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.
All her girls get a manicure.
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!
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.
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.