I don’t think any July 4th will be as memorable as 2011.
The 4th of July is always fun.
I love the fireworks, cookouts and time with family and friends.
But I don’t think any July 4th will be as memorable as 2011.
When most people were getting going back for a second hotdog, we were half a world away walking into a packed airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Bole International was hopping that night. We got there a little bit before 7 p.m. for our 11 p.m. flight.
Our newly expanded family got inside just in time to experience one of the frequent power outages. Now, it was hot, dark and scary. None of us were having a great time. Our newly adopted four-year-old was not a fan.
After the lights came back on, we stood in the customs line for hours. Both boys were tired and cranky. After we finally cleared customs, we raced to our gate where we arrived with about a half an hour to spare. When we arrived, we stood in another line.
By the time we made it through that line, it was time to board the plane. By this time, Blake – who was seven at the time – was dehydrated and feeling faint.
Blake had a good time in Ethiopia for nine days, but he did not like the food and it was all we could do to keep him fed and drinking enough water to keep him going.
My wife’s maternal instinct kicked in. She found a stewardess and told her about our plight. So the boys got to drink water from the first class passengers’ fancy glasses.
About eight hours later, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany for a seven-hour layover. If you have never spent seven hours in a foreign airport with a child that doesn’t speak English, you haven’t lived.
Honestly, it went better than I expected. The fact that there was a McDonald’s in the airport did make things a little bit better. Blake, whose only protein for a week had been mozzarella cheese from plain, sauceless pizzas, spent a lot of Euros on chicken McNuggets. Dawit was immediately won over to American-style food. It was funny to see his reaction when he got his first taste of French fries with ketchup. I wish he would have been able to put that smile into words.
We finally got back in the air and headed for Houston. We landed eight hours later.
It wasn’t your average disembarkation. Thanks to his IR3 Visa, as soon as his feet touched American soil – even though it was in Texas – Dawit became an American citizen. We went through immigration and got his citizenship papers squared away and waited for one last plane to bring us home.
When we finally got back to Wichita a few hours later, we walked off that plane and saw about two dozen of our friends and family waiting for us – at about 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night.
It was shocking for us to see so many people making the sacrifice to be in the airport late at night to welcome us home and meet our newest family member.
Dawit seemed to like being an American. He had hugs and high fives for everyone.
My friend and Vice Presidential running mate brought us home after spending a day getting our air conditioner fixed.
Dawit immediately started playing with his new toys and getting used to his new house.
I had to be at work early the next morning and sleep wasn’t go to come for a while.
Taking custody of Dawit in Addis Ababa changed our family forever. But our new lives didn’t really start until we touched down in Wichita on July 5, 2011.
Now Dawit is popping firecrackers and eating barbecue and saying, “oooh!” and “aaaah!” every time another one lights up the night the sky.
But no matter how much fun or how memorable any Independence Day is from this year forward, none of them will be as memorable as 2011.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org