Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

COURT: "Then it's done, you have a son."

Thank you hotel for laundering and ironing our shirts by 8am!:) We woke up, had breakfast, and were so nervous to go to court. We drove up to the large court house building, and picked our way through the crowded stairwells up to the 4th (?) floorof this district court. We waiting in a waiting with about 30 other people sitting on the chairs that outlined the otherwise empty room. Among the group were adoptive parents, birth families, lawyers, representatives from adoption agencies, Ato Teklu, and Ato Girma.
They finally called our "Ajuuja" and I gripped my hands together tighter, trying to swallow but finding my throat too dry. Something was said, and Ato Girma told us that it was our turn. The judge was a beautiful young Muslim woman, with a scraf wrapped around her head. She asked us in clear English for our passports and we looked at each other with fear and shock in our eyes- we had asked if we needed to bring anything and had been told no... Feeling like a complete idiot, I fumbled an apology and said we didn't know that we had needed them. Tonio showed his driver's license but of course I had nothing. She said it was OK and carried on with the questions: Why do you want to adopt? Why Ethiopia? How old are your children? Do they know you are adoptin? Have you told your family? Are they supportive? What training have you had? Do you know that this is permanent and cannot be revoked? YES! She stamped some papers, and then proclaimed "Then it's done, you have a son." Tears welled up in my eyes and I tried to tell her "Thank you so much," to which she replied, "No, thank you." We passed court! They told us that we were the very first family our of all of the agencies to pass court since the rule was made requiring 2 trips.
We were so excited and kept reminding each other of our new titles: "Hey mommy to 4!" "Papi to 4 kids!" It was such a relief that court was over, and the wave of emotions washed over us. We all walked to a nearby cafe for some macchiatos, and so the adoptive families could meet with the birth families.
After our eventful morning, we spent the rest of the day shopping for souvenirs at the shops by the Post Office- excellent shopping if you are in Addis!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Surviving the carride and dancing at Habesha 2000

We woke up early, had breakfast, and packed the car so we could make our way back to Addis. I think I blocked out the 5-6 hour carride.. these are the snapshots in my brain: diesel fumes... trucks...a narrow 2 lane road, paved... people in both lanes in both directions trying to pass old trucks going up the hills.. There were many times that there were 2 trucks coming towards us in the 2 lanes, and we were in the left lane trying to passing a truck, going uphill but our engine didn't have the horsepower to actually pass so it was a 4 car game of chicken.. and then for fun a donkey would stroll across the road. 99% of the time we lost the chicken game and pulled behind the truck we were attempting to pass- just at the last possible second, when your heart is in your throat and has stopped beating. Some "knowns" in the equation: this is not how all Ethiopians drive, so don't go forming stereotypes. This isn't even how this particular driver has driven in the past (according to other previous passengers). I am not an easily scared person in cars. Tonio-- who lived his first 25 years and learned to drive in Mexico City, where I've seen some crazy driving and those easily scared have heart attacks in the back of rogue taxis-- was white knuckled and swearing under his breath as the driver would accelerate instead of slowing down, and then slam on the brakes as he swerved back into our lane. I was so nauseated from the fumes and braking that I was just trying to fall asleep so time would go by faster, and maybe I wouldn't feel the impact of our impending crash. As I was drifting off to sleep I heard Tonio saying "no, no, no!" and "I have 4 kids!" under his breath. Finally we stopped for coffee and the entire car collectively exhaled for the first time since Awassa, smiling at surviving our shared near death experience. Seriously.
Once we safely arrived to the TDS Hotel, we chatted with Megan and saw the other adorable families playing with their kids.
For dinner, we went to Habesha 2000 to see some absolutely incredible dancing. I have video!! I just need to figure it out, and then I will post. I'm not sure about the meat dishes, but the fasting platter was amazing, again. I love vegetarian food in Ethiopia!!!! Even more I loved spending time with Emmanuel and Susan and sharing the food with them:). The female dancers do this incredible neck swinging dance, that is too hard to describe in words but amazing in person. The male dancers did a shoulder-jerking dance that was almost as good as the females. I think everyone should take the $3 taxi ride there and see a show! We were the only farengi in the room, but everyone enjoyed themselves. Also note: some people got up and danced when invited, and I did not (laughing too hard, too embarrassed). I learned that this is a huge faux pas and that I probably insulted the dancers (or so I am told). I'm sorry dancers!!! I was too scared you would bring me on stage!! Now that I know I can just stay near by seat and dance I will get up next time!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Breakthrough soccer

We woke up and had breakfast at the hotel, excited and anxious to meet our children again on our last day in Awassa. After breakfast, Ato Girma graciously took us to a "supermarket," which reminded us so much of Mexico that I wanted to pay in pesos. The best part of this particular genre of shops is their most excellent use of a small space: goods stacked to the ceiling in the epitome of space efficiency. By goods I'm including everything from baby formula, to picture frames in the form of the Eiffel Tower, to olive oil (used as a beauty product, not for cooking), coffee, candy, shaving cream, and many other Walgreen-ish type items. The two families accompanying us bought a very generous amount of infant formula (our 2 donations boxes were still in TDS Guesthouse in Addis!) and then we headed over to the toy store. I must add that Ato Girma's smile as he helped to pack the formula was beaming:). The tiny little shop across the little plaza had about 20 different toys for various ages. We bought the best little truck they had, after a couple of the other cars were broken or needed batteries. There were some cute little blonde dolls that spoke a language that sounded like Chinese- such a multicultural experience in Ethiopia:).

Today at the orphanage was better- Engida wasn't as upset, although he was still showing signs of such great stress. When the environment got a little too loud or he got scared his breathing would get faster and his eyes would look down. He used sideways glances to steal looks at us, but if he made eye contact with us he would quickly look away. Some of the new electronic toys that the other kids were playing with seemed a little too overstimulating for him. He sat there on the floor surrounded by unfamiliar faces, with strange, loud toys, and his eyes were kind-of glazing over. I sat behind him rubbing his back and he kind-of played with his new car. He also became interested in this great set of magnetic shapes that could be used to build different structures (especially when they brought in his little friend to help break the ice)--

His friend was not shy at all, and was soon building amazing rockets and houses- apparently we have a future civil engineer in the room! Tonio finally had the great idea of taking Engida into the playroom with his best friends and a soccer ball. This was the best idea- to remove him from the stressful environment, minimalize the new noises, and change locations. There were 3 adorable boys playing soccer with us that afternoon and I honestly would have brought them all home if I had been allowed to. This might be the hardest part of being able to visit the orphanage- interacting with kids who do not have families yet. They were smiling, laughing, and their fancy footwork with the mini-soccerball rivaled the best World Cup footballers. A kind, but firm instruction was given to them in Amharic (or Sidaminya) by the nannies, and by their actions I could tell they were told to let Engida play with us, or somehow don't take all of our attention. Immediately they started giving Engida the ball, and he became the star. There was a point when Engida kicked me the ball and it went past me to one of the ltitle boys. Although he was able to kick it back, he instead picked it up and handed it to me, pointing to Engida. I tried to tell him that we could all play together, my words lost in translation. Later the boys picked up Engida to help him be the goalie, and would purposely kick it softer to him so that he could get the ball. Engida didn't mind playing soccer with us, and would throw or kick the ball to Tonio and I in a reserved way, looking down at his feet after kicking it. The three boys, ages 4-6, are all completely aware that parents come to the orphanage and adopt the younger children and babies. Later, Ato Girma told us that when the new parents come, the boys will say "Their family is here to take them home... When is my new family going to come? My family didn't come yet..." When we left, the boys all gave us hugs and kisses and said "I love you" (which I know the nannies taught them to say, but it was still tear-jerking). It breaks my heart that they understand that parents usually come and adopt the younger kids, and that they know they are waiting to be chosen for a family. I desperately want them to find the mom and dad that were meant to take them home.
Engida loved to play with the soccer ball, and in the end when the older boys were hugging us good-bye, he followed them to give us hugs and kisses; he wasn't smiling, but he wasn't crying either. He is so sweet, and I am excited to watch him come out of his shell. I think we got a little picture of his playfulness today and know that as we get to know him better, we will see more and more of this side of him. At lunch Ato Girma was telling us that many women die during childbirth, and often times during their first pregnancy. He also told us that in the Sidama culture, a young girl who gets pregnant before being married will often times hide the pregnancy. Her family (specifically her father) will not allow her to continue under his roof if she has a baby out of wedlock, and many times these are the mothers who abandon their child out of desperation and survival. Imagine being 12, 13 years old and not having anywhere to live... it would be an impossible situation being shunned by family and neighbors... having no shelter, no income, no support. These poor moms are so young and vulnerable, trying to make the best decision for themselves and their babies.
After lunch in the Pinna Hotel, we walked down one of the main streets and found a "Traditional Clothing Shop" that had been closed the other day (next to a little bookstore that sells Sidaminya-Amharic-English dictionaries). The very friendly shopkeepers showed us the different cloths, and which one was the Sidama traditional cloth, even making us a little shirt out of one of the cloths. We bought earrings, scarves, a Sidama shama and some clothes, some keyrings and a giraffe mask for Vivi. The other families also bought a lot of souvenirs, and we all left the store feeling satisfied- even the shopkeepers:). We walked along the lake back to the hotel and enjoyed a small dinner for our last evening in Awassa.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Playtime and feeding the monkeys

We came down for breakfast and this time ordered "quinche." This dish is oatmeal cooked like rice (so it is served with no liquid) and a LOT of butter. It was good, but really, a lot of butter. Last night for the first time I got a little sick after eating some fish at the restaurant... so 8 days off the beaten track eating goat that was unrefrigerated and coffee made with well water, and now I eat in the fancy restaurant at the hotel and pick up a bug! Incredible that I wasn't sick sooner:). It's all part of the fun, so no complaints. Ato Girma came over and told us (quite surprised) that the other WACAP families are coming in this afternoon, and so we could all go to the orphanage once they get in. Actually the conversation was more like this: "You are never going to believe this coincidence! There are families coming from WACAP! They hired a car! Maybe you can go back with them to Addis when they leave!? Didn't this all work out perfectly!?" We didn't explain that we knew they were coming, made a hotel reservation for them, and tried to tell him. It all didn't matter:).


Tonio and I decided to take a walk around Awassa. We walked from the hotel, to the main roundabout, past the cathedral. We passed a lot of men walking hand in hand (common in ET), women and children carrying firewood, children cleaning shoes or selling fruit. Once passed the cathedral, we passed some smaller markets, people selling socks and shoes on the street. We found a store with traditional Sidamo clothes and handmade items, but it was closed! We definitely want to come back when it is open. We walked down the main street toward the lake and found the Awassa University. It seems to be that there are different colleges located around Awassa that form the University- we passed a huge campus that was the Forestry College, and this campus has a lot of agriculture buildings, and some health sciences, and teacher education. It was a walled/gated campus and we showed Tonio's license to get in and walk around. It seemed like the entire campus was under construction. We saw dorms (guessing they were dorms when we saw bunk beds in the windows), a large room of pool tables (maybe the student union?), many different buildings of classrooms: nutrition, harvest processing, food science, etc. There was a library, and lots of students hanging around (mostly male). They had a nice football (soccer) field with a track around it, and some students were exercising. It was a nice campus!


After walking around, we headed to Lake Awassa. You might have seen Awassa spelled Hawassa- Girma told us that the government is trying to make uniform spelling rules of name places that use both traditional. local language spelling and then Amharic spelling. Apparently they officially changed the spelling to Hawassa, although in the town people kept saying it without the H, and we saw it spelled more without the H (although on gov't building it was spelled the official way). So Lake Awassa (or maybe they will change it now to Lake Hawassa) was formed during a volcanic eruption and is one of the smaller lakes in the Rift Valley. There is a huge variety of bird life, and I wish we had an orinthologist with us to tell us about all of the unique birds we saw: bright royal blue, yellow, brilliant green, some diving birds, large marabous and other storks, brown and black birds that were fishing... We walked along a path by the shores of the lake, sharing the views with a lot of families and couples. We bought some popcorn (which incidentally is Tonio's favorite snack), and passed some little cafes with billiards open to the lake breezes. After walking a while we somehow arrived back at the hotel. The perfect walk! We met Ato Girma again, and he told us that the families would be arriving around 2pm, so we relaxed in our room and checked the painfully slow email. Waiting for the other WACAP, we relaxed in the reception and Tonio enjoyed a St. George beer while I had my avocado/mango juice. Ato Girm told us more about the Sidama people, describing them as peaceful, respectful, and known for their warm hospitality. He told us that the average Sidama family had at least 7 children, and that the average age to marry is around 12 years old. He clarified and said "12, 13, 14, 15 years old... 16 is too old." He told us how the generations are so close in age that frequently great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children all share the same land (and repeated the story from yesterday that there is not enough land in the region to support the growing families.


We were getting regular updates from the driver on his cell phone, and soon the families were only minutes away. Girma told us how normally the driver was quite slow and cautious, and it normally takes him longer to drive from Addis to Awassa (haha, you will see on our trip home that this is not always the case!). It was so exciting to meet the other families- in adoption you share such an intimate experience with the other parents... we were fortunate both in China and here to share this colossal event with wonderful people, with whom we will keep in contact forever. In the first picture, you can see Vonne and Tom, parents of 4 who are adopting a sibling group of 2 beautiful sisters. Next is Emmanuel and Matthew, adopting their first child, a gorgeous baby girl. In the picture you can also see Askala, the home manager who has been so kind to Engida.

Today Engida was still terrified of us. He was understandably suspicious at our motives, and looked to his nanny and Askala for comfort. When he does not have them in view, he looks down and his bottom lips trembles as he tries not to cry. I imagine Maya in this terrible situation, and I know she would feel the same fear (although it would manifest in an enormous tantrum). I feel so bad that we are the cause of his suffering. I know that when we get home and get past the grieving process, he will become more comfortable and soon be a different child. But until then, our poor little guy is unhappy with this whole situation! Imagine your young child is nudged into a room with strange-looking people: "Give them a kiss- this is your mommy!" So confusing, so abstract a notion, so unnatural. Not to be such a downer, I'm just trying to understand the situation from his point of view and put myself in his shoes... When adoptive parents can understand the fear, I think it is easier to deal with the rejection and work to build a connection.

This day Engida really wanted nothing to do with me, but did let Tonio get a little closer. We played with his little friend to try and break the ice a bit. Vonne brought these great magnetic shapes that the kids used to build little structures. We decided that Engida's little was going to be a civil engineer after seeing the intensity of his concentration and his elaborate creations.

It helped Engida when he didn't have to look directly at us, but could listen to our voices as we "parallel played" with him and his friend.

When I went on another tour of the facility with the other families, Tonio stayed behind and fed popcorn to each of the children. It was an introduction to the many bonding activities we will try with Engida, and Tonio said he even made eye contact as he put the popcorn in Engida's mouth.

I could have sat there all day watching Engida, but we agreed that we didn't want to make this more stressful than necessary, and that the kids should keep on their normal schedule. So after playing with the kids for a couple of hours, Girma took us to a park by the lakeshore. Tonio and Emmanuel both fed a monkey out of their hands (while I prayed irrationally that the monkey wouldn't jump up and bite Tonio and give him rabies). We saw a wedding with lots of vibrant music and tons of teenagers loitering around, enjoying the environment. Tonio had the video camera out and was sweeping the scene when a bunch of teenagers saw the camera and started posing and being funny. We walked along the shore and then headed back to the hotel.

Lake Awassa
We got back to the hotel, and talked with Matthew and Emmanuel for a while before heading upstairs to see the Mexico v. Argentina game. World Cup fever!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 7: WE MEET OUR SON!!!!

This was one of the busiest days we had in Ethiopia, and as I am uploading the pictures and writing this entry, I cannot believe everything we did today! In addition to learning a lot about Awassa, we also met our beautiful son, and some of the important people in his life-- We met Engida without even planning to do so!!!!! More about that later... We visited the orphanage, the fish market, a tiny town near Awassa, and some natural hot springs. Let me start from the beginning and try to remember all of the details. We woke up early and had breakfast with the other WACAP families, who were getting ready to leave back to Addis. The menu was varied: oatmeal, oats with butter (like a drier oatmeal), french toast, regular toast, eggs in many different way, etc. Once we finished, we met up with Yoseph for our last little tour- this time, of the Awassa fish market.

Check out these marabous! Look at the one's neck- selfishly eating all of the fish guts.

When you arrive at the fish market, lots of kids come up and ask you if you'd like them to feed the marabous. They gather the fish guts from the cleaning tables, and toss them to the birds for people who are interested in taking pictures of the huge beasts. These birds were bigger than Maya, and reminded me of the storks that bring babies in cartoons- they surely could carry a toddler!

We bought some local crafts- some hippo teeth (I'm not sure if they really are, but I can tell you that hippos are not endangered) and some cow-horn spoons that I decided wouldn't be used as spoons but maybe as a decoration.

Women were selling freshly baked bread, raw fish with chiles, and some fish broth.
We also saw some monkeys! Click on pics to see the cute primates en grande.

The fishermen leave around 5am to collect their nets, which they had placed in the previous evening in the best spots on the lake. When they come back, they dump, clean, and sell their fish, and then set to repairing their nets and washing out their boats.

After the fish market, we said good-bye to our beloved Yoseph- we will miss him SO much! We made plans to meet up in Addis for dinner when we get back. We had met the orphanage director, Girma, at the hotel in the morning, and told him that we were the new parents of a little boy in his orphanage named Engida. "Oh, Engida is so special!" he said many times throughout the day. "He is happy, funny, playful.. We all love him so much... Do you want to meet him?" YES we said, of course we do!!! He told us to come knock on his door when we were ready to meet Engida. After the fishmarket, we were giddy at the thought of this unplanned, early visit to meet our son. My muscles were twitching as we excitedly knocked on his corrugated metal door across the street from our hotel, and waited for him to come and answer while peering into his front vegetable and fruit garden. Girma did not know that there were WACAP families coming, and he was absolutely shocked that we found him. It was hard to make him understand that this was a planned trip, except that we had arrived one day earlier than the other families. Because he hadn't been told yet that other families were coming, he kept saying over and over "this is not our plan, this is God's plan." We tried to tell him that it really was the plan, but he insisted that it was a miracle that we arrived randomly in Awassa, exactly where our son was living, and randomly found the orphanage director, etc. We finally just went with the "this is destiny" idea and everyone was happier:).

He came out of his house, and we all took a little taxi together. When I say little, I mean a 3 wheel, cute taxi with small curtains for doors. If you go to Awassa, you have to use their tiny taxis- cheap and tipici. If you are more adventurous, you can use the donkey-cart-turned taxi, which I really wanted to do but didn't have the opportunity. We saw a lot of construction, people selling things on the street, the St. Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Cathedral (the largest in SNNPR), and a billboard campaigning for the prime minister Meles Zenawi (whose symbol is the honeybee= hard-working). We saw a lot of bikes, and bike "repair shops," which were mostly teenagers working on the side of the road fixing or rebuilding bikes while you waited, many times sitting on crates drinking coffee. The houses were very mixed income- we saw huge mansions with walls of windows facing the lake, and smaller mud huts with corrugated metal roofs. Most, if not all, of the houses were enclosed by fences that were frequently topped by chards of glass or metal to deter intruders (reminiscent of Latin American neighborhoods). I must say that this threat is almost nonexistant, as Awassa is a very safe town and we never felt threatened even by pickpocketers.
So we finally made our way to Ajuuja orphanage, which is on a grassy, quiet street. Turning onto the street, my heart began to pound and I wondered if anyone else in the car could hear it. The walled compound is cheerfully painted, and seems newer than the surrounding areas. When Ato Girma rang the doorbell, the door was opened and answered by Askala, who we later found out was the home manager. After a quick exchange in Amharic, with glances and gestures toward us, a little praising of God about the whole miracle that we were here, Askala gasped and held her cheeks, saying something to Girma. He translated "It is a miracle that you found us. We are so happy to meet you- we love Engida- he is so special!" I couldn't have asked for a nicer welcome:). We were invited inside, and made our way through the courtyard, down an outdoor corridor and into the office.
We were told that Engida is a "powerful" and "energetic" boy, who stays with the older children instead of those his age... hmmmm:). I can read into that as well as you can!:) We were told that he enjoys playing soccer with a group of boys who are 4-6 (who he also shares a bedroom with). When he first came into the office he was quite shy, and we used the old "candy bribe" to have him come over to us.
He was very, very scared of us and didn't want to be pushed to hug or kiss us and I completely agree with him- we are strangers that look weird and talk funny! It was not a happy time for him and he was not comfortable at all. Poor little guy:(. We didn't push it the first day, but were so excited to meet him and see him in person. His picture has been hanging on our fridge for months, and it was amazing to gaze into those big brown eyes. We saw his bedroom and the impeccable (if sparse) "playroom."
The orphanage staff lined up and motioned for us to get int he line, and had him shake hands and kiss all of their cheeks. He obediently greeted everyone, including us and our driver Yoseph-

I think he was less scared of Yoseph. I don't think dying my hair or getting a tan would help, although I was contemplating it at this point. It's the parental instinct do do anything to alleviate the pain in our children... Girma has been going to many local churches to try to encourage domestic adoptions. However, after 6 years of advocating locally, he has not seen even one child adopted by a local family. He hopes that attitudes are starting to change, and I do too. Ato Girma told us that he is amazed at American's willingness to adopt from a country so far away.. and he is in awe that Americans cry when meeting their kids for the first time. He says the children are so blessed to be welcomed into families who feel such love for them... I think it is really the families who are so blessed to be chosen as parents of these wonderful children.

Poor little guy! At a mere 3 years old, kids do not have the communicative ability to vocalize how they are feeling, nor even the cognitive ability to process such a dramatic transition. I imagine that he will experience feelings of being kidnapped, although he obviously doesn't know what kidnapped means. It's just the feeling of losing everything you know in your world that makes you comfortable: language, food, smells, where you sleep, your caregiver's love, your friends, what you play with, where you sit, your schedule, your clothes, your "normal," your reality. As adoptive parents, we can try our best to emulate certain aspects- but honestly when you look at the list of losses, even our bests efforts will only minimally imitate his world. I wish we could take away the suffering, but there will be a grieving process, and as his mom I will be grieving his losses with him.
The children were all sitting perfectly quietly in the corridor, while the nannies were cleaning the compound- we had dropped in unexpectedly and today was cleaning day. I was absolutely amazed at how well-behaved the kids were.. but then this is what they must do every week. At one point, Engida had lollypop all over his face, and his huge eyelashes were sticking to his eyelids. The nannies took him to the bathroom to wash his face, and a little boy sat in his chair. He came back, looked at the boy, and grunted something. Immediately the boy moved over: hehe, apparently he was telling him to move out of his chair! We (including all of the nannies) were laughing. It was a telling moment and possibly a window into his personality? At least he is assertive- a necessary survival skill when living in an orphanage with many other children. I asked if he was bossy, and the nannies said "No, that is his good friend!" I actually met (on-line) the family who is adopting his little friend, and I hope to keep in touch with them:).

The cooks (different women- not nannies) were sitting on the ground in the courtyard drying chiles and making berbere. We found out that Engida likes spicy food! He will get along well with my boys:). We learned a little about the orphanage, and were impressed with the care the children receive, even with limited resources. There is a full-time nurse, and a part-time doctor who manage the health of the children. There are many nannies, and each bedroom has a particular nanny who is in charge of those children. They sleep on the floor (literally, they showed us the straw mats they use) in their assigned rooms. My face must have shown my shock about the sleeping on the floor bit, and Ato Girma explained "It's so when they have to go to the bathroom, or if they need a glass of water, the nanny is right there to help them." So sweet! My fears of Engida crying out at night and his cries being unaswered were immediately alleviated. Recently, the orphanage directors from Awassa were all summoned to a meeting to assess the care and address issues related to regularions and standards. Ajuuja was rewarded for its high standard in caring for the children, something that Girma was quite proud of (as he should be) and mentioned more than once (even showing us pictures of himself at the meeting). Ajuuja has to turn away children due to lack of resources, and hopes to work with WACAP to be able to expand their services and take in more children in need. Girma was very proud that they have saved so many lives, and told us stories of several children who arrived severely malnourished that were then rehabilitated and currently healthy. He showed us the infant's "wing" (2 bedrooms with 4-5 cribs each) that is constantly disinfected- people should not enter with shoes on, and no older children are allowed inside. Each room has a rocking chair and the nanny also sleeps in the floor in her assigned room. She wakes several times a night to change a diaper or feed someone a bottle. There is a lot of love in this orphanage, and the nannies are really attached to the children!!! (and vice versa) There is a tiny twin (21 days old) whose sister (I think it is a girl) is in the hospital, but getting healthy. Another little 6 month old baby with the biggest smile in the world was sitting up in her crib playing with the one set of baby toys that is shared among the babes. There are lots of blankets to keep everyone warm when it is "cold" at night (60s). Askala was a gracious host, and kept looking at us and smiling. She is the home manager, responsible for food, controlling sanitation, and managing the nannies. She is so nice and her warm smile made us feel so welcome. She told us that Engida likes to come into her office while she is doing paperwork, and snuggle with her- I believe she really loves him and will miss him tremendously. We get the feeling that he is a favorite of hers.

When we got back to the hotel, we got to see some monkeys. Girma lives right next door (to the right) of this house. The black and white monkey is a Colobus monkey, and the other brown/grey monkey we were told "is a normal monkey-" because I guess some monkeys are so prevalent they are like squirrels:).

We stayed with Ato Girma the whole day, and got a very extensive tour of Awassa and the surrounding area. Here is a van, whose cargo is chat (the local, legal hallucinogenic drug that people chew, sometimes to avoid feeling hunger pangs).

Beautiful Awassa: corn fields, false bananas, coffee plants... People use the false banana plants to make quoitcho (see the post on the Dorze village for pictures and quoitcho explanation). People in this area sometimes make corn injera, which is sweeter, drier, and does not last as long as teff injera. The Sidama families are not as used to injera, and do not have access to teff. According to Girma, 90% only use corn/false banana to make different breads.

This is 5 minutes from our hotel, really just on the outskirts of town. There are 2 main cross streets in town, and beyond this concentrated business area you are immediately in the countryside. You can see the typical house made of false banana-

More of the same area. Awassa had a lot of construction (like most places we have visited). There were huge government offices outside of the city that had recently been constructed. People outside of Awassa farm false banana and use the enset for their houses. Most children in orphanages are Sidama or are from Awassa town.

Many people use natural plants (often times cacti or eucalyptus) as fences to create a boundary around their land, or even to create corrals for their cattle. Very effective!
The smaller neighborhoods have common grazing areas. (this is the word he used to describe these tiny villages that were in the surrounding land near Awassa. I wouldn't personally call them neighborhoods because they seem like tiny villages....). So we were told that anyone could bring their animals here to graze during the day, and kids also used the green pastures to play soccer:). This field also serves as a resevoir as it floods in the rainy season.

Here are some local kids, very curious about our cameras. They had fun taking pictures of each other and looking at themselves in the images on the screen. Check out the little dude's hair style in the front row. Stylin'!

There are over 85 languages in SNNPR, which Girma calls "Southern Nations and Nationalities."The population of the Sidama people is 5 million, and the SNNPR is 16 million. Apparently the Sidama want their own region- they reason that Tigray only has 4 million people, and they got their own region, so it is only fair that Sidama separate from SNNPR and get their own region as well. Sidama is the most dese region of SNNPR and according to Girma there is no land left for people- all the land is taken by families. The problem is that when you have children, you divide up your land, and then when they have children, they divide up their land, and now each parcel is so small it cannot support the number of people living on it.
Here in Awassa they speak a mixture of languages, but mainly Amharic and Sidaminya. We drove around a lot of different "neighborhoods" of the Sidama people. From what I understand, Sidama refers to the region and the people, and Sidaminya refers to the language spoken. I may be wrong though because I was given different answers by different people! If you drink as much coffee as my parents and siblings you probably know that Ethiopian coffee is quite famous. Although the legend of coffee says that it originated in Kaffa, coffee from Sidama region is known in Ethiopia to be the most delicious (told to us by people living in said region:). The coffee from this area is directly sent to Addis to be exchanged in the commodity exchange, exported to many countries, and sold at most multinational companies' chain stores (ie Starbucks, etc).

We met some people important to Engida and found out that he was first named "Wosincho," which is Sidaminya for "guest." When he came to the orphanage, they translated his name to Amharic (Engida). We decided to use his original name as his middle name, and will name him Ricardo Wosincho.

We passed through different "woredas," which are kind-of like districts or mini-regions. We passed through Shebedino and Wondoganas among others. Kids were carrying bundles of chat on their heads, chewing on sugar cane, women wearing scarves were carrying goods to and from the market, donkey taxis filled with people and driven by little kids were bustling by. In corn fields we would pass little look-out towers where kids were on patrol looking for animals stealing their crops. People used false banana leaves to wrap up food, chat, firewood, etc.

Lots of ping-pong tables set up outside for teenagers (mostly boys?) and foos ball tables.

Look through the window at the mount of table tennis games going on!

We drove for about an hour outside of Awassa..

and finally arrived at the natural hot springs. There are pools built around the hot springs, and also a cold river. They have showers fed by the hot waters- when I say showers, I mean a pipe of boiling hot water with various holes creating a row of spouts for people to stand under. There was a section for men (full of men in bathing suits and underwear) and a section for women (empty). I decided to go with the flow, and NOT swim, since I would have been the only female. Girma and Tonio took hot showers (Tonio in his jean shorts) and Tonio said that the water was literally almost boiling.
On the way back to Awassa, we took a different route and crossed into the Oromia region- land of the Oromo people (the Oromo comprise 1/3 of Ethiopia population). We were on a slick paved road, driving very fast, in the rain, with non-functioning seatbelts, with people crossing the highway in front of us, cattle, goats, and donkeys. Tonio's knuckles were quite white grabbing the seat in front of us and flinching every no and then. I decided not to look out the front window and had an enjoyable ride looking out my window and ignoring the dangers ahead of us. Ignorance is bliss:). The radio was blasting as the Amharic announcer detailed the Uruguay v. Korea game, and at every commercial break we jammed to Shakira's ubiquitous Waka Waka song. It was a great day!! Engida, sweetheart, we are learning as much as we can about your beautiful region and country!!