Monday, October 1, 2007


One month ago today Zman and I were packing our bags and preparing to say goodbye to our son's homeland. We sorted through all of our belongings choosing to leave behind anything that wasn't absolutely necessary so it could be given to someone in need. I left behind two pairs of shoes, most of the medication we brought, a jacket, American formula we never used. We packed up all of the souvenirs we had bought; tokens of the culture we were leaving behind.

We ate one last delicious dinner while our son played with the cooks in the living room. We said goodbye to the family we shared the guest house with for that momentous week, exchanging email addresses and promises to write. We passed out gifts and tips to our drivers, cooks, housekeepers, and guards, loaded up the car with all of our bags, slipped the baby into the sling and headed out the door for the last time.

I remember clearly the last time I looked at that house where we became a family of five. It was dark out and most of the shutters had already been closed but the light leaked out around the edges like little beacons. I remember our last ride through the streets of Addis, quiet now in the darkness, wet with the monsoon rains that came earlier in the evening. I said a soft goodbye to the big green bush smothered in purple flowers we passed by several times each day. It sheltered an old woman selling fruit that caught my attention every time we passed by.

I watched for the land marks I'd come to know in our short time there. The butcher with the side of beef hanging in clear view of the street, no refrigeration needed. The internet cafe that was little more than a shack, the dichotomy between new and old, poor and affluent, one that was ever present in Addis . The young girl roasting corn on the cob on the side of the road, she was barely older than my daughter and already working. The rows of open shops, overflowing with jeans, or shoes, or bags, that reminded me strongly of shopping on the Wharf in San Francisco when I was a teenager.

As we waited at the roundabout my face turned automatically to the left, the direction we took daily to the orphanage to visit our son. It was only days ago that we traveled that way for the first time and yet it seemed like years or minutes; a lifetime. Once on the freeway the scenes whipped by and blurred together. I bounced my fussy son on my lap, car seats nonexistent in this part of the world, and tried to show him the city as it passed. I knew it would be a long time before either of us saw it again.

At the airport we met up with old friends, or were they new friends? We had traveled together on the long plane ride to Addis, talking long into the night about the children waiting for us. Seeing their smiling faces, flush with happiness, lined with fatigue, I knew they were a mirror of my face. Children where exclaimed over, diapers changes, bottles made, while we waited that last, long wait to bring our children home.

On the plane we settled in for what would prove to be the longest flight in the history of the world. This time my husband jiggled the unhappy baby, while I dug through bags looking for the elusive fever reducer. At just after midnight Addis time, as our plane began to roll back from the terminal, all the emotions of the trip suddenly caught up with me and I found myself beginning to tear up. We were going home. We were leaving behind a place that had formed new ties to my heart. We were saying goodbye to my son’s first home and all the people who had cared for him until now.

As I watched Addis disappear from view out of the window I knew that I’d be back. Ethiopia will always have a place in my heart. They have given me one of the greatest blessings of my life… my son.


Maggie said...

What a beautiful post.

Sandi said...

Such a beautiful post.

Mom of 5 said...

Amazing and true...

chou-chou said...

Carrie, this is so beautifully written - you have the soul of a poet! And it makes me just ache to go there... I can hardly wait.