Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Court Day

June 8, 2012

The day of our court hearing, we spent the morning going up to Entoto Mountain to see the first church in Addis Ababa.  (The first church in Ethiopia is in Axum.)  There is a little museum that houses some artifacts, including a few of the Olympic medals won by Ethiopian athletes.  I'd never before seen an Olympic medal in person.

First church in Addis Ababa

The road up Entoto Mountain to the church is gorgeous, with sweeping views of the city.  And it's heavily trafficked by women--some with donkeys, but mostly on foot--carrying firewood and other fuel (dung) down the mountain.  We joked that the men were all at home drinking beer and watching football while the women did the heavy lifting.

Not bad shots, considering they were taken from a moving vehicle.
After visiting the church, we stopped at the Former Women Fuelwood Carriers Association, which provides women an alternative means of income to the strenuous and often dangerous trade of gathering wood.  The scarves they weave are beautiful.  They also weave baskets, but apparently someone had been there just before us and bought their entire supply.

The Association also provides schooling for children of the weavers and the women who are still carrying fuelwood down Entoto Mountain.

After a quick lunch at the hotel, it was off to court.

We arrived at court a few minutes early to find it closed.  I worried something had happened that would delay our hearing because, well, worry is what I do.  And close unexpectedly is what Ethiopian courts sometimes do.  But precisely at 1:30 the doors were opened and we found our way up to the adoption division.

It was a surreal feeling, sitting in that waiting room outside the Judge's chambers.  There were clearly other foreigners who were there to adopt, but just as clearly there were birth families there to relinquish children to adoption.  I was once again awash in very mixed feelings; it's hard for me to accept the joy we have already found in L without acknowledging the grief his family must have felt in losing such an incredible boy.  As I sat there, I pictured his birth mom sitting in that same waiting room just a week previously, about to enter the same room to sit before the same Judge and also change her life forever.

After several people and groups of people went in and out of the Judge's chambers, the clerk called for those of us adopting from Brothers and Sisters Orphanage.  We all went in there, and were seated for our interview with the Judge.  She asked if we'd met our child, and whether after meeting him we still wanted to adopt him.  (Yes and absolutely!)  She asked us several questions about our intentions to keep him connected with his Ethiopian heritage.  She asked if we'd formed a support network of other adoptive families.

It was all kind of a blur because I was still consumed with worry that something would happen to delay or prevent our passing court.  Then she said the two things we were most anxious to hear:  (1) all required documents were in our file, and had been approved by all who needed to approve them; and (2) Lingo is ours.  Forever.  My eyes immediately welled with tears, and I almost stumbled out of the Judge's chambers without retrieving our passports from the clerk.  Thankfully Brad's a little more level-headed.

When we arrived at the care center after court, we embraced our son for the first time.  Our son.  Not the boy we hoped to adopt, but our son.  And he SMILED at us.

He's missing his front teeth, and he seems pretty self-conscious about it.  One of our agency's staff at the care center said some tribes pull children's teeth because of superstitions; another woman we met from a different agency said his missing teeth were more likely due to malnutrition.  Either way, both seemed confident that his adult teeth would come in alright with proper nutrition.  And my friend Ann, a dentist, has confirmed that since we've been home.

He was clearly still settling in at the care center, and it still seemed he has little understanding of what is happening to him.  Since we were there later in the day, after the kids were all back from school, we got to meet all the other children at the care center.  Thankfully, some of the other children at the care center are also from Gambella, and have been at the care center long enough to develop both Amharic and some English language skills.  It seemed as though they were trying to help Eli understand how this all works.  Kids also kept running up to us asking excitedly "you Lingo's mommy and daddy??"  and then they'd run back to him crying "Lingo, Lingo, Lingo" chattering about us.  So thankful for these sweet kiddos helping our little boy.

Eli is very quiet, but already we could tell he is also very smart.  He loves taking pictures and videos, and he instinctively figured out more about how to operate the camera and video recorder than I know.  Brad was sitting on Eli's bed with him while I was off playing with some of the other children, and Eli was taking a video.  Then Eli started signing, very softly, and the video camera picked it up.  We don't know what he was singing, but he has such a sweet little voice.

We left behind a lanyard with a few photos, so he can wear them around his neck.  We brought a portable photo printer and some laminating supplies with us, so each day we brought him a few new photos we'd taken the day before.  He loved seeing pictures of himself.

The lanyard's a bit long on him.

That night, we went to Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant with Fekadu and Joel, fabulous drivers who quickly became our friends, and Julie and Steve, who were in Addis adopting a six year old boy from our agency.  What an experience!  Great food, fun dancing.

Drinking tej, Ethiopian honey wine

The ubiquitous Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

But, really, all I wanted to do was go back to the care center to see our sweet boy.


  1. ahhh this made me tear up :)) i'm SO SO happy for you guys! and your little one is the luckiest guy in the WORLD!

  2. Hi! I stumbled across your blog following link after link after link as I tend to do when trying to distract myself from this excruciating wait (!!) and wanted to say 1) congratulations!!! 2) your son is beautiful! and 3) I also had dinner with Fekadu and Joel while in ET for court in late April, boy do those two get around!

    1. Hi, there, what a small world! We had a lot of fun with Fekadu and Joel. This wait between court and Embassy is indeed excruciating. I'll be following your journey, and hoping for fast clearance for you!

  3. Congratulations Kathleen and brad! What an incredible experience and he is just adorable.