Friday, June 26, 2009

Ethiopia Day 1-2

OK, my goal is to document as much of the trip as I can here…much of it will probably be long and boring for you (sorry) but this is my one opportunity to try to remember as much as I can so Silas can read it one day. So here we go….


Amber and I got up at 4:40am Saturday morning to get ready to leave for our 8:30 flight. Being it was an international flight, we wanted to get to the airport ~2.5 hours ahead of time. We wanted to be out of our house by 5:10 as we were driving up to our friend Amy’s house as she was going to ride with us and take our vehicle back to their house for the week and then meet us with it at the airport on Friday. We wanted to be at her house at 530. Well, we got out of the house at 5:15 … not terrible. We pulled out onto our road and I forgot to shut the water off … so back to the house to shut it off. We then left again and got a little farther and decided that we should not only take our new camera but our point and shoot as well. Back to the house again. Luckily, it was our last trip back to the house. However, we realized on the way to Amy’s house that we did not pack any Advil. I had a feeling we, or at least I, would need it. So, we stopped at a 24 hour Walgreens and picked some up … with all that, we were less than 5 minutes late to her house … not sure how that occurred but God’s provision was leading the way.

We made it to the airport a few minutes after 6am … Unloading the donations/luggage, I knew that I was in trouble. Finally, a Godsend came forward in the way of a skycap man. He loaded the items up on a cart, took them into the United ticket counter, and told us to have a blessed trip. Godsend no doubt.

The ticket agent was extremely nice … told her the reason for the trip to Addis Ababa and she had to see the pictures. A couple ladies awwwed over him for a few minutes and then we got our tickets, passed through security in 10 minutes, and had almost 2 hours to spare. We went and got our caffeine fix, called our parents and family, and people-watched the remaining time.

I do have to mention a couple God signs...these were on our way to the gate...

Now, to be honest, I had no idea up until 30 seconds ago who Silas Green was (had to google him ... Silas Green from New Orleans was an African American owned and run variety tent show, which in various forms toured the southern states between about 1904 and 1957.) Pretty cool. Nevertheless, pretty neat to see 'Silas' in front of us.

Art from boys in the Sudan. These just made us feel like God was saying, I got your journey laid out for you ... just follow me.

OK ... so we flew to Washington uneventfully. Neither of us had been to Dulles airport before … thing is huge. I’m now used to Nashville’s and it’s rather small. Even in Chicago, I would fly out of the tiny Midway airport any time I could to avoid Ohare. We had no idea where the Ethiopian Airlines gate was. We walked prolly 20 minutes looking for a posting saying which terminal it was. Found nothing. Finally, I asked a random airport worker and she said Gate D. Perfect. Got to the shuttle area, Amber verified we were right with a worker in the area and we boarded the shuttle. Got to the gate with 8+ hours to spare.

We thought the wait would be a nightmare but it really wasn’t that bad. We went to eat lunch at Potbelly’s … we both loved that when we were in Chicago and don’t think we have any here. We went back to the gate area and Amber laid down on a string of chairs to rest herself and her back. In the meantime, I had texted Julie Beeler that we were on our way. Immediate phonecall followed. After an amazing 1+ hour conversation with her from everything from the surrealness around us actually going to Ethiopia to God to Israel to the kitchen sink, we finally got cut off. We walked around some and talked to other families that arrived at the gate adopting from other agencies.

I knew from previous families that Ethiopian Airlines were sticklers to the carry-on weight. They had a scale at the counter so we made sure we were good well before the counter was open. However, this started a mass weighings and chaos as hardly any other families (Ethiopian or adopting) knew about the 15 pound rule. Everyone started weighing their bags, throwing clothes out, rearranging, etc, etc. And at the end of the day, I don’t think Ethiopian Airlines charged many people for the extra weight. They made them check them but didn’t charge them. This was definitely different than what we thought would happen.

The check-process happened 3 hours prior to departure. We met the Harpers and Kristi Johnson and her sister while in line. We also met the other 2 AGCI families that we on our flight. It was great to meet other amazing families from other adoption agencies as well.

Our flight was almost an hour late leaving as it was overbooked and it took that long for all the negotiations for the bumped passengers to happen. If we didn't have our US Embassy date on Monday and we could have met our boy at the same time, I probably would have considered it...

Our flight info...

Our plane...

OK, let the 16 hour flight begin. Now the seats are not set up for a 6'2" 240 lb guy ... especially the window seats. Found out on the way home the middle section has a little more legroom. My knees became good friends with the back of the seat in front of me. Ethiopian Airlines definitely will feed you. It seems like you're always eating ... either 'beef' or 'chicken'. Even though we eat mostly chicken at our house, I somehow felt safer with beef and went with that each time. Both Amber and I watched the movie Marley and Me and then tried to sleep. Man, I couldn't get comfortable nor could I stop my brain ... even with an Ambien.

So, ended up striking up a conversation with the lady across the aisle from me. She was a teacher in DC and her and 3 other teachers were taking 16 high school students to Africa for Community Service Projects ... how cool is that!? I also did a lot of people watching. There were quite a few Ethiopians on the flight with quite a few children. It was fun to watch the kiddos thinking that would be Silas in a few years ... hopefully going back to Ethiopia with us.

Somewhere over Egypt ... I think ...

Near the end of the flight, we filled out the VISA form to allow us into Ethiopia. After a few questions to other familes around us, we felt ok about what we filled out. I did have a freak-out session for a minute. Over the PA system, they mentioned something about $1000 cash. I thought they said you could only come in country with that much. So I'm freaking out trying to figure out where/how to stash our money. Not only ours but we took money for a Nashville Ethiopian family whose brother is in Addis Ababa. Well, come to find out, they just said you had to claim anything over $1000 . Sigh. And no one asked us about our money anyways. Guess that's what 30 hours of travel will do to ya. We land and alot of people cheer and clap. I seem to remember that this is an Ethiopian thing.

I liked the GPS system on the monitors ... it showed us where we were and how much farther to our destination...

We got off the plane and headed to the Visa line. It took about an hour to get through the line but we were able to chat with Kristi, Kelly, the Harpers, and a couple Ethiopian guys who had not been back to Ethiopia since 1993. We successfully got our Visa (luckily ... Amber tried to 'help' the worker lady filling out the form for us and the lady pretty much told Amber off) and then went through the passport checkpoint successfully.

Now onto baggage. We had heard about the guys who would 'hound' you, take your luggage, and 'demand' a tip (and they would tell you when it was enough). And yes, we were hounded by the "purple guys" as I called them (wore purple jackets). With all the donations, they kinda took over. Wasn't thrilled about it but with multiple families and multiple bags, somehow we just accepted it. It seemed like we were tipping left and right though. The "purple guys", guys came along and threw the bags into the van, the guys who helped carry the bags to the room at the hotel, etc, etc. Oh well, part of the experience, right?

We were picked up by Johannes and there were 5 families on our flight. One family had come in a day earlier. Johannes brought 2 vans ... one for the families and one for our luggage. Stepping out of the airport, the smell hit me like a ton of bricks. I can't really describe it but it was like burning tires ???? Wasn't good no matter what. After getting on the bus and riding for a bit, a headache soon took over. It didn't stop me from watching the world go by. It was unreal to see everything. So many people out and about. Many definitely homeless. Many kids along the street. So sad. So hard to process. Still so hard to process.

We get to the hotel and check in uneventfully. I guess we lucked out and had a room on the first floor ... room 105. It was definitely nice not having to go up 3 flights of stairs like most the other families; however, our view was little to be desired and we did not have a balcony like some families. First thing I did was recommendations from previous traveling families: plug the hot water heater in, open the soap and put the soapbox over the faucet handle to remind us not to use it to brush our teeth, and go get some bottle water.

By now it was 10pm local time. Amber and I decide to get through all our luggage to sort donations, Silas' stuff, our stuff out since we had everything in every bag. We do that, take a "shower" (open bathtub ... with a hand shower ... also, wide open window). We set our alarm for 6:45am as we were told to be eating by 730am for our 9am meeting with Almaz.

Amber getting all of Silas' stuff together...

Some of the items for the older kids at Hannah's Hope...

I tried to go sleep around midnight ... no luck. Headache and couldn’t stop the brain from racing. Our boy was within walking distance from where I laid. How could you sleep!? Also, bed was as hard as a piece of plywood. TIP: If you’re used to sleeping on a cushy, soft pillowtop mattress, you may want to sleep on the floor or a hard mattress for a few days before traveling. Got up prolly 130 and took a couple advil and an Ambien. Glad we stopped at Walgreens and picked up those Advil. Finally went to sleep somewhere prolly 2-230.

Next day ..... WE MEET OUR BOY!


The Bogard Family said...

I just loved reading your post. It just brought back so many memories. I cannot wait to read more.


Matt said...

Amen on the rock hard bed. I fell asleep on my side the one night and when I woke up my hip was not enjoying that. FYI - if you get to Addis on a Friday morning the bag guys leave you alone and let you get a cart for your luggage. Very nice!

rushhome said...

Thanks for documenting all this, Troy. For those of us stuck in wait list land it is great to daydream. Congratulations and enjoy every second!