Adoption Adventures: Ethiopia from an adoption perspective.


Andrew Schloesser

Chad Wardman, Staff, KLO Middle School, Contributor

If the adoption journey were a painting, it would be a Picasso. It distorts your reality but the outcome, though different, is strangely beautiful. My family and I (we have 2 biological) embarked on the culmination of a 7-year adoption process in the summer of 2014, to finalize an adoption of a 6 year old boy.

As we caught our first glimpses of Ethiopia out the airplane window, it was far from the dry, caked landscape that has historically been so prevalent in the World Vision videos I grew up with. The colours flowed like a Cadbury bar melting across the landscape, with dark, rich soils and caramel, silt laden river systems flowing abundantly. However, the daily rains of the wet season that enriched the landscape, limited the sun and was responsible for the cool temperatures in the high altitude capital of Addis Ababa for the duration of our trip.

We only had a day to settle into the bustling and ever changing, Addis Ababa, choosing the tourist oriented Bole area to overcome our jetlag before setting eyes on our son. Our humble accommodations at Flowering Addis Guesthouse, which we weren’t sure of at first, proved comforting at the end of our trip when we returned briefly once again, it is not perfect but feels like home if you let it. The orphanage he lived at was loving but very modest. One small wire and a few outlets supplied the small 3 bedroom home that housed 10 children and 3 staff. When he first laid eyes on us he was drawn to our children, hugging and holding them, staring into their eyes. After 3 days of visiting and a trip to the courthouse, the adoption on the Ethiopian end was finalized. In Ethiopia, judges and lawyer roles are reversed. You become a judge before you get to be a lawyer, so we were presided over by a 25 year old judge. All was settled and we returned went to the orphanage to take custody of our new son.

We knew we were in for a long stay. It was to already a lengthy process to get a Canadian Visa for our adopted son, as documents are sent through the relatively slow channels of the Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. To add this, the Kenyan Embassy was a dangerous place to be at this time, so a friend who had been a Canadian Diplomat in Africa, told us that all families were sent home and only single individuals were running the Embassy.

Therefore, we settled into a routine of exploring and shopping in the many markets and sites across the city, wanting to stay close to get passports and other paperwork done over the weeks after the adoption. Must go places included the leather stores in the shops underneath the Soccer Stadium at Mescal Square, the Hilton, where food is fairly reasonable especially for kids, they have a great playground and an awesome, if a little expensive warm pool, with surrounding hot tubs, the Limetree Restaurant that provides all ethnicities of high quality comfort foods. Also, the Yod abysssinia offers a great cultural experience with cultural dancing from many regions and the best Beef tibs and vegetarian injira platter you could ask for. Edna Mall offers a 3 level arcade and 7-d theatre experience as well as regular movies.

So, we settled on whiling our time away in an upland resort, out of the reach of Malaria. Kuriftu Resort in Debra Zeit proved to be a gem. Though virtually no lakes are swimmable in the inland country of Ethiopia, the small man-made lake offered some kayaking and refreshing views. The staff welcomed our family and treated us like friends and royalty at the same time. The daily complimentary massage and foot massage helped the relaxing process along too! A word of advice: if you travel, take lots of rainbow loom and make everyone you meet a rainbow loom bracelet. They will love you forever. This amazing staff treated us to a special night in the dining room where we were brought wine and desserts and two cultural dancers were performing. Our kids put on their traditional costumes and joined them. They looked like they had lived there all their lives. Amazing how children adapt so fast.

Travelling into Nazret for a change of scenery (Southeast of Addis), we found a fairly uniform cultural fabric. We stayed at the same hotel as the St. Georges football team, the top pro national team in Ethiopia, Easygoing and approachable, they made all our children feel special while they trained at a local field in the off-season. Sodera Hot springs was also a refreshing treat, with monkeys all around, an olympic sized pool and natural springs pool and showers that will melt your skin off. Clean pools by the way….very hard to find but these are nice. A nice enough city Nazret, be prepared for a truly local experience.

Ethiopia is an intriguing place. Our experiences exposed us to the framework that holds this society together. Strongly Christian, in fact the oldest Christian society in the world, Temples and religious influence is everywhere. Unique crosses from regions mostly in the north that are defined by their ancient temples are everywhere in the markets. My son was intrigued by them and spent 2 months scouring for the best deals of wood and metal ones. The number of Peoples of Muslim origin has increased in the country over time and temples and Mosques compete to broadcast their morning chants over loud speakers, sometimes as early as 4 in the morning. Ethiopia is fiercely independent and is the only country to have never been colonized in Africa, Though Italy has tried several times. A sad period of Communist rule took place in the late 70’s til 1991, after the overthrow of the Monarchial system. Culturally, elders hold the respect to keep people in line, and there really is little crime to speak of. Police are present only rarely and seem not to be too busy with crimes, not like in busy Canadian cities.

Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia and it is dark and rich. Coffee ceremonies which traditionally occur 3 times daily slow down the pace. It involves roasting the beans on a griddle, then hand crushing them using mortar and pestle and then steeping them in a ceramic pot over hot coals. Often served with popcorn (“fundisha”), the whole process takes about 1 hour or more. Coffee and cakes are so affordable, and would run a mere $10 Canadian for a partly of 5 to have one of each and they are excellent.

Ethiopia is a place that is growing and holds much prosperity for some. China has developed infrastructure and a strong business hold. Sadly, much of the foreign products are the cheapest of the plastic goods they produce and are greatly overpriced, even by our standards. Many products are even broken before they leave the shelves. One would be lucky if a pair of imported shoes would last a month. The poverty is tremendous, and much more apparent in the capital city of course. Children beg on the streets, in some areas there are holes in the ground on the side of a busy street for a toilet, deformities due to the continued use of phalidimide even in the face of knowledge creates heartbreaking disabilities, and even educated people make only about $100 US a month. And things are not that cheap. Although for the adventurous, such as we were, busses can run as low as 20 cents a ride for a family of 5. One sad scene had us witness a young woman rolling money and feeding it through a manhole cover. After a little critical thinking we realized there were likely children living in there. And it was not uncommon during the rains which occurred every day for the sewer system to completely overflow. A very damp and risky home.

We worked hard to leave on the day we had planned, Sept. 13th. But, we did not hear anything from the Kenyan Embassy except that one special lady was working hard to get our file out before the weekend so we would get it Monday. We had not been informed this was the case and as we tried to tell our son that all of us could not go to Canada, and I would have to stay behind with him, we got news from our adoption agency that the file arrived and we could travel home. Two and a half months and we cut it to the wire by 8 hours. Phew! I think our MP Ron Cannon had much to do with this also, as our friends who were in the same package, did not get their clearance for another month.

Picasso’s picture of our life, has slowly molded back into something resembling what most refer to as normalcy. Our son is adapting well, making friends and enjoying his school. He is warm and affectionate. At first, he wanted only to be Canadian and now he entertains the idea of visiting his homeland someday. A place that is too complex and rich to share in these short pages, a country with over 80 languages and even more cultural niches, but a country filled with Love and hope for a brighter future as they transition into a much more “developed” nation, if that is even necessarily a good thing.