We awoke at 5AM today for the drive to the birth village in Awassa. On the road by 6. It is amazing how alive Africa is at 6AM on a Sunday Morning. The roads are clogged with people, bikes, goats, donkeys, cattle, chickens, dogs, trucks and busses. It is like a circus.
Our driver, Solomon, arrives in this huge shiny maroon land cruiser. It is totally pimped. Pete is especially psyched because he loves to go four wheeling.
Solomon navigates the clogged roads for the next 4 hours. He uses his horn about 30 times for each time he taps the brakes. One quick toot means "No way am I slowing down". One long toot means "I know you're bigger than me, but I won't back down". Solomon just barrels down these narrow roads, dodging and weaving, and missing untold obstacles by mere nanometers. It is harrowing.
We saw dozens of road kills - mostly dogs, but also goats and donkeys. I was laying down heavy odds that we would witness a fatality, but we did not.
Midway we stopped at a game park. We saw gazelle, ostrich, and warthog. The scenery was gorgeous and we explored an area of hot springs. I mean really hot springs, that burn to the touch.
Finally we arrive in Awassa at the office of our social worker and interpreter, then on to meet the birth family of Meron and Emnet. The route followed a fairly major paved and divided highway, then turned abruptly left on to a narrow, wet and muddy alley road. The family homestead is about 100 yards down the alley on the left.
It is a postage stamp size lot fenced in with scrap wood and tin. Inside the gate was an L-shaped building along the rear and right walls. Inside the courtyard was a cook shed, chicken pen, vegetable garden, water tub to wash clothes, and a few lines for drying. The Aunt lived in the room at the elbow of the L.
Inside was a tiny room, painted blue, with a high ceiling, stone floor, and one window that could be closed with wooden shutters. The walls were bare except for a few bible verses written in Amharic and a framed photo of the Aunt when she was younger.
The Aunt was seated in a plain wood chair and invited us to sit on a bench. We showed her the photo album we had assembled for her. She smiled when she saw Meron, and commented that she had filled out enough to be barely recognizable. She smiled when she saw the picture of Emnet on the potty, commenting that Emnet had become really smart since going to the orphanage.
The interpreter read the letter we had written for the Aunt. Her facial expression was some blend of tired, resignation, and relief as she listened. Colleen and I held her hands almost the entire visit. She was as graceful and dignified as one could be given the situation.
During the visit we met Uncle Yebeletal (brother of your father), cousin Petros (his son), and cousin Hamnet (daughter of the Aunt). We learned your Father was a grower of barley, wheat, and almonds - and your Mother was a homesteader focused on being a good wife and mother.
Our visit lasted about 30 minutes, but I could have stayed for hours. There are so many questions I wanted to ask because I believe M&E will ask me some day. The social worker asked me to be sensitive and limit my questions to a few simple ones.
We drove away with a feeling of sadness and pity for this poor family, and a feeling of relief that the visit had been as positive as it was. I took a GPS reading of the plot in the event that M&E ever want to visit again.