We are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the largest city and the second most elevated capital city in all of Africa. It is a city and one that will remain etched in my heart forever. We have been to many cities in several countries but Addis is very different for us. You see there are no tourists that come here and we are the only white people around. I feel that most of us could stand to be thrust into another land and made to walk the streets filed with those of another race and certainly a very different culture. Today we walked from our hotel up to a nearby corner just outside a village where everything is happening from corn being cooked on little stoves to shoes being sold to boys surrounding foosball tables that appear to be 20 years old. There are meat stands, both Christian and Muslim and animals that roam the streets. Sometimes the animals simply stand in the middle of the road, causing all kinds of havoc on already treacherous roads. We have noticed each day that Ethiopians here in the city are very active and walk everywhere. They are on the move. The rainy season has just begun and although that means tremendous mud everywhere it does not stop any of the people from being out and about with a purposeful sense of where they need to be. They seem very task oriented and work harder than most of us might prefer. They shepard animals in the fields across the street from our hotel. They carry huge long bundles of timber that are used everywhere to create scaffolding to build buildings, many that simply remain incomplete and vacant. They walk uphill with large jugs of water on their backs or sometimes toddlers who are all wrapped and seem content. People here where everything from jeans to wrapped clothing and you see the well dressed with wild hair, jewelry and heels walking right alongside the women with no shoes and filthy rags. It is city of contrasts. During our walk this afternoon we were very mindful that we stuck out like sore thumbs. My heart was beating and I kept wondering if it was safe to travel further. We have heard and read that Addis is a very safe city but one never knows and many times throughout the week we have not been greeted with smiles , only stares and disdain. The women look at us as if to say, “We know you are here to take our babies,” and frankly it feels rather disturbing to be looked at as if you are less than simply because you are not one of them. I wish everyone were forced to walk as we did today in a foreign culture where everyone else has a different color skin. Some greeted us with nods and smiles but the staring was overwhelming and often intimidating. We were stretched today and made far more tolerate of what a person of another race, culture or creed might feel like walking the streets of our neighborhoods.
Today was our second visit to Hannah’s Hope where our children are until we pass court after tomorrow and are later assigned an embassy date to return to complete visa paperwork to take them out of the country. Arriving outside the gates of Hannah’s Hope was a dream come true for all of us as it has been such a process to get here. We are with 7 other families and we could not have asked for a better group of convicted souls. We love the group and hearing all of the stories that lead each of them to adoption. Everyone so far has bonded well with their children and we are praying that each family passes court tomorrow. We were laughing tonight at dinner that someone should wear traditional white Ethiopian garb tomorrow to our early court appointment just to see what might happen. Bob might be our best choice as he has the short thin stature of most Ethiopians. We were all saying tonight that Ethiopians are indeed his people.
We met our daughter, Argene (pronounced Are gen eee with a hard g) yesterday and right after her Special Mother placed her in our arms she looked right up at me and smiled. Our tears and emotions flowed as we held her and realized that God brought us through nearly 2.5years of paperwork, waiting and now traveling half way around the world to connect us to one sweet little one who needs us and needs a family. It is truly a miracle and a God ordained plan. Finding the courage and the faith to step outside ourselves and often our comfort zone could never have happened without faith, letting go of our own needs and trusting that God would work it all out. I wish I could bottle and sell the feeling of such faith so all of us could take a dose when needed. It felt so surreal to finally feel her, smell her and interact with her knowing that although we did not give birth to her, she is without a doubt our daughter. She is already etched in our hearts and needs us , but we feel strongly like it is our family that needs her. We need her to come home and complete our family.
Tonight our hotel is quiet and many families have gone to bed. Our agency picks us up early tomorrow for our court appointment. It will be a long morning of waiting and wondering what the judge will ask us. We are some of the very first families to be present at this court appointment since the changes have taken place in Ethiopia. Over the past few years representatives from the adoption agencies represent each family without them being present. The change in the system which brought about the two trip process now means that we must meet with our children for two days ahead of court and then stand before a judge and testify that we wish to adopt him or her. They want to be certain we have met the child and we must explain why we wish to adopt from Ethiopia. It could be slightly intimidating but we have been told to speak from our hearts. We will keep you posted.
We have to be very careful with photos of Argene. Ethiopians are every particular about photos and the use of photos on the internet. They are a very proud culture and as one boy told me today when he saw my camera. “We do not wish for others to see Ethiopia as a bad place.” I actually was taking pictures of darling baby goats and he found that to be offensive. I put my camera away and then we just talked. He was with a group of buddies and they wondered why we are here. It did not feel wise to share that we are adopting a baby but rather to tell him that we are only taking photos to share Ethiopian culture with others. We explained that we are here to help the many needy children in Ethiopia and he seemed to soften at that point. He was so articulate, passionate and so dreamy gorgeous. He is a student at the University and I trust that after the brief interaction we had today he is a young man who will make a positive impact right here in his village and perhaps in the city of Addis. So I tell you all that to let you know that we cannot post pictures on Facebook or our blog until Argene is legally ours and on her way home. Then we will be happy to share our joy with all of you who have touched us with all your love, support and prayers. We will share with all of you Miss Ava Strobel.