Monday, September 1, 2008

Update 2 from Ethiopia

Update 2 from Ethiopia

We are still doing well. Mary, Ciara, and I have had some minor stomach issues. None of us think that it is related to the food. Sean’s been completely fine the whole time. Isaac continues to bond with us. He has a special closeness with Ciara and visa versa. They laugh and talk a great deal. We had a few tough moments with Ciara getting tired, but she has been an amazing trooper and we are so thankful that she is here to experience God building our family again.

Here is a breakdown of our days. Some of it may be repetitive, but I want to get it all down. We have to come to the Hilton for internet service and you pay by the minute, so I’m not reading over our blog to see what I have already covered.

Monday—arrived, got settled, received Isaac, and chilled out for the night. Sean, Mary, and Ciara picked us up some pizza from Hill Bottom restaurant (near where we are staying). We went to bed around 7:30pm and woke up the next morning around 7. Isaac slept through the night. When they say rainy season, they mean it. It poured like a hurricane and hailed. We are staying at the Wadel guesthouse, and Mr. Wadel came in to tell me it was “snowing.” Isaac seemed terrified the first day.

Tuesday—got up, got showers (low water pressure, but hot water), and went to Beer Garden Inn for lunch with Gladney’s in country representatives. Picked up a few groceries. Restaurants are very cheap, but the groceries are more than at home since almost everything is imported. Tip: if you are adopting an infant, bring your own baby food if you want to feed your child baby food over table food. We’re giving Isaac a mix of each. A small jar of baby food runs around $1.90 (USD). Children really don’t eat baby food here. Isaac has eaten injera, shiro wat, noodles (spaghetti, Chinese, etc.) and anything he can get. The boy is serious about food. We learned that early. The rest of the day we just spend bonding and relaxing.

Wednesday—We were able to visit the Gladney foster homes for infants. We waited for our driver who was late, until someone informed us that the foster homes were right behind where we were staying. So, we enjoyed a nice stroll with several cows and goats to the homes. Isaac’s caregivers were so excited to see him. One gave him a traditional Ethiopian outfit. They were all eager to get their picture taken with him. We plan to send them letters and photos in the future. We also hope to be able to back and talk with them again to learn more about his first 10 months. We then went to lunch with Belay at the East Dragon Chinese restaurant and then to our Embassy appointment.

Thursday—Ciara needed some mommy time on Thursday morning, so she and I stayed at the Wadel house while Sean, Mary, and Isaac went to tour a historic church where former emperor Halle Salasse (butchering the spelling) is buried, with the rest of the Gladney group. Thursday evening we attended the Ethiopian cultural dinner. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant now, but it was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible. The ceiling was beautifully painted, there was a tree growing through the ceiling and the architecture was just neat. We had shiro wat (chickpeas stew), doro wat (chicken stew), greens, kitfo (spicy cooked ground beef—normally served raw, but they cooked it for us), and lamb tibs (chunks of meat). The food was better than back home but not as spicy, which surprised us. The restaurant featured traditional Ethiopian dances. Several in our group joined in the fun. It was hilarious.

Friday—I was out of commission for the morning. Sean, Ciara, Mary, and Isaac went to visit three state run orphanages: the orphanage for younger children, Kechane (older girls’ orphanage) and Kolfe (the older boys’ orphanage). Sean said that Kolfe was his favorite. He got especially close to two boys who took him on a tour. He was amazed that none of the kids asked for anything. They were very interested in asking Sean questions about America, his education, job, grades, etc. They very much want to excel and are quite impressive. They did embarrass Sean by challenging him to a game of ping pong. They told him that he wasn’t too good. They were very polite. Ciara has a great time playing with the children. Dinner was from Hill Bottom again. It is very convenient as we can walk there and the food is not bad.

Saturday—We slept in and then went shopping at the souvenir shops. We bought a few baskets, a musical instrument for Ciara, a salt/pepper/sugar/toothpick holder made out of olive wood, some hand painted plates, an Ethiopian dress for Ciara, and a few other things for only $85. I can get used to this kind of shopping. We then dropped off our things and rode with another family (staying at the Ayat house two doors down from us) to dinner at Dreamland Resort. The restaurant overlooks a volcanic crater filled with water. The sunset was amazing. When we got ready to leave, Belay presented us with a quilt from the girls at the Kechane orphanage. It has Hussen’s (Isaac’s) name in English and Amharic embroidered on it. We will always cherish it. We got in a huge traffic jam on the way back when a truck began leaking fluid. It was total chaos, but I was never scared—just in awe. If we had been driving, we would have wound up in the ditch or worse. The drivers assigned to the adoptive families are really amazing. They all love children and are so helpful. Each one of them would do well in NASCAR. Driving is truly structured chaos over here, but everyone is used to it. So far, we have only seen one wreck, which is good since none of the vehicles have seatbelts. Some roads are paved and some are rock/puddles. Belay informed us that everything had been updated with the National Visa Center and that our new appointment with the US Embassy here is for 9am on Tuesday. We should (note I said should) receive Isaac’s passport and other documents on Thursday (the day we are scheduled to fly out). If they are not ready, we have already made the decision that Mary, Ciara, and I will go ahead and fly home and Sean and Isaac will stay until everything is ready. We really don’t think this will be a problem, but please be praying about this situation. With the issues we have encountered with our adoption, we don’t really have any expectations of problem free steps. We do know that God is in control and we’re pretty relaxed about things.

Sunday—We had a nice surprise call from my mom. A great start to our morning. The power was out, so we had to go with the flow and we didn’t look our best for church, but it didn’t matter. We attended the English service at the International Evangelical Church. The church has had as many as 39 nations represented. It was amazing to see so much diversity in a church of about 200-300 people. We felt very welcome. The service had many songs that we were familiar with and a beautiful Amharic song. After church, went to lunch with another Gladney family at the Paradise Garden. The food wasn’t as good as some of the other places that we have eaten at. The atmosphere was nice, but we thought it was a bit pricey compared to the other places (around $8/person, which is expensive here). We then stopped at a market to pick up some berbere and other things and then returned home. Sean and Ciara went back to Hill Bottom to pick up supper (pizza and lentil sambusas) and Ciara played with about 20 of the local children on the playground. The rest of the night we just chilled out.

Monday plans: Update blog at Hilton, exchange money, lunch at the East Dragon (I’m telling you this place it awesome), shopping at the souvenir shops and then to the Leprosy hospital and a few other stores.

About Wadel House: Mr. Wadel is rather like a grandfather to all of us. His family has been very welcoming. Wadel House is a great place to stay. They will do your laundry and love to take the kids into the courtyard to watch the birds. We have felt completely safe and are so thankful that we chose a guesthouse rather than a hotel. Being here for almost 2 weeks and having two kids, it has been great to have the gated courtyard to play in and plenty of room in the house. By the way, if you are wondering how the laundry is, it is much better than when I do it. They worked all day on it though—hand washing it, hanging it to dry, and then they ironed it (even our underwear—so bring good ones J). The only downside is that while they have a kitchen, it is lacking a stove. We have managed just fine. We would definitely stay at the Wadel house again, but we would pack a little hot plate. They will make the beds (even when we already had), change the linens (we told them the sheets were fine), wash the dishes or whatever you need. We have tried to keep their efforts as minimal as possible, but they just go out of their way to make us feel at home and to make our stay as comfortable and restful as possible.

We do have tons of pictures, but there are no card readers on the computers here at the Hilton and since I am not able to use my laptop, I’m stuck. I will post pictures as soon as possible when we get back. We know that many of you are praying for us and we truly appreciate it. We can’t wait to see everyone.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We're safe and have the most precious little boy!

Quick flight update: our flight from Charlotte to JFK got off a little earlier than expected. Something happened to the plane at the gate, so we had to walk to another plane parked on the tarmac. Our take off was delayed a little by two intoxicated passengers who were arguing and were not allowed to board the plane. It was an interesting start to our journey to say the least. We arrived at JFK around 8:30pm (again arriving on the tarmac instead of a gate with no directions on where to go). When we finally found the Air Train and made it to the international terminal, we found out that we only had until 45 minutes to be ready to board the plane. We also found out that our travel agent had not taken care of the hotel in Dubai for our 12 hour layover. It was a nightmare, but the Emirates agent quickly requested us one, but stated that he could not guarantee us that a room would be available. We made it to the gate and had to spend $48 on 4 sandwiches, some chips, and 3 small drinks, but we were able to eat before boarding the plane (another one which was on the tarmac). The flight from JFK to Dubai was long, but Emirates is really nice. We all had our own TVs with headsets, goodie bags, and Ciara got a coloring book and colored pencils. She loved being able to watch movies (Kung Fu Panda twice). We were able to sleep a little on the plane, but not too much. We arrived in Dubai a little later than expected and went on about a 2 hour trek to figure out our hotel. We finally got things situated and got about 4 hours of sleep. The airport in Dubai is massive and confusing, but the people were wonderful and very helpful. I'll explain later why Sean and Mary had to turn over the passports to the police later (it has to do with trying to claim luggage after leaving the airport, since we were told that we didn't need to claim it).

Ciara did great on all three plane rides. She was very excited. On the first one, she actually feel asleep and slept right through the landing. She watched movies for a while on the one from JFK to Dubai and then slept well. None of us have had problems with jetlag. It has to be God, because I don't know how else you can totally avoid it. We were tired, but we adjusted the first night in Ethiopia (going to bed around 7:30pm Ethiopian time and waking up around 7am the next morning). I've had some stomach issues, but I truly don't think it is related to the food--more emotions and trying to take everything in. Mary has had a few headaches, but they are greatly improving, with non today to my knowledge. Sean was a little tired but has done great and hasn't had any real issues. Ciara doesn't seem phased, although last night she did want to sleep with me and needed some alone time with Mommy this morning.

My stomach issues started on the flight from Dubai to Ethiopia. Having stayed up most of the flight from JFK to Dubai and then only getting around 4 hours of sleep in Dubai, we were all pretty tired. Ryan Brown and our driver, Tsega, picked up at the airport (you have to tip twice when they help you with your baggage). They took us straight to the Wadel house, the guesthouse we are staying at and said that they would be back in about 1 hour with Isaac. We got our luggage in the right bedrooms, used the bathroom and then it was time to finally see him in person. He is so much cuter in person. Travis brought him in and handed him to me. I still don't think I have taken that moment in fully. Isaac's breathing was very off and you could tell he was terrified. It was really hard to stomach knowing how much his world was being turned upside down. We all took turns holding him. Sean, Ciara, and Mary walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner and I stayed at the house with Isaac. I went out and talked with Wadel and his family after a little while. Wadel's wife wanted to hold Isaac and I thought it would be really good for him. She talked to him and he seemed to relax a good bit. After a little while, it began to rain and Isaac and I went back inside. He seemed to start opening up more at this point and smiled one time. As the night went on, Isaac became more and more relaxed.

Isaac is sleeping in a pack n' play in our room. The first night he was with us, he woke up and just babbled and said, "Da Da." Of course Sean is proud even though he knows that Isaac isn't really associating him with the words.

The uncertainties Isaac felt towards us on Monday were decreasing significantly by Tuesday morning. He woke up a happy, talkative boy. On Tuesday, we had lunch at the Beer Garden Inn with all of the other Gladney families currently in country, as well as with the in country representatives (good bathrooms by the way). The rest of the day, we spent at the house bonding with our precious baby boy. Ciara has done great with him. She is so patient, helpful and thoughtful. She did get her feelings hurt a few times when Isaac cried when she was trying to help him, but overtime, she has been able to realize that he was scared and trying to get used to us.

On Wednesday, we went to visit the Gladney Foster homes for babies and toddlers. We were able to meet Isaac's caregivers. One gave him a Ethiopian outfit, which we will always cherish. They love the babies so much. Even though it never helped for me to hear that during our wait, I can tell that Isaac has benefited developmentally and emotionally from the love and care that he received. We were able to hold the other babies and also take pictures for other families waiting to travel. We were able to see the traditional coffee cerimony. We then went to lunch with Belay at the East Dragon Chinese restauarant (a must if you like Chinese food). It was the best Chinese food that Sean and I have ever eaten and we all want to go back. We then tried to purchase a 3 prong to 2 prong adapter (my laptop is dead, which is why I haven't been able to post---we are at the Hilton now) and a SIMS card. We then went for our interview at the Embassy and found out that the cable that the US Embassy had received form the National Visa Center had a different expiration date that what is on our current I 171 H. What would you expect after all that has happened? So, we are in the process of getting USCIS to reissue another cable to the NVC who will then submit it to the US Embassy here. Why does this matter??? We can't leave Ethiopia with Isaac until we are able to get through the embassy interviews/paperwork, because they are the ones that will issue his passport. I don't anticipate this being a drawn out problem, but it could come down to us getting the passport on the day we leave. So, we are just waiting to hear when this paperwork has been recieved and then we will get another Embassy appointment. My minutes are running out, so I will have to end this post now. I will update more later. Blessings to all of you and thank you so much for your prayers. There are so many more things we want to share.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Delayed

We've made it past all of the security check points. Everything has gone smoothly until they announced our flight has been delayed. We are now scheduled to leave at 6:20pm. We are so excited. Ciara is already asking how much longer till we leave. She's enjoying exploring the airport and seeing the planes. We're just hanging out. Hopefully we will make out 11pm flight on Emirates. Till our next update...Blessings!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We're leaving on a jet plane in less than 72 hours


Wow. Life has turned into a whirlwind. I can't keep my days straight, but we are so excited that in a matter of days, we will have Isaac in our arms. I do hope to be able to post while in Ethiopia. Please keep us in your prayers, especially for safe travel, good health, and that God will be preparing Isaac's heart for the changes that he will soon face. We're hoping to finish packing tonight. I still can't believe that we are so close to getting our little boy. God is so good and faithful! We did receive an update on Isaac today. He's growing!

From our caseworker, Natalie:

"I received a brief update on Isaac Hussen today with his current measurements:

Height- 26 ½ inches Weight- 19.40 pounds Foot Length- 4 ¼ inches

Waist (around belly button)- 19 inches"


Here's our flight schedules:

23 AUG 08 - SATURDAY
DELTA 5614 COACH CLASS EQUIP-CANADAIR JET
LV: CHARLOTTE 445P NONSTOP MILES- 541 CONFIRMED
AR: NYC/KENNEDY 644P ELAPSED TIME- 1:59
ARRIVAL TERMINAL-3
AIRLINE RECORD LOCATOR DL -QPEDWD


EMIRATES AIR 202 COACH CLASS EQUIP-77W
DEPART TERMINAL- 4
LV: NYC/KENNEDY 1100P NONSTOP MILES- 6848 CONFIRMED
AR: DUBAI 745P ELAPSED TIME-12:45 ARVL DATE-24 AUG
ARRIVAL TERMINAL-1
AIRLINE RECORD LOCATOR EK -FJDJ7J

25 AUG 08 - MONDAY
EMIRATES AIR 723 COACH CLASS EQUIP-AIRBUS A340-300 JET
DEPART TERMINAL- 1
LV: DUBAI 825A NONSTOP MILES- 1562 CONFIRMED
AR: ADDIS ABABA 1130A ELAPSED TIME- 4:05
AIRLINE RECORD LOCATOR EK -FJDJ7J

Return Flight

04 SEP 08 - THURSDAY
EMIRATES AIR 724 COACH CLASS EQUIP-AIRBUS A340-300 JET
LV: ADDIS ABABA 735P NONSTOP MILES- 1562 CONFIRMED
AR: DUBAI 1245A ELAPSED TIME- 4:10 ARVL DATE-05 SEP
ARRIVAL TERMINAL-1
AIRLINE RECORD LOCATOR EK -FJDJ7J

05 SEP 08 - FRIDAY
EMIRATES AIR 203 COACH CLASS EQUIP-77W
DEPART TERMINAL- 1
LV: DUBAI 200A NONSTOP MILES- 6848 CONFIRMED
AR: NYC/KENNEDY 745A ELAPSED TIME-13:45
ARRIVAL TERMINAL-4
AIRLINE RECORD LOCATOR EK -FJDJ7J

DELTA 5613 COACH CLASS EQUIP-CANADAIR JET
DEPART TERMINAL- 3
LV: NYC/KENNEDY 155P NONSTOP MILES- 541 CONFIRMED
AR: CHARLOTTE 357P ELAPSED TIME- 2:02
AIRLINE RECORD LOCATOR DL -QPEDWD

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Introducing Isaac Hussen Kepley

Introducing Isaac Hussen Kepley



We officially have a son now. On January 23, 2008, we saw his precious face. Today, he is officially our son. The photo to the far left is the most recent photo that we have of Isaac. The other photo is our referral photo. More to come soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the verge of an emotional breakdown

First of all, this post has nothing to do with our adoption. However, I do feel as though I am on the verge of an emotional breakdown. My mother-in-law called tonight to say that my sister-in-law had gotten a new job, but that we could not go to the beach the week that we had planned next year since someone else already had that week off. So, we were in the process of figuring out what weeks would work. I jokingly mentioned that we could just move it to later in August or sometime in September. I'm all for cheaper rates and cooler weather. Well my normally loving and sensitive husband had the nerve to shatter my fantasy world (which I didn't know I was living in). He had the nerve to matter of factly tell me that the boys (our nephews) would be in school, and "Besides, she (meaning Ciara) might be in school." Still oblivious to reality, I was thinking, "you mean she can't miss a week of preschool. I know it is great, but it is preschool." He further pushed me to the edge, when seeing that I wasn't getting it, he added, "You do realize that she may well be in kindergarten next year, right?" With what I'm sure was a rather dumb look for several minutes, I liked to have died when I put it all together. You see, my baby girl will be turning 4 this Thursday, July 31st. Logically, most parents would have realized that she would be old enough to start kindergarten next year. However, I guess I have been rather emphatically denying all reason or logic and instead have clung to the belief that Ciara will not be entering kindergarten next year or maybe even after that. After my heart and respiration rates slowed down and the tears had dried, I maybe not so politely (but in a joking way) told my husband that I didn't think she would be entering school next year and that we might home school after all. All he had to say was "Well, you're not teaching her math and I would have to give her some pop quizzes." He still can't believe that I'm just realizing the inevitable--my baby girl is growing up.