Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meeting L for the First Time

Thursday, June 7th

Addis Ababa, how I love you already.

The view from our room at the aptly named Addis View Hotel

The morning after we arrived in Addis, we headed over the care center with another family who had arrived the day before us.  We all have the same court date, and both our boys are from Gambella, but theirs has been at the care center for several months.

Outside the care center, moments away from meeting L for the first time.

The boys were in school, so we waited for someone to go get them.  When they walked through the gate, L seemed so timid and shy.

L is the smaller boy on the left.
 Nobody was there to introduce us, and L speaks no English.  So I just got down and softly spoke to him and held out my hand, while Brad hung back to videotape our first meeting.  And many thanks to Julie, who took such great photos for us.

He took me by the hand, and when I encouraged him to do so, he climbed into my lap.

I was really sad, and a little frustrated, that none of the agency employees were there to help him understand who we were or why we were there.  Particularly since we'd been told we would likely be some of the first white people he'd ever seen in his life.  But later I'd learn there really was nothing they could have done to help with the introduction, since none of them speak L's native language.

Finally one of the nannies came over and said something to him, but I don't think he understood her.  But we did try to get him to smile, with pretty funny results; he just mimicked our action.

Not exactly what we were going for, but cute nonetheless.

L is from Gambella, a remote region of Ethiopia on the border of South Sudan, and he does not speak the language of the capital.  He seemed so lost and confused.  He let me hug him, but he didn't embrace me back.  It seemed like he was a boy who was just used to adapting, and that's what he was doing in this new situation.

He pulled a toy car out of his pocket to show us, and that was a great ice breaker.  Yes, let's play!

 We'd brought him a photo collage poster, which he seemed to really like, but what he liked best was the mailing tube we'd used to transport it.  He and Brad made a tunnel out of it, and Eli pulled a few more cars from his pocket.

We played a little soccer; he's got some serious talent.  And he sweetly made a point to pass me the ball often.

He tried on my sunglasses.

Played with my iPhone.

Put on Brad's sunglasses, upside down so they'd quit sliding off his nose.

Played with the video camera.

And at some point he got a hold of Brad's baseball cap, and it became L's hat.

Ten sizes too big, but perfect on him nonetheless.

The other boy from Gambella had received a baseball cap from his family, and it seemed important to him to have one as well.  Later that day we received some updated photos from our agency, and there he was in the group picture, still wearing Brad's hat.  So precious.

Then it was time for lunch, and time for us to go.

That night in our hotel room, Brad and I went through the pictures and video we'd taken.  It was amazing too see in the photos how, just in the span of those few hours, L had really started to open up to us.  We know it will be a long process, but hopefully with each day he'll warm to us a little bit more.


  1. Wow, what a swirling sea of emotions! I feel really sad for him taht they couldn't find someone from Gambella to help him understand what was happening - what a tough situation for all of you. Love these photos - he's a seriously handsome little dude!!!

    1. Thanks! I think he's a pretty handsome dude, too. Glad you're back and blogging, Claudia. I've missed your posts!

  2. Wow, what an amazing journey, so far, and I'm just stepping in! I look forward to reading more. :)