Out of all the items that I packed I didn't forget anything! Then on our first morning I realized the unthinkable....no waterproof mascara! What! I was a little bummed because I feel naked without my mascara, I know I am NOT alone in this! But now I see that may have been divine intervention. This journey is amazing but also heart-breaking. Sometimes I think my compassion is too big, almost too a fault. Today there we a few major moments that will stay with me and are very much apart of the experience here in Ethiopia. And because it is my wish to share this whole experience with you, then I must show all sides.
We started and ended our day very nicely. The whole morning (3 hours) we were able to hang out in Tessa's baby nursery. We were on the floor with a couple other families surrounded by 12 babies. Mom, you would have been in heaven. When we weren't loving on Tessa there was always another baby that needed attention. The babies look to make eye contact and most smile right away when they get it from you. I am sure many other traveling groups have done the very same thing and given all of these babies, Tessa included, such attention. That feels wonderful, because there just isn't enough of the 2 nannies in the room to go around. We noticed that often the nannies preferred it if we didn't pick up a crying baby in their crib and instead soothe them by rubbing their backs or do nothing at all. They don't want the babies to learn when they cry that they are always picked up. So, when a nanny couldn't get to a crying baby in a crib we would rub their backs and then have to ask permission to pick the baby up, if needed. There were lots of babies to play with on the mat and we spent a lot of our time there playing with Tessa and all the babies. They just want to be touched so badly. You can see their desire in their eyes and the joy when they receive touch. Having so much time with Tessa was amazing. She smiled, giggled and really showed us how she plays. She seemed like a totally different little girl today!
While we really enjoyed being able to see the workings of the nursery, with that also came the reality that the babies have to eventually give in, accept that they are better off being quiet. We could see that most had accepted this, and then saw a couple who were fighting this and demanding attention. We all so desperately wanted to fill that baby with attention, but could see the nannies didn't want us to intervene. The nannies do a wonderful job and will try to distract the upset child with sounds, using their voices or a toy. But we all know what she really needs. Andy is so amazing with all these little babies and doesn't hesitate at all to hold, play and snuggle with a new baby.
I was hit with an unexpected moment today. As I walked up the stairs a group of toddlers were playing in a large open room. Then I recognized her in an instant....Tirunesh. I asked the nanny if this was Tirunesh to be sure, but I knew it was her. Tirunesh, with her beautiful almond shaped eyes showed me her toothy smile. She made very long eye contact with me and I with her. I waved to her and she continued to smile at me. My heart did fill up with sadness, guilt, grief- all these things- but mostly love. I didn't know Tirunesh, but did have her referral for 2 months and really felt I loved this child. In the same way you do with a pregnancy, one you have lost. But in this case I had had a photo of the child, imagined her as MY child and feel in love with her. A little later I saw her again in the hallway and asked the nanny if I could say hello. Tirunesh came to me on her own. I said hello and then gave her a hug and kiss....eyes filled with tears and my heart breaking. She is not my daughter now, but was for 2 months in my heart. I don't know if the problems with her referral were worked out or not, but I do see that she is very healthy, so very beautiful and seems so very happy. And for now that is the most I hope for. I know her forever family will be coming for her one day. I also know I will carry my love for her with me in my heart....there's plenty of room. No mascara needed
In Tessa's nursery there is a baby that is very small and coughing. I thought he probably had just come to the care center and was probably 3 weeks old at the most. This little boy is 7 months old. He is what we normally see on T.V. in telethons. He is very real, he has a name, he wants to live and is fighting. He is on the brink of life. Please send a prayer or thoughts to this child.
After our morning care center visit, we had lunch and it was off to shopping. which as we know is my speciality. :) We hit some tourist markets "mercados" and found beautiful scarves, ebony carvings, traditional clothing, jewelry, coffee. It was fun shopping but with only an hour I felt the pressure to make thoughtful purchases. Andy was there to help with the bartering, but I happen to think I am pretty good at it too. With the shopping came another Ethiopian reality. The begging here is intense. You walk out of a shop and their are children, men and women holding babies waiting, selling something or asking for Birr (the currency). I was managing all of that pretty well until we got on the bus. There the children come to the window to ask for Birr or sell gum. There was a security guard shooing them away. One little girl was persistent and kept coming back, which was when the security guard held up her cane stick high in position not to push her away but to hit her. This scene is very common, but for me just hurt so much. These people are like all of us, except that they were born here, they were born into dire situations and carry the look of desperation in their eyes , if you are brave enough to look. Again, no mascara needed today.
I know what we are seeing here is important for many reasons. First, I am taking as much in as possible to be able to tell Tessa about her country one day so I am trying to be very observant even when it is painful. Second, this is real life in the world that we don't have to look at everyday in our lives in the US....but we need to remember these conditions exist even when we can't see them. Third, I want to be a person that knows that they were lucky to be born a woman in the USA. I got lucky purely by birth to be born in a country full of opportunity, the ability to have clean water, food and the privilege to be able to think beyond my survival. It is just plain luck that I don't carry desperation in my eyes and instead am able to carry compassion.
I thought about a warning label at the beginning of this blog entry and then realized I didn't want to warn you. If you are here at my blog you are taking the journey with us.
There are some moments in life that mascara is the last thing I should be thinking about.
Much love to you all....from Ethiopia,