Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This Is A Library

In my reflective mood today and I am going to honestly process a tension I feel right now, not because there are easy answers, but because it is what’s on my heart, not for good or bad, just thoughts I wrestle with.

In Ethiopia, our family is considered a “down-country” family, even though we live in the North. While we are in Addis Ababa, we have been at the guesthouse with four other down-country families and the girls play until I force them to sleep or come with me on an errand. It has made our time without Jon significantly more enjoyable. 

We have lived for 17 months in Ethiopia and though The Littles remember many people in the USA, they’ve forgotten many of the places and the experiences.

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A tea party on the lawn

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I contracted a taxi to take the girls to eye appointments. It was at the international school that we affiliate with and I watched them, big-eyed and in reluctance enter a setting full of kids. Being down-country can hurt a kids’ social skills, especially if the kids are shy. As I watched their discomfort mount, I took deep breaths and tried to not worry about what they would be like in the future. Shy, home-schooled, down-country, twin. Each of those labels can be a huge strike against them being “normal” or “well-adjusted". I couldn’t get Little A to get on the scale to be weighed (although it was scary, the people at the clinic could only speak Korean and Amharic). As I tried to make the eye appointment fun and begged the girls to cooperate, it made me wonder, “What am I doing to you? Will you be an angry teenager that I robbed you of a normal American childhood?” 

Because we pay a fee at the international school to be part of the homeschool program, we get access to the library.

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The Littles didn’t remember a library and were beside themselves in delight at the idea that we got to take as many books as we wanted. (We have a three month return policy and over 100 book limit). 

Nothing about learning about a library experience was happening organically, but rather, I sat them down, “This is a library, we get to check out books.” and then talk through what it means to check out a book and show how to use the shelf markers. As I scanned the shelves, I chose books focusing on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and just in general, books that are main stream in American culture because I realize how many things, big and little, my girls do not know how to do in American culture. Their culture isn’t American, nor is it Ethiopian, it’s somewhere in between with a delightful smattering of friends across the world, enriching and confusing the issues. 

It’s odd and sometimes I’m saddened by it, but I realize they have a rich and vast knowledge base that they couldn’t have if we did the life I occasionally long for The Littles. And also, there enjoyment for small things is amazing. Like the time they reacted to an escalator like it was a roller coaster. 

I see it in me too. I am ecstatic to return to the US for my brother’s wedding in December but I am also scared. In 18 months, a lot changes. Thankfully, I am a different person than I was a year and a half ago and you have all journeyed through 18 months and been changed by it too. I wonder if I have changed to the point where I am no longer “normal”. It makes me realize the importance of being grace-filled for others and their life-shaping experiences.

We are in between worlds and love both but we are still really new at navigating these (for our family) uncharted waters.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'm BAAaaackkk!

In the land of more frequent internet, Addis Ababa. We were here two months ago and had hoped we could make it without another trip down until December. However, as Jon prepares to leave for a week in Burundi for an ECHO Highland Agriculture training in Burundi, the girls and I decided to tag along and enjoy the people in Addis. Because I am not a confident driver…err…because I don’t drive unless under threat of death, we could have had a long nine days in Injibara. So, we are here to hang while Jon goes off to a beautiful country (that I had to find on a map).

On our trip from Injibara today, we started out the morning by hitting a stray dog. It wasn’t so fun but as it wasn’t a personal pet, we moved on. Several hours later, a flock of large vultures picked at a dead horse on the road. Jon said, “I kind of want to hit one of those” and in what he claims was not swerving towards the birds but that the vulture flew into him, we hit a vulture. At the bottom of the Blue Nile Gorge, baboons are thick on the roads and he was very tempted to try for a baboon to make it his most interesting driving day. Possibly because of me yelling something like, “JON! DON’T HIT IT!”, he went around every baboon and we arrived in the city with only two dead animals on our conscience. 

We also stopped at the Portuguese bridge, created of stone and crushed ostrich age during the 16th century to catch the end of the rainy season waterfall. 

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Can you spy us?  This is a hike at your-own-risk kind of place and more than once I had to take deep breaths as I thought through certain death of anyone who fell over.

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At the first set of falls.

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Where the girl insisted they wanted to swim in a 45-feet deep pool/cave. Not happening.

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We did the next best thing and stripped down and leaned in while I tightly held on to them.

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Jon upped the game a bit.

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This is the “strike a pose” shot.

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Drying out in the sunshine

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Here are the layers, at the top you can see the bridge, then mid level with the deep pool, onto the deepest drop.

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After we vacated the bridge, a large troop of baboons, who must have been in hiding, crossed from the other direction. 

My favorite part of the drive was the break time and we decided that the next trip would involve life jackets and some swimming :)

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Wasn't Entirely Sure How I Would Feel...

...when our first niece or nephew was born, half a world away. To this point, we have at least been able to meet each niece and nephew. 

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Our family is overjoyed to welcome another niece, the first on my side.

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Last night, when I wasn’t hearing any news, I started to worry that something awful had happened. Then I realized we just didn’t have internet and I calmed down. :)

And while it isn’t my favorite feeling to do the celebrating from such a distance, we are so happy for Nick and Kristen and love this little Miss already!

 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Around The World

Guesthouse life isn’t the easiest to live, but when we are in Addis, our guesthouse has surprisingly, started feeling a bit like a second home, especially to the girls. 

One of my favorite parts is crossing paths and sharing meals with people from all over the world. Last time I was in Addis Ababa, there was a sweet family who was very quiet and cooked their own meals. They had a new little baby and one night, we were all in the main living area (each hoping for wifi) and I got to hear about the work they are involved with in the Middle East.

As I listened to my Ethiopian brother and sister share about how God is moving, tears were flowing. God is so big and his family is so beautiful.

Because the internet is the internet, I cannot expound, but wow. 

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So easily, I despair over the state of the world, but I was so blessed by this man and his family and hope this can be encouragement in your day. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Volunteer Landscape Crew

Jon has been spending a lot of time with the sawmill co-op group. Jon asked this group of 17 workers to help around our house and they cooperatively (pun intended) insisted to volunteer as Jon has been helping so much with the woodmizer. 

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The main work was re-doing our fence. It was letting in little unwelcome visitors, mainly foxes but a few hyenas as well. 

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The crew after a hard days work

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Using bamboo poles to make the fence

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I teased Jon he was back to managing a landscape crew.

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And we had an extra crew for lunch. Due to a miscommunication, in the morning, I was so annoyed to realize that we had double the injera that I planned for the meal. After the meal, when a few small shards of injera was all that was left, I knew it was a divine miscommunication.

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Many hands make light work!

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And notice the face on the left. I am really trying to learn how to make Ethiopian coffee. In the afternoon, Jon asked if we could serve coffee. Everyone was so gracious and thankful but I later saw this picture. ha! Glad people are kind, in spite of my lack of ability. Although, this face is nothing compared to day Jon served ice cream to him. Yeshuas took one tiny nibble and said, “That could break your teeth off!"

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I had to get at least one of the crew chief in action. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Meskel Morning and Burning Torches

In Addis Ababa, the Meskel bonfires are lit the night of Meskel. Last year we went to a huge neighborhood party. 

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However, in the countryside, the bonfires were lit in the early morning and Jon took the girls out to enjoy. Our guards had built a bonfire for our family. 

Being the great daddy that he is, Jon  woke the girls up and had a daddy-daughter-date while I slept. It was glorious.

When they came back in a few hours later, Jon casually mentioned, "A ran into J and made a hole in her coat.” In jest, I responded, “What was she running with, a knife?” Jon answered,  “No, it was a burning torch."

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And this is why the girls have more fun with daddy. 

It also reminded me of the time that Jon took pictures while Little A took a bite out of earthworm.

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Do you see any potential problems with this picture? If yes, you are probably a mama. 

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And after seeing these pictures, I did do a little stop-drop-and-roll training.

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After the fire, they did one of The Littles’ favorite things, hiking. Between the sun coming up and the Meskel smoke filling the area, it was amazing.

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The far off mountain has been nicknamed, “flat top”. It was volcanic.

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The Littles asked Jon, “What do people in the USA do on Meskel?” Jon said, “Nothing, it’s just a normal day.” They both got huge smiles and Little J said, “It is a good thing we live in Ethiopia." 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Party Where I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew

Onto the party post. :)

September is month full of holidays in Ethiopia. After the New Year, Jon had the idea of us hosting a Meskel party, “let’s kill a sheep and have people over". Meskel was on Saturday, party planned for Sunday.

Sure, great idea. It really was a great idea…just not one that I thought through before committing. 

We did our inviting and then I realized we had a bit of a situation on our hands. Friends who are Muslim as well as Ethiopian Orthodox friends were invited. Both groups have a separate butcher process. When I proposed the idea that Jon does the butchering and doesn’t say the Orthodox or the Muslim words, they laughed and said, “Then no one will eat it!"

Jon did the grocery shopping

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Desalgn looks through the eggs into the sunlight to see if it is a good egg.

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The sheep’s tail should be fat, it shouldn’t be an old animal and there is something to look at with the teeth…I think it helps determine the sheep’s age.

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Checking out the chickens...

After more discussion, it was decided, we would have a Muslim chicken and an Orthodox sheep.

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We planned to butcher ahead as Yeshi, my friend who helps in the house four days a week, would be able to help me prepare. 

On Thursday morning, the sheep was to be butchered. We had no power and I didn’t want to possibly lose a whole lot of meat. Yeshi and I began hand chopping five kilos of onions. We had planned on using the food processor but with the power outage, we rolled up our sleeves and dug in while Debbie did The Littles’ schooling for the day.

We decided to instead, butcher the chicken as there was less to lose.  However, that would mean the sheep needed butchered on Friday and it is an Orthodox fasting day and so no Orthodox can butcher on a Friday. At this point, my eyes kind of glazed over and we planned to butcher the chicken and I had no further plan until at the last minute, the power came on and so the sheep was butchered.

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The Littles watched a bit of the process. 

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Here’s a front view of their reactions. After they saw the sheep’s bladder, they were no longer interested in it’s balloon potential. They came and declared, “Mom, I am not eating anymore sheep meat.”

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 That’s kind of how I felt too. 

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Thankfully, I wasn’t alone! Feysil used a hatchet to cut through bone. It was Yeshi’s first time to work with sheep but she far exceeded me in skill. I kept having to sit down as I was feeling weak-stomached. Cutting through warm meat proved to be a hard experience for me. 

After a whole lot of work, we had a sheep stew ready and I put about 8 gallons worth of warm stew in the freezer, in preparation to do the chicken on Friday.

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About 1.5 hours after I put the stew in the deep freeze, the power disappeared. I then proceeded to not sleep the following night, doing the entirely unprofitable work or worrying, I thought the warm stew would warm everything in the freezer, so not only were we going to lose the sheep stew but also all the other freezer items. 18 hours later and about 30 minutes before my deadline to pull the stew out of the freezer and reboil it, the power came back on. Yeshi and I hugged, laughed and danced around the kitchen. 

The chicken joined the sheep’s fate and became stew and was refrigerated without incident. 

Did I mention we also have vegetarian friends coming?  And I think I am going to be vegetarian, at least for a few weeks. 

More to come on the actual event, although we are going through a time without internet or phone. I am at a restaurant about 45 minutes south of us with wifi.