Monday, December 10, 2007

Here today, gone tomorrow

Well, I'm heading out tomorrow afternoon. I'm super excited. I'll be gone three weeks which is forever. Other than a couple of work trips, I don't think I've been gone from home for three weeks since the mid 90s. To boot, I'll be largely away from email and phone communication which I know hasn't happened since the early 90s. In fact, Matt always gets on me for taking my computer and constantly "checking in" when I travel.

Our dossier is on the way back to us so I will be hand carrying it to Ethiopia. I'm also hand carrying two 50 pound boxes of donations for several orphanages. I've even got lots more stuff to take for the next trip thanks to several generous donors and Matt's mom who seems to have cleaned our Walmart.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Could it be?

Well, we are over the first major hurdle. The country dossier is all done and on its way to the Ethiopian embassy tomorrow and then to Ethiopia itself next week. I may hand carry it or may have it sent via DHL to arrive there right around the same time I am arriving. As the dossier being "in-country" is a requirement for getting a child referred, I suppose there is a chance that we may get a referral while I am there or at least that I may meet our eventual son or daughter. Can you imagine? I am coming prepared with camera, memory cards, extra batteries and computer for downloading.

Thanks to many generous people, I have two large boxes filled with supplies, toys and clothes to take to several orphanages. I even have some leftover to take during our next trip.

Meanwhile, we are busy packing, getting together our first aid kit, getting shots, buying malaria meds ($250 for us both, what?!?), hand sanitizer, etc...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hah, hah, the joke's on me

So I thought I was sending off the dossier today, huh? Very funny. I went over to pick up the homestudy and the social worker casually mentioned that I must be on the way to city hall before heading to the state department offices on Golden Gate Ave.

What's this you say? City hall? Why would I go there?

Oh, didn't you know that each of the notary signatures needs to be certified at the county level before being taken to the state? (before being taken to the US govt before being taken to the Ethiopian Embassy)

Umm, no.

Seems in SF they don't have the same database that Sacramento does (go figure) so I've got to make trips to line up at the Alameda, Contra Costa and SF County county clerk offices before I head back to the state department in SF. Or I can drive to Sacramento, hand in everything, and wait around for a while until they hand it all back.

Sacramento it is. Tomorrow. I still might make it if the East Coast ice storm doesn't delay the process.

First major milestone

After much cajoling, calling, complaining and general carrying-on, it looks like the dossier is complete and ready to go to the state for authentication and then off to Washington DC. Well, kind of... Since our fingerprints had to be redone due to our homestudy agency going kaput, a new agency will be taking over the file. However, since the prints can take as long as a month, we are going to submit the homestudy on the old agency's letterhead since the Ethiopian government really doesn't care. But we'll send to the Feds under the new agency's letterhead since the US government will care. This might pose some problems down the road but I figure we can deal with that then.

So what does all this mean? It means I have a pretty good chance of hand carrying the dossier with me to Ethiopia and handing it personally to the agency director who will be there at the same time. This then officially puts us on the waiting list for a referral of a child. While I suppose there is always a chance we could get a child referred while I am there, it is more likely to happen a month or two down the line depending on how picky/specific we are regarding the age range and sex. But come Matt's birthday, we very well might have a little addition to our family. That would be crazy!

It's just a good thing we don't know the age and sex as I'd be all over Craigslist trying to pick up bargains on toys, clothing, name it, we need it all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I love McDonald's

OK, I really don't like McDonald's at all. One of my worst bouts of food poisoning was after eating a Filet-o-Fish at the Union Square McDonald's the night before I had to fly to Denver. I tell you, being sick in the airplane lavatory is no fun. And for those of you who have experienced the turbulence flying into Denver, you will appreciate how much more "fun" my lavatory experience was.

All that aside, someone offered to donate a large box of McDonald's happy meal toys on our neighborhood message board. Seems he worked as a consultant for Mickey D's and had a vast collection that he thought about selling on eBay but kindly decided to donate instead. Now I'm not one for promulgating the McDonald's gospel to third world countries but I was trying to figure out a way to take lots of toys with me so no one would feel left out. And this is just perfect! I just brought the box home and I hate to admit it but I'm kind of excited to go through it and see what they have; some of the toys are pretty cool.

Are you kidding me? Part 2

So I was on a roll. I had our application completed, I was ready to take it to the state this week to have it certified, send it to DC to have the US and Ethiopian governments go over it and hand carry it with me to Ethiopia. Today I find out that we need yet another set of fingerprints - the same fingerprints we got 3 weeks ago but the results instead need to be sent directly to us rather than the homestudy agency. Had we known this, we would have done this at the same time and would already have the clearance letter. Now it is going to be another week if we're lucky and is looking doubtful I can take the dossier with me to Ethiopia. Grrr... Now I see why this process can take so long since there is always "one more thing" that needs to be done.

We're having the debate about age and sex. Matt prefers a boy and I prefer a girl. I'm thinking 2 years old (close to potty training age, right?) but we feel it would probably be better to adopt a child under a year old so we can experience the magical time when they start to develop personalities even if we have to put up with the not so magical time of extensive diaper changing and sleepless nights. You've got to go through it once, right? Gives you more of a chance to bond (i.e. commiserate) with all your other friends who are parents and had to go through it. I notice though that parents who are adopting after already having at least one seem to go for the older kids. Hmm, what do they know that we don't?

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm on a mission

I recently finished reading a wonderful book called There is No Me Without You as well as the incredible article by the same author which I mentioned in my earlier post. Just yesterday, I read on a Yahoo adoption group a plea for medical supplies for one of the orphanages mentioned in the book. I am only taking one suitcase to Africa so have sent out a call for donations to fill my free luggage space. I posted on the Berkeley Parent's Network a few hours ago and have already received many offers of supplies and one woman even wanted the total list so she could have it to go shopping. It is so heartwarming to know people out there really like to help when given the chance.

Since the orphanage in question is for HIV+ children, I even got some offers for AIDS medication and hardcore medical supplies. I was pretty much ready to mobilize a full charge brigade with all kinds of life saving items when I called the orphanage's US office and they said they can't accept HIV meds since they are strictly controlled by the government and NGOs. I can only hope they are given enough medication as for years, third world nations couldn't afford the pricey and patented drugs and the pharmaceutical companies didn't believe in charity. In any case, I'm now having to curb my overzealous enthusiasm, at least for now.

Are you kidding me?

So, I can't believe how many forms we need to get together and how many hoops we need to jump through. We have to get four sets of items together: one for the homestudy, one for the US government, one for the adoption agency and one for the country. We have to get medical tests, cholesterol levels checked, two sets of fingerprinting plus a local police clearance, whatever that is. I have to get notarized letters from my banker, my CPA and my doctor. There is an adoption class to take and multiple meetings with the social worker asking all kinds of personal questions like "what adjectives do you use to describe your mother and your father". Huh? (those of you who know my dad know how careful I had to be with that one).

And everything for the Ethipopian government has to be not only notarized but then sent to the state of California for "authentication" before it is sent to Washington DC for another authentication.

All this while Ethiopia is becomming the new hot spot for adoption and the courts are starting to get overwhelmed with all the applications. And the clients love our adoption agency so much that they keep recommending it to EVERYONE and the poor director doesn't know what hit him.

Oh, and did I mention that Californians get charged more for everything. Where some states get their authentications done for free and same day, it costs us $10 per document (of which there are a lot) and probably takes weeks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ethiopia - the Cradle of Civilization or Why Ethiopia?

Now I'm a pretty knowledgeable person when it comes to foreign lands, having visited 70 or so countries thus far in every continent including Africa (ok, not Antarctica but who the heck goes there?). But when it came to Ethiopia, I realize I really didn't know much other than remembered images of drought and starving children. Oh, yeah, and I really like the food, perhaps because they don't use utensils when they eat. Having spent two weeks in Kenya many years ago, I didn't even realize that I have physically been a two hour flight away from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.

When we started looking at international adoption, I felt strongly that we should adopt from somewhere with great need. The funny thing about it is that it is not always possible to adopt where there is a huge need. For instance, I had recently been to Cambodia and couldn't believe the poverty I saw and how many orphaned and destitute children there were. Yet they were the most wonderful kids and I was ready to adopt several right then and there. When I got home and did some research, I learned that the US would not process any adoptions from Cambodia due to fear of corruption and child trafficking. Seems some adoption facilitators were obtaining children by paying the mothers $100 or so to give them up while leading them to believe they would later be able to emigrate to the US if their kids were there. Why in the world would anyone need to pay a mother when there were homeless kids all over the place was beyond me but it seems that adoption is cleanest and quickest when the family sign over papers giving up their kids and that is how you get the newborn girls that everyone seems to want. So Cambodia was not an option.

My mother lived for several years in Africa and always talked about how great the kids are, how well they are raised, how family oriented everyone is, etc... and we all know how bad the situation is in several African nations. Funny thing is, despite the need, not many African nations allow international adoption. Some countries have a negative opinion towards America these days, some have a strong family structure so that when parents die the extended family takes over and some countries just don't have the political structure in place to set up a formal adoption process. Ethiopia is an exception. Given the choice, I don't think any country would give up their children but Ethiopia just doesn't have a choice and realizes that adopting children out to (probably) white, non-Ethiopian parents is better than death. I won't go into the specifics and the numbers of orphans but take a look at this article if you want to know some of our reasons. If it doesn't make you cry, you probably aren't human.

And the good news is that an Ethiopian adoption is a relatively speedy process compared to many international adoptions, at least for now.

So we feel really good about our adoption choice. But we also realize we don't know much about Ethiopian culture or history but feel it is important to pass onto our child.

Turns out Ethiopia has quite a rich history.

  • Ethiopia is considered the cradle of civilization or at least of humankind. Matt knew but I did not that Lucy, a hominid skeleton more than 3 million years old that may show the beginnings of humankind, is from Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopia has a strong religious history with no less than 30 references in the Old Testament. Moses married an Ethiopian woman, the great grandson of Noah founded the nation of Ethiopia and the Queen of Sheba married King Solomon with the rumor that their son brought the Ark of Covenant back to Ethiopia where it now lies.
  • Ethiopia was the only African nation to resist colonial rule and has been independent other than a few years of Italian occupation during WWII.
  • Oh yeah, and Jamaican Rastafarians believe that the former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (formerly known as Ras Tafari, Ras meaning "Duke" and Tafari being his name) is the black Messiah. Who knew?

Minor wrench in the works

Just after I sent off the application to the government, got folks to agree to write reference letters and signed the numerous application forms, I get a letter saying that our homestudy agency is closing its doors in December. I experienced a moment of panic while trying to asses what this meant and whether we would need to start over. Luckily, all the social work staff is going to a new local agency where we can transfer our file to. Hopefully, we'll have the homestudy completed before the transfer takes place so won't be affected until post-adoption.

Friday, November 9, 2007

What an opportunity

Matt and I are finally taking our honeymoon and have been putting together an amazing trip to Kenya and Tanzania in December. Come to find out that Nairobi is only a two hour flight from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a side trip to Ethiopia to check out the country, meet with a few people and perhaps deliver some supplies to orphanages. I was able to change my flights to get to Nairobi 5 days earlier so I can spend 3-4 days is Addis. Most people do not go to Ethiopia until they are picking up their adopted child but I've never been one to do what everyone else does, especially when it comes to travel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's official!

Matt and I have decided to adopt and I have decided not to waste any time getting going on the process. After much investigating, reading and discussions with several adoptive parents, we have decided to adopt from Ethiopia.

Matt and I always talked about adoption but didn't spend much time talking about where or when. We know no one who has adopted from Ethiopia, have no Ethiopian friends at this time and only a few who have adopted internationally. Most of our friends have biological children and are quite disappointed that I will not be going through the experience of pregnancy. Sorry to disappoint, ladies. However, in the end, we decided that the world already has so many orphaned children and we wanted to adopt from where we perceived had the greatest need coupled with a system with minimal corruption, an established process and where we didn't have to wait years to bring home our child. Ethiopia seemed a natural choice.

I wasted no time in gathering documents (of which there are many), setting appointments and going full steam ahead, much to Matt's chagrin. We decided to use Hope Adoption Agency which is a small non-profit agency run by an Ethiopian man who has something like nine children of his own, at least four of whom are adopted. He also seems to spend half of his time in Ethiopia which allows him to have first hand knowledge of the children but can also be a bit frustrating as he isn't sitting by his computer just waiting to answer all of my and many potential adoptive parent's emails. It seems like all the other clients love him and constantly recommend the agency so I feel we can't wait too long or his client list will be huge and time frames for completion will slow down dramatically. So off we go.