After yesterday, we woke up feeling like the worst was over. We had no dinner last night so we are quite hungry. Meals have been about 1-2 per day but since we have been staying inside the guest house for much of our "free" time because
of Oliver, we have already tried everything on the menu...a couple of times. After we get dressed and showered (which takes awhile because there was a line) we bundle Ollie up and head out to the courtyard.
There are two waitresses/baristas who work for Mr. Martin. Both are such sweet girls. The evening girl finally worked up the courage to ask us if she could hold Ollie (which of course we had no problem with and would have offered had we known her desire). When the morning girl came by and the evening girl was holding him, she ran over and started talking and kissing at him. Ever since their requests are constant.
We sit down to order our breakfast (an omelet today...and some coffee of course) and she walks it around the corner to the cook. As soon as she returns and makes our coffees, she is over to claim Ollie from us. This morning he allows her to hold him the entire time we eat. Sasalwi walks in the gate with a paper under his arm and nods as he says with a smile, "I'm here...when you are
ready!" He disappears behind the building to talk with some of the staff. As soon as we finish, we grab some things from the room and are ready to go. "To orphanage?" "Yes...To orphanage!"
It is becoming quite normal now: through the blue gate, into the office to request to see Geda, nice visits and conversation with the others there...I find it hard to believe today that only a few short days ago, this was all still a dream!
He comes once again dressed like a girl. But who cares! He almost smiles and is beginning to make many more sounds. He loves to suck the knuckle of his finger and rub either his ear or his collar.
Today there is a new couple there from the states. A man and his wife who lad left other children behind to pick up their young daughter. They nervously wait...carrying on fast conversation though it is obvious that their attention is fixed on the door. Soon a girl of maybe 7 or 8 walks through the door with her head down but her eyes up. The nanny whispers something in her ear and then push her forward a few steps before exiting and shutting the door. I try to imagine my child in this situation and it is gut-wrenching. Her parents draw her over engage her. It will take
awhile and I think they know that.
Soon several nannies walk through the door and one by one call the names of our kiddos. We hand him over once again. It is feeling stranger and stranger to give him back.
On the way to the car, we decide that it would be a good day to do some shopping. Ollie is doing alright, the weather is decent, and we have some time. Besides, we would like to see more of the city. Much more. The first stop is the Hilton. Every day or so we must stop here to exchange money. So we drive through the large historical square past the Hilton gardens and up to the armed man at the gate. S. shows his card, the man glances at us, and we are waved through. There is a lot of green grass here. We have seen a few weddings already, and more white people than we see anywhere else. At the metal detecting gate Josh goes through while they wave me around. "No, No...come around with baby!" Alright, we think...I guess we'd know who should carry anything we didn't want them to catch!
As Josh exchanges the money, I walk around the lobby. The ceilings are high and the sitting areas are large. There are shops lining a walkway and I browse through the windows of the stores. I suppose you could spend your whole trip here...exchange money, do shopping, eat...but somehow it just seems strange. I certainly don't feel like I am in Africa when we are inside here. And I've heard that the Sheraton is even worse. I am ready to go, and fortunately so is Josh.
We tell S. that we want to go to somewhere called the Post Office. Others had told us it is a great place to shop. "Okay...okay...we go there!" and we are off. S. takes us through a "dirty place" (as he calls it). To me it seems as though we are taking some off the road short cut, but then again, many of the roads feel the same. It is here that I want to take pictures but here that I know I cannot. The poverty is beyond what we have seen anywhere else in the city. It is shocking and makes my throat swell tight. The places we have been seeing really do look nice compared to the "homes" we see now. Soon we enter another busier road and the "normal" sights resume. It is a holiday and so people are everywhere: even more than typical. Ladies with baskets of market things and men leading goats down the road for the feast. S. explains the holiday and I feel badly for dragging him around with us.
Eventually we come to the place and park in a large parking lot next to an official looking building. He leads us down a sidewalk and up some steps and I realize we are at an actual post office. "So...are there shops in here?" we ask. "Shops? Oh no no...not here...this is post office!" As we try to explain what our friends told us, he suddenly realizes what we meant. He just thought we were wanting to mail a letter. We walk past the post office and across another parking lot to see many small shops. "Ah ha!" S. looks and laughs. "Better?"
Here is another place I long for pictures to describe the sight. But of all the places not to take a camera this is one of them. A tourist area: perfect to find someone with nice things to take. So we keep it hidden. We buy some gum from a 10 year old gum salesman, turn down the offer of several maps by a map salesman, and walk to the shops. It is a small sidewalk...paved here, broken there, lined by small cramped stores with souvenirs packed so tightly that they overflow onto the sidewalks. We have a list of people to buy for as well as several things we had in mind to find, and so we set off into our first store where it looks promising to find linens (on the list). Sasalwi comes with us and is seemingly acting as a guard...walking behind us and watching the bag draped over Josh's shoulder. Three saleswomen quickly come to my side and ask what we are looking for while simultaneously showing us everything on their shelves. Something I say is not being understood, so S. quickly comes and interprets...shaking his head and motioning with his hands. Finally she understands that I want a big cloth like babies are carried in. I take the first one that is pulled out and ask how much. "Oh...please keep shopping." Several other linens are selected and I again ask how much. She calmly gives an answer and S. is up in arms to make her see the ridiculousness of her offer. Despite the fact that I have no idea what they are saying, the conversation is clear. Arms pointing at Josh and I, shaking heads, raised voices...they know how to do this! We leave with a very good deal and an annoyed shop keeper.
I hate to annoy them and so we ask S. for some tips saying that maybe we want to give it a try. (Now...up until this point I have loathed the idea of haggling for prices,) He says first of all that there is a "ferenge tax" and everything is marked up immediately. "Never pay more than half they tell you." Whew! That seems harsh. He insists that they are just that kind of people and shouldn't do that. I don't know that I agree. In a way, it almost seems fair. And yet, we would much rather have money left to give to S. when we go. And so, I decide to have a try.
As we walked further down the street, arms continued to attempt to lead us into their stores. All with the promise of a "good price." We started off poorly...paying far too much. But after seeing many of the same things in all the stores, I figured hey, what could it hurt. I can always go to another store. The next shop we come to has a young keeper and interesting things. I now am finding it rather fun to joke around with the shopkeepers about their prices. Of course, the price is always "high" (though not really that high). I look shocked when I am told and say "no no no." How about ____. Then comes a look of dejection, followed by a description of how great the disputed item is, then another price: slightly down from their first. I point out that the item isn't all that great...coming apart or small...and try with another offer. This goes on until I either settle or leave the store. The latter didn't happen much although the threat of it did. It is amazing how I was always called back and given my price.
I am not sure about this still...though S. smiles and laughs along with Josh. I still feel badly. And then we come into a store with some jewelry and other things we had wanted. Again I play the game and again I am happy with my purchase. However, this time, the store keeper laughs and hands me another necklace. "You good bargainer." He says with a smile. "My gift to you." What a different culture than that of the West. I like it!
The shopping is soon over and we tote our packages back to the car and into the guest house. S. comes in and has some lunch and we go in for a little rest. Then another coffee. Ollie needs to rest a little and so it is my turn to see Noah. I pack my passport (that Josh typically carries) and set off to see our little man.
S. and I talk about the city and the shopping and the hard times they are facing. It isn't so much that they have to sell their car or move into a smaller house. It is bread. The price of bread has doubled. Their food has been cut in half.
It is Saturday so the office is closed when we get there. Oh no! Now what!? But there was the French group with their babies...there must be a way. I found the friendly gatekeeper who found a nanny who brought out Noah. There he was. My boy. We spent the time mostly cuddling. He picked up his head and lay it on my face. We put our hands together on each others. He didn't smile, but he seemed happy. It was a very nice visit and an overall good day.
To be continued...