Since none of my pics showed up, and I couldn't find my journal, I'm calling it a Re-do.
Here's a blurb from my journal:
Our flight to Gondar was one that made us laugh. We checked in at the counter in Addis, and went to the gate listed on our boarding passes. It was also the gate listed on all the monitors. When we arrived to our gate, we were the ONLY ones there. A nice Ethiopian Air employee came over and said "You go to Gondar?" He told us we were at the wrong gate. So he showed us to the right one (that was not listed anywhere!). We boarded a brand new plane, for what we thought was a direct flight to Gondar...which of course it wasn't. It stopped off somewhere along the way, a few people got off, a few people got on, and we were off to Gondar. We still arrived in just under an hour from our departure from Addis. We met a very friendly Irishman, Michael who talked our ear off all the way to Gondar.
We were greeted by Metewos, the manager of Bridge to Hope (formerly Bridge to Israel) Orphanage with a handwritten sign stating "KEFLAR", which we assumed was us (KESLER). Metewos and the driver took us to the Quara Hotel, and helped us get checked in. Our driver didn't speak much English, so Metewos asked us all the places we'd like to see/visit, and wrote them all in Amharic for the driver, so he'd know where to take us. They gave us a few hours to rest and eat lunch, and then came back to drive us to our destinations.views from our hotel room, homes of folks in Gondar (nicer ones, actually)
We really hoped to find a church that was significant in Lucy's story, that was listed in our paperwork give to us at referral time. We visited that church, but didn't find the info we were looking for. But, it was still a beautiful and historic place. It was St. Michael's Church. Ethiopians are very religious culturally, and church is a very big part of their life. This church was an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Very very old, and had amazing hand painted artwork hidden beneath heavy drapes. We were given a personal tour for a small fee (20 birr, I think). Still on our quest for the family information, we visited another church (St George's Church) mentioned in our paperwork. Still, not what we were looking for, but another amazing and beautiful sight.
St George Church
After visiting the churches, our volunteer tour guide, a local Gondar University student "Dave", and our driver, took us to the main market or "mercato" in Gondar. It's where all the locals do thier shopping for food, livestock, clothing, get haircuts, sell anything from underwear to Injera. It was mostly closed for the day, which was Sunday and a holiday, but a few shops were open and happy to take some money from "Ferengi" (white foreigners). We even got a few "God Bless the White People!" which was odd and made us giggle. Dave seemed pretty happy to been seen with such hip americans as us (which, we are totally not!).
We bought a traditional white headcovering scarf, handmade in Gondar (we were told, not sure if we believe) for 150 birr(10 USD), which I'm pretty sure was double what we should have paid, if not more. This is the kind of headcovering most women wear to church.
We also bought a little handmade basket, made by 3 women in a tiny little shop. It's very small, and holds about a cupful of goodies. We also paid 150 birr for this, which we knew was way to much, but seeing where these women lived, we just didn't feel right talking them down. We jokingly call this the Ten Dollar Basket.
Around the mercato area is the worst of the worst housing. It was really devastating to see. Literally homes made out of plastic shopping bags, tee pee style. Sticks and plastic shopping bags, with families living inside. It smelled like human waste, and children ran around happily, barefooted, begging us to take thier photos. I doubt if they've ever seen a printed photo, but they loved to see their own faces on the back of our camera. We didn't get any photos of this area, except these 3 little beauties. It was all I could do to keep it together and not cry or think that this could have been where my daughter's family lived. Matt felt sick to his stomach, thinking the same thing.
The hardest part of the day was visiting Gondar University Hospital, where Lucy was born. We knew in advance, thanks to other traveling families gone before us, that it would be incredibly hard to see, but worth documenting our daughter's story. They were right. It was in a word, awful. There are several buildings on the hospital campus, we only visited the maternity ward. Family members were waiting outside for their wives, sisters, friends, who were inside laboring. We "Ferengi", however, we ushered right into the delivery room like royalty. It was incredibly awkward. 4 women laboring in a smelly, dirty, worn out room. One staff person, who appeared to be the "doctor". No nurses. She was caring for all the women. It felt incredibly offensive for us to be in there, and we practically refused, but they insisted we come in. Women labored on bare plastic mats on ancient looking gurneys. It was hot and humid. It was build in 1955 and has never been updated. Our guide told us that if Lucy was born at Gondar Hospital, this is the room she would have entered the world in. After about 30 seconds, we insisted we'd seen enough, and we practically bolted to the door, hoping to give these women in active painful labor, some privacy.
From there, we went to the extreme opposite. A place of love and hope, and the highlight of our trip to Gondar. Bridge to Hope Children's Village. A loving inspiring place. Matewos and Asaye work incredibly hard to give the children who live there a family model. There are many "homes" on the compound, and each one has about 15-18 children and one "mother" who live there. The mother is responsible for the holistic development of "her children"...health, education, nutrition, spiritual growth. She is thier mother, all the time. Boys and girls live separately, but play together. Food is cooked in a separate building , but each mother retrieves the food, and brings it home to her "family" of children. This model helps the kids learn to respect her and accept her as "Mother". Metewos said that they know it is an artificial family, but they really believe the best place for children, no matter what life has given them, is in a family. The educate, love, and teach children there. They teach them to garden, life skills, and send them to school.Asaye, his daughter, and Metewos
Genet, the baby mother
It was an amazing, wonderful place. We hardly took any pictures, because we were both in tears the entire time we were there. Tears of hope, tears of relief, tears of thankfulness that there are such amazing people, loving the motherless and fatherless children of Gondar. Metewos said he IS the father to every child there, along with his own family who lives right on the compound.
Genet is the baby mother. They have only a few babies at a time, and all of them go to Gladney for placement. There was one tiny little 24 day old baby girl in Genet's care when we visited. Precious, tiny babe. Her name started with an M. They only accept children over the age of 3 to live at Bridge, and only ones who have no other person to care for them. They LOVE Gladney. They really believe that children really belong with thier own families, and do whatever they can to see children stay with thier biological families. The provide financial support to over 200 children in the community so they can stay with thier families. They don't want to see monetary needs be the reason children become orphans.
I cried like a baby there. The little boys looked at me with a "what's with the crazy white lady" look on their faces. I was so moved by the loving environment. They were so very grateful for families adopting children into "real" families. Metewos was emotional about it, very moved as he thanked us for being apart of it. He kept saying "Praise God! Praise God!". I know we'll be involved somehow with this beautiful place, but we are not quite sure how just yet. We'd love to see them get the support they need to keep doing what they are doing.
We returned to our hotel, emotionally exhausted, and physically tired, still fighting jet lag. We wandered down to the little grocery market in the hotel building, and Dave was there waiting to invite us to his family home for a coffee ceremony. We felt honored, since we knew this was a special thing for people they wish to honor. The ladies made us coffee, which was rich and very sweet. The "grandfather" of the family practically forced us to drink pints of honey wine...we did, but oh baby, it burned all the way down. We kept looking at eachother across the table, knowing we could get really sick, but also knowing they were being so generous and giving us their very best. We feel so blessed by the experience to be invited into a families home and be honored. David was very kind, not wanting us to pay him , but asked us to help him purchase a textbook for school. We couldn't find what he needed, unfortunately....hoping for a full nights sleep, so we can be rested up when we meet our daughter tomorrow!!