We landed in Addis at about 1:30pm local time. The flight from Dubai was about 4 hours and felt quite reasonable compared to the flight the day before. Our 14 bags came out relatively easy, but they scan all passenger bags, so the line to the scanner was lengthy. I'm not sure what a bag full of diapers and maxi pads looks like on an x-ray, and apparently the guy manning the scanner had never seen that too (or perhaps it looked like a bloated bag with nothing in it), so they pulled aside briefly to look inside.
The man next to me had a bag full of new Nike shoes and the attendant was giving him some problems. I think people import anything they can to resell in Ethiopia since western things are hard to come by locally.
We drove to the guest house and it was wonderful. More on it later, because we really just "dropped off" our bags.... which if you add the carry-on totaled 28.... Fortunately, our bag problem will end in the next few days as we give away all the goods inside!
The drive to the Hilawe Foundation (where Hermella has been staying) wasn't too bad. About 40 min or so, but we took the loop around the city since our driver knows about the boy's car sickness tendencies (don't worry, we have lots of bags from the airplane in case).
They had an area laid out downstairs with a coffee ceremony set up and some chairs laid out. The director introduced himself to us and was an extremely nice man. You could see and sense the mixed emotions in his eyes. He asked us to sit down and explained that we would be going through a few ceremonies.
1) presentation of Hermella
2) handprint ceremony
3) gift giving ceremony
4) coffee and bread cutting ceremony
5) prayer ceremony
1) Presentation of Hermella: The kids kept asking when Hermella would come, and the director explained that in Ethiopia culture, the person being celebrated is ALWAYS fashionably late. Wow, that was a hard wait!! We waiting about 10 minutes and then the people at the foundation started clapping slowly and Hermella came down the stairs dressed in a traditional Ethiopian gown. She gave everyone a big hug and then sat down in the chair between Emily and me. It was amazing and tense.
2) Handprint Ceremony: The foundation director explained how wonderful and easy Hermella has been for them and that they would miss her very much. They took some red washable paint and painted her hand so she could leave a handprint on a piece of paper with her name on it for them to keep. The emotions were still very tense. I took some of the red paint from her hand and put some on my nose before they washed it off. I then pretended that I didn't know it was there and didn't know how to wipe it off. The smiles came alive and cut through the air quickly and easily.
3) Gift Giving Ceremony: The director explained how important it was for children being adopted to retain Ethiopian culture in America. We agree! He gave Hermella a poster of the Ethiopian alphabet to hang on her wall.
4) Coffee and Bread cutting Ceremony: a coffee ceremony is a very traditional part of Ethiopian culture where they roast the beans, grind them, and then brew very strong Expresso like coffee. This is almost always eaten with popcorn. They also brought in this huge fresh baked bread pan. When I say huge, I mean huge. The pan was about 2 ft. diameter circle. Emily, Hermella, and I all cut it together with a knife, again, very similar to cutting a wedding cake.
5) Prayer ceremony: We (our family, the director and social workers, and a few other girls from the house) surrounded Hermella, joining hands. The director led us in an Amharic prayer and then asked me to lead an English one. Man. That was tough. I can't imagine what Hermella has gone through in the first 10 years of her life. I do know that we had been praying and thinking of that moment ever since we met her in Ethiopia 2 years ago (when we visited Kidist). More directly, the kids have prayed for her every night at dinner. It took me a while to get through the prayer.
Hermella said her goodbyes and and she left in the car with us... forever.
We finished the exhausting day with some traditional Ethiopian food. Everyone enjoyed it. After dinner, all EIGHT of us crashed hard in our beds.