The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today. How We (Unofficially) Became Five.

"The coffee ceremony typifies Ethiopian hospitality. An invitation to attend a ceremony is a mark of friendship or respect, though it's not an event for those in a hurry. [...]
Freshly cut grass is scattered on the ground 'to bring in the freshness and fragrance of nature'. Nearby, there's an incense burner smoking with etan (gum). The 'host' sits on a stool before a tiny charcoal stove.

First of all coffee beans are roasted in a pan. As the smoke rises, it's considered polite to draw it towards you, inhale it deeply and express great pleasure at the delicious aroma by saying 'betam tiru no' (lovely!). Next the beans are ground up with a pestle and mortar before being brewed up.

When it's finally ready, the coffee is served in tiny china cups with at least three spoonfuls of sugar. At least three cups must be accepted. The third in particular is considered to bestow a blessing - it's the berekha (blessing) cup. sometimes popcorn is passed around. It should be accepted with two hands extended and cupped together.
-Lonely Planet: Ethiopia & Eritrea {p 70}

This morning we went to the orphanage.

The. Orphanage.

The only home our daughter has ever really known. The place she likely will only truly know from the photos we took today. (And even those paint a blurry gap-filled picture.)

The staff member G, employed by our agency picked us up at 10am and we were off. The drive was short, distance-wise (7-10km from our guest house) but took longer than you'd think because of the dirt/rock roads. It was intense. The rains have also been intense over the past 24hrs causing much run-off and power outages. On our way to the orphanage we played the million questions game. Not really familiar with what we could and could not ask, I just went for it. I don't think I over-stepped and I am quite sure I simply would have been told, had I done so.

It would seem in all likelihood that we will not pass on Friday. MOWA is about 22 days behind in support-letter writing and if they are 22 days behind, it would be nearly impossible for our letter to be there on the actual day. (You know, seeing as we can't fast forward or turn back time.) This was very hard to hear but not a huge surprise and, being given at least a potential timeline eased the blow a bit. This isn't reason to stop praying.

We arrived and pulled up to the gate. G (our staff host/driver) honked a couple times and the gates were opened. We drove in and got out. It was damp, drizzling, a bit dark and cool. The orphanage typified what I would have articulated an orphanage to look like. Perhaps this sounds big-headed of me. It simply smelled of Africa. The Africa I remember from my teens when we travelled a a more vacation-like way. Regardless, the smells don't change. The 'architecture' was what I assumed also...

The orphanage sprawled. Several rooms (all of which we viewed later on) including bedrooms (the nursery!), the medical office, the main/social worker office, the classroom, the food and clothes storage room, the kitchen/cooking room, and the coffee ceremony room. The playground outside was sweet...swings and a carousel-like play structure for lack of a better word. I could imagine the shrill laughter as the children played in the warmer seasons.

Prior to our tour we experienced the most humbling, surreal moment for which we have been preparing over the past three years.

We entered the nursery and immediately found her. We stared at the most terrifically smooth gentle face, soft lips, and head of curls I have ever set eyes on.

And then we did it: We locked eyes.

I was incorrect in thinking (saying) we could touch but not hold her. We could do neither.

We could get a smile from her.

We did earn several coos.

We played with her and some of her (communal, I am sure) toys for many many minutes. I lost track of time - because that's what a Mama does when she meets her child for the first time...regardless of age or circumstance. The smiling and cooing continued. We three were engaged with each other.

Her delicate legs, feet (not quite the size of Ben's index finger - miniature almost!), tiny wrists and outstretched hands were so real.

As she turned her head from side to side to track us or a toy or a nannie calling her name, we could see resemblance to her photos. But my, how she has changed.

At that moment I couldn't hold it in and the tears fell. Quietly. Mourning the loss of one mother and peaceful rejoicing the blessing received by another. It doesn't get much more raw or real as that moment.

Her head boasts thousands of tightly wound, wee curls.

Her tiny thumb would often reside in her mouth and she would suck away and I smiled to myself as I reflected upon the dichotomy between the being in front of me and those two beings at home...between our first two children and now our third.

She was content to lie there. She was content to observe. She is teeny...breakable in appearance in some ways. When feeding time neared (followed by nap time soon thereafter,) she maintained her thumb-in-mouth stance and her eyelids grew heavy. No fussing, she simply disengaged as she fatigued.

We went to the coffee ceremony room for the next long while. I intentionally didn't look at my watch from the moment the gates were opened for us until the moment we drove out. I didn't want anything hindering all that was around us...all we were taking in. As per the quote above, Ben was offered (and felt he must accept) three cups. Each likely contained a good healthy tbsp of sugar. And each likely raised his heart rate significantly. I managed to wrangle my way into only two.

The deep, dark, rich, syrupy coffee is unique. It is nothing like home. It is amazing. It makes the claim "full bodied" at Starbucks into a mockery, (not that the quality would even compare). As we drank and ate we talked. Everything from Canada (the director, Ethiopian born, lived in Toronto for many years), to adoption (duh), to our family at home (that iPod certainly is handy for showing off two small blondies), our court date to come, and so much more.

We returned a while later to look at something specific to our babe, with the director and we (accidentally) woke her. She opened her eyes and simply looked at us bleary eyed. No noise. No objection. A simple, silent gaze which spoke volumes, "you've disturbed me...". So we left. It was time.

And now, all that is left is the affirmation of our delicate, beautiful habesha baby waiting, depending on us - her (soon) forever family. And a photo. A photo of her itsy-bitsy red crib with her name in Amharic taped on the headboard.

Prior to leaving we opened the two bags packed full (!) of donations. Friends and family generous beyond words, you have helped little ones. Shirts, pants, shorts, sweaters, blankets, crocs (!), cloth diapers (they don't have all-in-ones in Ethiopia and were over the moon), and the like. (More to come on other donations soon. Promise.)

There is more to share. It will come as the days pass and are filled.

For now, we rest in knowing we have seen her and she is so very sweetly real.


Lola said...

I think about you all day. Thank you thank you for updating us. I can't wait to see you friend.

emily said...

I love reading all these updates.... brings it all back. That coffee is so amazing! Enjoy every moment.

much love,

Anna said...

So great to hear from you and that everything is going well. How exciting to meet your baby girl today! It must have been hard not to hold her. Soon. Soon. I LOVE all the details!! Savor them!!

Gretta said...

I had to stop 4 times to wipe my eyes of tears. You are constantly on my mind. Thank you for the details. We're all praying for you here and love you dearly.

Jennifer said...

Beautiful, just beautiful Ashleigh!--Loved every single moment you were able to write!

Chad, Laura, Sara and Seth said...

Just wonderful!!! So beautiful to read.

Sidney said...

Wow Ashleigh you are an incredible writer and this brought me back to meeting Sophie for the first time. I could picture where you were standing, who else was there and the difficulty of not being able to hold your own daughter. Keep up the writing and thank you. God Bless you and Ben!

Barbara said...

That brings back memories. Lovely!