One year ago today...
We woke up (or simply got out of bed, considering both of us had a serious case of insomnia) and heard the sounds of crowing roosters, calls to prayer, and many barking dogs. We opened the window and heard laughing children and horns beeping and Ethiopian music blaring. We were bombarded by new sights and sounds. We stepped onto the balcony to soak it all in. We did not one to miss one minute of this experience. Just then, we heard a donkey bray and saw a young boy heard donkeys down the street. Meanwhile, the younger kids attending the small school across the street laughed and waved at us and yelled, "China!" and pointed to us. There are many Chinese companies building in Addis and guess they were used to seeing Chinese travelers at our guest house. I smiled and waved back. We brushed our teeth with bottled water and headed down to breakfast of eggs and fresh pineapple juice. Then we waited and waited for the van scheduled to take us to meet our son for the very first time. Lord, prepare my heart. Lord, guard his heart. Please, Lord. Finally, the van arrived. We crowded in with other families preparing for the same encounter. The first embrace of the child they had grown to love through pictures and tidbits shared from other traveling families. This was it. He was really real and this journey was about to become very real.
Everything about our trip was unexpected... everything. We thought our son was at his orphanage (he wasn't, he was actually at the care center). We thought we would not meet his birth family (we did). And the list goes on. Anyhow, we rode along the crowded streets of Addis, holding back tears. It seemed like the longest journey ever and then the van pulled into Bunte's orphanage. I thought he would be there. He was not (the agency had moved him to the care center a few days earlier). Anyhow, I took advantage of this time to see where my son had spent three months of his life. I was desperate to soak up any knowledge of his past, because I knew there were many parts that would be a mystery to me... forever (and they still are). We shared a few donations with the orphanage and took some pictures for families that were still stateside, waiting to meet there little ones. Then we hopped back in the van and left for the care center. At this point, my stomach was in knots and the silent tears kept coming. I kept telling myself I had to make them stop before we met him. He does need my emotions on top of his. God, please help me stop these tears.
Bunte's bed at the orphanage (above) and the playground where he laughed and giggled with his friends (below).
And then they opened the green gates. The van pulled in and the children giggled and scattered. Where is my child? My eyes scanned frantically. Wes grabbed my arm and siad, "I see him! He is peeking out of the window." Sure enough, his terrified face was peeking through the corner of the window. We stepped out of the van and were ushered by the nannies to the "boy's room." All of the children were chatting away, but not my boy. Oh no, he is scared of us! The nannies took them all back inside and then brought Bunte out to us. He started to cry. And they told him to hug us... and I told him he did not have to. I need strength. My mommy instinct was to scoop him up, but my rational self knew to give him space. We were nothing more than strangers to him. While we starred at his picture each day and heard accounts and insights into his personality from traveling parents and prayed for him daily, he did not know a single thing about us. Nothing. How terrifying for him! They took us up to the porch where we broke the ice a little. Thankfully, I had a few bottles of bubbles in backpack. Slowly, we saw a few smiles cross his face. And just like that...we went from being strangers to forging our way into being a family. Each action, each word, each touch, each gaze, was intentional. Those three hours were exhausting. Then it was time to leave. No, it can't be. I can't leave. I just got here.
After the exhausting emotional journey of the early afternoon, we hired a driver and headed out to visit the restaurant at Desta Mender (part of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital). Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed. However, our travels allowed us to see much more of the city and its surrounding areas. We also stopped for a brief shopping excursion at ALERT, the leprosy hospital in Addis. It was a day we will never forget. On top of meeting our son, we also met some great people. Members of our travel group immediately became some of our most intimate friends. It was amazing how people we did not just one day ago suddenly shared a bond that would last forever. I am so grateful to know Lindsey and Branden!