Thursday, November 30, 2006

More Friends

These are two of our best friends, both of whom are Americans, but live in the Dominican Republic. We got to see each other in Portland this year for the TEARS board meeting. Rod started TEARS, which stands for True Evangelism Always Requires Sacrifice. Jennifer also works with TEARS, and was a great friend to us when we lived in the DR. She comes home to SC, so I get to see her here as well. I've convinced her - after much kicking and screaming - that film work fits her skills, so she will be helping to produce another commercial spot this January while she is home on break.


Yep, though you may not believe it, we actually do have a few friends. This is a photo I took of Louis, Maddie and Sara. When Louis and Sara brought Maddie home, our Sarah wanted to know if she could trade Zion in for Maddie, so she could have a Chinese sister. But, now she really loves Zion and is ready instead for a Chinese brother. Louis is a Lutheran minister. Unlike the Southern Baptists and AOG pastors, Lutherans are allowed to drink wine (yea!). He also works for the adoption agency that helped us find Sarah and Zion. And, he and Maddie starred in a recent commercial we did about flu prevention.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Faces of Joanna

On the left, we see Joanna in her normal Stateside pose - if it is warm - doing never ending taxes for us while talking on line to her fiance in the Dominican Republic.

On the right is Joanna when it gets cold. Cold is defined by any temperature under 73 degrees. Note the long hair to keep drafts off the back of her neck.

And, below, we see what an amazing resemblance Joanna and Zion share!


Since I am posting photos of the family, I want to include dear Sarah.

I wish I could be as single minded in my work as she is about her top passion in the universe,

David WHERE?

This is David.

He is standing where I NEVER thought I would see him. Yes, he is standing smack in the middle of a . . .

coffee shop.

The confusion on his face is genuine. He has no idea how this happened. As you can see, he even purchased a drink - one that cost more than $2 and is in a cup with a name that belies it's size.

Tree Enthusiasm

Zion does not say much.

Correction. Zion talks and sings constantly. But, not necessarily in English.

However, she has a few words she really enjoys. One is water. She shakes and points and shouts "WATER, WATER" whenever we go over a bridge. She can hear and spot airplanes before any of us - and identifies them "AIRPLANE, AIRPLANE!"

"TREE!" is another favorite, which has been fun this Christmas season.

When we unboxed the Christmas tree, David and I were doubled over in laughter as Zion exclaimed "WOW" in 15 syllables, then "TREE! Daddy, TREE!"

We got twice the fun when we turned on the lights.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Life, the Universe and Everything

What am I supposed to do with my life from today on?
If it's a journey, is there an arrival?

or just a departure?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jumping in the Leaves

I remember the joy of jumping into piles of crunchy leaves when we raked the yard with Dad. Had not thought of it much until today when Mom said she was going to take the kids out to jump in the leaves. It only seemed like a nice idea because I was reading Davita's Harp and it would be much easier to do so sans Zion.

I went out at the chapter's end to photograph the leaf leapers and Sarah asked me to join in. As usual, my response was no. I didn't want to further injure my messed up knee, I was happy standing, I didn't want to get dirty.

Then, my MOM dropped right down into the pile behind Zion.

When did I become the stick in the mud???

The leaves smelled good, and Sarah later told me I had one stuck in my hair.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgivings new and old

Tradition was marred this Thanksgiving when my mother decided not cook the traditional feast. We instead went to Grandma and Grandpa's restaurant at their retirement village. I thought David would boycott, but then Mom said she would make the bird on Friday. Black Friday.

Friday tradition remained intact. The more adventurous get up at 4am and rocket our credit cards into the red, but only after staying up very late the night before hanging out together. This year was almost tragic for me, as I left my wallet in South Carolina. Somehow I managed to spend regardless.

If I can find it, I want to post about our Great Thanksgiving in the DR a few years back. It was not actually on Thanksgiving, since we didn't have a way to keep the turkey cold. And, it was dark because there wasn't electricity. But, much fun was had by all.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Preparation to visit developing country Quiz

I created this when we lived in the Dominican Republic
Sept 9, 2002

Dear Friends,

To better prepare you for your visit, we have prepared the following
simple quiz. Please send us your answers and we will let you know if you are mentally prepared to come. Take your time. This is an open notes quiz.

Multiple Choice:

1. You know you are in a third world country when:
A. the light emitted from your laptop screen is the brightest thing
in a three mile radius of your house
B. you feel no guilt about tearing the tag off your pillow and or
C. you are glad to have a pillow and or mattress.
D. if you tear the tag off your pillow and or mattress, the ants will gladly carry it off for you (the pillow and/or mattress, that is; the tag you have to take outside and burn with all the rest of your trash - preferably on the side of the street in front of your neighbors house under a large tree. Make sure you also burn lots of styrafoam plates at the same time and be certain a breeze is blowing. Do not burn all trash on one day, rather scatter the burning throughout the week so that any foreigners living nearby will have heart attacks daily when they think something electrical in their homes is on fire).
E. all of the above

2. Cold showers:
A. are a nice refreshing break after a hot day's work
B. are easy to get into without screaming
C. are cold and not nice in any way other than you no longer stink
after making yourself take one
D. are even more fun when the city water stops after you have soaped up

3. Which of the following would be considered rude behavior in by
A. honking your horn outside someone's home to get their attention.
B. playing your music at ear splitting decibels late at night and
during all other times when electricity is available and often by battery power as well.
C. attempting to play your different music louder than that of your
D. giving someone something without putting it in a bag or envelope first
E. cutting in line
F. driving through a neighborhood late at night with music blaring
out of your car
G. driving without a tailpipe on your motorcycle

4. Which of the following is not illegal:
A. driving a motorcycle without a helmet
B. riding in the front seat of a car without a seatbelt
C. carrying four passengers on a motorcycle, all passengers without helmets

5. Why should you carry a copy of your driver's license rather than
the real thing:
A. In case you lose the original
B. To keep the police from taking your original and demanding money for it's return
C. It takes up less weight in your wallet that way

6. If you are caught driving your scooter or motorcycle without a
the penalty is that:
A. the police take your scooter or motorcycle
B. the police take your license
C. you must pay a fine
D. All of the above

7. When you are walking down the street and you hear a sound like air hissing out of tires:
A. the bike next to you just got a flat
B. someone wants your attention (likely a guy who hisses at every
woman who walks by, but more insistently at white American women)
C. an American woman (ie. Jenn) is playing a joke on her Dominican male friends by hissing at women and then ducking behind a wall.
D. B often and C seldom, but known to happen

8. Turkeys, cows, horses, goats, cats, chickens and dogs all share
which of the following:
A. the road
B. the trash piled on the side of the road
C. both A and B

9. It is unusual to see which thing when walking to work in the
A. 5 people riding one scooter
B. a man carrying un-pasteurized milk on his head in a metal
container to sell it
C. the ice cream man on a bicycle with a cooler and a bell
D. cows in the road
E. a white American
F. someone riding a horse and pulling a foal alongside
G. a new, diesel SUV
H. dust
I. hoards of mosquitoes
J. men gathered for the day under a tree to play dominoes on
cardboard on their laps
K. someone selling orange juice made with green oranges
L. a child bathing in a puddle
M. a goat tethered to a bush
N. men building houses
O. women throwing water on the street outside their houses to keep street dust down

True or False (Si o No)

10. It is more important to have power than water.

11. You will choose to go to a good friend's house for dinner on a
night when you happen to have both power and water, rather than stay home and do laundry.

12. Spanish is easy to learn.

13. Your spoken English is easy for English speaking Dominicans to

14. Cows eat bananas.

15. Most spiders in your house are over 3" in diameter.

16. Rats live outside, only.

17. All cats instinctively know how to use a litter box.

18. Gas is almost twice the price of diesel.

19. Gas is over $3 per gallon.

20. Electric bills and other bills may never reach you because there
are no house numbers and few street signs. The preferred method of bill delivery is throwing them over fences and hoping neighbors give them to whomever they belong.

21. No one has a mail box.

22. You will constantly hear the following contradiction, "people
are nice, but don't trust them."

23. Frogs are loud creatures that can easily grow larger than

Word Problem:

24. Pretend your husband has invited people over for dinner Saturday night. Pretend you were supposed to work most of the day Saturday, so you opted for something easy: steak, green beans, baked potatoes and a salad. For part A of this quiz question, you must determine the approximate the amount of time necessary for each step to make the SALAD. Part B is to total the amount of time spent in salad preparation, then guess the remaining amount of time necessary to make the steak, potatoes and the green beans and determine three things. First, the total time needed to prepare the meal. Second, whether the meal will the ready by 6pm on Saturday. Third, the amount of work outside of meal preparation accomplished by the meal preparer during the day on Saturday.

Step One: Run to store and pick up produce.
lock up house (shut windows on street side to try and keep down dust)
walk to farmer's market (swim through puddles in streets, ignore
multiple motorcycle ride offers, including those from reputable concho drivers, as repeated 10 peso rides add up)
join other ladies in picking up and examining every piece of produce on table
pretend you can determine which dirt covered item is good
select lettuce or cabbage depending on availability as base for salad
repeatedly try and get sellers attention
utilize all seven words you know of Spanish to try and get seller's
play charades to try and determine price of item
notice that price of items changes depending on purchaser and whether farmer or son is quoting price
get in line
be glad you are second in line
fight off little old ladies who jump in front of you (minimum 12, all
over 70)
wait 20 minutes for old lady who only had one bag in her hand to
weigh her 50 other, previously hidden purchases
grab scale and shove other people out of the way
pull out all your money
give it to farmer and hope to get change
give some pesos to begging Haitian woman with small child in arms
marvel at the amount of produce that can be shoved in one bag
marvel at the lack of concern farmer's son has about putting a
cabbage on top of tomatoes
Walk home carrying bag of produce
juggle produce while attempting to reach through gate door to unlock it
struggle to open gate
unlock remaining locks to get into house
open windows to breathe
take produce to kitchen

Step Two: Wash produce
Take out teapot and some bowls
blow ants off tea pot and bowls
put teapot under faucet to fill with water
determine that water is off in house
walk through mud to check to see if water is on at faucet in yard
that is nearer to water main (it is)
fill shallow plastic tub that fits under yard faucet with water
go back into house while waiting for tub to fill (mental note: must now mop porch)
take off shoes
pull outside leaves off lettuce or cabbage
put on shoes
go outside to get water in shallow tub
pick up juaga fruit that fell on ground near tub to give to friend
who knows what the heck to do with them (3 day preparation for some tea that is supposedly very tasty)
take off shoes
try and fill teapot from tub (blow ants off again first)
try to strike moist match to light stove
try to strike tenth moist match to light stove
light another match because last one went out when wind blew through
open window
Boil water for five minutes minimum
cool water in bowl
try to cool water faster in fridge
pray that power will come on
add capful of clorox to cooled water in bowl
scrub veggies with rough sponge thing
rinse off veggies with another tub of water from yard
soak veggies for two hours in bowl of cooled water containing clorox
drain water and shake excess off veggies
fill a second bowl with drinking water
soak veggies in drinking water

Step Three: Prepare salad
look for clean bowl
wish water was on so you could wash dishes
wish power was on so you could see ants clearly before they bite you
drag hose into house from faucet near street (first wipe mud off hose so as not to have to re-scrub floors since that takes forever with string mop that is difficult for foreigners to use and requires use of bucket full of water)
realize water from yard doesn't have enough pressure to go up hill
two feet remove hose from house (cut it into small pieces with machete while cussing out loud)
bring in buckets of water from kids pool to rinse off other dishes to
help discourage hoards of biting ants
take off shoes
pick ants off produce
rip or cut produce
place salad creation in dark fridge in preparation for eating
wish you had salad tongs
be exceedingly thankful you bought salad dressing that keeps okay in heat last time you got to go shopping in a neighboring city.

Step Four: Serve salad
spill one drop of salad dressing on corner of table
wait 22 seconds
marvel at ants defying law of physics that states: no two things can
occupy the same
space at the same time.
enjoy salad
wish you had more salad . . .
apologize to boss for only getting 1/4 of interior of shed painted as that was your work for the day.

Last Question:

25. You know you are in a Caribbean Country when the which of the following are not so:
A. Everyone you meet has a story about the last time they had
B. Sawdust on your floor means it's time to buy termite poison
C. All activities begin 1-2 hours after the designated time
D. You see multitudes of palm trees 3 hours from the ocean, in the
driest, most humid and desolate city on the island (La Vega, of course)
E. You can buy tea cups at the local hardware store
F. You are sexually desirable for more reasons than the fact that
you have a United States passport
(this last question contributed by my friend Jenn)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

memories of China and Ethiopia LONG

From our 1999 trip to China to adopt Sarah

Dear Friends,

We left Columbia after a few short hours sleep at 4:30am on Saturday. Our internal backpack frame caused problems in security, so we checked it. Relatively uneventful flights - we chased the sun, it never got dark for 24 hours! In Tokyo (arrived 2:40 am Columbia), our canned air was confiscated - all aerosols pose security risks, I guess. The terrain around Tokyo airport is similar to that around Columbia airport. We flew over Mt. Fuji and took a picture out of the plane. It is a monster of a volcano.

Arrived in Beijing at 7:30 am Columbia time, 7:30 pm Beijing time. It was
Foggy and wet and had a very eerie look. The customs agent smiled widely at me when he saw the little photo of Cha Ze that I had pinned to my lapel. We put the card saying we were adopting in our visa page and he smiled again.

From the luggage, we met our guide (her name is pronounced Way) who was holding a sign for us. We took a bus ride (small seats!) for 45 minutes to the lovely Peace Hotel, as she told us facts about Beijing. The beltline and highway are very nice. Driving is quite exciting and there is much honking. Bicycles everywhere.

Today we tour the great wall and the Ming Tomb. Gotta go, will write more
soon. Breakfast was terrific.

We plan to change our return itinerary and stay in San Francisco on the way home, the trip was too grueling and we both woke up with leg cramps – we think that will be easier with our child on the way home. We also highly recommend exit row seats.

Heidi and David


Dear Friends,

This is the end of the second full day here in China. This morning started
out with a trip to the Forbidden City in Beijing. On the way we walked
through a morning market where they were selling vegetables and other foods.
I was great to see the regular people of the city and how they live and shop.
At the end of the market people were getting haircuts on the sidewalk (Heidi thought about it). In the Forbidden City we saw the chambers of the emperor, the chambers of his concubines, several thrones for various different things and more yellow rooftops than you have ever seen. Yellow was reserved for the emperor only and anybody else with this color on their house would be beheaded! The Spielberg movie "The Last Emperor" was shot in the Forbidden City. A lot of the area was under repair or repainting with the most interesting wooden scaffolding--I don't think OSHA inspects here.

We walked to TienMen Square, which was also under construction. This fall is the 50th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China and they are preparing for the celebrations.

From this area we moved on the the Temple of Heaven where the emperor
worshiped the god(s) of the sky. Very beautiful gardens and buildings. Lots of dragons (also a symbol for the emperor). From there it was lunch and onto the airport.

We flew to Hunan Province from about 4pm to 6:30pm. From the sky you could see miles and miles of bright green rice fields and rivers. Very pretty. We arrived in the airport at ChangSha and took the bus to the Hotel and checked in and ate dinner. This city is larger than we expected--about 5.5 million people. The hotel is extremely nice (5 star) and dinner was great here at one of the hotel restaurants.

Tomorrow is the big day. We meet our children in the morning and start doing paperwork here in the local province. Tonight we went to a store about 5 minutes walk from the hotel and got some juice, snacks, cereal & rice milk powder. Strollers there are about $6 and we will probably get one tomorrow.

There is starting to be a line to use the computer so I will send this off.
More adventures will be forthcoming!!!

Heidi and David

Dear Friends,

We hardly have time to write, we have been kept so busy touring. Yesterday we went to the Ming Tombs gardens, where there are some amazing statues of animals, soldiers and mythical creatures. These were erected around 1436. Then, we went underground to the tombs where the emperors generally buried their wives and concubines with them!

We also went to a fresh water pearl "factory" where Heidi guessed closest
to the correct number of pearls in an oyster and got two free. Not much
else is free, but there are many beautiful things to purchase.

We got to see one of the seven wonders of the world - the Great Wall.
David led the way up a million or so steps on a couple hour climb along the
wall. It is truly amazing. We saw a camel there as well.

For dinner, we had Peking Duck. We also visited a Jade Factory.

Gotta run,
Heidi and David

Received 6/23/99

Dear Friends,

Today was the BIG day. (the tenth anniversary of David being out of the
Army, too) Both David and I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night. The
whole group took the bus to a local adoption government approval office first thing in the morning. We walked a good way (everything we do here involves an astronomical amount of walking) but we've seen some incredible sights.

During our walk we passed some street vendors in an alley selling vegetables and meat. It's interesting to see what people can carry on a bicycle. Some of the bikes have two wheels on the front with a basket in between. We have seen 10 foot long pipes, 4x8 sheets of plywood and today a basket full of plucked chickens.

Anyway I know you are getting anxious to hear "the rest of the story" but this is how we felt too. When we got to the office door it was locked. It was 30 minutes past when it was supposed to open but no one was there. We waited and finally the officials came. We filled out some basic paperwork and paid our first fee. I kept sneaking outside to see if the children had arrived. Finally a small bus drove up and everyone gathered to meet it. I got to video tape each child as she got off of the bus and meet her parents.

Cha Ze was the last little girl off the bus. David had recognized her in the bus. They put her in my arms and she put her arms around me and looked over my shoulder at David. She seemed so tiny...we just weighed her in our room (yes the hotel provides bathroom scales, probably so you can weigh in after Friday's dinner special of spiced snake). She weighs 22 pounds.

After hugging and photographing and videoing and commenting on each other’s babies we went back into the waiting area. It was interesting to note how different the reactions of the children were-some cried (a lot) some seemed completely content and some seemed shy. Cha Ze sat on David's lap for a while but then decided to cling to me. She seems very controlled. For example if she cries, it is only for a minute (sometimes accompanied by kicking) but then she calms down. She really got upset when we went for our interview and had to ink stamp her foot on a form. I think she thought we were going to steal her shoe. But as soon as her shoe was back on she was calm.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of activity punctuated by wonderful
Chinese meals. The highlight was going to the orphanage where she was living (Carol--please do not tell any one on the list serve--Jane does not want others to know). We got to meet her primary caretaker and the director of the orphanage. We found out some more information about her. She was found on 20 November 1996 and we assume she looked about a month old (thus her birthday) She has been in foster care all of her life--up until about April, but with two different families. The most recent family was a farmer family which most likely in this region means rice. Her name Cha means tea, and her name Ze means lake or pond or perhaps tributary. Cha came from the first syllable of the region of the province where the police found her originally. She eats on her own with a spoon and seems very well toilet trained. The orphanage building was very modern and clean. Cha Ze cried a lot when we had to leave her caretaker (as did David).

Cha Ze does seem to have some illness right now. They said she got a fever yesterday and seems to have some chest congestion. When we measured her temp this morning it was around 100 but is back to normal tonight. Other than this she seems happy, healthy and wise! David and I also have a bit of a sore throat, some from the dry air in the room I'm sure.

Right now our daughter is lying asleep on the bed while I scribble this letter. She is beautiful and sweet and we can't wait for you all to meet her!

Heidi and David

Hello Friends,

Today's message is shorter, a little bit more relaxing. The hotel doctor came to our room this morning to look at Cha Ze. The bill was less than what we spent on email last night - strange phenomenon. She prescribed amoxicillin, but only a two day dose. It is in powder form that you mix with a drink. We also got some throat lozenges for David that are so amazingly tiny, yet ten times stronger than an Altoid. At least, I think they were throat lozenges and you are supposed to put them in your mouth - not sure.

It has been fun to note how much the different children look like their new parents. People have told Heidi often that little Sarah looks like her.
Actually, she has Heidi's eyes and skin tone and David's hair. Okay, maybe not his hair, but definitely his lips and eyebrows. Her ears must look a lot like her birth mom's.

We found out Sarah's nickname. It is Ze Ze. It is a bit difficult for our
Western tongues to say. Kind-of like saying "duh" but with a TZ at the beginning Tzuh Tzuh - the voice inflection goes down at the end.

Sarah smiled at David today. It was the first we have seen. He was playing with her. We discovered that toys that do things and have moving parts are far more interesting than stuffed animals. Dolls go over big. Sarah is still clinging to me, but she seems more comfortable overall.

We went to the embroidery institute and saw some AMAZING embroidery that is the same on both sides. The most fascinating was the work copying people's photos. Basically, they looked like perfectly realistic paintings, but out of thread.

Well, Sarah wants to type, so here goes:
Okay, I can tell she will be better than us in a week or so, like all kids.

Heidi, David and Sarah Cha Ze

Dear Friends,

Short update for today on the different things that you can carry on a bicycle. It is amazing the a city of this size (Changsha is about 5.5 million people) relies almost exclusively on delivery by bicycle and cart. I
don't think we have seen more than a handful of trucks in the city. We have seen bikes with 2 propane cylinders (one attached to each side of the back wheel), 4 10' wooden step ladders, 1 55 gallon drum, a 10' high stack of Styrofoam coolers and what looked like a full size aluminum lion's cage. It's fun to watch!!

Today we took a break from touring and mostly stayed at the hotel. We did go out for a while in a Taxi and bought a few things. We got 4 pairs of shoes for Sarah for a total of $11. Prices for clothing and shoes are very reasonable. Everything is basically what is made for export to the states with out the transportation costs.

We just got Sarah's vaccination records and Chinese Passports. Tomorrow we travel and Monday is medical examinations. We are well on the way to conquering the paperwork monster!!!!

Sarah was even more happy and comfortable today. We will see how she handles the plane ride tomorrow. At least it is short--about an hour. It will be a practice run for next Thursday/Friday.

More soon.
Heidi, David and Sarah

Dear Friends,

Last night after typing our e-mail we scouted the hotel. We got lost for a bit and ended up in another dimension. See the elevators have rugs that tell you what day of the week it is (in English) and we ended up in Tuesday in a service elevator. We finally figured out our bearings and set off to find adventure. We discovered a pool on the 2nd floor, billiards on the third and
lo and behold, a bowling alley on the fourth floor (about 12 lanes). There
is an impressive theatre on the sixth floor with a video wall that they show movies on, plus a live stage for shows.

We had a tremendous attachment breakthrough tonight. So you will understand, the 1st day together she was extremely withdrawn and clung to Heidi with her arms around her neck and her face buried in her shoulder. When you put her down she would simply stand in that spot and look confused or whine to be picked up. Only Heidi could pick her up.

The second day, all afternoon David and she played with these 4 interconnecting blocks. Finally she smiled and we were thrilled. But tonight she has really come out of her shell. She's started pointing and laughing. She loved to hold the flashlight and look for the point where it hits the wall. She hasn't quite figured out that she is aiming it.

We put shorts and socks on her today and she was concerned because they didn't completely cover her legs. She kept pulling her socks up and her shorts down. Apparently shorts are a new thing to her. She really likes clothes, especially socks. She learned to flush the toilet and open and shut the refrigerator tonight (small dorm size frig in the room).

Some of the other girls in the group immediately started playing and laughing and running. Others like Sarah are taking their time and a few are still pretty upset with anyone but mom. We see progress with everyone everyday.

We found that although not many people speak English here a lot at least understand some of what you say. We have to be careful with our comments so we don't offend anyone, especially at meals. We found a not-so appetizing translation of one dish to be Rotten-Tofu (Yum). It was actually pretty good.

I forgot to mention earlier that my visit to the pharmacy included seeing amazing roots in trays and big jars with brown liquid that contained striped snakes. Also happy to report that the throat drops (for us) worked very well.

One of the things that continues to astound us is the traffic. Never have you heard so many horns honk. There seem to be two rules. 1: if you approach someone (car, bus, truck, taxi, bicycle, woman with baby) from behind then honk repeatedly to let them know you are there. 2: Who ever gets there first wins--if you want to make a left through incoming traffic then just go. You got there first so the traffic coming toward you must stop. The faint hearted should sit in the back of the bus. After visiting
Paris and Romania (and driving in London) we think we could drive there—but not here for all the tea in China!!!

For our activities--Today was a bit slower as well. This morning we went to a local Museum and saw the results of an excavation of a providential leader and his wife's tomb from 2001 years ago (found 210 feet deep in 1972).
Amazing tools and clothes but the oddest part was the wife's body is preserved and on display (we saw it). From there to a very nice, modern department store and then a great lunch atop a very tall building overlooking the city.

Somewhere in there we stopped at a McDonalds. A big mac combo and a happy meal cost about $4.20 total. The happy meal comes with a snoopy toy and a free tube of Signal toothpaste.

Well that's the adventures for today,

Heidi and David

Dear Friends,

Today we took Sarah's first plane ride, from Changsha to Guangzhou (which used to be called Canton - Beijing used to be called Peking).
Sarah has been a more typical toddler today, running the gambit of emotions from screaming and pinching to smiling and laughing two to three times an hour. David does a good job of keeping her entertained and Heidi is evidently an acceptable comforter, so thankfully, we haven't experienced overly long tantrums. Without a doubt, food is an amazing motivator for all the kids.

Guangzhou is the 6th largest city in mainland China and the richest. It is very different than the two other cities we have stayed in. We didn't hear ANY honking on the drive from the airport and there are fewer bikes. We have seen Mercedes and Beemers as well. Our rooms here have the same layout as the other hotels, two single beds and a crib we put between them. Sarah finds familiarity comforting, so this is good.
When we first got into the room, she took the "do not disturb" signs off the door and hung one on each arm - it was quite amusing.

Those of you on the China list may be wondering about the children's health. They all seem to have been well fed and are alert. We are dealing mostly with chest colds, congestion and some lice. Also, some of the girls have pretty nasty ear infections. I think everyone has a doctor appointment for when we get home. But, overall the girls seem good and happy.

Tonight we went over paperwork for tomorrow's medical and immigration appointments. Heidi is not feeling well and we have to get some sleep, so this message is short. By the way, if any of you who are coming over here soon make your arrangements through Sunshine travel, you may have tickets that are next to impossible to change. We have an insane flight schedule home and I recommend to everyone that if you have a number of lay overs in the States when you return that you schedule, ahead of time, a hotel night to break up the trip. We are dreading our trip home and trying to change things so we can spend the night in San Francisco, but it doesn't look promising.

Talk to you tomorrow,
David, Heidi and Sarah Cha Ze

Dear Friends,

Tonight we leave for Shanghai. The girls in the group are beginning to play more together. We had assumed they would do that automatically, most having shared playrooms and bedrooms, but they each stuck more to themselves. Emma, the oldest child at almost five years (the other girls are 13 and 15 months, 2 years, 2 at 2 1/2 years and just over 3 years), has really reached out to the others, sharing toys and
cookiescccccccccccccc (that was Sarah). Rachel, who is a little younger than Sarah, but weighs ten pounds more is a fun loving wild child. She runs and tumbles and shrieks with delight. Sarah watched her for days, and then last night joined in. Emma handed out Oreos one night. We discovered that pulling them apart and eating the white stuff is a universal trait. Except for Sarah, who was suspicious of the white stuff and nibbled all around it.

Yesterday we had the girls' visa photos taken. Sarah wanted nothing to do with it. We then went and had the medical "exam" which served obviously as a formality, but was still not enjoyed by the kids. From there, we went to the consulate where we sat and waited for a very long time. We had our paperwork checked and then we had an interview. Basically, the whole point was to determine if anything had changed since our home study and initial application. They did keep our tax forms, so make copies if you are coming. Also, the guide told us that sometimes they want to see the home study, which we didn't have, but was no problem for us.

We again tried to change our flight schedule at ridiculous long distance rates, but to no avail. Sunshine Travel Agency did put David and I on a flight where we could stay in San Francisco, but they didn't put Sarah on it. There was a brief scare when the nasty United agent told us we probably couldn't get back on her flight, but it worked out. We plan to try and beg a layover in San Francisco, as Sarah's ticket cannot be adjusted. It is a good thing we didn't have to stay here longer, or we would have had to pay and pay to change our flights. Also, our seats (the few we actually have) are not together. It is truly frustrating and by far the most ridiculous travel arrangements of any overseas travel we have done.

Sarah has finally decided that strollers are COOL. At first, they were to be avoided at ALL costs.

While listening to a very nice dinner band of Chinese stringed instruments and flutes, they broke into an American favorite – Jingle Bells. We applauded loudly.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone - but most of all we are looking forward to having the plane trip behind us. I must note here that our in country travel, also arranged by Sunshine, has been wonderful and has gone without a hitch. The guides are knowledgeable and extremely helpful and we have had wonderful service at the hotels.
Well, I'm signing off, O Night Divine is playing over the hotel loudspeakers - but believe me, there is no snow here.

Talk to you soon,
Heidi and David and Sarah Cha Ze

Dear Friends

This is our last e-mail from China. We are now at the Peace hotel in Shanghai which is by far the nicest hotel we have stayed at (even though somehow we ended up with one crib for the whole group instead of one crib for each baby) The rooms are wonderful--marble,12' ceilings, amazing. If you want to know more look at

In a way it is nice to be out of Gangzhou where there were a 100 other American families with Chinese babies. It's nice to see some many children being given opportunities outside of orphanages but it makes you feel like part of a baby trade or something. Strange feelings.

Today Heidi did not feel great so we skipped the tour of a museum and temple. I think we are all ready to head for home, though we are not looking forward to the 36 hour trip. The weather has been wet but not as hot as we expected. A pleasant surprise.

Well the bus is about to leave for diner so we must be off. We will give you a further update when we get back.

Heidi, David & Sarah

Dear Friends,

After 36 hours of travel, we arrived home safe and sound. The long trip was the hardest, between Tokyo and San Francisco. Sarah spent a good bit of time screaming inconsolably, and then Heidi spent a good bit of time doing the same (okay, maybe she just wanted to). Sarah demanded to be held the entire trip. However, she slept during the last two flights. We had a plane delayed and spent a fun 5 hours in Chicago. We had tried again the day before leaving to fly standby to San Francisco early, then take the remaining flights the following day, but Sarah's ticket was so restrictive it did not allow us to do that. But, we were able to get some good seat assignments. Of course, when we arrived, they were no longer ours and we weren't even sitting together. Oh well.

We finally got to bed about four am and at that time Sarah was up and ready to play. She tried to get Heidi's attention, saying "ma mei," but to no avail, so she began yelling it. We were too tired to move, let alone play, so Grandma, who is here to help us, came to the rescue and cuddled Sarah until she fell asleep. She was up again at six thirty, but with a bowl of Cheerios in bed, soon was asleep again with us until five in the afternoon. Boy, did we feel better. She is also very fun and pleasant when she is rested.

When we first arrived home, our seventy pound Weimeranner bounded out to greet us. We had been very concerned about Sarah's reaction to him, but she just pointed and laughed and said dog in Chinese. She thinks he and the cats are funny, though tonight she tried to pull one of the cats claws out of his paw. Fortunately, he is a very patient cat.

She seems very relaxed at home and fell instantly in love with a doll Grandma gave her. She puts out her arms to hug everyone in the house, but soon finds her way back to mom.

We'll write more soon, we are tired,

Heidi and David and Sarah, home at last.

Sneath African Adventures Installment Number One

“Getting there . . . “
The normal flight adventures commenced with a 1.5 hour delay in Columbia, followed by canceled seats in Atlanta – but a successful flight to Paris and an excruciatingly long bus ride “tour” of the entire airport complex, after which we discovered that one of our carry-ons had disappeared. So, now David has no clothes, toiletries, book, camera or mp3 player, I lost the antibiotic I just started and we now have no malaria medicine.

David, in sweat pants (probably for the next two weeks) is still sick. He slept a bit on the floor in Paris, however. Sarah is doing well and turned about 100 cartwheels since we left Columbia.

We made it through Paris and on to Amsterdam without further issue. We had 3 hours in Amsterdam, which is probably the nicest airport in the Galaxy—very clean and upscale. We had dinner at the airport and headed on to Cairo—about a 4 hour flight.

We wrote to the hotel in Cairo, alerting them to our arrival with instructions to pick us up. They did not respond. But fear not—when we arrived at the airport in Cairo there was a man with sign on a stick that said “Sneath”. I have always seen those people with the signs, but never have I seen one with my name on it! Our hotel is quite nice. We checked in, arranged a tour guide for Monday and quickly fell asleep.

Monday morning came too early, but we start dragged ourselves out of bed and off to see some 4500 year old rock piles. The drive through Cairo was interesting. The different sections of the city are extremely different. We are staying in the Heliopolis area which is newer and richer. We drove through the King’s palace area next which was older and had a lot of apartment buildings for the officers and officials of the government. We crossed the Nile near the old city area where all of the dome-roofed mosques are that are more like you would imagine Cairo to be. Further toward Giza we found many tall Western style hotels owned by Kuwaiti and Saudi families.

Along the way we stopped at a papyrus “museum” where they showed us how the first paper was made. It was fascinating and amazingly simple, We drove on and to our surprise, right on the outskirts of the town are the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx. We were driving down the street and there was the peak of the Great Pyramid just behind some buildings. I only remember seeing pictures of the pyramids looking out toward the desert, not back toward town. The Sphinx for instance is only ¼ mile from the town street at the most.

We parked a block or so away and took a horse carriage ride (really it was like a chariot—only two wheels) into the roads and sand around the monuments. The pyramids are amazing. You never see the detail in photos, just the big outline and shape. Most of the softer rock that made the outside smooth from top to bottom is now worn away. The result is a fairly course row of steps of rocks, each one about 5’ high. The Great Pyramid is pretty great. They estimate 2,3 million blocks of stone stacked up on more than 13 acres of land. History says it was built in around 20 years, which works out to over one stone cut, transported 50 miles and stacked every 5 minutes. Seems hard to believe.

The second and third pyramids at this same Gisa site are not much smaller and one has the smooth cap intact at the top fifth or so. There are also several smaller pyramids, tombs and temples around in various states of repair and the Great Sphinx. The Sphinx is down in a valley below the three large pyramids so it seemed relatively small until we got up near it. It is fairly huge as well. The face of the statue is pretty rough as many of the features have fallen off. From this pyramid site we could see a great view of Cairo as well as an additional group of pyramids off in the distance.

Before we left this area Heidi and Sarah took a little ride on a camel together. The camels will lie down on command so that you can crawl up on them. They are very well trained, but universally seem to hate this whole kneeling on command thing and make nasty noises and face gestures. Camels are very valuable here, worth about $6000, and live around 25 years,

Our driver and guide for the day was a nice guy named Asrup. After we made sure that he knew we did not want to go to any more “museums” where they pressure you to buy their wares and the driver gets a cut, we got along fabulously. He was very concerned that we as Americans understood that the Egyptian people love people from The States. He spent several years in Saudi Arabia and also wanted us to understand that Egyptians are free to do what they want (pray or not, drink or not, etc). He is married with two small boys and also wanted us to know that he does not order his wife like they do in Saudi Arabia. His wife decided that she would not wear a headscarf for a while and now has decided that she would rather wear it. He told us about meeting and dating her against the wishes of his mother who had arranged a different girl for him. It did take six years for his mom to come around, but he finally did marry her.

After the pyramids we went to the shopping district of the newer city and bought some clothes for David. Two pair of jeans and three shirts was around $50 in a small alley shop that we would have never found without a knowledgeable guide. We picked up some toiletries at a grocery store and have pretty much solved the missing bag crisis.
The people in town were fairly used to seeing western white people, but Sarah drew a LOT of attention from almost everyone we would pass or meet to the point where she was asking why everyone was staring at her.

We skipped dinner and when straight to the room. It seems that all three of us are on different time/sleep schedules. Sarah just would not wake up and be alert before noon, Heidi was very ready for bed at 4pm and David seems to be on a fairly close schedule to daylight hours here. We are seven hours earlier than EST her in Egypt and will shift one more hour earlier in Ethiopia.

More to come as our saga continues…

Sneath African Adventures Installment Number Two
“A day in Cairo”

The first half of today was spent sleeping. We went to bed at 8pm last night, and woke at noon today – all but David, who was up with a headache for 4 hours at some point. But, we think we may more on the same time frame now, and suspect we are all slightly sick.

We quickly dressed and went downstairs to bargain for a taxi ride to the Egyptian museum. What started at 180 pounds (exchange is 5 pounds to the dollar), finally dropped to a more reasonable 35 pounds, and we were off. The traffic is intense. The taxi driver summed it up, “driving is like playing Nintendo.” You literally risk your life crossing the street. David got hit by a bus. It happened outside the museum, just walking on the side of the street to the gate. But, he seems no worse for it.

Today was grey. Yesterday, everyone said that we were very lucky to see the pyramids on a sunny day. It started out quite hazy, then cleared. By afternoon, however, it was dark and murky, which continued through today. It even rained. We were told that dark weather is normal for February. February is part of only one calendar that is used here. Evidently there are quite a few calendars, Muslim, Gregorian, Roman (quote from taxi driver, “no one uses this one, but it must be in the translations anyway”) and Coptic are the ones I remember.

Cairo is really big. We are told second only in population to Mexico City. In large part, it reminds us of a bigger Bucharest. The European influence from the time it was colonized by England is felt around the area by the museum. The mosques are magnificent, and boast high towers with fancy carving. There is also a home that everyone seems quite proud of that was built by a Belgium man, but in an Indian style. It is quite beautiful.

Photo taking is permitted on the streets, but not of people’s houses and never of military or government buildings. As a result, we don’t have many pictures of the nicer, new buildings, which are all government.

We found the museum full of amazing things, many of which were open to air and the leaky ceiling. It is likely much better to visit on a sunny day, however, as the lighting is poor. It really is overwhelming. We HIGHLY recommend hiring a good guide. We did not have a guide, and the write ups (done on old typewriters) were not great, if even available. Often, there were no write ups at all. We tried to rent audio headsets, but the batteries were low, and we were asked to come back later, but not too late, as they close that area almost 3 hours before the museum closes at 6:45pm, which really did not seem worth the trouble. We did eavesdrop in one area and learned of a king that some think may have been Moses, who got the Egyptians to worship only one god. Many of the artifacts from this king were destroyed by King Tut, who brought polytheism back to the land.

Overall, however, it was stunning to see such a mass of objects that were from 3000 plus years ago. I determined that the Egyptians either had a lot to say, or took a lot of space doing it. Hieroglyphics adorned EVERYthing. The craftsmanship and the age and colors of items just blew us away. We were especially impressed with the items from King Tut’s tomb. Also, a few stones like the Rosetta stone (which is in England – no surprise there), covered with hieroglyphic paragraphs, followed by writing in the local language, and then writing in Greek were especially impressive.

Mummifying bodies was popular for a longer time than I expected, and the time period of a mummy could be determined by the way the clothes were wrapped around the body. Mummies from Roman times had patterns like quilts around them, forming deep squares all over the body. Some mummies had paintings of the deceased’s face on a flat panel that covered the face.

We stopped for some food and discovered that Turkish coffee in Cairo is much stronger than Turkish coffee at the restaurants at home. Then, after examining some more artifacts, we ventured out to find a taxi home. This time, we had to pay more due to decreased competition. But, our driver, who also serves as a tour guide, was a wealth of information. His name is Alaa Edine El-Gendy and his number, in case you are in Egypt, is (202) 010-126-4788. At home, (00202) 708-0083. Edine is fluent in Spanish, also. We also got the “we are open-minded and peace-loving” speech from this driver. Give him a quarter from your home state and he will remember us☺.

While driving home, we passed the museum of the Egyptian victory of the six day war over Israel. We may go tomorrow, as it is a part of history we thought had a different result, so we find it intriguing.

We ate Valentine’s dinner together at a Chinese restaurant in the hotel. Now, we may walk to a pharmacy and buy David a razor.

Much love to all of you. Until tomorrow . . . .

Sneath African Adventures Installment Number Three

Greeting from Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia! Yesterday we left Cairo after a nearly two-hour delay (because of a sandstorm in Khartoum) and flew south through the desert into Sudan. The weather was clear so we could see the miles and miles of dry, brown sand until it was sunset. Our plane stopped in Khartoum and finally made it into Addis and us through the airport by about 11:30pm, about 3 hours late.

We were warmly greeted at the airport by our driver (Yoseph), the CWA Ethiopian director (Dagne) and the CWA driver (Danyatcho). We arrived at the Baptist Mission house where we are staying around midnight and were once again greeted by nice people who had been waiting for 3 hours for us to arrive. The home is very nice—we have a room with a queen-size bed and a single bunk bed with a beautiful wooden floors and furniture. The staff is very nice and helpful. This area has a lot of embassies, and I had joked about NOT staying near the Danish one, but, you guessed it, stones throw from here. All seems calm, however.

This morning we left the house and went to the Addis orphanage center to find that Zion was at the Embassy for her physical exam and tests. We greeted the staff and went with Yoseph and ate lunch at an Italian restaurant and exchanged money and bought some silver Ethiopain crosses.

Addis is a very different city from any other that we have seen. There are very nice buildings and high-rises but right next to them are tin-roofed shacks or worse. There are more street beggars than anywhere we have been except for maybe Haiti and certainly more crippled beggars than we have ever seen. The plight of the beggar children really seems to impact Sarah. It is very sad, but these poorest of the poor do not seem to have nearly as dark of an outlook as the Haitians. It is hard to describe, but Addis has a very friendly and positive feel. Much more than many other places with much fewer physical needs.

We went back to the orphanage at 2pm where Sarah and David met Zion for the first time. Zion is very cute and playful. She seems to smile very easily after she is a little bit comfortable with someone. As I am sure is not uncommon in an orphanage setting, she is very protective of the toy in her hands, and tends to grab a lot. We get the impression that she may not be as calm and mild mannered as Sarah (is any child?). She is definitely delightful and smart and we look forward to bringing her home.

In the afternoon we received a big of a surprise when we got ready to leave the orphanage with Zion. We were told that we were not allowed to take her. This was completely new information to us as we had been told early in the process that as soon as the Ethiopian court finalized the adoption she was ours. The rest of the paperwork was to obtain the visa needed for her entry into the US. After protests that we tried to keep softer than rude (I don’t know how successfully) we were told that a new law required the Ethiopian adoption not be considered complete until her final HIV test was negative and we have our US visa. It is difficult to verify this fact and at least on the US visa requirement does not seem to make any sense. CWA, our adoption agency, is new to Ethiopian adoptions (we are the first family to attempt to pick up a child) so we try to give them some slack. It is difficult. We should have Zion’s medical test results back tomorrow and we are going to the US Embassy to see how long to expect for the final visa approval.

So we left the orphanage and Zion and stopped at a couple stores for food to make dinner. We came back to our house and cooked noodles in tomato sauce with some great fresh bread. Then, Heidi spent time organizing gifts and things. It is rather depressing to look at all the little clothes and diapers and toys we had looked forward to sharing with her and realize we will not actually have her and take her with us until the day we leave. It is not the gradual adapting to each other that we had hoped for prior to an insane series of flights and airports – uninterrupted time with Zion to get to know each other as we explore her country together. So, we will do the second best and spend a lot of time at the office when it is open with her there. The one good thing, though, is that this will also give us more time with another child who is here, Abraham, who is being adopted by our friends in South Carolina. We have already fallen in love with him and are looking forward to maintaining a relationship with their family. He is an amazing little boy of 3 years that is just adorable.

African Adventures Update #4
More details than you ever wanted to know about our trip

Dear Friends,

We started the day running. Heidi went to the American Embassy to see about changing our interview time to earlier so we can all go to it and come home as scheduled, and David went to try and find a KLM office and a way for us to get home. We have a problem because we don’t think we can make our Cairo connection in time. Heidi realized her passport was with David, so he came back to the Embassy. You have to hand in you cell phone at the Embassy, and turn it off. So, when Heidi came back out, MUCH earlier than expected (thankfully), she discovered that to use the cell (to call David), you have to punch in a mysterious code. Oops. Then, she realized she had left her money at home. Oops. So, after some pantomiming, she was able to find a place that lets you use phones (the Embassy does not) and called David, who came again to the Embassy. Verdict at the Embassy from the lady (Tsion is her name) who Heidi met last trip, yes, we can have our appointment a week early. Tuesday morning at 8:30am. We then went to the Hilton, where there are various airline offices and YES, the INTERNET at a speed that allows actual access to email. The price is high, but nothing beats DSL. The other internet cafés we have found have dial up. Very, very slow dial up. We would like to find a high speed café as we spent $22 in 45 minutes!

So, the various airlines confirmed that we can’t make our connection in Cairo, and that it will be next to impossible to get out of there using frequent flyer miles if we do miss our flights. We tossed out a thousand scenarios, which were all complicated by the fact that our new daughter cannot fly as a lap child, as we thought. She is a month too old. So, we need a seat for her. Unfortunately, it seems that all seats to the States are sold out. There is so much going on here right now – African Union Conference, Chinese delegation, Lions Club Africa conference . . . people were stacked floor to ceiling in the Hilton. In fact, the agency was not able to get hotel rooms for the parents of the other girl who is ready to come home next week, so they made reservations for them a week later.

We finally gave up after Ethiopian Air accidentally canceled the reservations we did have, and we went to see Zion. We were asked again not to come before 2pm, which only gives us a few hours with her. We met a couple in the Hilton who had just adopted twins and they were amazed that we could not get Zion before the Embassy meeting. We decided we are not going to fight about it unless our Embassy meeting does not go well and Heidi has to stay longer before the visa is finalized.

Heidi saw the same couple later today at AHOPE, the orphanage for hiv positive kids that is close to the CWA office, when she went there to meet and photograph young boy who is being adopted by an American. The couple had taken all the kids to eat ice cream. They were all so excited, they all seem to love ice cream. We thought the couple was very cool. They are in their early 20s, and the boys they adopted were supposed to belong to another family, but the family got overwhelmed when they came to get them – after the adoption was final – and left them here! The young couple had to do a Stateside adoption for them since they were legally children of the family that left.

At the office, Heidi filled out some forms for the visa appointment while David and Sarah played with Zion and Abraham. Abraham likes David more than Zion does at this point. However, when Abraham was playing a bit rough with David and David laid down and started mock crying, she came running to him. She seems shy around people she does not know well, whereas Abraham is a non-stop ball of social energy who talks constantly. It is good he is going to a home with 3 siblings! We had a few firsts with the kids. We introduced bubbles and both the kids jumped when the bubbles hit them. They didn’t want to run after them and pop them, as we expected – they thought they were a bit weird - but they liked the idea of blowing. We should have brought better ones. We just had the little ones you use at weddings, which are hard to blow. And, Abraham thought that our dog puppet was NOT a good thing AT ALL until he got used to it and put it on his own hand. Zion thought it made a good, cuddly stuffed animal - forget all that puppet stuff.

While filling out paperwork, Heidi noticed her name was spelled incorrectly on two documents – different misspellings on each one, and then David noticed that Tsion has a different name on her birth certificate than on her passport. Each of these forms takes 3 days to complete, and one cannot be done before another. So, if the Embassy says it is a problem, Heidi could be here for awhile while everything is redone, retranslated and re-authenticated etc. We noticed the same name thing with the other girl’s passport, so maybe it is good her parents are coming a week late. However, both our driver and our contact at CWA stated that the name thing for Zion is not a problem, It is an Ethiopian method of using the middle name of the father as the last name because it belongs to the grandfather (go figure????). We hope they are right.
Passport: Tsion David Alden (Alden is David’s middle name)
Birth Certificate: Tsion David Sneath
While all of this was being discussed, Tsion came into the office and fell asleep on Sarah’s lap. Sarah is such a precious little mommy – she is going to be a terrific big sister.

So, after seeing the paperwork, and guessing we might have delays, we have decided that David and Sarah will try to get a Kenyan Air flight out on Tuesday morning that we think stops in Nairobi, then goes to Cairo in time to catch the rest of the schedule – if seats are available. When David gets home, he will try to figure out Heidi and Zion’s schedules. We have to get hold of Delta somehow and move Heidi’s ticket forward. They do not have a number in Ethiopia, and the hold times are crazy, so we will see how that goes.

We decided to go to Wolita tomorrow. Tsion’s birth mom had asked to see us off at the airport, but really, there is no good way to get her the seven hours from Wolita to Addis and seven hours back. So, we are going to go to her and bid her farewell and see if there is any way we can find a missionary that will help us enroll her boy, Tsion’s brother, in school. We think that may be the best long term help we can offer them. For those of you who don’t know, Tsion’s mother bravely chose to allow her to be adopted because after her husband died in the war, she was not able to care for two children.

We are sad we cannot take Tsion with us to say good-bye, but, we don’t want to completely ignore her mother’s request, and we think it may mean a lot to Tsion someday to have more photos and video of her birth-mom and brother. And, if we go, we may be able to figure out how to better help them.

So, we leave at 6am for Wolita, Soddo. On the same trip, we will go to the White Grass reserve. We invited the daughter of our driver Yoseph to come with us, so it should be fun. Sunday night, we will return to Addis. We also plan to get video of the hospital there because the people who built it (who also help our orphans and older orphans) want to make a plea to Oprah to help them finance a fistula hospital in that area. Some of the people who are staying in the guest house with us went to the hospital Oprah funds here in Addis yesterday and they say it is peaceful and beautiful. From what we understand, fistula is when very young girls rupture their bladders or rectums when they give birth. They often lose the babies as well. Because they become incontinent, their tribes reject them. The hospital repairs their organs, and teaches them trade skills, and works to try and integrate them back into their homes. If this does not work, they go to live in a “tribe” set up for them. It really sounds like a wonderful program.

So, sleep for now. Jet lag is really tough on all of us.

African Adventures Update #5

Well we are back in Addis after our weekend adventure to the south. We left here at about 6am on Saturday and drove the 6 or 7 hours to Wolita, the town where Tsion is from and where the CWA orphanage is.

Along this route we saw so much as we traveled. The most striking perhaps is the amount of time and effort that is spend getting water. Over the entire trip it was rare to not see people with water jugs or people herding cows, sheep or goats to the local stream, or community well. The wells were huge gathering places where at times we would see thousands of people and animals.

In Wolita we met with Tsion’s birth mother who is now working as a caretaker at the orphanage and gave her a few small gifts. She seemed very happy to see Heidi and meet David and Sarah. We took some additional pictures and video and ate lunch at a hotel in this town. We were lucky enough to enroll Tsion’s brother in a school program that feeds him, buys him clothes, provides medical supplies and a private education. The cost is extremely reasonable, and we can pay every six months, rather than trying to send money over every month. We hope this will help his mother focus on her work and on raising him without the added pressure of feeding him every day. There are other children and orphans that can be sponsored in this same program if anyone is interested, just let us know and we can get contact information for you.

After lunch we headed further south toward the White Grass National Park—about a 2- hour drive. We checked into a hotel, showered and went to sleep with limited success. It was much, much hotter in this southern area of Ethiopia (partly due to the elevation being lower) and malaria is much more prevalent so we did not want to sleep with the windows open.

We woke up at 6am on our 12th anniversary, met our guide whom we had arranged the night before and headed to the park. The White Grass Park is a huge reserve with fairly bad roads. It takes about 4 hours to drive through it and at places you would not make it without four-wheel drive. Not far into the park our Land Cruiser fell through the loose boards and sticks that made up the deck of a steel-framed bridge. All four tires were wedged about 10 inches down in the steel frame. It took most of an hour and two car jacks to get it up and out. While we were waiting we saw our first wildlife, some monkeys playing in the trees above us. The guide said the local name was a Columbus Monkey and they had white faces and white broom-like tails. We continued on and saw lots of baboons, crocodiles, warthogs, gazelles, dik-diks, kudos, large squirrels, huge white skunks, guinea fowl, vultures, horn-bills, a fishing egret and lots of other large and colorful birds. Most exciting was seeing dozens and dozens of Zebras—at times as close as 40’ feet away. We saw several baby zebras with their moms. It was very, very cool trip. Our guide was very nice and knowledgeable not only about the animals and area, but also about the tribes and culture of the native people throughout southern Ethiopia. He told us about the tribe whose women put rings in lower lips. Though mainly done for beauty, the tradition was useful to make the women undesirable for slave traders. Slave trade near the borders of Kenya and Sudan is still very much alive. The park is called White Grass because of a type of grass that is alive, but year-round white in color. On the map, the park is called Nechisar near the town of Arba Minch.

After the park we went back to Wolita and video taped at a Christian hospital. This is a nice hospital, by Ethiopian standards, and has about 100 beds spread over a dozen or so one story buildings. This is a main hospital for the entire Soddo region and has 4 operating rooms. A orthopedic surgeon from Idaho showed Heidi around. He lives here for a few months and back in the states for a few months and has a passion for training Ethiopian surgeons. Heidi interviewed the doctor about some various cases. There is a type of Elephantitis prevalent in the area that is caused by walking barefoot/burrowing sand fleas and silicone getting into the feet. Next to the orphanage is a clinic for people with this horribly deforming disease. She also saw a woman who was going to undergo the operation to repair her after suffering fistula from three days labor that resulted in her baby dying. Among the many bittersweet experiences at the hospital was seeing a tiny little girl whose whole body had been burned when she rolled over into the fire in her house at night. She was really doing well, however, after a series of operations grafted skin from her back onto the front of her body. The doctors at the hospital really work hard. On Heidi’s last trip, she ate dinner with Dr. Kelemu, who had just gotten off work. That day he had seen 70 patients and done 5 surgeries. Another doctor, the one from Holland, Dr. Ruth Dropper, said Dr. Kelemu is the best and fastest surgeon she has ever witnessed. If you know any medical professionals who might want to go help out for a bit in Wolita at this hospital, we can give you contact info. There is a very nice duplex on campus where visitors can live.

We left Wolita about 5pm and drove back to Addis. We stopped at one point for Yoseph to buy charcoal and we got to go inside a round-house hut. The house was about 15’ in diameter and was divided into three rooms. As we walked in there was one sitting/bedroom and to the left was the kitchen with a wooden stand where they would chop firewood and a fire on the ground. To the right was an additional bedroom. The stick/mud-covered walls had nests built into them in several places with chickens in them. It was amazing to see. At several points on the trip back it rained very hard, but we made it back safely and went to bed.

Monday we slept in a bit later and went out with Yoseph about 11am. We went to an area where they make the hand-made scarfs and fancy cloths. Yoseph knew so one who got us into some of the houses where they are made. The workers weave the cloth on very simple “looms” that are really not more than posts in the ground and sticks across the ceiling that they hang the strings from. We saw women making thread out of cotton and children rolling the thread onto bobbins. Men seem to do the actual weaving of complicated patterns into the cloth. The rooms are tiny and have dirt floors and very little light. They will build 3 or 4 looms in a room that is 10’ x 12’ and have a couple stations for twisting cotton into thread and wrapping the thread onto bobbins (i.e. sticks). The looms will wrap up and hook to the ceiling and the room is slept in at night. It will take a worker a full day to make a scarf that will sell for 25 birr (about $2.50) and he must pay for the cotton.

From there we took some photos of the women who carry firewood down a huge hill in bundles on their backs. It is amazing how much they can carry and how far they can carry it. The wood is a type of Eucalyptus that grows fairly quickly and they do not cut the main trunk, just the side branches. Each family uses one HUGE bundle of this wood, which lasts maybe three days, for cooking injera and other daily food.

Monday evening we ate dinner with Atto Amha (Mr. Amha) the gentleman who is a friend-of-a-friend of Frost, and who initially hooked us up with Yoseph our driver. He is a very nice, wealthy man and he took us to a beautiful Ethiopian Restaurant. We ate traditional food, which consists of everyone’s meals all on one big tray covered with injera, a flat bread. On the bread was lamb, beef, cabbage, egg, and several other items. You tear a piece of the injera bread off and use it to grab some food and eat it. The flavors are very good with just the right amount of spice, but some of the meat has a lot of large pieces of gristle. We drank a honey wine and honey drink—honey wine prior to it being fermented. Ethiopians expect you to eat a lot and may be disappointed (insulted?) if you do not. Atto Amha owned a restaurant and lived in Washington DC for 18 years. He is a wonderful man and insisted that the driver take us home before taking him home. Unlike most Ethiopians he has a love for house dogs and has three. We talked a lot about his pups and our dog Arri.

On Tuesday morning we went to the US Embassy and had problems with the paperwork as we had feared. The name on the passport and birth certificate did not match and we set off to change one of them. We first went to the birth certificate place and we were told that it would take 3-4 days because they are out of the paper form that they print the birth certificate on. So we headed to the passport place and met a nice gentleman who helped start the multi-step process of forms, authentications, stamps, approvals, lines, photos, printings, etc. Dange, the manager of CWAE (Christian World Adoption Ethiopia) was absolutely amazing to watch work all the angles to get things done quickly. Each step was in a different building. If we had been alone, surely it would have taken a month of sitting. The passport office was filled with young women trying to get passports to go as maids to Arabic countries. This really bothered Heidi, and she asked Dagne and another CWA worker (Mektis) if the women understood the dangers of choosing such work. They said that the government repeatedly warns them, and they even watch films about what can happen. But, the lure of money and the (often false) promises of “job” brokers is just too strong a sell for many of the poor here.

We went away for their lunch hour and came back to work at it some more. At 3:30 they said that it would be ready at about 4:30, not leaving much time to get back to the US Embassy to get the visa approval. We ended up receiving Tsion’s new passport, name “Tsion David Sneath” at 4:15. Danyatchu, our driver, tore us over to the Embassy, and we were allowed in at 4:30. Upstairs in the office, Tsion, a VERY kind woman who was unbelievably helpful (Heidi had met her on her last trip to Ethiopia), arranged for us to pay after the cashier had left and get a late visa interview with an agent. We realized at this point that water had gotten on our papers and they were kind enough to let us redo them. This was all quite stressful, but not nearly as bad as the interview. We were asked some questions about Tsion’s mother and father. Heidi answered what she had heard, that the father was killed in the Eritrean war. Well, the war was over two years before Tsion was born, so this was an obvious flag. The paperwork said the father was missing, and Dagne then said that in court the mother testified that the father was dead. So, the woman grilled us and we just about passed out in fear that after all of this, we would not get to take Tsion home! Eventually, when our circulation stopped and all the blood in our bodies was in our shoes, she backed off and approved us. Perhaps seeing Sarah there had made it easier for her to believe we were not human traffickers. Tsion, the woman who had been helping us, managed to get us a R3 visa, on the premise that Heidi had seen our Tsion before court, which allowed Tsion to go home without us having to visit the French embassy for a transfer visa. We are in her debt, for sure! This visa allows the child to become an American citizen as soon as she hits US soil, without re-adoption. When we weakly stumbled out of the embassy, it was 5:30. They had stayed open an extra half hour for us.

From there, we had teary good-byes at the CWA office/foster center, where more children have been brought up from Wolita. We were glad of this, as it means that Abraham will not be lonely when Ababech and Tsion leave. One of the girls that was brought up was a favorite of Heidi’s, named Bethlahem. Though she is supposedly around three, we all think she is five and WOW is she smart, outgoing and all around great. Her parents will adore her for sure. We really didn’t want to leave Abraham. He ran out the door to meet us, yelling to us as he ran, arms raised for a bear hug. The woman who has cared for Tsion and Abraham for the past 9 months had a really hard time saying goodbye. We cried with her, as we had with Sarah’s caretakers when we left China. Mektis reminded us that it takes labor to birth a child, and this work and emotional challenge is our labor.

With Tsion in are arms went back to the house where we were staying for Heidi to pack and David to take off to the Ethiopian Airlines Office to confirm Tsion’s flight for that night. From there we had a quick farewell dinner with Mektis, Dagne, Yoseph and his daughter and we were off to the airport. Getting through the Addis airport took forever! First there is entrance screening to get into the airport, then luggage screening, tax fee payment, check-in, exit immigration (that took an hour of waiting in line), gate screening, and the useless form fill out nonsense for everyone. When we got upstairs to the gates and asked someone where to go, he took off, “follow me, your plane is leaving!” At the gate, an agent said they had been calling for us on the intercom. We had heard some intercom garble that the only words we made out were Cairo and 8 (certainly not our names), so we assumed it meant that the Cairo flight had been moved to gate 8. She said that security agents went out looking for us as well. Heidi remarked that, as a group, we are really not that difficult to spot – white couple with huge carry-ons, one Chinese child and one Ethiopian child. The agent was very nice, made some comment about inept security, and they rushed us onto a bus to the plane. They closed the plane door behind us, and kicked the engines into gear. It was our Casablanca moment.

We were home free. The color began returning to David’s face. But, then there was Cairo, beginning at 2am with a man who spoke only Arabic, where we discovered (four hours later at shift change) that our $290 fare for Tsion’s trip to the States that we were supposed to purchase at the ticket “counter” when we arrived in Cairo with our adoption papers was actually available at the Delta ticket office in downtown Cairo, which opened right after our flight took off. Of course, we could purchase the Air France ticket for $1000 here and now. This is for a child who is one month over the age to fly for a 10% fare. She, like Sarah coming home from China, only wants to be in MOM’s lap. Overall, though, she does travel very well. So after figuring out how to phone the US at $1/minute in 3 minute intervals with several frantic calls to Troy and another hour of his time yelling at Delta Airlines we forked out the $1001 to get Tsion home. What else could we do? The lady told Troy on the phone that we could write a letter…thanks.

So off to France for the next step.

African Adventures Update #6
The Final Installment

In France, we went through intense security. Perhaps because we had just been through Cairo. From there, the LONG, long trip to Atlanta. Tsion entertained lots of passengers by walking around the aisles with Heidi and smiling at everyone. In Atlanta, we needed every minute of our three hours to go through customs and do Tsion’s citizenship paperwork, enabled by our I-3 visa. Yea! Then, our plane was delayed. But, we finally made it home, just when we honestly felt we could travel no longer. Heidi’s mom picked us up at the airport and we fell into bed quickly after getting home – around midnight.

This morning, Zion has met our dog and our cat. She tolerates the dog and is nuts about the cat (who is not amused by her). We made a doctor appointment for the deep congestion in her chest with a doctor Heidi met on a photo shoot, as our doctor just moved away. Also on today’s agenda is a warm bath, which should be a brand new experience for her. Thanks for joining us in our adventure and for your prayers and love!
David, Heidi, Sarah and Zion Sneath

Sunday, November 12, 2006

lead paint is not good for you

This is Zion, after being told that eating the paint off Tracy's door was not a good idea. If you look closely, you can see the paint chips I got to wipe out of her mouth.

We are home now from the DR, but I'm missing it, and everyone, already. Fortunately, Joanna came home with us for a month, so I have a daily Dominican fix.

She is an AMAZING shopper. She bought about 150 pounds of clothes and shoes - at least one thing for every person she knows in the entire country of the DR - for only $15. Now we just have to figure out how to get it down there:).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ants in My Pants

So, last night, I put on my pajama pants to keep the mosquito bites to a minimum even though it is FREAKING hot here. About 15 seconds later I start screaming and pull off my pants - in front of the window - because my thighs are ON FIRE. I shake the pants out and like 1000 fire ants drop out all over the floor. My friend Jennifer is laughing hysterically - then hyperventilating - not helping me AT ALL.

Maybe it is because I laughed at her when we were in the jungle in Suriname and she was squatting to pee and fire ants started crawling up her leg and she was dancing around, peeing and screaming, and yelling at me to turn off the video camera.

She says pay back is sweet.

I was too scared to use my pillow, because it was near where my pants were and it was too dark to see if the ants were there.