Thursday, April 9, 2009


We've been home from Ethiopia for almost a week, which seems unbelievable! We're settling in fairly well and are loving being a family of four. I could really devote several blog entries to our amazing trip to Ethiopia but I really want to share my pictures. I'm also getting a lot of pressure from some friends of mine who want more pics. of Madeleine - I won't name names but it rhymes with Berica. :)
The people in Ethiopia are probably the most friendly, helpful and kind souls I've ever met. Even the customs officials had a smile and "welcome to Ethiopia" for us (I wish the U.S. officials had a few kind words for the Ethiopians on our return trip). Our plane was an hour late getting into Addis Ababa and after spending another hour and a half going through customs it was about 10:00 at night before we met up with our driver Danny, who had been waiting patiently for us since 7:30 - boy did we feel bad! As soon as we stepped out into the night air I smelled the spice, berbere, that is used frequently in Ethiopian cooking. It permeates the air all around and really makes you feel that you're in Africa.
After settling into our hotel we were excited to meet Madeleine the next morning. We were warned that just a few days before our arrival she was bitten by a bug and had developed a bad rash/sore on her chin. They had put a purple solution (they called it iodine - I'm not so sure) on it to dry it out but it looked pretty bad when we got there. Of course we were on the phone with our doctor the first chance we got and he diagnosed it as Impetigo, a bacterial skin infection. Luckily we had traveled with a topical antibiotic just in case so we were able to start treating her immediately. She's doing much better now, although you can still see the marks on her chin.
When we first walked through the gate to Hannah's Hope we saw a group of toddlers playing happily with a soccer ball and about 30 babies laying out in the sun, sleeping, eating or getting attention from the special mothers. We were told that every single child at Hannah's Hope has been placed with a family and are just waiting to go home. It was so nice to think that there are Mommy's and Daddy's on the way to get their children.
Madeleine was brought to us right away and it was so wonderful to finally hold her in my arms. She didn't fuss at all, rather, after observing my acerbic wit and winning smile, promptly fell asleep. She snoozed for quite a long time and then woke up for a bottle. We headed back to our hotel for a little rest before our embassy appointment that afternoon. That evening she was officially ours and she spent the rest of the week getting used to two crazy people that made funny faces and weird noises.
The remainder of our time in Ethiopia was spent shopping, playing with Madeleine, eating adventurously (corn flakes a la cockroach) and taking in the culture of the country. We were also thankful to have met Madeleine's birth mother. We're going to save the details of that special conversation for Madeleine but I will say that her birth mother and I share a love of sarcastic humor and carbs.

This pretty much sums up our trip.
Holding Madeleine for the first time. We were so lucky to be traveling with our caseworker Christy and she was able to take these pictures for us.

Despite the big change she just went through Madeleine was all smiles back at the hotel. I'm still waiting for her disposition to change from happy-go-lucky to sheer terror, but so far, so good.
Hannah's Hope

While we were visiting Hannah's Hope there were always women doing laundry or washing bottles. It's hard enough to keep up on those things with just one baby. I think these are just the after-breakfast bibs.
One of the baby rooms. This room had windows so it was light and bright. We were often without power while we were there and the rooms without windows were almost pitch black even in the middle of the day. The crib in the foreground of the picture is where Madeleine slept for part of her stay.
The living room at Hannah's Hope. One afternoon the entire floor was covered with Moses baskets to accommodate all the napping babies.
Every building, office or house in Ethiopia is surrounded by a wall and gate. Here we are outside Hannah's Hope.
Here is Almaz, who coordinates Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia. She is in charge of the whole operation, sending out referral information, caring for babies, submitting documents to court and making sure the whole operation in Ethiopia runs smoothly. She is so fantastic!
We loved spending time with her! Addis Ababa
The view from our hotel window. Each morning at about 5:30 there was a beautiful call to prayer. The chanting seemed to reverberate and echo off the streets and buildings and was an enchanting sound.
Looking up the road from our hotel.
One morning I was watching this woman and her two daughters trying to cross a muddy ditch. They stood there for quite a while trying to decide how to navigate this obstacle. A man walking down the street saw their plight and quickly helped the girls over, but not before throwing them up in the air and kissing them. No way would that happen in the U.S. but that is not out of the ordinary in Ethiopia. Everyone there loves children and they are valued highly. Another example of this was when we were at the airport coming home. I was by myself with Madeleine and was approached by a soldier in full combat gear who I assume was supposed to be watching for terrorists. However, he was so enthralled with Madeleine that he started snapping his fingers, clicking his tongue and making goo-goo eyes at her. He was happy to hear she was going to America and said, "America is a great place!" to which I replied, "Ethiopia is too!" He then got a confused look on his face and said, "you think so?" It was pretty funny. Here are the men digging the ditch by hand. What hard work! Driving through town. Driving in Addis is pretty insane but the system seems to work. Here's an easy guide:
1. There are no lanes
2. There are no signal lights
3. Be aware of mules, cows and goats
4. The car horn is your friend

Our last night in Addis we went out for a cultural dinner with Almaz, Christy and Danny. It was definitely a highlight of our trip. We ate traditional Ethiopian food and enjoyed terrific singing and dancing. Even though it was way past her bedtime Madeleine was wide-eyed for the entire event.
Here is our meal, served on Injera, which has a tangy, almost sour flavor. You break a piece of Injera off and then scoop up one of the offerings. The cabbage and lamb (not pictured) was my favorite. Almaz gave us an "A" because we were happy to try anything and we were so laid back about our whole trip.

After dinner we were served coffee and popcorn while we watched the performance. Our waitress also lit incense, which smoked gently at our table.
The next afternoon we walked to Hannah's Hope to say goodbye and to give the special mother's some time with Madeleine. She ended up falling asleep so Christy, Jason and I went over to Kaldi's coffee for lunch. It was marketing itself to look like Starbuck's but it was soooo much better! I was really spoiled on coffee all week and it will be hard to go back to Seattle coffee.
Ahhhh, need I say more?
Even though our trip was a wonderful experience it was so great to finally be home and see Isabelle.
With both my girls.
Daddy and Madeleine


The B Family said...

Welcome Back! Thanks so much for sharing--loved every bit of your trip report and pictures.
Madeline is precious!

jody said...

Love the pictures-it makes me SO EXCITED that we are leaving in less than a week!!! sounds like you had a GREAT time-yay!

Matt said...

Thanks for sharing those pictures and stories from your trip. What a great experience.

Emma and Luke said...

I love seeing the pictures! Looks like you had a wonderful experience. Madeleine is a beauty!

Our journey said...

So exciting Aubrey. I am glad the transitioning has gone so well.


nana t said...

Oh my! Oh my! She's beautiful! Thank you for taking the time to share and write. It's all a miracle. Such a gift Madeline's birth mom gave the Brock family. Congratulations and Blessings

Becky said...

You describe Ethiopia so accurately and so beautifully. I'm "homesick" to return to Addis. Loved seeing all the photos. I'm all teary now:)

Erica said...

YAY! love the pictures that I've been eagerly waiting for all week. I can't wait til tomorrow to meet her. I did talk to the girls about not holding her (or poking her or sneezing on her, etc) and Emersyn has lovingly offered to babysit if you get tired of holding her! She is absolutely beautiful!

And yes, my name does rhyme with Berica! (you also could have said America, Jerica, etc.!)

tuesdaymom said...

How wonderful, Aubrey! What a truly special time.

On your "gotcha day" Madeline is wearing a dress I have a photo of my litte one wearing! So funny -- it makes me want to hold her so bad! Can't wait!!


Kristi J said...

oh...what a great post...thanks for giving us a peak into what's ahead....Oh, I can't wait to get there...the pics are priceless....and your fam is adorable....congrats, kristi

Sandy said...

Oh Boy, I was eagerly checking your blog daily for updates....I am so glad you made it home and now have your beautiful girl...she is so beautiful and what a happy baby! It seems like a really quick trip...very different from Kazakhstan???? How is Madeleine doing now....when was her birthday? Oh, how did the flight vest work out?

Take care and thanks for the updates....finally!!!!! Keep them coming. Nothing nicer than a happy ending to a long-awaited adoption.


Lauren said...

Thanks so much for all the details in this post and the pictures (I'm still drooling over the coffee). I You're babe is so beautiful, congrats!

mark said...

I've got tears in my eyes after looking at your pictures and reading about your time there. How very precious that you got to meet Madeline's birth mother. Wow. Blessings to all of you!
Sam (and TJ of course)

Wright Family USA said...

Hello Aubrey,

Don't know if you remember me. My name is Dawn. My husband Jason & I adopted through AGCI as well...and we had some similar experiences with loss.

WOW your sweet baby is amazing, and I am sooo glad to have found your blog.

You all look very happy, and I just want to let you know that our family still thinks about you and prays for you! Have a wonderful Easter- we know you will!!!

The Hull's at #4 said...

What a wonderful post! It's so wonderful to read about your memories! I'm so thankful you are home safe and sound! Can't wait to see Ethiopia first hand.

Sandy Toes said...

What a wonderful wonderful post...I loved it all and read every word! Wishing you much happiness as a family of 4!
sandy toe

Dawn said...

Thank you for the wonderful post!! I can't wait to see/do all those things SO soon!! We leave in 3 days!! Congratulations! Your girls are beautiful!

jenbaum said...

What a beautiful post, Aubrey! Brought tears to my eyes for so many wonderful reasons. My heart is filled with joy at how lucky Isabelle and Madeleine are to have you as a mommy!

Eastiopians said...

It has been so nice to catch up on your blog this morning. M is SO cute! She and her sister are gonna be heart-breakers. ;) I am scared to ask, but I have to know about the cornflakes-ah-la-roaches....ewww! Do tell. Thank you for sharing about your trip!

#15 on waiting list at AGCI