We left early Friday morning for our trip to Woylata, 7+ hours south of Addis. Because of lack of good sleep, issues with motion sickness, different foods, and not yet having a normal tummy after the plane trip, Maura got sick a couple times along the way. But she is a trouper and always manages to catch it in time (we saved some bags off the plane—we are calling them “Bob” because somehow it bothers me when she asks for the “barf bag” :)), or can tell us to stop the car in time. She bounces back pretty quickly, but please say a prayer for her if you think of it.
On the way, our guides stopped at a random home to show us the inside of a typical Ethiopian hut. Inside we were surprised to see two donkeys eating, along with the owners’ bed and cooking area. We gave them some money and a baby blanket as a thank you.
The purpose of our trip was to see the region where Aidan and Eva were born and where Aidan spent his first years growing up. We wanted to take pictures for their baby books and have some context for ourselves of their background. We didn’t know if it was going to be possible, but we were able to meet up with their birth mom (we will call her A). Our time together was so blessed.
When we got there, A (and about a million kids) met us at the van and she and I gave each other a very long embrace. It felt like she was letting go of 1 1/2 years of concern as she wondered how her babies were doing. I took her eager hand and we walked to her tiny home with the translators (we have to use two to get to her language). I felt like the Pied Piper as more and more people came out to see the “ferenges” (white people). And all of them wondering why we came to see this not-so-highly-known young lady who does odd jobs to make ends meet and lives with her two brothers in an apartment not much bigger than most Americans’ bathrooms.
She made a place for the 8 of us to sit (Gowin 3, she and her brother, two translators, and one boy who sneaked in). We had to leave the door open as there was no light in the room, and it was funny to see the neighbor kids inch their way in little by little. She seemed eager, but nervous, to tell us about her life and say that she was always wondering about what kind of family the kids were in and how they were doing, so she was so happy to hear that we were coming to see her. Evidently, AWAA has given her pictures from every post-placement report and she had those saved in a special place and showed them to us. We brought her two small photo albums and she kissed Aidan and Eva on several of the pages. They will be treasured.
During our conversation, she explained to us that she had been shunned in her village for having two children out of wedlock and then giving them away, so she had to move to this new village. As we walked back to the van, with by now half the village in tow, I realized from more of her conversation that our coming to her may, in some way, be helping to redeem her story. She went from an outcast to the most interesting person in the village because some white people made a trip all the way from the United States to see HER. In their minds, we were celebrities, and now she must be important as well.
As we got to the van, I wanted to give her some things that would help her life. We really are not allowed to give birth parents gifts because then it looks like we are buying children, but I thought it would be OK to give her some used things I was going to give away anyway. I handed her two sets of towels (they were from our home—I had just put them in our luggage last minute to fill in the spaces), the princess blanket that Maura and I used in the van on the way down (surprisingly it is 50-65 degrees here now), and my sun-discolored but otherwise very useful rain boots. (It is the rainy season here for 2-3 months and the downpours and mud make life difficult. We each brought our boots since we heard we may need them.)
I’m not sure I will ever forget the big smile on her face as we drove away, arms full of love wrapped in a princess blanket. Today she was the Queen.
A little ways down the road, Job, our guide, saw a market that he said he wanted to “experience.” We asked if he was sure, knowing we were going to be a disturbance. He said he didn’t think they would pay much attention to us because it was the market, so we went with him. If we thought we had seen all the village, well, we hadn’t. They crowded around as we walked touching and laughing and fighting to hold our hands. I stuck close to Princess Maura, who couldn’t smile any bigger and yet held very tight to me. We couldn’t even make it to the market and realized we needed to go back to the van. I wouldn’t say we were afraid—these people are all so very loving—but it was a little overwhelming. Here’s a picture Michael made just before we got into the van showing the market crowd that gathered around us.
That night we stayed in the last room in town because of a university graduation. When I woke at 1:00am, it was all suddenly clear to me that our room was available for a reason. We were the last room on the top floor (only stairs to get there), we had two twin beds (Maura and I shared) that weren’t actually mattresses but box springs, and our cold porcelain toilet had no seat. The ironies were all too clear. We went from royalty in the small village, to the servants’ quarters at the hotel. And yet as I lay there wide awake for a couple hours (which is not like me AT ALL), I was all too aware that even this room and bed were royal compared to the room and bed in which Queen A was staying tonight.
And as I laid in bed and listened to the rains start to come (which we had yet to see up to this point), I was aware of the fact that I was going to miss my boots tomorrow. But with every soggy step I was going to take, I would picture proud Queen A wearing her Royal Boots as she trudged through the flood waters to find work for the day, as the others looked at her with a new esteem.
It did rain a good portion of the day as we took a different route back to Addis via Awassa, where Eva has some history. After lunch we were fortunate that the rain stopped in time for us to take a boat ride to see some hippos “up close and personal” and feed monkeys out of our hands. Then it was another 6-7 hours back to Addis. Ethiopia is such a beautiful country and we truly enjoyed seeing this part of it and learning so much about it from our guide and driver.
It has been a long couple days, but so rich with memories and blessings. We are so grateful to have had this experience. And we are excited to see Big Brother again tomorrow and every day till we leave! He actually has asked our guide several times (before we came) if he thought we would be willing to see his family when we come to get him on the next trip. So though we hated to leave him just after we got there, it also gave him hope—that we would, in fact, be willing to travel and do the same with him.
We will post more about our time with “S” later, but for now we want to share some good news: We have a positive MOWYCA letter at the court!!! For those of you not aware of this jargon, this important piece of paper is necessary but often missing on the day of court, and then the family does not pass. Though it still does not guarantee that we will pass, it is much more likely with this letter already there!! Please keep up the prayers and thank you so much!!!