When we went to pick Zeni up we were told that we could take her with us since we were staying in a guest house, but that if we did we could not take her out in public except to the Embassy, and that our agency could provide a babysitter if we wanted to go out. We decided to leave her at the Foster center for the first 5 nights so that we could get some sleep and see some of the city. I didn't like the idea of bringing her to a new place with new people and then having yet another new person to babysit her, and I also didn't like the idea of not getting to see any of the city. Also, she is only 5 months old so I wasn't too terribly worried about the attachment thing right them.
Zeni with her primary caregiver, Siem.
We visited Zeni at the foster care center every day and while I am so glad we got to see as much as we did of Addis, the whole visiting this kid that is legally yours and then leaving every day was weird. Not because I was sad to leave - alarmingly the opposite, actually - I didn't mind leaving at all. Spending a few hours a day playing with her did not at all make me feel attached to her. It made me feel like I was babysitting. It was a horrible feeling. I was worried I would never bond with her, had made a huge mistake - I actually told Jeremy at one point that if someone told me I could get on a plane home and erase this whole experience, I would. It wasn't until she was with us (and we were trapped) at the guest house that I started to feel like I was getting to know her, and started to feel affection for her. If I had it to do over again I don't know that I would do it differently, but I do know I was really, really an emotional wreck for the first half of our trip.
(disclaimer - I have nothing to do with the Ethiopia Guest Home except that I stayed there, liked it, and am sharing my experience). (Why the hell do I need a disclaimer for my own blog?)
There are a zillion places to stay in Addis and I heard nothing bad about anywhere except the Hotel Ghion where apparently there was no hot water. With the new travel restrictions I assume more and more people are looking for guest houses to stay at and, I must say, ours pretty much rocked.
We stayed at the Ethiopia Guest House. I'll get the negative out of the way first - it is pretty much on the opposite side of town from the Gladney Foster Houses. I think the fastest we ever made it was 35 minutes, usually it was closer to 50. That is something to consider if you are a Gladney family but the place was great and even knowing how much of a schlep it was, I would still stay there. I believe it is quite close to the AAI houses, and I'm not sure about any other agencies or orphanages.
Now to the positives. Very clean, spacious rooms, (relatively) quiet, smog free location which really felt like a retreat at the end of the day. Each room has a balcony which is great for watching the world go by. Breakfast (everything from waffles and pancakes to eggs and cereal, always with fruit smoothies) is included and lunch and dinner (pasta, Ethiopian food, fresh baked bread, pizza, all delicious) is available for something like $5 or $10 per meal. The staff is incredibly kind - I was hesitant to stay at a guest house because I wanted to feel like we had some privacy, and I was happy to find that we had privacy when we needed and company when we wanted. If you are adopting older kids the staff were always helping with translation, playing with the kids, etc. I did hear one family say that at times it was too much help - things like holding the crying toddlers, they felt that it was interfering with bonding.
In case you're not sold yet, you get a complementary one hour massage. And it's a good one. Additional massages are $20/hour. There is Internet at the guest house but it is slow and unreliable. Fortunately there is an internet cafe right across the street which is incredibly cheap and a bit more reliable. There are also small groceries within walking distance, and a pharmacy.
As far as prices, our room was $85 night with a shared bathroom which we never had to wait for. Halfway through our stay they asked if we would mind moving to the larger room which had a spa shower. Uh, no? It was sweet- nice big space and crazy shower/bath with jets and nozzles that sprayed you from all directions. Plenty of hot water. That room is a little more, and you can also rent out the entire top floor which has 2 or 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. We ate there almost every day for 10 days and our bill for "extras" - meals, laundry, extra massages (that would be my extra massages..)etc. came out to just under $200. You could definitely find cheaper but I doubt you could find anything nearly as nice. After a chaotic, emotionally draining day it was a nice place to return to.