Meeting Keza

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


TIME magazine made its way into my post office box as it does every month. I was mindlessly thumbing through the articles when the title of a particular story caught my eye: "When the Adopted Can't Adapt." See article here:,9171,1997439,00.html After reading the article, I immediately thought of the children at Home of Hope. I wondered what they would say if they could read, if they could understand. I thought of the lives of so many children that have been changed for the good and the hearts of so many moms and dads that would never trade for even a moment what they have been blessed with through adoption. So, I decided to let my hand speak for me and I sent a letter to the Editor. Who knows if they will publish it. Here's what I wrote:

As an American mother of a Rwandese child I was immediately interested in your article “When the Adopted Can’t Adapt” as it pertains to international adoption. Not surprisingly, I was disappointed to read, once again, another negative spin on adoption. Are there adoptions with difficult, painful residual effects, like the ones you so vividly described? Absolutely. But what the press never seems to cover are the thousands of international adoptions that have given the unloved, abandoned orphans of this world loving families who adjust reasonably, who thrive, who grow up as any other normal child. I wonder how many families will decide not to adopt after reading your article? I wonder how many children who have no one will lose what they never had?

Well, I'm a good story in the making. And so are many of you. Let's raise our voices and be heard in our own spheres.


Last night I spent some time going through the pictures from Africa with Keza sitting on my knee. I walked her through the pictures, despite her oblivion, and told her the story of when we met for the very first time. within minutes I had tears streaming down my face and was completely stunned all over again. Did this really happen? Did I seriously just adopted a child from Rwanda, Africa? Is she really here, in the flesh and blood, sitting on my knee? Can I really kiss her and love her and keep her forever as my own? It just feels like a dream.

A few hours later I ran across a verse that, of course, brought me to my knees and back to tears. To all of you who are still waiting- this is for you. Hold tight. It will happen.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, `Give them up!' and to the south, `Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.
 - Isaiah 43: 5-6

And...I had to add a few pictures of the most recent family birthday bash.
McKenna was born while I was in Africa. Welcome to the clan, baby girl!

Nephew Mason Abram. Don't you want to eat him?

Gideon longingly looking at life beyond the fenced porch.

Great Grandpa and baby Keza.

It is painful. Just painful. That's how adorable he is.

Oh, Jocelynn Rose, what a knock-out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Salmans Trio

Romeo and Juliet

 Do I not have the most beautiful kids in the world?

Us girls gotta stick together!

One of the gang!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chocolate and Brown Sugar

Keza is black. All of the other members of this family are not. (for now, anyway.) Somehow this difference was not noticed by either of my white children. I was surprised that through all of the pictures and videos that they viewed they never said anything. Nor did they notice when they met her. This entire week we have been home they have just been lovestruck by 'Baby Sister', as they should be. Wayne and I have decided not to bring the obvious difference to attention but to wait and see when they make the connection themselves and what their reactions might be. Today was that day for Gideon.

I was changing Keza on the couch when Gideon got up from the table where he had just eaten a chocolate flavored yogurt. He sat down beside me and I could tell he had something to say.
"Mommy, Keza is not purple."
"No, Gideon, she is not."
"Keza is not green either, Mommy."
"That's right Gideon. She's not green."
"Mommy, I wonder what color Keza is? Hmm. Let me think about it." Now he taps his finger on his head and assumes the 'thinker' position. "Mommy, Keza looks like my yogurt! She is brown!"
"That's right Gideon! Good job! She is beautiful-brown sugar-chocolate brown!"
"Ok, but mommy, lets not eat her."

Oh, for everything perfectly cute and adorable. I love my kids.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


i hear you humming
in the corners of our home

small voice
suspended in secrets

you are looking at her
while you sing

your eyes turning up at the sides
like you two know something

no one else does
the blue of them bluer

I wonder were they always
so deep

were they always
so blue

she is transfixed
ears standing on end

face pressing against
the small song

that you wrap
like a vow around her

does she listen
because you see her

does understanding suddenly
open in her eyes

a hidden flower
found by sun

when she realizes
she is among her own kind

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One of my final days in Nairobi I met a pastor from a Christian church in Texas. He was a really nice guy that was leading a missions trip to do work in Kenyan villages. Eventually our conversation turned to Keza and I relayed the shortened version of our adoption story. After he heard that she was from Rwanda, he immediately responded by asking, "So, is she Hutu or Tutsi?" I answered him by saying that in Rwanda people are trying to move past those labels and don't refer to themselves that way anymore. In fact, it's illegal. He thought about this one moment and said, "Well, OK, but I can tell just by looking at her face what she is."

Anger. Frustration. Annoyance. Rage. Disappointment. Just a few of the emotions that washed over me as I heard this man speak. He was careless with his thoughts, with his words, and it showed.

I expect people to be naive and ignorant about this. Even just a few years ago I was next to clueless about what happened in 1994 to a small country called Rwanda. I get that people have a hard time understanding genocide and the horror it holds. What I don't understand is how a pastor, a man that has given his life to sharing the freeing love of Christ, a man who is familiar and well acquainted with the Rwanda genocide, could be so narrow minded and wrong.

Those labels, Hutu and Tutsi, defined a genocide that caused almost a million people to die bloody, horrible, unimaginable deaths. Those names caused evil and division and nothing profitable. And this child, this sweet little baby girl that is sitting on my lap, is neither Hutu nor Tutsi. The lines of her face, the color of her skin, the build of her bones do not reveal what she is and who she is.

I've thought about that conversation daily since having it and many times I have wandered to a verse in Galatians that says: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, ( no Hutu or Tutsi),  for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The whole point of Christ coming and dieing was for us to be free, to love God and to be loved by Him and that love is what defines us.

Who is Keza? She is loved. That's who she is.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


PKeza and I are sitting at the dining room table in OUR HOUSE! Everyone else is still sleeping in after the late night, but apparently, our clocks are not on the same time-zone yet. So, we have been quietly looking through some of the photos taken at the airport last night and having a good cry!

The flight from Seattle to Anchorage could not have been short enough. I must have asked what time it was every 10 minutes. After what felt like an eternity we practically ran out of the plane in search for our family! We were welcomed by the Jennings family paparazzi! Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Siblings and friends all with cameras clicking away.

I am so happy to be home. Gideon must have told me he loves me 50 times last night. "Mommy, I love you. I love your back. I love your hands. I love your hair..." My boys looks so much older. It's amazing what happens in a month. AND they are in desperate need of a haircut! They both are loving little Keza. They had a great time on the way home trying to get her to smile and talk by making faces and showing her their toys.

I love my family. 

Here's a few photo's that capture one of my family's sweetest moments in the world:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

27 and Counting

This is hour 27 of our trek home. At the moment Keza is curled up in my sweater, sound asleep on the floor in the Washington DC airport. The iPhone is in mom's hand and she is giddily welcoming Internet back into her life with the swipe of a finger. I am sitting here, double-tall-nonfat-toffee-nut-latte in hand (how I missed you, Starbucks) and am trying to process the gamut of emotions that have coursed through me this day.

Today we said goodbye to Africa. I'll be honest, it was not hard to leave Nairobi. But, as we sat in Ethiopia awaiting our second flight, the intercom sounded the call to board a flight leaving for Kigali. My heart constricted. Part of me never wants to leave Rwanda. I love that country. I could live there. I could. I'm not sure when it happened or how, but I love her and am sad to leave her behind. I suppose in way, though, she is with me right now, wrapped up in a little bundle at my feet.

The first flight was difficult. Keza was exhausted but fought sleep like a ringed professional. She cried and screamed 1 1/2 hours of the two hour flight. The second flight was awesome, minus being delayed in Rome which added 2 hours to the already 17 hours we would be in the plane. We got the best seats in the house after first class. We had no one in front of us, lots of leg room to stretch our limbs (so our swollen legs look much less like 'cankles' than they did the first time around) and a bassinet for the baby to sleep in.

Customs and Immigration took a total of 3 minutes. I asked God to give me a male customs officer (Why are men ALWAYS nicer and more helpful?..OK, don't answer that) and I got the nicest one of them all, I am sure. He looked through my paperwork, said how beautiful Keza was, and sent us on our merry way. I said, "is that all? Am I supposed to go somewhere else?" He said "Nope. Just go home!" Walking away from that counter I had tears streaming down my face. 2 years of waiting and hoping and work, so much work. 2 years of planning and money and stress. 2 years of anticipation and yearning and hope and disappointment. All of it, all of the prep work, all of the adoption work, came down to that moment. The moment I brought my daughter HOME. She is in the United States of America. Free and clear. She is part of me, my family, my country. Everything was so taxing and so much work and then, a stamp on our paperwork and 'BAM', it's done. It just feels surreal, like it's all one big dream. May I never, ever wake up.

We still have a long way to go. DC to Seattle and Seattle to home. I can't wait to see my boys. Every time I close my eyes I see them running up to me, I hear them calling, "Mommy! Mommy!" Tonight. 9:30 PM. I'm almost home.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adam Walsh, Baby!

Like cold water to a weary soul,
So is good news from a distant land.
                                             Proverbs 25:25

Tonight the phone rings. Mom wearily puts it to her ear and says hello. Suddenly her eyes widen, and she trips over her words when she realized who is on the other side of the line. "Hanna! It's Brad!"

I pick up the phone hoping that this is good news and not news of another delay. Brad hears my voice and says, "Well, I finally got through to the person that makes things happen just now (which means he is indeed working after-hours) and I have news that your Adam Walsh has cleared. You can pick up this Visa first thing in the morning!"

I burst into tears. Mom squeals like a pig-tailed little girl. Brad says, "Um, are you ok?"

Am I ok? I am WAY better than ok! I jump up and down and do a victory dance with Keza in my arms, who looks very startled at the sight of two crazed white women flopping and flailing around the room.

One month ago today I left my family and my home, boarded a plane as a mother of two children and flew halfway around the world into the biggest adventure of my life. Tomorrow I board a plane as a mother of three, my arms full, and my heart fuller.

THANK YOU, God, for answering our prayers and getting us on a plane before another weekend comes. Thank you friends, the many hundreds of you, who got on your knees and asked God to move on our behalf. I can't say He was early, but He is faithful and He helped us yet again.

Saturday night I will kiss my sweet little boys and introduce my husband to his brand-new, beautiful baby girl. Keza will meet her forever family and we will have every cause to thank God for all that He has done for us.

Slightest Cracks

If we are to get the Visa before the weekend we have one workday to complete it. The DC office opens in less than four hours. For two hours the Embassy here and Washington will have time to communicate before the United States of America closes shop in Kenya. In that two hours, my contact, his name is Brad, must call and have his call anwered. He must speak to the right person who has the clout or authority to understand the problem, correct the problem and issue an approval.

Please pray for Brad. He has been helpful, but he is not as concerned as we are. We are stuck in Nairobi with a problematic visa. He is not. We have a family split in two, he does not. Please pray that he will be motivated to do whatever is necessary and possible for him to do on this side of things. Pray that God blesses his conversations and directs clear paths to the right people at the right times.

Despite having an awesome discount on our hotel, we are averaging about 215$ a day between food, lodging, water (which is ridiculously expensive) and transport to and from the Embassy. This isn't counting Internet, phone or any other expenses that we might incur. That means that this oversight made by the Embassy and DC has already cost us an extra $1,500. Every day that increases. We would really love to check out of this hotel!

I was able to change our tickets (again) for tomorrow night. Pray we will be on that flight. Also, I have been very sick but am recovering. Keza, however, seems to be coming down with something. Since I've already given you several  prayers to work off of, maybe you can add that one to your ever-growing list.

I don't know why this is happening, but whatever the reason may be, God is still my Father. I hope He acts sooner than later and as his daughter I am asking (begging) for Him to move ASAP. But even if He doesn't open the doors at the rate I want them opened, I am going to try my hardest to trust Him and to have a heart of gratitude. In the meantime, I will push through every door that has the slightest crack!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today we heard from Washington DC but it was not news of passing our John Walsh Clearance. The DC office contacted the Embassy to inform them that our file had been submitted improperly and that we would need to start the background check again. Window #10 didn't understand this, as he says he submitted our paperwork in the same way that he always submits paperwork, including the paperwork of the other families that have just gotten home with their kids. He said he would try to make personal contact with some individuals in D.C. Maybe they could find a solution.

I feel discouraged. If we have to wait the full time for this 2nd check to run its course we are talking the end of next week. I don't want to do that. I miss my children so badly. Gideon told me on the phone today that I needed to hurry and bring Jubilee (hasn't quite caught onto Keza yet) home to meet him. Sweet Gideon, I am trying.

People, would you pray? Would you petition for our Visa? We need to get home.

Sometimes it feels like everything about this adoption story has been ridiculously complicated. In fact, most details I have not included in this blog. They are many. Every step of the way we have had to fight to make this go through. But you know what? Keza is laying in a crib right next to me. She spent the evening sitting in my lap giggling and flopping her arms. She is growing. Even the hair on her head looks totally different than when I first met her. She is eating up a storm, getting nutrients, being touched and loved and cared for. I have to focus on that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Window #10

Dear Window #10,

Every time I walk through the Consular doors I look for you above the sea of brown faces. If you are open I walk as quickly as possible past the cantankerous security guard, careful to keep my head down, and make a solid line to your window. Out of all the many windows at the Embassy, your window is my favorite.

You greet me with a smile and when you speak my English develops a crush on your English. There is no straining to understand your words, no sifting through a thick Swahili accent. Your meaning is evident and unforced. I want to stand there all day, basking in the ring of your words, listening to the sound of clear, crystal comprehension. But alas, I cannot stand there all day and you tell me to wait, you once again disappear into the folds of the embassy searching high and low for any sign of Adam Walsh.

I sit and know I look like a little pink person in this room. Maybe that is why it doesn't take the security guard long to spot me. I know she is agitated before I even look up. She wants me to wait in line. She wants to tell me when and to whom I must speak. But she doesn't understand, window #10, that I have to get your window. Not Window 8, or 4 or 3. She doesn't understand that hope comes from your window, that the last piece of the puzzle will pass through your glass and I will be free.

She clears her throat and I force my eyes up to meet hers. "Can I help you?" she asks holding onto the I, the emphasis straining to reach the next word. "Um, no thanks!" I smile as sweet as can be but she doesn't seem to notice the kind of grin that only $4000 of orthodontic work can produce. She digs both thumbs down behind her belt, juts her hip out and I recognize the signal because I've seen it before. I know that she is about to make me move and start over in the line that, like most things in Kenya, will last the better part of the day. So I chime in before she has a chance to clear her throat, "I actually have already been helped. Window #10 is cool with me being here. He said I could wait. But thanks!" She just stares at me a minute, brown eyes locking on blue and I have to bite my lip so that I won't laugh because it always feels like I am in a ring with Mike Tyson and for whatever reason that strikes me as funny, she slapping her gloves together and grunting into the air. Eventually she steps back, because what can she do, what power can she wield against window #10?

Today was not really different than any of the other days. But window #10, tomorrow I will find you once again. I will stand in front of your glass like a plaintiff standing before an English speaking judge. I will hold my breath as you tap, tap, tap on your computer. I will wait. And maybe tomorrow, for the first time, your eyes will spark. You will tell me that Adam Walsh has found no beef with me and I am clear. I'll hand you the passport and you will paste that $400 piece of paper, the one that this entire adoption has been working toward, onto the empty page. I will want to kiss you, Window 10, but the glass will restrain me, so instead I will thank you and remind you that to some people a Visa is worth everything.

Hanna Salmans

P.S. I know your name is Brad because your answering machine said so. So much for National Security.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

As Big As The Sky

Dear Gideon and Maddox,

I wake in the middle of the night every night. You are on my mind. I hate being a part from you. The first two weeks were hard, but they were bearable. I am into my fourth week away from you two now. And I cry every time I sit at the computer. This is too long. I never want to leave you for a month again.

I want you to know that I would do this, as hard as it is, for you too. If it were one of you halfway across the world, I would pack my bags and come for you. I would spend all the money in the world. I would leave my home and my family to find you. I love you boys so deeply. You are worth to me every bit that little Keza is.

Gideon Lee, you are my firstborn. A son. I wish you could understand what it's like to meet and hold your first child, what its like to love your child. It's deeper and different than any other human love. You will always be my son. I will always be your mama. Gideon, I love your heart and your spirited ways. I love the drama in you, even if it does drive me crazy sometimes. I love that what you love you LOVE.  Everything about you is passionate. Your name means Valiant Warrior. It's so fitting, Gideon. You are going to do great things in your life and I can't wait to see what they are. You are a fighter. You are persistent. You are a mover and shaker. And I love you so much, little boy.

Maddox Rey, when you were born I remember feeling completely humbled. I was shocked that your dad and I could create such a sweet, peaceful child. I remember thanking God, feeling like He had just bypassed our genes and created something that we never would have been capable of making. Your dad and I are both first children. We are crazy and have the attitudes to match. How did we end up with you, sweet boy? You are so kind. Whenever you see an animal or a baby or someone crying you notice. You go out of your way to touch them and to give to them. Your name means Good and Generous King. I know now that God was in your name. It wasn't just the name we picked out of the air. I can't wait to see how your life unfolds. You are wise, little Maddox. People will look up to you. And I am already so completely proud of you.

I am coming home soon, little guys. I am going to hug you so tight. I am going to build towers and drive cars and watch Dora and Diego with you. we are going to play in the sunshine and dig for worms in the shadows. I can't wait to see you. As Gideon would say, "I miss you so, so, so, so, so, so, so, BAD!" I do. Everything in me wants to be home with you.

I love you as big as the sky,


We have had an emotionally tumultuous couple of days. On Wednesday when we went to the Embassy to check on our Visas we were told that for whatever reason our families Adam Walsh Act had not been run. They had no record of our names ever having been put in the system. This was a mistake on the part of the Embassy in Kigali. So, what to do. They said to try back on Friday, the day we were supposed to leave. So Friday morning, with knots in my stomach, I made my way back to the Embassy.

It wasn't ready. We had no choice but to revert to plan B: chill out. I refuse to freak out about this. Adoption is not a science. It's not something that looks the same for every family. It's not predictable or controllable. We knew that going into it, so while I am VERY homesick for my three boys at home (words cannot describe how much I miss them), I am trying to remember that this is one of the biggest adventures of my life and it will be more enjoyable if I can roll with the punches. In the scheme of my life, or this year, or even a few months, a few extra days are not going to kill me. Who wants to be predictable anyway?!

Yesterday we said goodbye to the other families and to my sister Heidi who had to get back to work. I wasn't expecting it to be such an emotional moment. Especially hugging my sister goodbye, which seems ridiculous since I will probably see her in less than a week! There were many tears as we hugged Nyanja and she said her goodbyes to Keza, who she loves. The other families will be missed. I love my new friends and can't wait for the visits! The hotel feels empty and significantly quieter without the buzz of other adoptive families. When everyone was about to walk out the door the hotel surprised us with a cake that said 'Thank You' on it. The woman in charge told us that they have seen few people with hearts as big as ours and on behalf of the Safari Club Hotel, she thanked us for caring for the children of Africa. It was so unexpected and sweet and completely humbling.

We don't know when the Adam Wash Check will be complete. Hopefully Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, we are going to continue to see the sights there are to see. Tomorrow we have scheduled a trip to the Masai Ostrich Farm and Park where we will watch Ostrich races and get acquainted with the silly birds. Who knows, maybe we will be brave enough to ride one ourselves! Can you imagine me as an Ostrich Jockey!?

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Letter From Dad

Dear Keza,

I am feeling oddly trapped. I spent the last 24 hours in the hospital waiting for my cousins baby girl to be born while at the same time my own little girl, who I have never met, is a million miles away in Africa.

I feel like I am fighting back tears every day as I go through the motions of life. I am waiting constantly, waiting for my baby, my little girl, to get here. The meetings, the paper work, the noise of my life feels heavy and useless in the wait.

I can't wait to meet you Keza. I cant wait to tell you I love you, that I will always fight for you, protect you, hold you. Come home. You're safe now.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thank You

For Keza. Thank you that you knew, that you always knew her. Thank you for thinking of her before she even entered this world. Thank you for your compassion and your mercy toward her. Thank you that even when it seemed as though she was abandoned and alone, you were with her. You guided the man who found her. You made him look into the edges of the dark night. You opened his eyes to see her. You opened his arms to pick her up, out of the the ditch, out of a life that would have snapped shut suddenly. You inhabited his hands. You carried her, a little promise, in your palm and brought her to a Home of Hope.
Thank you for the sisters who loved her and spoke to her and touched her and fed her. Thank you that when they didn't have the time to really see her you saw her. Thank you for giving her a home with healthy food and water. Thank you for a home with clothing and medicine. Thank you for placing your heart in homes such as hers, in rooms lined with the fatherless. Thank you for being our Father.

Thank you for preparing me, for preparing Wayne for adoption. Thank you for giving me the adoption gene before I ever thought of children, for putting Africa in my husbands heart. Thank you for designing my family before it was a family. Thank you for Gideon, my sweet Gideon. Thank you for opening his little heart up, for giving him love for a sister he knows nothing of. And for Maddox, for giving me another boy when I thought I wanted a girl. Thank you for making two brothers when you gave me two sons.

For the right time, at the right place, thank you. For the months of waiting, for the setbacks and silence. Thank you for letting my file fall through the cracks long enough for Keza to be born and to grow strong enough and old enough to be adopted. Thank you for your patience with me when I don't trust you, when I stomp my feet and say in my heart that you don't see. You see everything. You saw her when I could not. You knew what my disappointment and frustration was worth and you led me even when I did not recognize that it was your hand leading.

Thank you for letting me and my family be one of the few that get to take part in such a beautiful thing. Thank you for choosing us. It doesn't make sense to me, why you bless me like you do. Sometimes I feel like what I have is beyond compare. I have a beautiful family. I have love. I have a home full of tonka trucks and bugs and boogers. I have three children who I love with every inch of my heart. And more than any of it, more than every good thing combined: I have a faithful Father who takes care of me, who will always take care of me, who knows me, who calls me by name. Thank you for choosing me too. You are good to your children.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll let these say it all: