This day played out like most of the other days in many ways, but included a couple of interesting twists.
During morning nap time, Craig and I went up to the rooftop patio, where he read and I worked on a knitting project. We always enjoyed the view from the rooftop and also the sunshine.
By this point in the week there was only one other family left with us, and they left at the end of the day, after the coffee ceremony (to be discussed below) and before dinner. Other families had arrived earlier in the week than us because their court dates were a day or two earlier than ours, and many of them had left Addis for a couple of days while they visited other parts of the country. We also had one other guest staying with us, a former adoptive parent who had returned to Ethiopia to do some volunteer work with our agency’s humanitarian aid program.
After lunch, Craig and I had Y drive us to the Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, located on the Addis Ababa University campus. The drive was, as usual, very interesting, and the campus was beautiful. [All photos again taken through the window of a moving vehicle.]
The museum was housed in one of the late Emperor Haile Selassie‘s former palaces. It featured exhibits on cultural aspects of Ethiopia, such as how certain tribes treat birth and death, what a marriage ceremony looks like, what sorts of crops are grown where, and so on. We were also permitted to tour the Emperor’s and the Empress’s bedrooms and bathrooms. While I’m sure they were plenty fancy and royal at the time in Ethiopia, there were nothing like some other palaces we’ve toured recently (think: Versailles). We ran out of time (our driver was waiting for us) and were not able to tour the second floor, which housed an art collection. Overall, we found the museum to be pretty interesting. Craig found the men’s room in the museum to be a little too interesting; we had been forewarned about how bad public bathrooms could be and I guess this one was outright horrible. I just made sure I never had to go to the bathroom while we were away from the guest house!
I didn’t get any photos worth sharing from inside the museum, but here are a few scenes from the university campus:
And here are a few from our drive back:
On our way back from the museum we picked up another family that had been staying away from the guest house, and brought them back with us. We got into a major traffic jam and spent a fair amount of time breathing in the terrible diesel fumes. As Craig noted, we had never been so appreciative of the Clean Air Act than when sitting in Addis traffic. By this point in the trip Craig was dealing with some rather bad sinus issues, so this really wasn’t helping anything. While we were stuck in traffic, I actually counted out the number of lanes that intersected at a large intersection we went through every time we were out (since it was close to where we stayed). It was a 12-lane road intersecting an 8-lane road. And there was no traffic light at the intersection! By this point in the trip we were no longer frightened by the crazy traffic patterns, but instead enthralled by it. Somehow it all works. [Note to self: Try to get a photo of the madness at this intersection on the next trip.]
When we got back to the guest house, it was just about 4:00, and there was a coffee ceremony scheduled for a girl who was about to leave with her new family. Coffee ceremonies are part of most Ethiopian gatherings and celebrations; they include a sort of ritual of preparing and serving coffee. Typically the beans are roasted over a heat source (often charcoal – yes, even inside), and the hostess will carry the freshly roasted beans around the room so everyone can get a good whiff of the smell of the roasted beans. (Even I, the non-coffee drinker, think this smells fantastic!) Then the beans are ground and boiled with water to create the coffee. Everyone gets a small cup and there is often bread or popcorn served with it. It is common for incense to be burned during the ceremony as well.
The staff had cleared the furniture from the living/dining room of the guest house to open up the floor, and most of the kids from the big kids’ house were gathered, sitting quietly (amazingly quietly, really) on the rug. The 12-year-old girl who was about to leave with her new mother had been given a beautiful new traditional dress and had new braids and beads in her hair. I could tell that the nannies had helped to make her feel special and pretty for her big day. She looked very proud; this was her special occasion to celebrate the beginning of her new life in America. At the same time, I could tell that she was nervous and sad to leave her friends and her country. At 12 years old, she certainly understood what was going on, where the younger children might not.
The ceremony was supposed to start at 4:00, but we all had to wait for the head of our agency’s Ethiopian adoption program to arrive, and he had been delayed. The staff played DVDs for the children to entertain them. Rather than just sit and wait and miss out on time with Baby K, we went to visit her. We could hear the music playing from inside and the children clapping and singing along, which was really cute. We sat out in the courtyard with Baby K, and watched M drive in with a few girls who were probably 10-12 years old. These were the girl’s friends from the orphanage in Addis, coming to visit her before she left. We were surprised to see a couple of the girls step out of the car with infants in their arms; this particular car load had brought a couple of new babies to HH. (There are no car seats to speak of in Ethiopia, so these babies just sat in these young girls’ laps for the car ride!) At one point I went to visit my friend’s one-year-old son A, and he and I danced a bit to the music. [A’s family is at HH right now and they will bring him home early next week!]
Finally, around 5:30, a car drove up with the program director, so it was time for the coffee ceremony to begin. We handed Baby K back to her nanny and went inside for a very emotional experience. The director started off by noting that it is rare for children this age (12) to be adopted and that so many of them age out of the system and are left to fend for themselves (I think by age 14). So, that alone was emotional to listen to and think about. He went on to wish her well and to wish her new mother well in their new life together, and he talked about the importance of keeping Ethiopian culture alive in her life. The girl led the children in a prayer and her new mom was instructed to slice the bread. Everyone shared the buna (coffee) and dabo (bread).
Later, the children and nannies joined hands in a circle and the girl stood in the middle, and they sang a song, first in Amharic and then in English. The words went along the lines of “So long, [name], until we meet again.” Again, it was very emotional. Then it was time for her to say goodbye to the nannies and the other children. There was not a dry eye in the house, that’s for sure. They do a coffee ceremony like this for each of the children upon their departure, so we know we will have one for Baby K. I think I am glad to have participated in one ahead of time so I knew what to expect. Perhaps I will not be a blubbering fool for Baby K’s ceremony as I was for this one. (Nah, who am I kidding?) It was such a poignant experience; celebrating a new family and also saying goodbye to the child’s culture, and I think it was even more poignant with the age of this child. It was incredibly touching to see how emotional the nannies were; they love these children and it must be hard for them to say goodbye.
After the ceremony we said goodbye to the last couple who was there with us, as they were flying out that night. We still had the man who was there for humanitarian work with us, and now a US employee of our agency had joined us as well. We had an interesting conversation over dinner about the seemingly bleak future of the Ethiopian international adoption program. Our agency has closed down its program to new applicants, and it remains to be seen what will happen on both the Ethiopian side and the U.S. side of the equation. Craig and I had planned to go back to Ethiopia for a second adoption sometime down the road, but at this point we don’t expect it to even be an option in a couple of years. It is a sad situation for many reasons, but primarily for the many children in Ethiopia who truly need homes and families.
After the emotional coffee ceremony and the depressing dinner conversation, and knowing that we had to leave the next day, we both went to bed with very heavy hearts.