Short story, as I am not sure I will be posting anything longer:
Vonne and I fly over Thursday, 19 October, on Lufthansa via Frankfurt into Addis. We meet friends from last trip at Frankfurt and ride in with them to the TDS Guesthouse Friday evening. We got the "big" suite on top, meaning a good sized hotel room with balcony, bit of a antechamber between that and bathroom, which is big, but very mid-level Addis. We crash and I get up to do some yoga, only to find the floor covered in ants, which me no like.
Later that day I get the staff to work the issue a bit, but I eventually hit a local bodega for my own spray and do the unit up right (former superintendent talking here).
Saturday we go over to the WACAP Transition Home and meet the girls for the first time in many weeks. Both are bronchial and wheezing, as is everyone there. It's the rainy season, but we are mindful that this is how their father passed (something small becoming something big during rainy season). The girls seem good. Vonne brought all these balloons and I blew them up for the kids. Then I painted hands and arms with my face paints. That was a lot of fun. Metsu and Abbie looked good, but both--again--carried a whiff of the coming problems.
We then did some shopping to kill the rest of the afternoon, going back to the area around the post office, where we bought little. Then we went to a jewelry shop (by general acclaim, the best in Addis) and got gifts for ladies who helped watch our kids over the two trips. Then an interesting jaunt to a cooperative staffed by former female fuel carriers who now weave these great shawls. Got one myself as a scarf for winter. Tweeted a shot from there.
For the life of me, I cannot remember what we did for dinner that night. We had skipped lunch after the breakfast at the guesthouse. Oh, wait a tick! We all went out for the usual cultural evening at this fabulous restaurant that had a band, singers, and lots of traditional dancing. It was a spectacular show, even if my vodka martini turned out to be a snifter of brandy (lost in translation). I stared longingly at the Belvedere in the distance.
Sunday was the day we took custody of the girls. Back to the orphanage for time with them, then they ate lunch, and then a bit of ceremony with pictures taken and video shot. Some docs (past histories) turned over. Then sad farewells and we're in the van heading back over to the guesthouse. Minutes later we're alone for the first time together--a point I remember well with Vonne Mei in Nanchang, China. It went well. Older one, Metsu, is a bit of a Carol Burnett, as in, never seen an audience she didn't like. Very much the mischief-maker in her threesomeness. Finds herself hilarious--all the time. Abebu was a bit off, and we found out soon enough: discharge (fairly heavy out of right ear). I happened to be carrying ear drop antibiotics, along with Vonne's pre-planned antibiotics (oral), so we dosed both and tossed the rather not-too-good-looking antibiotic we got from the orphanage, but kept the other drug (for airway congestion) and started using on both.
I race out for take-out--not very good burgers and fries.
Abbie had a terrible night with the ear pain, something I remember all too well from similar times in my life. Nothing was going to work too well first night, but we eventually got a platypus water bottle to work with hot tap water from the shower as an impromptu heating pad for her head. After she suffered cramps around 3am and I successfully got her to the head on time (another plot line that's common), she finally fell asleep around 4am, only to wake up at 0700 Monday with Metsu.
After breakfast downstairs, we do paperwork with the lawyer from the orphanage in anticipation of our all-important US embassy appointment on Tuesday. I am fairly blitzed and take a long time filling the forms out in double--for both girls. After I crash for about 30, I head back over to the orphanage with other parents and relatives and we decorate a nursery and an outdoor alcove with giant stickers the various couples had amassed in anticipation of our trip. It was fun work and really revived me and it improved the bare walls by a ways.
Back to the room, Vonne was doing okay with the girls, so I headed out for take-away (favorite Italian restaurant run by Indian lady, we get beef stroganoff and spag alfredo--both of which go over big). Second night we get the girls to crash with much greater ease, after Metsu does her usual and tries on about six pairs of PJs before deciding (a continuing problem).
Tuesday is the all-important visit to the embassy, which culminates in a right-hand-raised oath-swearing before a USG official. The whole trip, from stem to stern, runs about 4 hours. This night I start packing up, because I flew out at midnight. I take everything I can that we're not donating so Vonne has little to work with the girls when she returns three nights later. Back to same Italian place for pizza, and I'm out the door at nine.
For some reason I get bumped to biz class on flight back to Frankfurt, but I still can't sleep any. While in Frankfurt airport for six hours, I rework the briefs for upcoming talks, actually getting a ton of work done. I also do some reading.
Get into Dulles Wednesday around dinner time, get rental, and head to Mandarin. I lay down on bed to relax a bit and wake up with call from front-desk (smart on my part) 12 hours later, Thursday morn. Up and quickly suited up, I get picked up by intern from McNair and am driven to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, where I've opened the school year now for something like 8 years (two of my talks are CSPAN vids). Usual great scene and great audience, and after I warmed up a bit, I did nicely. Went 70 and then 15 Q&A. Then further Q&A with two State economists.
Spent afternoon at Center for Naval Analyses with old colleagues, then evening with DeAngelis downtown. Then late night drive to Quantico, checking into Comfort Inn just outside main gate. Crash.
Up at 0700 Friday, suit up, and then drive onto base. Cruise down Barnett Avenue on way to US Marine Corps University. Speak to same "economics of national security" class that I've addressed now for several years (always new students, but same instructors). The history-of-America chapter (3) from "Great Powers" was the required reading that week. They ask a lot of questions, right through the brief. With break, total brief was about 120. Q&A went 45.
Drove back to DC and just made 1300 meet at Eurasia Group.
Then dash to airport and get home just in time to meet kids (Em off to college in meantime) arriving home from middle-child's cross-country practice. We eat out, watch something in the home theater, and then crash.
We're up early Saturday morn and drive as family to Ohare (3.5 hours, with oldest son driving most of way) to meet Vonne and girls, who walk out of customs around 1330. Tough ride for Abbie (still ear problems), so we dash back to Indy, and I and my oldest son take the girls to the ER to get checked out. Perforated eardrum for Abbie and both with infections in ears (actually, mine back now too since I turned over my ear drops to Abbie in Addis). We get materials to collect other samples (don't ask) and get home late. Wipe the girls down and they are off to bed. We use the intercom as monitoring system (cool feature).
Our first full day together is today. Some errands by me and oldest son, but rest of day is simply Vonne catching up on sleep, me organizing house, and kids playing with Metsu and Abbie all day long.
We expect many more days of such cocooning before we take them anywhere. It all goes well--amazing really, with the only tears being Metsu's usual ones when I put her in her PJs (she hates having clothes chosen for her--a lot!).
I type this as I wait for the girls to crash in their room (they sleep with Vonne Mei, our Chinese daughter). Metsu's tears go about 4-5 mins.
All in all, we feel very blessed. We're figuring the GI trouble is Hep A, which is cropping up among other kids once home. We're checking for all the usual parasites (internal only), and Metsu walks a bit funny on one side and has a rather common wart on one leg, but other than that and the ears and the residual bronchial stuff, the girls are in great shape, prettier than ever, and wonderfully fun to have around.
We are really using the dutch doors throughout the first floor, however. They keep the girls from wandering into inappropriate/dangerous spots and still allow the 3 Siberian cats the ability to go where they want (we keep the top sections open). Never knew we'd use those so much.
Brain dead. Need to get up to run everybody to school and then begin a very long workday.
I'm hoping Vonne got all her sleep back . . ..
Now that the girls are home, I don't plan on posting any further pix, just like with Vonne Mei. But if you're lucky enough to get an Xmas card from us, note that I've already bought two Packer cheerleading outfits for the girls for the group shot.
Plotting the blog's regular return for Wednesday.
[POSTSCRIPT MONDAY MORNING: Looking back over the day, I remain amazed at how peacefully it unfolded. It was a quiet, calm household throughout, one that allowed me time to fold laundry in the upstairs guest bedroom for about an hour undisturbed. Yes, many difficulties lie ahead, along with some negative medical surprises, I am sure, but loads to be thankful for. I ended the evening like I used to with Vonne Mei: Abbie sleeping on my chest in the home theater. Again, hard to complain.]