11:02pm ET time. I'm lying in bed (Abe has been out for 40 minutes) and I'm trying to process how to write. What to write. I can't possibly include or explain everything we are seeing and doing and I desperately wish my eyes could be a camera so that I could record EVERYTHING. There is so much I wish I could show you. I'm going to try and pick up where I left off yesterday, but yesterday is already hazy. Everything is happening so fast.
Today was incredible and yet heartbreaking. We woke up at 7:30am and then just laid in bed and talked for 45 minutes. Mostly we kept saying how beautiful our kids are. We are just so amazed by them. They are the most incredible kids I've ever met in my life. And I'm not just saying that because they are mine. They are just SO amazing. I feel so incredibly blessed and I am sooooo lucky that I can claim to be their mom and yet really can't take credit for how incredible they are.
We finally got up and Abe showered. I'm waiting till Saturday. Disgusting? Maybe. But the water here is not safe and I don't want to risk any more than I have to. We haven't gotten sick at ALL (not from the food or the trip) and I want to keep it that way. Abe went downstairs and ate and I grabbed a pop tart. Then I made sure our bags were packed with donations, paperwork, and stuff for the kids and we headed out. Yonas had us pile into a van and we drove to the court building.
Driving is a whole other experience that I could write a book on. There are NO rules of the road. Cars are EVERYWHERE, at every speed and vehicles just manhandle their way through. I've never seen anything like it. It's like adult bumper cars, only way more dangerous. Pedestrians are all over the place dodging cars and we pass within INCHES of them. Everyone is swerving and weaving like they are drunk. There are dead dogs on the sides of the road everywhere. I don't know HOW we haven't hit anyone or another car. I'm going to video it, because I really do not have the words to explain it.
Back to court. We arrived and climbed a bunch of stairs, which is hard because the air is REALLY thin here (major altitude change). The steps were all made of marble because the marble lines are so close, but it feels like a contradiction with the rest of the building, which is not at all like an American court. We were ushered into a room full of chairs and we all sat. And waited. Lots of other agencies and families filed in and we squished together to make room. It was chilly and we had no idea what to expect. About fifteen minutes in, I saw Hanna's little face peeking through the door and when she saw us, she grinned. She and Levi came over and gave us long hugs and then sat in the back of the room. We turned around in our seats and kept signing "ILY" to them and then we played some ABC and number games with Levi from across the room. After the room emptied a little, they let me go sit with Hanna and Levi and I read a traveler's book to them and we practiced signing. About 40 minutes after we had arrived at court, we got called into the judge's room with four other families. The judge started asking us questions about the kids and if we really wanted to adopt them, etc., and we were all so nervous. We were only in there about five minutes though, and she passed all of us on the spot. It was such an amazing feeling. I felt like my heart was whole.
We went back out and found the kids. I've been working on explaining to Levi everyday that when we leave, we will come back. I want him to know that when we leave on Sunday, we WILL come back for him. We signed that we would see him tomorrow and hugged them both. Then we were taken away.
We went out to eat at a really cool restaurant that appeared to be made from bamboo on the inside. I ordered beef tibs, which is beef in a spicy hot sauce on peppers and other vegetables with injera (the local bread, like a damp, sort of sour tortilla). It was really good. My friend Carrie had to go to the bathroom, but often the bathrooms don't have toilet paper OR doors. I went with her to block the door, but we found the door and so I left. There's more to the story, but I won't share till Carrie gives the okay ;).
After lunch we were brought to the guesthouse to pick up our donations. Then we drove to the Transition Home. The kids came running over to see us and Hanna grabbed my arm and clung to it. Such an incredible feeling. Levi gave me a huge hug. We took the kids to the schoolroom and started reading a book that I brought with signs in it (thank you KIERSTEN!!!). We were teaching Levi new signs and soon were surrounded by 12-15 kids and all of them were signing with us. It was SO cool! They all adore Levi and communicate with him SO well. I can't believe how much they all love to try and sign with him. It almost makes me sad to bring him here, where many people WON'T try. His friends are amazing and they just want love. They all snuggle up and hold your hands. I feel like I could hug them for DAYS and never get enough.
We played Uno after and were amazed to see that all the kids, down to some 5-6 year olds were pros at it! The game was smoking fast and so fun! It was one of the best moments of my life (top 5). Every kid was chattering and signing and laughing and snuggling up and throwing their cards around and they were so HAPPY. These kids have nothing and they are HAPPY. So cheerful and they share and are so kind and sweet. I don't understand. It's so amazing. I feel honored to even be here with them.
Someone called me for donations in the middle of the game so I went and brought those to the counting area. That went by fast, but they were so grateful for everything. I wish I could have brought a million more bags.
(Abe and I debated on sharing this next part. We decided to go ahead and do it, because we feel it is an important part of ours and the kids' story, but we will not be sharing any further information regarding it, as it is very private. Thank you.)
We played Uno some more and then we got called and were told that the birth mother was here. We weren't ready at all. We grabbed our camera and the pictures that I had for her and followed our guide across the street. We walked in and a man came up and shook my hands and kissed my cheeks. I found out he was the birth father. Then their mother came up and hugged and kissed me. She is so tiny and beautiful. We went into a tiny room with glass walls and sat across from them and a translator sat near us. We asked questions and they asked questions and we talked for almost half an hour. If you don't want to cry your eyes out, don't read any farther. I asked if the kids had any specific characteristics when they were young and what their favorite activities were. She told me, "My children have never played. Always they were helping me try to find grass (a special grass that is served for a coffee ceremony) to sell so we could eat. They did not play. They have never played." She also said that often she would beg the neighbors for food for them because she had none. I started tearing up the moment she said they had never played and it only got worse. I asked if there was anything that she wanted us to tell them; anything specific she wanted us to make sure they remembered. She said (crying), "I want them to know that I worked so hard for them. I took care of them all by myself and I tried so hard. I want them to know I love them so much and I am dying so I cannot care for them. I will die soon. I did my best for them. I give them to you. All responsibility I give to you before God. I give you my children. I give them to you before God." She was crying so hard and so was I. I mean, we were SOBBING in that tiny office. I grabbed her hand and Abe did too and we all cried and cried. I told her, "I promise!!! I promise to love and take care of them forever. I promise." We cried for a long time. Then Abe told her we will send Levi to a deaf school and I told her we are having whole conversations with them. She started smiling through her tears then and said that she knew, and that Levi had told her we could sign, and that he was SO excited. I gave her pictures of the kids and she was just kissing the photos over and over. We cried some more and then we took some pictures and then walked back over to the Transition Home together. (FYI, I'm bawling as I write this. It's so painful to write, and so private, but I don't want to forget any of what happened and I think it's important for people to read this. To understand why we all need to be adopting.). The kids came up to us (tons of other kids and families were in a half circle around us) and were smiling at us. Levi and Hanna/Zahria's mom was hugging and kissing them. Hanna ran over to me and wrapped my arm around her so she was up tight next to me. Her mom called her and I gave her a little push. Her mom started speaking to her in Amharic, telling her I was her mother and to listen to me and that I would take care of her and that she loved her. The mother and I were both crying really hard. She handed me Hanna and sent Levi over to me. Someone snapped a few pictures of us all and then she said something to the kids, and shook my hand and kissed me. Our tears were worse than the rainy season. I grabbed off my opal ring that Abe gave me five or six years ago and put it in her hand. She kissed me, put Hanna in my arms, and turned and basically ran. I have never felt so honored, or so horrible in my whole life. Hanna and Levi were smiling when they were next to us and Hanna was holding so tight. I picked her up and promised her I would never leave her. I promised Levi. And then I cried and cried. That beautiful woman gave me the most precious things she had. The two greatest gifts in her world, and in mine. I can't even tell you what it felt like. To know she trusted me and gave me her treasures and to know that she is dying and loves them so much kills me. I feel like such a huge, HUGE responsibility has been given to me, and I swear I will do well for her.
Levi took us to a seat and I mostly just hugged Hanna (Levi is too manly for more than a few hugs at a time). Then we played Uno and I asked Levi about getting an American name. His Ethiopian name is Tamirat (Miracle.....how fitting) and then we looked at photos on my phone and camera. He thought my brother Josh was hysterical, and my Dad (his "papa"). I had pictures of my parents and my dad was being really stupid and making crazy expressions and Levi was laughing out loud. #incredible
Yonas called me to take pictures of Kalkidan (my girl Lindsey's baby) and she was so funny! She came right up to me and held my hands and walked with me. We went outside and I tried to get her to smile but she just looked everywhere but at me and kept rubbing her eyes (she had just woken up). Then she noticed my camera and went after it. I let her touch it but she started pushing buttons so I pulled out my iPhone. She GRINNED. I mean, ear-splitting grin. I sat her in my lap and we took self photos and then I let her play with it. Instantly I had 10 or so kids on top of me (literally) all wanting to see the pictures on my phone. Kalkidan was hysterical; she was pushing these big 5-8 year olds away from her and hugging my iPhone. She would make these angry attitude faces at the other kids who tried to touch the phone and I was laughing so hard. I turned on some fiddle music for them and they loved it. I showed them pictures of Levi and Hanna and they would all chant: "Tamiru! Hanna! Tamiru! Hanna!" It was so precious. They all wanted to have a picture with me but I wasn't allowed to take any of them.
We left the Transition Home around 4:30pm and at 7:30pm got picked up for a traditional dinner. There was live music and dancing. It was pretty cool. We tried honey-wine (no one was a fan haha) and ate injera. All of the meats and sauces and dippings were delicious. The dancers came down and started making people dance with them and they grabbed Abe. We had vowed NOT to dance but I pushed him up anyway. They made him dance and then carry some girl around and it was hysterical. THEN later they came back for him and made him stand up on stage and do another crazy dance. He tried REALLY hard and did a good job! The Ethiopians are CRAZY win their should movements but he did so awesome! Then some girl came for me and challenged me to a shoulder dance and I went right at it (and sucked) but it was fun and she was laughing with me. Totally crazy to dance in front of the whole restaurant. We looked like insane people haha, and so uncoordinated compared to the Ethiopians haha. So glad we did it though! Although Abe threatened me if I show the videos I shot (oops! Did I say I shot a video? I DID!!!!......).
Now we are back at the guesthouse and I'm going to bed. I wanted to catch up on yesterday's post but I need to sleep.
I can't believe the kids are ours, after such an insane fight. I love them so much.