My daughter, Quinn, is now the mother of five children. Her first two, Bailey and Marissa, came through marriage to Dusty, then they made one from scratch, Cassidy. I witnessed both events (the latter from down the hall) with great delight. You might imagine my joy to be invited to travel to Ethiopia to witness the arrival of the fourth and fifth Andersons, by way of adoption. It was a journey to remember!

On July 27, 2009, I met the Andersons in Los Angeles for our 16-hour flight to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

We were pampered with every imaginable comfort, changing my dread of the long flight into enjoyment. I could monitor our progress from every angle—even in Arabic. 

With cockpit cameras I could even watch the landing!

We were all agog as we tried to take in the grandeur of Dubai. We saw these faces everywhere we looked. Arabs like their kings!

And we were grateful to indulge in some of the comforts of home. Still we were careful to ask if the ice was made with filtered water!

We were astonished by the broad skyline as we taxied past mile after mile of unfinished buildings. They are feeling the effects of a struggling worldwide economy. However, they manage to maintain multiple mega malls, this one housing a full winter sanctuary, ski lift and all, while outdoor temps hover around 110.

The intention was to spend a couple of days in Dubai to see the sights and help our internal clocks adjust. So off we went to enjoy a desert safari, which actually meant a wild two-hour dune-buggy-type ride in a Land Cruiser.

(This is my idea of a souvenir and didn’t take much room in my suitcase.)

Maybe one hour would have been enough, especially for those sitting in the back seat. Eventually, the ride cost Cassidy her lunch. But she was a good sport and enjoyed the occasional stops to let the engines cool.

Our driver, Ababa, helped her befriend the sand.

I’m guessing at home they wear jeans and a t-shirt.

Dusty snapped this cool shot. I’m glad I took off my sunglasses for the picture. I’ll bet we smiled too.

What’s an Arabian desert safari without a camel ride?

It was more like the circular pony rides at the fair than a real camel ride, but in the moment that was sufficient. We rode camels on the Arabian desert! I’m not sure I ever anticipated that as part of my life experience.

The evening ended with a “sit on pillows in the sand” supper and what Cassidy referred to as a “jelly bean” (belly) dancer. We were glad to support tourism in the UAE.

On our way to the world’s largest mall we rode past the world’s tallest building.

Such wealth we could not imagine—and we think America has so much!

Maybe we have whole stores dedicated to Hello, Kitty, but I’ve never seen one. 

We couldn’t come this far and not put our feet in the Arabian Gulf, so we asked our driver to wait while we all stripped our feet and posed for this picture (taken by a passing volunteer), picked up a shell or two, and hurried back to the taxi. You might recognize the background structure. It’s the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven star hotel—$1,200 to $28,000 per night. 

Ethiopia bound, Quinn filled out all the visa forms. Anticipation is building!

At the Ethiopian Guest House, our home for four days, three Andersons chilled out while we waited for the adoption agency van to pick us up. Life is about to change for them big time.

The moment finally arrived! First we met Addison Serkalem…

…and a few minutes later Paul Toshe arrived from the boys transition house.


Addison and Paul showed Daddy the books Quinn made for them (and sent ahead) as introduction to their new family.

Quinn and Dusty are parents yet again (and again). We appear to be a little bit happy, wouldn’t you say? 

Time for a little tour of the facility. The adopted kids left with only  the clothes they were wearing.

We recognized this room from the pictures of the kids we received from the agency.

Back at the guest house, the children opened their backpacks filled with goodies of their very own. This is a new concept to those who lived in an orphanage.

Paul liked this flashing light, but his favorite was the box of makeenas (cars).

Addison’s new clothes, carefully chosen by her new mom, brought on big grins.

Paul’s clothes, equally carefully chosen, made him grin as well, but the kid doesn’t have enough body fat to hold up his britches. 

I try not to invade privacy with my pictures, but maybe it will be okay to share the emotion these new parents express after thanking God for choosing the perfect children to join their family.

We felt a bit confined at the Ethiopia Guest House, but the adopting agencies require that we not take them out into public. It has to do with Ethiopian pride and how it makes them feel to see American families taking away their children. So we found entertainment that doesn’t require language.

Okay, so reading a book requires language. He’ll need to learn English so here’s a good place to start.

As timing would have it, we shared the Ethiopian Guest House with Quinn and Dusty’s friends the Donels.

Look familiar?


All her girls get a manicure.

Million-dollar smile.

Paul is so small he fit in a baby Bumbo seat! Note the ever-present backpack. What I like best about this picture is that he was so proud of his accomplishment he called out, “Gus!” for me to look.

They won’t normally dress alike, but you’ve gotta admit this is more than cute.

View from the guest house.

Addison is normally a smiley girl, but this grin is extra big as Quinn, Dusty, Addison, and Paul return from their US Embassy appointment, where paperwork is finalized and visas are ordered. Quinn said Addison totally understood the meaning of what had just occurred. All the way home it was “Mom!” “Dad!” as she shifted back and forth between them. I was so happy to capture the moment she came in. Her new mom looks quite happy too, ya think?

It’s nearly time to head on home.

The Donels with their new children (added to three at home).

The Anderson Seven!

Oh, joy!

And interesting shot from the fourth floor patio.

Worth a thousand words.

Enough love to go around.

I couldn’t resist including this precious sister moment.

At the end of every stay, the Ethiopian Guest House puts on an Ethiopian coffee ceremony right there in the living room. Smoke from the roasting beans and also from incense filled the room.

Now this is a familiar smell (since Mauri’s a roaster).

They like the smell.

Yes, I sipped. One. Not a coffee fan.

I was all eyes as we drove through the streets of Addis Ababa toward the airport. Such contrast from what we saw in Dubai!

We were all so happy to be on our way home. Little did we know at this point what an adventure we had ahead.

The youngest two, all smiles.

Already we knew our flight would be delayed. The plane needed three new tires and only two were available; one was ordered.

A ten-hour overnight delay threw off all of our other flights. The kids handled it well.

The younger ones finally gave it up.

A first for Paul Toshe.

A first for Addison Serkalem.

We tried to make the most of our 24-hour delay in Dubai, returning to the mall with the world’s largest indoor aquarium for the sake of the new Andersons.

Finally back on American soil, we taxied from JFK to Laguardia for rebooked flights through Chicago to Denver that Dusty finagled from United at an exorbitant rate (due to all the delays).

In Chicago we wait once again because our flight was cancelled, rebooked, and, yes, delayed. At this point we didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. 

Or sleep.

We finally made it to Denver, thinking our travel nightmare had ended. We were wrong about that. At baggage claim we waited an additional hour and twenty minutes before deciding we couldn’t wait another minute and headed home with only our carry-ons. Our journey home took an astounding 72 hours!

The troops rallied for an exciting tour of Addison and Paul’s new home. Quinn had their rooms thoughtfully arranged and decorated. Addison went straight to Marissa’s keyboard.

You decide what he’s thinking about his new room.

Bedtime family prayers were short, given the hour, but were full of grateful words for a safe return and the life ahead.

Pleasant dreams, dear Addison. Welcome to the family!

Pleasant dreams, dear Paul. Welcome to the family!

As Dusty and I pulled out of the driveway toward the airport, there were my daughter and her five children, offering the traditional “white hanky” farewell. A storybook ending to our Ethiopian adventure.

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38 Responses to ethiopia-unabridged

  1. Craig MacDonald says:

    I was doing OK until that pic of Quinn & Dusty. I had trouble seeing the pics after that.
    What joy, what blessing. Words aren’t adequate.
    T’ank you, Fadder.

  2. Hannah LeMasters Hoover says:

    This was amazing, I cried through the entire thing. Hugs!

  3. Myrna White says:

    Sherry, these pictures…and the story they tell….are almost sweetly unbelievable!! Thank you for taking each photo, sharing it in your blog, and telling about the love your daughter and son-in-law, and their children, wanted to extend to Addison and Paul. What a beautiful story. I’m so happy for all of you! Myrna

  4. Shawn says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have been patiently waiting for the update and pictures. The picture of Quinn and Dusty is truly amazing. What a blessing.

  5. Erinn says:

    I started blubbering at the first sister hug! Thanks for sharing Sherry. Blessings to all.

  6. Julene says:

    Amazing and so uplifting..I can’t see very well for the tears…yes, this is a precious story and it’s real!!!
    God Bless each one!!

  7. Bethany says:

    Yup, Quinn and Dusty’s quiet moment did me in too. Pushed me right over the edge from happy spectator into tearful empathizer. It’s a different way to grow a family, but the bond God creates is there nonetheless. Praises to our Father for orchestrating this amazing work and for all he will continue to do in and through the life of your family. And, whew! I’m so glad you’re (mostly) back home again:-)

  8. Sandra Fish says:

    Oh, WOW!

  9. Tina says:

    Thanks for sharing. Loved all of the photos and the sequencing and the amazing story! Can’t wait to meet everyone!

  10. kathy hanson says:

    ohmigosh. can’t see to type.

  11. Jan says:

    So awesome! Thanks so much for sharing. OK if I pass this on to Randi and Shane? I know they would love to read about your trip and will re-live their own memories of picking up their three Ethiopians (in two different trips, though).

  12. Karen says:

    Oh, dear, dear Sherry… I have been waiting and waiting for EXACTLY THIS… what an offering you’ve given the rest of us — feel like I tagged along after all!!!! Just so STRUCK. And can’t stop crying!

  13. Tamara says:

    The first sister hug got me going as well… what Blessings you will all be to each other 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Heidi says:

    Well, Erinn told me she cried and I did too. It brought back lots of memories for me. It’s an amazing journey this adoption love is! I’ll be praying for everyone as they transition into life together. My mom went with me to bring Kate home and it made it so much more special. So glad you got to experience that with Quinn.

  15. Scott says:

    Thanks so much for sharing that!

  16. Jamie says:

    Oh Sherry, thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. I know you were thrilled to be there, but also what a blessing for Quinn to have you with them. What a long trip home! I’m glad you’ve arrived safe.

  17. Jenn P. says:

    I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, Sherry. I cried and cried. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story with us. What an honor to be able to witness the “birth” of a family.

  18. Kathryn says:

    My oh my!! What a journey!! And thank you so much for so beautifully sharing it! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who cried!! Such precious pix! and how well it tells the story! You’re an amazing photographer!! You’ll certainly never forget this trip! guss it could be described as “the good, the bad and the ugly”!! buit with lots of emphasis on the GOOD!! Thanks again for sharing. BTW I missed you in the choir at NFC last Sunday.

  19. Denise says:

    How awesome to get to go on your trip with you! As always, you are the queen of chronicles! Amazing story, and equally amazing family…

  20. Lisa says:

    I loved it, loved it – and cried too! The happiness and joy expressed in just the photos is overflowing! I’m so glad to get to experience your trip, you tell and show it all so well, thank you for sharing the amazing story!

  21. Phyllis says:

    The first chapter in a beautiful love story!

  22. Nancy says:

    What a neat re-cap of your trip. Great pictures that capture so much! Thanks for sharing all of it. Our prayers for all of you as your family begins this new stage, and for the many adjustments and changes ahead.

  23. Randi Shetley says:

    Hi! My name is Randi Shetley and Jan Haley is my aunt. She forwarded this blog to me. We have adopted three children from Ethiopia – Megin and Tyson in 2003 and Megin’s bio brother Tem in 2007.

    I loved reading the blog, it brought back so many memories. Tyson’s favorite gift from us was also Makenas!! With the language barrier, we played a game all the way home, we would point to cars and say Makena, Makena, Makena! An Amharic word I will never forget.

    If you would like to pass my email to Quinn, I would love to share tips, photos and stories! Thanks!


  24. Wonderful story in word and picture! Thanks for sharing, Sherry!

  25. mona says:

    Words can’t explain the love that is in the pictures, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the pictures. And now we have two more in our family,what a wonderful addition.

  26. Ashlee Kulpa says:

    Tears of joy are flowing! Blessings to all, Sherry:)

  27. Leane says:

    WOW! Congratulations to all and our desire is for God’s blessing on their home as the children (all 5) become knit together and the children and their parents become one unit. I too loved the pictures. Must say I wasn’t crying, just smiling ear to ear !

  28. Paula says:

    Sherry, one word comes to mind – Redemption.

  29. Jeff Anderson says:

    Absolutely love it.

  30. Joy says:

    Wow, what precious pictures. Congratulations to all of you!

  31. Janet Marie says:

    Dear Sherry, Mauri, and Andersons…what a joy to see your adventure and meet the new kids on the block. Sometimes I think it better that we don’t know the future, for when He reveals it…WOW…it takes our breathe away. Thank you for sharing your joy with us. With prayers from Michigan.

  32. Heather says:

    Incredible! and to think it is just beginning. Thankyou for sharing. Glad you are home and wow, look forward to watching these precious young ones grow.

  33. Cindy says:

    Oh my! my eyes are filled with tears of joy, and wonderment. What a beautiful family. And a very happy beautiful GUS.

  34. Lori says:

    Sherry, I finally had a moment to read this. Amazing.
    You’re blessed!

  35. Carol Beard says:

    Amazing story …. and it is true too! Guess we are aunt
    and uncle again …. opps great- aunt and uncle! Best
    wishes to all as you journey together in this new life’s
    adventure. Congratulations Grandma and Grandpa!

  36. Cheryle says:

    Amazing, just amazing. The pictures and the stories. How marvelous to add two wonderful children to their already busy family. What joy, what abundant love. I’m going back to look at them all over again.

  37. Hope Dobias says:

    Dear Sherry, I now know why Quinn is probably the most amazing woman I’ve ever met — her equally incredible mama! Thank you for so lovingly documenting this family journey. I have laughed and cried for the past hour+ as I’ve toured around the world to meet Addison and Paul. There really aren’t words except that GOD IS SO GOOD. ~ Every blessing to you, sweet lady! ~ Hope (Addison’s classroom helper and #1 fan)

  38. sadee says:

    just saw this link from our siesta blog 😉 with tears streaming down my face, i am rejoicing with you!!! congratulations! thank you for sharing this beautiful journey!

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