Sunday, October 14, 2007


It's just past 10pm in Cote D'Ivoire and I'm sitting in my hotel room after three 6-7 hour flights between three continents, an unexpected 26 hour layover, a wonderful overnight stay at the one star JFK INN, a 6 hour layover, and playing single dad to a beautiful boy named Emmanuel.

I flew to JFK from LAX on Thursday morning expecting to meet Emmanuel when he flew in from Columbus, Ohio with a JetBlue escort but unfortunately, his flight was grounded due to crappy weather.

Our first flight to Paris was scheduled to leave JFK at 8:45 but we missed that one. The next, and last flight of the day to Paris, was scheduled to leave at 10:55, which...we also missed. Thus, Emmanuel and I took a shuttle to the JFK INN which I'm pretty sure was full of two parts hookers and junkies, and one part grounded and bewildered travelers.

As I said, this was an unexpected overnight and I didn't have the bag I checked with my clothes and toiletries but thankfully, I planned for this kind of setback and came equipped with a change of clothes for myself, baby wipes(my new favorite modern convenience), and most importantly, a mini-DVD player and plenty of animated movies for a five year old.

Now, when I met Emmanuel he was toting a miniature, rolling suitcase full of toys and he refused to be helped with it. This would have been pretty normal for five year old but in this case, Emmanuel who was born deaf and partially blind, has the verbal skills of a year and half old and he was also born with hip displacia so he walks VERY slowly with a limp. So, when I met him, he didn't say a word. He simply smiled from ear to ear, dropped his suitcase handle, limped over to me and threw his arms around me for a big hug. I was immediately won over by this little kid...

For the next 24 hours, we had a great time, in economy, watching movies, laughing and going "potty" alot. I never realized how much taking someone to the bathroom and occasionally wiping their butt bonds one another. However, I wouldn't recommend this as a regular technique in "breaking the ice" with people.

Even though we couldn't really talk to eachother, we could communicate basic needs and the majority of the time I would end up laughing at him or smiling and winking at him to let him know that I was there for him. I don't think anyone has ever winked at him because he thought it was hilarious and eventually started winking back which was hillariously cute and made me laugh...

Finally, we landed in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire and were greeted by about ten people including the "Children's Hope" team of twenty-something men who find children in Abidjan in need of our help, a reporter and camerman from the nations largest TV station, who were filming, and the Minister of Family Services. Now, I had been traveling with this kid for about 36 hours with VERY little sleep and even less attention to personal hygiene. I just wanted to go to sleep but instead, I gave interviews, schmoozed with alot of people, took a tour of the city and visited the orphanage where Emmanuel came from, all the while tending to him. When I was finally being dropped at my hotel, I was informed that Emmanuel's host family in Abidjan, who are caring for him during a pending adoption process, couldn't pick him up tonight and that he'd be staying with me for another night. Another night in a hotel with Emmanuel watching "Happy Feet" and saying "baby" whenever the baby penguin comes on and trying to pinch it on the screen.

Tomorrow I say goodbye to Emmanuel and tour the city to meet other children who need our help. I think it's going to be hard to say goodbye to this kid...


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