable by Josh and me should be arriving in 7-10 business days.  I thanked her again and kindly hung up.  I immediately dialed Josh to tell him the amazing news through my sobbing.  As you can imagine, Josh was equally excited!

As soon as I finished my call with Josh, I apologized to the internet technician that was 5 feet away from me throughout these two conversations (I couldn't possibly wait until he left when I heard on Facebook there was a chance our case might be approved).  Poor man had no idea what was going on and why this freaky woman was sobbing so many happy tears in his presence.  Thankfully he was finished with his work and congratulated us on his way out. 

So then I called our social worker from Adoption Associates and shared the good news with her.  She let me know she would contact Alemu (their Ethiopian on the ground contact in Addis) and have him request our court date.  Yes, that’s right, OUR court date.  Meaning we get to travel to meet Dawit and BRING HIM HOME!!  See why we’re so excited?

And you know what?!  There is no reasonable or explainable explanation for why the US Attorney’s office sent our case back to USCIS for approval – except our Strong and Mighty and Faithful Father in Heaven made it happen.  God answers our prayers.  We have been praying for Dawit since before his birth Mother even conceived him.  God knew Dawit would need us as his parents and we would need him as our son.  He has been preparing our family for 3 years and 10 months on this journey so far.

So thank you.  Thank you family and friends for all your many prayers on our behalf.  Thank you for your questions and hugs and conversations and love.  Thank you for your financial support of this endeavor.  For buying t-shirts and bracelets and donating items to garage sales and buying things at our garage sales and supporting my Noonday business/fundraising and flat out giving us checks. Thank you for your support.  You will never know how much this has affected us.  May God bless you all richly.

Praising our Faithful Father,

Josh and Jaclyn

Monday, May 04, 2015


On February 23, we submitted more evidence to USCIS, provided by our Adoption Agency, that Dawit is a true orphan.  It was 45 pages long and contained translated documents from 3 different languages.  Although, it did not contain the exact information that USCIS was requesting, it did provide more evidence.

On April 2, having not heard anything at all, I reached out to our assigned USCIS Officer, and learned that our case had been passed along to the US Attorney’s office for review.  We were not given a reason, a timeline, a contact name, or a general idea if this was a positive or negative move.  Since this time, we have felt both helpless and clueless as to how to proceed.  Our agency also has not provided us any guidance.

Speaking of our agency, Adoption Associates, Inc. announced this past Friday that currently they have eleven families with waiting referrals (this includes us).  They are committed to seeing these placements through to the extent that will be possible.  They have come to learn and accept that the Ethiopian government is not moving forward with all aspects of its international adoption program. The approvals of current referral documentation, the actual court processes, and the granting of new referrals are all being affected. There continue to be ongoing insurmountable obstacles. The hands of the representatives are tied as well as those of the agencies.  Unless things dramatically change on the Ethiopian side of things, our agency will be closing its doors to Ethiopian adoptions.  So…we need to get our case moving in a positive direction so that our agency will be able to assist in Dawit’s adoption before they decide that it is not an “extent that will be possible.” 

After a lot of conversations, guidance and prayer, we have reached out to an Immigration Lawyer to assist us in having Dawit declared an orphan and available to adopt.  We have our first consultation with her on May 15. 

We have also just recently contacted an investigator/searcher in Ethiopia to assist us in confirming the details we already know about Dawit and also to attempt to locate a birth mother.      

We have requested assistance from our State Representative Lynn Jenkins as well as both of our State Senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.  We have not received word from any of these offices; however, the Senators were contacted just this morning.

Meanwhile, Dawit turned 19 months on April 27.  As far as we know, he is healthy and being cared for at an orphanage in Addis Ababa.

Please…pray with us for this process to be quick so he can come home.  Please pray for the 55 or so families that are with our agency now trying to decide how to proceed with their adoptions they have financially and emotionally invested in.  And please pray for the approximately 6 million children in Ethiopia who now have no chance of being loved unconditionally by a forever family.