In our final days in Ethiopia, we only had two things to do: Visa Appointment and Coffee Ceremony to say goodbye. Things were wrapping up before we knew it. Our year + time, over in what would seem a few moments.
We filled in the edges with as much else as we could, Poppy never leaving our arms or the carrier the entire time. We visited some lakes, Adulala and Kuriftu with our friend Fekadu, watching the patterns across the silent water as we ate, hearing the cows eat grass along the shoreline fenced in by branches. Time seemed to be standing still, and rushing quickly at the same time, we wanted so badly to return, but also to stay. We would pay a small fee and eat at the water’s edge. Poppy sat contentedly in her high chair snacking or taking in life peacefully.
Can you spot Penelope on my back?
On the morning of our Visa appointment, we woke up early, and left early. Past the dusty buildings, and broken concrete steps, past women sweeping crumbling stoops of shops happily, most everyone walking, past everything to an open, ominous field where a large fortresses, clean lines, with a banner next to the strong gate, “Happy Fourth of July.”
The American Embassy.
We were very early, the man from Poppy’s orphanage wasn’t there yet, we went on a little walk while Fekadu rested in the car.
We saw some children playing hackysack with pieces of leaves sewn together in the middle. They were kicking it over and over to themselves, it sounded like a real hackysack. “Can I play?” Andrew asked, and they eagerly passed it to him. He did better than I would, Poppy and I hand in hand watching.
“Time to go!” Fekadu told us. Andrew told them he’d buy them a soccer ball, and they started running to tell their friends, the news catching like a brush fire, collecting a big group of children, excitement coursing through them. “When we’re done,” we told them. We walked up the dirt road, and a man’s car was stuck. Andrew jumped next to him and they pushed it into the road, the man smiling and waving as he drove on his way down the road clearing our vision, we saw the American flag.
I saw the man from the orphanage in front of the US Embassy.
“Hello,” he said, the biggest smile, kind eyes, “This is Natty.”
“Hello,” I smiled, “This is Amy.”
He said hi to Poppy, “She looks like you,” he told me. “That’s a big compliment,” I told him laughing to myself.
We walked through the metal detectors, Poppy toddling from my hand through. She didn’t realize what was happening this day. She reached her chubby arms up, her feet stopped, and I scooped her up and held her soft cheek to my face.
We sat in a row of chairs, a picture of Barak Obama and John Kerry smiling at us from the white walls. There were slides inside for little children. I thought back to the Embassy in Russia, packed, crowded, not enough seats, children running wild, sterile, raining.
Three children played on the slide, a sister and two young brothers, their dad smiling at them from his seat.
There were two other American families with Ethiopian daughters. The girls never left their new parent’s laps, clinging on to them, proud. Happy parents, arms around their treasures.
We hopped up, held up our right hands, promised everything was true. “Just sign your name here…just stating you understand her medical condition…”
“Does your family live here with you?” I asked him, kind of impressed that they could live here.
He smiled, “My wife is stationed in Nairobi, so we travel often to each other.”
We headed back to our seats to grab our stuff, we were done, Natty smiled watching it for is.
“Congratulations,” the other American families told us eagerly, “Thank you so much,” we told them, a five year old girl looked at me from her new father’s lap and grinned, her coffee eyes, leaving her parent’s faces for just that moment, her smile singing peace.
As we walked out, Natty told Andrew how he wanted to serve God with his life, “I am a Christian, I am just excited to see what God can do. I will spend my days serving him.”
Our Visa would be ready the next morning. The day we leave. Natty would pick it up and bring it to the coffee ceremony at the orphanage.
#Squad headed to lunch
We were mildly worried for Poppy the day of the coffee ceremony, how would she feel going back? She clung to us for dear life most days, the saddest face if we had the notion of putting her down. We passed a semi truck that had driven halfway into a building store front, 40 people gathered around, gas leaking out, people stood in shock. Shoe shiners leaving their wooden stools to come see.
We arrived at 10.
We were greeted by Sister Letty. She asked us how Poppy was doing. “Good,” we smiled. “She never wants to be put down, as soon as her feet touch the ground, she has her hands up to be picked up.”
Sister Letty smiled, “She has been waiting for this for a long time. There are 32 children here, it’s hard for them to get the attention they need. But each one is so precious.”
We were given cinnamon tea as we waited.
At 10:30, they started roasting the green coffee beans. Little plastic chairs were set out. People were present, but there was no need to rush or please us, or fill space with unnecessary words. We sat calmly as the beans began to roast over the coals.
The children filed in, wearing their best traditional Ethiopian dresses and outfits. They sat and smiled at us, glowing is a better description. They sat quietly in the plastic chairs for a long time, patient, not disrupting or needing entertainment. We were served coffee, and sister Letty stood and began to speak. Every child, every worker was present at the ceremony, to say goodbye.
“Today, is a good day. It is a sad day too, goodbye is hard, but it is a good day for Poppy. She will have a life, maybe she will be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher? We don’t know. But we know, that God has a plan for her life. She is special. She may be sick, but…” and she started crying. “I shouldn’t be talking, as soon as I do, my tears start to drop…” and she wiped her eyes, regained her composure. Andrew and I felt all broken up inside watching this dear woman cry.
“But no child is cursed, no child less than any other. Each child is a gift,” every word a tack onto the banner she was raising above the children in her care. “Each child is a gift from God,” she was creating the rhythm to the anthem to this home, to her life’s work at this orphanage weaved together with love and security that I have never seen prior in an orphanage. Sister Letty loved these children fiercely, and it showed now as she spoke. Reflecting in the faces of each child, and the workers now watching her, hearing each of her words, seeing the tear marks on her face.
“God has given us a big responsibility in each of these gifts he has given, and it is our work, our job to love them well,” the words washed over Andrew and I as we were felt the hot of dark coffee on our tongues, the softness of the bread, just baked by the women. We felt so included, so cared for in just these moments here. She does well with what she has been given, our chubby, loved girl on our laps.
“Now, we will sing you some songs in English, and some traditional songs in Amharic.” The children stood up to their feet quickly, they had been waiting to sing. Their small hands clapped lively, bodies swaying, voices full and rich. Song after song, each, even the small ones, knowing the words, moving their hands and bodies in complete freedom and joy, the voices filling the room. “God is GOOD all the TIME!” they echoed. Children are respected here, adults aren’t considered better. Everyone gathered around, sipping their coffee and watched the children, clapping and filled with joy. Each adult with pride on their faces watching the little ones. Children are greeted humbly, a kiss on the hand.
Two kind workers came up to Poppy, you could see the love they had for her in their eyes. They didn’t push, but held out their hand to see if they could feed her, “The Last Supper,” sister Letty called it. She hadn’t been out of my arms in days, she wouldn’t look at anyone else, normally clinging to me, but, when seeing their kind hand, she accepted their invitation to eat her lunch. Andrew and I smiled, so proud of her, grateful for these people.
This is love, a lap to sit, another to feed, and another to smile. In Russia, the children were lucky to get full mouthfuls while they were fed standing in their cribs.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass
We praised Sister Letty on the love that is here, “Thank you,” she told us. “God is good. But, they aren’t all like this one here, many orphanages are very bad. Sometimes they call us if they have a child who is dying to help, we do what we can.”
Since Poppy left, they had accepted one other child, a little girl into this center.
As we drive away, we felt as though we should feel triumphant, we are here… the adoption is done, Visa in our hands. But leaving the ceremony, where we sat for hours and hours with the kindest most loving people, respectful, lively children, we both felt a strange sense of sadness to go. We would miss them. What a difference from one country to the next when adopting.
We drove along the road, “Well…we have about 10 full minutes to pack everything for the airport…” Andrew told us.
“No problem,” I smiled. This was the easy part.
Poppy sat in my lap, happy as could be.
“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.” -Katie Davie
Praise God, for all things.
Thank you for following our journey to Ethiopia and back for our littest treausre. We could never have expected it so be so rich, so inspiring and life changing. Ethiopia is a poor country, the average annual income is $500 a year, but rich and full some of the best ways so many people long for and will never feel their entire lives. We are changed people by coming here, in ways I am so thankful for and wasn’t expecting.