Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Journey So Far...

Ethiopia Journal
Sunday Morning August 19 to Monday Morning August 20, 2007
This is my first chance to write down our experiences of the last 48 hours. I’ll catch up from our departure in Seattle. It was an early Friday morning as we headed down to SeaTac to catch our flight. We were thinking international flight so we left allowing 3 hours lead time at the airport. Well, of course of first flight was a commuter turbo prop flight to Portland, so we had a few hours to kill. Check in went smooth and I made sure our baggage was checked and tagged for delivery all the way to Ethiopia. Security was moving quickly and we had no problems getting through other than their interest in my myriad of laptop accessories. I did enjoy the “lemming effect” of everyone going to the longest line for security while we walked over to the shorter one. After a little bagel breakfast we hung out and Suzi bought a doll for grace at Fireworks. At around 11 AM we boarded our little plane and headed out (on time) for Portland. The flight went smooth and fast. We made it their in 30 minutes. After a long walk to the other end of the terminal we checked in for our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt Germany, the first real leg of our trip. We had been booked into what is affectionately called “friendship seats” aka middle two seats in the middle four seats. The gate agent was able to hook us up with exit row seating (massive legroom) which is nice for a 10 hour flight, which leads us up to the 10 hour flight from Portland to Frankfurt. The plane was an Airbus 340-300. As far as 10 hour flights go, it was smooth with little or no turbulence, but other than that it was pretty grueling. Neither one of us really slept and they didn’t play a good movie so we watched “Night at the Museum” on my laptop. 10 hours later we land in Frankfurt. We got off at Gate 52 and our Next flight departed from Gate 53 right across the hall. This was convenient, though we found that we were trapped in a gate area with security checkpoints on both ends. We did manage to find some bottled water in a caviar shop on the concourse. We also caught up with the other 3 families who are part of our travel group. We were all catching the same flight to Ethiopia from Frankfurt thought they connected from different flights. We thought we were boarding from a gate but they ended up herding us down some stairs and drove us in a bus to the other side of the airport where a shiny Airbus A330-300 was waiting for us. We climbed up the stairs to the plane. We didn’t have exit row this time, but we did have the outside seats in the 2 wide row. This was another long flight, about 9 hours. I figured out how to get sideways in my seat this time and as far as I can remember I managed to sleep somewhere in the 2 – 3 hour range. After about 5 and a half hours we had a refueling stop in Khartoum, Sudan. I mostly liked the gun placements on the runway and how they told us not to take any pictures. After about a scenic hour of sitting on the tarmac we took off again and headed for our final destination, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This final leg was about 3 hours. We were able to see the Nile River from the air and it was dark as we approached the city light of Addis. After a thankful touchdown at Bole Airport we collected ourselves and headed for customs and baggage claim. Our arrival time was a little before 9 PM local time. The first stop was a small room to get our Visas. After handing in a card we filled out on the plane with our passport and $20 we rubberstamped our way into the country. I exchanged $20 into 180 Ethiopian Birr at the bank branch and after one more run through a customs checkpoint we were in baggage claim. Of course the truest sign of a successful journey is if all your luggage makes it to your destination. As we approached the conveyor with growing anticipation we could see that some of our items were already making the rounds. As I counted 1,2,3 and 4, I knew that we, as well as our luggage, had made a successful journey halfway around the world. We then hade to lug it over to the final x-ray station and have it scanned one more time before we could get out. Everything went through smoothly, except of course they wanted to see all my laptop accessories again. It must look very interesting under an x-ray. We escaped through the final doors and into the public area where our representatives from AGCI were waiting for us with signs that had our names on them. The weather was nicer than we expected and it was actually dry with a crescent moon visible on the horizon. We collected up all 4 families and headed to our hotels in mini-vans. This was our first taste of Addis driving and it was as expected, not for the faint of heart. Rule #1- pedestrians do not have the right of way under any circumstance. Rule #2- the horn is a communication device. The more you use it, the better communicator you are. We arrived at our military compound, I mean hotel, and we unloaded people and luggage. By military compound I mean a gated, walled and topped with razor wire and spikes guarded compound. This is actually the norm in Addis. It seems to be a city of walled compounds unless you live in the tin and wood shacks between them. Our hotel is the “Union Apartments Hotel” which was selected for us by the AGCI staff due to its close proximity to the orphanage. The staff is very eager and what they lack in skill they make up for with enthusiasm. The unloading and delivery of baggage to the room was a bit “keystone cop’ish” with people and bags going everywhere. (I’ll do a full review of this Hotel later) We got two of ours to our room and managed to track down and retrieve the other 2 from another room upstairs from us. The room was big with a single king bed and windows facing to the south and the street. We settled in and I hooked up all the adapters and converters for the 220 volt power here. We fired up our hot pot and boiled up some water for a late night dinner. Suzi had some oatmeal and I had chicken top ramen with some salmon tossed in. We settled in about midnight for some sleep and acclimation to the jet lag and altitude. Around 4:30 AM the mosque started blaring its morning prayers over their PA speakers. Then around 5:30 some boys began playing soccer in the street. Good morning Addis. Today was they day to see Grace in person for the first time. We got downstairs after 7 and did a little email on the blazing fast dial-up computer here. Breakfast is served and include here so we had some omelets with ham and cheese and toast. We ordered cappuccinos but apparently that’s only steamed milk around here, no coffee included. After discovering this we ordered coffee as well and then put a little cappuccino in it. After breakfast we got ready to see Grace for the first time. Almaz, the orphanage director, met us at the hotel around 9:30 and we walked the short block through a cobblestone alley to the orphanage. When we arrived they opened the front gate for us and we stepped into the courtyard where the children were playing and waiting. One of the couples in our group is adopting a 10 year girl and she ran to both of then and kissed and hugged and greeted them with big smiles. We waited in Almaz’s office while she went to get Grace. With all the kids and activities outside we didn’t last in there very long and we were outside when Almaz brought Grace to us. She is petite, beautiful and very snuggly. It was nice to finally see her and hold her after months of only photos and a video where she was sleeping (just like a still photo, hmm). Everyone stayed and played with the children and took videos and pictures for each other. Our next stop was church with children in tow. We went to the International Evangelical Church which is one of the churches Almaz attends. After church Almaz took us to a nice Italian restaurant with very good food. They had these great little mini dinner rolls and I filled a Ziploc bag full of them to take back to the hotel. I got to ride shotgun in the front of the mini-van on the way back to the hotel. Driving in Addis is never boring. The best way I can describe it is like some kind of real life version of Frogger. We spent the rest of Sunday afternoon resting at the hotel. Around 6:30 PM we met with one of the other couples and walked over to the orphanage to go out to dinner with Almaz. We had the option to stay in, but being the party animals we are we decided to eat out. The four of us met Almaz and our driver Dan and drove to a Chinese restaurant. I opted for cashew chicken and rice and Suzi had chicken noodle soup. Grace took her usual bottle (she’s a hungry little peanut) and then slept in a little basket we brought for her while we traded stories at the table. Prices here are very reasonable; the ticket for dinner for 6 was 180 birr, which is about $20. (earlier for lunch we fed 14 people for $90) After a very long day we retired back to the hotel, did a quick (not really, dial-up) email update and up to our room. Grace had a couple more feedings (the kid is hungry) and we passed out a little later. I started this update yesterday, but now it is Monday morning here in Addis and the sun is just coming up. Suzi is feeding Grace right now and I’m typing this by LED lantern light. Today we go over our visa paperwork for Grace with Almaz before the U.S. Embassy appointment this afternoon. We’re going to head over to the Sheraton and work on it there. If all goes well we should have her visa tomorrow and then she is all set to come back to the USA with us as an American citizen. We’re going to scope out the Sheraton today and I have a feeling we’ll be moving there soon. We’re also trying get out of here sooner. We’re still scheduled to fly out late Friday evening, but we’re going to try for a Wednesday night departure. We think it’s currently wait-listed but we’re going to try. If not, we’re definitely going to the Sheraton soon. Grace is smiling and happy this morning. That’s all for now, God is good.

The Redman’s

4 comments:

Julie_JoshB said...

Suzi

I cant wait to see pics and hear every detail! i am praying for all of you!

Julie

Lynn said...

Yea! You have her. We saw the pics in the email, can't wait to see her in person. We're all praying that you get an earlier flight.

Love,
Auntie Lynn & the rest of the gang

suzi said...

Thanks for the update. We look forward to meeting Grace. So excited for you all. We feel like we made the trip with you (well almost)! We continue to keep you in our prayers. God is good!

suzi & joe

Teabo Chica said...

Awesome, you must love the wake up call at 4:30 am dont worry the next day it will be at 3:30 and then no more for a few days. TIP: dont eat the white cheese at the Ethiopian Resturant, it made us sick! Cant wait to see Grace again!
www.theteabotribe,blogspot.com

 

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