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Lac qui Parle Valley head coach Ryan Giles cheers on his girls basketball team during a West Central South Conference game against BOLD Feb. 3 in Olivia. Tribune photo by T.J. Bartelt

Family matters

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sports Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Some couples choose adoption to start a family.

Not many would wait more than two years -- and have to file more paperwork than getting a mortgage -- to have one.

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But Ryan and Amy Giles know that the route they have chosen is for them.

Ryan, a teacher and head girls basketball coach at Lac qui Parle Valley, and Amy, also a teacher in the school system, want to adopt an infant from Ethiopia. And two years since they started the process, they are still waiting.

"They told us it would be a six- to eight-month wait, but there was such an influx of people into the program," Amy Giles said about the lengthy process.

Deciding to adopt wasn't the biggest hurdle. Then came the myriad of adoption options: Boy or girl? Infant, toddler or pre-teen? Caucasian or non-caucasian? Domestically or internationally?

In the end, they decided on an infant internationally.

"We were open to many different routes. We decided to do internationally," Amy said. "We thought it would be difficult (to adopt domestically) if the child would question who the parents were.

"When you are looking at a child in Ethiopia, you can't specify a boy or girl. You can specify age and we asked for an infant. He was born in June and we had the referral in August."

First meeting

It wasn't until October that the Gileses met their future son. They traveled to an orphanage in Hosaena, southwest of the capital city of Addis Ababa.

Later during their stay, they got to meet with the child's mother. The woman had never been away from her small village farther south of the orphanage.

It would be their only meeting, because it becomes illegal in Ethiopia for them to meet again.

"We were both thankful. She can hardly survive on her own, let alone try to raise a little one. She said it's the best thing for him," Ryan said. "We were able to give her two gifts. One was a picture of him, and then a picture of us. And also a map, so we could point where she was on a map and where we live."

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is an impoverished nation where the per capita income is less than $2,000 (U.S.) per year. The couple saw examples of that poverty right away in the country's capital of Addis Ababa.

"Our agency (Children's Home Society in St. Paul) told us you can't equate poverty with happiness," Amy said. "Being over there is something beyond my imagination. I don't think we didn't run into anyone that was unhappy. They had torn clothes and didn't have shoes, but they cherished what they did have."

Ryan Giles described some of the living conditions he witnessed. Most people had no running water, limited electricity and no sanitary bathrooms, just "literally a hole in the ground."

Being outsiders, the Gileses and three other couples from Minnesota had to be on their guard when outside of the gated complex they stayed at.

"... there was a guard 24 hours a day. We didn't feel in danger at all," Ryan said. "Everything there was gated. We were still advised not to go out at night."

And not to give in to the beggars.

"Begging in Ethiopia is illegal, but it's like driving 60 miles an hour," he continued. "We were advised not to do it. You could sense the eyes on you when they asked."

The waiting

The Gileses learned their adoption was official on Jan. 21. But it's still a waiting game until they can fly back to Ethiopia.

"We are now awaiting information from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia on travel dates," Ryan and Amy wrote in an email Feb. 9. "... As far as we are aware, there is no more paperwork that we need to complete in order for things to move forward in Ethiopia. However, during this final waiting period there is paperwork that the embassy and the agency are doing, such as working on his passport and visa.

"Currently, we are waiting for an embassy appointment travel date, while the people in country are completing medical exams and submitting the final paperwork to the Embassy for approval. Once the agency receives word that the medical exams and documentation are complete, we will receive a tentative date of travel."

That date had not been set at the time of this article's publication. The couple has had to wait more than two years since the start of the adoption process.

They've had to file reams of paperwork, travel to take care of legal business like getting fingerprints taken and vaccinations.

"It is by far the biggest roller coaster of emotions that we have ever been on," Ryan and Amy wrote. "The hardest part at this point is knowing that our child is over 7,000 miles away from us, and legally he is our child now, but he remains under the care of nannies in an orphanage. They do get adequate care there but the fact of the matter is that he's not home with us."

But both new parents know that all the trials and tribulations will be worth it once they can see their son again.

"The first thing we want to do is give him hugs and kisses to make up for the time that we haven't been able to," they wrote. "We also want to take lots of pictures to document the time we get to share with him in his birth country before we bring him home to ours. We definitely look forward to that first picture as a family."

Update

Sunday night, Ryan and Amy learned that their wait was almost over. He confirmed in a brief phone conversation that they would be leaving for Ethiopia in the next few weeks.

Then Monday afternoon, he sent an email detailing more good news.

"... We will be traveling within the next two weeks for sure. The plan is to either be leaving this weekend or next weekend for a four-night stay in country, being gone a total of six days with flight time. We will visit the orphanage on Monday and be allowed to bring our child back to our guesthouse with us for the afternoon but will bring him back to the orphanage for the night. We will return on Tuesday to pick him up for the final time and take him to the Embassy to receive his paperwork, passports, etc. From there, he will be in our care for the remaining two days in country and then from there on out."

With no more waiting, a new family can begin.

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