Solomon – the third teenager

In the dry season
in the dry season

Solomon has been introduced previously as one of the teengers in the post A house full of teenagers. As a double orphan we decided to adopt him. Solomon is a common name there, as Menelik I, who the first king of Ethiopia’s long dynasty ending with Haile Selassie, is claimed to be the the son of the Jewish king Solomon, from an intimate moment with her, when he was visited by the Queen of Sheba.

We were planning to bring the 3 boys with us on a holiday to Australia, and that made us put his adoption plan into actIon. We needed to get a passport and a visa for him and there was no one who could legally sign for his application papers. So we made an approach to the Australian adoption agency. They denied us permission because of our age. We were older than 45. (That age has since been raised to 65.) So we went to the Ethiopian adoption agency who said that we could but it had to be by Australian rules. Which meant we couldn’t.

So I, in desperation, went to the Ethiopian Immigration Authorities and asked if they would give me special permission to sign the application paper for a passport. They said “No. Adopt him, and then you can.” I explained the above and was told to forget them officials and to go to a down country regional court and adopt him.

We did that. We were interviewed. They asked sensible questions, and about an hour later we had adoption papers signed and in our hands. It had cost me the equivalent of about $1.50. By local custom he was my son. Although my wife had been questioned in the meeting she wasn’t mentioned on the adoption papers. He was now ours (well mine at least). If he was ever naughty I was told that your son had …. etc.

When we flew down for this adoption, we were in a small plane. It was his first flight. Looking out the window he asked what the black dots scattered around were. We told him that they were Kraals (local mud huts). He said, “they look like cow shit”. A word he must have learned from his mates at school!

If he was to come to Australia we needed a visa for him. There was no Australian Embassy in Ethiopia but there was a High Commission in Nairobi. I was to bring him to Nairobi for an assessment, a medical check etc and if all was ok to get a visa for Australia. Ethiopians don’t need a visa to get into Kenya.

Before Ethiopia would allow him to leave the country to pick it up in Kenya we had to have a letter from a lawyer verifying that he was in fact an orphan and that we had adopted him legally.

I had previously operated on the Minister of Justice, a lawyer, under local anaesthetic for a large lump on his thumb. He didn’t trust the sterility of the government facilities. I hadn’t charged him. He was prepared to sign such a letter for me but had never written one like that before. If I wrote it he would sign and stamp it. So I did that and took the draft to his office for translation into Amharic, signing and stamping.

I had a call telling me that I could pick it up, but it would cost me US$100. In the 90’s that was a fair bit of money. At any rate my/his letter worked.

In Nairobi he passed his medical and we had an interview with a very nice lady. She was thorough. Eventually she said to me “are you telling me that he is 16?” I replied “No, I’m saying that I want him to be 16.” If over 16 he wouldn’t have been given a visa. She told me that she assessed him as older than that, and that if I had answered “yes” she would have made him have X-rays to accurately age him. (He already had wisdom teeth), but as I had been honest she would give us a visa.

Australia still doesn’t accept him as our son. He was allowed in, because there was then (now removed) a condition of entry if a child had been living with you for more than 4 years  that he could get an australian visa. Solomon met that condition.

We all came for a holiday but soon after returning to Ethiopia I was expelled from the country and we returned with just him to live. Several years after he arrived in Australia he applied for citizenship and it was granted. Whilst not academic he has a strong work ethic. He is an Australian citizen. He and his wife both work in an aged care facility.

On first arriving in Sydney he was walking down the street with one of our sons. He saw an elderly lady walking a chihuahua and audibly exclaimed “Do they have pet rats in Australia?” Eventually our son by birth calmed the lady down by explaining that this was almost Solomon’s first day in Australia and they had no such dogs over there. I think she had planned to hit him over the head with her umbrella. Pet owners can be like that!

A sixth child legitimately ours. We found another later!

A protesting crowd
a quiet protest in the capital. The procession was about a kilometre long.

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Dominic Cartier

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