Monday, December 31, 2007

foothill turns

"He boy in the box. Yea, you in the box. .....what are you doing?"
"Dont be confined to the box. Living a life in the box is....well, confining."
"Think outside the box! ......How about another ski trip?"
"eyey ooo ha ga" ("Yes, dady, yes. take me on another ski trip!")

We started out with leasure. Alexi saying "goo goo, ga ga" which Louie told us means "wow look at all the scenery, and look at all that snow."

Alex said "ger phthhhh eiiy" (trans: "go higher dady").

"eyei eyphth ooh eiiy" ("more, up more, dady")

"oh ga kerr kerr hehe" ("go all the way to the top")

finally we get there. And there was much rejoicing.

"eiiy do do gof da ga ga?" ("dady, who is the freak in the puff dady jacket?").

"Oh well son, thats my buddy J from foothillfreak fame. You should check his website out some time. ....And quit laughing at my get up, get over it will ya!"

"oooh ya wawa waga, gee ga ga ga go" ("take me down the hill, and get me some turns!")
"haah ha da eiiyo, da gou" ("thats it dadyo, get some")

"WAH WAH WAH" ("OK, thats enough! I am getting HUNGRY, take me down now Mommy and give me my bottle of the good stuff, NOW!!"

"Wow Louie, look at em go."

"and they didnt even check out the view."

"I mean, look at that view, theres the city!" "Its in our backyard!"

"and our turns, did I forget to mention our turns"

"eeth to te eiiy go da ga" ("yea, and like I did turns like this ... and like that....")

"Hm, the nerve of some people"

Monday, December 24, 2007

the AHOPE center

The cross-road scene near the guest house. Just beyond the goats and the dust is the AHOPE center. AHOPE is the African HIV Orphans: Project Embrace.

Unlike the orphanage center where we obtained our referral children, a majority of these kids in the AHOPE orphanage do not receive placement.

Kids in Ethiopia, like anywhere in the world, are full of smiles and curiosity.
(photo credits: Tom and Nikki)

The kids in the AHOPE center range from infant to 15 year olds. They all test positive for HIV. Nowadays, these kids live vibrant, active lives due to anti-retrovial treatments. Which, when taken regularly, sends the disease into controllable remission.

Sadly, most of these kids will be brought up in the institutionalized setting. As these kids can now survive and manage their HIV, the challenge that is now evolving is how to best prepare them how to live long term with the illness. This is a serious challenge for Ethiopia which has a 5% prevalence of HIV in the general population.

We visited the AHOPE center and were impressed with the quality of attention payed to these children. They obviously were flourishing under the attention and medications. These kids, like children everywhere in Ethiopia, loved attention. On the playground their eyes light up and broad smiles stretch across their faces as we played "kick the soccer ball". Squeals of joy and laughter build as the kids became comfortable with us and they start to play with each other.

Although these kids are getting the love they desperately need from the care takers and volunteers at the center, there are many, many more children waiting placement into the AHOPE center. AHOPE would love to expand their services, but resources are limited. The children are not only receiving medical care, but older children are getting some education on how to survive in the world, get a job, and live within society once they are too old to stay at the orphanage. The staff is working with families of HIV + children, and lending them assistance and medications so the children are able to stay with their families.

Christy and I have asked ourselves what can we do?

According to the director, both funds and supplies are needed. This has inspired us to hold a fund raising party at our house on Valentines Day (Feb. 14).

Come one, come all. Meet the newest member of Hopkins family and dig into your pockets for a worthy cause.

AHOPE has ambitious plans to provide care and services to this growing population of children. Thus they need our donations. Please feel free to email me for more details.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Alexi's first ski tour

Ok, so ski tour is a little too ambitious of a term, since all we did was go a mile up and back in Porterfork in Millcreek canyon. But hey, its a start.

Here is us checking on the package.

snug as a bug in a rug.

Alexi oblivious to the scene around him.

theo digin the ride

"hey what you doing up there?"

Apre' ski action back at the pad

the stealth move

Louie the Hunter. He sees his unsuspecting prey. Eyes fixated, waiting for perfect time, the hunter waits. Then, when the prey suspects nothing, he makes his move.


"ah bla uhahaha pflthhhh"

Monday, December 17, 2007

giggle a jiggle

Alexi-bug (we seemed to have settled on calling him Alexi), he loves a little jiggle.

We are settling into a routine with Happy Baby. So, other than the multiple midnight "Wakies," things are going remarkably smoothly.

He has a bit of a cold, but he does not seem to mind. Snot streaming from the nose, soiling his jamies, he just giggles away. And he sure does love bath time.

The only time he cries is when he is hungry. He can recognize his bottle, then his cry intensifies. As if he is saying:

"Hey thats mine. I want it NOW!! HURRY-UP! Give it to me NOW. Get that in my belly, NOW!"

When the nipple hits his mouth, there is sudden silence. Interrupted only by rhythmic little sucking sounds. His face turns from tortured earnestness to a sleepy-eyed bliss as the bottle nears completion.

In the middle of the night I have caught an amazing phenomenon. If I catch the bottle to him before he has had a chance to fully wake. He will receive it with eyes closed. He then proceeds to consume the entire bottle, eyes wide shut. A burping on shoulder, still shut. Then back to bed, he never woke up.

What other little wonders await.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

the flight home

It was the one thing we were dreading, the long trip home. Not-so-fun cramming into coach seats for hrs on end, interspersed with waiting in uncomfortable chairs at various airport gates.

In the flight plans, we tried to make it as easy as possible, but there is no direct flight from SLC to Addis Ababa. Nope, the route we found was to fly round trip to Europe on Delta, then embed a round trip in between to Addis on Ethiopian Air. So the trip home with fresh baby in hand, was 7 hrs to frankfurt, 4 hrs in airport, 9 hrs to Cincinati, 2 hrs in airport, 4 hrs to SLC. It was a long 30 hr journey, with very little sleep.

In planing for this epic, we dedicated one of our carry-on backpacks to baby stuff. I thought Wiffy's kitchen sink approach to baby stuff was a bit excessive, but man, was I wrong.

We had oodles of baby wipes (80 count). 5 changes of clothes. Big tube of butt cream. 35 baggies of formula. 3 bottles, and 30 + hours where just about anything could happen....oh yeah, and a fat bag of #3 diapers (30 count). Irritated at Christy's apparent excessiveness. I stuffed these items into my carry-on as best as I could. Fat bulging bags (added with all the gift and trinket items purchased in Ethiopia), we made for a bogged down caravan in the airports.How many diapers do you think it takes to travel for 25+ hrs?

By my calculations from Little Poopers discharge frequency (approx. one diaper 2.5 hrs), I came up with 10-ish diapers needed. In our baggage we exceeded this by 2.5 fold. One would think that would be excessive ....Right? Well Little Pooper (his nickname, a bit of a misnomer), proved to me the value of wiffery excessiveness. Our little champ consumed the diapers with gusto. He was so prodigious in fact, some events were not fully contained. He soiled 4 outfits. We changed him wherever we could. We changed him in airport bathrooms......
We changed him on airline toilets. When we could not get access to airline lavatory, we changed him in our laps. Little Pooper burned up 28 daipers! That is nearly one per hour, a phenomenal frequency! When we hit the ground in SLC, we were relieved. Relieved to be home. Relieved at the soon prospect of real sleep. Relieved of nearly all items in one carry-on bag.

the coffee ritual

Guess my name-tag for getting into the orphanage care center was somewhat correct. "Coffee, Dean and Shirley." Yes, that's me, shurely. A coffee bean connoisseur. A graduate of the grind. Professor and Dean of the School of the Coffee Bean.

In our guest house, they had arranged for a performance of the coffee ritual. For such an roasted nut, knut, this was a special presentation. Ethiopians like their Joe fresh. No old stale beans allowed here. This stuff is freshest.
It all starts with the green bean. In the unroasted state, beans can keep for months without going off in flavor . These are added to the pan and put over a high heat source.First things start rather slowly. The moisture of the washed beans sizzles off and then not much happens. Stirring the beans constantly the roasting starts to kick in. You know you are reaching completion when the beans start to smoke in the pan.
The roasted beans are set aside to cool.
then the pot is put to flame and water inside boiled. While waiting for boil, the beans are ground into powder with an innovative mortar and pestle made of scrap-iron pounding bar and a hollowed-out ingot of wood.
The grind is put to the hot water and brought to a gentle simmer. While this is happening, a powerful pine incence is burned.
Then comes ultimate pleasure, the taste of fresh.....and I mean FRESH! brewed coffee.
Buna, ....Buna, .....Buna, .....Buna, ......Buna.

Market day

The market, or "Mercardo," in Addis Ababa is something to behold. Jammed with bodies squirming around each other, Cars lurching false attacks on pedestrians, smells both foul and delightful intermingling in the hazy air.

The sidewalks, sometimes blanketed and tarped, sometimes not, showing various items of housewares, lumps of clothing, and carefully stacked food stuffs. More established stalls behind, specializing in spices.

Got some berberi powder to make delicious wot sauce for my injera bread.

I like Ethopian the food. No need for utensils, just dive in with your hand and scoop the goop into tasty morsels. This is done with tears of injera bread, which is a kind of highly-glutenized, ultra-large pancake. It is a barrier to keep the sauce off your fingers ....kind of?!. Best to think of it as "Finger lickin' good" grub. this is all done with the right hand, as the left is taboo for use in feeding. It apparently serves's other side, ....exclusively. It is a bit awkward for me as a lefty, but I am getting the hang of it.

At the market we obtained traditional Ethiopan clothes. Some cloth that Christy hopes to find time to sew into a shirt. A coffee pot to perform the coffee ritual (more on that in another blog) and yes, of course beans. both raw and roasted, delicious smell, that yummy nutty scent. Oh, I could cook pot after pot of the heavenly stuff. I hope to still have some by the time I return home.

Embassy day

Just one more piece of paperwork, then everything will be alright, ......Right? Well Thursday was "Embassy day." The day we go to the US embassy in Ethiopia and fill out more forms to make the adoption of our children official and approved, in the eyes of our US government. Unlike the embassies of any other country in Addis, the US embassy is an intimidating structure. It is a multi-acre compound on the edge of a hill. The entire complex has been reinforced since 911 and security is tight. No cameras allowed.

We arrive in our van and are directed to get out across the street and a fair distance from the main gate. Apparently the high concrete walls surrounding the compound were not secure enough for bomb blasts, so the entire street side perimeter is reinforced by a surrounding of giant shipping containers locked end to end. In one of these is the first security checkpoint.

We submit to a bag search here and are herded into a waiting area between the shipping containers and the outside walls. After a brief wait we are then ushered into a second screening area much like those at the airport where we strip down to minimal clothing and remove of all metallic objects. Clearing this, we enter the insides of the compound only to wait again in a lower staging area. After an hour or more, we are ushered upstairs to 4th waiting area. This is your standard government-issue waiting area. Take a number and wait to be called to the window. Behind plexi-glass will be a civil servant ready to barrage you with questions on the adopting child in question.

Luckily we had a rep from CHSFS (the adoption agency) to help guide us on the questions. When Christy and I are called to the window, we find the civil servant surprisingly ....well....civil. Nicely asking questions like "Where is your child from?" and "When did we receive referral?" Then, things seemed to sour a bit as we got a stumper asked to us of "Was the court approval issued prior to or after we first saw the child?" Stumbling to understand if "seeing" the child meant the referral picture, or was it the actual seeing the child before our eyes at the orphanage, our CHSFS rep stepped in and said "before." The civil servant lady who had cocked her head askew with a stern look, then nodded and wrote obscure text into her ledger. In a few moments she slid a document packet towards us and said "congratulations."

So that was it. We were now official in the eyes of the US gov. We have our boy! Happy, we went down stairs to join the other families in the third staging area.

We waited. and waited. Two diapers later, one of the families comes down rather frantic. The rep is looking a little frazzled as she works to calm the adoptive parents. Apparently, there has been a glitch. Thanks to new law, passed last year by our ever thoughtful government, children from other countries with two living parents cannot be adopted if they are beyond the age of 3. This new rule effected 4 of our adopting families. Everyone's heart lept at the thought that these families had come so far, with so much effort, only to be spurned at the last moment.

Thankfully, another diaper later, a work-around was found. Simply by refilling out the form and checking the box that the children were abandoned, there was a solution. This gray area of interpretation is rather true. These children have been given up to the orphanage. They are no longer the responsibility of their parent, they are wards of the state. By Ethiopian law, they are abandoned.

It was with wary nerves that we left the high security compound of US embassy in Ethiopia.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Trip to Hosaina

Turns out the six other adopting families staying with us at the guest house received their referrals from the same region south of Addis Ababa. So, Sunday was to be a prearranged day for all families to make the 3+ hr trip down south to the town of Hosaina to meet the families giving their children up for adoption.

We all had had a few days to learn a bit about Ethiopian culture. It is strong and beautiful. Their love for children is especially striking. It is a common view that care of a child is the responsibility not only of the family, but of everyone. This love was evident in the care center staff, and the community at large. Although many families struggle to make ends meet, and may not have material wealth that we take for granted in the States, their children grow up in close communities that are rich in family support and love.

It is a heavy thought to wonder what are circumstances that force a family to the conclusion that one or more of their children must be given away for adoption. Of course the main driving factor is poverty, a severe poverty, a kind of poverty where there is not enough food available to get into everyones mouth. A kind of poverty where many of the children are presented to the Hosaina center in so badly malnourished state, they are bordering on death. Add to that, either the shame of a child out of wedlock, or rape....well, you get the idea. Living conditions that we stateside would never see. So it was with a bit of trepidation we made plans to travel to the region of our children's birthing place. Christy and I considered not make the trip as we were told there would be no parents to meet because Ali had been abandoned. But, we felt the trip would be a way to respect my new son's heritage. And I am really glad we went.

The pilgrimage south started at 5 AM. After a bit of a restless night, we loaded up as a caravan of Landcruisers and head out into dark of night. A half hour in of travel, a faint glow started on the horizon. Under the developing sun rise, the figs trees made picturesque silhouettes on the horizon. Going south we pressed through dusty town after town, that sprawled in the dried, roadside mud.
In between, were the mud hut dwellings of the subsistence farmers. Most of these families must grow enough food for their families for the whole year. Their wealth is in the harvest, as the land can never be 'owned' by a family, for it is leased from the government. A year of drought can tip a family's fine line between survival and starvation.
In rural Ethiopia things are a little different than in the US. More wealthy families have the option to move things by donkey. These carts run at 1 dp (donkey power). Less fortunate folks must carry their goods on their back. These are items are either to sell at the market, or returning with necessities for the family (water/fuel/food).Plumbing is in erratic water units of 2 JPD (jugs per donkey).
Cattle, goats, donkeys, and random stray dogs made for sporadic road blocks.
Near our destination, where the newly paved road gave way to dirt, we observed a communal laundry system. The more fortunate had access to wells. But, more often than not, the local river bed was multi-source drinking water, clothes wash, and water for their animals. Many of the adopting families were told that they would have birth parents to meet. Although Christy and I were along for the ride, so to speak, we had a surprise waiting for us at the adoption outpost clinic center. They told us they had located the woman who had found Ali and she was there to speak to us. Her name was Birke. A mother of 3 children, teenage to fully grown.
Ethiopia has 8 major ethnic groups. Birke is of oromo ethnicity and did not speak the common language of nation, Amharic. Thus to communicate with her, we had to speak through two interpreters, one for English to Amharic, then one for Amharic to Welayta. Things inevitably got lost in translation. A couple of times the story has been translated and there are disparities, but the common thread is Ali was abandoned at a well by a girl who gave the infant to Birke to hold for a moment while she went to fetch something. The girl never returned. Birke sought assistance from a catholic mission nearby, and with their help took care of the child for 3 days. Birke had to go back home to care for her sick daughter, which was the reason she came to the catholic mission in the first place. Ali was then turned over to the police who took him to the adoption outpost clinic. The police official who received the Ali was also the Amharic to Welayta interpreter for us. He is pictured on the right of Christy.
After asking and answering of questions, the sharing of information and photos, the adoptive and biological families were ushered into a room for a candle passing ceremony. Prayers were made, then the candles were lighted by the birth parents and given to their respective adoptive family. This was an intensely emotional moment. The birth parents, overcoming their pride, their fears of social recrimination, had made a very tough decision. To do what was in the best interest of their children. Perhaps in many cases, a decision that was of life over death. Many of the birth parents breaking into tears, speaking good will and fortune towards the children, and then passing the candle to the adopting parents.

These families had made the ultimate sacrifice, and to meet them, if just for a few hours, was an honor for us all. We, the receivers of this gift, were all in awe. We felt their loss, their hope. The responsibility to our new children magnified.

Heading back to Addis Ababa, we made a road side stop at the dwelling of a family whom the adoption center had arranged for us to visit. They allowed us to glimpse into what their daily lives were like. This hut, like many of the ones we had seen on the drive out, was surrounded by a few acres of soil where the family grew the crops they needed to feed themselves, and hopefully, a bit more to sell at the market.
In this structure, stayed husband, wife, and 4 children, assorted animals (donkey, goat or two, and maybe a cow). Their meals cooked over a small dung fire.
Shortly after arriving swarms of children from neighboring dwellings joined the occupants children outside to ham it up for a photo op.
Families were usually large usually out of necessity to ensure family survival. While education is a priority in Ethiopia, it is difficult for rural families to survive without the help of all family members. It was not uncommon to see small children tending cattle, harvesting hay or struggling under heavy loads of fire-wood.
It was difficult to see children, no more than 4 or 5 years old, struggling and working so hard. Undoubtedly, a difficult life by American standards.