Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Flight I Didn’t Cry On

The Flight Home

Every flight home from Ethiopia, I have bawled my eyes out the entire trip because we were leaving Micah. Not this time. ♥️

The night we left (Tuesday), the hotel had a coffee ceremony for the adoptive families. Micah and I made a few new friends, and one man from the hotel even gave us some free bags of special coffee. So kind. 😊

We got a late start to the airport. And had a bit of an adventure along the way. See me in person for more details. 😝 #thingsidowhenigodark

Saying goodbye to our drivers was hard. They are two of my best friends in the world. I hate that we live so far apart, and that I don’t know when I will see them again. But they are always in my heart. They are incredible people. As we walked up the long line to the entrance of the airport, we could see them, far away, signing ILY to us and waving. 

Enneigh emmet-all-low. I will come back. 

The first line of security went okay. Micah was not big on it. He didn’t like taking off his shoes or hoodie and he was slow as molasses. But we made it with minimal issues. 

The airport check-in was a mess. I used a kiosk because the line was ridiculously long, and Micah’s tickets came out, but mine did not. The kiosk told me to see an agent. Awesome. We weren’t checking luggage, so standing in line was going to be a complete waste. But we had to do it. The clock was ticking much faster than I liked, and Abe was sending me a bunch of texts, repeatedly asking if we had made it to the gate. No, we weren’t even close. 

We finally got to the desk, where the agent began yelling at me. Literally yelling. It was 8:30pm. My flight didn’t leave till around 10:30pm, but he was shouting that I was very, VERY late and should be cut from my flight. That I was irresponsible and shouldn’t be allowed on. He told me I didn’t have a visa to be in Ethiopia. I dig through my bag and found the e-visa that I had printed as backup. He hugged and puffed and muttered something at me. I don’t know what his problem was, but I *almost* told him to shut-up in Amharic. But I held my tongue and simply told him, “Sorry.”

He gave me my tickets and we moved to the next line. A line with two sides, but my side wasn’t moving. We stood there for an HOUR. 9:45pm. We got to a desk. The man told me I didn’t have a visa. I showed him the e-visa. He dismissed us. 

We took the escalator. Micah was pretty stressed at this point, but that made him happy. Then I stopped at an airport shop for water, because it was 9,000 degrees. 9:59pm. I paid an outrageous amount of birr (Ethiopian money) for two waters and then we ran to the second security. Where the guard promptly told me that we could not bring waters through. I seriously wanted to throw the water at him. We’d been in the airport for hours now and were parched. And late for our flight. I told him, “Fine, where do you want me to put the water?” He heaved a sigh and pointed to a countertop. I put the waters there, and he immediately gave them to another man to drink. I was pretty mad. We went through security again. I was wearing my jegna shirt....and I think in any other context where people are impressed, here they thought I might be a terrorist. I had no metal on my body and went through the body scanner and still a woman patted me down as if I was hiding drugs. Micah and I made it to our gate just as the boarding was starting. We weren’t even late, really. We should have drunk the water. Whateverrrrrrr. 

We stood in line for almost ANOTHER hour to board. We were in the last group. But we made it on. Our seats are okay, and the guy next to me keeps to himself, so we can relax. 

When the plane started to take off, Micah’s eyes got huge. I can’t describe his face; it was like he wanted to enjoy it, but he was freaked out. It was adorable, honestly. He asked me a million questions about the plane, how it work, what to do if it crashed, and all the exit routes. He’s so smart. I forgot to mention that yesterday he was YouTubing, “How to Prepare For Your First Plane Ride”. He kills me. πŸ˜‚ #lovethisboy

He watched movies for a few hours and then finally fell asleep. I had to stay up to supervise his movie choices. And then he proceeded to wake up multiple times freaking OUT because he was 3/4 asleep, and his neck hurt, and he didn’t know where he was. The people in our seating area don’t even blink how when he spazzes and sits up straight, while flailing and yelling. I just grab him and put his head on my shoulder and rock him till he calms down. He’s been falling back asleep pretty quickly. He’s very uncomfortable though. 

We landed in Dublin. Stayed on the ground one hour. Took off again. Micah and I watched a video together; the kid set the videos to the timing aligned perfectly and we could watch the same movie on each of our screens. I don’t even know what to do with him. 

There are no closed captions so he’s bored. The games on my phone don’t work because there’s no internet. And he’s definitely tired and under stress. I wish he’d sleep, so I could try to, but that doesn’t really look like it’s gonna happen. 

I changed the clock on my phone back to EST just now. That in itself was hard. It’s acceptance that my time in Ethiopia is over. It was hard to push the button. I want my clock to read 10:14am, not 3:14am. I want to smell coffee beans roasting and climb into an old van and eat exhaust for breakfast. I want to share secrets with my drivers....sound out Amharic characters on the signs we see as we drive. I want to laugh and use my broken Amharic and drink water from a blue bottle. I want to sit in a dark little house with precious friends, with incense burning, and injera in my lap. I want to watch thousands of people strolling casually, laughing, shouting, greeting each other with three kisses. I want to go home. To my Ethiopian home. 

We have about six hours left to fly. Maybe I’ll write again. I mean, we’ve got nothing but time. πŸ˜‰ 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

“Be.qe.” (bek-kah). We Are Finished.

Day Nine

Random updates from the past few days. I can’t keep anything straight any more. 

Today is Tuesday. Even though I can barely keep the days straight, and cannot blog simply from pure exhaustion, it’s Tuesday today. Of that I’m sure. This past Friday, Micah and I spent a ton of time at two hospitals. Micah needed a physical, a Hep B and MMR, a TB test, and some blood work. 

In Ethiopia, there is a lot of waiting wherever you go. You cannot expect to get anywhere quickly. The culture is different; it is laid-back and calm. There is no hurry. 

The hospital is no exception. We spent all day (I mean, 8 hours) going back and forth, waiting in line. The sick people go first. Then whoever else is left. It doesn’t matter who arrived first. It doesn’t matter who had an appointment. 

When it was finally our turn, we went into the examination room. Micah immediately became very nervous, and I realized this wouldn’t be easy. I talked to him and told him that he is a lion, a jegna, and that all his siblings had to do this too. I told him he was brave. We did the blood test first; they pricked his finger and tried to squeeze blood out. Micah freaked. And he was so dehydrated (people do not drink much water here) that he barely had any blood. They kept pricking him and I had to hold him. He buried his face in my shoulder and I tried to comfort him. Shortly after, they told us he needed the other shots. He was a mess. We survived. I explained that the shots meant that we could fly. I told him how proud I was of him. Seeing him in pain was terrible, but in the end, he was okay. 

Yesterday (Monday), we went and got Micah’s TB test read and got his blood work results. We waited in line for two hours. Finally, my driver told me to stand in front of the doctor’s door. When it opened, I would literally edge my way in and see the doctor. So I did. I stood in front of the door, and as soon as it opened, I slid inside. The doctor smiled at me. He loves me. Every person who finds out I can speak decent basic Amharic becomes my friend now. My drivers call me “Rihanna” as a joke, because they think I am so popular. Everyone wants pictures with me (I think the braids and my Amharic tattoos are making some serious impressions) and we call them my “paparazzi”. Anyway, the doctor greeted me cheerfully and spent a few minutes talking to me before he read Micah’s medical results. Everything was fine. I bid him farewell and he hugged Micah and told him to do well. I could see he was very happy for Micah. We went downstairs to wait for the medical file. We were supposed to be given a large envelope to take to embassy. We went to the waiting area. Again. I sat next to some older Orthodox women, dressed head to toe in their beautiful white traditional clothes. I could see they were not sure what to make of me, with my braids, my ripped jeans, my Orthodox cross necklace....and my Amharic. Micah and I were signing, when the woman closest to me finally leaned over. “You speak Amharic?” she asked. “Yes, a little,” I replied. “I love Ethiopia.” She smiled widely at me and patted my knee. 

We waited. 

I took out some paper and made a paper crane. The ladies next to me whispered in excitement. I started teaching Micah how to make one. The women watched intently. We made three, and then the old woman next to me leaned over. “Make one for my children?” she asked me. We gave her all the cranes. “God bless you,” I said (all our conversation was Amharic, of course). She squeezed my hand between hers and kissed me. My name was called and I went to the reception area. The woman handed me a single index-sized slip of paper. I glanced at it. “No no,” I said, “I need a big packet. This is not enough.” “Later,” she answered. “We will send his file to embassy later.” My driver was beckoning me, and telling me it was okay....against my will, I turned and we left. 

We drove to the embassy (where we were supposed to go immediately after, but with the packet). Micah and I went alone through security and got inside. We sat with the other families....only to be told we must come back in three hours, because without the medical packet, Micah could not have his interview. I knew Micah wouldn’t understand why we were leaving, and he has been dying to get his passport, so I explained we were coming back after we got lunch. I told him, “We don’t want to sit here for three hours, so let’s eat and come back.” He nodded and we went back outside. 

Our driver took us to a delicious juice shop. Micah had avacado juice (like a smoothie) and I had avacado, mango, papaya, and pineapple. The three of us shared a huge salad, which was incredibly delicious. It consisted of lettuce, cooked beets, carrots, and potatoes, avacado, banana, jalapeΓ±o-like peppers, as well as other fruits and veggies. They poured lemon and lime juice all over it and sprinkled salt. It was amazing. 

After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a bit. My dear friend showed up with a huge bag of food she had made for us: shiro, messir wet, fir fir, and gomen, along with injera. This girl is always feeding me, and trying to take care of me. Micah and I were stuffed, so we set the food aside for later. 

We went back to the embassy. Got through again. (This is not as easy as it sounds haha.) Then, I bet you can’t guess!!!.....we waited. And waited. And finally were called to the window. They took Micah’s fingerprints electronically and made us swear to tell nothing but the truth. Then they proceeded with the interview. The guy was very kind, and it went smoothly. I was interpreting for Micah, as best I could, since he doesn’t have much language. The man asked, “It says here that he has a medical condition. You’re aware of the details of that and you still wish to proceed? If yes, please sign this form of acknowledgement and acceptance.”

Micah was like, “What’s he saying?” And I responded, “He is asking if I still want you because you’re deaf. And that’s the whole reason I fell in love with you in the first place!!! I love deaf!!!!!”

Micah grinned and elbowed me. I signed the form. And together we completed the interview. “Come back tomorrow for his visa,” the man told me. “It is approved and will be ready in the morning.”

We returned to the hotel. I immediately emailed our travel agent and asked if there were flights for Tuesday night. She’s amazing, and responded quickly. There was a flight, going through Dublin and arriving in Dulles. I booked it immediately. We were coming home!!!!! We didn’t have the visa, but I knew it would be fine. 

I didn’t tell Micah, just on the off chance that something might go wrong and he would be crushed. I cannot, WILL NOT let this boy down.  So I stayed silent about our flights. 

It was a long night. Micah has a lot of nightmares and he is a restless sleeper in general. I haven’t slept much since arriving here, because I am constantly running to him in the middle of the night. Last night was no exception. He woke up sobbing and I have never moved so fast. I grabbed him and held him tight till he calmed down. He technically slept through the rest of the night, but I was up multiple times as he was restless. 

In the morning, I packed our stuff up. Hen we got ready for embassy. The agency staff was not going to be there at all; I was responsible to go get Micah’s visa myself. I wasn’t scared. We went to the embassy yet again; the security guards were my friends by now. We laughed and joked and they applauded my Amharic. Then we went again to the waiting area. 

Say it with me.....we waited. 

Then we were called to the second window. The woman didn’t speak English. I told her why we were there, and she left for a moment. She returned with a huge stack of paperwork....and Micah’s visa and passport. She handed it through the window and had me sign a paper. I told Micah, “This is IT. We are FINISHED!!!!” He smiled and we fist-bumped. I signed. The lady wished us luck and we thanked her. And I walked my son, with every. single. piece. of paperwork. out the door. We had done it. GOD had done it. My son was FREE!!!!!

Our van was waiting for us. We went to a coffee shop, where my driver bought me two bags of potent coffee beans. Then we met our other driver and went to lunch. There was an escalator and Micah went straight to it. I asked him if he knew what to do; he said yes. I knew immediately that he DIDN’T know, as he out his foot between the steps and almost fell. I caught him and we went to the top. I told him to watch the end and step off, but he didn’t know what to do and almost fell again. I basically saved his life again. 

We had an amazing lunch. I had beef tibs, as always, and Micah ordered a burger. He doesn’t even like burgers, but he associates them with America, and he desperately wants to be in America. So he got his burger. He ate less than half. But he did eat his French fries, sooooo..... ☺️

Now we are at the hotel. It’s 5:35. Our driver will be here in about two hours. Our flight is 11pm. We are packed and just chilling. Micah watched a thousand drone videos and then I stole my phone back to blog. 

More random updates. 

Let’s talk about me. 

I don’t like rules. I know many make sense. And are often set in place for protection. But generalization is not my thing. And I tend to be a rule breaker. 

Simple rules for Ethiopia (for firinge-foreigners) are:

-Don’t go to the main market (thieves and potential attacks)

-Don’t eat the fruit or vegetables (hard to clean and you never know what the water to clean them looks like)

-Only drink bottled water

-Don’t get in random taxis

-Don’t walk around the city 

-Don’t eat anything uncooked

-Don’t eat anything prepared by sick people

I’ve broken all of these rules about a billion times on this trip. I have drunk buna (coffee) prepared by loving hands with the best they had to offer. (Poor Abe and Liv really suffered from that one). I have eaten food prepared in places that would not be acceptable in America. I have eaten raw foods. Foods prepared by sick people. I ate a huge plate of fruits and veggies and have had juices three days straight. I went to a main market on Saturday night in the dark to find necklaces for my girls. (My driver was with me! πŸ˜‰) I went to a main market today (where I was attacked four years ago and the men stole my phone.....and I got it back!!!) and bought more necklaces, by myself. 

And every single one of these experiences was special and I cherish each of them. Especially the food. When people are giving you everything they have, it is impossible to refuse. It would be an insult. And so I eat and drink and eat and drink. 

And my stomach is telling me today that it is not entirely pleased with me. 😝

Let’s talk about Micah. 

The kid is a genius. Like, seriously. He can wire electricity. He loves electronics and building. He constantly takes my phone and in English, types, “How to build a quadro-copter something-or-other” and “How to make a DIY drone”. He’s OBSESSED with drones. And drinking tea. He will fit right in with my other kids there. He drinks tea 24/7. The kid can spell in English too. The first time he wanted a burger, he didn’t know the sign, so he spelled it. B-U-R-G-E-R. He kills me. So. Intelligent. So much potential. He is literally the smartest person I have EVER met. He learns almost instantly. He’s TEXTING (basic stuff, but still!) to the kids in English. 

Something else about this kid. He is STRONG. He is strong, and he trusts me. He is not the kind of person to easily give his trust. In fact, I’m not sure he trusts anyone other than me and a few of his friends from the orphanage. 

He has a huge second-degree burn on his left hand. When I asked about it, he told me he fell in a fire. 

That was true. 

The nannies told me more. 

On Monday, when we came to see him, and I promised we were coming back for him on Tuesday, he was ecstatic. Tuesday came. I had problems getting the court decree, if you recall. I fought for it all day. 

Micah waited all day. 

It started getting close to dusk. Micah had been asking the nannies a thousand times when I was coming. He told them, “My mom promised she was coming. She WILL come!!!” The nannies, unsure (it was almost dark), told him they didn’t know if I would make it that day. 

Micah was furious. He desperately wanted to leave. To be with us. And I had promised him. 

Do you remember when I said I was going to sleep outside the orphanage or get dragged away. Thank God. Seriously. Because this kid trusts me with his LIFE. And I cannot, CANNOT ever lose that. 

He was furious. The nannies were doubting my return. But I had promised. He believed me. And he wanted to LEAVE. 

In a huge fit of anger, an incredible show of trust that I would keep my word, and an insult to those doubting his mother.....he built a huge fire. And burned EVERYTHING he owed. Everything. Clothes, shoes, awards and certificates from school for his innovations, gifts from friends....he destroyed his material life. The ONLY things he kept were the picture albums he had from me over the years. Pictures of his family. Everything else, he burned to ashes. Somehow, during this episode, he also fell into the fire  

When I heard this, I was stunned. I had wondered why he came to me with absolutely NOTHING after twelve years in the orphanage. Now I know why. Because he loves me. And trusts me. Trusts me enough to annihilate everything he owned in the world on the basis that I would keep my word and come get him. 

Never before have I so fervently and deeply prayed I will never hurt this trust. 

I asked Micah if that story was true. He simply said it was. I told him I loved him. He nodded. 

Nothing more needs to be said. 

Monday, March 26, 2018



But first, our Micah Attachment Plan!

Bahahah, I tricked you into opening this post! But don't worry, airport details will follow at the bottom. ;)

Now you may be thinking: an attachment plan? What???? What does that even mean? Why would they need one? Aren't they getting an older child? 

An attachment plan is just what it sounds like. We have to figure out how to make Micah trust us, bond with us, depend on us, and realize that we will NEVER leave him and that we will ALWAYS care for him. 

Micah has a personal history that we will not be sharing or discussing. Adopted children often experience multiple traumas, including, but not limited to: abandonment, witness to extreme trauma, abuse, and/or moving multiple times with no warning or explanation. They often have had numerous adults in their life (none of them permanent) and communication barriers (or no communication at all) with their care-givers for years. They have lost their biological families. Considering these and many other possible scenarios that may or may not have been part of Micah’s experiences, it can only be expected that he will have attachment issues. We want him to learn that WE are his parents forever, and we want him to know that it is safe to attach to us. We do not want him trying to attach or depend on others. 

Also, while Micah WANTS desperately to be with us, he is still losing EVERYTHING he has ever known. Everything. This will result in incredibly deep pain and sorrow. And grieving. This is not our first time around the block. We cannot fathom what our kids are going through, but we can empathize and feel FOR them. And we do our best to protect them, especially during this transition. 

Therefore: attachment-plan-a-la-Ruper. :)

So here is what we have decided. On our "airport day", the day when we finally come home with the Micah (March 28th, 2:15pm, wink wink*), anyone and everyone is welcome to come to the airport. We WANT as many people there as want to come, to celebrate one of the happiest moments and greatest victories of our lives. :) Please be there!!!!! 

On the "airport day", you can bring balloons and signs and cameras. Basically, it's a party, except that we ask you do not GIVE Micah anything, and also that you do not TOUCH him. No hugs or kisses. THIS. APPLIES. TO EVERYONE. No exceptions. Remember, you have seen pictures of him, but he does not know who most of you are. Imagine being taken from everything and everyone you know, leaving with the one person you can only superficially communicate with, and not in your wildest imagination be able to envision where you are going. Imagine leaving a courtyard with small wooden buildings (no electricity) where you sleep and then coming to America on a PLANE. Imagine being surrounded on the trip home by thousands of people you don't know, who do not speak your language, and being exhausted and given unfamiliar food and being forced through airport security and customs. Imagine FINALLY landing after 30+ hours of traveling and being greeted by a large group of unknown white people (when you are used to seeing brown skin) and all of them want to touch and hug and kiss you. They are all staring at you. Some are crying, some are grinning. And you can't ask what's going on, who they are, or what's happening. Completely overwhelming. So we've decided that we cannot allow anyone to touch Micah. NO ONE. Period. Thank you for your understanding and please feel free to hug me and Abe! ;)

*IMPORTANT NOTE* You may take as many pictures as you want, but you cannot post them yet. If you come to the airport party, you will know why, and Abe will clarify for you at that time. Again, NO POSTING AIRPORT PICTURES. See Abe with questions. 

Also, no presents, no snacks, etc. Thank you so much for your generosity but he needs to learn that everything he need comes from us. This will do wonders in helping him attach to us and learn to trust and love us. (PS, if you want to SEND presents, or give them to me and Abe to give to him at our discretion, that is fine with us. :))

After the "airport day", we will be staying home as a family to work on our new "normal" and to start bonding as a family. We will not be allowing visitors at all for about 5-8 weeks. During this time we will work on teaching him to trust us. Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but it really isn't. If we happen to make a trip as a family and you see us, feel free to say hello and chat but please do not touch Micah or give him anything. You CAN talk to him and interact though; I'm sure he would love it. :)

After eight weeks, we will allow family and close friends to visit us if they want. During these visits, you are welcome to play with and communicate with Micah! :) We would love that. And we are sure he will too. You are extremely important in his life. The only clause is: (say it with me!) that you may not touch him  (no hugs or kisses) and you may not give him anything. No presents. No giving him a drink if he is thirsty. No feeding him. No helping him complete a task. Abe and I will be taking care of that to ensure he knows WE are his caretakers, even in the presence of other adults. 

After ten-twelve weeks, we will evaluate how we feel Micah is doing and figure out how we will proceed from there.

Now lots of people have been asking, "But last time, you didn't have any other kids. You can't put everyone’s lives on hold for 8-12 weeks! They can't stay home that long. And what about their activities? What about church? What about ___________ (fill in the blank)????

Actually, we've decided to make all of our kids become shut-ins and heathens. We don't want them to have fun, and we'd like to end their social lives. 

Or not. :)

Don't worry!!!! :) Our kids have personally experienced this (and they all turned our amazing!) and COMPLETELY understand and agree with our attachment plan. And they are DYING to spend extended time with Micah. We’ve got this on lock. The kids will continue with their normal lives. And we will be doing activities as a family. Living our lives. Basically, they are going to be FINE! :) No worries. We are just focusing on bonding as a family at the same time. :)

Thank you for your understanding! We love you all, are so glad to have you in our lives, and can't wait to introduce you to our precious Micah!!!! 

Now for the coveted flight details!!! We are flying into our home city, of course. We will be coming in from Dulles, on a United flight, on Wednesday, March 28th. Scheduled to land at 2:15pm. Basically, go to the airport and go up the escalator. Go all the way left. That's it! If anything changes, I will post it to my Facebook. 

Hope to see you there! LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

Day Eight.

Day 8. 

Let’s talk about opaque glass. 

Micah and I are sharing a room. Full size beds, plenty of’s the nicest place I’ve ever stayed at in Ethiopia. 

But it has one major flaw. 

The bathroom is attached to the bedroom and only separated by an opaque glass partition. 

This poses an awkward situation for me and my teenage son. To use the bathroom requires strategy and finesse. We take turns sitting in the corner next to the bathroom on the door side. We keep all the lights off. Sometimes we kick each other out of the room. 

A shower is much more difficult. During the day, we have been running around non-stop for paperwork. From eight in the morning till seven or eight at night. So I let Micah have the shower before we leave or after we come home. But for me? Here’s my current shower routine:

Wake up in the middle of the night. Use my phone on the dimmest setting as a light. Use every pillow and blanket to build a wall next to Micah. *IF* he wakes up, he knows this means “STAY”. The wall serves two purposes: to block the light from my phone, and to block any view to the bathroom at all. It’s pitch dark, and I make sure the electricity in the room is off (so simple; this hotel requires a card to be in a tiny slot for the electricity to come on, so I just removed the card). 

Go into the bathroom and set up everything I need. Turn the water on. Close and lock the door. Turn the phone light off. Shower in the pitch darkness. 


Today was fun. My two friends came and picked us up in the morning, and we went to a hair salon. Micah played on my phone (I have downloaded a tone of drone flying games for him) and I picked a hairstyle. Then one of the ladies at the shop cornrowed me. 

Let me tell you, it was a LOT of work for her. My hair wasn’t meant to be cornrowed, and this was a VERY professional salon where she did tiny TINY braids and made sure they were straight as arrows. I grinned like a crazy person the whole time. All the women getting their hair done kept asking me if it was too tight, but I told them in Amharic, “No, it’s fine, I’m strong.” (Side note: when she was done, I have to admit, I could barely smile anymore, because my face was pulled backwards by those braids. It was like natural Botox. And the first night I went to bed after that, I barely slept. When you lie down, the pressure automatically pulls backwards; it HURT. It was a long night. But totally worth it. Now I’m on the second night, and it’s fine. Only slightly uncomfortable.) 

It only took about two hours to do my head and I had a blast. I chatted off and on with various women, and watched very closely as to how my hair was being braided. The braids are so tight and so perfect. It’s incredible. They only had dark extensions, of course, so my hair is back to black. 

I feel like a warrior. 

The woman was kind enough to even let me video her while she braided. I wanted to be able to see so I can practice on the girls. When she was finished, I gave her a huge hug. It was stunning. 

After the braids, we walked to my friend’s house for lunch and coffee. She had served up a feast. In Ethiopia, when you visit someone and they prepare food, they insist that you eat and eat and eat. And EAT. Micah and I are constantly borderline exploding. Especially since we visit several people every day, and everyone wants to feed us. 

I love going to this friend’s house. It’s a tradition that the three of us have; to eat and have coffee together in this house. It’s full of love and laughter and happiness.....and incense!!! It’s one of my favorite times and places to be. I drank four cups of coffee. There I go, breaking the rules again. In Ethiopia, you drink up to three cups. The coffee is incredibly strong. And delicious. And addicting. 

Afterwards, my driver came and got us, and we drove to see my other three kids. We took a different road than usual, and got lost on a mountain. We ended up at a roadblock, where construction was happening. To turn back and go around would have taken more than an hour. My driver (and one of my best friends) told me, “Wait here!” Then they hopped out and went and spoke to one of the crew heads. The man looked over and gave the thumbs up. My driver returned and grinned. “I told him to please let us through, because I have a very pretty friend who needs to get through here.” 

Whatever works, right? πŸ˜‚ We were still lost and drove around asking random people where to go. Everyone pointed in a different direction. Finally, I saw a landmark I knew. I told my driver, “Go left! I remember this!” They responded, “Marissa, we have to meet at the church. We don’t know where we are.” “No,” I insisted. “I can get us there.” I had walked before, and taking the streets was different, but I guided her through the town. “But the church!” she said. “Forget the church! This way!!!!” And five minutes later, we were outside their gate. “How did you DO that?!?!” my driver asked incredulously. “My heart,” I replied. “My heart knew where my babies were.”

I got to spend the rest of the afternoon with my other kids. It was a precious, precious gift. They are so big. So amazing. I am in awe of their strength and character, and I long for them to be home. 

They fed me, again. A second lunch. And three more cups of coffee. I am WIRED, to say the least. 

Felecia gave me a gift; a coffee ceremony cloth (like a big table runner) that she wove herself. It is incredibly beautiful, and must have taken her more than twenty hours. The stitches are small and perfect. It is gold and white and green, with faux grass, so we can have coffee ceremonies in America. It is absolutely beautiful. My most precious gift. 

I also received shiro powder (chickpea), berbere (the famous Ethiopian spice), and kollo (a nut mix that is served with the coffee ceremony). All of it was handmade and prepared; not store bought. Made with love. 

When it was time to go, Felecia’s eyes filled up. She is 16 now; beautiful, responsible, and an absolute angel. When I look at her, my heart explodes. Matthew gripped me in a hug....and wouldn’t let go. He is 11; tall and quiet, with deep dark eyes that see everything. But for that moment, he was a little boy again, wanting me to shelter him. I held him for an eternity. “I WILL come back,” I whispered as I rocked him. When I finally let him go, I ran straight back to him and hugged him again. My baby. 

I kissed and hugged everyone a million times. When I finally climbed into the car, I opened the window and locked hands with my kids. We were all starting to cry. The car pulled away. 

I waved the “ILY” sign back and forth. They did too. I had one hand out the window, the other as close to the back windshield as I could. I love you. I love you. I love you. They followed the car, running after it to see it as the gap between us began to grow. 

I love you, I love you, I love you. 

They grew smaller. We all waved harder. I climbed half out the window. My babies. My babies. We turned a corner and they disappeared. 

I love you, I love you, I love you. 

I felt my heart shattering. Tears started streaming down my face. I grabbed Micah’s hand and sat, trying to breathe, trying not to die. This trip has been an incredible victory, a dream come true, a total miracle. But I still have three children waiting for me. Three children depending on me. Three children I would die for. 

I love you, I love you, I love you. 

Enneigh emmet-ah-low. I WILL come back.