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Archive for February, 2009

Ode de la creme

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It’s time for me to post something completely unrelated to Ethiopian adoption.

I’ll be doing this fairly often because my gestation time is going to be more like an elephant’s and I need to keep myself (and hopefully you) entertained in the mean time.

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday — whatever you want to call it, and I had a perfect moment. You know those bits of time when all is right with the world and nothing whatsoever could be improved? It was one of those. And if you know me, you won’t be surprised that this one centered on food. The food pictured above, in fact.

Now the lighting in that picture isn’t great, and it probably just looks like a tub of yogurt, but I’m here to tell you that stuff up there is cream straight from an Amish Jersey cow and it’s one of the best things I’ve EVER tasted in my life. Seriously, I’m not worthy.

I get that it’s a bit weird to be flipping out over a dairy product. But that’s the kind of girl I am. Plus, I grew up near farms, drinking milk straight from cows and goats all the time. These days everyone’s afraid of that, but if you know and trust your farmer you don’t need to hesitate.

So Lent begins today. We fasted and abstained from meat and our foreheads were marked with ashes. For dinner, I made a simple lentil soup and homemade bread. But all day long I’ve been dreaming about that cream.

Guess what I’m having come Easter morn?

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About Ethiopia

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Famine. Poverty. Disease. Unrest.  This is what most people picture when they think of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, for the past few decades, the country has experienced all four to a tragic degree.

But Ethiopia is a whole lot more. It’s one of the oldest civilizations in the world, going back to about 3000 B.C. It is the land of the Queen of Sheba, and home of the remains of Lucy — the oldest ancestor of the human family. As Africa’s oldest independent nation, Ethiopia has never lost its independence through colonization by a western power. (There was a five year period when it was occupied by Italy’s Mussolini,but that hardly counts).

Ethiopia has a President as head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of government. There are distinct regional states in the country – Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, Southern Nations (SNNPS), Gambella and Harari.

Approximately 70 million people live in Ethiopia, comprising  80 ethnic groups, and over half the population are children. Three million people live in the capital city of Addis Ababa, which means “New Flower.” It was settled in 1886 and is located 2500 meters above sea level.

The country is diverse in its landscape — mountains, valleys, plains, deserts, lakes and rivers. The climate is temperate, being near the equator, with two main seasons –rainy and dry.

Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French and Arabic are also widely spoken. In towns and rural areas, you can hear over eighty indigenous languages with some 200 dialects.

Ethiopia has a fascinating religious history. It’s both a Christian and Muslim nation and the two groups live together in peace. The Ark of the Covenant is said to be living in Ethiopia and I’ll tell you more about that in the days to come.  Most Christians in Ethiopia are Orthodox.

Here’s another interesting fact about Ethiopia:  Right now it’s the year 2000. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which comprises twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (or six days in a leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar. Christmas is celebrated on January 7 and New Year on September 11, which can be extremely confusing to westerners!

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I’ve got visitors! Welcome to all of you who’ve been stopping by lately.

You know when you set a deadline and then fail to meet it? Well, that was the state of affairs this week with the first paperwork requirement — our autobiographies. I wanted to mail them today, but mine still needs some edits, and Brian is running even further behind.

The social worker told me the average length is 10 pages. Mine is 17. Hmmmm. Well, I bet not many applicants have nine siblings they have to describe, and 19 residences since the age of 18 to explain.

I know — excuses, excuses. But I’ll be ready to roll tomorrow.

Must. Nag. Husband.

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Faces of Ethiopian Children

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… which agency to work with!

We’ve already selected Catholic Charities in Baltimore for our home study. (See bad picture below.) The people there know what they’re doing — they’re experienced, impressively responsive, and supportive. We’ve been assigned a social worker and our next task is sending in our detailed autobiographies — a requirement for the home study. (Every now and then it helps to be writers.)

Catholic Charities Baltimore doesn’t have its own in-country programs, though, so it works with other agencies who do. And let me tell you, there are tons of them. Research is necessary and helpful, but overwhelming — you learn that few agencies get consistently positive reviews and some are downright bad.

The two most important criteria —  in my view, anyway — are competency and ethics. International adoption is fraught with corruption. I’ve read some horror stories — people finding out only after their kids are home that they were bought, stolen or coerced from their birth families. What could be worse?! So, it’s highly important you know how an agency’s in-country staff operates, and how they ensure the ethical relinquishment of children.

Then there’s the well-being of the children in an agency’s care — way high on our list.  You want to be confident the care centers and orphanages are good. One way to know is by asking parents who’ve been there.

The in-country experience is also important to me… If I’m going to wrestle my white-knuckled, knee-buckled fearful flying self into an airplane and go all the way to Ethiopia, I’d like to know there are good people waiting there to help us,  house us, feed us food we won’t get sick on, and just be there through what will no doubt be an overwhelming, emotional and exhausting experience. Yes, I want some hand-holding — wah!

Of course, there are costs and various other considerations. Clear and consistent communication is important.

We’ve got it narrowed down to two or three agencies now, but at the moment I’m feeling stuck. So say a prayer than in the next couple weeks we’ll choose the right one for us.

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Finding A Country

Forest at Bishangari, Ethiopia

Forest at Bishangari, Ethiopia

Some people are dying to know: Why Ethiopia?

Originally, China was going to be the country. The people we know who’ve adopted over the past eight years did so from China. (Guatamala and Romania are two exceptions.) Brian’s cousin brought home a beautiful little girl from China. Years ago, I babysat three children of Chinese descent who captured my heart. And we’ve known about all the baby girls abandoned because of China’s one child policy.

China just seemed like the logical choice.

But things change quickly in international adoption. We discovered at an adoption orientation with Baltimore’s Catholic Charities that the wait for a Chinese child in good health now takes at least three to four years. It was at this meeting we discovered Ethiopia was open for adoption, and our interest was piqued.

Brian was immediately sold on Ethiopia, but I’m a girl who likes to know all my options so I did some research. I discovered Korea was also a good fit for us and we narrowed it down: Ethiopia or Korea.

Selecting a country is not as easy as it sounds. Some are closed for now. Some have criteria you may not fit (age limits, net worth, etc.).  Some require very long in-country stays or multiple visits. Costs vary. There are also the intangibles — What countries and cultures appeal to you ? Where do you sense you’re being led?

Late one night I was perusing the Web site of an agency Catholic Charities works with. (Choosing an agency is even more important than a country, but more on that later.) I watched a little video on their Ethiopia adoption program. The video wasn’t great, but it moved me… the children were lovely, the care center was personal and impressive, the practicalities of the program were inviting.

I showed the video to Brian and it struck him, too. (He’d pretty much hitched his wagon to the Ethiopian star by then, but was allowing me my “process.”) We remembered past conversations about our potential “rainbow” family — “Perhaps after China, we could adopt from Africa,” we had said to one another when we thought we’d have all the time in the world. Ethiopia was always of particular interest to us.

I thought it would help me to connect with actual parents and kids. I managed to speak to two families who adopted Korean children, but most of the parents who reached out or responded to me had adopted from Ethiopia. All the blogs I found were run by moms who adopted from Ethiopia. (I can’t tell you how many nights Brian has come downstairs to see me sniffling over another homemade video of a couple meeting their Ethiopian child.)

One Saturday, we attended a large reunion for adoptive families in the Baltimore area.  Everyone was warm and helpful. We spoke to many parents who had adopted kids from all over the world.

After that, Brian was even more solidified in his choice of Ethiopia. I was still vacillating. One day I’d be, like, “Ethiopia!” and the next day, “Korea!” And it kept going  like that for a little while. (Guess who’s not the decisive one in this marriage?!)

I had a feeling it would be Ethiopia, ever since that video. But it just took time to re-orient myself to a different continent than the one I thought we’d do first. Finally, I caught up to my husband.

So. It’s Ethiopia!!!! An amazing country and a beautiful people. In our excitement we’re aware of this sober fact, however: There are no guarantees in this process. The wait for Ethiopia is about two years, depending on the agency, and a lot can happen. We’ll adapt if we need to. God will lead us to our children in due time.

I look forward to telling you more about the land of Ethiopia — the place and its people are so much more than most people know. Stay tuned…

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It Begins!

Not the most flattering picture, but here’s us last week just before I took our initial adoption application to the post office.

(And yes, that’s me with a bit of a I’m-excited-but oh-Lord-here-we-go-and-we-won’t-be-able to-get-our-deposit-back expression.)

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