I wanted to let you all know what some of you have probably already been wondering about and that is Aliya's age. She is 14, turning 15 in late summer/early fall. We found this out while we were stuck in the snowstorm in Dulles. Her birth certificate was sent via email. I didn't dare open it on the hotel computer, so Blaine did it at home. When he got to the birthdate part, it said, "9/28/95." I'm no math whiz but even I quickly realized that meant she was 14 years old!
Since being home, I've asked her about when she told the social worker what her real age was. She told me she told her after she passed court.
Please realize, the knowing of your birthdate is a luxury that comes with wealth. In Ethiopia, as well as many other countries in Africa, the day a baby is born is special but more often than not, the date is not remembered. Most of these kids are not born in hospitals with a nurse offering up the very minute junior comes into the world. So most Ethiopian children do not know their exact ages or birth dates.
But Aliya does know. Her mother told her and she remembers. However, when an older child is brought into an orphanage, often times, or should I say usually, they are told to say they are younger than they really are. I think the reason for this is obvious. The younger the child, the more likely they'll be adopted. Survival, simple as that.
We were approved in our home study for a 9-15 year old child, since we weren't sure how old she really was. It was a little surprise but we suspected that she was older since she looks older than 12ish. For us, it is not a problem at all. We don't mind a bit if she's 12 or 15. We wanted her. God meant for her to be in our family, regardless of her age.
I'm actually relieved that she knows her birthdate and age. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of things. You don't always have to wonder:-)
We had a wonderful first meeting with her in Ethiopia. Our flight was really, really delayed and by the time we got in, we were concerned that it would be too late to still meet her and take her with us to our Guest Home. Well, it was a whirlwind, but we made it work!
When we arrived at the orphanage, we had to do some paperwork right away then off to meet our girls (Jill and us). It was pouring rain by this time but as soon as a couple kids spotted us, they began to SCREAM (literally!) "TARIKWA!!!!! TARIKWA!!!!!" She had fallen asleep after since she was told that due to our late arrival, we would be coming tomorrow instead. So she was surprised.
We met her in the courtyard with hugs and tears. I was so surprised how tall she was! She took us to her bedroom and then we had to leave, since the other children had dinner waiting for them. She took her gallon sized gift bag that we had sent to her and a stuffed pig (which she thinks is a puppy-we don't have the heart to tell her it is a pig!) and off we went to the guest house. Before we left, we told her she needed to clean off the shelf in her room. But it turns out that that gallon bag and and stuffed animal were all her worldly posessions. I had seen she did receive a gift for Christmas, and I asked her about it.
"A house mother wanted the box it came in and I gave everything else away to my friends."
Wow, can you imagine? She knew she'd get more since she had a family coming for her so she let it all go. Boy, could I learn a lesson from her.
She had fun going through her suitcase, trying on all the size 12 clothes I brought. But guess what?? Size 12 she is NOT. She kept coming out in these tiny jeans, saying, "It's good." So funny! Katie and I could not stop laughing. So Katie finally gave her a pair of her jeans and they fit like a glove! The shoes we brought for her were also too small so she wore flipflops the whole time, which was fine and worked for her.
She's doing really well with us and seems comfortable. Her English is good, although she isn't using it a lot and she reads pretty well. She read, "Hop on Pop" for the boys the other night without trouble. Amazing for a girl who's only spoken English for a little over a year!
On Tuesday, we had our first hair emergency. Monday, we began combing out her hair, doing a hot oil treatment, etc. No problem, right?? Well, finally she took the comb and began yanking out her hair. Once that was done to her satisfaction, I began my first attempt at twists. At least, that's what I call them. After 1 1/2 hours, she began to fall asleep so I told her, "No problem. We'll finish them in the morning." I had the whole thing figured out. It would take me about another hour and a half, then some grocery shopping, etc.
HA! When she woke up, the twists I'd worked so hard on were already sort of falling out and the other half of her hair, well, let me say was a disaster. Like I wouldn't take her out of the house disaster. I panicked!
I called in for reinforcements but unfortunately each salon I called could not see her right away. I was stuck.
She kept telling me, "It's ok, Mom. It looks good." So sweet but even this white mama could tell that this was not good.
So back to work we went, with a little more experience this time (very little) and after 2 more hours, it actually looked cute! Really cute!!
I considered taking a picture of the hair emergency but it was so bad, I just couldn't!
It ended up being a good thing that no one else was available because it forced me to try again and it gave me confidence that I could do a fairly good job.
We've had some more "firsts" recently. We went on her first elevator ride yesterday. When we stepped onto the elevator, it didn't dawn on my that she'd never done this before. So the doors closed and it began making a noise and she looked very scared and made a little noise of her own. I reassured her that it was taking us up and the doors would open and we were safe.
Today, after talking about it for a couple days, we went into the car wash. First, I made sure that the sunroof was closed :-) (which you should always do before entering a car wash) and walked her through each step and she made with only a little cowering in her seat when the brushes came by her window. Not bad!
I remember when Rene (from Ghana) was living with us and I took him through the car wash, not knowing he'd never been in one before! I still laugh at that one. I couldn't figure out why he had such a look of panic on his face while we were having a perfectly civil conversation in the car wash!!
We also went to the zoo today and Aliya says her favorite animals were the dolphins.
Thank you for all your prayers and again, I apologize for being such a bad blogger!