Sent by Bill Gottschalk at 5:24 Eastern, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Wow! What a day! We awaken to a rooster crowing across the street.
After a peanut-buttered pancake breakfast at the guesthouse, a group of us headed to court for our interview with the judge assigned to adoption cases. Since we arrived late Saturday, we had not experienced traffic in Addis Ababa on a typical workday. The sights, smells and sounds were engrossing as we travelled along the road on our way to the courthouse. Children greeted our van offering great big smiles, eager to shine our shoes.
At this almost 8,000 foot altitude, we became winded easily as we climbed four flights of stairs to the waiting room outside the judge’s chambers. The room slowly filled with other hopeful parents, eagerly anticipating the call of their name by the clerk. After a two-hour wait that seemed like four, our group was beckoned into her chambers. The judge was so soft spoken that we had to lean forward and carefully listen to her questions. After several minutes the judge simply announced to us, “They are yours.” It was immediate; we were now officially the parents of FOUR boys!
From court, we went directly to the orphanage to meet our son for the very first time. We entered the compound and proceeded to a small playroom. After about ten minutes, a group of about a dozen children was ushered in—our son leading the way—and obediently formed a line along the wall. One of the caregivers motioned to them, and they all rushed toward us at once to give us hugs and kisses. The new parents brought bubbles, balls and sunglasses to entertain the kids. They clearly loved having their pictures taken and being the center of attention, as they no doubt had become accustomed to visitors. Little did they know that that very morning they finally had been received forever into their respective families.
After a short while we moved out to the courtyard to play. We blew bubbles, kicked and threw balls, tickled, chased and laughed. Children delighted at being carted around up high on our shoulders. We watched our son interact with others, but he was clearly content playing on his own much like our other sons. We could already imagine him in our home blending in with our boys as they played with Legos on the floor with their extravagant creations. It was such a joy to play with all of the children today. How they will both be blessed and bless others!
All too soon our visit was over as the children prepared for their lunch routine. We too left for lunch, where we reflected on the day’s events. Later we attended a three-hour cultural training session where we learned more about Ethiopian food, customs and history. It has been a lot to process for one day (and the lengthy travel and time change has made the experience all the more surreal). We only have two more days to visit him and soak in more of the culture. We will be sad to leave our son here, but are confident he is in the care of a loving orphanage staff.
Between the replay of today’s events and the sounds of dogfighting in the streets, it will be a very long night with little rest, but this day will certainly remain one of our most cherished memories.