Thursday, January 13, 2011

Safe and Sound

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,, 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, 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.)