Posted by: Kristin W | April 5, 2012

Days 5-6 – Friday and Saturday

Friday
Today was one of the most memorable days I will ever have. I lack the ability to write well enough to capture the sights, sounds and emotions that we experienced, but I’ll give it a try and let the photos help me tell the story.

We woke up early and drove about four hours to Afar. We traveled with Steve and Morgan, and while they were very much a part of our experience and us a part of theirs, I am going to leave out the parts that relate to them. Suffice it to say that it was one of those experiences where you bond pretty quickly. Along the way, we stopped for some pictures at a volcanic crater.  Because how often do you get to do that?

 

Next stop was a hotel where we met the orphanage director who runs the local orphanage where A and H spent six months. He took us to our birth family meeting. I won’t share a lot about our experience there, but I will say that it was absolutely amazing. We got to see the house where A and H were born and get some of our questions answered. I will say that although we had prepared questions, we didn’t use them all. But we did feel like A and H had been loved and were truly relinquished by a family that just could not support them. They were amazed at the pictures of where the kids would live and excited to see that they would go to school. It really puts things in perspective that I complain about how small and cramped our house is when the kids first home was about 40 square feet.

After our visit, we went back to the hotel for lunch and to meet our guide for the next portion of the day. He took us to his village in Afar so we could see how they live. He took us into his hut, where his dad was sleeping and there were chickens roaming around on the floor under the bed. There were distinct spaces for sleeping and preparing food. It was made of small sticks and covered with cloth, but really amazing construction.

When we went outside, there were about 20 kids who had gathered and we took some pictures (they love seeing their faces on the digital camera screen).

Andrew bought their butter container (a hollowed out gourd covered with shells), and they promptly scooped out the butter and handed it over. Then a little girl brought out a four-day old goat for us to see. Suddenly, Sam, who had been kind of intimidated by the crowd of kids, stepped and held the goat while all the kids laughed at his awkwardness. He was very proud of himself.

We left Afar and drove to the Awash National Park, where we stayed for the night. A-mazing!!! The lodge has “traditional” huts, but with super-comfy beds (better than Horizon House), running water, and toilets. But the best part is that it’s right next to the waterfall and you can hear the rushing as you sleep.

We started by going for a walk down to the falls.  Gorgeous.  That’s all I can say.

Sam, the mirror image of Mulat (I don’t really remember what they were doing here):

Next we walked through the nearby areas of the park, where we ran into a group of about 20 baboons in a tree. There was an alpha keeping watch, moms with babies, and lots of kids jumping through the tree. And it was all happening right in front of us with no cages or glass.

We continued on and saw some other animals, but decided to go back and take some bread we had kept from lunch to feed to the baboons. Mulat (our guide/translator) took a piece of bread, walked right under the tree, and held it high above his head. S, being suddenly the bravest kid I know, stormed in right behind him. Suddenly, the trees came alive with monkey sounds and jumping around. Mulat and S threw their bread and everyone else followed suit, which resulted in baboon frenzy, screeching and fighting for the pieces. E was pretty freaked out by the whole thing, but the rest of us loved it. The baboons were seriously only a few feet away, and at one point Steve was shooing the baboons back because they were too close. Truly an amazing experience. Unfortunately, it was pretty dark by this time, so I didn’t get any great pictures of it. In addition to the sheer wonder of being an actor in a Wild Kingdom episode, I was amazed by own son and his fearless nature.

That night, we had a fabulous traditional meal outside around the campfire. E was tired, so the two of us started walking back to our hut and ran into a family of warthogs. My only experience with warthogs is watching Pumba in the Lion King, and I have to say, they were not nearly as cute, musically gifted or calm. I thought one was going to rush us, as he was staring us down and refused to move. Of course, I’m trying to play it cool so I don’t freak Eleanor out, but we decided to walk around the long way!

There’s just something funny about watching an iPad under mosquito netting:

Saturday

We got up early the next day and went for a game drive with Mulat as our spotter. It was amazing to see the animals out wandering the plains as the sun came up. We saw more dik dik than I can count, lots of oryx, some more baboons, guinea fowl, jackals, and lots of birds, including the cool blue one with the yellow beak that Zazu is based on. Then we had breakfast overlooking the falls and got to watch the crocodiles below. Breathtaking views.

Dik Dik:

Oryx:

Oryx with babies:

Gazelle:

Nests:

Baboon who greeted us as we returned to the restaurant for breakfast:

Crocodiles:

View from our breakfast seats:

On the way back to Addis, we were driving along, when Mulat asks the driver to stop and he hops out of the car. There was a local market set up and there were people everywhere. We hopped out and walked through the market, which was truly amazing. We started with a stop at the parking garage…the place where everyone puts the goats and camels that carried their goods to market. S wanted a picture with a camel, so Mulat walked him and Dave over, while crowds of people started to form just to see the white folks and laugh at the fact that we were taking pictures of camels. Some of them actually pulled out their cell phones to take pictures of us taking pictures of camels. The crowd grew larger as we continued on through the various stalls.

There was a vendor selling shoes made out of old tires, and S wanted a pair, so they found some that were the right size, and then they hammered them together. They don’t finish making them until you’ve paid for them so it wouldn’t do you any good to steal them.

Some more pictures from the market.

Last stop on our adventure was a stop at one of the crater lakes. Mulat told us that it was a kind of Lookout Point of Ethiopia. Beautiful scenery.

We got back to Addis at about 4:00, and since we had missed lunch, the folks at Horizon House had saved our food and served us a full meal, even though dinner was scheduled for two hours later. That’s the kind of hospitality you get in Ethiopia.

I have never been as dirty, tired or drained as I was after this trip. It was truly an amazing experience and I’m so thankful that Mulat was along to add some extra sightseeing into our trip. I have read a lot of blogs and talked to a lot of people about their birth family trips and I have never heard anything that evens come close to the experience we had.  It really made me feel connected to the part of the country where are kids are from, and I can honestly tell them that it is an amazing place that I love.

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Responses

  1. Wow! What amazing pictures! Sounds like you had a great trip. Look forward to hearing more!

  2. What an experience! I’m sure S and E, and you and A. will never forget it. It really puts into perspective what this whole adventure is all about. It sounds like the people there are amazing–and it will give you a bridge to H & A’s past.

  3. Wow, what an experience! How awesome that you were able to add some sightseeing, wildlife adventures, and such into the already incredible experience of the birth family meeting. (I think I would have been with E, a bit nervous about the baboon frenzy!) Amazing.

  4. Amazing! Your pictures are really beautiful and I agree, you guys had a really extraordinary visit. Reading this post makes me want to go back sooner rather than later… thanks for sharing! I love hearing how well S and E did on the trip, what troopers!

  5. Amazing! What a great post and I’m sure that words can not do the emotions of the trip justice. Really, really makes me want to go back to Ethiopia! I miss it! Your pictures made me miss Mulat too! I’m sure it was awesome to have him take you on this trip!

  6. Oh my gosh, your adventure in Awash park is amazing. Would you mind tell me where you stayed exactly when you went there, you mentioned comfy beds and my ears perked up! We are trying to find something fun to do while we visit ET in a few weeks and I would LOVE this. email at scoopingitup at gmail dot com. Love your stories and thanks for coming by the blog!


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