While in Addis we spent a morning with Alemseged, the in-country director for Ethiopia Reads.
Ethiopia Reads is great. They have a roaving library of books to reach far-flung locations (I think it's a cart pulled by a donkey) and they stock the libraries of local schools throughout Ethiopia. Without Ethiopia Reads, there would be school libraries, but no books. NONE!
We contacted him through email -- which is firstname.lastname@example.org (if you want to reach him send several emails with catchy subject lines because he will have to just happen to see it while scanning his junk mailbox) and offered to buy some Amharic books for a school. He called one of the local schools and got a wishlist from them, then we all went together to buy the books and drop them off.
We bought 35 books. The ones they picked out were a little more academic than I would have chosen myself, but I was glad we were able to do at least a little something (it worked out to about $75 plus cab fare) and that the books were printed and bought locally and written in Amharic. In retrospect, all these months later, I wish we had spent / bought more, but at the time I was going through so much every day just in hotel expenses. Now, the opportunity to do more is gone, but alas, it is what it is.
I came across this tonight while looking for something else. I just love it. Taken at a wedding at Lake Macdonald in Glacier Park.
It was the summer before Dessi turned two, and she was a handful. Challenging, obstinate, difficult overall, flush with humiliating tantrums and snottiness. More than once I drank wine while she had an afternoon nap. Our worst few months ever as a mamma-baby team. And then moments like this, full of wonder and intimacy and not another person in the world but us.
The girls really love each other. Like, sooooo much. Dessi particularly loves to match her PJs to Adai's.
I had been having some trouble showering because every time I took even the fastest of hosedowns I would emerge with Adai crying. On this particular occasion, I heard laughing! Tons of giggles!! I smiled and poked my head out of the bedroom only to see Dessi standing at her new easel with a painbrush in hand, painting her sister. And I don't mean painting her portrait.
I feigned horror, Dessi took a time out, and then I sneaked over to Adai and took her picture.
Doesn't she look like she thinks she's in trouble?
I just wanted to quickly write and say that Adai had diarrhea for the first six weeks she was with us. I suspect she has had it since birth. I guess most of the orphanage kids do, but hers did not resolve first with just good clean water and then with a round of metronidazole (flagyl). After six weeks, I on a whim switched to a soy formula and within a few days, it was gone. We went to an allergist last week, and voila. Positive for milk allergy. I also had an O&P and a giardia check done, but both those were negative.
I don't know if this is common with Ethiopioan kids, but if anyone else's new adoptee has a similar issue, it might be worth looking into. The allergist said that if I keep her completely away from any dairy for six months, the allergy might disappear; we plan to retest her in six months.
On a separate note, Eric is en route to DC as I write this. Thrilling! I didn't really believe it would happen until his plane left the ground, but now it has and he'll be two days in DC before coming to Whitefish for two weeks. I told dessi about it this morning, but she didn't seem to get it. Maybe she was just stunned.
All is great in our little world, our little town, our happy life. Eric is probably coming home this week for a visit (!!!!!) and today is a bluebird sky and 20 degrees (warm, for a bluebird-sky day -- those tend to be cold).
Here are some pics that I scrounged up, stuff that the grandmas have taken and emailed me. I don't have my thing to download them from my own camera -- that was left behind in Cote d'Ivoire. Not that I've taken many pictures myself, anyway. I know I will regret that some day very soon. . . Adai already has changed so much!!
We've had a bit of drama, really it's all okay, and I don't want to start with it and bury the lead, the lead being that Adai Marion Young is an amazing, 7-month-old light who smiles and squeals on demand; that Dessi is an ahMAZing big sister and never ever tires of kissing and hugging and making funny faces at her little sister and has yet to be even remotely jealous or unkind; that our family is full of love and happy and that we are safe.
The drama being that Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast, where we have been posted) had elections on Dec. 4. I waited until Dec. 8 before leaving for Ethiopia to wait for our US embassy appointment -- things seemed peaceful enough at home (no election clashes or problems) and so I got on the plane, leaving Dessi and Eric behind. That night, the current president (Gbagbo, with a sileng "G") decided to throw out thousands of votes and, despite pretty amazing international protests, declared himself the winner, swore himself in, closed down the airports and borders, and called it a night.
The next two weeks passed in a frenzy. I could not leave Adai in Addis, obviously, and I could not leave Dessi in Cote d'Ivoire, nor could I patiently wait for my US embassy appointment any longer. Suffice it to say I lost my voice after a week of talking people into things every single day, all day long. Ultimately, I got Adai's paperwork and photos, applied for her Ethiopian passport, ran the immigration hurdles, the US embassy moved our court date forward for us (please know, we didn't take any other familiy's place -- we were squeezed in because were a State Department family caught in a political crisis) and then . . . waited. Somewhere in there Cote d'Ivoire lifted its border closings and reopened the airport, but regardless, the government was in no hurry to do an American diplomat any favors (we were refusing to acknowledge the president, thus his government, and he controlled the embassies). So I was stuck. I couldn't get adai an Ivoirian visa, even to fly in and transit out 12 hours later with Dessi (to fly back to the US). It took me a week more of fussing and talking before I realized what we were up against.
Ultimately, Adai and I flew to Ghana, Eric and Dessi flew to Ghana, we had 7 hours together, then I flew to the US with the girls and Eric flew back to Abidjan. Although all US families and non-essential staff have been evacuated from Cote d'Ivoire, there are 15 US diplomats left; Eric can't leave Abidjan (the capital) until things get either a lot better or a lot worse. And at the moment, neither seems likely. (A good source for more information is BBC Africa or this story, http://news.myjoyonline.com/features/201101/59140.asp, if you're interested.)
So the girls and I are in our sweet little two-bedroom house in Whitefish, Montana, wearing a collective $800 worth of winter gear between us. (It's friggin FREEZING!) It's a little small, and I'm ridiculously busy (thinking of changing our blog's name to bottleproppingmama.com, ha ha, but we are laughing a lot, sleeping a little bit less (Adai was up every two hours on a 24-hour cycle for the first 20 days. She's doing a lot better now) and staying warm. I'm perpetually stunned that I've kept it all together (my hair stopped falling out a few days ago, wahoo!) and Dessi is in love with the snow (everything about the snow. The fluffiness, the coldness, the gear). She adores her new Montessori school, and I just glad to be home in this community of amazing friends and love and support and aunties and yoga and sushi and fantastic hiking and running every day.
I see so many families still waiting for embassy appointments, or dealing with setbacks, and my heart breaks for them. When I feel overwhelmed or barely above water, I think of them. When I think of being separated from Eric and how he is missing these sweet, sweet days, I also know that this is an inconvenience for our family, but it is a complete disaster for the beautiful, kind people of Cote d'Ivoire. Plus, in our separation, I try to remember that this is what military families go through all the time. Hi honey, welcome home, here's your new baby.
Plus, he does still have the cat. (They both sleep at the US Embassy nowadays.)
That's our story. I just reread it, it's really crap. It says nothing about the amazingness of what we're all feeling right now. But I'm tired (it's 7:30 pm, betime) (no joke) and it's a start.
I don't have a single picture available of the three of us in our new digs, but here's a pic taken from my iphone the day I took Adai from the Thomas Center. (By the way, her name is pronounced like I couldn't wait a day longer. It's an Ethiopian name, it's a species of Ethioipan daisy, but it's traditionally spelled Adey.)