Saturday, September 26, 2009

Since We Have Been Home

Signing Off…
But before we do allow us to catch you up to speed from when we last wrote…while we were in Africa…

“This is America?!”
Our travels home went amazingly smooth. God heard our prayers…thank you for interceding on our behalf. It took us 36+ hours to travel home, and for those of you who wanted to know, we did decide to spend the night in Dubai. Well, we spent 3 hours in a hotel. I must say, most of our traveling hours we were awake and we all did AMAZINGLY well. Emirates is an incredible airline to fly (if you ever get a chance – do it!). Every seat has a TV monitor in front of it with hundreds of movies, TV shows, music, informational channels and more. You would have thought Tekle would have been immersed into Disney movies for hours, yet he would spend 10 minutes, at most, with any movie. What caught his undivided attention was pushing the buttons on the screen and phone in front of his seat – 16+ hours of non-stop entertainment! The other thing he did was sing, sing and sing some more, all in his native language, and it was BEAUTIFUL. I promise…we are not exaggerating…this little guy was content in this world of touch screens and music. Until we arrived in Austin!

We were soooooooooo excited to see our children, and other precious family and friends who were waiting at the airport to greet us. But, Tekle fell asleep in the plane ride from Houston to Austin (think 31 minutes) and we had to awake him after getting hardly any sleep. It was AWFUL and sad. Let’s just say he cried for 1-½ hours. The entire gang who came to greet us barely got a glimpse of our son because he was a mess. I took him to the side in hopes of comforting him…but there was no solace to be found. Praise God for the soccer ball my brother had waiting for Tekle at home…and the perseverance of Bo, Amy and Luke…for he entered into our home and began to play. All was well…for his first hours in our home!

Oh, one more tidbit of information…when we arrived in Houston and made it through immigration, Tekle looked us at us and said, “This is America?” We howled in laughter and said, “Yes son, this is America!”

What’s in a name????
Many have asked about why we decided to keep Tekle’s Ethiopian name…Of course there is a story behind it...

There is always the big debate whether an adoptive family is to rename their child once in America. We had discussed many times as a family what to do. Early on we all decided we would keep his African name as his middle name and call him Corban. (Thus, the title of this blog bringingcorbanhome.) For months we have called our son Corban and it fit. However, the week before we left, a dear friend challenged us to reconsider. This gave us great dialogue with our kiddos once again and we all determined to see how God would lead once we met Tekle. Brent and I even talked about it on the way over to let him choose…but as we spoke with the staff at the TH (Transition House) we realized, even saw for ourselves, the limited language they shared. Thus, communicating the question would be near to impossible for him to understand what we were asking. In the end it didn’t even matter. From the first moments spent together and throughout the week it was clear his name was to be Tekle.

One thing we learned, and was cemented in our time in Ethiopia, is that a name has great meaning. We polled and polled the African audience and 100% agreed their names meant something very special. However, upon asking them their opinion on what we should do, unanimously every person would say “do what you think is best! Such a pleasing people!

The meaning of the name is parents gave him (Tekle…pronounced Tek-lay) literally means “my plant.” We were told the connotation is more like one who plants a special plant in their garden just for their family to care for and cherish. While we loved the meaning…bottom line we felt deep within God simply wanted us to keep his name.

As for his middle name, his birth certificate says Tekle Brent Phillips. This is status quo for all adoptions to take the father’s first name as his middle and when you get to the states you change it on all future paperwork. At this point, we have landed on calling him Tekle Corban Phillips.

P.S. He calls himself Tek-a-lay…so we have also decided to call him this too. We think it is like calling Luke…Lukey. So, if you hear us pronounce his name different this is why.

Since We’ve Been Home
Tekle seems to be adjusting well. He loves to eat…play…eat…play… and then play some more. Some of his favorite things are: anything that makes noise, Nerf guns, marbles, an Elmo Helium balloon, watching Sesame Street, reading and light switches. (Only 7% of his area had electricity, so he is intrigued by most electronics). Some of his favorite outings have been swimming at the pool, enjoying Sno Beach and the fountains, going to the park and experiencing the slide and swings. He enjoys going places in the car and loves to push the key fob to open and close the doors. This week we have decided to celebrate his 4th birthday (making it officially September 26, 2005) and my parents bought him a little bike with training wheels. Let’s just say “cycle” is what he likes doing most!

Every day we have tried to experience something new… which is silly because EVERYTHING is new to our son. It is crazy to think just 6 months ago, Tekle was living in a village in southern Ethiopia. The pictures we have seen are filled with grass huts, naked people and rustic living. Water is scarce and so is food. Then, he goes to Addis Ababa, and makes his way to AWAA’s Transition House where he experiences clothes, shoes, electricity, a bit more food and school. Now, he is in America…and water is coming out of our refrigerator, he has two pairs of shoes, a weeks worth of clothes, lots of toys, his own bed, new food, a variety of choices, and the list goes on. Often we wonder what is going on in his head. Life is sooooooooooooooooo radically different. While there have been obvious changes in environment (smells, taste, experiences, etc) Tekle has also endured great loss. Both of his parents have died, his uncle dropped him off at the orphanage, he is now separated from his 2 older brothers and older sister, and is far away from everything he has ever known. This loss is coming out in many bouts of crying. Often bedtime brings about anger and /or sorrow. This boy has a set of lungs…and cries in a tribal, song-like, tonal moan. It comes from deep within, and it breaks our heart. At first it was disturbing and now we are more comfortable with it. We’ve been told this is normal as he grieves all he has lost. Most of us will never go through what he has endured during his almost 4 short years of existence. Please pray for this process when you think of him…

Is He Speaking English?
Many of you have asked about his learning the English language. We do believe he understands us more and more each day, however we do have a LONG way to go. Tekle says “Thank you”, followed by the phrase in his language (Benchi), and it is super cute. He says all of our names – sometimes…and once he told Bo to “come here baby” because I often will say this to him. Today, he said “ouch and in” over and over as I was trying to teach him how to pump his legs while swinging. He couldn’t get the word “out”. Luke and I thought it was quite funny.

Thank You…
We want to thank you for following our journey these last few weeks. It has meant so much to our entire family to have you along. Frankly, I could write novels of our days in Ethiopia as well as our time back home – mainly because I do not want to forget all God is doing. There is no doubt in our mind that this little boy is a gift directly from the hands of God. Tekle is beautiful both inside and out. We know the journey has only just begun…and we are excited, scared, in awe and in constant prayer that we will love this child as Jesus would. Adoption was His idea in the first place and this entire experience has given us a glimpse into how we are adopted into God’s family. I believe this gift is one of the greatest any one could ever experience and we praise God for how He has provided. Thank you from the depths of our hearts for your love, support and prayers…

Friday, September 11, 2009


Day 6

This will be our last entry, for tonight we take the loooooooooooooooong journey home. We have absolutely LOVED our time here in Addis Ababa and the memories we will hold dear for a lifetime. God showed us amazing things and forever we will be grateful. Of course the biggest blessing was finally getting our son, Tekle. While there is NOTHING easy about the adoption process, it is well worth every hardship. This we knew…but now…this we KNOW! I long to sit, ponder and write about the soul work He did in us here in Addis Ababa. Please know we thank each and everyone of you who have been vital in this journey with us. Your prayers, words of encouragement, support and absolute love has touched us deeply. We would not have made it a step longer had you not been there all along the way to hold us up.
Now…just to update you on yesterday and how we will spend our last hours in Ethiopia…
- Yesterday, we went to the U.S. Consulate and received all of our “official” paperwork. Tekle Brent Phillips (the name on his passport/visa) is officially ours – again…this is why we came to Africa! This appointment went smooth and we were not black listed!!! Praise You Jesus for going ahead of us!!! Also, we went to the Lion Zoo, which was both incredible and sad. I say incredible because you are so close to them you COULD pet them, although we did not! And sad because their cages were small and only a few had one branch to play with. Think cement and nothing else. The more I think of their surroundings, I want to scream, “Let them go.” It feels inhumane to treat them as such. There was not a cage we went to that the lions weren’t pacing. The monkeys were crawling to get out too! I must say, Tekle was not too fond of being at the zoo, he stood close to us or often far away. He probably thought we were smoking crack for wanting to be up close and personal with something he knew was deadly! And all the pictures we keep taking, “Silly mom and dad…will you ever stop taking photos of me!!!” The rest of the day we drove around getting some coffee and trying to head to the orphanage Tekle was dropped of at. However, yesterday was New Years Eve here in Ethiopia (They are on a completely different calendar. Here it is 2002), and the normal crazy traffic was even heavier! For hours (and I mean hours) we were stuck in traffic of both cars and people – all getting ready for celebrating the New Year. Sad to say, we never made it to his orphanage. It was wonderful to be here on one of the most important days of the year. We will keep this tradition and always celebrate the Ethiopian New Year with our son. (Anyone want to join in?)
- Today…we finished packing up. Within moments we will head out with Robel to help him in celebrating this New Year day with his street kids. Brent and I are looking forward to loving on and playing with these kiddos, whom many we have already met along our way. One GREAT thing is, we had brought so much food because we heard the food here was not good. We have not had a problem with the food, so everyday on our journey out and about; we would feed these kids our snacks. While fruit leather was not a big hit, the fruit chews & granola bars have been.
- One more thing…if you read this at any point while we are traveling home please pray for us. We leave Addis Ababa at 7:30pm and have to be there 3 hours ahead of time. This airport is quite desolate and I fear Tekle will be bored. Then we land 4+ hours later in Dubai at around 1:00 in the morning. We thought we had a hotel secured and already paid for but found out yesterday we do not. There has been some sort of mess up. Now, we have to decide what to do…stay in the airport over night or get a hotel. It may sound simple but our flight leaves six hours from landing. Is it worth getting a hotel? We’ll see…and then at 9am Dubai time…we head home. This leg is 16 hours to Houston and in Houston another 4 hours of lag time until we arrive home in Austin. Please pray for safety, sleep, no fear, illness (Tekle is sick and very congested, we are afraid his ears are going to hurt!), and no anxiety for Leah.

Gotta sign off…love you all…and Bo, Amy and Luke we loooooooooooooong to hug on and be with you again. You are going to LOVE your new brother and he will love you too. xoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxo

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 5

We all awoke to a “wake up call”…and everyone seemed chipper! Off we went to breakfast and we had a few hours to play/hang before our U.S. Consulate appointment. Of course, we played soccer for what seemed like hours. This boy has skills! By the way, whenever he or we would make a goal, we’d yell “goal!” Half way during our game he yelled “goal.” Thus, making his first word spoken- goal!!!!!!!
Then we went upstairs, cleaned up and while waiting for Robel to arrive we introduced a new toy (we brought quite a few things to do with him here and thought it a good idea to bring one thing out at a time) so next came…the motorcycle. Let’s just say, he is a Phillips, and loves the “boom booms.”
At 11:30, Robel came to pick us up. He informed us that our plans had changed. To be honest, even tonight as Brent and I rehearsed that conversation, neither of us understands exactly what happened. All we know is tomorrow morning is the Consulate appointment. (By the way, we were told it took many visits by Robel to secure this appointment. Remember, we had mentioned the change that recently took place and with all of Robel’s contacts gone, it took many trips just to get them to grant us this appointment. We hope we are not black listed…but then again, God gave us Jim (the man in Robel’s choir) and if we need something, I believe he will help us. God is so good!!!!)
So, today we spent some time finishing up our shopping. It is the “rule” here that you do not go in public with your child. Many Ethiopians feel we are coming to buy their kids and don’t like us. Robel knows where we are able to go that is safe and where we are to stay away from. Unfortunately, when we are at the Guest House we cannot leave, so often we feel a bit trapped. One scary thing happened today while shopping at The Post Office (an outdoor area, of shacks that line the streets, all filled with Ethiopian treasures. People are constantly pulling you into their shop and those on the street (street kids, the elderly and handicapped) are pulling on you when you are outside the shops. While here,Tekle had to go with David (our driver) and pretend to be his son. This was weird not being able to be near him much. At one point, I see Tekle run out of a shop and right to the curb of the street. There was a man who had been taunting him to buy sunglasses (and continued to do so the entire time we were there). It was unsettling to watch our son simply dart off to a stranger…but thankful it was a safe and teachable lesson.
Later we ate at another great restaurant, bought some African art and finally headed back to the Guest House. Tekle was tired…his tummy hurt and again, I think while life is great and full of wonder, this change has got to be a lot to handle. He took a great nap…
The rest of the day/night we played and played and finally heard him laugh. He is a daddy’s boy and loves to be tickled. Again, he will fit in well. There seemed to be a bit more life in him today.
Currently, he is sleeping…and all is well.

Day 4

Today was the day (9/8) we were able to go to the Transition House & get Tekle…for good. When we rolled up it was naptime-again, but there was not a lot of napping going on. You see, the kids know he routine – Monday parents come for the 1st meeting, Tuesday they come back & then the child gets to leave with his/her new mom & dad! Terrific Tuesday’s is what I think they should be called!
While at the Transition House (TH), we spent some time with Tekle & his nannies. He has a night nanny & a day nanny. In fact, his night nanny (who they call mommy) slept with him in his bunk). Just imagine being the mommy of 14 boys, living in a 10-x10 room, two boys in each bed and trying to keep mayhem from not taking over- day or night. These women work hard and have poured their lives into our son. How grateful we are for both of these women. I think they will both miss our son very much and I believe he will feel the same.
Next, we gave our donations to the staff (which every family is asked to bring). Immediately most of the women started putting on the shirts that we had brought for them (thankful for LHC donating their leftover VBS shirts, now 150 of them are circulating Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). For the rest of naptime we played outside with Tekle and became better acquainted with some of the staff. Our desire was to come here with the “intent” of really getting to know and love on the people we met. This was a highlight to our day, as we began to hear their life stories. Of course we did while playing with Tekle and still we had yet to hear him utter a word or even laugh. However, there were lots of smiles!!!!
After naptime was over things got a bit crazy. First the boys came running outside, followed later by the girls. Mind you…this all happened in the middle of a downpour, so we all ended up congregating on a back porch. What did we do? Great question…we had lots of fun tickling, wrestling, throwing around a ball & hugging on and simply playing. The children were hungry for attention and some for constant hugs and kisses. During this timetable stayed at a distance at 1st, but then joined in as time went on (still no talking yet). Once the rain stopped we pulled out a Barrel of Monkeys game, some balloons & played with all the kids for about 2 ½ hours. It was a blast for them & us, but we were ready to head on out with our little boy.
As soon as the van did pull up (again, they knew the drill) the door opened & Tekle hopped right in. He was so excited to go. As we drove through the city he just stared out the window at the traffic, people & utter craziness that was just outside of the van. The last time he was in a car was when he went to the transition house & now he is headed again into another transition.
We came straight to the guesthouse & headed up to our room. Lots of big-eyed stares & looks of wonderment (probably some worry in there too). This is by certain the nicest place he has ever been in. Kindly, he walked in and sat on the couch. We wanted to bath him right away but the power was out. This meant no hot water. So we colored. Let’s just say he could do this for hours!!! Finally, the generator went on and off we went for his first bath. He was a tad bit dirty…actually- filthy dirty. He did amazingly well as we scrubbed him down, & lotioned him up and put on his new clothes (again, all without a peep). Next it was time to head downstairs for dinner where he ate everything that was put in front of him. He will give our kids at home a run for their money when it comes to eating! Tekle has a great appetite and eats very slowly. After dinner we headed upstairs, did some more coloring, looked at pictures & Skyped the kids back home. It was so great to hear the excitement in their voices as they laid their eyes on him and watched him smile for the camera. We think Tekle loved it too.
Bedtime was a precious ending to one incredible day. We began a routine of: brushing teeth, getting into pajamas, reading a book & ended with holding hands to pray. Then he zonked out. I think he was asleep within 3 minutes & he slept throughout the night. He did toss & turn quite a few times with moments of lifting his head and saying something, then right back to sleep. Neither Leah nor I felt like we ever got into a REM state of sleeping. Instead we felt we were up all night. Our hearts go out to him for we can only imagine he things are going through his little head. You know how “dark” makes everything harder…in spite of it all, he did well. We keep praying that God would comfort Him & give him peace as all of this new life is unfolding before him.
I must say that much of the day has felt very surreal. We are so thankful for the gift of this little boy & it all kind of feels like a dream! Thankful today that dream became our reality. Now, we just want to get home and be a family!!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 3

What’s So Magical about 3am?
- Once again my body clock awoke me at 3am on the dot! The night before in Dubai the same thing happened. Go figure! For a girl who needs sleep, this is not good. As I backed up the time I was wondering what I am normally doing at this hour back home. Well, at 7pm, that would be 3am Ethiopian time…I am usually winding down, not amping up. So, God gave me an extra 5 hours in my day to read, have my Quiet Time and simply ponder the day. Brent however, was one smart man, he took an over the counter sleep aide and slept like a baby until 8am!!!
Servant hood with a Smile!
- The chef at the Guest House is an incredible human being – his name is David. When he smiles the room lights up. He has a servant’s heart through and through. The meals he makes are quite the spread, yet most things we are afraid to try. Our prayer is that we will not offend him and we’ve tried hard to eat most everything. Our favorite item so far is a flat pancake, sautéed in syrup. Yum!!! Oh, and fresh Pinnapple juice washed it all down. (Brent’s favorite!)
“Paper Party”
- Now on Monday mornings, the main objective is filling out the paperwork for our U.S. Consulate appointment. It did not take too long since there was just us. Usually they are walking 7-15 families through this process. It was here we saw the birth certificate they created for him (a key piece in obtaining his Visa). The picture on it must have been the first one ever taken of him; he looks so scared in it. One new piece of tid bit was getting to see the birth date he was given, which is March 3, 2006. That makes him three. Originally they had told us he was four. While his stature is older looking, everything else about him seems to be on the younger side.
Off to See “Lucy”
- All we wanted was to be “off to see was Corban Tekle”…but they were not expecting us until after 1pm. So “off we went to the lunch” at the restaurant near the National Museum where Lucy is housed. Lucy is allegedly the oldest human remains ever found. They were found here in Ethiopia in 1974. There are no words to explain the simplicity of this museum compared to our National Museums in Washington D.C.

The Moment…
- The Transition House was farther than I thought and driving there was incredibly painful. (See details below) However, upon arriving safely, we were able to lay eyes on Tekle for the very first time. As he walked out to meet us he looked a bit confused. The one word we hear over and over again to describe him is “shy.” And that is exactly what he was…shy. Tekle was also very responsive, sweet, obedient, engaging and we really felt there was a connection made within moments. (Only something God can do.) We spent about 4+ hours there playing soccer, basketball, touring the facilities, having a snack, looking through a picture book we had sent him of us…and simply having fun. Leaving him was not as hard as I thought it would be…what’s one more day in the scheme of things, plus he waved good-bye and toddled away to be with his friends – for one last day.

The Best EVER…
- Massage…Yep, from the Transition Home we were whisked away to the Boston Spa. There both Brent and I had one-hour massages for $20 each. They do this to help you fair through the next hours until you are able to bring your child home. Let’s just say it worked…and it was the best message I have ever had!!!!

Road Rage…
- Driving in Addis Ababa is like a scene in a movie. Cars and people everywhere. While they have street rules, no one (and I mean no one) obeys them. There are no traffic lights and driving on the wrong side is accepted. Most cars use Diesel fuel and the fumes are enough to send you to the hospital. The smog is so bad here; it can be seen hanging low just above your head. Besides the noise of pollution, the noise of horns is non-stop. Never is the sound around you void of honking. To be honest…we are waiting to either be in or see an accident. I hope my hunch is wrong!

Mama Please…
- Street kids, moms with babies, those who are handicapped – all beg, all the time. We were told by Robel (who has a ministry with many of these street kids) not to give money because it only keeps them in “business.” Robel has taught the children to sell things, like gum or Kleenex to give something in return for your money. Then at one point the light bulb went on about giving them food. Now we travel around with a bag of snacks and so far this has worked. In fact, think of a pool of carp…you know how when you throw food in the water, they usually go crazy and swarm the food. Now, picture our van…we’re handing out the food…they always come to my window saying, “mama, please” and often will tag on “I’m hungry”…once one is given something to eat, the swarm of “mama please” begins.

Choir Practice (and I don’t mean poker)
- From the Boston Spa we went to Robel ‘s choir practice (again, he is the man who has taken care of us all week…along with our driver David). Robel attends the International Evangelical Church here in Addis. It is lead by an American pastor from North Carolina and the weekly attendance is about 4,000. What is really AWEsome about this church is it pulls from all walks of life. In the choir alone 30 countries are represented. This church seems to meet a wide range of needs in this community. Talk about diversity…this church exudes it!
- We met quite a few people at choir practice. It was neat to hear stories along with many different accents. One man we met was named Jim. As we talked with Jim we found out that he works at the embassy in the consulate’s office, In fact, he deals with adoptions! Every 2 years there is a major switch-er-oo in the embassy and they take out the old and bring in the new. Robel had many contacts with the old group, but has no inside tracks with the new one. Well now, after meeting Jim, he has a relationship started that he can use to help the process to be smoother for families. And for you CA. folks, Jim is from Lodi.

How Do Their Heads Do That????
- We ended the night going to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Our family had tried one in Austin but it was not a family favorite. Needless to say, we were a bit hesitant to try it again. The restaurant they took us to had live music and dancing, incredible décor and the food was actually amazing. By the time we arrived it was almost 9pm and we were tired. But you could not help but be awakened by the Ethiopian cultural music and more importantly the dance. The men and women shake their groove thing like no one I’ve ever seen (Elvis and Michael Jackson included)…and their heads do this chicken jerk thing, that makes you think at any moment their head is going to fall off. We’ll attach video footage of it soon.
All and all…it was an amazing day. God protected, provided and gave us a beautiful son. HOY Day (Hand on You Day) will be one that goes down in history.