Ethiopia: Day One
by Jen Hatmaker on July 18th, 2011

[Disclaimer: Sorry there are no pictures. We are having issues. In a city where donkeys roam the streets, the internet is something of a crapshoot.]

The second we deboarded into the Ethiopian airport, the smells hit me first. It is the smell of the country, and I'm not sure how to describe it, except that if you've been here, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Some sort of mixture of incense, coffee, earth, and bodies, and there is nothing exactly like it. We'll leave it behind Thursday only to get another reminder of it when we open our suitcases back home.

I love Ethiopia.

I especially love how we're here this time during the rainy season, where the temps are in the 60's and the rain falls at night, and the air is crispy clear awesome. (I do not love how the airlines take this opportunity to double all prices. Dear Airlines, WHATEVER.)

We are traveling right now with the most fantastic families with our agency. We've kind of hit the motherload of cool travel companions; there are about 20 of us or so, and it's rad (yes, I said it) to meet each other in person after being online friends all this time.

About half of us are here for Embassy (trip 2), which means we have our kids with us all week, and the other half are here for Court (trip 1), which means they actually have time to take one million pictures and go wherever they want because they are not toting around a kindergartener from morning till night who wants to be carried because she is just a teeny weeny bit freaked out and doesn't care one iota that she weighs 50 pounds and that we are at 7000 feet above sea level and her mom is freaking totally out of shape and her dad is all, my back is pinched, and there is not enough air to get into my lungs and my arms are on fire, and I should've just brought a Granola Girl Sling or whatever they are called like the baby mamas.

So we went to the Transition Home after lunch, and out came our darlings straight into our arms. I don't know if I've mentioned this, but they are the two cutest children on the continent of Africa, and that is not an opinion but mere fact, and if you'd like to argue it, I'll fight you. Remy has lost two more teeth, and Beniam was taller. BLAH. I'm totally over missing their days and months and birthdays and firsts and milestones.

I took my first deep breath in four months the second they ran to us.

As we kissed our sweet boy good-bye with a promise to see him tomorrow, our girl skippy skipped her way into the van with all her worldly possessions (approximately 1/100th of everything we've sent her and the clothes on her back), and she headed home with us to Jimmy and Rachel Gross's house, the most fabulous, kind, accomodating, laid back, precious, loveable, darling Texas-transplanted family living in Addis.

The second our driver pulled up to their house and let us all out and drove off, Remy had the most epic meltdown in the history of time. She was screaming and crying and muttering in her language, and she was clinging to our necks like her life depended on it. We left our bags and made a beeline for our rooms and sat with her on the bed, holding and whispering and kissing and rocking her, as tears streamed down her cheeks and her little body shook like a leaf.

This is the fear abandoned orphans carry.

She was terrified we were leaving her with this strange family, and her insecurity and fear came raging out of every pore. It was heart wrenching. No five year old should feel that scared that she will be left again. After ten minutes of terror, I started channeling Karyn Purvis. WWKPD? She would redirect. And folks, do you want to know what brought her out of her grief spiral and into giggles and smiles?

That's right. Her new clothes.

Dear Everyone Who Made Fun Of Me For Packing Too Much Frou-Frou Stuff For Remy, I will accept your apologies in writing.

Daddy started popping out one outfit after another, and within ten seconds, she transformed into a character from The Devil Wears Prada. For the clothes she liked, she'd nod and point, as in, "Put my treasured belongings in this pile, Tall White Man," and when she didn't like something, she'd shake her head once, wag her finger no, and point toward the Banished Pile; the Queen wanted the detestibles out of her sight.

She spent the entire night glued to our laps/hips/arms/sides. Being out in the house with the whole family made her extremely nervous; she never spoke a word and was clearly uneasy that we might leave her with these people who, although highly fashionable and superior in culinary taste, were strangers. Gone was the smiling, silly, happy girl we knew from the TH.

But as soon as the three of us went to our room for the night, and it became clear we were all staying, she popped right out of that shell. She giggled and chattered and did her little Ethiopian dance. She tried on clothes and played with her toys and fawned all over us, yammering the whole time about who knows what. The three of climbed into bed together, Remy sandwiched between us, and she was the happiest little lark in all the land. For 15 minutes, it went like this:

Mommy, I love you so much!
Doddy, I love you so much!
Mommy, Doddy, Matawi.
Mommy, Doddy, Matawi, Beniam, Gabin, Sinney, Cilab.
*She kisses her hand and puts in on my face.*
*She kisses her hand and puts in on Brandon's face.*
*She puts our hands to our lips and then to her face.*
Mommy, I love you so much!
Doddy, I love you so much!
Mommy, Doddy, Matawi!

Then she leached onto me like the little furnace she is, snaked her skinny brown legs all through mine like a pretzel, ran one arm around my neck with her hand in my hair, the other wrapped around my waist, fell asleep in less than two minutes, and didn't budge until morning.

It's been a long time since she got to fall asleep in a mother's arms, safely tucked in next to a daddy. Brandon and I caught each other's eyes over her curly head and just grinned.

We've got her.

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Andrea - July 18th, 2011 at 2:52 PM
PRAISE the LORD! LOVE this ...and oh how Ilove the smell that is only Ethiopia! :)
Charity - July 18th, 2011 at 2:52 PM
I've been following you since I read several of your books, I'm a friend of the Wanderer's...anyway. This post had me bawling. Praying for Ben too.
Lynde - July 18th, 2011 at 2:52 PM
speechless. . . and crying tears of utter joy.
Ann - July 18th, 2011 at 2:54 PM
OMG...I have shed more tears over your family!!

Sue - July 18th, 2011 at 2:55 PM
tears of joy

Jen Patterson - July 18th, 2011 at 2:55 PM
Home sweet home for her precious little that she connected with you so much before that she KNEW you were her mama and doddy! Continuing to pray for Ben too!
[email protected]'s Musings - July 18th, 2011 at 2:56 PM
What a tough first day with a beautiful ending! I love reading about your journey!
judy new - July 18th, 2011 at 2:57 PM
I'm speachless and in tears! Thank you for sharing this very private and yet very open part of your lives. God bless and protect you all!
Much love, Judy
Michelle Barreto - July 18th, 2011 at 2:57 PM
Jen.....I am BAWLING!!!! I am having to try to read through my TEARS OF COMPLETE JOY!!! God is so AWESOME and I am so excited for you and your family...Is there an open invite at the airport to greet you guys home? We would LOVE to share MORE tears, laughter and LOVE!!
Lisa Elliott - July 18th, 2011 at 3:00 PM
wow wow wow no words but to say I have tears falling down my face as I read this I am so so so happy for your family now get that boy home as well I will pray for you all for you all to bring Ben home Father I pray for that boy and this family to bring him home still crying over reading this wow what a happy family love you Jen makes me miss my son more more now hes 17 I pray I get to meet him before he turns 18 HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY
Amy - July 18th, 2011 at 3:07 PM
Crying now. Thanks. Alot. PTL!!!
Jennifer - July 18th, 2011 at 3:07 PM
OH MY GOODNESS!!! I am so happy for you guys! As I bawl typing this! I pray that the transition gets easier and easier for her. Praying for Ben gets to experience this soon!
Kristie Pickens - July 18th, 2011 at 3:13 PM
Thank You god for this little girl, We know not everything gets done in our time but yours lord. Just could you hurry up for Ben
Chad B - July 18th, 2011 at 3:13 PM
Thank you Hatmakers for letting all of us come along and share this with you. Thank you for opening your lives to us. God has used you, Brandon and your story to stir our hearts for the orphan. Darsey and I rejoice with you on Remy's homecoming and continue to pray with you for Ben's.
Kim Holding - July 18th, 2011 at 3:22 PM
Speechless here too!!! And crying at work!!!! I cannot be happier for her - and you guys of course!!!!!!!! Bless her precious, fearful heart. It tears me up inside. BUT - the Lord sent you and Brandon to the rescue!! And to the rescue you ran with the best clothes EVERRRR!!!!!
jackie Mullis - July 18th, 2011 at 3:22 PM
LOVE IT! I am SO glad she is with you! Praying for you guysl Embassy week is such a mix of crazy crazy emotions. Love ya girl!
Rachel Miller - July 18th, 2011 at 3:25 PM
bawling. love, love, love. no other words!
Robin Hamilton - July 18th, 2011 at 3:26 PM
OMG, God is soooo good. Through the tears, thanking God for you two making a huge change in that little girls and boys life. May God bless you all forever.
Soni Brown - July 18th, 2011 at 3:39 PM
WOW!! First of all, I love Ethiopia and the the smell BUT most of all - how they love us Americans!! My son and I went to Addis in October on a mission trip and I will be back. I have been following your story and thank you so much for sharing with us and bringing us all to tears of JOY!! Thank you Lord for the Hatmaker's and this journey they are on to help the orphans!! Prayers are sent your way daily!!
Brandi - July 18th, 2011 at 3:40 PM
Tears...isn't the snuggling THE.BEST!!
christi - July 18th, 2011 at 3:41 PM
i am balling my ever living eyes out. balling. i am so overwhelmed with joy for you and her. Sadness that she is so fragile and scared. Tickled that the clothes brought her out of her fit. LOve you. so excited that you are finally holding one of your babies. One down. One to go! :)
Julie Riegle - July 18th, 2011 at 3:48 PM
WONDERFUL. JUST WONDERFUL!!!!! LOVE. LOVE. LOVE!!!!!!! My heart has just exploded. I am so so happy for you!!

Cindy - July 18th, 2011 at 3:49 PM
Wonderful. So happy for you all!
Mary smith s - July 18th, 2011 at 4:03 PM
So sweet! And sad all at the same time! Love that you are sharing your story!
Christa - July 18th, 2011 at 4:11 PM
Jill - July 18th, 2011 at 4:21 PM
Wow!!!! Just wow!!! What a picture of Jesus!!
Miranda - July 18th, 2011 at 4:43 PM
I am beyond excited for you guys and for sweet Remy!!
Priscilla - July 18th, 2011 at 4:49 PM
Praying for Ben but soo excited for Remy!
Brooke - July 18th, 2011 at 4:49 PM
"We've got her"---best three words EVER! Now praying that you will add "and him! Prayed for you at "Girl Talk" study this morning!
Denise - July 18th, 2011 at 5:14 PM
Ok, I am a blubbering idiot now!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ashley - July 18th, 2011 at 5:30 PM
My gosh, what a gift you have to paint a picture with words. I loved the sweetness of the final paragraphs, but my favorite thing was the clothes bringing her around - she is a little girl! No different. Thanks for sharing this...I'm so happy for y'all.
Kelli Belt - July 18th, 2011 at 5:50 PM
This is so precious , I'm bawling. Thank you , thank you , thanks you for answering this call for the Hatmaker family and showing the world -God's love.
Kimmers - July 18th, 2011 at 6:05 PM
Cheering for you guys. Can't wait to see her beautiful face!!
Becki - July 18th, 2011 at 6:34 PM
Jeanine Joyner - July 18th, 2011 at 7:37 PM
Oh My are SUCH a good writer and I can hardly see to type this because of the tears in my eyes!!! Precious. Absolutely precious.
Carmen - July 18th, 2011 at 7:40 PM
I'm glad she didn't move! When I tried to sleep with our boys, they were ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. Sideways, diagonal, vertical, head at the foot of the bed....everywhere. That lasted one night and then they got their own beds. :-) So glad Remy is with you!
Sarah Meyer - July 18th, 2011 at 7:43 PM
I am literally in happy you have your little angel! The Lord has BLESSED her life with the two of you as her Mommy
Kirsten Boyd - July 18th, 2011 at 9:28 PM
LOVE this! I've been wondering what that first night will be like. I hope mine's a little somethin' like this! Tears of joy! And I NEVER doubted the wardrobe choice...Dress. Her. Up!!! :)
Shannon - July 18th, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Praise God for progress! I just started following your adventure-was sent here by a mutual friend. We brought our girl home from Ethiopia a month ago, so your words are stirring up a lot of emotions in me. Will be praying for this crazy, crazy journey you are on. (And I love the smell of Addis! You are right-there's nothing like it!) Grace and peace to your family.
Erin Allport - July 18th, 2011 at 10:57 PM
What special moments you get to share! It's so cool that you are writing down the details, so that as she gets older you can walk back through them with her!
SO excited for your family!
Kristen Strong - July 18th, 2011 at 11:23 PM
OH my stars...this is a hundred kinds of beautiful. Oh, the L*O*V*E! Congrats to your precious family!
Jen - July 19th, 2011 at 7:28 AM
Crying tears of joy for all of you.
Lina - July 19th, 2011 at 8:01 AM
Heartbreaking. Joyous. Speechless. Congratulations...and my prayers for you to bring Ben home too.
Tessy - July 19th, 2011 at 8:06 AM
LOVE :-D falling asleep in her mother's arm, safely tucked in by daddy -- just hit my heart........
Marla Taviano - July 19th, 2011 at 12:16 PM
This is the best blog post I have ever read in my entire freaking life. Crying. So happy. Thank you, Jesus.
Steph Groutas - July 19th, 2011 at 12:51 PM
YAY for getting Remy!!!!!!!!!!!! We've watched the FB video of the ice cream and coffee a dozen times. My kids are loving it!!! Can't wait to meet her. Can't wait to celebrate with you! We love you all!
Julia Leinen - July 19th, 2011 at 2:30 PM
praising God. what a glorious day!
Lizzy Aranibar - July 20th, 2011 at 8:57 AM
Thank you for this! I am Jimmy Gross's sister. He forwarded this to me and I have tears streaming down my face reading! I'm so happy for this sweet little girl to have great people like you to love and care for her.
Jocelyn Sinclair - July 22nd, 2011 at 7:42 PM
Jen, I am Mr. Watkins daughter and I am so excited for you and your family. This is another amazing story that God is directing..... Be blessed and praying for Ben to come home also soon....
Harold finster - September 13th, 2014 at 2:56 PM
Thanks for fell ng us we smell...stopped reading after the 1st sentence. Usual white person stupidity. Grew up in Ethiopia... Nobody fly's into new York to say it smells. Your comment stinks
Cherie - December 17th, 2017 at 3:11 PM
Meanwhile some six years later, this post is still touching lives.

Loved, love, love reading this ... I visited and fell in love with the people of Ethiopia on a quick vacation in route to check on 4 kiddos I support in Bwindi, Uganda. I am just beginning the next stage of this journey and being open to adoption if that is God%u2019s will. Thank you Jen for sharing so openly and giving many things to reflect and pray upon.
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