I'm thinking of starting a new blog. I've had the name in mind for several months, but I'll post the new address here as soon as I get caught up. Sorry my updates took so long, and thanks for all the personal messages!
I know, I'm probably kicked off blogging after my husband's hilarious post. He just has a way with words, but if you want something dependable, then you you are stuck with me!
So this is what I dreaded... A plane flight with two toddlers that barely knew us, especially after my first meeting with Ms. Maritu. (She doesn't hide those emotions.) Our plane didn't leave until 11:30 PM, and we had Ayele take us to the airport 4 hours early, so we could get bassinet seating for the kids. With KLM, it's first come, first served. Luckily, we had met a KLM worker at the Hilton who said she would accomadate us. Yes, Bole Rock Guest House was supposed to bring us to the airport, but they once again dropped the ball! They even tried to charge us for late check-out... Ayele to the rescue!!! He didn't charge us for the trip, but there was NO way we were going to accept a free ride. Ayele was a dream come true in Ethiopia. Just when we thought the craziness ended surrounding our trip, I realized when the KLM worker couldn't find our kid's tickets in her computer, that I might have thrown them away. The agent from Global Rule Travel told me that I must not lose them. I was in a panic. Those that know me, know that I am an organized person. I knew right where those tickets were supposed to be, but for the life of me, I could not find them. After searching all our checked luggage that was sitting on the scale and crying inconsolably, we left the line and found a private corner where I could search again. Kenneth was trying to find a way to call Ayele to see if they had fallen out in his trunk. It wasn't long before I found those stupid tickets right where they were supposed to be! Oh my!!!
I will admit that the flight wasn't as bad as I expected-at least the first segment. Both kids slept the entire 6 hour flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Amsterdam. We then had a 5 hour layover before our 9 1/2 hour flight to Houston. Now this flight was less than cozy. Maritu was not the problem. It turned out to be Mamush!!! He cried for a solid hour into the flight. There was not a thing I could do... No, it didn't end when we touched down in Houston. We were then told we had to get in the immigration line for immigrants because our children were Ethiopian citizens. That line was 3 times longer, and it turns out that when we actually made it to an agent an hour later, she asked why we were in this line. Cuss word. Cuss word! I'm still not finished though. After she took our sealed envelope that we could not open and had to guard with our life, we got to go sit in an office for another 3 hours while they called the Health Department. Once again, the TB isssue with Maritu came up! Cuss word. Cuss word!!! Darn you people for being incompetent!
Yes! We passed!!! We have both of our children's Ethiopian passports, Visas, and the "secret" documents needed by immigration when we return to the states! Okay, so until we are back at home in our own beds, I refuse to believe it... but yes, I am on Cloud 9, except for the fact that we had to say "good bye" to my travel mates-Mia and Donna. We had a great time together, despite the chaos...
OK, so this is Holly's other half, Kenneth. I would like to say better half, but that would open a whole new discussion, both at home and, I'm sure on this blog about the merits of my claim. I'm a virgin blogger, that is to say that I've never "blogged" before. I've typed before, and I'm not positive what the difference is....so now starts the debate....am I really a virgin or not? Anyway....
Thursday morning was another experience with the Ethiopian culture. Let me say first of all that I love Ethiopia....and Ethiopians. I have tried relentlessly to get Holly to move here. The lifestyle is simple and the people are so friendly. I'm thinking about trading my return plane ticket for a year's supply of injera...did I mention how much I love the food?
There is something very unique about the culture here. It seems to me that the people are always yelling at each other over the smallest things or blowing their horns at each other incessantly, however, they never actually fight. If I blew my horn in traffic in Texas the way they do here, I would need to be prepared to take a life in self-defense or lose mine (as most of you know, we Texans all carry loaded firearms under our ten gallon hats). Also, when a tourist (faringe) is present, everyone acts like they are in the presence of royalty.....just really great people.
One thing I have found here that really gets under my skin is that no one just comes out and admits that they don't understand what you are saying. They just nod and say "OK". Such was the fiasco with Maritu's phantom TB disease. Yesterday, at the hospital, everything was perfect. I obtained the gastric washing and went to the lab with Tsadaye, the nurse, and Ayele, our driver. We brought in the order, Tsadaye spoke with the lab tech, they took the specimen, nodded and said, "OK", and we left.
Today was a different story. I obtained the specimen and immediately removed the tube from Maritu's nose/esophagus/stomach so that she wouldn't have to deal with that for a minute longer. We were then on our way to the hospital again. When we arrived at the lab, Tsadaye again gave the specimen and the order to the lab tech (a different person today) there was a verbal exchange in Amharic (did I mention that from the perspective of a third party observer, two people speaking Amharic appear to be having a good ol' fashioned feud?) Tsadaye then told me that the tech had told her that the order was for only one specimen to be tested, not a series of three as we had expected. It is very possible that the two of them actually had been less than cordial, because two other people had come out from the back part of the lab to see what was going on. There was a man who looked to be in charge who spoke to the tech that we had been talking to. There was also a woman who spoke English. She asked us what was going on. I told her what we had been through and that I was a doctor. I wondered out loud if ever in the history of the world (and Ethiopians would know because they were here before the rest of us....at least according to Lucy) gastric washings for TB testing had been ordered in any combination other than three. The lady talked to the man in Amharic. The lady talked to Tsadaye in Amharic. Tsadaye tried to talk to me in English. I talked to the lady in English. She nodded and said, "OK", and Tsadaye walked out of the lab like we were done. I asked Tsadaye the biggest question of the day....if the order was for only one specimen, and today's specimen was the third, did they still have yesterday's specimen? Because at this point, we were out of days and I had pulled out Maritu's tube. If yesterday's specimen was discarded....we were screwed. Again, I got a nod and "OK". Go figure.
We then went to the ER and Tsadaye spoke to a clerk there to try to get the results from the previous day. Guess what? There were no results in the computer! Tsadaye and Ayele and the clerk then engaged in a three-way Amharic battle royal. The clerk made a phone call and said something else. Tsadaye then told me "It was negative." Then we left the hospital. I asked Tsadaye if she was sure that all of the results would get there on time....and guess what she said?
The rest of the day was basically uneventful, filled with shopping and sight-seeing....you know, last minute cramming of all of the things we don't want to regret missing. Oh yeah, uneventful except for one small snafu....involving miscommunication....
Let me go into some very recent history. Shimeliss had asked us to bring a package to give to a very close friend and business contact of his. He had written the man's name and phone number on the package. For the last 8 days, we have tried to contact this man. His cell phone keeps ringing busy. I finally gave the package to Rahel to forward. Shimeliss had wanted me to meet this guy to discuss a business venture or something....I'm not sure. Now let me again stress....and I mean stress.....the week that we have had. And not just Holly and myself, but the other two families also. Between illnesses and visiting our new children and performing invasive procedures on our new children and jetlag and cell phones that don't work and language barriers and the story changing every day and walking to our third floor room in the thin air (altitude 8500 feet) and trying to stay up late to talk to our kids back home and being awakened early by the chanting from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church across the street and eating sheep for Christmas (yes, Holly ate sheep, but don't tell her....she doesn't know) and trying to remember not to rinse my toothbrush under the faucet and trying to remember how much 20 birr is worth in US$........you get the picture......the last and I mean LAST thing we needed was something else to worry about or do at this point.
Somewhere between the Haile Selassie Market and the Hilton, Ayele's phone rang. He handed it to me and told me it was Shimeliss' friend. I said "hello" and was asked in very broken English to "go to dinner" tonight. I think he wanted to meet all three families. I tried to tell him that we were very tired and that I would have to talk to the other families. I had a hard time understanding, so I handed the phone back to Ayele. He finished the call and told me "He will pick all of you up at seven."
When we got back to the transitional home, we had a pow-wow with the other families. They were equally as exhausted as we were, but agreed that the polite thing to do would be to go ahead and go to dinner. Because of our difficulties with Maritu's health and the possibility that Mamush had been exposed also, we are waiting to bring our children with us until we get the results back tomorrow. The other two families have taken their babies from the home and will need to find a babysitter or bring them along. This problem is two-fold. We asked at the home if a babysitter could be provided. We got the ceremonial "OK". This is a good place to mention that we have all been told by Grace that under no circumstances are we to take our new children in public until we are on our way to the airport. Apparently, this is a big no-no. I don't know why, I'm just the husband along for the ride...if you really want to know, you will have to ask Holly (this doesn't help my argument that I am actually the better half). This is especially important to one of the other families who still have another child to pick up later. They really don't want to step on any toes. Remember from above that we were asked to "go" to dinner and we are thinking "go out" to dinner.
The decision to decline the invitation was unanimous. There were still at least two of us that were ill and the other families were scared to take their babies in public and we had no idea if the babysitter request had been processed correctly. I called Ayele (the only person who I trust to take my English and translate it to Amharic and get the same general idea that I hoped to convey) and asked him to call Rahel, who had the contact information for this man, and get the message to him that we would not be able to go to dinner. This was at least three hours prior to when he was supposed to pick us up. What a relief! We finally had nothing left to do but go to the Embassy and sign some papers and then spend 20+ hours in airplanes and airports and customs holding areas with two babies that probably think we are kidnappers......before finally getting home! We all went down to the hotel restaurant and had a nice meal and retired to our rooms. Holly should have never checked her email......
We had a short note from Shimeliss that said that his friend was very angry that we had stood him up. He said that the man's wife had spent all afternoon cooking for six guests and that he had waited for us for more than a half-hour after the time he was supposed to pick us up.
I'm learning Amharic before the next trip.....which will probably be worse.
We get two celebrations this year-one in America and one in Ethiopia. They are very different though. In America, we center Christmas around gifts, and in Ethiopia, it's all about God and feasting. There were so many women in either traditional white dresses or white head coverings. We even wore traditional dress out of respect. You wouldn't believe how many animal carcasses we have seen too! Thankfully, Kenneth and I arrived at Hope's place after they had killed the sheep. It was bad enough watching them skin the animal! Disgusting!
Once again we got a big surprise. Hope's nurse said that the doctor wasn't working today, so Kenneth had to get the gastric contents! OKay, I know Kenneth is a doctor, but you just can't do that in a foreign country. Procedures are different. Instruments are different. I can see fear in his face because on the one hand, we know that these tests are needed if there's to be a chance that she returns home with us, but on the other, you just don't play doctor. Anyway, relief came when he saw Maritu. Evidently, the nurse had taken her back to the hospital and had them put in the gastric tube. They did the hard part!
We got the needed stuff, but you ought to see this poor thing with the tube sticking out her nose! She has a nurse dedicated to only her at all times until we've gotten tomorrow's culture. I feel for that nurse. Maritu is strong-willed!
Later, we headed over to where Hope moved the infants. That was where we had our Christmas feast. It was loads of fun! First, the kids performed some games for us and also danced. You ought to have seen them. They either had on Ethiopian t-shirts or traditional dress, and all the girl's hair was fixed. We were given Ethiopian shirts too! Then came the feast... We didn't do sheep! Even Dawit didn't eat sheep, so that made me feel better!
So what craziness could possibly happen today? Well, my husband got really sick, and I wasn't sure we were even going to our Embassy date. We think it might have been the fact that he rinsed his toothbrush under the faucet the first day here... Uggh! Needless to say, the vomiting and diarrhea didn't keep him from this very important appointment.
So first we went to Hope's place to pick up the kids, and to my utter dismay, Maritu was not there as planned. She had been taken to the hospital for her sputum cultures. I was instantly worried about how this day was starting! Then, when we get to the Embassy, Donna couldn't find her passport! She thought she had left it in her driver's car, and he had already left! Lucky for her, she found it about 10 minutes later right where she put it...under her carrier!
Okay, I'm getting to the question on everyone's mind, "What's Maritu's status?" Well, the Embassy guy heard what we had to say, and said to get those sputum cultures by Friday morning, and they'll get her paperwork completed! Now, there can be NO mistakes. The Embassy is only open for a half day on Friday, so it's all-or-nothing!
This morning on the way to visit our children at the transitional home, we learned from our driver Ayele that we needed to go to the hospital to have Maritu's sputum culture and to have Mamush tested too. That hospital reminded me of military hospitals! Hospitals in Ethiopia are quite different than in the US First, you stand in the reception line. Then you pay! You aren't seen if you don't pay! So, after the kids had received medical exams and x-rays, we went into the cafeteria to get Maritu and Mamush some breakfast because they hadn't had time to eat, not that Maritu will starve or anything! She is the Michelin baby! The doctor told us it would be about 45 minutes for the x-rays. Technology must be very different too, because my husband has his x-rays in 5 minutes! The great thing about the wait, though, was that we got to feed the kids for the first time! Mamush must have been hungry because he normally eats like Sheridan. After our wait, we had to get back in line to see the doctor. Then Kenneth talks to the doctor, and looks at Maritu's medical history. We learn a lot, and are very relieved to find out that it was not necessary to do sputum cultures because her chest x-ray was negative! We can have our Embassy date and bring both kids home!
So, we go back to Hope's place and complete our paperwork with Rahel. Mia and Donna were so exited to learn our news. We also learned that they had gotten a lamb for Hope's place for tomorrow's Ethiopian Christmas feast! I hate that we missed all the fun! After that, it was time to have some fun, so we all went to the Hilton to change money, shop, and eat. We then asked Ayele to take us to Merkato. All I can say is,"Oh my!" I just thought I was amazed by all the people on the streets, but this topped it all! So much so, that it was scary! There was no shopping for us!!! We came. We saw. We got the heck out of dodge!
Then comes the call from Shimeless in the US... We just can't catch a break! He says the Embassy will not see us for Maritu until she has 3 negative sputum cultures! The Embassy is closed Wednesday for Christmas and Thursday for who knows! So, if we could have gotten her cultures started today, we still couldn't have an Embassy apointment until Friday with our documents not being ready until next Monday. We are scheduled to return Saturday... Here we are, after spending the morning at the hospital, on cloud 9 because we found out that Maritu never had a positive TB test. She had pneumonia that didn't get better on only one antibiotic, so they treated her with TB meds. Today at the hospital, the doctor said she didn't know why the attending doctor changed that diagnosis. That's why Maritu didn't have sputum cultures. Technically, a sputum test is not as definitive as the x-ray, and she had a clear x-ray this morning; therefore, she doesn't have active TB and cannot transmit TB. Sputum cultures are performed in the US to clear a patient from the hospital sooner. UGGGGH!!!! We will bring both children to our Embassy appointment and plead Maritu's case? Double ugh!
If she cannot be cleared, then we will have to return home without her. :( Neither Kenneth nor I can stay away from home any longer... So, what do you do when you are at your wit's end? Eat chocolate!!! Lots of it!!! Kenneth and I took off in search of the cure all medicine, and we made it in the process of our hunt because Mia had brought some with her from home! Yes, us two farengi's stuck out like we had neon signs around our neck, and what happens when that happens? The beggars follow you! My goodness! We had one little boy follow us for several blocks when surprisingly a nice Ethiopian man fussed at this kid until he left! Wow!
Hope will make this all good, so no worries... This is just not what we had planned... Bummer!
Thanks Lee for my new coined phrase...TIA (This is Africa!)! Yes, I have been having a TIA experience, but I did have hot water this morning! Maybe there's no hot water in the evening? Who knows? Anyway, we enjoyed another wonderful breakfast this morning. I just love Ethiopian food. Kenneth said that he could live here. I mean where else in the world can you see goats being herded across a freeway or donkeys carrying large bags of teff? Okay, yes, I know there are other places in the world, but not the USA. I am amazed by the amount of people that are just everywhere on the streets...everywhere! I know Addis is heavily populated, but even in Houston, there just aren't people all over the place. I love the simplicity of life. Maybe one day we will live here or travel here more.
Well, I know I haven't said too much about Maritu and Mamush, and I bet some of you are wondering if we have them yet. The answer is "no". We actually planned on visiting for a few days first, but we have been dealing unexpectantly with TB. Actually, I'm glad I didn't finish this post sooner because I wouldn't want to worry anyone. Evidently, Maritu had primary TB, was quarintined, and has been receiving treatment for a month. She has a clear chest x-ray, but now has to go to the hospital M,Tand W for sputum cultures. If negative on all three days, then we will have our Embassy date on Thursday, and hopefully get the kid's Visas on Friday. Scary, huh? I will tell you that Hope has been very helpful since finding out. No, they had no idea, or we would have put off traveling until this was taken care of, but this is another TIA event. You see, this is very common in Africa... Shimeless ensured us that he is making every effort to let his staff know that this is something that we parents need to know. TB is different here in the US. It's not like a cold, but don't think I'm worried at all. I believe everything will be fine! If this was going to happen to anyone, it's better to have happened to me. I don't think you can truly understand how hard communication is here in Ethiopia, so it's no wonder! The phone system is horrible even if one knows the language!
What a day! We originally woke up at 6 am, but I decided to go back to sleep, but I finally started moving aroound 10am. I'm usually a morning person, but I will say that the time change is not compatible with me! Oh, and before I forget, if anyone travels that is not from a place with a high altitude....beware! Listen up and take all the advice you are given. Definitely drink lots of water, and stay away from caffeine. My nose started bleeding on our first flight segment, and it is just now getting back to normal. Sorry to get side-tracked, but I just had to throw that in. Anyway, breakfast at Bole Rock is great! We had omelets and toast.
Next, we called Ayele to drive us to Hope's transitional home which is not far from the guest house and airport. So what did I do as soon as our car pulled into the fenced area? Of course, I was bawling! I soon cleared up because Hope's nurse greeted us and led us to the room with the babies. Oh my goodness! I was snapping pictures and making those babies smile! One just had the biggest grin and cooed at me the entire time. I need to write that Hope person and tell them who! Some were so tiny! I took some picures holding their fingers, so the mom's will see how tiny!
Then came the toddlers...they were napping. Yes, I looked for my kids first, but they weren't there! I thought maybe they were saving the best for last. I took many pictures of them too, and Jaclyn, "Teddy" (as they call him) hated me! He cried everytime I looked at him!
Then came the older kids who were also napping, but they cracked the door, and I exclaimed, "There they are!" Maritu and Mamush were sitting on the floor with Wubitu, K&D, Mame and Mekdes. I immediately looked at the older girls and called them by name. I think they were surprised that I knew their names. It went downhill from there. Maritu let out a wail! Definitely not what I dreamed of... Oh and let me tell you how fat she is! She looks 9 monthes pregnant! No, she never stopped crying when I was around...
I stayed with M&M for awhile while they were being fed. We actually lost our driver for a time when he had to make an emergency trip, but that gave me plenty of time to play with all the kids. One of the older girls sat outside by me and played with my ponytail. Oh, I don't know who she belongs to yet, but she's a doll!
Later, Ayele took us to find soccer jerseys and to dinner. It was fanastic! What a roller coaster day. It didn't end well though because I had to deliver some bad news, and then something happened to my microphone on my headset, so I cold only text my family. I so needed to hear their voices...
So we finally made it to Ethiopia! Here are some of my thoughts about the flight... First, I was surprised that KLM's largest plane that we flew on to Amsterdam did not have individual entertainment screens in the headrests. I didn't bring anything to read, so that made for a LONG 8 1/2 hour flight! We found it easy, however, to find our way through the airport to make our connecting flight. I did feel like everyone was staring at me for some reason, and I have to remember to pick up some cow-painted Dutch clogs on our way back for my cow crazed daughter. Getting on our flight to Sudan was madness! The flight was packed, and we had to go through screening again. It just so happens that I got selected for a "pat down". I felt horribly violated! That's just disgusting to have a stranger put their hands all over you, and without going into graphic details, I mean all over you! The last segment of the flight was nice. We did have individual screens that had lots of movies, games, and music. Why not sleep instead? I just can't do it! Also, I forgot to mention that the food was good, but I still think if you can, fly Emirates!
Next comes getting off the plane... That was easy, just time consuming. You are directed where to get a Visa, so no problems there. Then comes customs. That was uneventful too. Of course getting our luggage was crazy, but having brightly colored tags that I purchased from Books-A-Million helped, and we didn't lose a bag! So, all's great, huh? Well, no, not exactly. For some reason our hotel driver decided to leave because we were supposedly late, and we finally took the advice of a guy and took a cab to the hotel for $25! What choice did we have? None! We didn't have a cell phone that worked in country, nor anyone's phone numbers. What a rip off! I hope Bole Rock Guest House makes it right by discounting our room for that amount.
So what's the guest house like? Well, of course, it's not home, but I do suggest bringing a pillow! I'll be much better if I can find one today. Just a warning- there's NO hot water at night. The food is great though, so I'll take what I can get!
I just had to put one of these on my blog. I think it's amazing knowing that people from all around the world have viewed my blog. I hope each and every one of you enjoy it and maybe learn something in the process... Please leave me a comment and tell me where you are from!