Please Pray for This Family!

It's hard to believe that this kind of thing really happens.  Such injustice.  But prayer DOES matter, so PLEASE pray!  And have FAITH that Kirill WILL come home to his forever family!  Thanks, friends!

The Coveted MOWA Letter

As many of you have heard by now, we received word on March 23rd that our MOWA letter had been received!  This means that we are officially court-approved…which means that we are officially Eden’s parents!  Many of you prayed specifically for our MOWA letter to arrive quickly, and we thank you SO much for lifting us up in prayer!

What now?  Now we just wait for the U.S. Embassy to receive our paperwork and assign an appointment date to us.  This could take anywhere up to 8 weeks, but we are obviously praying for a short turnaround time!  In talking to some other families from our agency, many of them only had to wait 4 weeks, so that gives us hope that we could have an appointment in mid- to late-April.

Once we receive our appointment date, we get to book our flight back to Ethiopia!  The day after we arrive in Addis, we get to go pick Eden up from Hannah’s Hope and bring her back to our hotel with us!  Besides attending our Embassy appointment on one of the days, we’ll just hang out in the hotel or go play at Hannah’s Hope until our return flight home.

We can’t wait until our family of 3 is together forever!

Last Day Highs & Lows

Our last day with Eden definitely held some very high highs and some very low lows.  Like we've said before, the adoption process is a roller coaster of emotions!  But we know that it will ALL be worth it in the end!

God’s timing is so neat.  And His attention to detail is cool, too.

By our third day with Eden, we were discussing how we hoped we would have the opportunity to change her diaper and possibly even give her a bath.  Because of the timing of when we were allowed to be at Hannah’s Hope, it just hadn’t worked out thus far.  Well, on our last day with her, we were able to do both!

The morning of day 4, we had only been at Hannah’s Hope for a few minutes and we realized that she needed her diaper changed.  We asked her special mother if we could change her, and she showed Lauren to the changing table.  Eden had saved an extra-special stinky diaper for her Mommy!

Eden was so content as her diaper was being changed!  No fussing or wiggling around—just playing with a toy while Lauren got her cleaned up.  It truly was a blessing to get to change our baby girl’s diaper while we were on our first trip.

After her diaper change, we tried her out in one of the “exersaucer” things—she loved it!

And we had some more play time—she absolutely loves her Daddy!

The afternoon of day 4 (our last visit with her before leaving Ethiopia), we arrived at Hannah’s Hope as Eden’s special mother was giving her a bath.  As soon as she saw us, she moved out of the way for Lauren to step in (her special mothers are awesome!).  Lauren got a crash course in bathing a slippery 6-month-old!  

Again, Miss Eden was so content and happy.  She just LOVES the water and that is great news for our family who also LOVES the water!  At one point, she propped her leg up on the side of the tub and just laid back—so cute!  She even liked it when Lauren poured the water over her head to rinse off her hair!

After bathtime, she had more fun lying on the changing table while we applied all of the baby products for her hair and skin.  She quickly found her foot and started sucking on her toes—pure cuteness!  She was so bright and alert the entire time and was “making eyes” at her Daddy (and the camera).  

We had some fun play time after she was all clean and dressed.  She got the hiccups, which was kind of funny and sad at the same time.  Ben tried some “tummy time” to see if that would help…

Later that afternoon, we were trying to gather more information from Eden’s special mothers.  We wanted to understand what type of formula she is on, what her schedule currently looks like (nap times, etc.), and any other Eden-specific things we needed to know.  Our little translation book wasn’t cutting it, so we called Waas in to help us.

With Waas’ help, we got the information we wanted and also made sure that her special mothers know how much we appreciate them.  Then Waas dropped a bomb on us.  He said it was time to go.  What?  We thought we had another hour with her.  No, it’s not time to go.  We told him that we weren’t ready and we made sure he understood that this was our last time with our baby girl on this trip.  He said that he understood, but that it was still time to go.

Looking back on it now, we see that it was best that we not have the opportunity to prolong the goodbye.  It would have only made it worse.  Plus, we were able to say goodbye to our precious daughter while she was still awake.  The emotions came on faster than either of us expected.  It was a very tearful and gut-wrenching goodbye—one that we don’t wish upon anyone.

Eden’s special mothers were very sweet and kept assuring us (using body language) that they would take great care of her and that they love her, too.  We can’t imagine better people to be taking care of our baby girl if it can’t be us. 

We love our baby girl SO much (you parents out there can understand) and we pray that she is home VERY SOON!  Please pray with us.

Experiencing Ethiopia

We hope we never forget our experiences from Ethiopia.  From the culture to the food to the coffee…everything is so rich and everyone is so friendly!  

Our morning coffee at our hotel (oh, how we miss it already!)…

We loved seeing words spelled in Amharic! (and the old school Coke bottles)

We were blessed to be sharing our “first trip” experience with another AGCI family.  We met the G family on our second morning (their first morning) in the hotel dining room.  They were traveling with their two beautiful daughters who we got to know quickly and had a blast with!  They were there to meet their two newest additions to the family—a boy and a girl (siblings).  How fun!  We truly enjoyed sharing our experiences with them.  This journey can be quite an emotional roller coaster, and it was nice to have them there to encourage us, hug us, laugh with us through it all!

We got to share some fun “outings” with them as well!

On the afternoon of day 2, we went to an Italian restaurant/art gallery and then shopping.  We were blessed to have the AGCI Ethiopian staff be our personal tour guides and chauffeurs!  We picked up some Ethiopian coffee and spices, as well as a Bible in Amharic for Eden when she gets older.  We also bought three beautiful dresses for her to wear (various sizes), along with some souvenir items.

The view from inside the van…

Cultural Dinner
The evening after our court appointment and birth other meeting, we went to an Ethiopian Cultural Restaurant.  It was a very fun time and was just what we needed after such an emotional day!

Washing our hands before dinner (since everything is eaten by hand)…

Enjoying the music and entertainment…

Eating traditional Ethiopian food (we really do think it is VERY yummy!)...

Tasting the local brew...

Learning from Waas how to do the “shoulder shake” dance…

Finishing the night off with very strong Ethiopian coffee…

We are so glad that we didn’t pass up the opportunity to go to Kaldi’s for lunch with the AGCI group on our last day in Ethiopia.  Starbucks ain’t got nothin’ on Kaldi’s!

A yummy pastry!

Lauren's chai latte...

We are so happy to be incorporating such amazing culture into our lives!  There is so much history in Ethiopia and we'll say it again--the people are SO friendly!  We can't wait to share our experiences with Eden as she grows up.  And we hope to be able to bring her back to Ethiopia several times throughout her life to experience it first-hand!

More Time with Eden

Day 2: When we arrived at Hannah’s Hope on the second day, we had a lot less anxiety than the day before.  It was fun to walk in and already “know the ropes!”  We had a lot more play time with Eden and even got to hear her little raspy voice.  She really likes to touch our faces, play patty-cake, and look at the camera! 

When it came time for the babies to take a nap, Eden wasn’t really wanting to fall asleep.  That was fine by us because we’d rather have play time with her at this point!  However, we understand that they have the babies on a schedule for a reason and that we needed to respect that.  So, I walked around with her for a bit to see if she would fall asleep.  She wasn’t showing any signs of being tired, but she wasn’t fussy either.  She was just fine to walk around!

After a bit of time, her special mother came and got her from me to put her to sleep.  It felt a little weird, but we know she was just trying to help (and trying to keep all of the kiddos on the same schedule!).  We watched how she wrapped her up in a blanket—even covering her face—to get her to sleep.  This is something that we had been told—that Ethiopians dress their babies very warmly.  Well, they certainly do!  And they wrap them up in fleece blankets when it’s 85 degrees!  The babies seem to like it, but it sure does make us Texans sweat!

Day 3: After our meeting with Eden’s birth mother, we went back to the hotel to eat lunch, rest, and process the events of the morning.  When we got to go back to Hannah’s Hope to see Eden again, it was just pure happiness and joy to get to spend more time with our baby girl.  It felt so natural!  And it makes sense for that to be the visit where the weight was completely lifted—it was the visit after court and birth mother meeting.  We didn’t have to guard our hearts anymore—she was OURS!  

Eden is recognizing Ben’s face/voice now.  It is SO sweet to watch her gaze at her Daddy!

This was our first afternoon visit to Hannah’s Hope, so we got to see Eden in her room for the first time (our previous two visits were during the morning play time downstairs)!  We spent our time upstairs playing with her, and it was nice to only have a couple more babies around instead of the several babies who are there during the downstairs play time.  It felt much more private.  

It was the perfect opportunity to try Eden in the “sleepy wrap” (baby sling).  As I was putting it on (wrapping it around my body), Ben noticed that Eden’s special mothers were smiling and talking.  He wasn’t sure at first if they were making fun of me or not, but we realized later that they were proud of me!  They even called in a few of the other special mothers to come look at me!  Haha!  

It was a team effort to get Eden in the wrap (hey, it was the first time and we had an audience!) 

She was a trooper!  She was SO content to be in the wrap!  That was SUCH a relief since babywearing is a great way to help with attachment and bonding!  I wore her for about 30 minutes and only took her out of it so we could play with her some more.  We’re praying that she continues to like being in the wrap—and that she will even want to fall asleep in it.

Those little (big) feet are just too cute!

We love our baby girl and can't wait to have her home with us!!

A BIG Day in our Journey

The morning of March 17th started off interestingly enough…no cold water in our hotel room!  Lauren was in the shower when all of the sudden the water started scalding her.  We called Patty’s room and she confirmed that her cold water was also out.  We’ve heard of hot water being out, but the fact that the cold water went out was interesting.  So, after some creative hair rinsing to get the shampoo out of Lauren’s hair, we finished getting ready for court.

Danny picked us up right on time at 9:00am and we headed off.  The drive was very sad and eye-opening, as we passed through parts of Addis with many crippled people and children begging for money.  We didn’t talk much in the car, but we were praying individually for the people (“Lord, give me your eyes”).  In the center of Addis, in front of what looks like a big open-air stadium, Danny stopped to pick up our case processor, Haile.  We’re glad he told us who this guy was or we would have thought he was just picking up a random person off the street!  Haha!

After about a 35 minute drive, Danny pulled over to the side of the street and came around to let us out.  We followed Haile into a building (that didn’t look like any type of courthouse, for sure!), up 4 flights of stairs, and into a small room crammed with a lot of people who looked like us (people dressed nicely with concerned looks on their faces).  We weren’t given any instruction, so we just stood there like the rest of the people. 

We noticed that every 5 minutes or so, a lady would open a door and call out a name (or maybe it was a number??) and an Ethiopian case processor would direct their corresponding adoptive parents into the room.  The room remained fairly quiet, and if it got too loud, someone would “shush” the crown (there were signs on the walls that said “silence”).  As the people would come out of the room, we would try to read the expressions on their faces.  Some were straight-faced, some were crying and smiling.  They would all walk straight out of the room and back downstairs, so we didn’t really ask any questions.

The room started clearing out quickly as they would call in large groups at a time.  We realized that these large groups were from other countries (France, Spain, Germany) and needed an additional translator (the judge and most educated Ethiopians speak English and Amharic).  They were all done together because of the translator.  Anyway, as the room started clearing out, we noticed that there were a handful of Ethiopian women in the room.  Birth mothers.  We had wondered if the birth mothers were in a different court or at least a different room, but suddenly realized that they were right there with us.  We identified Eden’s birth mother fairly quickly, as she looks just like her!  It was then an awkward game of “don’t stare” (she was staring at us, too) as we waited for our name to be called.

At about 10:40, our case processor motioned to Eden’s birth mother to come in the room.  Our hearts were now pounding.  She was about to make the final decision to relinquish her rights (or not).  We prayed together and within about 2 minutes, she walked out and we were motioned in.

The “courtroom” was just a small office.  There was a lady (who was beautiful) sitting behind the desk and we were motioned to sit in the chairs that lined the wall perpendicular to her.  Haile and another guy were sitting in chairs along the back wall, and there was one other Ethiopian lady who came to us and asked us for our passports.  The judge (the beautiful lady) looked at our passports and then asked us a series of yes/no questions.  “Have you seen her (she said her full name) in person?” yes. “Have you educated yourself on international and bi-racial adoption?” yes.  “Do you understand that you should incorporate Ethiopian culture into your child’s life?” yes.  “Do you understand that this is final and binding?” yes.

Then she said something along the lines of “pending your approval letter from MOWA, everything is finished.”  Not exactly what we wanted to hear, but still good.  If our MOWA letter had been there, we would have heard the words “she’s all yours!”  That would have been music to our ears!  However, our letter was not there, so we’re not yet finalized.  On the bright side, our birth mother did relinquish her rights!  That is a HUGE deal!  So we are still very thankful and we know that God is good…ALL the time (not just when He does what we want him to do when we want Him to do it)!

We stood up and walked out of the room a bit dazed and confused.  Haile followed us out and herded our group (birth mother, her case worker, us, Patty, and him) down the stairs and out to the van.  When we got outside, an older Ethiopian man kept shaking our hands and hugging us (and kissing Ben) telling us “thank you.”  We had no idea who he was, but we reciprocated and smiled.  Once we were in the van, we asked Haile who he was.  He was the director of the orphanage where Eden was originally taken (before she was moved to Hannah’s Hope).  Very sweet.

Once we realized that Eden’s birth mother and her case worker would be riding in the van with us back to Hannah’s Hope, we felt a bit awkward.  We introduced ourselves and shook her hand and then just sat in silence the rest of the trip.  They don’t make an etiquette book for those kind of situations!  Also in the van, Haile asked us if we understood what the judge had said and he confirmed our understanding.  He gave us a lot of hope by noting that the MOWA letter could even come in that afternoon or by the following Monday.  That definitely made us feel better! 

After the long, awkwardly silent van ride, we arrived at Hannah’s Hope.  We immediately went to the office and asked the AGCI staff when our birth mother meeting would start.  One of our favorite AGCI Ethiopian staff members, T (not sure how to spell her name properly, so we'll just call her "T" for now), said that she would be our translator, and she gathered some chairs around a table.  It was a fairly large group of people around that table for our meeting.  Eden’s birth mother, her case worker, 3 AGCI staff members (all bi-lingual), Patty, and us.  We started by asking Eden’s birth mother if she would mind if we video-taped and photographed the meeting.  She said she didn’t mind.

With the camera rolling, we first gave her the letter we had written for her.  As T translated it to her, we watched her reactions/expressions closely.  She didn’t make any eye contact with us, but she did smile regularly.  After the letter, we gave her the photo album we made for her (containing pictures of Eden, us, our house, etc.).  T flipped through it with her and explained who/what everyone was.  She definitely seemed to like the photos!  After that, we started with our questions for her.  It was a great relief to us that she was very open with her answers.  She just kept talking and talking!  It was awesome!  We have so much information to pass along to Eden as she gets older!

After our meeting, T said that she would go get Eden and bring her to us so that we could take photos and so her birth mother could say her final goodbyes.  Deep breath.  They brought Eden in and put her in her birth mother’s lap.  Her birth mother was smiling and noted that she looked so healthy and big (a very good thing!).  We went outside and took several pictures that we will cherish forever.  Then we were told that we would go back to our hotel for lunch and come back later in the afternoon to see Eden.  Her birth mother would get to say her goodbyes without us there.  It was definitely difficult to leave Eden in her birth mother’s arms as we walked away, but we knew that it was an important part of this entire journey.

A Day We’ll Never Forget!

We were both so anxious about our “big day” that neither of us slept much at all.  We were running on pure adrenaline that morning!  We all got ready and went down for breakfast.  While we were eating, another American couple walked in with their little girl in a baby carrier.  We immediately knew that they were another AGCI family and that they were there for their Embassy appointment (which is why they had the baby with them).  My (Lauren) stomach started churning as my anxiety built to a new level.  It was even more real now than ever before.

After breakfast, we waited in the lobby for our driver to take us to Hannah’s Hope.  Our emotions were definitely going crazy!  Finally (15 minutes late felt like an eternity!) a man approached us and asked if we were going to Hannah’s Hope.  Yep, we sure are!  We loaded up and started on our way.  We prayed together during the drive.  Luckily Hannah’s Hope isn’t far from the hotel—we arrived at the gates within 5-10 minutes.  We were greeted and shown to the office where we met Almaz, the Director of Hannah’s Hope.  She was as kind as we had been told!

She said that since we weren’t there for a tour (heehee!), she would take us directly to meet Eden.  She actually said Eden’s full name and it was so great to hear it in her native tongue—and to hear that we had been pronouncing it properly (which meant that our nickname of “Eden” makes sense).  Almaz noted that it is typically very pretty weather in March, but that since it rained the night before (and was currently drizzling), all of the children were inside, rather than in the courtyard.  We all removed our shoes and put on the shoes provided (various sizes of shoes that look just like Crocs), then we headed inside!

Following Almaz to meet Eden!

When we entered behind Almaz, our eyes immediately scanned the room to find Eden.  Almaz spoke to the special mothers in Amharic and asked them which one Eden was.  We didn’t need them to tell us—we had found her on our own. ;)  We had agreed beforehand that I would get to hold her first (Ben is very sweet!), so I knelt down to her bouncy seat and started talking to her, telling her that I was her Mommy.  I quickly scooped her out of the seat and into my arms.  I had tears streaming down my face, but wasn’t “crying”—I guess that’s the definition of “happy tears” that I always hear about!

Eden was drawn to my curly hair and grabbed on to it right away.  That made me feel good since my curls are one of the few physical characteristics that I share with my daughter!  There was a lot of commotion around us since we were standing in the middle of the room where all of the infants were, so we walked over to an area of the room where we could settle in.  After about 5 minutes, I passed our daughter to her Daddy.

It was a special moment for me to watch Ben with Eden.  As most of you know, he is great with kids and truly loves them!  So, for him to hold his OWN child had to have felt surreal for him!  I watched (and took pictures) as she snuggled in to his chest and kept reaching for his face.  So sweet!  Surprisingly, he didn’t cry.  I heard him tell Eden that he had cried enough tears and that now he was just happy to hold her in his arms!

We settled in to a corner of the room and made ourselves comfortable with our daughter.  We brought a few toys/lovies with us for her to play with.  Ben took out the little pink cloth bunny that we bought on our “babymoon” vacation to San Diego (before we thought we’d get matched with a girl, I might add).  Eden quickly grabbed it and started sucking on one of the bunny ears.  She must be teething because she wanted anything we had to go into her mouth!

She also played with Sophie the Giraffe (google it if you don’t know about this toy—it’s great! Thanks to the Prescott’s for giving it to us!).  She loved the feeling of it on her gums, but I don’t think she was used to the sound of the squeak that came out of it when we squeezed it.  It was funny to see her reaction (just startled her—she didn’t cry).  She also chewed on the pink and orange giraffe lovie that we brought for her.  But, by far, her favorite toy of the day was the little pink bunny.  Ben definitely loved that, since he’s the one who picked it out!

The “gear” we brought for Eden on this trip...

She started to get a tab bit fussy (I use that term loosely—she didn’t really make any noises at all—just got a bit squirmy) around 10:30am, and we could tell from the sound of the other kiddos that it must be bottle and nap time.  We asked the special mothers for a bottle and they brought it to us.  I was holding her for the bottle feeding and it was truly a special moment!  She had GREAT eye contact with me and quickly slipped off into a “milk coma.”  I passed her to Ben, and he finished the bottle with her as she dozed off completely.  For those who know Ben, he absolutely LOVES rocking babies to sleep, so I know that this was a very special moment for him to share with his daughter!  I heard him tell Eden that the two of them were going to do this a lot!

Eden had her left hand wrapped around my finger and her right hand wrapped around Ben’s finger—so precious!

After holding her for about 15 minutes of her nap, we weren’t sure whether or not the special mothers wanted us to put her down to rest (looking back, I’m not sure why we cared—we’re her parents—but we were trying to be respectful of the fact that these ladies still take care of her daily, and we didn’t want to disrupt them).  Partly because of a language barrier and partly because maybe she wanted to show us how she puts her down, Eden’s special mother came over and took her from us to a little bassinet right next to us.  We paid close attention to the words (in Amharic) that she said to Eden so that we can do our best to duplicate sounds when she’s home.  It was sweet to watch, and Ben told me later that he had a complete déjà vu moment watching that—like we had watched her put Eden to bed before.  Interesting.  

Rather than sleeping, Eden actually started “playing” with her special mother.  Again, it was very sweet to see and we paid close attention to what words and motions were made.  In an appropriate moment, I scooped Eden up and we started playing with her.  This part of our visit was especially precious, as Ben and I sat on the floor bonding with our daughter.  We sang songs, played patty-cake, made faces and sounds with our mouths, etc.  She was very engaged and started mimicking some of our mouth movements!  We felt like she had truly started to see us as more than just another caretaker.

Patty (my Mom) was so sweet to videotape the ENTIRE thing for us!  She did an awesome job!  And yes, she got to hold Eden…but only for a minute before we took her back. Heehee! (She totally understands why.)  

Shortly after our play time, we were told that it was time to leave.  We were very bummed, but it wasn’t too hard to say goodbye since we knew that we were coming back the next day.  We arrived back at our hotel, downloaded all of the pictures and videos (thankfully, we have a TON of documentation of our special day!), had lunch, and then crashed.  The adrenaline had definitely worn off.  We woke up around 6:00pm, looked at the pictures again, had dinner, and then started journaling all of this.

A description of our little Ethiopian princess: downright beautiful, darling, and precious with a petite frame (except long fingers and toes), gorgeous dark brown eyes, cupid's bow mouth, and full lips.  She has lost some of her baby chub look (since the 3-month-old picture) and we think she’s about 12 pounds or so.  She is very easygoing, alert, and focused.  We couldn’t be more proud to be her parents!

P.S. We have a TON more pictures that we will share with you after we have her home.  We will not be posting any identifiable pictures of her just yet.

That was truly a day we will never forget!  Thank you for all of your prayers for our family—we truly appreciate it and can’t thank you enough!

Eden, we love you SO much and can’t wait to have you home with us!  You have a LOT of people who love you and are anxious to meet you!

The Trip of a Lifetime

After approximately 18 hours in the air and 34 hours of total travel time, we arrived safely in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at 9:15pm local time (8 hours ahead of Central time) on March 14, 2011.    

We had a lot of anxiety about how our trip, and specifically our entry into Ethiopia, would go.  Our anxiety mainly stemmed from the fact that we are not world travelers, we have never traveled to a third-world country, we were bringing a lot of donation items with us, we were traveling because of our adoption (and you’re never really sure how a country feels about an American family adopting one of their orphans), etc., etc.  

Well, as He has proven to us time and time again, God was protecting us—and our luggage!  We seriously felt your prayers!  That might sound weird, but it’s true—we really knew that a lot of people were praying for us and we felt a lot of peace because of that.  So, THANK YOU!

And now for the details (for those who want them)…

4:30am on 3/13/2011 – Mike & Dela (Eden’s Grandpa and Grandma) picked us up to take us to IAH 

2 ½ hour Continental flight from Houston to Chicago (looking fresh and clean and ready to go!)

6 ½ hour layover in Chicago – used the time to put a huge dent in the thank you notes (we LOVE having the “problem” of having lots of thank you notes to write!) and make phone calls

Ben’s first ride on a “double-decker” plane…

8 hour Lufthansa flight from Chicago to Fankfurt (still looking fairly fresh and clean…)

4 hour layover in Frankfurt – stretched out and rested/slept a lot (it was SO hot in that airport!)

Ben’s first time riding a bus to the airplane and loading using the portable stairway…

7 hour Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Addis (definitely NOT looking fresh and clean anymore!)

We arrived safely in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at 9:15pm local time (8 hours ahead of Central time) on 3/14/2011.  We went straight to the line to obtain our travel Visa and we were then shuffled through customs.  The line went surprisingly fast and we were not asked ANY questions—they simply did their required paperwork, got what they needed from our passports, then gave everything to us and sent us on our way!  

As we walked out of the customs area, we immediately saw our luggage—ALL 7 bags—sitting there waiting for us!  Because of a good friend who booked our flights using airline mileage, we were considered “Elite” and therefore our bags had special tags on them and had already been taken off of the carousel and put in a neat little row for us!

We got help with our luggage from two very friendly porters (that may be too formal of a title—they were Ethiopian men who work for the airport and help people with their luggage—presumably only on the tips they receive).  They did all of the heavy lifting as we then had to send all of our luggage through a security scanner.  Out of all 7 bags and our carry-ons, only one of our bags got selected to be opened and checked.  It was one of Patty’s  bags and it contained the food processor that we were donating to CFI, so we were nervous that they wouldn’t like that.  Turns out all they cared about was whether or not the bag contained any medicine (which it didn’t), so they sent us on our way!

As we walked out of the airport, we immediately saw a man in a suit holding a sign that said “Benjamin & Lauren Huss.”  Wow—another moment of total relief!  We greeted him and he invited us and our porters to follow him to the car.  As we walked down the winding ramp, we noticed how nice the weather was.  It was very pleasant to have some cool air blow on our faces after so many hours in airports and planes!

The nice men loaded up the van and I (Lauren) asked them to take a picture with us (Ben rolls his eyes at me, but then he appreciates that we have photos like that). 

We tipped the porters (standard of $3-4 USD per bag), hopped in the van, and headed to our hotel!  At that point, it was about 10:15pm (only an hour to do all of the Visa, customs, luggage, etc.).  It was dark, so we didn’t get to see much of Addis from the van, but we did have a couple of times when our driver “played chicken” with an oncoming vehicle.  Thank goodness we won both times!  

After about a 15-minute ride, we arrived at our hotel and got our rooms.  Our room was just outside the elevator on the 4th floor and Patty’s room was just down the hall from ours, so it was very convenient.  We were pleasantly surprised at the size of our rooms!  The sitting area with leather chairs and a love seat was just below the windows, so we kept a window open and enjoyed the sounds of Addis.

We spent about an hour sorting through our luggage so we could combine all of the donation items (we had spread everything out among the bags for travel).  After we had everything sorted and organized, we got settled in for the night.  It was nice to stretch out in a real bed after so many hours on airplanes and in airports sitting up to sleep!

Peter from CFI coming to pick up the donation items…

From the entrance to our room… 

Our bed (we think the crooked picture hanging on the wall adds a lot of character to the room!)

Our bathroom (interesting tidbit: everything is very “fancy” and we have our own hot water heater, yet instead of a shower curtain, there is a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor—so water just goes everywhere)

The view from our hotel window…