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#RealTravel: One Woman's Journey to Ethiopia to Find her Son

September 17, 2015

In 2011, Circe Hamilton, a British photographer who lives in New York City, got the news she’d been waiting two years to hear: she’d been approved to adopt a child from Ethiopia. That June she flew to Addis Ababa to meet the boy who was to legally become her son. Two more trips, including one to a small village in the region where her where her son, Abush, was from, a mountain of paperwork, and several court appearances later, Abush and Circe left Ethiopia in August 2011 for a new life in the United States as a family. This is their story as told through Hamilton’s lens.

1. In June 2011, Hamilton arrived in Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa (English translation = new flower). Also known as the gateway to Africa.

2. Hamilton took the back roads to the orphanage, where she was to meet her son.

3. Hamilton meets her son for the first time at 18 months old. Abush, who had just arrived from an orphanage near his hometown of Awasa —leaving everything and everyone he had ever known behind. He was frightened and shy. ”He had just traveled four hours in the back of a van to get to this (newer) orphanage,” Hamilton explained,  He was “surrounded by many new faces, a new language and his new mum,” Hamilton said.

4. Hamilton also traveled to Sidama, the area Abush is from, where people live in thatched houses. 

5. Hamilton met some of the locals who had helped take care of Abush and some of his family members. She gave them photographs of Abush, but also met other villagers who had adopted children to the U.S. They all carried with them photo albums of their children with their new families. None of these children are forgotten. (One of the reasons Hamilton chose her adoption agency is that they organize trips back to visit birth families.)


6. Acacia trees on the road back to Addis Ababa. 

7. The night before they left for the States, there was a goodbye ceremony at the orphanage, for which Abush was dressed in traditional  Sidama clothing.

8. Circe and Abush, saying goodbye to Addis Ababa, August 2011. Abush was about to fly his first flight: ADD - LHR - EWR.

Hamilton and Abush, now almost five, are planning a return trip soon. “Ethiopia, is my son’s heritage, culture, and beginnings,” Hamilton said. “It was a magical journey. Ethiopia captured my heart — this proud, magnificent country with ninety-plus languages is a world of its own. I had a very small taste of life there, but my impressions are vivid. It is very much a part of our family.” 

Circe Hamilton is an English portrait photographer working in New York City. She adopted her child through Wide Horizons for Children.

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