Today was the Ethiopian holiday, Timkat, and we were so excited to be here for it. In English its known as "Epiphany," and it is the celebration of Jesus' baptism. Timkat is the most popular and highly-celebrated holiday in Ethiopia. Our guide, Yonas, took us this morning to participate in one of the celebrations in Addis. We went to a large field where a great crowd of people were gathered (somewhere between 100,000 - 200,000 people). Many of the people had spent the night in this field singing and worshipping. The priests of the local orthodox churches were all there on this morning spraying the crowds with holy water. There was so much to take in... from the gorgeous traditional Ethiopian outfits everyone was wearing, to the beautiful singing and the large variety of items being sold. It was wonderful to be a part of this occasion!
After the Timkat celebration, we went to the Transition Home to visit Elias. This was our first time to visit him in the morning, and I was so glad to not be waking him up from his afternoon nap! We had a few minutes of play time with him and then the nannies brought out his morning snack. Charlie took this feeding, and it was his first time to feed Elias. I am so grateful for all of the bonding moments we're having this week. I could tell that Elias's eyes were getting heavy while Charlie was feeding him, so when his snack was finished, Charlie laid Elias's head down on his chest, and he fell right to sleep. After about half and hour, Charlie passed him off to me, and I had my first moments holding our sleeping son. Ahhhh... it was so sweet watching him sleep in my arms!! I am so anxious to bring this little boy home so we can do this every day!! After he woke up, we had some more play time with him, and I know I mentioned this before, but this boy loves his daddy! He gives Charlie the biggest smiles and laughs and simply loves being around him. He is perfectly content to be held by me... unless he sees Charlie. He turns to look for him when he hears his voice, and if he sees him, he reaches out to him. It is so awesome to see these two together, and I can't imagine how much better it'll get when we bring him home. I know in order for us to bring him home, there will have to be a good-bye, and I am already dreading Friday.
After we left the Transition Home, our group went out to lunch at a restaurant/art gallery. It was another great meal and more great conversation with our new friends in our travel group, our driver and our guide. We have so enjoyed our time with these people! They have helped to make our first trip in Ethiopia such a success!
After lunch it was time for souvenir shopping. Shopping in Ethiopia was a whole new experience for us, definitely an eye-opener and a true glimpse into this culture. When we pulled onto the dusty, shop-lined street, we were immediately surrounded by people; store owners asking for us to come into their shops, beggars asking for money, children asking to shine our shoes, street merchants trying to sell us everything from gum to beaded necklaces. It was instantly overwhelming. The shops were all super-tiny, super-crowded spaces, where everything is bargained for... no set prices. Luckily, I married an incredible negotiator and we came away with a lot of greats deals on our treasures. I was quickly exhausted from all of the despair and begging, the bargaining, and the crowds of people surrounding us. We never felt unsafe because the Ethiopian people are so warm and friendly, but it definitely wears you down to be faced with such poverty and in-your-face crowds surrounding you at every turn, begging and pleading for your help. This is a very real part of the Ethiopian lifestyle and is one of the more heart-breaking.
After shopping, we went for coffee at Kaldi's (the Ethiopian Starbucks) and then went back to our Guest House to rest. We later walked to the Zebra Grill for dinner... it was our last dinner as a group. Our dear friends whom we have shared everything with this week had flights out this evening. It was so hard to say good-bye to them and to realize that our week was soon coming to an end, too.