Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gotta Get That Boom Boom Pow

Thank you thank you thank you!! We finally were able to read all the comments that everyone has been leaving and it was sooo amazing. It was so great to hear from everyone, a welcome touch of home. Both of us felt recharged and we really wanted to write another post right then. But guess what—you guessed it. Suddenly the power went out.

So here we sit… Sunday morning. We are going to church in about 30 minutes at the International Evangelical Church. Both of us have several personally significant reflections on the last couple of days, so first from me (Keely):

As Kelly may or may not have mentioned, the two of us were sick. Well, let me rephrase. Kelly had a scratchy throat and “sinusy head” and I well… to maintain some modesty lets just say: the toilet became a common seat for me, we are almost out of toilet paper and all the Ks in the house realized that the walls are incredibly thin. NOT my proudest moment. But the Cipro we got from the Dr for just such an occasion worked like a charm!!

And now to Kelly’s rant:
I am going to punch our shower in the face! The water pressure has steadily dwindled each day to now being a small trickle or sometimes no water coming out altogether. My hair is long and thick, and I can put the shower head right over me and no water will reach the shower stall…it is simply absorbed into my hair. It takes me twenty minutes to shower, as I can barely get the shampoo and conditioner in and out of my hair. Also, this morning, the water was either scalding hot (like, first degree burns to my scalp) or freezing cold. No happy medium. I would love to say that I’ll only be showering once a week, but I just can’t do it. We get way too dirty here in Addis (which can be noted by the black bottoms of my feet everyday). Ah, the drama.

Enough of the funny stuff—we have had some really amazing experiences in the last few days.

On Friday, Kelly, Kelsey, Keely and I (yeah, its quite a mouthful—and I think both Keely and I can state that it is VERY crazy having to use that name… and not be talking in third person!) Anyway, we all went to the foster care centers at Gladney. This is basically a transition area for the children. Once the agency matches a child with an adoptive family they are taken from the orphanage and cared for in the foster care center while all the paperwork and court issues are handled. Typically this is about a three month process, but occasionally it can take years. It was amazing for us to see the difference that resources can make!! These children are so much healthier, happier and better cared for- there are just way more caregivers, a full-time doctor at their disposal and toys… yes toys!

We had a very significant job to do. We were to write personality updates on 40 children which are sent biweekly to their adoptive parents. All of us were really humbled by this assignment because of our interactions with the parents a few days earlier. One dad, holding his new little girl in his arms teared up and said: those five sentences may seem insignificant to you or even a burden, but they were our lifeline for our baby. It was the highlight of our week. Needless to say we all approached this with our whole hearts… and we pretty much loved just playing with and getting to know all the precious kids. My personal favorite was when we opened the gate to one house to find 10 tiny babies, under the age of about 6 months nude sunbathing!! They were all out on mats absorbing the vitamin D and drying out their diaper rash. It was adorable and hilarious!!

And what a day we had on Saturday:
It began with a trip to the Bizarre at the International Evangelical Church. This bizarre is held the last Saturday of every month and contains all hand made crafts made by people with disabilities. It was amazing. There was everything from spoons made from bull horns, rugs (Kelly bought a beautiful one), jewelry, furniture, wooden toys, paintings (Keely bought some of those) and sooooo much more. I am in love (obsessed as Kelsey continues to say) with an old photo I got of a “patriot” Ethiopian family from the era when they were fighting the Italians. It is amazing!!! Everyone in the family has guns…even the little three year olds. Nothing makes me feel happier than little kids with guns! (just kidding, for those of you who don’t know me… that really was a joke!!!) And Kelly’s take on her cross…this thing is amazing. It is old (but not antique, I was told) and was used during prayer ceremonies when the crosses were put on sticks and paraded around. I have seen a lot of these all over the city, but this one really was different to me. In the middle of the center little cross, there is a carved angel bowing its head. I can’t explain why this one means so much, but I just really couldn’t pass it up (although I tried…I even left the store because I wanted him to bargain a little more!). I can’t wait to show it to you once I’m back in the states 

Back to Keely…
We went shopping near the city center during the afternoon. There were tons of typical souvenir shops lined up along one street. And all four of us managed to find some great treasures: purses, scarves, more pictures and paintings and a huge beautiful nickel cross. The four of us have a lot of fun together. There must be something about the Ke- name thing. Very cool people! The cab ride home was hilarious! We met a cab driver who waited for us to finish shopping and after some significant haggling on the price, we rode home with him. A ride that consisted of blarring rap music (poker face and boom-boom-pow and others) lots of dancing (from the cabbie and us) and Kelsey getting scolded for taking a picture of the presidents house (its illegal to take pictures of government establishments here).

But the uniqueness of our day had only just begun. We spent the evening bringing the term wedding crashes to a whole new dimension. Keely (number two) had met an Ethiopian guy on the plane who had invited her to experience a wedding. He was the best man. The four of us were not about to pass an opportunity like that up!!! We got in our finest clothes (an order which proved to be quite difficult as all of us had packed for a trip to Africa, not the prom… but careful trading amongst all of us, and we were able to come up with four pretty cute outfits! All of us in our signature scarves).

We got there and had a little difficulty finding our way in to the 800 person reception. But Sammy (Keely’s friend) sent an assistant to help us find our seats. It was a great mix of traditional and modern. We are all surprised that the overall vibe was pretty Americanized. Dinner, buffet style, was our first official taste of Ethiopian cuisine complete with Injera (spongy bread that they pile everything up on) and raw meat. We had heard that this is a true delicacy- they literally just take a butcher knife ( a VERY sharp one) and just… ywisht (that is the noise the knife made) chip off a hunk of meat from the hanging carcass.

And the dancing . It was great fun. Basically it went something like this. They sang a repetitive song for about 20-30 minutes. They were primarily worship type songs wishing the bride and groom a future filled with prosperity and the blessing of Jesus. With each verse the enormous mass of people formed a huge circle and performed the two signature aspects of the dance routine: either jumping up and down arms raised exalting praise with loud singing or doing a massive crouch with the bride and groom at the center of the circle whispering the words. We went back and forth between these two styles over and over and over…

There was cake cutting and feeding each other, champagne toasts with the bridal party and lots and lots of dancing. The bride and groom were so cute, both obviously having the time of their lives. We were all so touched that we could be a part of it- what an experience.

This is a great time to comment on the overall generosity and kindness of the people that we meet here. Obviously, an impromptu invite to a wedding illustrates that. But we also met several people at the wedding who we made quick friend with who invited us to church etc with them. We are growing increasingly popular… our phone has like 12 contacts!

This post was actually finished after church:
Again a very inspiring and fulfilling experience. The church that we went to today was truly international. The church was packed!! From Kelly’s perspective…the church was MUCH different than last week. It is much more traditional and as Keely put it, “I felt like I was in Texas” (the pastor was from Texas, but also talked about his North Carolina ties!). It was refreshing to hear some known worship songs that really touched my heart. The sermon was the last in a series about heroes. The mantra appeared to be, “in heroes, character matters.” We were talking about Caleb and the story in Joshua where Caleb and Joshua go and wonder, according to God’s will, for forty years. Some important points I noted (although random in connection to each other)…it is important to stand up for what is right, even if it’s against the majority; we hold our opinions, but our convictions hold us; and in Proverbs 4:23…guard your heart (for God), give your heart (to God), as in release your talents and skills to bring glory to God in all you do. These points really meant something to me today. So thank you, my heroes, for your love, support, integrity, selflessness, commitment, courage…for your character, that encourages me to look to you, and to God, to discover His will for me.

Keely again, just got chills from reading what Kelly wrote. At the beginning of the sermon, the pastor said something that really struck me: as he returns to the U.S. for the summer, his wife said that she most misses how tangible Jesus is here. For me, I am continually amazed at how tangible the love is, the Spirit, in the people. It really fills you when you enter these churches, its awesome!

Now we sit at Kaldi’s coffee. Kelly sitting next to me sipping down her mocha frappicino. This is known as the Starbucks of Ethiopia…and also one of our favorite hangouts (if only it had wireless internet) It has awesome juice, every kind, color and texture you can imagine. We love it.

Thought of the day:
In case any of you are wondering our return address is as follows:
Mattios house, house of Barbie
Dan Style
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

(we don’t actually get mail here, there is no address on any building and therefore were left to create our own. Do not actually try to send us mail. But expect to see this return address on any mail that you receive from us)

So we will sign off for now. Thanks again for all your love.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Navigation Station

Yesterday we were able to navigate our way through the taxi system to Kebebtsehay (the real spelling) by ourselves! Yemamu wasn’t feeling well so called us in the morning to let us know he wouldn’t be joining us for the day. We had a lot planned, so we made our first trek alone. We starting completing our basic evals on some of the younger kiddos and have completed about 10 or so in the last two days. We’re seeing a fair amount of developmental delays and sensory issues, as we would expect from their environment. We also feel like a few of the little kiddos are deaf, so we’re excited to have met a gentleman who works at the US Embassy whose wife is coming in town and is a speech therapist doing early intervention. We’re going to connect with her soon and see if we can’t have them more thoroughly checked.

We have a new roommate, Kelsey, who arrived from Fort Worth Texas last night. Since we only allow Ke- names to live with us, we have another Keely moving in on Thursday. Then we’ll have a full house!

We have determined that our neighborhood’s scheduled power outages are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’re getting more used to them and were even able to stay up past 8:00 p.m.! Adjustment is going well.

It’s reallyyyy lonely here not getting many comments here! Just wondering who is out there  Thanks to those who have been keeping up with us and leaving your thoughts!

Nick- have to say HAPPY TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY!! I realize it’s tomorrow (the 27th), but I don’t foresee a blog post since we have no power Wednesday, so I’m telling you I love you and am so thankful for your love and support. Can’t wait for so many years to come.

Thought of the day: Life is lonely without blog post comments.

P.S. We are experiencing our first rain storm here in Ethiopia! The raindrops are big, hard and cold. We’ll let you know how it turns out.
P.P.S. It poured and we were the only ones outside.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday morning church

Today is our first Sunday here in Ethiopia. Yemamu and his friend
Misfin go to a church called Beza International Church, which is where
Keely and I were planning on going anyway. The service is three hours
long, and we were told by one of the American Gladney employees that
is was “very charismatic.” Well, it definitely was! We were about an
hour late because the roads were closed and so it took Yameum and
Misfin a little longer to get to our house. We missed the worship and
singing portion, but made it in time to hear all the sermon. It was
great and I think we both felt like it really applied to our lives and
what we’re doing here. The pastor talked about love and
relationships, and how important it is to love your enemies and those
you like just the same. We are here to share love and show compassion
to these orphans and help with their development. After the sermon
there was a new attendees refreshment stand in the back and we met two
Americans, one from California and one from Atlanta. Ruth, the
Californian, has been here in Ethiopia for eight months and has one
month left. She is teaching kindergarten English and lives very close
to us. Michael, the guy from Atlanta, has only been here one week and
will be here for a total of two months, very similar to us. We
exchanged phone numbers so we may hang out or get something to eat
sometime. It was nice to meet a few people and we’re starting to feel
a little more settled.

Keely’s quick addition: echoing everything Kel just said. I just want
to try and convey the awesomeness of being in church today. It was an
amazing service of hope, love and transcendence. And to share it with
a group of people who have so completely given themselves to their
faith was touching and inspiring to say the least. Okay… back to

We are still working on figuring out the taxi system, but we’ll be
taking it by ourselves to the Gladney office tomorrow! I have to say,
though, this really won’t be testing us too much. We only have to
take one taxi and then walk a few blocks. We’ll be heading to
Kababitsahay and Kechene tomorrow after meeting Yemamu (we just
learned, this is how you actually spell his name!) at the office and
we be starting to plan our programs in more depth.

My final piece of luggage, the bin of 50 pounds of toys, has finally
arrived in Addis today and will be picked up. We are excited to start
introducing these wonderful toys to the beautiful children. We will
try and get some pictures to show their excitement.

Thought of the day: Faith is love.

Unreliable generators lead to LONG blog posts

So many things to tell, and we promise, we tried to tell you sooner!
So we don’t have electricity three days per week. The days rotate
between parts of town. Yesterday, there was no power in our
neighborhood. There is a nearby internet café that was using a
generator though, so we stopped in and Keely had written a really long
blog post. Then all of the sudden, the generator ran out of gas and
turned off…along with our computers, so we lost everything. It was
funny-frustrating and it was getting close to the time that we should
usually be home by, so we figured we would follow up today. I’m
turning the reigns over to Keely to re-create her post to catch you up
on the last few days.

1. We got in to Addis at 4:30 a.m. and they lost Kelly’s box of toys.
This is yet to be recovered.
2. Our house is very nice. We have three bedrooms, a kitchen,
bathroom and living room. In anticipation that we are getting two
more roommates (which we are), Kelly and I have bunked up, sharing the
queen size bed. Don’t worry, there is plenty of closet space. And
neither of us really toss and turn… so maybe a little creeperish. But
it works!
3. Kelly doesn’t like bugs. Keely kills the bugs, but only if they
threaten Kelly or are in the kitchen (including the refrigerator).
Keely doesn’t let Kelly kill the bugs with the bug spray she
purchased, because Keely is afraid it will not only damage the
environment, but lead to her own death by asphyxiation. Kelly thinks
she is very silly. The jury is therefore still out on bug killing.
4. We have a cell phone. Sometimes the network doesn’t work.
5. We exchanged some of our American dollars on the black market for a
great rate (sorry dads…but it was legit (well actually, not really)
because all of the other Americans do it, too). The black market
exchange rate is something like 1 USD = 13.3 birr.
6. Yo’ Mom. Ha, our “guide’s” name is Yemeum. Phonetically that’s ya
mum, like yo’ mom. His unofficial duties include but are not limited
to: introducing us to everyone, teaching us how to use the very
confusing taxi system, bargaining at the Mercado, helping us buy good
fruit, laughing at us try to speak Amharic and basically being one of
the most generous and gracious people we have ever met. We love him
and are so glad he has got his eye on us. You will definitely hear
more about him in the future.
7. Which leads me to the fact that we are basically the only white
people (see quote of the day). Most Americans/Brits that come to
Ethiopia are coming to adopt a child. We met an Irish couple at one
of the orphanages yesterday who are adopting a baby girl. But they
are so wonderful and are spending full days at the orphanage sharing
their love with all the babies.
8. Walking down the street in Addis, at any given moment one has the
potential to see: 500 cars and taxis, 1000 Ethiopians walking on the
street, 17 shoe stores side by side, a herd of goats, 3 mules, 1 bull,
a movie theatre, an internet café, 7-8 restaurants, one blind beggar,
and several people sleeping on the street, oh and that is what you can
see through the smog (and you will hear, about 20 dogs barking).
Welcome to Addis ladies and gentlemen! Its got character that’s for
9. We had our first (and second) maciados today… the Ethiopian coffee
drink of choice. (And even though neither of us are coffee drinkers,
we like it--- possibly because the ratio of sugar/cream to espresso is
about 3 to 1.)
10. We took one of the coldest showers of our lives (I know it was
Kelly’s cause I could hear her gasping for air and groaning throughout
her entire 7 minute shower). Now that we know how to work the hot
water heater…. It won’t stop whinning us.
That about catches you up on our settling here in lovely Addis. But
the good stuff is really still to come! The following will be the
highlights of our time at two of the government orphanages and the
children we are already pretty crazy about:

Kababitsahay (we will get back to you on the spelling of that!): This
orphanage has primarily younger children. All of them are under the
age of 12, both boys and girls. There are about 20 under the age of 3
years old. We have SOOOO many plans for this place.
1. There are definitely 4 children that we will be working with 1 on 1
and developing treatment plans for. HOPEFULLY, we will be able to
give you some pictures to see these beautiful kids and you all can see
the progress they make in the next few weeks.
2. We are going to put on full day classes for the caregivers to teach
them things from general hygiene, positioning, feeding, infant/child
massage, sensory integration and a whole host of other things. We
have lots of support from the director of the orphanage and can’t wait
to get these programs started!
3. We are also going to do play groups of 3-4 similar aged kids and
work on developmentally appropriate play, movement and peer

Basically the last two days we have been holding lots of babies and
playing with kids and doing a very VERY general physical therapy
triage to see what kids are in the most need of our services. We have
done some positioning to get the more involved kiddos out of their
cribs! Also, just a lot of observing of the lay of the land
currently of how these kids are taken care of. What we do know is
that they all love to be held and cuddled. It is heartbreaking to let
go of one even if it is to pick up another.
Kelly already has her favorite!! She melts at the big eyes and even
bigger front teeth of a little girl. Nick, don’t be surprised if you
use that second bedroom even sooner than you expected!!

Kechene: This orphanage is for older girls, 12-18 (there are about 60
of them) and also young children under 12 (boys and girls). There were
even two itty bitty babies here, one of which was found on the street

When we got here today, three 2-year-olds came running up to us saying
“mama mama.” Talk about gut wrenching. There is one girl here, about
11 years old who we are going to be working with one on one. And then
we are basically going to be doing all the above things as well.
With the older girls, we have jewelry items for them to make things
with which we will bring back to the United States and sell (So save
your money for some Christmas presents folks!) And we are also going
to have short “care-giver” classes for these girls as many of them go
on to get jobs as cargivers at Gladney or the government orphanages.

All in all these orphanages are filled with beautiful children, but
the malnourishment and poverty is extremely evident. With limited
governmental funding, there is not substantial money to properly feed
the kids. There is not enough diapers or shoes (even ones with holes)
for all the kids. There are not sufficient caregivers for the number
of children leading to very limited personal interaction and boding.
And don’t even get us started on the flies!! There are a few kids
that are notably sick and we have already got the ball rolling on
getting them to see a doctor ASAP.

We will leave you with this: our first of many cries for help. We are
so happy with all the support that we have had from you all our
friends and families so far. But there is so much more to be done.
Kelly wants everyone of you to just go ahead and adopt and child!!!
And that would be awesome. But for all of you, please consider
supporting Gladney and Superkids as these agencies support these
orphanages honestly and with the highest integrity. For them, it
really is about the kids.

Quote of the day: “Did he just call me Barbie?” So the story goes…we
were walking down the street and these two 20 something guys walks
towards us. One of them looks at me (Keely) and says something in
Amharic. At which point I giggle and turn to Kelly and Yemeum and
say…: “Did he just call me Barbie?” Laugher follows (but I was
actually serious!). We asked Yemeum what he actually said, and he
declined to say the words…. but I don’t think he called me Barbie.

There you have it folks. We realize this is super-duper long. But
there are so many details we left out already. We can’t let this much
time pass between posts! Thank you for all your support and prayers.
We take the love of all of you with us and share it with these kids


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Security Rocks

We're sitting in the Heathrow airport in London on our four hour layover...two movies, two hours of sleep and three security checks later. Seriously, security. We have watered plants and chugged our remaining water each time we have to head through security. Don't worry, we also took off our shoes and all our jewelry, and have had to exit each airport just to come back in. BUT the good news: my mace has made it though all security checks. I guess they understand the importance of a little protection for a couple of girls.

Checking bags was fairly simply with the help of one wonderful husband, who ran to help us carry everything in and weighed each bag at the airport himself, who then had to rearrange things to make sure everything was under 50 pounds. Because of his accuracy, we can make a correction and say that we are bringing exactly 98 pounds of toys and therapeutic necessities. Amazing. We're pretty excited to see the faces of these kids (and likely adults), as nobody knows we're bringing this much.

We have only one more flight...sort of. We are flying with British Midline (or something like that...), our third airline carrier of the trip. Apparently, we technically have four legs...we make a stop in Amman. We would ask you to tell us where this is, but the amazing world of google informed us it is the capital of Jordan. Sounds cool to me. I've never been Jordan, and Keely hasn't either. Although when I asked, she made me feel like EVERYONE has been to Jordan...I mean, who hasn't? The pictures look pretty awesome, so we're looking forward and crossing our fingers for some good airline views. We may or may not be getting off the plane...this has yet to be determined.

We've also just realized that we don't know where we're living. This could prove to be interesting when we're asked to fill out our customs form of where we are staying for the next seven weeks. Note to selves, we're spending the next hour trying to figure that out. Hmmm....maybe we'll be returning to the states sooner than we think! (Just a side note, I've been looking for quite some time with no luck...eekk! But maybe we can't find it because they don't have addresses...places are just listed by street name. Will update about this situation later, once it is hopefully successfully resolved).

We also just found out that it may or may not be still 2002 in Ethiopia. We have discovered TIME TRAVEL. Nobel prize, here we come. However, this means Keely is 21 and I am only 18. Hmm.....fountain of youth.

We'll be trying to wrap these up with a thought or quote of the day. We apologize we haven't done much to share yet, but we will, we promise!

Thought of the day: There is a mercado in town that is apparently enormous and we are pretty excited to go. Obviously, it's important to be aware of pickpocketers. According to our guide book, once scheme is to do the simple bump and grab. Another, however, is described as "a less subtle tactic involves someone diving at your feet and holding your legs while another pilfers your pockets." We will spend our next hour implementing and practicing tactics to escape said pilfering. Partner self-defense, here we come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

beautiful child

I spent some time trying to decide what to name this blog. I've settled on this: bareedduu mucca. It means "beautiful child" in Oromo, one of the languages (although not the main one, that is Amharic) spoken in Ethiopia. Now with my limited understanding, I know that "bareedduu" means beautiful, and "mucca" means child, but I'm not sure if I can actually put those two together to make the phrase. For all my purposes, however, I can, and I did.

So here we are, just one day before Keely and I are off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for seven weeks. We must start off with crediting Janet Fink with Superkids and all those working with the Ethiopian Adoption Program at Gladney Center for Adoption. Even more information about these amazing programs can be found here. These people believe in what they do and in making a difference in the lives of orphans around the world. Amazing stuff.

Keely and I will be working in different orphanages around the Addis area not only with the disabled kids, but teaching the caregivers how to best handle these children with special needs to promote their optimal development. We'll be doing physical therapy interventions, but also offering the love and attention that many of these orphans don't receive. Although electricity and internet are unreliable (at best, it appears) in Addis, we're planning to keep daily entries and update this blog as we can. We hope to both entertain and enlighten people about what we're doing and what we're seeing. We know this will be a life changing experience and we are so excited to have this opportunity.

Well here we are, 100 pounds of toys later and just a few items of clothing in our bags, and we're off to Addis!