Sunday, November 22, 2009

Success in Ethiopia

Success in Ethiopia

A crippled man begs on the side of a dirt road leading to the orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
A crippled man begs on the side of a dirt road leading to the orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I'm Home, and struggling with how to summarize the past few days in a blog post. OK... here goes.

Thursday was our Embassy Day. As I understand it, the adoption was already finalized on the Ethiopian side, but they had to appear, with the kids, at the U.S. Embassy to get U.S. Visas for Silas and Titus. Despite dozens of international trips, this was the first time I'd ever been inside a U.S. Embassy. (It actually wasn't all that great...) We had good fellowship with a number of other adopting families in the waiting room. Everything went smoothly for Carl and Angel, but friends of theirs had the heart wrenching experience of not receiving their visas. (I will write up this story another day... it's incredible!)

As we walked out of the Embassy I was sobered to see the hundreds of people sitting patiently awaiting their turn to apply for a Visa to the United States. As a natural-born, Citizen of the United States I am not sure I will ever completely understand what that truly means and how fortunate I am. Every once in a while I encounter a situation that reminds me of the blessing that was mine at birth and the great lengths to which others will go in an attempt to secure what was given to me. It reminds me too of my relationship with God and my own complete inability to obtain Righteousness. I see the pure gift of God, received by faith, that makes me a Citizen of Heaven being worked for by people of all faiths around the world. Unlike U.S. Citizenship, it's not hard to enter the Kingdom of Heaven... the price has already been paid, the process completed for all.

Friday was our last day in Africa, but to be honest, I stopped counting things in days and now count in hours. I've done way too many short trips this summer/fall, and "days" just no longer cut it! We were hoping to hit the market first thing in the morning, but our driver didn't show up. We would have called him, but no, the agency hadn't bothered to pay their phone bill at the guest house, oh, and the people with us didn't have any credit on their phones either. Welcome to Africa. It was OK... I know how to do this... Carl and I headed out and found a phone recharge for our cooks' phone. This didn't get us to the market, as the driver was busy, but we did get to call and tell friends we were supposed to meet that we weren't coming.

Instead, I caught a taxi over to the Care Center to look for some stuff I had left there. On the way I realized that it really wasn't that far and decided to walk back, shooting along the way. Ethiopians are not very camera friendly. They have this nasty little habit of being really friendly and waving and then freaking out when they realize that you really are going to use your camera on them. Amazing. It's a good thing I'm really fast! I do get gun-shy after being yelled at by the 10th person though...

Later in the afternoon Carl, Kelly, and I headed over to the market with Carl's friend Daniel. Historically I haven't been a huge fan of haggling over prices. I just figure that no matter how it goes, someone loses! If the shopkeeper is happy, that means I got ripped off, but if I'm happy, her kids don't eat that night. Lose-lose situation. Today I had fun. Actually... I kinda felt like Kristi Cook! :-) I guess I decided I didn't really care about getting the BEST price, I just wanted something I could live with and the cool stuff that I wanted. I even learned some new tricks. The best one is to give them less cash than the last price they gave you... One lady wanted to sell me a couple necklaces for 160 Birr. I told her 100. She came down to 120, but I just handed her a 100BR bill and she was happy. It helps to have exact change...

Souvenirs and gifts purchased, we headed back to the guest house to pack, eat, and zip off to the airport. It was hard for me to watch the agency workers say goodbye to Silas and Titus and Kelly's daughter. It was just really obvious that they genuinely love these kids. I KNOW that Silas and Titus will be loved, cared for, and have a better life with Carl and Angel than they had the potential for in Ethiopia, but they were still about to be taken far from their homeland and everything they had ever known. I guess few good things in life that come without sacrifice...

Our trip back was long... actually, it was the longest I've ever been on an airplane! The five-hour flight from Addis Ababa to Rome was followed by two hours of sitting on the plane in Rome while we refueled, etc., and 11 more hours to Washington Dulles. 18 hours in the back of a 767. Titus and Silas did amazing... I really can't imagine a better travel experience with two 2-year olds! What's even more amazing is that they speak no English... none! We couldn't even tell them what was going on. Customs and Immigration at IAD were no problem, our bags arrived, we connected to other flights, and were soon winging our way to Minneapolis. I was on different flights, but landed at MSP about the same time as Carl and Angel and met up with them at baggage claim. Some friends had come to meet them, as did the head of their adoption agency. One woman drove all the way from Omaha, NE to welcome them home! Both Carl and Angel were totally spent, so I drove us up to Saint Cloud and said goodbye as I dropped myself off at my parents' house.

Carl, Angel, I love you, and will travel with you anywhere, anytime! Thank you for the honor of being your photographer, travel companion, and friend on this HUGE adventure!


Be sure to check out Angel's blog at:

Herds of goats being shepherded through the streets is a common sight throughout Addis Ababa.

Dirt roads and corrugated metal shacks are a common sight in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Shoppers and merchants line the side of the road in a market area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

Shoppers and merchants line the side of the road in a market area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

A vendor passes the time reading as he waits for his next customer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

A young girl pauses from selling produce for a quick portrait in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

One of the better roads in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian woman beats the dust out of her rugs during morning cleaning in Addis Ababa.

An Ethiopian woman awaits public transportation by the side of the road in Addis Ababa..

An Ethiopian man checks out the latest bulletins on a public wall in Addis Ababa..

Ethiopian construction workers pause to wave and pose for the camera at a construction site in Addis Ababa..

A woman and her son make their purchases at a small street-side shop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

An Ethiopian man walks down the street through a wealthy part of Addis Ababa..

A woman and her child beg through the window of an American's van in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia..

An Ethiopian woman carries a bundle of wood on her head in Addis Ababa.

Fresh Ethiopian coffee is roasted over a small charcoal brazier.
Yes... we really had coffee, freshly roasted over a charcoal brazier... :-)

Carl and Angel Larsen with their boys.
Carl, Angel, Silas, and Titus


Sarah Bradshaw said...

I'm so proud of you, Rowan. I can't wait to hear more.

Ruth Ann said...

incredible, Rowan. thanks for the stories, the pictures - demonstrating the wondrous hand of God! I love, love, love that picture of Carl & Angel with their two little boys -p.r.e.c.i.o.u.s.!

Anonymous said...

okay to say it in one word... you are WILDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!! wowsters. it is a joy and blessing to hear how God answered prayer and brought you to Ethiopia despite all the set backs and challenges.

Leah Christine Imagery said...

Uber cool photos!!

[I want some of that coffee! International coffee is the best..]

Kristi said...

Ro! Wow! Great post! :) Oh and way to go with the bargaining! Wish I coulda watched ya! So what does it feel like to feel like Kristi Cook for a little bit? You crack me up! Looking forward to seeing you.

Steph T said...

I can't stop thinking about what you said about being a natural-born American citizen. The media SO promotes how much the rest of the world {apparently} hate us that I guess in some small way I had come to believe no one really wanted to be an American. I think I need to get out more and see things for myself instead of believing everything the news tells me. :) Thanks so much for sharing in detail your experience. It is time consuming to write it down, but so, so, so helpful!!