Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Road Trip

In mid-April, Jon and I went our last vacation as "just us." For those of you who are are looking for somewhere to travel, we highly recommend this trip to visit the "colonial sisters" Savannah (GA), Beaufort (SC), and Charleston (SC), especially if you love history.

We were planning on leaving early morning Thursday, April 12th, but I was too excited to sleep Wednesday evening so we ended up leaving around 10 PM and driving straight through to Savannah, arriving around lunch time. 

 First stop, the historic and beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery.
We stayed at the Marshall House, the oldest hotel in Savannah. 
It also served as a hospital for soldiers during the Civil War.

 River Street, Savannah
We had dinner at the River House. Our appetizer of
 low country shrimp with grits was the best part. Yum!

Savannah was built around sqaures...each uniquely beautiful and shaded by oak trees 
and hanging "Spanish" moss. Friday morning we enjoyed a trolley tour around historic Savannah, which was a great way to see the city. (In case anyone was wondering why Jon had a sticker on his shirt). Once you go through the tour they let you hop on and off at any site for free. 

Forsyth Park

Historic Savannah

It's amazing how the trees turned even a street into something so beautiful. Everywhere we turned we were captivated by the beauty of Savannah.

 We enjoyed lunch at the Olde Pink House


Friday afternoon we took off for Beaufort, South Carolina. Beaufort is considered one of the most beautiful and historic spots in America. 

 We stayed at the the Rhett House Inn, built in 1820  by the Rhett family who lived their until the Civil War (legend has it Gone with the Wind character Rhett was named after this prominent family). Beaufort was abandoned during the war so the Union occupied this town without a single shot. The Rhett House was a hospital for the Union during the Civil War.

 We took a bike ride through this small, romantic town,
amazed by the beautiful antebellum architecture.

 Can you say idyllic?

  Beaufort is also a coastal town

 We had dinner at Barbara Jeans and tried some southern comfort foods..fried chicken, squash casserole, crab cakes, etc. We were surprised to hear the vegetable of the day was macaroni. When we teased the waitress, she tried to compensate by saying macaroni was made from wheat. I didn't have the heart to tell her the wheat was actually a grain, not a vegetable:~)
Let the carb festival continue! 
Enjoying some Key Lime pie and Mississippi Mud pie 

Saturday morning we left Beaufort and stopped to see St Helena Island church ruins

We climbed the top of the lighthouse at Hunting Island.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant who boasted to have the best "frogmore stew" in the south (low country broil). We also enjoyed some gumbo soup and fried calamari.

We ended up in Charleston Saturday afternoon in time to take a ferry over to visit Fort Sumter, where the civil war began. The Confederate flag is flying because it was the anniversary of when the Rebels took over the fort.

We spent the rest of Saturday evening taking in historic Charleston. Built on the waterfront, there were lots of huge, beautiful homes. We also walked through Battery Park and Charleston City Market.

Sunday morning we took a carriage tour through Charleston. A great way to learn about the history of the city and see the architecture. 

We ate lunch at the famous Hyman's Seafood. Enjoyed our last taste of the south...flounder, shrimp, collard greens, and she-crab soup.  

We spent Sunday afternoon at Boone Hall Plantation.

The famous drive. The picture doesn't do it justice. 

Finished out the day (and our vacation) listening to a presentation on "Gullah Culture."


Monday, May 21, 2012

The rest of our trip

When I first started blogging about our trip, my goal was to post with as much detail/pictures as I could. Since the first few posts were mostly about our time with our son, it was easy to pick out which pictures to share, since we couldn't show any pictures of him (except for the pic with his adorable toes). But as I've started sorting through our hundreds of pictures, I realized if I posted everything I would be blogging for a very long time. So, for the rest of our trip I picked out a few highlights. 

 Friday, April 27th

We got up early and hit the road with our driver Tsegaw. Watching the sun come up on our absolutely beautiful drive made getting up at 4 AM completely worth it. We found out that not only was Tsegaw a great driver to have, but he was an excellent cook! During our two day road trip we stopped at various places to eat and it wasn't a big deal to bring in the food he had prepared or have the waiters do some basic food preparation for us. We ended up at Awash National Park in the afternoon and got to enjoy the desert landscape and animals, as well as the beautiful falls. We drove back and spent the night in a town called Nazareth and ended the evening enjoying a delicious meal at a neat outdoor restaurant.

 Stunning views during the drive

Orthodox Church

Acacia trees were everywhere

We saw lots of camels on the drive

Hauling water

We saw many oryx in the park

 Our scout overlooking some of the awesome views at Awash National Park

I had to add the picture of this adorable little deer

 Waterfalls at Awash National Park

 While we were checking out the waterfalls we noticed two crocodiles close by. 
(Thankfully they were sleeping.)

Saturday, April 28th

After enjoying a huge breakfast (with some really tasty juices) we drove 4 hours north. Again, the drive was beautiful, but this time it was mountains, rolling hills, grass, and trees. We visited the Portugese Bridge and Debrelibanus Monastery. Part of the fun of the trip was enjoying getting to know our driver and learning more about Ethiopian history and culture. We found ourselves falling more in love with Ethiopia.

This drive was much greener

Great views

Portugese Bridge (built during the Crusades)

Our driver Tsegaw at Jemma Gorge


Jemma Gorge

 Debrelibanus Monastary

We were privileged to end Saturday night by getting dropped off at Allen and Susan Stoller's and eating dinner with them at a restaurant on a mountaintop with excellent views. We spent the evening showing pictures and swapping stories. 

 Dinner with Allen and Susan

Sunday, April 29th

One of the highlights of our weekend was being able to worship at the International Church with Allen and Susan. As Susan said "it's a taste of heaven" as you look around and see people from all over the world praising God. Unfortunately, on the way home Jon ended up getting sick. So, while he spent the rest of Sunday puking, I was getting pampered by Allen and Susan. I enjoyed seeing the LSM campus and we even stopped for some coffee at a place I had wanted to try. We ended up that night eating at yet another mountaintop restaurant.


Monday 30th/Tuesday, May 1st

We flew out of Addis Ababa at 11AM and landed in London around 6PM for an overnight lay-over. Jon's cousin Abby and her husband Matt met us at the airport and we were able to hang out at our motel and eat dinner. We had a fantastic time together. We flew out early Tuesday morning and landed in Chicago close to 10AM, glad to be home, but our hearts already aching for our next trip back.

 Dinner with Matt and Abby in London

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday April 25th

We woke up with excitement knowing we would be spending a few more hours with our son. Walking into the care center we got him out of his crib with his adorable drool soaked chin. After he started warming up to us again we got to hear him giggle for the first time. Heaven! Later on, after rocking him to sleep one of the nannies motioned for me to lay him in his crib. As I started to lay him down we heard him start to cry for the first time. Our hearts melted and I snuck him back outside and with arm muscles burning I held him through his nap.

After the care center we had a free afternoon in which we took the chance to get some much needed rest and enjoy the city a little more.

 Thursday, April 26th

The day started out with some nerves knowing we were heading for our court date that morning. We met with the Holt lawyer who was very kind and reassuring and reviewed with us what would be happening in court. We rode over to the court house and after some waiting we went before the judge. A short time later we walked out celebrating that we had passed! Now our adoption can continue to proceed towards an Embassy date, which is generally 8-12 weeks after the court date.

Ready for court!

We rode over with the other two families to the care center to say good-bye with our children that afternoon. It was bittersweet. After playing and enjoying one more chance of feeding our little guy, our driver appeared and it was time to go. We had our first prayer together as a family before we left, as the tears burned in my eyes.

 Enjoying lunch after we all passed court!

We were so blessed to get to spend three days with two Holt families at the guesthouse. It made the trip so much more enjoyable, especially being able to share these experiences with those who could relate to the emotional roller coaster we were all going through. We said good-bye Thursday night as they left for the airport and we went to bed early so we could get up bright and early for our road trip the next morning.

A few more pictures...

Overlooking Addis Ababa

Some tasty beef tibs, dora wat, and injera

Coffee and popcorn

Fikrab, our Holt driver

Steve and Christy after passing court

Waitress with traditional Ethiopian clothing

Addis Ababa

 Culture House

Holt families

Jon and I after passing court

Ron and Julie after passing court

to be continued...