Ethiopia: a tentative timetable for travel

When I woke from a deep sleep in the murky pre-dawn hours, I remembered a dream.

In my dream, I had two weeks left to live. I knew it; my doctor knew it. And, in the crazy way that dreams weave their metaphorical artistry, my dentist knew it, too. (Not so surprising, I guess, when you consider that one of my very best friends is also my dentist.)

No one else knew I was dying. And I had a dilemma: What to do with my remaining time? Should I swallow my fear and approach life as usual, so as not to alarm the people around me? Or should I approach the next two weeks with a sense of abandon, allowing each day to unfold in ways that fulfilled my deepest wishes and desires?

I’m sure that middle-agers everywhere have dreams with a similar message: Are you content with the life you’ve built for yourself? If you had a tangible deadline, would it force you to acknowledge what you truly want out of life —  and overcome whatever is preventing you from realizing it?

For me, the dream left a second message: The time is near. It’s time to prepare.

For more than a year, I’ve been anticipating a trip whose actual date remains uncertain. I will travel with a Paradise Valley couple to Ethiopia, on the horn of Africa, bearing witness as they welcome two beautiful children to their family.

With this month’s unexpected chaos at work (thanks to “The Great Office Flood of  2010” we are still operating out of my home), it has been a few weeks since I’ve touched base with Keri and Brian deGuzman. Last I heard, Keri was anticipating a visit from her mom, buying what she needed to stock a nursery and “nesting.” We were looking at a late June or early July departure date.

But June is nearly over. With that recognition, and the jolt from my dream, I took a moment to email Keri yesterday afternoon.

“I’ve been trying not to bother you,” I wrote. “I’m sure every phone call you get, every email you open, asks the same question: Any news yet?

I had an unsettled feeling all day yesterday. Anxious. On edge. Finally, just before 4pm, I bailed out on Production Manager Tina Gerami and Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist, who were tending the home office.

“I have to get to yoga,” I told them, needlessly apologizing. They know, as my husband knows, that yoga is where I take my unproductive energy and reshape it into a calmer sense of purpose.

When I returned home to a now-empty house, I jumped in the pool to cool off and then sat on a patio chair staring at the daytime moon in the southern sky, just above the latillas jutting out from the roof of our back porch. My wet skin tingled as the hot desert wind swirled around me. I closed my eyes and listened to the rustling of quail and rabbits in the bushes behind me.

I am ready, I thought.

After a shower, I returned to my laptop, where I found not one, but five emails from Keri. Four contained new pictures of her growing, thriving babies, Mintesnot and Tesfanesh. One offered a tentative framework for travel.

“This is what we are planning so far,” Keri wrote. “We’ll leave for Washington, D.C. on July 6th, leave for Ethiopia on the 9th and return [to Phoenix] on either the 17th or 18th.”

There is one last bit of uncertainty; she and Brian are awaiting confirmation of a July 13 date at the American Embassy, where they will receive visas that allow their children — an Ethiopian judge already has declared them to be their children — to travel with them back to the U.S.

“The minute I get word I will be booking tickets and will call you!!” Keri added.

I’ll be ready.

A recent photo of Mintesnot and Tesfanesh deGuzman.