Adventure in ET – Part 1

The journey begins…now!

In a series of ten posts, Katrina and I will share the journal we kept during our trip to Ethiopia in 2008. We are looking back to remember and celebrate the expansion of our family through adoption. Here’s the intro to this series if you missed it.

So sit back, scan the selection of in-flight movies, keep your pillow, blanket and ear plugs close. Oh, and don’t forget to take your malaria meds!

May our story be one that draws us all into a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

Thursday, August 28, 2008 – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

After 30 hours of travel, we touched down in Addis Ababa around 7:30pm local time. We were certainly ready to be off the plane, which had confined us for the better part of 15 hours. We had a brief refueling stop in Rome, but could not leave the plane. I looked hard for any historical points of interest as we landed and departed Rome…but was stymied.

(from Katrina: It was fascinating to go over all these bodies of water and land formations that we have studied for three years in home school. I flew by Ireland, over the island of Crete, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sahara Desert.)

Things have been relatively uneventful. We were blessed with great driving to Chicago on Wednesday morning – no delays and plenty of time to get checked-in at the airport and have a restful lunch.
From Chicago we flew to Washington DC. In DC we changed airlines, which required us to return to the main terminal and check in with Ethiopian Air. The scene at the international ticket counter was our first experience of truly feeling like foreigners. Several non-American airlines were crammed into an area about half the size of the ticket counter at GR Ford International. The place was packed with bodies, garbage and luggage. In the end, we got our boarding passes and had our luggage ID numbers linked with our Ethiopian air tickets. So, hoping for the best (for us and our luggage) we went and waited another three hours for our flight to Addis Ababa.

New experiences continued on the flight over. English became the second language and we seemed to have been seated in the middle of an Ethiopian family reunion. Katrina and I tried to learn some Amharic (the primary language of Ethiopia) on our drive to Chicago. Unfortunately, our repertoire is not beyond “ow” (yes) “yikerta” (excuse me) and a few other poor attempts at “hello”, “thank you”, and “fine”. We watched bits and pieces of Prince Caspian 3 or 4 times and caught several unsatisfying but adequate cat naps.

Upon touching-down in Addis, there was thunderous clapping from many on the plane. Not sure whether that was custom or relief, but Katrina and I were totally aligned with them in their gladness to be finished with the flight. After exiting the plane, we followed the crowd to get our temporary Visa. The whole process was organized, but confusing. Our passports were being shuttled around with several others. The organizational side of me was going crazy as my eyes were glued to the ones I knew were ours. We are very grateful that all of our luggage made it – even with a last minute gate and airline change in DC.

The next important task of the evening was to exchange some money. Katrina and I had a friendly debate (we were too tired to argue) about how much to exchange.  We consulted with the three couples we are traveling with, which only added to our confusion. In the end, we all ended up with a huge stack of money since the rate of exchange is about 10 birr = 1 US dollar. Seems strange to tip with a 10 birr bill.

We had a meal tonight at our hotel with the rest of the group. Our contact here, Alemu, gave us a few instructions for the next day or so. Tomorrow we will take a driving tour of Addis. The rest of the day is for recovering after our long trip. Saturday we leave for Awassa, which is 4-5 hours south of Addis. There we will meet with the birth mother of our daughters and any other family.  The roads are reported to be good (at least by Ethiopian standards).

Well, it’s now after midnight local time. I should have gone to bed 20 minutes ago because I just fried my buddy’s power converter while trying to charge my laptop. Yes, I am a degreed electrical engineer so let the jokes begin. I figured all I needed to do was make a series of plug connections that got me from the US plug to the African outlet. Makes sense, right? I also know the voltage here is 240, but that’s why I was using the converter. Things were great for about 10 minutes, but then a hiss and a pop were promptly followed by a thin trail of smoke that rose alongside my desk. I quickly tossed the converter in a sink of water to stop the melting (no, it wasn’t still plugged in) and prayed there were no smoke detectors. All is well…mostly. Katrina is already in bed and doesn’t know yet that due to my inept plugging and converting she may not have a way to dry her hair in the morning.

(from Katrina:  One of the families we were scheduled to travel with received word on Monday that something with their paperwork was amiss so they were not able to come. What a hard shock that would be!)

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