I left Uganda on May 30th. At the airport Ethio.pian Airlines did not have my name on the confirmation list. Apparently they are serious when they recommend reconfirming your flight ahead of time. I guess I just hadn't believed it. The flight was booked and paid for - what on earth was I reconfirming? It caused an hour of panic and I'm pretty sure I stated several times "I AM MEETING MY BABY IN ADDIS" to the counter staff. That couldn't have made much sense to them. I imagine they were thinking I was a very irresponsible mother for sending my child alone and unaccompanied ahead of my own flight.
Worked out the flight situation, I arrived in Addis on Sunday evening and had to wait through Monday for J to arrive from the States.
A very wonderful and generous friend and her family took care of us during our 19 days in Ethiopia. Kelley picked me up from the airport, tucked me into her warm and cozy guest room (with soft guest bed and feather duvet) and I relaxed for 24 hours. I knew that the orphanage was within walking distance of the house but thankfully had no idea which direction.
I slept in for the LAST time that Monday morning. I slept until 9:30am (I am writing that with SUCH longing right now!) and then lounged in bed for another hour. Kelley's kids (Ben, Isabella and Simon) didn't know adults could sleep so long and thought I had died in my room. Bella called her mom to say that she thought something might be wrong with me. ;)
On Tuesday morning, June 1st, the sun was shining and I met J at the airport at 7:30am. It was SO good to see him after several weeks apart and after all of the intense anticipation for this day.
We went back to Kelley's house and ate yogurt and fruit sitting quietly on her front porch. J slept for awhile while I paced around watching the clock.
At 11am Kelley came home and drove us down the street to the orphanage. We thought we'd be meeting Derartu right away so as we arrived my heart was racing. I remember walking up to the office to let the director know that we were there and my palms were dripping sweat. We have it all on video but didn't really take any photos. In the video we are giggling and breathing heavily and looking very pasty and pale with fear. (Or at least I am.) Jeremy says he felt fine.
But all of that anticipation was for nothing. She wasn't there! She, and almost all the other children and nannies, were at the WWO for a doctor's appointment.
We took the time to walk around and watch lunch preparations as the director, Jambo, gave us a tour. I had been to the orphanage twice before but not in this new location.
Jambo walked us straight back to the baby room first. I was holding our little FLIP video camera as I walked and feeling fine knowing that she wasn't going to be in the room. But what was in the room completely took my breath away. It was our picture. The one we blew up to 8x11 and sent with another family at the end of March. We wrote on it and sent it off but were never sure if it made it to Derartu.
As we walked into the room my eyes landed right on the picture hanging over her little yellow crib. And I burst into tears. All these weeks we've been hanging right over her crib watching her.
We spent another 30 minutes waiting and pacing on the front porch. I was fine as long as I knew she wasn't there yet. Periodically we'd have a false alarm and rush to turn on the video camera.
Suddenly it was time. And the rest is really a beautiful blur. As evidenced by our complete lack of photos. I didn't want to be living this behind a camera. We have video that Kelley took but neither J or I took any still photos. I am a little regretful just for the sake of the blog and posterity. But I know that in my mind I have the pictures captured forever.
The van pulled in. Kids streamed out. Nannies carrying two babies were walking towards us. Kelley said "there she is." And I looked up and thought "what? that's her? Why don't I recognize her?"
Oops. I was looking at the wrong nanny/baby combination.
She was in the second nanny's arms. Serious face on. Chin tucked down. Big watchful eyes. We did not run to her or grab her. I could see all over her face that it had been a big morning at the doctor's and that she was tired and wary of us strangers.
The nanny brought her up the front porch steps and stopped. Derartu looked at me and at Jeremy. I touched her and talked to her. She eyed us suspiciously. The nanny posed for the video camera for eternity. Finally she encouraged Derartu into my arms and our foreheads touched. We just stayed like that looking at each other. Then I brought her into a cuddle on my shoulder. She was so little and so watchful and wearing just the funniest little boy's baseball outfit.
There was no ceremony to it. No special instructions. No fanfare. This orphanage doesn't do things the same way as the agency transition homes for babies. It was both disappointing and reality.
We spent another hour visiting with Derartu in the baby room. I held her while she ate pasta in milk. She liked to clap for herself between bites which is something she still enjoys doing. She was so droopy and sleepy though. I gave her a bottle and we decided to say goodbye and return after naptime for another visit.
(Derartu liked looking at the photos I brought - all pictures of her and the nannies that we'd received from traveling friends.)
After her nap we came back and she was all dressed up in the infamous pink dress! This is a dress the nannies apparently love putting on her which was loathed by Morgan and her mom Jackie while they were there volunteering. We have a LOT of photos of Derartu in the pink dress. I thought it was very appropriate that our first afternoon with her be spent in the pink dress. :)
(Wearing her pink dress and "disgusted" face. She never cried with us but we could tell she was not easily impressed...)
We walked with Derartu around the yard. We touched her feet to grass. We talked to her and gave her some yogurt melts. (Despised them but enjoyed smearing them around the pink dress.) We spent time with Justin, Melissa, their family and baby Galeta whom they had just picked up. We took a photo of Derartu and Galeta under a tree together before they said goodbye.
Blur. Not nearly enough family photos. Blur. THE day went by in a flash.