Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gotcha Day

This has got to be one of the most amazing days of our lives. At this point, I really can’t find the words to describe how we are feeling. I think it will take me a while to process everything that happened, but for now, I will share the story.

We slept pretty well last night. I woke up a few times and sat at the top of the steps for a while in the middle of the night. We have the top floor to ourselves. It was 2 a.m. and I had just finished typing yesterday’s blog. It was funny to hear the other families moving around at that time too. We were all restless before the big day, but yet, we all slept the best we had since we have been here.

Speaking of the other families, we have met some amazing people that we will be our lifelong friends. All of the traveling families are just amazing people. We have been staying at the guest house with another family, Brian and Hollie, and we have enjoyed their company so much. Adam said tonight that they will be forever friends of ours. We are counting on being back here at the same time for the embassy date, and we are already making plans to stay together.

When we arrived at the transition home around 8:30, we were all wearing casual clothes. We were expecting to have court in the afternoon, and after my puke experience on Saturday, we weren’t taking chances. Within two minutes of arriving, we were told that we must leave right now. The judge called and we had to be at court right now. Court is 20 minutes away. We all just jumped into the bathrooms like we were family and quickly changed our clothes. We hopped into our van (thankfully the guard had told them before they pulled away), and away we go. We are suppose to meet up with the other van carrying the families from CHI’s guest house. We are stopped for a little while, and then we drive. We pull over a few minutes later and the driver walks around back – we have a flat tire. Crap. We don’t have a choice but to keep driving. We meet up with the other van on the road, and their driver is pointing to our flat tire. Nothing we can do but keep rushing to court.

A few minutes later, we pull over on the side of the road to a place with old stacked tires. The driver gets out to change our tire, but they decide to put air in it just to get us to court. A few minutes later, we are off again.

We arrived at court and went up a ton of stairs. We were circling the broken elevator, and we were all about to die. This altitude is getting to all of us. We finally reached the top floor and we had to wait in a hallway for several minutes. We are surrounded by other Ethiopians who are waiting for court. We are then ushered into a room where all 10 families are standing in the center. On all walls of the room are other Ethiopians sitting down waiting for their time in court. It was awkward because we knew that some of those people were the birth families.

We were ushered into court in several groups. The first group did not pass because the birth families could not make it until Monday. That was heart breaking. We were the second group. The judge is a beautiful, young woman – and she was wearing jeans!! She asked us 6 questions and we could only respond “yes” or “no”. Afterward, she said, “Okay I will get your report this afternoon. You are done.” So, did we pass? That paperwork wasn’t there from MOWA but our court time wasn’t scheduled until 2 p.m. We weren’t really sure, and we aren’t sure that the paperwork actually made it there, but Alamez (director’s wife) assured us that we passed. She said to us excitedly, “Yes, yes! She is yours!”

After court we waited for our ride (they were getting a new tire), and we headed to CHI’s guest house for our birth family meeting. What an amazing experience. We arrived and once again we are standing and staring at the birth families. We don’t know who is who. We have one translator. It was hours that went by before we were done. All of us were trying to guess who their birth relative was, and they were doing the same for us.

Adam and I were one of the last families, and Alemitu’s grandfather came up to us. He gave us a big hug and kisses on the cheek. His name is Tagese which is Allie’s second name. When we were able to sit down with him, we had to work with a translator that spoke his language into Amharic, and then our translator who translated Amharic into English. We asked if he had any questions for us and his first question was to ask if Alemitu is healthy. He was so happy to hear that she is healthy and happy. We showed him a Shutterfly book that had pictures of her as well as pictures of our family. He smiled huge as he looked at her pictures. His favorite picture of our family was the boys on Papago Mountain. There was something about that picture that he loved.

He told us that he was so happy that she has brothers. When we asked what he wanted Alemitu to know, he said that he wants her to know about her grandfather. He wants her to know how much he loves her, and that he hopes we love her just as much. He said that he doesn’t just have one grandchild, he has more children because we are his family now. We are all family. He allowed us to take pictures and we promised to have his picture in her room. Alemitu has three grandfathers.

Ethiopians do everything with a purpose. They don’t name children because they like the name, there is a meaning behind it. We were not sure who named her, but we knew her name meant “she is of the world” or “she travels the world”. We asked how she got her name. He said, “I named her Alemitu because in Jesus’ name I want her to travel the world.” My heart melted. At that moment, her name officially became “Alemitu” forever. She is “Alemitu Tagese Fischer”. She is loved by her grandfather so much. (Tagese – Tuh-Guess-EEE)

After we finished our meeting and got our questions answered, we sat by each other for another hour or so. During this time, he is showing other birth families Alemitu’s photo album that we had given him. He is so proud. He smiled so much. He raised his hat to us on several occasions. Ethiopians keep their composure. To see such happiness and expression meant the world to us. About 30 minutes into this time, he pulled out a little book that was in his pocket. You could tell this little notebook had the most important things on it written down and maybe some ID. In one of the pages was a tiny piece of tissue paper that held a 1 inch by 1 inch black and white photo of Alemitu. This is the picture he carries with him at all times. At this point, I had to excuse myself. I went into the bathroom of the CHI guest house and just broke down. I regained my composure and then returned outside.

After our meeting (which we recorded by the way), he had his translator write a letter to Alemitu in Amharic. Then all of the birth families got in a van and they went to the transition house to visit with the children one last time. After that, they had a 12 hour trip on dirt roads back home. We were not able to attend the meeting between the grandfather and Alemitu, but all of us families wanted pictures. We were told that wouldn’t be possible. Adam gave my camera to another family that had their own driver. Their driver is best friends with the guard at the transition house. They rushed over to the transition house, dropped off our camera with the guard, and then they left. We didn’t know what, if anything, would happen but we were so excited to see pictures of the birth families and the children when we returned to the transition house later in the afternoon. The birth families all posed for a photograph. Alemitu now has a picture with her grandfather – her smiling, proud grandfather.

Today was one of the best days of our lives. We went to see Alemitu in the afternoon and had a great time. We got a group photo of all the traveling families and our children as most of them are leaving tonight. We came back to the guest house for dinner and participated in a traditional coffee ceremony. Tomorrow is our last day here. I am falling in love with Ethiopia.


  1. Oh my gosh! I have NO words!!! Ugghh... that is AMAZING! I am SO happy for you guys and for her sweet, grandfather!

  2. I love your family photo--she's even cuter with a mommy and daddy behind her!! : )

    So glad you passed court--congrats!! AND a successful birth family mtg--what a blessing!

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  3. Sabrina: What a wonderful journey you all have been on. By what you have shared, Alemitu's grandfather has the ultimate love for her. What great and noble man. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I can't wait to hear the next part of your journey. Alemitu has melted my heart. Congratulations again! Brandi

  4. Your update bought both tears of joy and sadness to my eyes. I am very glad you decided to keep her name. I liked your idea of Allie Mitu as well! I can’t wait until Patrick and I get to experience the same life changing experience ourselves!