Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ethiopia: Synopsis, Observations, & Impressions

Arriving at Bole Airport in Addis after a long travel day
We got back from Ethiopia three days ago. I am still in a jet-lagged fog right now. At least today I woke up at 5 a.m. instead of 2 a.m. Now that is progress! By dinner time though, I am barely functioning, but need to stay awake so I can try to get back on a normal schedule. Our nearly three weeks in Ethiopia were fabulous! I have so much I want to say and write about. I plan on writing several posts about the trip over the next few weeks as I sort through the 1,000+ pictures I managed to take before my camera finally broke. Instead of starting at the beginning of our trip, I am going to provide a few highlights and impressions from our trip.
  1. Mission accomplished: We finally met K! Biggest disappointment: Our court appointment was canceled once we were already there.
  2. International adoption is a huge roller coaster ride! It is not for the faint at heart. 
  3. Ethiopians communicate in a manner characterized as wax and gold (wax being the obvious meaning and gold being the real or hidden meaning). As such, don't take everything literally. Things are what they are and you will sort it out eventually...
  4. We didn't let the disappointment of the K situation ruin our trip. In fact, all things considered, I give us a gold star for how we handled things.
  5. My kids are great travelers. They handled the 30 hour return trip about as well as I did.
  6. Traveling abroad makes you more flexible, especially when traveling on a budget.
  7. Taking kids on such a trip can be challenging at times, but worth it.
  8. Travel is some of best education your kids can get.
  9. Traveling independently is a great way to meet really interesting people. We always do!
  10. Ethiopia is a country with an amazingly rich culture and history.
  11. Don't take clean drinking water for granted.
  12. A local told me that Ethiopians use about 3 liters of water per person per day. I just looked up stats for the U.S. - 176 gallons per day. Are you kidding me?
  13. Appreciate showers... Really appreciate hot showers.
  14. Lower your bathroom standards... A lot. You'll be happier (and more relieved) in the long term.
  15. Master the art of going to the bathroom in "non-western" conditions. Your skills will come in handy more than once.
  16. Expose your children to extreme poverty at least once during their childhood. Suddenly, your conversations about not having the latest gadget or toy seem trivial.
  17. Even if we cut our family's possessions in half, we would still have 5 to 10 times the material well-being of the average middle-class Ethiopian.
  18. I will no longer complain that we are tight on space. Our modest house will suffice just fine with three kids.
  19. Giving trinkets/candy/pens to local kids does nothing to make their situation better. In fact, it makes it worse. Instead of going to school, they are out practicing their aggressive tactics on the farangis (foreigners).
  20. Westerners do this to make themselves feel better/less guilty.
  21. Should we feel guilty about our lives of privilege? I don't know... But it is a good conversation to have with yourself or a friend.
  22. Poverty should bother you.
  23. No matter how much hand washing and careful eating one does, your intestines will eventually succumb to some kind of bacteria.
  24. The only overweight Ethiopians tend to be pretty well-off city dwellers. Does this tell us anything about the "western" lifestyle?
  25. Beef and sheep costs Ethiopians the equivalent to about $2 per pound. Considering the average income in the U.S. is over 100 times that of the average Ethiopian, Americans pay far too little for their meat.
  26. Ethiopians are kind and very generous people.
  27. Finally, become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is good for the soul.
Up next. Meeting K!
Habtamu's house and family (Steve's friend and colleague)
Steve with Yirgalem (Another friend and colleague)
Coffee Ethiopian style
My girls with Muluneh's girls (Lydia and Ruth)
Our family with Muluneh's family (Muluneh was our house guest in September)
Typical Addis housing
Lily and Semira on top of our Toyota Hiace with the kids of a really cool UK couple we met
Dinner at the 4 Sisters Restaurant in Gondar... My favorite meal of the trip
Typical old Ethiopian church artwork
The "little tuktuk that could" - our transportation in Bahir Dar and Gondar
Gondar as seen from our hotel
Shuruba - a style of braiding far beyond my abilities
Caucasian girl shuruba

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Addis Ababa!

We arrived in Addis Ababa late Friday night and have finally settled in. While we are in Ethiopia, I am going to post a few short notes to let family and friends know what we are doing. It is easier to do here than send various emails. There will be nothing elaborate as the Internet is pretty darn slow here. Also no fancy writing and typos will be included as well!

As I write, I am sitting in a tiny hot and very crowded Internet cafe down the street from our place at Mr. Martin's Cozy House. Everyone in Ethiopia is on their Facebook too! Not that it was unexpected, but the Internet at the guest house doesn't work. So Steve and the kids are strolling down the street to check out a few restaurant menus for dinner.

All in all, our travels here were pretty good (even with our big pile of luggage). Lily and I are nursing pretty bad head colds, which is annoying to say the least. On our flight to Frankfurt, the decent gave us both fits. Lily was in tears before the plane hit the ground. Of course, she didn't sleep a wink either, which didn't help. The last two days, the kids have been up at 4 a.m. then falling asleep late afternoon. So, like a good mom, I am letting them have Coke at night in an effort to keep their eyes open until at least 9 p.m.:) They never seem to object when I say, "Let's order some soda with caffeine!" I am hoping that by tomorrow, they will be on a normal schedule. 

The last two days we have spent visiting with Steve's friends and colleagues here in Addis. Yesterday, we actually left Addis for one of the suburbs called Akaki. Today, we took the kids out for a bit of shopping and had a nice lunch. I really have no idea what our plans are yet for the next few days. Ethiopians don't really make plans like we make plans. You kind of know what you are doing just before actually doing it! So, I quit asking Steve about time, who we are seeing, and what we are doing. Steve's phone has been ringing off the hook since we got here so I know that our days will be filled.

While Steve knows Addis like the back of his hand at this point, I am drawing from my single experience here in 2008 when we adopted Semira. It's exactly how I remember it...busy, loud, and interesting. It is easy to get around in taxis and on the minibuses, which the kids don't really like as much (they are very crowded). The city also has quite a bit of air pollution (no surprise). I just hate breathing it in while we are in the taxi/bus. I will post pictures when we return.

More later!