Bid on a trip to Ethiopia

Only two more weeks to get your proxy bid in for the Lights of Hope Auction item…. TWO Round trip tickets to Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines and a week all inclusive stay at Ethiopia Guest House. For more info on item click here

People often say that to fully understand a culture you should fully immerse yourself in it.  That definitely stuck in my mind when we decided to stay in Addis Ababa for an extended period during our adoption process.  Before leaving the U.S., I wondered what it was going to be like, how we were getting around, how tough the language barrier would be and how, we, as Americans adopting an Ethiopian child, would be received.  The planning and the paperwork of our adoption process, culminated into a crescendo of emotion in one singular event.  I distinctly remember my thoughts on the first morning we woke up in Addis.  The two days prior, we were travelling and it was definitely a blur of eating, watching movies, half sleeping, and reading.  I think I read the description of our Ethiopian Airlines plane like fifty times (I highly recommend Ethiopian Airlines, by the way).  We had heard many descriptions of Ethiopia from friends and fellow adoptive parents who blazed the trail before us and mixed those descriptions with travel books and countless blogs.  I remember opening my eyes that morning to the slight glow of the digital clock, and heard rain hit the roof of our guest house along with other countless tin roofs around us like a natural steel drum band.  In between beats, we could hear the slight drone of morning prayers, the crow of a local rooster and the sounds of dogs playing.  The smells were unfamiliar and I was in a kind of shock.  I thought to myself, “man, everything I’ve read, the pictures I’ve seen, and the stories I’ve heard did not prepare me for this moment”.  It was a cyclone of excitement, tiredness, newness, fear and uncertainty all rolled into a Wizard of Oz-like twister that swallowed me up and dropped me off in some foreign land.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Before I opened the door to go downstairs for breakfast, I stopped and sighed and said to myself, “Here we go…”  Breakfast was fine, talking with other families and discussing the exciting events from the day before.  The emotional high of getting into town, the emotional peak of meeting our child for the first time, and the anxious anticipation about what the new day held for us.

The next few days were a whirlwind.  After court, we travelled north to the beautiful town of Lalibela to tour the spectacular rock-hewn churches.  I was in my personal photographer’s heaven.  The churches were amazing, but my favorite memory was an electricity-free moonlit night.  There was a major power line miles away that was taken out by a truck, so the small town was without electricity for almost 24 hours.  My wife and I decided to walk the main road that night.  A lot of the townspeople were out walking as well, our collective paths lit by the full moon.  It was weird because I’m so used to street lamps competing with the moon for light, and I couldn’t believe how bright the moon was that night.  I felt like I walked into a scene from the past, and thought about how the town must have been years ago before electricity.  We walked down the street and exchanged greetings with local people as we passed.  I felt so at home that night and that feeling was constant throughout our time in Ethiopia.

When we returned to Addis and settled in at Ethiopia Guest Home, our home for the foreseeable future, I couldn’t wait to see more of the town.  We weren’t in a secluded resort area of town solely meant for tourists; we were in a neighborhood surrounded by Ethiopians going about their daily lives.  We were immersed in Ethiopian life and walked around, mingling with local people.  As we became acquainted with our surroundings, I remember waking up each day excited.  Almost instantly, we became friends with the staff at the home and we now consider them are our extended Ethiopian family.  I can honestly say that the staff was a big blessing to us and our child during our 10 weeks at Ethiopian Guest Home.  The time we spent in Ethiopia is indescribable.  People were so gracious and hospitable to us.  The end to our time in Ethiopia came kind of suddenly when we received one day’s notice of our visa interview appointment.  It was a sad moment when I realized that we were really leaving.  Sure, we were excited to start our lives back home with our son, but I knew that leaving Ethiopia was going to leave a hole in my heart.  There were many adventures and many crescendos.  Several people have asked if we would do it again and I always emphatically say “Yes!”

Ethiopia isn’t a place you can really describe with pictures and words.  It is a place you have to feel for yourself, a place that you have to smell and hear and feel upon your skin.  To get a full sense of what the country is about, you have to talk with the people, hear their stories and laughter and experience their hospitality.

I’m excited about the trip to Ethiopia that Ethiopian Orphan Relief is auctioning off in May because, if I am the winning bidder, I will be able to temporarily fill the Ethiopia-shaped hole in my heart.  The trip includes roundtrip airfare from Washington D.C. to Addis via Ethiopian Airlines and a one-week stay in the nicest suite available at Ethiopia Guest Home.  For complete details, airline blackout dates, etc., see the original post.  If you aren’t attending the auction but want to place a proxy bid on the trip, please contact Kim  at kim@ethiopianorphanrelief.org.

Michael Keo

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