While in Ethiopia a few weeks ago we had an amazing opportunity to meet Lemi's entire birth family and spend time with Werke (Garrett and Tia's birth mom). Nicco had arranged for us to travel to Zway and for Lemi's family to travel to meet us. It wa wonderful to meet Lemi's birth mom, Busha, on our court trip but I was thrilled to think that we could also get to spend some extended time with Busha, his siblings and other relatives.
We left Addis after breakfast and headed south to Zway. Nicco was our driver and so we set out in his small, red car with David in the front seat and I was happy to be in the back with Lemi. If you have never driven in Ethiopia then I will try to explain why I was elated to jump in the back seat. You travel at very high rates of speed with animals and people all over the streets. You are literally weaving in and out of cows, donkeys, dogs, horses and people. There are no real road rules other than to squeeze your way in and hope you don't bump into another car or run over something or someone. The drive to Zway is about three and a half hours and when you get outside the city there are not as many cars but the ones you see tend to be coming at you head on as they pass another car- For me the back seat is the place to be so that when I yell the driver can hear me.
I always pray more when traveling in the car in Ethiopia and this day was no different. Between the fear of death and the wind blowing like a tornado from the windows rolled down there is very little talking that can take place. Lemi quickly went to sleep on my lap as soon as we left from Addis. As we drove I was praying for our safety but I was also praying for our time with the families we would spend the next day and a half with.
When we have traveled to Zway in the past we have stayed in a small hotel called Teddy's and it is really an amazing oasis in the middle of Africa. The day before we were to travel down to Zway Nicco explained to me that Teddy's was full and that he had made arrangements at another hotel. Now again for those of you who have never been to Ethiopia a hotel in the middle of nowhere is not just like a Hotel Six here. It could mean that we are staying in a place with no running water and/or no electricity. This also was at the top of my prayer list as we drove. I prayed that I would get over my spoiled self and be able to stay where ever Nicco had arranged for us to stay. I must say that my mind went wild on that three and a half hour trip thinking about what this place might be like.
We drove into Zway and had lunch at Teddy's (the nice place that I had hoped to stay) and made sure that they were still full for the night. Sure enough there were no rooms due to the fact that several NGO organizations were hosting a conference there. So we headed down the dirt road dodging donkeys carts, cattle and people on our way to our hotel and the people that we couldn't wait to spend time with.
When we arrived at the hotel, Busha and her family were there waiting for us. Lemi had just spent time with Busha on our last trip but it had been four years since he had seen any other family. He quickly got out of the car and ran to his brothers. Tears filled my eyes as I watched him hug them. His oldest brother (who happens to be about 6' 4") wrapped his long arms around Lemi and picked him up in pure joy. His youngest brother who is six years old just kept looking at him. It was a sight that I will never forget. Everyone was laughing and celebrating the fact that they were all together again.
We met Lemi's sisters, his brother-in-laws (that seems funny), his nieces, an uncle and a few cousins. As soon as I met one niece she started to try to talk to me and we both laughed because we knew that I couldn't understand her. She was about nine years old and she kept pointing to herself and then making glasses with her fingers around her eyes and then pointing to me. I quickly felt on top of my head and handed her my sunglasses thinking that she wanted to wear them. She shook her head no and then again pointed at herself, made glasses around her eyes and pointed at me again. At that moment I looked at her and understood what she was saying. She remembered seeing me on the island the day that we were there two years prior.She is such a beautiful girl who is so sweet- David and I both wanted to bring her home!
We made our way up onto the porch and spent several hours getting to know each member of Lemi's family. We were thankful that we had Nicco and one of Lemi's cousins to translate. We were amazed that one of Lemi's cousins who was about 20 years old was very fluent in English (I will write an entire blog on him soon) and he was excited to get to translate from the Zay language(which Nicco doesn't know) to English for us. David and I had fun sharing photos of Tia and Garrett as well as photos from our previous trip with Lemi. They had never seen an ipad and so they had so much fun looking at all of the pictures and videos.
After a few hours Werke and Welde (Garrett and Tia's oldest brother) arrived and we again were excited to get to see them. They also had fun seeing all of the pictures of Tia and Garrett. I cried as I told them how proud they would be of how well they both were doing.
After several hours of talking, painting nails, taking pictures and a lot of laughter we all gathered for dinner. There were 24 of us around a very long table and as I sat there beside Lemi listening to Werke, Busha and their families laugh and chat I thought to myself, "Who gets to do this?" I had no idea what they were talking about but for some of them this was the first time that they had ever eaten at a restaurant. We told them to order anything that they wanted to eat or drink because this was a celebration of families becoming one. Good thing we were in Ethiopia because for 24 of us to eat and drink whatever we wanted it was only about fifty US dollars.
The next morning we had a huge breakfast together and the room again was filled with laughter and joy. Shortly after breakfast we took several more photos and then it was time to say our goodbyes. I said goodbye quickly with hugs and then stood over to the side. I knew that they next few moments would be very difficult for me emotionally. To see my son saying goodbye to his family not knowing when they would see each other again. I began to sob and so I walked away as I watched Lemi's oldest brother bend down to hug him with tears in his eyes. I have always hated goodbyes. My hope and prayer for all of those who were saying goodbye that day is that one day we will all be in heaven together where there will be no goodbyes.