No place will ever mean as much to me (besides home, of course) or hold as many fond memories as Ethiopia. I'm so excited that we're back. This journey of our story is nearly over and a whole new adventure will soon begin.
We arrived yesterday morning around 11:00am (it's now 5:00am on Saturday morning). But let me begin with Tuesday, May 24th.
We arrived at the airport at around 9:30am just to discover that our flight had been postponed for an hour. Jake, Ella, Ava and Nichole were there to see us off. As much as I was looking forward to seeing my sweet little man again, it was so sad saying goodbye to "second babies", though Jake would take great offense to me calling him a baby.
We checked in all of our luggage and luckily everything weighed in under or around the 50 pound mark. We took one huge suitcase of donations for the orphanage, 2 large suitcases of Aidan's things, and then one suitcase of Liam's and my belongings (Aidan's spill-over items managed to find their way to this bag). Our carry-ons consisted of a small suitcase and bag each of things that we considered necessities (one outfit each, some items for Aidan, our adoption notebook full of all of the important paperwork over the last year, etc.).
Our flight left at 12:30pm and flew into Atlanta, Georgia. From there we had a couple of hours to kill, so we had dinner. Note to self: when ordering a chicken sandwich in Atlanta, expect to receive fried chicken still on the bone, 2 slices of bread, lettuce and tomatoes.
After Atlanta, we flew on to New York. When we boarded the plane we discovered that we had been upgraded to First Class. This was my first time ever riding in First Class (I know, pathetic). Let me tell you there is NO COMPARISON! I had a lovely woman who popped by every 5 minutes to ask me if I needed anything. The chairs were made of leather and nearly folded all the way back into a bed. Even though the flight was only an hour and a half, I slept nearly all of it.
Since we spent the night in New York, we collected all of our baggage and rode the airport shuttle to the hotel we had already booked. The rooms were very small; only about the size of a walk-in closet. I'm exaggerating here, but you get the picture. There was enough room for a full-size bed, small dresser and table. We literally had to crawl over our suitcases to get into bed. I couldn't help but think that some poor chap was probably renting the same size apartment for around $1500 in New York. Made me thankful for my spacious-in-comparison, yet cozy home with a mortgage about half the price.
The next morning, we got up early (5am!). Our flight was leaving at 11:30am, but Liam insisted that we arrived no later than 6:30. :) Delta and Emirates' scales are a bit off of each other, so we had to maneuver some of the donations around so that the bags met their weight requirements. Once checked in, we ate breakfast (McDonalds!) and waited about 2 and a half hours to board our flight. Imagine that. :)
The flight to Dubai is 12 hours from New York and there was no First Class this time. I was sardined (and when I say sardined, I'm not exaggerating) between Liam and a very nice Nigerian woman. Our new friend apparently loves Ballywood movies. She watched about 4 during the flight and each time a song would come on (these movies are all musicals) she would say, "Oh, my G-" in her lovely accent, clap her hands and start dancing from side to side, singing along. This, unfortunately, made sleep rather impossible. She really was very friendly and my only other chief complaint is that low-rise jeans and an undone belt when you are rather voluptuous is perhaps not the best fashion choice. Each time that she got up, which was quite frequent, NOTHING was left to the imagination. Oh, my poor hubby.
The staff at Emirates is so friendly. We met a nice young man named Sam, originally from Syria, but had spent most of his life in England. He currently lives in Dubai and answered all of our questions and gave us great tips on what to do while we were in the city.
Dubai is like no city that I have ever seen or experienced. It's in the middle of a desert, but it's immaculate. The buildings literally gleam in the desert sun. We rode the metro to our hotel and their was not even a gum wrapper on the ground. Nothing was out of place. It was really amazing. The staff at the airport are so helpful too. When we approached one man to ask for help, he took us on a two hours Odyssey around the airport, taking us to the money exchange, the ticket booth, found us internet service, the baggage check office, and finally to the metro station to help us buy tickets. All of the information staff were men and their uniforms are (and forgive me Chugthai, because I do not have the right terminology) full white Muslim attire from head to toe. Around the top of their head scarves, they wore a black tassel that hung down their backs. It's really a very crisp and clean uniform and looked like it would keep then cool in the heat. Aw, the heat. I've never experienced anything close to the heat of Dubai. Imagine a blow dryer set on hot, blowing merely inches from your face and you would begin to get the picture of how hot Dubai is in the summer. Liam did the conversion math for me, and it was about 125 degrees. This poor little gal from Missouri was nearly cooked alive!
After checking into our hotel, which was VERY NICE, I slept for about 3 hours and then we ventured out into the city. We spent less than 24 hours in the city, so there wasn't a whole lot that we could do. We went to the Dubai Mall, which is the largest mall in the world and saw the Burj Kaliffa (the largest building in the world). There's no way to even describe the enormous size of this thing. I imagined that the Tower of Babble looked very much like it, with it's spire stretching into the clouds. All of the architecture in Dubai was impressive. No two buildings look the same and shapes of every imagination are on display. Pyramids, upside-down cones, ones that resemble boat sales. You name it and Dubai has it! I imagine that the world's most talented architects make Dubai their home. With over 80% of the population living in Dubai being foreign, this is very likely true.
The greatest part of Dubai was meeting some of Liam's former neighbors from Ireland. Elaine and Amanda had the best stories to tell about Liam. They both work for Emirates airlines and their stories of traveling all over the world were so fascinating. We went out to dinner and had a great time. The musical fountain show outside of the mall, is truly amazing (I'm using that word a lot, heh?). Don't worry, I promise pictures are soon to follow this post, because words just do not adequately describe the beauty.
So, that brings us to Ethiopia. Our flight left at 8:30am, so it was another early wake-up call for us. One of the great things about Emirates Airlines, though is that we were able to re-check our baggage the day before. So, other than our carry-ons we had no baggage to worry about. When we boarded the plane, we discovered that we were once again bumped to First Class. I'm not sure what Airline gods shined down on us during this trip, but it was wonderful. Liam and I were like two kids in a candy store. The chairs reclined all the way down into a bed, complete with foot rest and massager. And of course, complimentary drinks were served and a very nice breakfast. I felt like a queen! The only disappointment? The flight was only 3 hours long.
Our first day in Ethiopia was like coming home. There's no better way to describe it, and all of my fellow adoptive parents most likely will concur. We met up with Erin Sibley, who's also here for embassy, Cami Brudenthal and Autumn Perkins, both here for court dates. We all know each other from the Yahoo forum. We decided to go to the leprosy hospital together. The main reason that foreigners go to the hospital is to buy things that the patients and nurses sale. We bought a traditional coffee set, salt and pepper set, and sugar bowl all carved out of wood. Everything together cost us about $15-20. I only ever thought of leprosy as an old biblical disease. The fact that there are still people in 2011 suffering from this curable infliction is really heartbreaking. We also visited AHOPE, which is a wonderful organization that cares for HIV+ children. I read about it in There Is No Me Without You. We brought a few donations and learned more about the program and the services they supply. From there we toured the facility and visited with some of the kids. There's no more humble experience than sitting on the floor putting together jigsaw puzzles with sick, and in some cases (though far less, with programs like AHOPE) dying children and seeing them smile up at you. It puts all the small problems that you may experience in you life, into true prospective. We visited the baby room and saw a little boy that had been brought to AHOPE nearly dead 3 months earlier, but that under their care, was flourishing. On our way home, we stopped off at the coffee shop and I bought my parents, Des, Andy and Megs some good, Ethiopian coffee. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but since coffee originated in Ethiopia, how could I leave without buying some?
We ended our day with dinner at Advante, a lovely Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from Jemimah Guesthouse, with our group. It was the perfect end to a beautiful day.