Wednesday, June 30, 2010

As for more recent than a few days ago... We've been able to spend quite a bit of time with our sponsor girl Emebet and also have my parent's sponsor girl Erusalem with us today. This was all after being at the Lem Lem school, where Mia attended private school through COEEF, taking pictures of the sponsor girls and helping them write postcards to... See More their sponsors. Some soccer playing, picture taking and getting to know more people and kids thrown in the mix while there too. Yesterday we spent quite a bit of time with Mia's cousin Yeshi and her little 4 year old son. Yeshi is who Mia had been living with when we adopted her. Trying to remember what else has been going on...a lot, that's for sure. Right now Mia is with one of our drivers, Berhanu at the Merkato (largest open air market on the continent). We're not with them because we'll get charged the local "Face Tax"...that us westerns get charged all too often. They are there looking for a few things for Emebet and Erusalem. We've done some shopping for Emebet, but didn't get it all done and none yet for Erusalem, since we just barely got hooked up with her today. Oh and they're going to check into sewing machines, which we'll probably be getting for the orphanage in the morning.

Update from a few days ago...Traffic, traffic, traffic...who knew there could be so much congested traffic in downtown Addis Ababa. Add to that the construction everywhere and basically no traffic laws at all. Lanes, lanes...we don't need no stinking lanes!!! I've never been so close to so many cars, while in motion, in my life. Luckily the driver is an ace at it, so I just mostly laugh about it all. Tina not so much... With all the insanity, I do believe we drove to the four corners of Addis Ababa (a very large city) about 3 or 4 times today. But that aside, we had a good and productive day. We made it out to the Kidane Miheret orphanage and were able to catch up with the sister that helped us so much back in 2003, Sister Camilla. She's a sweet little nun (about 65 years old), originally from Austria, who remembered the kids and all the chaos that went on when we were adopting and trying to reunite Tigist with her brothers. We brought up an idea we had talked about with Tina's dad about purchasing a sewing machine for the orphanage and you would have thought she was a little kid on Christmas morning the way she lit up! She was so excited and had been needing one for years. So purchasing a sewing machine is now at the top of our list of things to do. We were told to buy one at the Merkado (largest open air market on the continent...and somewhere the embassy usually isn't all that excited about us shopping), but we know that the price would probably double the minute they see the color of our skin, so we talked to our drivers about purchasing it for us and they agreed. We're pretty happy about that! I think Mia will head into the big purchase with them. We also talked to the sisters about handing out donations and the femine hygiene kits, along with going over the use of the items in the kits to the older girls. It looks like we're on for Thursday with all that. Hopefully we'll have the sewing machine by then too. Throw a little more sovenier shopping in here at some point...was sick of that by the time we were done LOL.On our way to find Emebet (one of the girls we sponsor to go to private school through COEEF), we stopped by a place in Tina's quest to find Sambosa's (little triangular shaped, deep fried pastries, filled with veggies or meat...and just spicy enough)...but were denied once again. We decided that food was still in order and had a few pizzas and big plates of fries. Much to me and Mia's disappointment, the ketchup wasn't the amazing "Ethiopian ketchup" we were hoping for. Not sure what the deal was with that!!!Let's see, we found Emebet...all by the pouring rain (again)...thanks to Mia's excellent memory. We were all excited to see each other. This was the third time we'd been able to meet her, but she was still her shy little self. Well, maybe a little less shy than before, but not much. We talked to her aunt that she lives with and she agreed that Emebet can hang out with us as much as she'd like to. With that said, she jumped in the van with us and off we went. Unfortunately for her, it was a lot of driving around...probably more than she'd done in her entire life. I'm sure she was in parts of the city she'd never even heard of before. Right after picking up Emebet and in our so far unsuccessful attempts to locate the in country director of COEEF, we headed to the Lem Lem School to see if they might be able to help us get a hold of him. They did at least verify that we have the right phone numbers for him, but still no luck getting in touch with him (even now that it's 10:45 p.m.). Hopefully we'll find something out tomorrow.So we trekked from the northeast corner of Addis Ababa, to the southwest corner, to pickup our friend Henock's girlfriend, Andanant for dinner. She's absolutely stunning and tiny. Now with 12 of us in the van, we headed for headed for a restaurant that should have the game on between Netherlands and Slovakia (or was it Slovenia?)...on several flat screens as well as a projector & 10 foot screen. We convinced both the driver and his shotgun buddy to come in and eat with us, so had 12 at dinner. It was good food, even if the conversation was a little difficult at times, since Andanant doesn't speak a ton of English. It seemed to go well over all though and she is really nice.It wasn't too far back southwest to drop her off, but then way up northeast to drop Emebet off at home...then the long haul back to the guest house. I'm really hoping for less taxi time tomorrow.Right now we're watching a fuzzy broadcast of Brazil vs. Chile (Brazil is up), muted...Tina is on the floor playing some crazy card game with the kids and Sierra passed out on the couch. G'night all...!!!!
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Hales with Rafe's brother Musay

Wow, what a day!

Wow, what a day! Let's see, we visited Mia's old neighborhood yesterday and were able to get in contact with a few of her relatives. We'll be meeting up with them Tuesday. We also visited the Lem Lem School, where Mia attended school while living in Ethiopia. There was an end of year carnival just wrapping up, but there were still quite a few people and kids around. Got to have buna (coffee) with some of the administrators, play with kids and get a tour of the new facilities they're building. Pretty amazing...a new library even! They invited back to a big parent's day program on the 4th of July too. Probably no fireworks, but lot of celebrating, dance & song and our sponsor girl will be there. We also visited the Layla House children's home, where Mia spent 5 months before we adopted her and hung out with lots of kids. Steve (the guy from Utah) was with us and we got to meet his little 10 month old daughter...what a cutie!

So, back to today. We went on a quest for Sambosas...the main thing Tina wanted to track down at a specific bakery. Of course the bakery had moved a year after we'd been here and they didn't know where they'd moved no such luck. After that we dropped off Mia and Tigist to get their hair braided while the rest of us went souvenir shopping. It wasn't too bad...Sierra wasn't too out of her element with not being able to say no. Rafe and Tina even managed to barter for some low down prices..."Habasha price, I promise!"

We went back, got the girls and headed to our friend Henock's house for lunch with his family. He lives in VA now, but we hung out and had amazing Ethiopian home cooking. We talked to him on the phone later and he said his mom was very happy that we were able to come by and visit with them.

Off to find Rafe's brother, Musay at the Brother's of Charity home for the handicapped. Musay is paraplegic, but there are physically and mentally handicapped boys and young men there. I'll have to admit it can be quite draining being there. I think it takes it's toll on him at times too. He was so surprised to see Rafe. I don't think any of the people who were there when Rafe was could believe it was really him. It was great to see them together!

All piled in to the taxi next and off to find Tigist's grandpa...but no one knew exactly where he lived. I have no idea how, in the pouring rain no less, but our drivers managed to track him down. What an emotional time with so many relatives, neighbors and old friends suddenly flooding through the doorway. It was hard for the kids with the language barrier, which caused Mia to be pulled 50 ways at once trying to translate for everyone that wanted to say something. She did an amazing job of it though. I think the memories came back for Tigist, Mikias & Yohannes (Tigist's two younger brothers) though as the old faces kept coming through the door. One way to describe it all was an emotional tornado of chaos.

After that we decided to just come back to the guest house (where the internet is working...whoohoo!) and's definitely needed at this point.

Tomorrow it's meeting up with some other people, hitting the Kidane Mihret orphanage, probably Layla House again and meeting up with the in country directory of COEEF, Fitsum. So we'll sign off for now...see ya!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Update from the Hale bunch

Well hello there... Coming to you live and direct from the business center at the Addis Ababa Hilton. Things have been going good so far. Hopefully we'll straighten out the internet connection issue so that we can get on more often. We honestly haven't done much yet. Slept til about noon yesterday, got up and kickin' around, hit a bank and a little grocery a few haircuts out of the way.We've also met some great people along the way. One guy at the guest house that is here picking up his adoptive 10 month old daughter is from Utah. He's been hanging with us some as we go out and about. We also met a really cool guy that works for the State Dept. Talked to him a bit and got his business card. Oh, and can't forget the lady we met on the plane from Rome to Istanbul. She's originally from South Africa and is now a fashion journalist in Milan...and asked us if we'd like to come to her beach house one of the days we're back in Milan...only a little over an hour on the train. I do believe we'll have to take her up on that. So we're off now to visit Tigist's grandpa and lots of other little things on our list of things to do. We'll check in later when we can!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And so it begins...

Well, we managed to get all 400 pounds of the humanitarian supplies packed in 8 extra bags...which brought us up to 16 large bags and then the various carry-on stuff. What a haul! It took two full sized SUV's to carry all of it and the 8 of us to the airport.

You can see everything stacked up on a cart out at the curb at the SLC airport. It was hard to believe just how smoothly things went with all those bags and people. We were checked in and through security in I'll bet less than a half hour.

After sitting on the tarmac at JFK for almost an hour, we were all ready to wander around the airport for a few hours, get a bite to eat, etc...and then realized...OUR PLANE BOARDS IN 20 MINUTES!!!! Of course it was on the other side of the airport too. But we made it (With BK in hand Tina's mentioning). Then the loooooooooooooooooooong...flight started to Rome.

We all survived that too, got all the extra bags checked into airport storage and then tried to figure out a pay phone...unsuccessfully. Luckily some guy noticed we looked totally lost and asked if we needed help. The guy is a taxi driver and even called our hotel to see about getting their shuttle to us, but it apparently doesn't run for a good 5 hours after 12:30 p.m.. So he conveniently had a big enough van to fit us all and charged us less than the hotel shuttle even...BONUS!

Once to the hotel there were some naps involved, then some fun at the beach down the road...more napping...and finally some actual Italian Italy! Be careful what you order around here though, I had a calzoni that was as big as my thigh...knee to hip! What the...!?!?!?!?

So we're back off to the airport around 8:30 a.m. and the trek to Addis Ababa...via Istanbul...begins.

More to to bed for now!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Someone asked us to get some of our adoption story down, so here's the main piece of it all that Tina put together the other night.

Here we are.... The Hale Family. We're tall, short, black, white, thin... not so thin... we're diverse. We're a blended family built by marriage and adoption. In our family we have Wayne (dad), Tina (mom), Mia (19 yrs old), Tigist (17 yrs old), Sierra (16 yrs old), and Surafel (13 yrs old and the only son). We also have another 18 yr old daughter who we lost (in a way) several years ago... but that is a story for another day.

This story begins on an evening in 2002 when Wayne and I were watching the news while hanging out in the house. Sierra was 8 years old and at her mom's house for the week. A spotlight came on the news about an education program a local man and his wife had started in Ethiopia for girls. The program explained how girls often had little value and how much education can change their lives. We listened to to how this man and his wife had met a grandmother who was working three jobs to earn enough money to send her granddaughter to a private school in Addis Ababa to ensure she would have a good education and a better future. The couple asked how much the annual tuition was at the private school and were shocked to hear it was $150 per year. That's how it began for them. They started sponsoring the girl to go to school and then their friends wanted to sponsor a girl and so on and so forth. Until (at the time) the program had grown to include over 200 girls throughout Ethiopia. Wayne and I decided then and there we wanted to be involved. $150 seemed like such a small amount to give someone the gift of an education (I remember we compared it to about as much as trip to Sam's Club!) so we immediately signed up for a sponsorship online. Little did we know here we'd be 8 years later with two girls sponsored through the education program and four kids adopted from Ethiopia... not to mention writing out our story as we prepare for another 3-week trip to Ethiopia (humanitarian this time NOT adoption! Just in case you were wondering ;o)

Before we got involved with the education program we couldn't have even told you where in Africa Ethiopia was, let alone that Addis Ababa was the capital. The day after we signed up for sponsorship the man in charge of the education program called us and explained he was leaving to Ethiopia for 2 weeks in a few days and that he would find us a girl to sponsor. That girl ended up being Emebet, a 9 year old orphan living with her aunt in Addis Ababa. We were really excited to get to know Emebet and be part of her future. We also had a great time getting involved with the organization and helping with fundraisers etc.

It was about 2 months after we started sponsoring Emebet that our friend from the education organization sent an email out to sponsors saying that they weren't an adoption agency in any way shape or form, and honestly didn't know anything about adoption, but wanted people to be aware that some girls sponsored who were orphans living in bad situations and who would be eligible for adoption. He sent a picture of one of the students named Muluwerk (which means "full of gold") and asked if anyone was interested in adoption, or knew anyone who was, to let him know and he would pass along specifics about her case. Muluwerk was a beautiful (tiny) 12 year old girl who was very dedicated to her studies and had been orphaned about 4 years prior. She was actually the girl on the cover of the education program's pamphlets. Something about her just grabbed our attention. Wayne made her picture our screen saver for about a week and every time we saw her we just felt more and more connected. Individually, Wayne and I had always thought about adoption, but we had never really talked about it. It seemed like one of those things that was so outrageously expensive and complicated that it was out of reach for normal people like us. But, we finally decided to look into it and see if it would even be possible to bring this precious girl home. After a lot of discussions and even more prayers, we decided to try and adopt Muluwerk and her best friend (another student we fell in love with who did have a living mother who was mentally ill and unable to care for her). We had heard the girls were like sisters and we couldn't bear to break them apart.
Shortly after deciding to adopt the girls we learned the Ethiopian govt. wasn't working with agencies (they were sick of the corruption and competition it had been made into). Our education contact spoke with the Ethiopian government who agreed to work with us on an individual basis. That's when the whole independant adoption journey became a reality for us. Oh yeah, did I mention we had no idea what we were doing? Talk about "flying by the seat of your pants". I read blogs now and see all the preparation other families do to bring there kids home and I think, "Yeah, we did that wrong... Oh, that would have been nice to know.... Should have done that.... Shouldn't have done this...." Oh, well. Sometimes I wonder if we would have known what was in store for us if we really would have had the guts to do it. Honestly, when this all started we just took things one step at a time and prayed it would all work out in the end.

At first, we didn't really know anybody to help us get going, so we started researching like crazy on the internet. It was a crazy couple of months (with an insane push the last week which included help from a local news reporter and miracles which paved the way for us to obtain legal documents for our dossier from three different states). And there we found ourselves... in July.... flying to Ethiopia without our adoption paperwork (since we had to FedEx it to DC to get authenticated from the State Department and the Ethiopian Embassy). We finally got to Addis Ababa late the next night and the girls met us at the airport with flowers. They were so tiny. Probably each about 63 pounds at 12 yrs old. Muluwerk was so small Wayne could put one hand around both of her wrists together. It was hard to send them home but we couldn't take them with us to the hotel because they weren't ours yet. It broke my heart that they might not have had dinner so I remember loading them up with granola bars to take home that night.
Things went to pot from the first full day we were there. We met with the government in the morning and were promptly told we couldn't adopt the girls. The rep claimed that Muluwerk had a living mother and there were problems with getting documentation of the other girl's mother's illness. We kept asking for proof. and he kept saying he had it, but he never furnished it. We provided a death certificate for Muluwerk's mom and paperwork certifying the other girl's mother as insane but the rep wouldn't take it. He told us he could get his own death certificate in Addis if he wanted it. He told us, "There are a million orphans in Ethiopia, go find two others". We were heartbroken. We tried for 10 days to work it all out but finally the U.S. embassy basically told us even if we did get the adoption through without this particular man's help they wouldn't give us a visa to bring the girls back to the US. Well, that was a pretty firm NO that this was not going to happen. Wow, talk about hard...having to tell the girls that it wasn't going to happen. We had spent every day with them and now everything was crashing down around them. They went through all the stages too...denial, anger, etc... We decided we would go home and look into student visas and see if that would be an option for them in the future. In the mean time, we figured that we were cleared for two kids, and we must be there for some reason, so we started the quest for two kids out of an orphanage.
The government official told us if we would just look for children in an actual orphanage they would help us. I had told Wayne when we started this whole adventure that I felt in my heart I had a son out there somewhere and one day we would have to go back to find him. At this point, all of our paperwork from the states had arrived (thank heavens for FedEx) and everything was written to approve us for two girls. When we spoke to the American Embassy we asked if it was going to be ok for us to select two other girls and they corrected us by saying we could adopt two "children". I remember showing them our paperwork stating we were approved for two girls but they said they didn't care what our paperwork said, theirs said two "children". I remember asking "so we can select a boy?" and the annoyed worker said yes (I know she wanted to point out a "boy" was a "child" so therefore met the criteria but she was polite enough to not point that out....). So there we were with 10 days left (which included 2 weekends) and we had to find two more kids, get our paperwork changed and approved, and get the non-transferable plane tickets changed into the new kids names. I think this is where the "too complicated for normal people like us" stuff really kicked in. We were overwhelmed with the idea of having to "select" children from an orphanage. How could we pick two and leave the rest there? But we had no time to waste so we went to the only orphanage we knew of and begged for their help.

The nun at the orphanage asked what age groups we were looking at and we told her a girl between 8-12 yrs old and a boy between 4-6. She sent us to a children's home where she knew there was a 10 yr old girl who was eligible for adoption. On the way to the children's home Wayne and I were talking about how we were going to know if this girl was right for us... if we were right for her. What a scary decision to have to make! I remember plain as day Wayne saying, "we just need a child who is patient because we have so little time and we're going to be sitting in government offices for hours to get everything worked out". So, when we got to the orphanage we sat down and this beautiful, painfully shy, little girl came into the room and sat down on the floor in the sitting area (we found out later the kids weren't generally allowed to sit on the furniture). The workers promptly nudged her into a chair and introduced her to us. Again... ingrained in my memory... they told us, "This is Tigist. Her name means "patience" in her native language of Amharic". Wayne and I just stared at each other. God had led us to patience. We knew right away she was our daughter and we placed her under contract. We found out later that Tigist wasn't actually the girl the nun had sent us to meet. She had been in a bad situation in a foster home and had ran away (back to the children's home) just four days before so the nun was unaware. Fortunately, one of the workers at the home was very fond of Tigist so he made sure she was there to meet us first.

So then began the search for our son. The nun had told us she knew of a 6 yr old orphan who was living on the streets and would be eligible for adoption. After the conversations we had had with the government officials, we were not willing to take a kid off the streets. We had been specifically told the children must be physically residing in an orphanage. The nun told us it would be fine but we didn't even want to try it. We couldn't bear getting attached to another kid we couldn't take home and we didn't have time for any complications. So we set out to visit another orphanage and met another 6 yr old boy. He was adorable, so shy and reserved, and gave us no reason to think he wouldn't be a fit for our family. But when we got back to the hotel, I just had this feeling that something wasn't right. By this point the stress of the trip was really taking its toll. Wayne and I had lost a combined total of about 20+ pounds and I have no idea how we were functioning on the few hours of sleep we were getting. I felt horrible for even thinking this little boy wouldn't fit into our family. It made me feel like I was saying he wasn't good enough for us or something and I just couldn't face that. So, I'm ashamed to admit, but I got really angry at God right about then. I couldn't believe he was going to make us make this decision. So we prayed and I remember telling God that they were all his children and we were just going to have to assume he would put the kids he wanted us to have in our path so we would know what to do. Since we had met this little boy first then I guess we would adopt him and trust that God would work it out. The next morning, we went to the orphanage to put the little boy under contract only to find that the orphanage was closed to visitors that day. We really didn't have time for any delays but there was nothing we could do. So we went to pick Tigist up to do some shopping (because the kids weren't even allowed to keep the clothes on their backs... we needed to buy her something to wear so she could turn the other clothes back into the orphanage). On our way to the children's home we were told they had found the street kid and brought him for us to meet. We were so upset. We had told them not to do that. But we pulled up and there he was.... They brought him in and introduced him. Another defining moment, "This is Surafel. He is named after an archangel from the Book of Enoch". Archangels guard the throne of God. God had brought us one of his most beloved sons. l knew it from the minute the boy smiled and his dimples caved in half of his cheeks. He was our son.

I remember Wayne explaining the experience once as being like pushing a boulder up a huge hill. We couldn't see the top. Had no idea how much further it would be and had no clue what was on the other side. We just knew we had to keep pushing and have faith we would eventually reach the top. And when the boulder finally rolled down the other side, we knew it would all be worth while. So, DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME but thanks to a bunch more miracles, we were able to get through the entire court process, the post-court process (more stressful than any of the pre stuff), in about 8 days (note, that included a weekend when the government offices were closed) and we flew out on our regularly scheduled flight I add the disclaimer because none of it makes sense even to me and I lived it! At one point we found our plane tickets had been cancelled before we even left the US (yep, they admitted they let us fly to Addis on cancelled tickets because there was room on the plane... but they didn't seem to think it was important to mention the tickets had been cancelled before we left the US.... guess it didn't seem important to them at the time). So there we were and the next available flight out of Addis was in a month. We finally got someone at Ethiopian Air to admit it was their fault our tickets were cancelled and they were working on the problem, with only 4 day til our departure. Our flight was set for a Tuesday...Monday we managed to get the kid's birth certificates and passports created, and their physicals done. Tuesday was all day at the U.S. Embassy working on visas. We finally got done with the visas around 4:30 p.m. and headed to see what was up with our airline tickets. We got the new tickets around 6p.m. and flew out that night at 11p.m....with two kids we had only known for less than two weeks and couldn't communicate with. See where the disclaimer comes in?
So that's that. Tigist and Surafel are great! We couldn't ask for better kids. They're both very loving, affectionate, outgoing...just all around good kids. We have had our ups and downs but we wouldn't change a thing. A few years later we found that the man who stopped our initial adoption of Muluwerk and the other girl had left the country and that Ethiopia was working with agencies again. So we contacted an adoption agency and were finally able to bring the two girls home in 2005. We usually say that maybe the two girls had to give up another year and a half because Tigist and Surafel were in situations where they needed to get out of Ethiopia sooner. In addition, our second daughter (who you've probably noticed remains nameless to protect her privacy) ended up having some mental health issues of her own. Her struggles have been difficult for us all and looking back we can see that if the girls would have been adopted first we very likely wouldn't have chosen to adopt again. But we're happy to say all the kids are doing very well and we couldn't be prouder to have them in our lives.

So, that's our adoption adventure. The rest is just family life. Maybe with a few more interesting stories here and there (new experiences with food, language, culture....). Good times, bad times, hard times, smooth times, you name it we've got a story! But through it all we can truly say we are the family God intended for us to be. We've all got such different yet similar personalities. It just "works". It was HARD but, I'm telling you... I could have never imagined how much love was waiting on the other side of that hill.

Well protected...

Maybe I should explain the over 2,600 feminine hygenine pads and why we're eating dinner surrounded by over 800 pair of girls' underwear. Never a dull moment at the Hale Household! Well, in addition to regular school suppies etc one of the things we decided to focus on for our humanitarian effort was to pair up with a friend from the adoption agency to put together feminine hygiene kits for the young women in the orphanages. Since these girls don't have the same kind of feminine supplies available to them The Red Tent Project focuses on feminine hygine education and reusable suppiles.

For our version of the project, we worked with our adoption contacts to coordinate an effort to create the hygiene kits which would includec new girls underwear and to sew small drawstring bags as well as 16 cloth pads and 3 "envelopes" to hold the pads in place (for the women out there...they look like Always pad that snaps or velcos in the underwear). Generous donations have been coming in left and right over the last few weeks and then we sent the kids down to visit my dad at work one day and they came back with a carload of supplies. Did I mention my dad works at the LDS Humanitarian Center?

Oh, and when I say "carload" I am NOT exaggrating. Sierra and Rafe were packed into the back seat like little sardines... and the trunk was so stuffed some of the supplies fell out when they got home. We collected enough supplies for approximately 100 bags.... with stuff to spare! It was an amazing response! I'm so glad the kids are so cool with these types of issues! Even Rafe was right there in the middle of everything. So glad he is secure enough in his 13 yr old "manhood" to sort and count all those pads and such! ;)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Everyone's complaining about the 50 degrees, wind and rain...but I love it! It's about what things will be like when we're in Ethiopia (well, maybe 65 degrees), so consider it preparation. Plus it gave us time to sit down and go through all the donations we've received to take with us to the orphanages and schools.

The stuff we went through today is maybe a 1/4 of everything. A lot of it hasn't made it's way to our house yet. We have school supplies, hair accessories, hygiene items and various other things. It's been an amazing response! With it only being a 1/4 of it all, it's going to be a busy week as we sort through the rest of it and get it all packed and ready to go.