Oh my word, this is gonna be a hard one to write for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that my brain is a little fried. I am tired and my body feels like it’s floating just a bit from being on a plane for the past 18 hours (and right now I'm sitting in the Chicago airport waiting on our delayed flight to get us home). I hope I remember everything, but I’ll just start at the beginning and see how I do. It’s probably gonna be a long one – so much to tell.
We left our house at 3:30 on Christmas Eve. We flew from Nashville to Washington, Dulles and then to London. I have to say that those were two ridiculously bumpy flights and I was praying and asking God to smooth it out for us – and when He didn’t, I began to remind Him that I was going to Ethiopia to adopt ORPHANS. Apparently He knew that already and I was supposed to just deal with the turbulence. LOL Turbulence is one of my least favorite things in all of life. GGGGRRRRRR. On a side note, the last time I flew to London was four years ago and I had the privilege of flying first class – yep, that is better than coach. Sigh.
We arrived in London on Christmas morning at 10:00am. We left the airport there because we had a 10-hour layover and decided it would be more fun to see a bit of the city than it would be just to sit in the airport. Because it was Christmas many of the transportation options weren’t operating so the only choice we had was to get a cab into the city, and even those were few and far between. It was about $100 for the cab fare one way – ouch!! We were dropped off near a hotel where we had lined up a three-hour bus tour to see the sites. We found a little restaurant that was open (most weren’t) and ate some fish-n-chips for our Christmas lunch. They were good, but we had hoped that we’d be able to find an “Olde English Pub” and have that experience, but it was not to be.
After lunch we walked a couple blocks (so cold, but actually really nice to be out walking) to the hotel and waited for our tour to start. We got on that bus and did everything we could to keep our eyes open and enjoy learning about London. Gatlin and I gave into a nap somewhere between Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Brian and Cooper managed to stay awake and they would wake us up when it was time to get off the bus for photo opps. This would have been good had I ever gotten out my camera. I never did. Isn’t that crazy? We were just so cold and so crazy tired and pretty darn loopy, so somewhere in that mindset I decided we’d just go with the memories. LOL After the tour, we headed back to the airport and went to the terminal for BMI airlines to catch our flight to Ethiopia.
OH – wait, we weren’t on BMI airlines even though that’s what our itinerary said. So, we tried to figure out what airline we are on and there was NOBODY in Terminal 1 who could give us that answer…they told us to go to Terminal 4…so we headed to Terminal 4. Now, that may sound easy but it was Christmas Day and the train between terminals was only running every 30 minutes. We were there 2 1/2 hours early so this should have been fine EXCEPT that when we got to Terminal 4 we were told that there was no flight out of that terminal to Addis Ababa. Ok – at that point we were frantically trying to figure out why our itinerary said BMI and yet, that wasn’t the correct airline, and why in the world weren’t there postings of flight cities, only airlines. It was SO FRUSTRATING.
We finally found an agent who knew that the flight was actually Ethiopian Airlines and it was in Terminal 2. We RAN to the train, only to wait 30 minutes for the train to pull up. We jumped onto the train and then the train man came by and said everyone needed to exit the train for a routine security check. Not kidding. We got off the train, waited five minutes for that (felt like forever) and rode the train to Terminal 2. We RAN to the ticket counters and literally couldn’t find Ethiopian Air – and finally saw it back in the very back corner of all the others, and then noticed that it said CLOSED. Yep. Thankfully, there was still a gate agent there and she immediately asked if we were the Green family – we said, “yes”. She then said that they had canceled our seats when we didn’t show up (but at this point, it was 7:30 and our flight was at 8:15 – I was TICKED that they canceled us that early in the process). Upon her words, Gatlin started BAWLING. She was so afraid that we weren’t going to get to our kiddos in Ethiopia. The agent went ahead and took our passports and started checking us on to the flight, but informed us that we were going to be on standby. Did I mention Gatlin was bawling?
We then started a mad dash to the gate and went straight to the gate agent there. She said that she was expecting us and that there was no need to cry because we had been upgraded to business class – woo hoo – OH WAIT, she then walked over to another agent, came back and said, “Did you say you were the Reeves?” Um, no, we are the Greens. “Oh, sorry, this isn’t you, you’re on standby – sit over there and wait”. So, we sat over there and waited. Thankfully, we all got seats on the flight, but none of our seats were together. This didn’t go over well with Gatlin and me so when we got on the flight we asked the man sitting next to me to switch with Gatlin. He was hesitant, so I have to admit that both Gatlin and I pulled out the puppy dog eyes – and it didn’t hurt that her poor little eyes were all bloodshot from crying. He moved. We sat together. The flight was smooth – thank You, Jesus.
We landed in Addis Ababa about 8 hours later. However, our luggage did not. Apparently luggage sitting in London 10 hours just isn’t really long enough to make the connection. (I honestly have nothing good to say about the London airport.) So we made our way to the baggage claim agent and spent the next hour plus there, immediately realizing that what everyone who had traveled before us had said was true – you can’t make any plans in Ethiopia – you just have to be patient and go with the flow. The agent said our luggage would be on the flight the next day. Eventually, we got to the guest house and got “checked in” there. We loved the guest house and the people who worked there. Wonderful.
There were five families staying at the guest house and a couple of those families were out picking up their kids at the orphanage or transition house when we arrived, so we went to eat some lunch with Rick Flores (one of the other adopting dads who happens to be from Franklin) while we waited for a driver to take us to get ours. There was a nice coffee shop within walking distance of the guest house and we grabbed lunch there and then headed back, met Alazar (he works for the adoption agency) and drove about 20 minutes to the orphanage. Before we left, Alazar told us that we wouldn’t be able to bring the kids back with us on that trip (because their Aunt was coming to the orphanage to visit with them that afternoon) but that we’d go back after dinner and be able to bring them back with us at that point.
When we drove through the gate at the orphanage, Bennet came running out the front doors yelling, “Mommy, Daddy”!! She threw open the van door and grabbed us before we could even get out. She just kept saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you”. She kissed and hugged us more times than I could count – she was just visibly so thankful that we were there. Kali and Kaleb were quiet, but they were just as happy to see us and gave us so many hugs. On a side note, a little guy named, Temesgen, stood beside the van crying huge alligator tears because he so badly wanted HIS family to come out of that van. It was all I could do not to bawl. Ya’ll, it was so sad. He has seen so many families come for their children there – and yet, he waits. The good news for him, though, is that a family has chosen him and will hopefully get their court date soon and he will finally get to open the van door for them!!
Bennet, Kali and Kaleb took us inside to show us around - all the kids followed us and were so precious. I saw many kids who I recognized from the waiting children list (and thankfully most have found their forever families and are just waiting for them to come get them – praise God!) We took a few pictures and the kids loved that – they love seeing themselves in pictures!! They showed us the girl’s room and the boy’s room where each child shares a bed with another child – so, ONE bunk bed is shared with FOUR children, and these were smaller sized bunk beds. Having said that, this orphanage is so nice – I mean, as far as orphanages go, we all decided this was the Hilton. The orphanage director is amazing and she takes such good care of the kids there. They were about to eat lunch so after our “tour” we headed back to the van and assured the kiddos that we’d be back in a few hours to pick them up and take them back to the guest house with us.
When we got back to the guest house we met the other families that had just gotten back with their adorable children. I just can’t say enough about the other families that were there with us – they are amazing people and I just know we will be friends for life. Our new friend, Nick, said that the “intensity of the adoption experience bonds you very quickly together” and he is absolutely right! Everyone was just kind of hanging out playing with their sweet new kids, but we decided it would be smart to take a nap so we did that before heading back over to the orphanage to pick up our kiddos.
When we went back, a couple of the other adopting parents wanted to go with us so that they could not only see the orphanage but also a couple of the kids who are there whose parents they know, in particular our sweet friends, the Krehbiel’s, precious twin three year old girls. I also got to see my new friend, Jill’s, little adorable son and daughter. I recognized so many of the kids but am having a little trouble remembering who belongs to who since I’ve met so many wonderful adopting families since we started this process. It was so fun to be able to have the orphanage workers tell the kids that we know their families and that they will be there for them soon. Loved that!! It was a quick in and out and we loaded up our three kiddos and were just about to head back to the guest house, but then the orphanage director said that the kid’s Aunt was there and that she wanted to meet us. I had no idea that she was still there and got a little nervous at the thought of meeting her. Brian asked the director if the Aunt was happy that we were adopting the kids, and the director said that she was “very happy” so we were grateful to know that.
We walked back to the front of the orphanage and she walked out onto the porch and I hugged her. She didn’t speak any English and so the director was translating. I told her how happy we were to become the parents of the kids and she did a traditional bow to thank me. I was able to ask her how the kid’s mother died, and like I had suspected, she died in childbirth with the twins. The Aunt said that the father died of high blood pressure. I don’t know exactly what that means or how accurate it is, but that’s what the translation was. I had hoped that she might have some pictures of the parents, but she didn’t. We were told that she would be at the courthouse the next day. Bennet shook her hand goodbye, which I thought was interesting.
We got back to the guest house and all the dads went to get dinner “take away” and brought it back. We had spaghetti and meatballs and everyone liked it (and I have another son who can throw down on some chow - wow!!). We were all so tired, so after dinner we went up to our room and got everyone ready for bed. Oh – have I mentioned that NONE of our luggage arrived? Yeah, so, after we left the orphanage the first time we made a stop at a little store and bought pajamas for everyone (except me cause I was wearing sweats that were comfy enough to sleep in - but little did I know I would be wearing them 24/7 for SIX DAYS). Thankfully, I did pack toiletries in our carry-on bag so we did have a few necessities. Gatlin and Bennet slept in a double bed together. Kali was on a cot next to them. Cooper slept on a double mattress on the floor and Kaleb was on a cot next to him. And Brian and I had a double bed as well. Our room was perfect for us – we were stuffed in as one BIG family – just the way it was meant for us to be.
The kids were so giggly that it took a few minutes to get them to settle in – they were just SO excited about everything. SO stinkin’ sweet. We said our prayers and gave our kisses and everyone fell fast asleep.
To be continued…