June 14, 2008

A Journey of the Heart – Post 1

If I really let myself go here, really let myself slide into a conversation about what I saw, or how I felt…it needs to be first said that I do not think that I am the authority on all things Addis or ET (Ethiopia). Let’s just resolve that first. I understand fully that my experience was my own. That what I saw and heard and felt was with Christie glasses. I know there are some who have gone and loved the culture, loved the people, loved everything they saw – or had a very deep appreciation for it. There are those who felt it “fit” and that they would go back in a heartbeat if they could. Beware reader if that applies to you – stop and retreat before you get offended. That was not my experience and I would not want to hurt you with my words. My experience in ET was wrought with problems, pain, and emotional exhaustion. So I cannot sugarcoat it for the sake of sparing the few world travelers who found the trip exhilarating. I did not.

Moving on…

Someday I will have a conversation with Quint about the place he was born. About his homeland and the culture where he once lived. Someday I will need to sit down with him and explain what we saw and what we felt. Someday. And quite frankly, that scares me a little – because I’m not sure I have a lot of positive things to tell him. Quite frankly, I can only come up with one thing – loving him the way I do and wanting only the very best the world can offer him, the way I do – that he is BLESSED for having left.

First of all – when they say adoption is not for the faint of heart – I always thought they were talking about the paperchase, the government bull crap, the LONG wait times, etc. They weren’t really. I’m finding that to be the easy part of the two – if they were divided down the middle. They were talking about the actual adoption part. We are only human after all – and there is only so much we can absorb and take in. Emotionally, spiritually, physically – only so much you can do or hold up for until you start to crumble just a little on the inside. And think what an inopportune time it is, when that’s happening as they hand you exactly what you’ve been waiting for, and continuing in this way for several days afterward.

Let me explain that I am not a world traveler. By ANY stretch. This was my first time leaving the country in this way, except for a couple trips to Mexico – one missionary related, one vacation. Anton, on the other hand is an experienced world traveler, who actually grew up in Indonesia in the bush as a missionary kid. He has seen more of the world than I could ever hope (or maybe I mean, “want”?) to. He has been in several third world countries. He has seen extreme poverty. He has lived in extreme poverty while in the jungle.

Before we left he made an attempt to prepare me for what this might look like, and he was very concerned about my reaction to seeing Addis. Having never been to ET, even he could not be fully prepared. This would prove to be our biggest challenge.

Having said all that – I had kept what I felt was an open mind and tried very hard to put on my brave face. How bad could it really be? AB was optimistic but guarded that I would meltdown in ET. Sigh.

Our plane ride was congested, full to the brim with people – very few of which spoke English, including our flight crew. It was cramped, crowded and cold. Yes, cold. But the food was good – and we managed just fine the 15+ hours of travel. But as we touched down in Addis, and began taxi-ing in to the gate I happened to look out my window. There were people standing around just off the runway. Milling about – not working really…just people standing around watching planes as they touched down, I guess. On and on we taxi’d in and then there was a short dilapidated white shed with an overturned milk crate in front of it. On that crate sat a guard with a rifle casually in his hands. He looked stern and matter of fact. Then another guard with a rifle. Then two. Hmmm, interesting – I think I started to feel unsafe in that moment.

Getting through customs, visa, check points 1, 2, 3, etc. Then getting our luggage…we looked for our guide. Instead it was our attorney – change of plans – they’re taking us to the office for paperwork. Ok.

As we stepped outside, it was a nice day – warm but breezy. However, in the breeze you could smell fuel…smog. Something that burned a little. There were people everywhere. Congregated, but not for any reason. Just people. And a herd of goats.

We followed the attorney to the car making small talk when we were suddenly amidst about ten men. And then our luggage was quite quickly shuffled away from us. In that moment I thought “STOP! That’s all I have?!? Don’t take my laptop!” Of course this was all in my head and my puzzled and nervous look to AB did me no good. He was just as confused. The attorney assured us, as our belongings were hustled into another car, that our things would “follow us and meet us where we went”. Gulp.

The car is older and we are crowded in and there is no air conditioning. As we leave I can already tell we are in a time warp. The majority of cars appear to be 20+ years old. The streets are worn and weathered, and there are people absolutely everywhere you look. As we left the airport I saw a herd of cattle on the side of the road – eating and lounging. The fumes and exhaust from the cars are overwhelming. The windows of the car must be open to breath “fresh” air but the exhaust is so heavy, it’s quite a dilemma which is worse – hot and sticky air, or exhaust air?

There are no street signs, traffic lights, or patterns. It’s a driving free for all. You fit in where you can and you just drive defensively.

We arrived at the attorney’s office – “can I get you some water?” Yes, please…I see a lovely water cooler out of the corner of my eye and so I go to help myself. “NO! Not from there” says the attorney – I’ll get you a bottle of water”. Ok. So we head upstairs to complete our paperwork for Quint’s Visa. A few questions and a bathroom break later, we’re back in the car. I notice that the other driver – the one with our luggage – is behind us. At least he’s still there. I ask for my backpack and it’s in my lap.

Now we venture to the guesthouse for some unpacking and familiarization with our surroundings – maybe a meal and shower – before we go to meet our son. The drive is rough and I am so shell-shocked that I am not absorbing what my eyes see. Instead, I snap pictures so I can later look and recapture what my mind could not.

To be continued…


Kim said...

Okay.. I am with you.. I feel like I am actually with you..
I am sooo amazed..
I can't wait for the rest..
HUGS girly..
Have a Great Weekend..
Can't wait to see pictures of FIRST Father's Day...

Anonymous said...

Wow...I can't wait to read part two.
Have a nice weekend.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are more like Anton. He was in the navy and visited different countries. I lived and taught English in Brazil for six months. I think we were much more prepared for what we saw in China than someone who has not traveled and seen these heart wrenching scenes. It makes a huge difference in preparing. I am not sure what you are going to finish in post 2, but God has allowed your this experience, if only to share it with other's in the adoption community. My experiences have motivated me to be an advocate in my own career with those living in poverty in the US. God Bless you and thank you for sharing so honestly.
Christy Bailey


Linda said...

Cannot wait to read the rest of your story!! I don't think I would have the courage to go to Ethiopia.. I never have liked going to Mexico and I know that is not as bad as some countries. Please continue to write your story as it is fascinating. How is that beautiful boy doing. He is so cute. Happy Fathers Day to Anton... Linda

Briana's Mom said...

Wow - I can't even imagine the culture shock you experience. China was so different, but nothing like the situation you were in. Looking forward to reading more.

Happy Father's Day to Anton!

Anonymous said...

Between this entry and the one before it, you have a good book in the process....
Love, Julie

4D said...

Thanks for sharing and sharing the honesty.

Keep smilin!

Dena said...

China was different than the U.S., but not like this.
This sounds a bit scary. In China, I never once feared for my safety.
I can't wait to read the rest.

JoAnn in NJ said...

Hi Christie,
Your posts are riveting and I am looking forward to all of them. I look at this maybe a bit differently than some might...I think when you are given the gift of looking at life through someone else's lens it's a life changing perspective change and is a real gift. You have been given this to do something powerful with it.

I've been given a similar gift in the last 6 months and it has truly changed my life.

You will find the right way to share this with Quint because the journey has changed your life.

He is a beautiful boy and you and AB are a blessed couple.
Happy Father's Day!

Stephanie said...

I am ready for part 2!! :)