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Saturday, April 18, 2009

We're Here!

<b>Short Version:</b> We are here!! in Addis Ababa, checked in to our
hotel-yahoo!! Our trip was long but good and we are glad to be in one
place for a little while. We put together an account of the first
couple days below if you have time to read it, go ahead and if not,
tune in tomorrow when will share about our first day here!

<b>Long Version:</b> After a long bunch of traveling we have arrived
at our destination-Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! I will give you the rundown
of our trip so far-it was long but so much fun. Well, the beginning
was not so much fun. We got to Roanoke Airport a little before time
to leave and the wonderful girl at the ticket counter happily waived
our fees for the overweight luggage carrying donated supplies for
Hannah's Hope. Then the hard part-we had to say goodbye to our girls
that we were leaving behind-suffice it to say it was one of the
hardest things I have ever done. I know they will have a great time
with friends and family back home, but it was terrible to walk away
from them and know we would be SO far away. But when we heard the
announcement "would Pat and Jody Hilt please report to the gate 2
immediately-the plane is closing in one minute" we had to move it move
it!! My sister and her family were also at the airport so the herd of
9 kids in total all waved and yelled "goodbye!!" and off we went! We
waved to them at the window while we were getting on the plane (tiny
airport-you walk out on the pavement and up the tiny fold-down steps
onto the tin can, er, plane) and then realized we were waving at the
wrong window when we saw 9 kids plastered to another window all waving
at us—and we did not feel one bit dorky about that AT ALL, knowing
they were all laughing at us back in the terminal-haha! Anyway, our
plane drove out and then we had to sit for quite a bit waiting for
clearance from Dulles, where we were headed next, because according to
the pilot, it was "rush hour" and there wasn't room for us to land
yet. We finally took off, landed at Dulles and it felt like another
world-so many languages spoken and skin colors and cultures all
around-it was amazing! We had a short layover there, got on another
tin can, er plane, and then sat and sat and sat on the runway for
about 30-45 minutes till the pilot finally came on and told us we had
to park for awhile longer till JFK gave us clearance because it
appears it was also rush hour there, too. It is so fascination to see
all the different cultures of the world! No sooner had he made that
announcement and parked us that the plane started back up and he told
us JFK changed their minds and we were off! It was a pretty short
flight until we got to New York and where we had to circle Long Island
for 30 minutes, which was neat the first time, and maybe even the
second time, but oh my, not all the times after that!! Just when we
were getting ready to head to Philadelphia b/c we were almost out of
fuel, we got clearance to land and we did and then the fun began. Pat
and I were totally lost in the back halls of Terminal 7 in JFK for 45
minutes-had no idea where to go and apparently they do not believe in
putting up the giant directories like most airports so we could only
find where to go IF we were going somewhere in Terminal 7, which we
were not. And also they apparently do not believe in being helpful to
lost folks either-except for the one nice man who finally told us
where to go and we love him-thank you nice United ticket counter man!
At this point we had talked to Dawn and Tim on the phone as they were
also in JFK (they are a fellow AGCI couple and friends of ours, for
those just tuning in to our blog) but we just couldn't get tom them.
Finally, we followed the nice United man's directions, got on the air
train bound for Terminal 4. On the train we met another lost soul, a
sweet dark brown little old man, who was trying to find Terminal 1 and
didn't speak english and who pleaded with us by tugging on our sleeves
to help him find "numero uno????" We did our best to show him his stop
on the train map and showed him how to watch the digital sign that
told which stop it was and told him to look for when it said "1" and
then get off. I sure hope that sweet little man is not still riding
that train around JFK... Anyway, we FINALLY made it to our Emirates
area and found Dawn and Tim, phew!! We got our info checked out for
our next leg of travel and went in search of dinner, which consisted
of overpriced and underwhelming airport food. Yuck. By the time we
were done, it was time to go to our gate for our looooong Emirates
flight to Dubai. The group of passengers on our plane were so
beautiful-long black hair and golden brown skin on the women, who also
sported glittering bangles and flowy swaths of colorful fabric saris,
men with jet black hair, children with coal black little pigtails and
golden bracelet, one even with sets of jingly bells around each ankle.
And us-pasty and bedraggled. Our flight on Emirates was WONDERFUL-we
rode the biggest newest plane in the world, an Airbus A380—this thing
had multiple floors with beds and lounges for the 1st class
passengers (not us, btw) and a billion movies we could watch on our
own personal tvs as well as video games, maps, tv shows, etc. They
fed us dinner on the plane about midnight our time which was kind of
strange for us-but it was super yummy middle eastern food and super
rich chocolate mousse and it made up for the gross airport dinner.
They made the whole plane dark and then the ceiling turns into a
simulated night sky with tiny little pinprick "stars"-it was so cool!
They fed us "lunch" at 4 am (eastern time for us back home) and then
"breakfast", spicy lentil stew with rice patty thingys and coconut
chutney-almost exactly what we eat for breakfast back home-at about 8
am EDT. The food was all delicious but oh my goodness we were sick of
eating and my body was angry at me for the spicy-ness and yelling
"please find some maalox!!" I did not find any. My body is still not
happy about that fact. And the lack of sleep on the plane because I
could not find a way to sleep that didn't make my back feel like it
was on fire. Anyway, we arrived in Dubai about 7something their time
and loved the airport with palm trees growing right in it and all the
immigration employees who wore traditional Arab clothing of all white
gowns and head coverings on the men and all black billowy gowns and
head coverings with colorful sparkly accents for the women. We were
definitely NOT in the US anymore! We had to go through security to
leave the airport and something in my backpack caused some sort of
suspicion-still not sure what it was as I was never told, just made to
go over to a table with a beautiful Arab woman who, at the direction
of the uniformed man there, said a little harshly "give me your
passport" and proceeded to take our every single thing in the back
pack, including every cosmetic in the bag, etc. She was particularly
interested in the boxes of raisins I had and even flipped through my
Bible pages-maybe she found something good in here! :) Anyway, I guess
they were ok with whatever was concerning them so she carefully packed
them back, leaned towards me a little and quietly said "sorry" with a
little smile. I think she pretty much just has to do whatever she is
told to do and felt a little bad. I wasn't bothered by it, as long as
I wasn't in trouble for something! The next thing on our to do list
was get the baggage checked for our morning flight out, which took
some doing because eleventy five people needed to read and approve our
letter stating we were carrying over supplies for the orphanage, but
they finally did and waived all the fees again-yay God! At that point
we caught the shuttle to the hotel where we got to eat AGAIN, even
though it was like 10 something at night there, and I have no idea
what time back home. But we figure we are just going to eat when we
have the opportunity and trust the source because we don't know how
often it will happen!! Pat and I took a walk outside the hotel just
to see some of Dubai and it was warm and very tropical feeling and
every few minutes the smell of some exotic flowers would drift by-it
was a nice change from all the traveling. We then had the awesome
privilege of going to bed in a bed! And taking a shower! Ahhhh, so
nice...We got up super early, like 5 am, and got dressed and ready to
go, ate breakfast and headed back to the airport to catch our flight
to Addis-finally!! The airport was MUCH busier and more crowded than
the night before and this time we got through security without
incident, oddly enough, with the exact same bags and content as the
night before—I must have not looked suspicious today, or maybe I just
smelled way better after that shower!! Anyway, we got checked in and
had a few minutes so we bought a few souvenirs and then heard our
flight being called and she said "last call, the gate is closing". So
in our best effort to create a scene from the amazing race, we took
off to our gate, got there all sweaty and Tim and Dawn came up asking
why we were running-they hadn't heard the announcement, just saw us
running (they were on the floor above us, it was like a shopping mall
type area) and took off too-crazy Americans!! But the man at the gate
was super friendly and nice and we got on no problem, had a great
flight where we met a nice lady from Michigan but who lives in Uganda
working for the UN doing emergency response-it was really cool to talk
to her! That leg of the trip zoomed by since it was only about 3.5
hours to Addis and, after being fed on the plane AGAIN which contained
more spicy lamb things-oh my gosh, my tummy cannot keep up this pace,
I will be in my room rocking in the corner with a pack of saltines by
this afternoon-we heard the announcement: "We will begin our descent
into Addis Ababa now". Oh wow, the butterflies began in earnest for
both of us at that point and we landed, looked at one another and said
"we are HERE-in ETHIOPIA!" The dream of the last year was finally
coming true-and we were both ecstatic and scared to death.


Anonymous said...

so glad you made it! I am laughing about all the food- I so remember that- they keep feeding you odd foods at times your body says it should be asleep!!
My kids keep asking where you are now... Did you spend the day with the Sultan of Ethiopia yet?
Once again, glad you are safe and on the other side of the world!

Anonymous said...

Pat and Jody, so glad to hear that you are safely in the homeland of your baby girl. Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead (James 2:17) Your faith has seen lots of action!! We are looking forward to following your journey. Keep us posted the best you can. Hugs from home, Kelly

Anonymous said...

Woo hoo! I too, am glad you made it. We have a little card here that Julie made that says "I sm so happy for Zoe and I pray for her. I hope Emma and Mimi will be happy. Love Julie". Keep us posted with words and pictures! Nancy

K.J. Bennett said...

Hey Hilts,

We're so grateful to be able to keep up with your adventure via your blog. We're continuing to pray and absolutely cannot wait to meet the newest Hilt girl! Enjoy it all!
the bennetts

Anonymous said...

hi mommy

miss you so much
I hope you have a good time

emma & mimi

Dan and Tara said...

Thanks for the detail! I feel like I am reading a book and all drawn into the story! It's awesome! Have a wonderful trip and a great day meeting your new little one! - Tara

Jessica Knitter said...

So glad you made it! Soon you'll be with your little one. Thanks for filling us in with your adveture.

Aubrey said...

So glad you made it! Thanks for the great post! I wish we'd gone through Dubai - sounds very exciting!

nell ann said...

SO fun!!! I will start preparing my tummy for all the spicy food...even more than I prepare it weekly. : )

I'm ready for the next post! And I bet you are, too!

Anonymous said...

Possibly the adventure of a lifetime! Possibly the indigestion of a lifetime!!! Just VERY happy that you're there safe & sound and that you'll meet Zoe in person very soon. You can visit with the Sultan when it's more suited to your schedule - you have FAR more important things to do/people to meet first.

Dad & Cheryl

Michelle said...

awesome :)

The Hull's at #4 said...

Wow! So glad you made it! Sounds like an adventure to look forward to!