Thursday, March 20, 2008

Finding my Happy Place

Today was a great day.  As I write this I have a little smile – nothing that amazing happened today, so it is funny to be so excited about it.  In fact, both Abenezer and Hana had quite the fit at some point during the day. 
 
But overall, it was just what I was hoping I would find here…

 

For me, our first week here was actually very hard.  That was very hard for me to express to anyone, even Mark (although I'm sure it was at least somewhat obvious in my blog posts).  I'm not even sure how to describe WHY it was hard.  I think it really all came down to my expectations.  Not so much my expectations about the kids, or the country, or the hotel or whatever.  Most things were at least pretty close to what I had anticipated.  But I thought I would be stronger I think.  I have been in love with my kids and Ethiopia from afar for about a year now.  I thought that love would translate seamlessly once we finally met.  I knew there would be fits.  I knew there would be some shoulder action going on.  I  knew there would be poverty, hunger, and beauty.  But then we arrived and everything started falling into place but me!  Mark was very attached from the first day.  I played the part and the kids, especially Abenezer, wanted to be near me.  But that feeling I had waited so long for just didn't magically materialize, didn't become tangible.  I know that it isn't love at first sight for everyone, but I was honestly shocked it wasn't for me (how could you not fall in love with those big brown eyes?!).  We met so many wonderful people (volunteers, other families) that would go on and on about how wonderful our kids were and how they all just loved them to pieces (especially Abenezer – he is very popular around here).  And I was ashamed.  How could so many others love my children more than me? 

 

Along with those tumultuous feelings of shame and inadequacy was the disappointment in myself – I didn't fall in love with Ethiopia the way I had expected either!  I didn't dislike it.  And it wasn't the things that one might expect that bothered me.  Sure, I would prefer to flush toilet paper, but I can live with throwing it away.  =)  I just didn't feel like I was connecting with the people.  I felt like we were all too often taken advantage of as stupid ferenge (if you are familiar with Mexico, think dumb gringo). 

 

I'm not quire sure when this changed for me.  I think a big help was moving to the guesthouse.  For whatever reason, it gave me a chance to start anew here.  I think the more relaxed atmosphere let the kids have some freedom to interact with each other, with us, and with Grace.  It let me sit back and observe them more, rather than on constant patrol so that one of them didn't run off with a maid or stick their head through the railings on the balcony (or worse!).  I was able to really start to get to know them. Truly appreciate Hana's ridiculously silly sense of humor.  Enjoy the sparkle in Abi's smile (even when he is using it to get out of trouble!).  As each minute, each hour, each day passes, I love my kids more and more.  And I know there will be hard times ahead (probably some very hard) but that we'll get through it.

 

The kids have been doing very, very well overall.  The worst day was last Friday, which was understandable given how emotionally drained we all were by mid-morning.  But for the most part they have been very lovable – and loving.  Especially now – they are both really starting to interact with Grace, which is just amazing to watch.  And Grace has opened up and come out of her comfort zone a great deal.  We've all grown so much. 

 

And we've been able to get out and about a bit more and are falling more in love with the country each day.  Today was lovely.  We got a driver for the better part of the day and tried shopping again.  Our 2 previous attempts have been rather frustrating and exhausting. But today the kids were great. The all wanted to see everything. Although they asked for many things (Gracie too!) they were happy with the items they did get and took no pretty well.  We found a couple items we were really hoping for.  We finally got some people that were willing to bargain down to a fair price.  Those that weren't didn't get our business and there was some satisfaction in that too. 

 

We had a nice lunch an d then went to the Lion Zoo.  This was actually pretty depressing – the poor lions!  But we met our friends (that we had lunch with at the Hilton again) as well as the father of a little girl from Abi and Hana's orphanage who just came into town.  His daughter is just beautiful (we got to dote on her a bit last week).  We were able to just drive around the city and saw some areas we hadn't seen. Some beautiful, some incredibly sad.  We passed out a box of granola bars and a few birr – all gone far too quickly. Always another empty stomach.  My heart aches for those people, and for this country.  So ravaged by disease and poverty.  The rich getting richer, the poor barely surviving.

 

And yet, it felt good to feel that ache – because I was finally feeling something for this place.  I needed to find love and respect for Abenezer's and Hana's heritage.  I need to pass that on to them.  They need to be proud of where they came from.  Hopefully we can come back in a few years as a family and hopefully we'll find things much better.

 

But that won't happen if the world keeps pretending Africa is some dirty secret.  I'm not sure when that will change.  But I'll do my part, whatever that may be.

 

Because Ethiopia is amazing.

1 comment:

I WOULD GATHER CHILDREN said...

Love this post Cat. Thanks for your honesty. It's hard to have expectations of yourself and not meet them. I did the same thing in terms of bonding. Keep on keeping on!
God Bless,
jen in MI