our first glimpse of addis seemed a study in wild contrasts: gated hotels kissing strings of ramshackle tin, a jerry-built sector boasting hyundai showrooms, goats brushing land cruisers in streets choked with diesel.
[view from our room] [scaffolding across the street] [from the lounge]
i didn’t photograph much. snapping what i’d normally want to capture—the people, the markets, the daily minutiae—felt inappropriate and not a little unwise. i’d left my 5D at home, but even the rebel weighed heavy and ostentatious, so i shot very little outside of the guest house and care center.
we flew from here to boston to amsterdam to addis, with a brief stop in khartoum for kicks. the flights were on time and smooth and more draining that i’d expected. about 10pm saturday, our van bumped along a pocked sideroad and honked at the razor-wired gate to the guest house.
that bed and shower shimmered like a mirage. despite bone-deep exhaustion, sleep was too slippery to hold, and i was sadly awake as the 6am call to prayer tolled through the dusty morning.
[guest house courtyard]
[slice of our room] [woven art just outside our door]
breakfast sunday was a fragrant parade of kinche, oatmeal, fruit, spicy lentil samosas, and small cakes with lime marmalade. from all reports i should have tried the coffee, but the tea was steamy and perfect.
before those samosas could settle, we were whisked off in a tiny car through the streets of addis to meet our son.
[view from our decorative balcony]
i was a puddle of nerves as the nanny led us to an airy playroom and called for our littlest. a jumble of footsteps came first, then his face in the doorway, lit with curiosity.
i knelt down and he loped across the room into my arms, then hugged and kissed the mister at the prompting of the nannies. they spoke to him in smiling amharic, shut the door soft so the room held just us three.
he unearthed trucks and foam blocks from a pile of toys, balanced a few in precarious towers, then set to work aligning rows of small toys into a wall-to-wall city.
we played the whole of the morning, left for lunch, then came back to while away the afternoon. i thought he'd grow bored with these two biggish people who couldn't speak right, but he was perfectly happy to deflate the beach ball (so as to be able to blow it up once more) and page through his photo book over and again.
[from our room] [guest house stairway and what i called the tiger picasso]
[from our window nearing twilight]
when 5 o'clock hit and the car returned to ferry us back across town, he slipped his small hand easy into the mister's and walked us out. we waved long and called ciao! and sank back into those seats damp with relief. he's real. he likes us.
and while i know we have miles to go in this journey to trust and family, this day seemed an awfully fine place to start.