Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trip North Day 3 and 4

Yesterday morning, after breakfast, the group (including Mikias) left the lodge for an overnight trip to the North. Fortunately, Benjamin, Mikias and I were able to drive with Alemu in his car. This was much easier for us as the rest of the group were in mini-buses. There are no car seats, so Mikias just sat on the backseat of the car and relied on the outside "animals" to try and keep him in his seat. Although not always successful, the majority of this ride went smooth. The highlight of these drives were related to the various villages we would happen upon where again we could pay witness to the day to day lives of Ethiopians. Today was a major contrast than what goes on in the city. The agrarian lifestyle is prominent. The houses are traditional. We saw many people walking to get water, attending school, plowing their fields, sifting the teff (grain used for making injera) or simply just sitting around.

After traveling about 100 km to the north, we stopped at the hotel we would be staying at to eat lunch. The rooms were small, didn't have electricity until after 9pm and the meat had to be brought in from Addis, as a butcher was not available during the fasting portion of Lent. Nonetheless, it was place to stay and we are in Ethiopia! I thought it was pretty amazing this place existed after a few of the villages we drove through.

The beginning of outing began with a trip to a monastery. Now, we did this 2 years ago but we had a completely different experience this time. First of all, as we were pulling on to the dirt road that leads to our destination, we stopped to watch the baboons. Mikias found the "monkeys" entertaining. I found my Dad entertaining as he decided to follow them, with my Mom quickly calling "Tim!" The other reason for this stop, was a very scenic panoramic gorge. Our group tends to draw a pretty big crowd, as we are 21 deep with 17 of us being white. Beggars tend to gravitate towards us and this stop was no exception.

Anyhow, upon entering the monastery area, we learned that the road leading up to it was being worked on. Therefore we had to walk from that point on. This walk turned out to be a pivotal part of our day. First of all, the village leading up to this area is extremely poor and there are people everywhere. We certainly stood out. More than that, Benjamin and Mikias stood out the most. Mikias was strapped to Benjamin's back in a hiking pack. Now, I am not sure what the exact stares and laughs were about, but I am sure we will continue to think about this. Was it this crazy contraption on his back…whereas local women just use cloth? Was it the fact that a male was carrying a child? Or, was it because Mikias is Ethiopian? Nonetheless, it was pretty obvious that we attracted much attention.

Upon entering the monastery, the most beautiful thing happened. As our group was walking towards the entrance, the service was letting out and a sea of "white" exploded upon us. There had to be at least 100 people coming out, dressed in traditional garb. It painted quite a picture. I know many of the group was awestruck and felt very privileged to see something so powerful.

Anyhow, after the brief tour inside, one very interesting story to share at some point, the same walk back to our cars and then a quick drink inside a local house, we were back in our vehicles to stop for juice and back to the hotel for dinner. At this point, Mikias was very tired and we turned in early for a good night sleep. How do I know this? Well, the light when ON at 9pm and we were in bed.

Today began early with about another 100km drive to the Blue Nile Gorge. This was absolutely amazing and was the highlight of our day. Some of our group who had been to the Grand Canyon, said this was much bigger. It was pretty cool. We drove as far north as the Blue Nile Bridge, which had been completed recently. Then, we did a 180 and headed back the other direction for Addis Ababa. However, along the way we stopped to plow a field with cows (seriously, good story to insert here…), had a drink in a traditional farmer's house and stopped in an orphanage. Pretty full, yet another wonderful day.

However, I heard Benjamin ask Mikias if he knew what tomorrow was. Mikias answered "tumblebus"! While his answer is correct as the tumblebus does in fact come to daycare on Wednesdays, I don't think even the tumblebus in his world can compare to what our day will look like in our world tomorrow. Perhaps, this is why I am still awake typing this at close to 2 in the morning…

In the morning, we are going to Debre Zeit, to see Mikias' village and more importantly, visit with his birthmother. We met her 2 years ago and are very excited to see her again. We made a photo album for her of Mikias' 2 years with us. However, even greater than that, we were informed today that Mikias is able to travel with us and in fact will be able to see her. I am so excited for him, for her…for us. While we recognize that this will be difficult and emotional, we are so thankful and excited for what this will mean to him as he grows up.

AND….as if all this is not enough……the biggest excitement is at 2pm (that is 6am US time - and only 12 short hours away) tomorrow we meet Sintayehu! I can't believe that this day has finally arrived. Tonight is the last night for Mikias to be an only child and the last night that our new sweet son will be sleeping in an orphanage! We hope to be able to post some pictures tomorrow, so everyone can get a look at the newest McKinney! Isn't life great?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cathedrals, Museum, Shopping and Dancing

Our day started at 2:30am when all 3 of us were up and were apparently very hungry…so we had a family snack.  :)  As it turns out, many of the group was up at the same hour. Evidently, our internal clock is in process of being reset. We were able to go back to sleep until 8am, though.
We had a full day of bumming around the city. This morning Mom K, Dad K, Ben and I went with the group to visit 2 cathedrals and a museum. On our trip 2 years ago, we saw the museum, but this guide was really informative. So, most of today's activities were new for us as well. It was neat being with my parents as they were able to learn some history of Ethiopia. At one point, a deacon began to sing and move using this very large drum. It brought tears to my eyes as he spoke so passionately about his country and relayed heavily the message of "when we bring our children back to visit their home country, it is important to expose them to…" and he would cite a variety of things. It reinforced some deeply held beliefs that we already have about our sons and their country.
After, we went to lunch where I was able to eat my first authentic Ethiopian meal. The injera was delicious and it made me quite excited to recognize a number of dishes on the menu. Soon after lunch, we had a shift change in which Mom and Dad K went back to the Lodge so that Mom and Dad M could spend some time out in the city. Mikias had a full day of grandparents!
The afternoon's activities included some shopping. Caroline, you will be happy to know that your girls now have Ethiopian outfits as requested. It was quite fun seeing all the little African things to buy. We were able to purchase Sintayehu's baptism outfit and have started the collection of small 18 gifts for his first 18 years of Gotcha days. We are finding this a bit challenging as we are trying not to duplicate the things we bought for Mikias. Mom and Dad M. seemed to enjoy this time out and certainly liked the shopping as Scott noted, he hadn't taken very many pictures.
The fun part about being out and about is that you get to pay witness to the every day life of Ethiopians. Most people have a notion in their mind of what this may consist of. I find it very intriguing to scan the streets and note the different roles. The shoe shiners, market workers, little kids selling gum or tissue, beggars, women selling vegetables, businessmen, donkeys, stray dogs all seem to play a piece of the puzzle of this country. This is what is going on in their day to day as mine consists of going to work, feeling like I am contributing to something and being with my family. I would dare say we are doing the same things just in a different manner. (well, maybe not the donkeys!)
I have really enjoyed talking with my mom and dad since arriving. I know they have had some big moments of "wow", "oh my" and "holy crap". They are doing great for 2 people who have not been out of the country before. I am so proud of them. My mom has made a few comments that have given me chills.
Tonight, both sets of parents and Benjamin went to a traditional Ethiopian Dinner and Dancing. Benjamin said they had a great time eating, listening, watching and even Scott dancing. I am anxious to see the video. Mikias and I hung out tonight, watched a movie and laid in bed together. He is doing a great job so far even though he hasn't been able to be out in the city. (We will save that for another post…)
Tomorrow we are heading on an overnight visit to the North. I am very excited for this as Mikias is able to go and we are visiting the Blue Nile Gorge, which may parallel, in its own way, the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we will not be able to post, as we will likely be unable to have access to the Internet. We will be sure to post again as soon as we can. In the meantime, to our families…moms and dads are doing well and we are soaking up every minute!
And…in case you may have forgot we only have 3 days until we meet Sintayehu!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


After a lo-o-o-ong flight sequence we finally landed in Addis Ababa this morning. Mikias was fantastic on the flights as we utilized several of the tricks up our sleeves. Papa McKinney and Gia Karwan being two of them. It was funny because at one point Mikias had decorated himself with sticky note tabs. Although challenging to travel with a toddler, we are so far still standing.
We also have had the chance to meet the other families who are here from our agency. Our common thread besides the obvious is that all of our children are in the same orphanage and we believe in the same room. This will make Wednesday very exciting for this crew.
Upon arrival, we played a huge game of find your suitcases! As previously mentioned, we brought loads of formula so we certainly looked quite the site as we tried to find and organize our baggage. Fortunately, after only 3-4 stops, we finally walked out the airport doors to a warm air that has not been felt since early fall. We loved the fact that we were in t-shirt weather. Mikias loved the fact that his t-shirt was speckled with lollipop pieces, as this is what occupied his time during the aforementioned chaos.
After Getachew, a driver, creatively stacked rows of suitcases 3 high on the top of a "trek type car", we caravaned to the Lodge for which we spent a large portion of the day. I did manage to sneak a peek of our parents eyes as we drove to the lodge all seated side by side (including Mikias). Ben and I did feel it was quite exciting to see the hustle and bustle of Addis Ababa with familiar eyes. It made me very happy to have Mikias right there. It is all so real now!
The rest of the day was spent feeling jet-lagged, as sleep did not happen for all very much on the plane. Ben and I were able to fight it all day and at the completion of this post, will be fast asleep. We hope Mikias follows suit. The adopting families did all go out to eat together, so this was a nice opportunity to feel connected to a group. Later, our parents and Mikias joined us for dinner where a plan was laid out for the week. Of all the exciting things to come and see….by far the topper is the excitement of meeting Sintayehu on Wednesday!

Friday, March 27, 2009

On Hold in the D

We woke up at 3am, got ourselves to the airport, and checked in.  We arrived at the gate about 45 minutes ago only to find out that our flight is delayed because of fog in DC and will (hopefully) now leave at 7:30.  This will really make things tight in DC.  We're praying that we're able to leave soon so we can catch our flight to Ethiopia.  Things will really get messed up if we don't get on that flight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The time has come

Well, here we are at a hotel near the airport.  We take a 6am flight to DC and then off to Ethiopia from there.  We're actually getting very excited...now that all the packing and planning is done.  The past few days have been very, very busy getting last minute stuff done and trying to maximize absolutely every last pound of packing space.  We're happy to report that our group (us + our parents) will be delivering 6 very full suitcases of formula.  Also, we sent an additional suitcase with another family...that's a total of 350 lbs of formula!!!  Thank you to everyone.  We'll also be able to send formula with other families in the future with all the donations and money we have left over.
We're a little anxious for tomorrow's flights, mainly because we hope Mikias is able to survive the long flight without too many meltdowns.  That's what the granparents are for...keep that boy entertained!!
But, most of all, we're counting down the days (only 6!) until we meet our newest little boy.  That will definitely make the insanity of the last few days well worth it.
The next time we're able to write will likely be from Addis.  Signing off from USA, with anticipation of soon signing on in Ethiopia!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New pics!

We received a few new pictures of Sintayehu a couple days ago from our adoption agency.  These pictures make us even more anxious for our trip.  What a cute little guy!
We're doing a pretty good job of prepping for the big trip.  Of course, we still have a ton of things to do, but we're slowing crossing things off the list.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy 1/2 Birthday Little One

Our youngest son turns 6-months old today. Happy 1/2 Birthday Sintayehu! Mommy and I can't wait to meet you two weeks from today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tubes, Suitcases and Chaos

This morning Mikias had a successful surgery in which he had tubes put in his ears. He was a trooper and as it turned out the CRNA on duty was my former student's father. Even though I didn't know him well, there was some comfort with this. He commented something about the fact that we were able to effect each other's children. I am sure glad that his kids did well in my class :)

Anyhow, Mikias and I had a day together as a result. His medicinal routine is quite the sight right now as he is finishing up some antibiotics and eye drops from earlier last week coupled with new ear drops and a malaria script to fill. When it is "go time", he lays down on his bed with his lion (which he calls Bear - no idea why?) drinks his candy out of the dropper, lets us put eyes and ears drop in both his and Bear's eyes/ears and we are all good. Happy Monday! The highlight of his day was for sure yelling "Ice Cream Truck" as we were able to enjoy today's weather.

For those of you who know me well...I would like to think that I am natural, organic and green. However, this week I feel like we are a Rite-Aid pharmacy complete with Sponge Bob Square Pants processed nutrients. Ugh!

Anyhow, over the weekend, we had a meeting with our parents to discuss the upcoming trip. Benjamin had a fairly long "topics for discussion" list. Even though I had lost my voice by Friday night, I found myself getting very excited as we discussed the trip in greater detail. We also have moved further along on the gigantic list and was able to check off getting all the bottles ready, one suitcase loaded with exactly 48.5 lbs of formula and both the boys closets completely ready through summer. Small pause for a victory pat on the back and we are off to the races again...tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time keeps on ticking....

It appears as if our lives have taken on a countdown approach until our travel. As soon as we cross something off our list, 4 more things replace those we just felt momentarily accomplished by. Hence, the perpetual list-making has become a catch-all for all the incidentals and semantics that fly out of our mind at any given moment.

Ironically, the cadence we are experiencing is simply the rhythm of our lives. We have somehow always had these pockets during our married life where we experience a lot of activity and then moments of calm. This morning Mikias woke up with his eyes crusted shut. (How does this sentence appear in this paragraph, you ask?) Well, these crusted eyes turned into a dr. appt where we found out that he has a double eye infection coupled with a double ear infection. You would never know he had these ailments as he runs and screams around our living room. Anyhow, where this discussion leads is the realization that we now have to schedule another "ear tubes surgery" before we leave. Mind you, as the ticker on the side of our blog keeps subtracting by one each dawn, we wonder how in the world are we going to fit this in?

Mikias had tubes put in early 2008. He had had multiple ear infections leading up to the original decision. We were so relieved once the surgery was over and had multiple months with no infections. Since his tubes have fallen out (recently), this is his second go around. Of course, with a long flight, the consideration of tubes is much more urgent. We spent a portion of the day going back and forth...should we not take him with us?...can we squeeze this in?...are we bordering on insane? Ultimately we have an appt scheduled for Thursday with the ENT and then only time will tell.

So, as much as we are anxious about meeting Sintayehu, I have to be honest and say I am just as anxious about the preparation leading up to departure. We have had some small moments of reprieve as we have AAI people in ET now with formula in hand. Mikias is now in his new room and Sintayehu's room is more than starting to take shape. We have a travel meeting with our parents lined up. Our accommodations are set for ET. However, do you think we have a gallon of milk in our fridge? That would take serious coordination.

In any event, time keeps on ticking... and we keep grabbing every minute we can. I can say with most certainty that I can't wait until we grab those first minutes with our next little man!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Plans are set

Just a quick update on all the planning here. Last Thursday, we found out when our Embassy date with Sintayehu will be. It is set for April 2nd. As a result, we were able to (quickly) make our travel arrangements.

We did have some decisions to make about who exactly was traveling. We decided that we will be taking Mikias with us. Once we were able to talk to some people about the accommodations in Addis, we were much more comfortable with taking him. We didn't want him to go stir-crazy for the week we're there...hopefully that won't be the case. Of course, we do still have to survive a very long plane ride ride with Mikias. This is where the grandparents come in! We'll also be joined on our trip by both sets of our parents. We had the idea of them coming with us when we first started the 2nd adoption, so I'm glad that it is going to work out. We think it will be very important for our kids' grandparents to have seen and experienced their home country. This means that 7 of us will be traveling to Ethiopia...and 8 will be traveling back! How exciting!

So, our plans now have us leaving on March 27th and returning on April 4th. It's a little shorter than our trip to get Mikias, but I think it will work out nicely. We'll have 3-4 days in Ethiopia to sightsee, etc. before we get Sintayehu.

We can't begin to express how great it is to finally have a definite timeline laid out. Now we just have to get ready!