Elvie is slowly gaining weight, and Zinashi is teaching her to write her name. This is very interesting, as Zinashi still cannot write her own first name in its entirety, but we are not discouraging academics, even at this early age. The doctor we saw on Saturday said that she doesn't appear to be lagging cognitively, so Zinashi will press on!
The doctor we saw on Saturday was one our international adoption doctor recommended, and after getting very little good information from the two doctors we saw through the agency, we decided to take her in for an independent evaluation. This was incredibly helpful, and this doctor was the first one to outright say that she could tell that Elvie is malnourished. Children born with special needs are stigmatized here, even by many doctors, and we feel fortunate to find a doctor who looked at Elvie as a person of value as opposed to a baby that is simply lucky to be alive. Thanks to this doctor's encouragement, we now know that we can keep our original travel schedule. Elvie's marasmus absolutely must be treated agressively once we are home, but for the four days we have here, she will be all right on the fortified formula we are giving her (basically just adding more formula powder to the water to make it higher in calories and nutrients), and it is advantageous to keep her stress level low by not changing her environment too soon.
In two hours we will have our visa interview at the US Embassy to obtain an IR-3 visa for Elvie, which will grant her US citizenship as soon as land in the US. This will be our last official step for getting her home. The rest of the week will be all about getting the last of the shopping done (coffee, dolls for both girls for Christmas) and chilling out. (It's vacation! Bring me another perfect macchiato!) Jarod has been excellent at holding down the fort while I go out alone with a new friend helps me barter for the things we'd like to take home, and I've gotten a kick out of getting around via mini bus and walking down the middle of the street. I feel like I've increased my Ethiopian street cred this trip because I got yelled at by a traffic cop for not being on the sidewalk. I asked Philemon, our friend, if I needed to jump the fence to get on the sidewalk, and he said, "No! It's fine. I told him we just crossed the street."
We met with Zinashi's Ethiopian family over the weekend, and that is perhaps the biggest news of all. It was a sweet meeting, and we cannot express how good this has been for all of us. Zinashi's family sincerely thought they would never see her again, and to give them the gift of a connection to her as she grows is just huge. I feel like something in Zinashi settled after seeing them, and now knowing that we will be back, just like we have always said. There is an element of trust there now, that both Zinashi and her family know that when we say we will see one another over the years, we will really do it. So here's to Fall 2014, which will find us in both Sidamo and Tigray, keeping the connection alive with our daughters' families.
I'm not sure if there will be time to post again before we come home. Our focus now is on feeding the baby and nurturing our little family as a whole before the big flight. If I don't pop back in prior to our big flight on Friday, please know that no news is good news, and I will catch you up on absolutely everything worth catching up on once we are back in the United States, land of the extraordinarily fast (and reliable!) internet connection. Thank you again for being here for us. We send you all much love from Ethiopia to wherever you are. May your week be filled with sweetness, as ours most surely will be.