The first time I landed in Addis Ababa, the passengers gave a round of applause to the pilots. This time we did not celebrate. We simply unbuckled, grabbed our carry-on luggage, and disembarked.
The first time I entered in Bole International Airport, my two daughters leaned next to me in the visa line, eyes bloodshot and legs slack. Our encore to eighteen hours of travel was another hour of waiting for a sticker. Margot cried. And when we added thirty more minutes to claim a lost suitcase, I cried too. This time I stood in line alone, quickly earned my visa stamp, and found the only bag I checked.
The first time I drove through Addis Ababa, I was blown away by the foot traffic and erratic driving. Horns blared, cars swerved, sheep bleated, and pedestrians flooded the streets. This time I smiled at the familiar sights, noting the Edna Mall, Kaldi's Coffee, and the arena construction across the road from our hotel.
And the first time arrived at the Addissinia hotel, I rode the elevator to the eight floor, where me and my three ladies found our Family Suite. We spread out our things, claimed our beds, and took a brief nap. We couldn't sleep too long because we wanted to adjust to the seven-hour difference before our first meeting with Sensi the following day.
This time, after a warm welcome from the staff, I walked to the second floor to a Deluxe Double room. The same rumble of construction and timbre of horns sounded outside, but inside my room was quiet. No Liz and the girls chattering. Sensi does not arrive for another two days. Even then, I know my boy will not fill the room with his voice. He has yet to find it.
But I have come early to prepare a place for him. After claiming the bed closest to door, I began my work. For an hour I organized our environment: arranging stuffed animals on the mattress; placing clothes in drawers; taking inventory from our lost luggage; lining up toiletries; stacking books; sorting snacks; and stocking Sensi's backpack for when I pick him up at the orphanage.
He leaves his orphanage without any personal belongings--naked we come, naked we go--but he will come to a place where he belongs. A place I have prepared. A place that is the first step toward home.
(NOTE: It's so much easier to write a blog on my computer. I'm grateful to have it back and that it works. Claire and Margot will be happy to have Doggie and Froggie back, too. And Liz, if you read this, I found your makeup, but you look lovely without it)