Monday, March 2, 2015

Papyrus Boats

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They glide among the heron and know where all the hippos are.

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The fishermen on Lake Tana start early, some fishing alone, others in groups with large nets.

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The boats are made of papyrus reeds and it is slowly dying out, being replaced with larger vessels, less individuals eking out a living from this lake.

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The boats only last a few months, so others are always under construction. 

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With room with only one man to sit, their balance is incredible.

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 This country is on the edge of so much development in change. There are many positive steps forward ready to happen but, at times, at the collateral of culture and ancient practice.

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It’s hard, as an outsider to know what’s loss and what’s gain.

For now, I’ll deeply drink the present beauty.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Family Day

When we drove into the local orphanage, I smiled to see The Little’s dresses on two of the girls. Though it’s a hard realization that one of the girls wearing a hand-me down is 8 years-old. (Julia, do you recognize the clothes? :))  

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After a little Frisbee golf and soccer, with promises we would be back soon, we went home for lunch

After announcing our family hike, Little A said, “It’s not a family hike because it won’t be just our family!” 

Though Ethiopia is largely rural, it is also densely populated. Somewhere looks deserted and within minutes, kids come out of the bushes and rocks and hills and adults call out greetings from the houses and fields that are hidden behind brush and thorny fence rows. 

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For the benefit of my college roommates, you may remember the Puma backpack I am wearing that you got my 10 years ago. It made the move to Mexico, back to the USA and lives on in Ethiopia. It carries our toilet paper, hand sanitizer and water bottle wherever we go. :)

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We often share the path with various animals. A small herd of cows, horses and sheep overtook us. :)

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We made it to our destination 

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The girls realized these rocks were perfect “princess pose” location

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Other kids look on in confused silence, I guess they don’t understand a good pose.

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We took some time to let the girls explore. Because it is dry season, the water in the creek bed is nearly gone and the waterfall is a trickle.

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Our girls try fishing though they are informed there are no fish.

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A nearby forest was recently cleared. Deforestation is a devastating cyclical problem. It prompted the girls to begin, “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!…”

The land and farming has changed drastically because of erosion and a host of other long term problems brought by the forests being destroyed.

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We did get to see thousands of seedlings getting their beginnings, which was encouraging as the 5 F’s project has been a major catalyst in showing the value of vegetation, not just to cut it down, but for many reasons.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Thank You Long in Coming

Your generosity is astounding. After asking for materials for classes that we have here with neighborhood kids, you flooded us with resources!  So many we couldn’t even haul them all back (yet). Pictures are being colored, books are being read, the flannel graph has been pulled out.

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Thank you. Thank you for being so wonderful in the myriads of ways that you support us. We couldn’t be here without you. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sister, Sister

The Littles (who now look terribly big) have been busy. Like all five year olds, life is full of adventure, exploring, new experiences and drama. Okay, maybe the drama is just my kids?

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Our project director, Tafera and his family were over. These five were shrieking in laughter.

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Adgo won a trip to visit the site of the new dam. When he came back, her brought a souvenir of one sugar cane each for the girls. 

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Out of nowhere, dry season had a four day stretch of rain. The girls didn’t mind.

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Most five-year-olds have moved from nap times and most days, we skip it, but somedays, it cannot be overlooked. After a few hours I went in to wake them and found them on the same pillow. 

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Working on new skills, physically and socially

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One conversation we frequently have is the importance of acknowledging people based on the worth they have as a human, created by God. It’s hard for our shy girls who are greeted so many times a day. They are making forward strides though. This man was out while we were hiking and took A’s hand. She just smiled and walked along. 

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 They are still in the stage of not really being at all helpful in the kitchen but that doesn’t stop them from wanting to assist on every project.

Lately I have been trying to teach them the concept of personal space and “my bubble”. They are not catching it. The three of us, we are together, all day, everyday. Sometimes, they make me crazy but I know this time of them running to me is numbered before they are telling me about their personal space and bubbles they need and I’ll wistfully look back on the days when they were five and thought no one was as amazing as their mama. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Singing, Shouting and Horses' Hooves

We sat in the schoolroom when we heard the noises, shouting, singing, horses’ hooves. We looked out the window and abandoned our lesson for a cultural one. 

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A processional for a neighboring town was in full swing, building awareness and excitement over Ethiopia’s new dam being constructed. (google this, fascinating) 

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Kids from the town marched along in their school uniforms. Followed by veterans.

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I had a moment of just enjoying the scene in front of me, the processional, the truck across the road in the pasture, waiting to be loaded, pole by pole. 

Work was halted, there were so many things to see.

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Each day seems to bring a little something unexpected. 

I think it keeps me young…and makes me old. Ha!

 

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

So, This Is Love

I am pretty sure God doesn’t teach me based around themes of American holidays but maybe because February is a month that brings hearts, pink and red, cream cheese frosting and romance to mind, He’s been schooling me on the topic of love. 

What it is to love as Christ, how to love more deeply and without conditions. 

Principally, that I can (and should love) even when I’m not feeling the love in return. Whether it’s Jon, our girls or our neighbors. 

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I’m being shown, “This is how you live in a way that is different, set apart”. Here, I’m talking about the 2 Corinthians 4 kind of love for God that brings perseverance.

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart”. (2 Cor 4:1). The kind of love that fuels a ministry so regardless of circumstance, we press forward, not losing heart.

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The kind of love that carries death so others may receive life.

The gritty love that is only possible with God and makes his children so beautiful.

“Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Cor 4:10-12

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And this makes me want to throw up my hands in surrender at this thing I will never want (Who wants to carry death in the body?). until I remember that love that comes from my best and most disciplined efforts will fail, it will always stop but that’s not what it depends on...

“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured in to our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

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“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” 1 John 3:18

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“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loves us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10 

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“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor 4:16

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"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor 4:7

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This kind of love, the one that pours itself out continually, I’m scratching the surface  of it and marveling how much our weakness is right where God can show his strength, our end of love, our end of compassion, is just where God can start doing something in us. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Squatty Potty

This story has aged enough that it’s funny to me. 

If you are a reader from the Western world, when you picture a toilet, it is different than what is the toilet of many in the Eastern hemisphere. In Ethiopia, what is most commonly used, and has been affectionately nicknamed, the “squatty potty”. This can be in a variety of styles, but it’s basic structure is a hole in the ground with foot grips on the side and the user squats down over the hole. When accustomed to a Western toilet, it can be hard to get used to but I was recently reminded of the reciprocality of this. A family was visiting and when the father took his four-year old into our bathroom. “Where’s the toilet?” she asked him. When he explained that our porcelain toilet was how we went to the bathroom, she was surprised and a little disgusted and insisted on going outside to a squatty potty style bathroom near our house. On a Western style toilet, everyone’s bums occupy the same piece of plastic. 

I have also seen a sign in a Western bathroom  to prohibit a person from standing on a toilet seat, squatted down.

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Here is a picture of a squatty potty at a restaurant we sometimes eat at between us and Addis Ababa. We usually wait and go in a grove of trees about an hour further down the road.  This is an example of one we especially don’t like. 

While this is the basic structure, I feel bad this is all you picture, especially because the bathroom our story takes place in was all covered in white ceramic tile and had white porcelain hole and foot grips. 

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Okay, that’s better, here’s a picture I found online that is more similar to where the story takes place, without the plumbing for running water and flushing.

Little A has some serious problems with the squatting down as it can be hard to aim and having her clothes or shoes get wet, she’s had enough of the whole squatting and has adapted a “Yes-I-will-hold-my-pee-for-9-hours, thank you-very-much” attitude. She often does it but this day, The girls and I were waiting for Jon and a few friends at a restaurant that supposedly had internet (nope, no internet). While we waited, I bought the girls a soda and myself a macchiato. After about an hour, we had tried to go to the bathroom but the Littles decided to hold it until we got home. All was fine with this plan until Jon told me we were invited to a gathering at a house that added probably two hours until we would arrive at home. In my motherly wisdom, I made the decision that the girls had to go at this restaurant as it was going to be a better set up than the house we were going to. 

The bathroom was very wet. It had been splashed out with a bucket of water shortly before we entered. Upon entrance, Little J went without incident. Then, I tucked my skirt into my shirt and Little J’s into her shirt. Little J held the toilet paper and my purse on one side. Because of Little A’s fear that she was going to get herself and us wet, I took off her clothes, besides her little flip-flops because…well, for obvious reasons. I squatted down facing Little A, wrapping my arms around her back as the foot grips were wide and on which it was hard for her to plant her feet. 

Do you sort of have the visual?  For minutes that felt like forever, Little A shifted and wiggled, trying to get into the perfect position over the hole. 

And then…yep…her little foot slipped on the wet porcelain…right. into. the. hole. 

As I strained to lift her out from my squatted position, I slipped into a sitting position, which actually provided better leverage for me to put my feet against a wall and yank Little A for all I was worth. Out came her leg and foot and from some special store house of grace, as I stood up, the first words out of my mouth were calm and reassuring, “A, it’s okay, I am going to get you cleaned up, no problem”. She looked up into my face, surprisingly calm but then down at her leg and foot and she realized what had happened and started to weep. Not like a little cry or an angry wail, it was a heart broken weeping. And there we were, the three of us. Little J’s eyes were wide as I praised God there was a bucket of clean water in the corner (also the slippery bathroom culprit) and we started scrubbing. 

About twenty minutes after we entered the bathroom, we exited, fully clothed again and joined Jon and friends in the restaurant, “Hey, are you guys okay, you took forever! Here, your shiro came.” All three of us smiled, sat down and I noticed I was shaking and hoping no one would be able to tell how wet I was. We kind of stared at the shiro (which was a pile of reddish brown crushed chickpea stew) and decided we weren’t really that hungry. 

And sometimes, when my day isn’t going well one way I can cheer up is by shrugging and thinking, “Well, no one has their foot in a squatty potty”.