Monday, 13 May 2013


So here we are. The last time we were here, I couldn't wait to get home. It didn't help that I got sick and the enormity of meeting our little chap for the first time I suppose affected my overall experience, so I tried to come this time with a more positive attitude. Unfortunately we have had a bit of a bumpy start. Upon arrival we soon discovered that our little chap's Mum had failed to turn up for court. Great I hear you say, errr no, not great. Ethiopia is a country of principle, this is of course a good thing, I'm not saying that greasing palms is unheard of, in fact 11 ministers were arrested here a couple of days ago for corruption, but overall, they like to do things properly. Therefore before we could even stand before the judge 3 things had to happen. 1, a police report had to be completed stating that a proper search for Mum had been conducted, but to no avail. 2, a newspaper search had to take place, this taking the form of an advert in a local paper calling for the Mum to appear at court on a given date at a specific time. 3, the Ministry of Women's Affairs must endorse us formerly by letter. This comes as quite a shock when you have just landed and it is slowly sinking in that before anything can happen, you are going to have to sit things out for a couple of weeks..........

Well, that was over two weeks ago now and tomorrow, at 2pm we must sit and wait in court to see if she finally rocks up. The wait is practically killing me, Ivan (Mr Bicknell) is playing it cool and as ever, is the rational one of us, doing his best to quash my fears of how many ways this can all go pear shaped, but well, it hasn't helped getting to know this little chap who is happy, cuddly, funny and oh so sweet, you'd go mad at the thought of losing him too! So again, I ask you - will you keep those fingers crossed? Tomorrow, 4pm UK time? Cheers x.

So onto our current city of residence - Addis Ababa..... You know what? It really isn't that bad, it does help though that we are staying in an awesome guest house where the owner and her daughter look after you like You are family! I'm not kidding, advice is free-flowing, you are practically force fed every morning and they always want to know how you are doing! Our room is spotless every day, our laundry is hung up or laid out pressed and fabulous on our bed - never before has Ivan (Mr Bicknell) had an ironed t shirt to wear every single day - , there are films every night, pretty reliable wifi and proper hot running water. We have a small kitchen with a fridge and a microwave and a bigger kitchen downstairs where we can cook properly if we want to.  So we are lucky. I can tell you it is a damn sight better than staying at the UK house on the compound where for pretty much the same money per night you have virtually no light, intermittent running water, no internet access and no TV.  My refusing to stay there hasn't made us very popular with the owner of the orphanage, but perhaps she should have told us about the complications with our adoption and not lived in the hope that if we flew out anyway we would occupy the house and further line her pockets. I had been feeling a tiny bit guilty about my princess behaviour until I discovered this weekend that she only pays the Nannies 1000 Birr per month - that's 35 quid to you and me, yes 35 quid A MONTH! Addis is not a cheap place to live in either, we are having to count our pennies, so how people survive on so little is beyond me. We can get a decent meal for about £8 between us, but that soon adds up! These AMAZING women rotate in 12 hour shifts and have 5 babies at a time to cope with. Our chap is the only boy, the others are therefore all girls and when I say that they are demanding, I am playing it down! Two of them are capable of the most spectacular tantrums and 1 is only 3 weeks old! I tell you, I couldn't do it! The nannies appear to have no end of patience and the babies all clearly adore them, so as a prospective adopter I am so lucky to know that my little chap is very, very well cared for. They do a far better job than us too given that we nearly poisoned our guy! It turns out that due to lack of funds (don't get me started on how much each family "donates" to this orphanage - in crisp $ bills), fruit is not part of the babies diets - so feeding them fresh avocado and banana in abundance isn't necessarily a good idea, the two nurses and the doctor who pretty much interrogated us didn't think so anyway, especially as the product of such rich food was copious vomiting and the runs! Oops.... He's all right now though apart from some serious teething..... Anyway, I digress, back to the city, it is colourful to say the least, the people on the whole are friendly and kind, and if you are polite to them, they are extremely courteous back. Addis is a mish mash of construction and serious under development, big companies are erecting buildings left right and centre, but most of the trading we see takes place directly on the street or from a tiny little corrugated iron box, these boxes consist mainly  of fashion stores, minuscule grocery stores and hairdressers - I have never seen so many hairdressers, people really care about their hair here! Massage is a big thing too and we have already experienced this first hand. For less than £20 for both of us, we had the most awesome massage at the Boston day spa - we will be going there again! The spa is in the Boston Partners building on the Bole Road which happens to be in the district that we are staying in, we have decided that it is the Islington of Addis! This building also houses a great cafe called the Lime Tree Cafe which serves a very broad clientele and some pretty amazing coffee! There is also a bar called the Black Rose which really wouldn't look out of place in any city of the world. So really in this building alone you could spend an entire day for probably less than £50 and have a fine old time! I will not be allowed to do this I suspect, but I am encouraged that Ivan (Mr Bicknell) liked his massage so much that he is talking of a repeat performance!

It hasn't all been plain sailing with the locals though, some who have guessed why we are swanning around their streets are less than pleased and have been mildly aggressive, but I suppose that's justified given that we are effectively hoping to take one of their babies to an entirely different country..... But on the flip side some are pleased and supportive and a good example of this is Dilu, the amazing guy without whom we would be rather lost out here... To demonstrate just how positively he feels about our presence here in Addis we were privilliged enough to be invited to his house for Easter. It's at a different time here and is far removed from the scoffing of chocolate eggs and trips to the garden centre that we indulge in at home..... We are talking the slaughtering of an animal which is then eaten, still steaming and completely raw.......The whole affair begins at 7.00am, where a live ox is walked onto the driveway of the hosts house - this was the first time that Dilu had hosted the actual slaughter so it was a real occasion - the poor animal was so terrified that it actually passed out, given with what happened next I didn't think that I would be far behind it! A pair of butchers arrived and ceremoniously cut its throat and then proceeded to butcher the entire animal up in record speed. Ivan (Mr Bicknell) managed to photograph the whole event, but I have to say that he didn't have the steadiest of hands! Dilu told us that his animals slaughtering was the 8th that this particular pair had done since 6pm the previous evening! It was incredible to see, 8 families had chipped in to buy the ox for about £500 and therefore the animal was divided up equally - huge piles of steaming meat were placed on a large sheet of plastic with pieces of paper placed on top with numbers on, so that each pile may be drawn lottery style by each family representative so that it was fair! The best meat was reserved for curbing up for raw consumption and fortunately for us, a cooked version, to my relief Dilu asked us not to consume the raw variety for fear of making us sick, phew! It was almost still wriggling! I was allowed to help cook with Dilu's wife Muna, who is a very bright woman and works to educate the uneducated on HIV and AIDS, travelling the length of the country to get to the various tribes, she told me that in the south of the country alone there a 50 different languages with few people speaking Amharic, so her task is further handicapped by a genuine lack of comprehension. By 9.00am we were tucking into stir fryed ox, chicken sauce - which was only served to us as it is a special dish only served to guests - and copious amounts of honey wine. What we hadn't realised was that they expect you to eat an entire meal before they even start! Oh my God, it's hard going that early in the morning! This wasn't helped By the fact that I cannot stand the taste of chicken! The whiskey appeared at ten and the talk with Muna's brothers - all 7 of them, turned to politics and the like, hearing their individual struggles made be very grateful for the life that I lead at home. We might not like some of the things that our government does, but it is a far cry from what happens out here...... After the boys had kicked a ball around for an hour or so it was time to crash, being drunk at 11.00am is not nice and being as old as we are, we actually needed to go back to the guest. House to sleep it off before heading out to see our little chap! Well, we had been up since 5.30am!

Our daily routine here involves a relatively early wake up so that we don't miss breakfast and our morning chat with our lively hosts, a bit of a mooch around town picking up supplies or even doing something like having a massage or a swim and then heading over to the orphanage to spend the rest of the day with our little chap. I am afraid that we have been a bit cowardly on some days and tried to avoid the lunchtime feeding of his injura, injura is the traditional food of Ethiopia and is basically a kind of pancake type flat bread, it is smooth on one side and looks rather like tripe on the other, it is also almost grey in colour! Sometimes it comes mixed with tomato and sometimes carrots and potato - he HATES it, and more often than not, I end up wearing it! His later meal of what we have come to call tobacco stew, because of its strange odour, seems to go down much better, so I don't mind feeding him this one! Ivan (Mr Bicknell) is the king of the milk bottle and seems to have the magic touch with this, it is common knowledge that our chap doesn't like to drink very much, so it can be a bit of a battle! He is developing every day and has learnt how to say "ta" when he gives or receives something and can do an excellent "high 5"! We are still mastering waving hello and goodbye! He is very affectionate and will often stop mid play just to come and give us a hug! He also has a really silly streak which is fortunate as neither of us are particularly grown up! While he has an afternoon nap in the house we have been ploughing our way through the strange assortment of books in the house, there are some particularly fundamentalist leaflets on Christianity which suggest that if you do not invite God into your heart, you will surely burn in hell, and damn all other religions, sporting cartoons of Islamic characters saying that they have now captured the UK and are now coming for America! The novels mostly consist of detective stories where the hero has to overcome all sorts of adversity in various African countries where the inhabitants are mainly crazed killers, this did make me a little uneasy when watching the ox slaughter I have to say, the butchers were certainly efficient!

Our evenings begin at about 6.30/7.00pm once we have put our little man to bed. We try to vary what we do and have found a couple of reliable places to eat and also stayed in to meet our desire for fresh veg where we can be sure that things have been washed in mineral water! This also ends up as being an excuse to splash out on a bottle of wine, the cost of which is normally more than dinner for two with beer, but you have to have some luxuries! We had been warned by Dilu not to go out alone at night, but we haven't really listened, the other night however made us consider why... On our way home from dinner and a couple of drinks at the Black Rose, we were accosted by a hawker trying to sell us tissues, we politely said no, but he wouldn't listen and continued to harass us, eventually he shoved his tray of tissues right under Ivan's (Mr Bicknell's) nose and proceeded to try to rifle through his pockets! The next thing I knew was Ivan (Mr Bicknell) shouting at him and shoving him, I don't know who was more scared, me or the hawker! Fortunately he just ran off then, but it did occur to me that he could have had a knife. So lesson learned, be careful...

Last weekend we took one of the nannies - Acha and her daughter Sosina to the Sheraton for a swim, it was a bit embarrassing as for four of us to gain entry and have a drink and a swim, would have cost Acha two months salary, but I had only imagined it as a nice thing to do, it is true that just giving them the money would have been so much more beneficial, but Sosina seemed to really enjoy being ther, it was just a shame that it was so full of over indulged, rude Europeans, we had thought that it might be nice to have one night at the Sheraton perhaps but seeing the clientele firmly changed our minds. The place itself is spectacular, huge and incredibly opulent, a far cry from the surrounding city, but this is definitely where people come to avoid just that and stay in a bubble where they can pretend they have stayed in Addis. I would like to go again with our little chap, but perhaps in the week and with less expectations!

We visited a local craft market recently and picked up a few gifts, it was a bit like a makers market and all very chilled and laid back, next weekend we are going to attempt the merkato, but this takes guts as it is rife with pick pockets and demands some hard bargaining! I am looking forward to this though!

This morning we changed our flights, I wanted to wait until after court tomorrow, but we didn't have much choice as we were booked to fly on Thursday, now we just have to pray that things start to pan out for us.... For all we know the judge might tell us to come back in two weeks, oh God I hope not.

What strikes me most about Addis is that it smells nice, even when after Easter we were literally stepping over drunken, over indulged bodies and the skulls of various slaughtered animals - Easter really isn't a good time to be a cloven creature in Addis! Part of the reason that things have taken so .ong to organise is because of he holiday, strangely, even though the Monday after Easter isn't an official holiday, no one goes to work, this is purely down to the fact that everyone has completely over done it and gorged on all the meat and butter they have been denied during the fasting period! It s also now wedding season, no point in having one the two months before Easter as no one could eat anything, so now people are celebrating hard - we saw 3 wedding parties on Saturday, they appear to e magnificent occasions, Dilu says his wedding comprised of 1,500 guests! We thought we were being ostentatious with 150!!!!

So that's probably it for now, I may add more later, and some pics too, but I thought it would be nice to get you up to speed a bit! G X


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I sincerely wish you well tomorrow xx

  2. Sounds like your on the swings and roundabouts at the moment you two, thinking of you x