We bounce over rough bare ground that our driver convinces us are actually roads. Now at a slower pace the crowds of people actually start to notice this large vehicle bounding along. I catch the eye of a young boy playing with a hoop and stick. Yes, running along pushing the hoop with a stick. Thoughts of time travel and Colonial Williamsburg flood my brain but then I catch his fascinated brown eyes. They grow wide into a fixed stare as they look deeply into mine. A wide smile emerges displaying his glowing white teeth as we move past. As my eyes leave his I see his mouth open and hear him shout at the top of his lungs “frenge! frenge! frenge!” This chant now follows us down the dusty road passed by the yells of children the chant traveling faster then we can traverse down these dusty paths. With a smirk our driver tells us they are chanting “white person, white person” and adds politely, “they don’t see many of you down here!” “We are definitely not in Lancaster County, PA anymore” I think as my mind drifts over the past two days.
48 hours ago we were boarding a long awaited plane and flying 15 hours to embrace a member of our family. For many months now his picture had been hanging in our living room, adorning the fridge, computer screen and practically everywhere else. We knew his name, Yihun, caught glimpses of his sly personality and ached to be with him. But we had been separated by time and an ocean both of water and paperwork. Finally, at last, we were bringing him home. As romantic as that sounds we were also keenly aware that we were bringing him from his home. Now only 12 hours after he first leapt into our arms we were leaving him to go and discover the home he was leaving behind.
This ride, that seemed to take an eternity, was delivering us to our little ones past. The paperwork had shown us the hard facts. Father: Batiso age 34, Mother deceased, Siblings 3. Hard facts do not prepare, how can they prepare, for a once in a lifetime meeting with someone to whom you will forever be indebted.
Lost in thoughts, fighting back the butterflies mounting into an army in our stomachs the final few miles drift by. Without a word of warning the land rover came sliding to a stop. As the cloud of dust caught up and rolled past we saw the stare of recognition glisten in eyes within the crowd waiting for this moment. The bright white of exceedingly sad eyes discovered ours and we wondered if we had found Batiso. We were quickly ushered together into a large meeting room and discover it filled with family; 3 uncles, 1 aunt, 3 siblings, and the sad eyes of Batiso.
The questions came pouring out along with the tears. What is the meaning of his name? What games did he like to play? What can you tell us about his mother? How do you want me to answer his questions of why when he grows up?
The time floated faster than any of us wanted it to and as quickly as it started we were giving final goodbye hugs. As we held this tall, thin, proud and beautiful man there was only two words we could manage to get out of our trembling lips “Thank you”. We will never forget that day.
Now two and a half years later that day still enters my memory frequently. We pray for Batiso and his family, we have pictures of him in our living room. He is a part of our family in a very real, but very distant way. I remember when we were first contemplating adding to our family I thought that the adoption journey was going to be about bringing our son home. When I looked into Batiso’s eyes that day, and when I look at them now in the picture hanging on our wall. I know that the journey only started that day.
Brad & Kate Aldrich
Brad & Kate with three kids, Lily, Kent, and Micah Yihun.