Sunday, March 25, 2012

Home...well sort of

It is an 9 hr plane trip from Addis to London and an 8 hour plane trip from London to Chicago. After driving the final 3 hrs from Chicago to Hudsonville, we made it home on Saturday night at 5 PM. We were greeted by Mac and Bennett in the driveway. They were happy, healthy, and full of energy. We were happy, healthy, and a bit tired. None-the-less, we had a wonderful dinner and caught up briefly with Mom and Dad Lepard. They too were happy, healthy, and a bit tired. After dinner we played outside for a bit. It was an early night, I fell asleep with Bennett in his bed and Whitney with Macabe. It's good to be home...well sort off. If home is where the heart is...then I suppose we have two homes...for now.

Now I sit here Sunday morning, awake after 10 hrs of sleep. A great 10 hrs of sleep! I'm compelled to think about how I prioritize. So quickly upon our return I was greeted by many of the things here that matter, that don't hardly exist in Ethiopia.

As an example, when I turned on my phone in Chicago, I was greeted by 3 straight minutes of audible chimes notifying me of text messages and emails that had come in from the prior week. I was disconnected from most electronic communication for the better part of the week. So much of my job depends on this. It will be a tough week, catching up...

As we pulled into the driveway, it was apparent that Michigan was the recipient of unseasonably warm weather and though we left in the winter, we have returned in the spring. The lawn is covered with clover and weeds. The planting beds are green with weeds. My first thought, "The lawn needs to be mowed, I need to do some seasonal maintenance on the lawnmower, I've missed the window to apply crabgrass preventer, it's going to take me hours to weed the planting beds, I have a lot of clover in my yard, I didn't get to trim the bushes and now they have budded, I was going to finish staining the deck before the grape vines leafed out and they have buds, I'm gone next weekend, when will all this get done?..." All of's not that important...but it my mental battles will begin.

But how will my neighbors view me? Am I "rich" or "poor"? Why do I care? Because I am American, living in the United States and this is our culture. A culture of excess that quickly displaces joy and gratitude. A culture coveted by many of those who do not have it. A culture I am proud of and now embarassed by.

For now...I will go see how much a goat costs. After all, I have plenty of water and greenery to feed and sustain.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Road to Awasa:

We volunteered to take three days out of the city to learn more about the country, its people and its culture. It was a bit of a confusing decision when we have travelling all this way to meet our son. We have only been able to spend hours with him while here for a week. After three days I was feeling that desperate need to get back to my kiddos, those in the US and in Addis. (a sign of the difficulty to come in leaving.) But let me tell you a few of the invaluable stories/lessons I have learned about my world, myself and my newest son through my three day journey on the road to Awasa.

The country is different from the developing city. And when I say developing, note that use the present action tense of the word. It is not a city in the sense that us Westerners understand. The unemployment rate is 45%. Those that have jobs, such as those working tireless hours in the sun to build the next ‘tall’ 10 story building (without use of steel, mid you), they make 35 Birr a day. In US, that equates to $2 for a day’s wage.

Now, let’s return to the countryside, just 20 minutes out of the capital. The land becomes very dry, very quickly. Rainy season is not until july/Aug, and they tell me it becomes very green. For now, it is the desert. The streets are lined along the edges as far as we can see with children carrying yellow jugs, cattle parading slowly, donkeys hauling a wooden cart, women with baskets of something I cannot identify. The most striking part of this scene is that in any direction I look, I cannot see a home, not a mud hut or hay stack in sight. And because it is desert, I can see a long distance. How far have they come? Where are they going?

Everything they do has a purpose, nothing is without its goal. That purpose is survival. I see a boy, about age 7, who is walking alone with his cattle parade, giving the gentle reminders to the cows with his makeshift rope to keep moving, despite the heat. Because he has cattle, he is considered to be one of the wealthier families. This means that while others stay back to work the farm, the boy is responsible for watering their cattle. He walks them for four or five hours each day to the nearest riverbed for a drink. When they have had their share, they rest in the shade of a tree that itself looks like it has its own story to tell. Then the return trip home begins back along the dried up road. This daily journey is necessary to keep up their livelihood.

Others walk the same distance to the nearest well with drinkable water, carrying their sustenance on their donkeys or own backs. I wondered why people didn’t move closer to the wells. The answer I was given was that it was not possible. Families are not allowed to sell their land, only pass it along in their families. If you weren’t born near a well, you likely weren’t going to be living near a well anytime soon


Before I left home in the US, I took off my engagement ring, left behind jewelry, etc. I didn’t want to be flashy or inconsiderate in my excess. What I quickly learned is that it isn’t the diamond or the jewels that do that. It is my skin that wears the wealth. Even the poorest of the people in our own country have things or clothes or access to something, anything, that these poor farmers have never seen. There is something that the Ethiopians have that so many Americans to not have any longer. They have a smile that shines through their hardship, especially the children. I tried hard to look into the faces of many of the adults, to see if that spark was lost somewhere in their growing up. For the most part, it was still there.

After our arrival in Awasa (which was filled with countless stories and miniature journeys) our white minibus with two white Americans, and our two newest Ethiopian friends who were travelling with us stopped on the side of the road to visit a coffee farm. This afternoon was one of those times we will continually ask ourselves, “Did we really do that?” It was a random roadside stop where the women agreed to show us their coffee crop and false banana plants. The only thing that seemed to be missing was the National Geographic camera crew following us. Just as we were fascinated with them and their work life, they were fascinated by us and our personal camera. It made for a good exchange, but really only something that can be described with pictures and videos, though that doesn’t come close to fully encompassing all the experience. They were kind enough to invite us into their home. The cows, two women, six children and the unknown number of others who were out working in the field lived in a mud home the size of my living room. I was surprised to see a single bed I assumed they all shared. That it until I saw the baby come crawling in the dusty dirt floor from around the half wall where the cows were. He had been snuggling with his cattle friends, maybe even sneaking a luxury drink of milk.

What does all this mean? I haven’t quite digested it all yet, but I do know it means I have a better understanding of the life and family from where Hambisa came. We are told that his place of origin is more remote and dry than this blessed road to Awasa.


Wednesday: backing up again (More time in Awasa)

Yup! Got to go out in a rickety old boat and see some hippos. Boat was wood, assembled with nails, and painted in very bright colors. One of my favorite things was to see the fishermen on their rafts made out of reeds and long push sticks, waiting to sneak up on a fish…no gas power motor needed. The lake was beautiful with mountains right up to it. Though we commented on the fact that in such a dry and deserted country, we would have guessed that the capital city would be centered near a lake, but there was very little development. One very rich man owns the land around it, so the best way to access that water is to stay in his 5 star resort. That man’s name is Haile, and as we would later learn, he is a national treasure. A prized runner. He has one many marathons and is now a millionaire. He owns multiple resorts, multiple buildings, and employees many in this country. Once again we learn another interesting fact about “Charlie” as he claims, “He is a normal man, we are neighbors. I talk to him and tell him his resort is nice, his rooms are nice, his pool is nice, his restaurant…not so nice. But he doesn’t seem to care much about the restaurant.”

After hippos we were taken to do some shopping. This is a humorous experience. We laughed anytime we caught a glimpse of each other. It was apparent there were only specific shops we were being taken to by “Charlie” because he knew the families. It was one of those “no pressure” situations where no one pushed you to buy, but we were clearly paraded there for a purpose. One shop specialized in weaving traditional fabrics. In Ethiopia each region is known for a specific style of fabric, it is most similar to kilts in Scotland that are specific to a clan. The store itself was a small 8 foot by 15 foot area with 5 or 6 people sitting inside. Stacked from floor to ceiling were fabrics and garments representing the different areas. As we showed more curiousity, they offered to walk us through a small door to a room that was much larger, about the size of a two stall garage. In this room there were 4 people on sewing machines, once boy crimping snaps, and two people ironing. In the back there was an older gentleman, working on home made looms actually weaving each of these tradition patterns. As it turns out, this was a “one-stop shop”. Kurt asked about hats and after trying one on, there were some laughs and it was decided that Kurt’s head was too big for any hat they had ever made before. “That’s OK”, said Charlie, “they measure your head”. As long as they were going to measure Kurt picked out a shirt as well. Kurt kneeled down so his head was at an appropriate level. How do you not buy it when they specially make it for you, starting with the weaving of fabric? We walked out(the following morning) with a tailor made shirt and hat, a humorous memory and some laughs with new friends. Got to love it! Oh, and don't let us forget to tell you about our trip to the Merkato where the locals do their shopping.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Today was so much fun with Hambisa! We were able to have an extended 3 hour stay with him and his friends today. Everything about it was wonderful. Now to only have all our children together on the same continent! We miss Mac and Bennett, and we are now going to be missing sweet Hambisa too. Instead of posting our catch up days here on the blog, we have been sitting here with our extra time viewing videos and photos of our little man. We will catch you up soon, but now we are off to catch a plane.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Let’s back up…now that we have had a second visit with Hambisa, I feel better able to share my first visit with Hambisa. As a mother, that first one was a tough one. My emotions were running strained as we hadn’t yet been to any African orphanages to know what to expect, we don’t
speak the same language, and my son was going to be there…in the flesh. We had the other American family with us to visit and take charge of our camera for photos and video opportunities. I loved that and I hated that. They allowed us to tend to the job we wanted
without having to worry about documenting it ourselves. Yet, it’s a little strange to be watched
having this moment.

It was 1pm here, prime naptime in the US and Ethiopia. Score
1 for something the same. We speak English, not Amharic. Score 1 for something
different. We are giants, about a foot taller than any of the other caregivers.
Difference: 2. Our skin is white, our touch unfamiliar. Differences: 3
& 4. Now, these differences are part of what Kurt and I know, love, and cherish. Now put yourself in the “shoes” (socks) of little Hambisa, awakened from a nap to meet these crazy, emotional creatures. He is 10 months old. He is fed. He is healthy. He is moving. He
is beautiful. I am crying…And he is not very happy to see us.

I was hoping he would warm up, but it was quite the opposite. He sat for a few minutes on
our laps with little to no response, then he wanted nothing to do with us. He cried and squirmed. Who is supposed to console him? His caretakers (my angels) have familiarity
and relationship for him. I want to be the one to help him, but I am not. I
know it is best for him to be consoled by the nannies, because I have to leave
again. I have to return home without him one more time. What good can I do by
connecting with him and returning to the US? I hand him back to be consoled, even though I am his mother. The time will come, right? It is just not now.

The rest of our stay at the orphanage was spent with other children who had awaken from their naps. There is another baby girl at the same orphanage who will be Hambisa’s
(second) cousin. She too is a beauty. We had fun playing with her, holding her close, letting her know what a special Mama she had coming to get her asap. It is so good to know that
with all the unfamiliar that will be in the US with their new families, they will have each other to grow with. It comforts me.

And that is it for day one with Hambisa. Hour one. Not so glamorous. I sobbed the
rest of the way back to the hotel with that ‘after adrenaline’ let down. I love you little
man. I am choosing to be grateful for caretakers so special to you that you, too, have learned to love.

Day Two with Hambisa:
Back to the orphanage we trod, following court where it has become official. We are a family of
five! Now, it seems as though an Ethiopian judge signing our paperwork was all we needed to turn the corner. OR maybe it was just that we decided to wait until after the naptime today before we returned. :)

Today our words are still different. Our skin, our touch and our size are still different. But today, he is rested and less scared. Sleep, my friends. Never underestimate the beauty of sweet
sleep. Today he could see that we smile the same and like to make each other laugh, that we actually have more similarities than differences. My little Hambisa plays with others, likes to be near the action (which is good cuz with three boys, there’s gonna be a lot of action), crawls on the floor, pulls himself to standing, and as we know from Day 1, attaches appropriately to his
caregivers. Let us not forget…he is also a stud in my sunglasses! I am thankful
for Day 2…a happy reunion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A view of our luxury hotel in Addis.

A traditional Ethiopian meal with our friends. No forks allowed, and be sure to use just your right hand...sorry lefties!

The road to Hambisa's orphanage

Knocking on the gate awaiting entrance

We're together at last!

Stella Stones


Our directive for today was once again simple. Meet “Charlie” in the lobby of the hotel at 7Am so we can depart for Hawassa, a 170 mile trip for some cultural immersion. This we did and were pleased to find both “Charlie” and a driver we were familiar with, Jared. This my friends was the most educational 170 mile drive I have ever been on. I’m not yet fully capable of describing every observation, but to sum it up…national geographic and the nightly news can hardly describe the beauty, poverty, famine, and simplicity of this country! There was only one moment in our 170 mile drive through the desert, where I could not see a person walking in one direction or the other along the road. Yes, the rural Ethiopian people are constantly moving and do you know where they are going? To the water. It consumes their day, every day. Some are carrying yellow pails for water, others have them strapped on to a donkey, while others are simply driving their entire cow or goat herd to the water. Young boys the age of Macabe with a switch and a donkey. It’s beautiful, scary, convicting, sad. You want to help…but where do you start? Since we’ve been here I’ve seen UN, WorldVision, UsAID, Latter day Saints, japan, and other humanitarian vehicles and projects. All I can say is, this is real folks! I mean real, real.

Along our trip we stopped at one of 27 underground orthodox churches. These date back to the 15th century (I think) and are amazing! We also stopped at an Ethiopian Heritage site received a casual tour of an ancient Ethiopian warrior burial ground. This dates back to 12th Century. There are headstones of sort called Stella stones that tell the complete history of the warrior. Many of these were just discovered (well probably not just discovered, as the locals likely knew where they were) and excavated in 1988. It’s a little weird because you are in one of the most remote places ever, you park your van in a field of brush where you can see the hilly topography for miles, and out of nowhere emerges a gentleman who offers to give you an official tour for a small fee (he has a handsfree phone accessory dangling from his tattered and beaten shirt). He was official, with an official gov’t receipt, but nothing about this seemed official. To our right was one of many traditional Ethiopian huts with a lady roasting coffee beans. “You guys are good luck!” “Charlie” exclaimed. She’s roasting coffee for us! After our tour we sat outside the hut and shared a cup of coffee.

Let’s see, oh yes, about 2:30PM we completed our 170 mile drive and arrived at our lodging for the night. A couple things I learned from experience. There is Cellular phone service covering the entire route of the trip, as “Charlie” typed on his Iphone the whole way and it was not uncommon to see a local shepherd walking behind his flock of goats with homemade switch in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Also, “Charlie” insisted I sit in the front seat of the van while he sat in the back. I really wanted to sit in the back with Whitney so we could be together and so I could hear “Charlie” better, as windows were open. So after one of our stops I moved to the back. It was then that “Charlie”’s intentions became apparent. In small villages, officials can waive down passing by cars and force them to give rides. However, there is an exception to this and that is, that official tour companies who are carrying tourists are exempt from this rule. While officials may not be able to differentiate the tour companies without stopping them, if there is a 250 lb white dude sitting in the front of a van, they see you coming from a long ways and don’t stop you. After I moved to the back, we were stopped at just about every town. We joked, and for 20 birr, I agreed to move back to the front seat. J

So we made it to our hotel at 2:30 PM, had some time to freshen up and then left for a local orphanage in Awassa. We spend some time with a wonderful Christian man who along with a small staff cares for 48 young children. We stayed with this man and met every child in the orphanage. We once again, delivered blanket, board books, and other fun stuff for the children. Oh yes, did I mention that they like candy? My pockets were stuffed with Smarties and all day we were giving them to children. They need much more than smarties, but candy seems to draw a smile everytime. We left the orphanage at 7PM. Dinner in the city, where we were joined by the orphanage director again. Great conversation until about 9PM when we decided to leave. Curious thing about dinner, as we sat and ate, the restaurant lost power. Guess’s dark in Africa when the power goes out, but nobody flinches. There was hardly a pause in conversation as we talked in the dark. In about 10 minutes candles started to appear on the tables. This would have been a serious show stopper at home. It was hardly a bump in the road here.

Back to the hotel, it is raining. Again “Charlie” exclaims, “Rain in the dry season?!? You guys are good luck! You can come back often!” Is it seriously only Tuesday? Tomorrow “Charlie” promises to let me ride hippos and sell me at the market. Is this fun or scary? I’ll let you know tomorrow.



It’s court day! Our appointment was first thing in the morning and we were told to meet our ride at 8:45 AM. We wouldn’t need anything but our passports. Luckily we were going to court at the same time as the other adoptive family in Ethiopia from our agency so we had a peer group to keep each other company. We were picked up by 2 people whom we had not previously met that work for our agency in Ethiopia. One was the court advocate and the other a social worker. When we inquired about what to expect the court advocate simply stated, ‘just follow me’. The social worker said she wasn’t sure as she just started working for our agency a week prior and hadn’t been to court yet. Sweet! (enter your own sarcastic comment here)

After about 15 minutes of driving in what seemed like circles, our van pulled to the side of the road and we were told to hop out. In between two street stands was a shiny (well sort of) chrome door with a group of police officers sitting out front. We were loosely frisked before entering and climbed 3 floors of a dark stairwell. I found it odd, that we walked through a metal detector at the restaurant the night before, but the courthouse only had the resources to support a simple pat down. As we passed each of the lower floors the halls seemed to be lined with people. We reached the third floor and walked to the end of hall way and entered a room that reminded me of the waiting area at the Secretary of State’s office. It was filled with an eclectic mix of people, about 40 of them. Thank goodness for the European family sitting in the corner who looked like they just came from the Casino in Monte Carlo or I definitely would have felt overdressed in my khakis, white polo shirt with a tie (I had to keep cool) and blue sport coat. There were signs in the room strongly suggesting silence and we were told that this is best advised. I quietly inquired with our advocate if all the people in the room were there for adoptions and he confirmed. There was only one other American contingent and the rest appeared to be from a mix of countries.

So we sat waiting, with each pair of nervous eyes meeting the next, likely thinking the same thing I was…”I wonder what’s their story?’. After getting tired of trying to find something to look at I remembered I had my phone in my pocket. Thank you Angry Birds! After about 25 minutes a door in the side of the room opened and the first of the people seated in the room were beckoned into the judge’s chambers. As the door opened and closed it was preceded and followed by a loud clanking deadbolt lock. The first couple emerged about 3 minutes later and appeared content. Somebody rattled off some Amharic and our advocate collected our passports and disappeared into the judge’s chamber for about 10 seconds, then he peeked his head out and waived all of us into the chamber, both us and the other family. The female judge asked us 5 or 6 basic questions about our intent, our preparation, and our understanding of the finality of the adoption. The other family and ourselves, answered as a whole, kind of like when the youth group takes profession of faith after finishing catechism. Then she signed some papers and said, congratulations. At this moment we became a family of 5 in the eyes of Ethiopia. Now I have to admit, given my surroundings, I wasn’t really struck with emotion, but then again, I’m a guy and at that moment in time I was more focused on my exit plan and the emotion would likely come later.

So we returned to the van with a sigh of relief and were told we were now going to pick up a new family who had just gotten into town and we were going to go shopping, we’d visit the orphanage again to see our new son mid-afternoon after nap time. What?!? I have a sport coat and tie on and have only brought my passport and enough cash to get out of an emergency, as advised by our agency in America. Have I mentioned yet that this was going to be an adventure and that I would have some learning by way of being flexible? To make a long story short, we survived shopping. At this point in time, we put our heads together with the other families and told the driver that we want to have lunch back at our hotel. A few phone calls later and he received approval to take us back to the lodge. You see, all of the shots are being called by our contact “Charlie” who was not with us and our only contact is through the drivers cellphone.

We returned to the lodge, freshened up, walked down the street to a have a bite and get to know the “new’ family a bit and then packed up to go see our new son! This time since all the kids would be done with naps, we packed the arsenal of toys from beachballs to jump ropes to bubbles. When we arrived Hambisa was well rested and happy! We had about 30 minutes alone with him and the nurse (yeah, sweet, there’s a bonafide nurse at his orphanage mon-fri who also speaks great English.) Guess what, he’s a legit 10 month old boy who likes to crawl, put things in his mouth, swing around in our arms and explore. I took him outside while Whitney talked shop with the nurse, this lady and the other caregivers are truly God’s blessing. They care for these children like they are theirs and then have to turn them away to adoptive families. Hambisa has been at this orphanage since October and is the longest standing child there to date. The nurse admitted she will miss seeing him go, as she does all the kids, but then restated that this is how success is defined in this orphanage. Anyway, back to my time with Hambisa. It was important that I hug him and kiss him and begin to explain to him about how much he is loved by not only us but also all of our friends and family back home who will care for him in a fashion he can’t understand. The truth be told, he didn’t understand a word I said because, well, his caregivers only know Amharic and while he is responsive to some Amharic dialogue, he doesn’t know English. So I simply started singing him our “good night” songs that we sing every night with the boys and “johnny appleseed”. Half way through the songs, the emotions finally caught me and all I could do was stand outside next to the razor wire and hug Hambisa and cry.

I was pretty much dried up by the time Whitney came out and at this time the other kids came out as well. I handed her Hambisa and got to the other order of business, some serious playing with the other kiddos. We blew up beach balls and blew bubbles. We also brought some board books with pictures and simple English. Surprisingly, it was the board books that captures all of their attention at the same time. Beautiful kids folks, beautiful kids.

So soon enough our driver emerged picked up one of the kids for a while and then said we have to leave. We returned to the hotel at about 5 PM to capture our thoughts before walking to dinner with the other family, who had gone to visit their new child a different orphanage that afternoon. Good night Sweet Hambisa Scholtens!

Monday, March 19, 2012



Morning came early on day two and I suppose I wasn't surprised to find out that the alarm clock sounded a lot like a goat. Because it was a goat. Our windows were open and in the distance we could hear a monotone hum of foreign chant and singing being piped throughout the city. I later found out this was Orthodox Christian prayers.We headed to the fifth floor for breakfast. A gentlemen made us a scrambled egg with onion and pepper (the hot kind). We practiced casual amharic and true to form, we received smiles as if to say, "we don't understand you, but thanks for trying anyway"

After breakfast we weren't sure of what to expect as we were told to get to the hotel and we would be contacted from there. It was kind of like Charlies' angels or Mission Impossible, in my mind anyway. Our phone did ring and it was "charlie", although he has a different name, he operates in an environment where we will protect his privacy and simply call him "Charlie". He said another couple in town asked to go to the protestant church service and he was going to pick them up at 8:45AM We could join or rest for the morning. Let me think about that one...we're going!

We were early to church so we stopped at a coffee house and grabbed a tea/coffee/machiatto in the Ethiopian knock-off of Starbucks. It appears to be the universal urban drink. A good time to meet our peers, who were a fun bunch from Kentucky. A single mom and her 14 year old son were in ethiopia meeting their daughter/sister for the first time. Also with them were family friends, another mother and son combo. We compared notes and started to get to know each other.

Back to Church. One of the boys traveling with us said, 'That was amazingly like our church at home". And it was! It is so wonderful to know and feel that God is God everywhere. This was a large church and extremely diverse, from Ethiopian to Asian to European and American influences. In singing the doxology, I was struck on how God is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and how he presents himself in lands foreign or familiar in the same. The pastor preached from the Book of James about why it's so easy to love people "over there", but not easy to love them "here". A great way to start the week.

Then it was off to see Hambisa! We'll cover that in a different blog post.

After our visit to the orphanage, we had found out that the director of the orphanage from remote Ethiopia where Hambisa was dropped of was in Addis! We asked if we could visit with him and he was amenable. We met at a coffeee shop and had a wonderful dialogue with this man for over an hour, discussing his history as an Ethiopian orphan who has since recivied his seminary degree and is now running an orphanage in remote Ethiopia. He is a jovial and fun man and was able to give us first person recollection of Hambisa's birth through 4 months of age. He said Hambisa truly is a gift from God and he knew in his heart that if he and his wife could nurse him back to health God would have a special plan for him. Hambisa has an awesome story, one we can't wait to share with him someday. We are so lucky to have an opportunity to meet Pastor James.

After this meeting "Charlie" took us to a traditional Abysinnian restaurant where we had the pleasure of traditional food and dancing from the Eastern part of Aftrica. This area was formerly known as Abysinnia before being broken into what is now the multiple countries in the Horn of Africa. "Charlie" introduced us to a new drink called "teich?" it is fermented honey and yes it does contain alcohol, though nobody really knows how much. It will no doubt be the subject of multiple conversations between the two boys from kentucky, we were able to get a drink before they were cut off. My response..."Big deal! You're from Kentucky, isn't this just like moonshine?"

By 10Pm jet lag kicked in and it was time to return to the hotel.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Our first morning in Ethyo-pya and we are now tasked with breaking down barriers. Barriers in our own minds and hearts as well as barriers created by the experiences and assumption of others. I've made it a personal goal to smile all the time on this trip, as I can think of no greater non-verbal piece of communication (This is a stretch, as it is not always my forte)

But first...our trip. We drove to Chicago to catch a plan to London. It was a little bit close, as Chicago traffic reared it's angry head. With constant motion we were able to check-in, move through security, hit the bathroom, and walk right onto the plane and into our seats with nary a moment to spare. This is big! You see, I'm a control freak. Not necessarily the kind of freak who has to control everybody else, but the kind who's brain is always scanning the environment, the background, the people around me so i can strategize on how to do things more safely, more efficiently, or more effectively. Moving through traffic and the airport are great fun, but pretty mentally exhausting for me. Once I planted my biscuits firmly in that seat, I knew that I was no longer in control and it's time to recharge my batteries. Ahhh.

So we hit London and I was excited! My first time! I was worried about language barriers but this proved to be a non-issue :). I was on full out watch for the Queen and the crown princes but unfortunately, they weren't at Heathrow at 7Am in terminal 1. That said, I do think Mr. Bean was driving the passenger cart! Anyway, it became apparent that we were in London on St. paddy's day. I quickly assessed the situation and realized what had to be done. Regardless of the fact that it was 7AM in England and 3 Am in Michigan, Whitney and I headed straight for the Tin Goose pub, ordered an Egg and Pork Biscuit and a pint of Guiness. Check that one off the bucket list!

Our next flight had an unexpected twist. One that was clearly in the plans for the airline, but news to Whitney and I. We had a small layover in Beirut! Sweet! We stopped, gazed out the windows, dropped 90% of our passengers and headed towards Ethyo-pya. An interesting observation with this stop...the plane was pretty mixed from a racial/cultural make-up heading to Beirut but what was interesting was when we stopped in Beirut all the caucasions (including us) were handed customs forms and most of them exited the plane. We did not, they assumed we'd be getting off in Beirut. What was left on the plane was 24 people for the last 4.5 hr leg of the trip. The only other caucasions on the plane were the lonely two people up in first class (there were about 30 seats in first class). Whitney and I made up the balance of caucasions. The salesman in me clicked and I thought, with such an empty flight, I could easily negotiate with the crew to sit in first class with Whitney. Then something started happening around us. The economy section began to wake up. Unlike typical plane rides where conversation is kept sterile and eye contact is minimized, our travel mates in economy, began getting out of their seats, sitting next to each other, passing kids between them and engaging in meaningful conversation. Whitney said, "They must all know each other". Yes...they did, they were all ethiopian. The community that developed over those 4 hrs was great to be a part of. It was like a family reunion among 20 people who had never met before. We participated where we could as most conversation was amharic, but most of them could speak english as well.

Upon arriving to Addis we negotiated customs and were pleased to find a driver for our hotel holding a sign with our names on it. He was so happy to meet us and gave us both hugs. I have to tell you after 24 hrs in planes and airports, it was good to get a hug from this little man. He had a distinct manly odor about him that had indicated he'd been sweating in the recent past and likely hadn't showered for a few days. Funny, how I was no longer worried about my greasy hair or the salad dressing that dripped on my pants while eating on the plane.

Our driver negotiated us past a throng of other drivers who were begging for our attention. Short though he was, one would have guessed he was 7 feet tall among his peers as he pushed our 100 lbs of luggage past his peers towards his van with a bright smile as if to say, "I have customers and i am happy help!"

It was dark as we negotiated the one way road, now used two ways with ensuing construction. We arrived at our hotel, The Sadula Lodge and checked in to a room on the second floor. Room is a nice blend of furniture and craftsmanship installed in a do-it-yourself manner. It certainly was a good place to plant our head and end our first day.

Selam - it means peace, or Hello

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Where do I begin?

Someone asked me this week how we were feeling in our preparation to travel...where do I begin?

Leaving tomorrow means getting much closer to holding my littlest man who is almost 10 months old. He began crawling about 2 weeks ago, so I plan on doing a little chasing too. Traveling means being able to have a picture of him, with his parents also in it! It means being able to actually touch him to let him know I care. It means meeting the angels who have cared for him and all his friends in my absence. It means grieving for his biological father who had to make the greatest of sacrifices. It means leaving behind all the others in his biological family and orphanage family whom I cannot also take with me. It means a trip to AFRICA! a spiritual journey, a great exploration, a grand adventure. It means leaving behind two other adorable and super fun boys whom we will miss greatly. It means wishing we could take them along, and yet it also means giving great thanks for grandparents who will take fabulous care of them so we don't have to take them along!.. I am excited. I am scared. I am ecstatic. I'm nervous. I'm sad. I'm in disbelief. In short, I feel like it would be appropriate to just throw up! :) The ladies at the adoption office tell me that this all sounds about right.

Stay tuned. I can't wait to actually be allowed to share pictures of his darling face with all of you. Blessings to all of YOU for caring about my family. And so begins a new chapter...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Developing a Zone Defense

The Scholtens family (Kurt, Whitney, Mac, and Bennett) have been engaged in the journey of adoption. On Friday 3/16 Kurt and Whitney will be taking our first trip to Ethiopia to meet our sweet little man and stand in front of an Ethiopian court to state our intent to adopt. We are not the first to have this experience and with God's will, we will be far from the last. We'd like to offer up a praise for the joy in learning through this process. The EGM family has been an integral part of preparing us for this journey, from our first realization that this story is not about us, to the most recent series of messages forcing us to acknowledge that we are Untied. God's been preparing our hearts through EGM and removing obstacles SO THAT this journey can be made real for us and our little man in Ethiopia. Rejoice!

That said, the journey continues and with very short notice, we are heading to Ethiopia on Friday. We have a rough idea of what to expect, but will be submitting ourselves to many unknowns. Pray with us that God will keep our senses fresh and allow Love and Compassion rule our hearts and minds rather than fears or judgement that might be present in such an unknown environment. What a great Adventure!