It's been a long, exhausting journey. The kids and Abe are asleep (it's 8:54pm....1:45pm in the States), and I am sitting out on the balcony. That's right, we have a little balcony. It's overlooking Addis and I am watching the shadowy figures milling around; the flickering lights dimming to darkness. I'm listening to the dogs bark and club music blare, and most of all, I'm enjoying the cool breeze. We are on the fourth floor and I feel like a did or squirrel, quietly observing the world below. My lips are burning because I just ate Z's leftover dinner, which was 50% jalapeño peppers. My Crystal Light iced tea is in my hand and I am STILL.
Granted, I just had the CRAP scared out of me when I stepped onto the balcony (which has a railing that is barely waist-high). Everyone was asleep and I was quietly slipping outside for some peace and coolness when BAM!!!! Something the size of a loaf of bread exploded straight at my head in a burst of dust and screams.
I wish I could say I reached out and punched it, but I didn't. I jumped out of my skin while giving a small scream and ducked into a ball as it barreled past me and shot off the balcony into the darkness.
A bird. A giant, freaking pheasant-like creature who screamed indignantly as it flew off to better sleeping grounds. While I was left hyperventilating and then laughing. The kids and Abe are gonna LOVE this story tomorrow.
Anyway, the trip.
The trip was long and hard. We started it off on the wrong foot by giving into the kids begging us to let them stay up all night till 4am when we were scheduled to leave for the airport. Their reasoning? (They had already tossed and turned the whole night before from excitement.) If they stayed up, they would be completely exhausted and sleep on the plane.
It sounded like solid logic at the time. Looking back, oh how I wish I had bought that melatonin. And possibly whatever that stuff was they they froze Hans Solo with in Star Wars so that I could have spared them the misery of that flight and unfreezed them when we arrived in Addis.
Problem A: my kids had glamorized flying in their minds. They remembered leaving Ethiopia, sitting in a seat with a pillow and blanket, "delicious" airplane food, and the EXCITEMENT. They remembered unlimited movies, chosen at their own discretion.
Reality hit them pretty hard. The airplane was crowded, hot and we were seated in the tail, one of the last rows. The food was standard airline fare. And last time I did allow them to watch movies, but only what I approved of, of course. Which was like two movies at the time, and one was Ice Age. Which they watched three times during the flight. This time there were only two new movies that I approved of and four old ones. Insert complaining.
The flight to Ethiopia is thirteen hours there (it will be 18 hours coming home, including a stop in Rome). Zahria, who get motion sick very easily, started to get nauseous within the first thirty minutes. We had a lot of turbulence and she was getting really sick. I had Dramamine for her, but it didn't seem to be helping. She was MISERABLE. About an hour or so in, she started puking. While I was prepared for it, let me just say, a sick child on an airplane is not easy. I won't go into details, but I will say that she threw up about ten times on the flight. The turbulence was pretty much the whole flight, and I spent the whole time holding her and luckily the last couple hours she passed out and slept. Poor baby.
When we landed, there was a mile long line at the visa desk, and so we waited in the stifling area for a solid hour before getting visas. The airline hadn't given us entry cards (even when we asked for them) and the visa woman was not pleased, but she didn't speak English (and we don't speak Amharic, I'm sure you guessed) and there were a hundred people behind us, so she just signed off on us.
We finally got to our driver (the BEST EVERRRRR!!!) and made it to the guesthouse. Because Z was so sick, I told the staff we would be staying in and resting instead of going to church. Later, I found out that because of Al Queda (sp?) threats as well as issues with Somalia, that we weren't allowed to go out in public except where necessary and definitely not where large gatherings were. Kidnappings have become more prevalent and the US embassy sent out an email warning travelers.
We had to go with the other families to lunch before going to the Transition Home (TH) to meet Nat. The other families are great and we were happy to eat, but it was torture waiting to see Nat again. Finally, we drove to the TH and I bounced out of the car like a crazy woman. I saw lots of kids from February and I side hugged them as I went to the spot we were supposed to stand to wait for Natalie. A friend had my phone to record, and we stood there, so excited. Abe and Levi and Z were freaking out to meet her and I was dying to see her beautiful little face again.
She came out, gave a little cry, and ran straight at us. Straight into my arms. My little stoic baby, who doesn't cry, who is as tough as nails, clung to my neck and cried into my shoulder. I started crying too. Abe and Levi and Z wrapped themselves around her in a circle and we just stayed there, hugging and crying. "We came, baby! I promised you I would come back!!!" I signed, and she nodded and wrapped her arms around my neck again.
We spent the afternoon playing and taking pictures. So. Many. Pictures. Natalie LOVES Levi and Z and they adore her too. It was so amazing to see them together. Natalie was signing like a CRAZY person to Levi. He was totally in shock at her communication level. And SO thrilled to have a deaf sibling. The look on his face made me want to cry again. Natalie and Z were painting their nails, and playing games and holding hands and it melted my heart. When we had to leave, we got in the car, and Z looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Mommy, I LOVE her!!!" Those were the best words ever. My kids have to suddenly share us, and love a new child as their own and accept her into our family, and they were in love with her on the spot. A-MAZING. God truly can take broken pieces (like families) and create something new and beautiful from them. It doesn't mean that it's the way it was originally designed, or that there isn't pain, but it CAN be beautiful and incredible.
When we left, Natalie was very insistent that we promise to come tomorrow. Easy promise. :)
Oh, I meant to add that visited all the nannies and that we specifically sought out Levi's long-time nanny. She cried her eyes out. I mean, she sobbed for an hour, and kept hugging and kissing him and complimenting his height and muscles in Amharic. She would hug me and then hug him and then sob. It was so amazing to bring them together again, and see how much he is loved.
I'm too tired to write any more haha. I haven't slept in two days. :) Be back tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts. We love you all.