The Embassy appointment went well. The upper waiting room was about 100 degrees! Isa did fine at first and then started to wail. We went downstairs to the MUCH cooler and completely empty 2nd waiting room and she calmed down.
When I dropped her off that evening, I could hear her wailing as we pulled away and it made me both thrilled (yeah- maybe she misses me!) and upset to hear her so sad.
Friday morning we left for Dire Dawa. It was a very long 9 hour drive there. Our driver spoke minimal English, which made for interesting "conversations." I think he was just as amused by our even more minimal Amharic. We also had a friend of the Ferez family (founders of Toukoul) with us. He was visiting Ethiopia on holiday and wanted to see as much as possible; we were happy to have him along.
Once we got out of Addis Ababa, the scenery quickly changed and I felt like we were getting a glimpse into what Ethiopia truly looked like. We saw herds of camel along the sides of the road. We passed actual Toukouls and drove through towns where the people were dressed in colorful traditional garb. Unfortunately, we were in a van for all of this so very few pics were possible....
There was a mix up with the hotel in Dire Dawa. The Ras 1 hotel was being renovated and we had been booked in the Ras 2. It was less than ideal. Our room smelled strongly of body odor and there was a large bucket of water in the bathroom you had to use to flush the toilet. But, the whole reason we were there was to see where Isa was from. I'd have slept in a tent if that was the only option.
I spent the vast majority of our time in Dire Dawa fighting back tears. Every time we went out I looked intently at the faces around me, knowing that Isa was related to someone here and thinking maybe I'd see her features in someone we passed. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was so blessed and there was a woman here that was grieving the loss that blessing.
We got to visit the local SOS EE orphanage where Isa spent her first 6 months. The women there were so wonderful although I know they all wondered why the ferenge was bawling. I got to see the picture they took of Isa when she first arrived in their care and they had a coffee ceremony for us.
After visiting with the SOS EE center, we spent the afternoon in Harar, an ancient walled Muslim city about 45 minutes away from Dire Dawa. We were lucky enough to secure a great guide, which made all the difference. I think we saw nearly every inch of the city and the maze of streets would have been incredibly confusing without a local to help us. Almost everywhere we went, little children would run along side us yelling "ferenge." We visited a coffee plant and bought several pounds to take home. Our driver in Addis said that Harari coffee is considered the best coffee in Ethiopia, so I definitely needed to try it!
On Sunday, we drove back to Addis. That evening we went to dinner with our drivers at a hotel which had a traditional buffet as well as dancing from various regions in Ethiopia. It seems quite staged for tourists, but was fun nonetheless.
On Monday morning, we checked Isa B out of Toukoul for good. I signed the necessary paperwork and they handed me her little medical file and her card hanging on the wall. She was 100% officially mine now! Before taking her out for good, I got to see Elsa to take additional pics and video for Porter who would be traveling in about a month. Elsa was a doll- oh, those dimples! I was holding her when the nurses brought Isa in. Isa fussed at me as if to say "Hey- you're MY mom!" and promptly threw up on the nurse to make her displeasure known. But, we got video of the girls together for the first time, which is priceless.
I found out that Isa had been sick with a fever and vomiting on Friday, which explained why she was so cranky and lethargic the first days we met her. She was so much more alert on Monday and I finally got to witness her now-legendary vocal abilities for the first time.
Tuesday morning we stopped by Toukoul II to take pics and video of Ezra and Olivia. They were so tiny! Ezra just hung out in the nurse's arms but Olivia WAILED. It was actually kind of funny.
We did some shopping on Tuesday. I bought Isa a beautiful Ethiopian gold cross, which I'm planning to give her at her Confirmation. We bought several dresses, which was a fun experience. We went to several shops. I would pick out a couple dresses I liked and Aster would haggle with the owner. If she didn't like the final price, we got back in the car and went to another shop to start the process over again.
We flew home Tuesday night. Again, I was overcome with the urge to cry as we left. I know that we'll be back but that first flight away from Ethiopia was tough. There were 11 other children on our flight home and I felt fairly guilty that so many children were leaving their birth country even as I was overjoyed to know that we were headed "home."
We had a short layover in DC where I guzzled Starbucks- not nearly as good as Ethiopian coffee, of course, but welcomed after a 17 hour flight. Isa slept almost the entire time from Addis to DC as well as the next flight from DC to Seattle. A model traveler. Dad and Mollie met us at baggage claim. Isa was smart enough to wait until after Mollie had passed her to Dad before puking.
I wish I'd done a better job of journaling while we were there. I know that there are pieces of the journey that I've already forgotten. I did take lots of photos, so that helps. It was such a whirlwind. And, honestly, if I had the money we'd have gone back to visit this year!