Ethiopia – preparing my head and heart

Whenever I tell someone I’m going to Ethiopia, they say, “You must be so excited!” And of course I am.

But there is something else going on that I can’t quite grasp. The anticipation I feel about this trip is very different from that of any other trip I’ve taken.

I am looking forward to being on a continent I’ve never visited, being immersed in a culture I’ve never experienced, hearing a language I have never heard. But there is something else–something dancing just around the fringes of my consciousness. Some sense of momentous things about to happen in my life.

I tiptoe close to it in my dreams and in quiet moments during the day when I am suddenly aware of heightened senses and emotions that rise close to the surface with no apparent cause.

Change is coming. This trip is a catalyst.

In a previous post I wrote about a friend’s gentle suggestion to surrender to this experience and “go where the river leads.” I cannot plan what I will see, who I will talk with, how I will feel each step along the way. All I can do is tell myself to open my eyes, open my mind and open my heart.

Mintesnot Solomon deGuzman, in a February 2010 photo.

There is great purpose in this trip for my travel companions, Brian and Keri deGuzman, who will meet their two babies for the first time and finally know the utter joy of holding and nurturing them. They’ve loved these children from afar from the moment they set eyes on that first set of pictures in February.

I am going with them to record their experience to the best of my ability, uncertain what that effort will mean or become, but confident there is a reason I must do it.

We leave July 6 to fly to Baltimore, where Brian and Keri and their two preschool-age children will visit with grandparents who will care for Jesmina and Musse while their parents travel to Ethiopia. For three nights and two days before our July 9 departure to Addis Ababa, they will bask in the love and attention of family and finally breathe, knowing they have done everything they can do to prepare for this trip that will change their lives profoundly and forever.

Tesfanesh deGuzman, in a February 2010 photo.

I will also take that time to breathe, to distance myself from the day-to-day tasks of life and business and seek the quiet calm I need to be prepared for whatever is looming in this unfamiliar place so far away.

I will spend those days in a tiny apartment on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I will be staying with my two sons, now fully independent young men, whose entry into this world on stormy monsoon days in July of 1985 and 1987 changed my own life profoundly and forever.