Today was a very different day than yesterday. We didn't get to see much of Melkamu, which was hard because we won't get to see him tomorrow (we will be in Hossana meeting his birth mother). We were taken to the care center office at about 9:30 and walked down to the care center to see him, but had to be back at the office by 10 for a meeting--that didn't start until well after 10:30. It would have been much better if they had scheduled them differently, or called us at the care center when it was our turn, because that turned out to be the only real time we got to spend with Melkamu today.
We went down again after our meeting to see him at about noon. They had just finished lunch and most of the kids were down in their cribs for naptime, but Melkamu wasn't in the room. We were told he was in the toilet, which we assumed meant that he was being changed. So we waited and waited. At 12:20, we realized that we had to get going to the office to take the van back to the guesthouse. We had put our shoes back on when he was brought down--it turns out he was being videotaped having a bath! I am going to love having that footage for him. He saw us at the bottom of the stairs and immediately reached out both arms for us, so we went back up to give him hugs and kisses. He was so fresh and clean, and so sleepy! He was quite confused when I handed him back to his nanny so soon. I hope he's OK when we get there on Monday!
The meeting was very emotional. CHSFS makes a video documentary for each child who is placed, giving as much information as they can about the birth family and birth place. If the child has living relatives, they are interviewed; if the child was abandoned, they interview the person who found him or her. While I won't go into the details, because they are for Melkamu and whomever he chooses to share them with, I will say that Melkamu's birthmother is a beautiful woman and he looks a lot like her. And I will also say that this video alone is making me rethink my stance against using CHSFS again in the future--it is such an amazing treasure for Melkamu. I cried from the second it started. We will be meeting his birth mother tomorrow.
Patrick wasn't with us for this meeting, as it really is Melkamu's information and sharing it doesn't apply to a 4-year-old. He spent the time with Blake, the 15-year-old son of another couple. Blake is a wonderful boy and we could hear Patrick's laughter and happiness from the second floor!
We went shopping this afternoon. First we exchanged money at a small grocery store, where we were given 10.18 birr per US dollar. Every time I heard a price, I had to keep reminding myself to knock off a zero, so 350 birr was $35. I also had to keep reminding myself that we brought this money specifically to buy things here, and that we likely won't be back for a very long time so we should do it. Jason found the most gorgeous mask carving and a couple of animal carvings for the boys' room. I won't say what else we got, as many of our purchases were gifts, but I will post some pictures when we get back.
The market was the first place that we'd really encountered beggars, and the sheer poverty was staggering. It was hard to know what to do or how to do it, and very hard to turn people down when they are begging for "just 1 birr". I will write more about these things later.
This evening we went to a hotel for traditional Ethiopian food, music, and dancing. The food was wonderful but I am very glad that we were familiar with good Ethiopian food before we got here--it might have been a big shock otherwise! I chose the "spicy" versions over the "not spicy" and was warned repeatedly, but the doro wat was almost exactly the way it is made at Meskerem--spicy enough to tingle the lips but not enough to hurt! It was wonderful...until Patrick tried a piece of fried zucchini and I told him what it was. He promptly threw up all over himself. Fortunately, he'd only been drinking a lot of lemonade (Crystal Light added to bottled water, don't worry) and so there wasn't much to come out. He hasn't been eating much since we got here--I am very glad that I brought granola bars, raisins, and nutrigrains or he'd be starving! He felt better after we cleaned him up, and lay down with his head across my lap while we listened to the music and watched the dancers do different tribal dances. I feel like I say this a lot, but it was amazing! I videotaped part of it because it couldn't be properly captured with just pictures.
It was a very, very long day and we were exhausted when we got back. Thankfully there was hot water available (this morning there was NO water available), so Patrick and I took a shower and he fell sound asleep with Jason. I've barely slept--maybe an hour and a half tonight total. I'm nervous about meeting Melkamu's birthmother. I don't know how we can adequately convey our gratitude for her entrusting us with her child, that we will raise him to be proud of his Ethiopian heritage and culture, and that she will never be forgotten by any of us.
I'd better go get ready. We leave at 5 a.m. and it's 3:54 now.