While we finished up our last few days in Africa, we focused on bonding with Haben. We sent emails home that included excitement and some frustration. He did so well during the day when we were out and about (especially
enjoying eating out), smiled often, played and had limited crying and sadness. Communicating with him was not a problem at all and we learned he was speaking words in two different African languages, Tigrinia and Amharic. (He was in two different orphanages
in two different areas, his hometown and then the capital city, which is common in the process.) He picked up about 6 new English words or phrases while we were still in Africa including Da da, Mommy (sometimes May-me…how cute!), beep beep (for cars),
all done, and bye. We could tell he was a smartie about a lot of things as he mimicked our moves and picked up things easily.
Unfortunately, I was getting exhausted with his refusing to be put down, refusing
to go to anyone else and not wanting me to sit down with him unless we were eating. Reverting to an infant stage is an early adoption attribute and this was probably his way of building security. He was also having some food and trust issues that were
so new to us, but we quickly learned to limit the food visually so that he wouldn't feel the need to eat everything in sight and helped him realize that we were not trying to take his food (he often felt like this as we tried to help with the fork
or help peel a banana). The same went for the toys. It was hard for him to understand that we were playing with him and not taking his toys. As far as sleeping, he typically went down well but had a few times where he screamed and it took us almost
an hour to get him to sleep, possibly overtired and overwhelmed. We felt intimidated by the issues but noticed they decreased a little each day.
We wished we could explain to Haben that it was his last day or
two in his home country as if to say goodbye. Ethiopia is rich with culture and we know we cannot do it justice to share the experience and know we probably won't plan to bring him back to visit until he's much older.
Friday was our last day and we headed to the airport that evening excited to head home with our new little guy, however very nervous for the long flight home with a toddler that did not speak our language. We got off to a bad start with a
moody dinner at the airport with some unusual screaming and food issues at the restaurant. I could tell he didn't feel bonded with us for that moment.
As our plane took off at 10:30 at night, an awake Haben
began to scream and William and I began to panic (William especially as you might expect). After a good 45 minutes of misery, we felt comforted by some kind words to us from passengers and we were thankful to some sweet ladies that spoke to him in
his language that helped calm him down. He finally crashed and slept an unbelievable 10 hours straight! Sprawled out on both his seat and mine, he slept away and I didn't care much at all that I was left with hardly any space….for it was quiet.
I thanked God every passing sleeping hour, for Haben's sake and ours. He woke happy and we fed him and walked him around for the remainder of the 17 hour flight to DC with great success.
As we arrived on
American soil in DC, we met a whole new Haben. A light switch had turned on with his security, trust and spunk. For the first time, he went with William, got down out of my arms and ran around and was free-spirited like the happiest toddler on the
block. He was doing somersaults in the terminal with his beloved Mickey Mouse backpack full of toys (the same backpack that I gave to him on my first trip and his only possession he took away from the orphanage) and putting many smiles on the weary
travelers. I guess all the work in Africa and that long flight put our relationship in the comfort zone Haben needed. We had a threesome of smiles as we waited standby for hours to catch the earlier flight home.