As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles. - Walt Whitman

Monday, July 29, 2013

Our Trip to Ethiopia, Day 4.....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What an amazing day! Today we flew to our boys' birth city, and experienced a bit of their culture and some interesting things along the way! But let me back up and give the day's details.

Even though I took Nyquil last night, I didn't sleep very well. Throughout the night, a man up on the hill at the Orthodox church kept chanting a call to prayer. The poor L family woke up at 2 am and couldn't get back to sleep.

After getting ready, packing our luggage, eating breakfast with the L's and W's, checking email, and playing with the kids for a bit, we headed to the airport for our flight to Gambella, along with the L family and Mathewos, who works in-country for AGCI.

The guest house (our boys' home when they lived in Addis):

When we arrived at the airport, we got to meet Kiersten, our case worker for our adoption of Jalen and Jordan. We have talked on the phone so many times, but it was so great to meet her in person! We stepped up to the check-in counter, and it immediately became apparent that they could not find our tickets in the airline's system. Uh-oh! We looked down at the other end of the counter, and it seemed as if the L family was having problems, too. Ginny showed them her confirmation print-out, and we showed our email confirmation as well. After some lengthy searching, they found us....but in their system, we were confirmed to leave for Gambella on Tuesday the 16th and return on Wednesday the 17th, even though our confirmation showed otherwise. Somehow, we had all gotten bumped to another flight on another day, along with Kiersten and Mathewos, and it made our time in Gambella way too short. And unfortunately, there are only three flights a week to Gambella: Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 

They told us to stand to the side while they figured something out. We asked if there was any way we could get refunded, take a bigger plane, schedule another flight for the day, or charter a plane. But in Ethiopia, only the government can do such things. It wasn't likely that we were going to get to fly today, as the flight was full and our group needed 12 more seats. 

Just then, a butterfly flew through the airport, so the L family decided it was a sign. After all, don't butterflies mean second chances? :-) And pretty soon, an airport worker came back with tickets for all of us. Someone pulled a few strings somewhere, and we found out later that it was Mathewos. He went back to the office, told them that there were Americans here who had paid a lot of money so that they could bring some humanitarian aid, and if the airline didn't figure out how to fix their mistake, they would have to refund all of our money for the flights to Gambella as well as the flights to Ethiopia! He assured them that it would be very bad publicity for their airline, and that lawsuits could follow. It became a joke for our group for the rest of the week, and Mathewos just laughed and laughed every time we brought it up. 

As we were standing there getting things figured out, a lady walked up to Ginny and asked her if we were going to Gambella. She then wondered what Stone's name was, and wondered if he had lived at Brothers and Sisters Care Center a couple of years ago. When Ginny told her he had, she asked if Ginny knew Opiyew and Uchan's adoptive family! And right there we were! What a small world! It turns out that she was the MOWA official for the Gambella region that had worked on and signed all of our boys' paperwork! It was so awesome to get to meet her, and what were the chances? In a city of 6 million people, God had brought us together. Amazing! I showed her some photos of Jalen and Jordan, and she was thrilled! She asked if she could keep the photo book I had made, but I told her it was for their birth mother. I did give her a loose photo of the boys that was taken in Chicago last week, however. Then I took her photo. I discovered later that I had a photo of her at home that AGCI had sent me from when the boys still lived in Gambella. And Shana's comment about the whole experience? "Now I know why they messed up our tickets and we had to wait longer! We wouldn't have met that lady otherwise!" :-)

We had to wait at the gate for quite awhile as our flight was delayed.....probably to accommodate our group. But we were so glad that God had provided a way for us to get to Gambella. Otherwise we would have missed out on the work projects at the orphanage there and on the opportunity to see the region our boys are from. We finally boarded the plane and headed to Jima, as we had to make a stop there on the way to Gambella. 

Leaving Addis:

I loved how the sun was shining off of the tin roofs of the shacks below:

The green trees and plants were so beautiful against the red dirt backdrop - like some sort of an intricate patch-work quilt:

Coming into Jima:

The airport in Jima:

Coming into Gambella. Everything was green and heavily forested...a thick jungle everywhere.

We're in Gambella!

The Gambella airport. The air traffic control tower looked like a deer stand in the trees.

Gambella baggage claim:

Wass was there to meet us, and he loaded all of our luggage onto the top of the van. We also met Yilma, the director of Brothers and Sisters Care Center, and Ochar, pastor of Bethel church. I had brought photos for each of these men from the mission group that was here in April/May, and they enjoyed looking through them. They especially loved the photos that I had collected and printed of all the Brothers and Sisters alumni kids.

Yilma and Ochar:

We piled into the hot, stuffy van, along with a federal policewoman who needed a ride back to Gambella Town. Then we began our journey to the Baro Hotel down the bumpiest red dirt road I've ever seen. The Gambella airport is out in the middle of nowhere, and we had to travel half an hour just to get back to town. I'm so glad no one got carsick. 

As we crossed the Baro river, we saw people bathing. Nearby on a log sat a huge crocodile! That is something we don't often see in NW Ohio! The kids started to count "sightings".....people bathing or unclothed, and men urinating in the streets (which is very common in ET). I think they were up to 10 sightings by now. :-)

We arrived at the Baro hotel and stood for awhile talking with Yilma and Ochar while Kiersten and Mathewos checked us in. The other people at the hotel kept staring at the "ferengis" (white people) - I don't think they see white people too often in their part of the world. I showed the men the photo book we had brought of our twins and my nephew, Sintay. Yilma thanked me multiple times. He said that until recently, he had not been able to see the fruits of his labors. But seeing the photos of our boys and seeing Stone in the flesh really made an impression on him. "Life here is hard. This is why I do what I do," he said as he held up the photos.

Each of the rooms at the Baro hotel has 2 twin beds. So Chris and Adrian took one room while Shana and I shared another. We checked into our room, and Shana's first comment was, "I think we're going to experience culture shock when we get back to the Marriott in Chicago!" This is the first time I have ever slept with mosquito nets. Our bathroom light didn't work, but there was another small light above the sink. The switch for it was behind the mirror, so every time we needed to turn the light on, we had to move the mirror. I was surprised, however, to see a real toilet and toilet paper! Yay!

Our room at the Baro:

We ate dinner with Wass, Mathewos, Kiersten, and the L family at the hotel restaurant. The food was really good - I had fried Nile perch from the Baro river. Afterward as we sat around talking, a Nuer man came up to us and introduced himself. I was surprised to see that he had braces, and his English was very good. It turns out he is from North Dakota and is back in Gambella visiting family. He has lived in the U.S. for about 15 years. 
The kiddos at dinner:

We are back in our room now and are getting ready for bed. It is very hot and stuffy in here with no air conditioning, and we can't figure out how to make the fan work. But we'll try to get some sleep! Can't wait to explore Gambella in the morning!

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