Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gotcha Day September 5, 2011!!

We boarded the plane in Charlotte, NC headed for Washington DC last Saturday, September 3rd at 7:30 am.  Our layover in DC was 3 1/2 hours so we stopped and ate breakfast and walked around the shops in the airport while we waited to board.  Trent and Kate were both a bit nervous about the unknowns of going to another country, the long plane ride, etc.. but they were such troopers!  Seriously, now when we go visit family in California at Christmas time the 5 hour plane ride to get there will be a total piece of cake!

We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines at 7:30 am - the same flight we had taken 2 months before.  This time things were much smoother at customs and our general stress level was so much lower because we knew where to go and what to expect.  When we headed out the baggage claim gates we spotted our translator and driver from the Ethiopian Guest home right away - Hoptamu and Abe.  The kids wanted to go straight to Acacia Village (and so did I!) but we arrived on a Sunday and were unable to go there because Sunday is the only day when they do not have any English speaking staff on site to talk with us.  So, we drove to the guest home to see our friends from our last trip, who work at the guest home - Tsion and Lemlem.  We arrived just in time to eat some lunch in the living room and head up to our room.
Kate led the way to our 2nd floor suite:
Here are the views from our balcony over the beautiful city of Addis:
We had such a great amount of outdoor space on the balcony to play during the week.

Trent and Kate met friends on the road right over the balcony fence within a few minutes of arriving.
We all took a nap after lunch to recover from the time change.  We woke up, showered and got ready to go out to dinner with Tsion, Lemlem, Heptamu, and Masti.  We went to an Ethiopian restaurant that we had gone to our first trip, so that the kids could see the dancing and enjoy the awesome food.  We have an Ethiopian restaurant here in Charlotte that we have gone to several times and so Trent and Kate knew what they would be eating.  They both love Ethiopian food and were very excited about the dinner.  I didn't take any pictures that night, only video.  Masti took Trent and Kate to get ice cream at a storefront nearby while I stayed with Lemlem and Tsion and talked about their love lives.  Both girls are just so sweet.  They are 24 and 25 and neither is married so we talked a lot about their dating customs, marriage rights of passage and so forth - very similar to the US.  Neither one of them wants to be married soon and it was so fun to hear how similar our desires for a mate across the ocean can be so similar.  I am praying that they each find a wonderful man who honors them.  Here is a picture of us on our way to dinner.

Dustin is is basically none of our pictures as he is our family photographer.  Believe me, you do not want me to hold the camera.  It is a disaster!  And, not to mention, we just purchased a "big boy" camera - a Nikon - and I am just totally overwhelmed by it.  So, my sweet man took a ton of great pictures but there are very few that include him - thanks for taking that on hon!

We left the restaurant before the show ended so that we could get a good night's rest before picking up Penelope the next morning.  I hardly slept a WINK!  I was soooo excited, nervous, anxious... but mostly just crazy excited to finally bring home our sweet girl.

We were picked up by our adoption agency's van at about 8:30 in the morning and then headed to their office to do some final paperwork before heading to Acacia Village.  We met several families in the van who were heading to bring home their children as well.  There is something special about the connection I instantly have with others who are adopting.  I think it is just the camaraderie of knowing the journey it has taken us to get to this time and the special calling we each feel to open our homes to another blessing.  Such cool families, these van-mates.

We arrived at Acacia Village around 10:30 am.  They shuffled us all into a play room off to the left of the main hall to wait for our children.  Trent and Kate were beaming from ear to ear and looking up at me to see what my reaction would be when we first saw our Penny.  Several children came into the room to be introduced to their parents and my tears started to run down my face.  Such sweet reunions to watch these families come together.  I turned back toward the door and saw Penny being carried by a caregiver down the stairs.  I didn't wait for her to be brought into the room.  I went out into the hall, with Trent and Kate right behind me and Dustin bringing up the rear.  They handed Penelope to me and Trent and Kate were just so tickled - it was written all over their faces.

I turned around to let Dustin talk to Penny and he kissed her on the forehead and spoke so softly and sweetly to her.  He motioned for us to come over to a rug on the tile floor and pulled out a few toys from the shelf for us to play with as a family.  But, although we were grinning from ear to ear, Penny was frightened and had a quiet far-off look about her.  She wanted to be held and touched but didn't smile or show much emotion.  She was reserved and shy.  We tried to roll a car back and forth between the four of us, while I held Penny between my legs but she didn't move a muscle.

We were asked to come upstairs to feed her lunch.  We went upstairs to her dining room and sat her in a little plastic chair to eat a large bowl of injera and stewed tomatoes (and I mean large - like adult portion and then some).  Once she ate, we were led to the nurse's office.  Trent and Kate stayed back in the play room while we took Penny to speak with the nurse and councellor.  They shared a little about her temperament - that she was sometimes reserved initially but warmed up to people quickly and had a very pleasant and out-going personality.  I couldn't wait to see her personality come out in the coming weeks but I also knew this was a very frightening time for her and didn't expect much reciprocation from her.
After spending a few hours at the orphanage, it was time for us to leave.  We changed her into the clothes we had brought for her because they asked us leave anything that could continue to be used at the orphanage.  Then we headed out the front doors of Acacia Village as a family of 5 for the first time!

And boy were we in for a treat as Penelope's personality began to unfold....

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