Monday, April 28, 2014

Western things

Some things are scary and/or weird:
Escalators (very scary)
Cars that stop and let you cross the road
Processed food
Sidewalks that are generally empty
Not taking naps every day

Things that are cool and fun:
Any game or activity with other kids
Water Gun fights!!
Air conditioning!
Soccer games

All is well back at the homefront (this will likely be our last update until our next trip to Ethiopia (to VISIT only ;) ).

Monday, April 21, 2014


5 hour layover at Dubai. Yuk.

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Day 7 - Last day

Day 7 - last day
Wow. What a week. The cumulative effect of the week has started to catch up on everyone. Eating out everyday. All sleeping in the same room. Sharing one bathroom. It has been a wonderful trip. I can imagine that Hermella has very mixed emotions right now as she will soon leave familiarity and enter a whole new world. Good and bad. Easy and hard.

We had one last lunch at our favorite place (I think this was our 4th lunch their). They have a good mix of traditional Ethiopian food as well as some int'l dishes like pizza and chicken cutlets. The place was called Samet Restaurant and we usually got out of there for about $20 - $25 depending on what we ordered (including our driver's food). The service was more attentive than normal and it was never very busy.

We also had to make a quick stop at the Gladney office to pick up Hermella's shot records since we will need them for her to start school.

Finally, Oscar has been craving Sambusa (fried pockets of meat) ever since we left Ethiopia two years ago. We grabbed some for the airport at the Ethiopian equivalent to Starbucks called "Kaldis". Everything except for the name has a starbucks feel. Our driver had said that they tried to sue Kaldis but really didn't have any jurisdiction in Ethiopia. Also, someone from the Ethiopian side had argued that since Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, Starbucks should be very careful when trying to argue about naming and branding.

Finally, off to the airport with 4 bags to check and 6 to carry on. Versus 14 checked and 7 carry-on luggage before.

We feel a strong calling to return in the next year or so for Hermella to be able to show us the city she is from, Gondor. It is about 10-12 hour car trip, so our next journey to Ethiopia will have to be closer to two weeks. Fortunately, Emily and I can confidently say that we will be able to be in charge of the timing of that trip and we will have the same number of outgoing passengers as those coming home. Our family feels complete after a long 8 year journey.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Scenes from church

Even though we were 5 min late the rest of the congregation was on Ethiopian time. The place was packed about 20 min past "start time"

Fun at Yoftahe's parents house

Our friend Temesgen

Day 6: Easter (Fasika)

Day 6 - Easter (Fasika)

I woke to a light tapping at our door. I had asked the manager to wake me up to help with the sheep. This was my 3rd time to be a part of helping to prepare an animal for a feast in Ethiopia. I am always amazed how efficient the process is but I learned today that this efficiency is really dominated by the lower class here. Meat is so sacred and seldom, that it truly is a gift and celebration. The killing was very quick and was proceeded by a prayer and Thanksgiving for the animal's sacrifice.

After things had been cleaned up a bit, I invited the kids to visit the scene. The reaction was very limited and met more with curiosity than disgust. Most of them found it really cool to see the different body parts (heart, liver, stomach). It was quite a non-event, although I'm not sure what I expected.

We got dressed and headed to church. It was an international church that was in Amharic but always translated into English. There was a rock band and lights very similar to our praise services. The service was 2.5 hours long with about 2/3 of that singing. A sermon and communion concluded the service. The energy was very high and it was quite an amazing experience. The Lord was moving in the congregation in a very strong way. I will try to post some videos when I get home. The kids got pretty exhausted by the end since we were standing most of the time.

Streets are filled with stacks of hides. Roughly 2/3 hides and 1/3 live animals now...

We immediately headed to our driver's inlaws for a "pre-feast". The hospitality was amazing although they kept trying to feed us as if we had been fasting with them over the past 40+ days. We kept having to graciously deny 2nds and 3rds since we had been eating heavy all week long!

On to Yoftahe's parent's house... Again, our hosts were amazing and the tables were filled with food and drink. We hung out until the evening as we still had to pack and prepare for our journey home. Our hosts graciously understood our need to depart early... I think they were in the early innings of the celebration when we left.

Back to the guest house to pack. The kids wrestled, played hide and seek and jumped on the trampoline some more.

Laughter is truly a universal language. While in some of the slower moments without activity, there have been some small quiet language barriers; overall, our time together as a family has been universally filled with smiles, play, laughter and love.

Oh yeah.... getting 6 riled up kids to go to sleep in one room is HARD.

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A lesson in Anatomy

I should hold a caption contest for these pictures.

Neveah is not so sure about the whole deal, while I think Hermella was counting teeth?

I am really tempted to make the last picture a Christmas card but I might have to crop it a bit......

Temesgen jumping on Trampoline

Sheep: Before, during, after.....

As I said before, the animals in the streets for sale reached a crescendo Saturday night. The last picture is of the hides on the street Sunday. Hides are collected and sold to the leather shops.

Although, the sheep behind the hides think they got lucky, our driver told us that people will continue to feast for two weeks or so.

Day 5

Day 5
Most businesses were closed today in preparation for Fasika (Easter). We tried to go to a silk factory that we had visited before. The shop was open but the workers were not there. Previously when we had visited, you could see the silk worms in different stages. Spinning silkworms into silk and then finally dying and weaving into finished product.

We ended up having a nice lunch and then we went to an outdoor market to buy veggies. Emily was going to cook with some Ethiopian women that we had met in our previous trips at the guest house. We invited our local friends to the guest house to spend the afternoon with us. We stocked up with potatoes, garlic, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and onion for 84 Birr ($4). We then went to a more modern supermarket to stock up with spices for later and to bring home. Finally, we needed injera (spongy crepe like bread). Hermella and I jumped out of the van at the bread shop. She argued with the shopkeeper because she thought the price of the injera was too high. While she didn't get the price down, it was a ball to watch her negotiate to protect our family's interest. At the end, the price was 27 birr for six large rolls of injera (enough to feed 12-15 people)..... $1.20.... She was used to it being closer to 3 birr rather than 4 each.

We made it back to the guest house and had an afternoon of fun playing outside. All the girls were cooking for a while (Hermella thinks it is hilarious that Bryce wants to be a chef and that I like to cook too) and we were just hanging out. One local friend Temesgen came over. He only has one leg (since an infant). He played soccer with us and jumped on the trampoline (video to follow). Wow. He had an absolute blast on the trampoline. It was quite a moment when he first got on. In fact, the two ladies that we also invited tried out the trampoline for the first time as well. Laughter filled the afternoon by all.

We finished the day with a feast of the food that Emily, Hermella, Nevaeh, and our friends made. It was fantastic.

Man, getting 6 kids in one room to go to sleep at night is a challenge.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Vegetable market, ice cream, photo bomb by our driver


It is very common for you to see these types of signs all over town. They rip off a brand name and logo for their business. Sometimes they change it a bit, but most of the time it is exactly the same. Spelling and capitalization is completely random here.

The city preparing for the feast

Day 4

Day 4

Ahh.... A nice lazy day. We didn't wake up to a western alarm, but the roosters started making noise at 5-6am. We snoozed until about 8:30. It was fantastic and the kids were exhausted after the last few days... emotionally and physically. The weather here has been nice. About 80-85 degrees with a slight breeze and 60s at night. It can get hot out of the shade in the heat of the day but overall the weather has been very good.

The entire city has been really preparing for the Holy Week. Most Christian Ethiopians have been fasting for the past 40 days at least. To most, that means no meat and dairy. For the ultra conservative that means no food or water while the sun is up. That ends at 6am on Easter Sunday. Everyone will be having a huge feast (for what they can afford) with their families on Easter. Most people will go to church Saturday night and and the service will last until 3am.

The streets are full of chickens, sheep, and ox for sale. Chickens run 150-200 Birr (7.50 - $10). Sheep run 2000 - 3000 birr ($100 - $150). Ox run about $1,200 USD. Prices have gone up by about 20% in the last 2 years because of inflation but prices are usually higher during Holy Week because of demand.

Our guest house has a sheep tied to a tree for the guests here. It will be slaughtered on Sunday morning. The boys and I will partake in the slaughtering... more on that later.

Our driver has invited us to spend Easter with him and his family on Sunday. So we will be feasting at their house. It is an honor to be invited. We will post a recap on that as well. We will also be attending a service in Amharic Sunday morning. It should be an interesting way to finish the trip!

We did a little more shopping today: Oscar and I bought some more "Soul Rebels" shoes to take home. I think Hermella thinks we just eat and shop! Fortunately, we also were able to meet up with an old friend, Temesgen. He was a boy we met at Kolfe in 2008. He has a good job now and is a great person to catch up with.

Ice cream in the afternoon and then soccer and trampoline back at the guest house was a great way to finish the day.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 3

Day 3:
We got off to an early start today since it was going to be a busy day. Emily and I sorted out the bags to target 3 different orphanages: Kibebe Tsehay (infants to 7 year olds), Kolfe (boys 8-21), and Kechene (girls 8-21). Most of the aid that we brought targeted KibebeTsehay... about 11 bags worth of clothes, shoes, school materials, diapers, wipes, etc...... (After our visits with the orphanages, we learned that due to adoptions being down, all of the donations have basically stopped so although it felt like we were supplying a lot, we were barely making a dent.)

We loaded the van up and started the day at Kibebe. That is a very tough way to start the day. Pictures are not allowed anymore. The amazing thing about this place is that it is 10x better than when we visited in 2008. When we went back then, it was simply heart breaking. 40 cribs to a room. 1-2 babies per crib (half the size of our cribs). Only 3-4 caregivers to feed, change and take care of all the babies. I'm happy to say that the conditions have improved, but the 100lbs of diapers that Emily brought them 2 weeks ago were long gone. Most of the kids had rags stuffed in their pants and the majority were all wet. Tough way to start the day... The orphanage director was very happy with the aid that we brought but it is hard to realize how tough the kids' lives will be for the next several years minimum.

There was one boy who we think was autistic that was fascinated with my forearm hair. He kept brushing it with his fingers so I pulled up my pant legs and he started petting my legs. He then went to Emily and was petting her arms (not quite as hairy-fortunately), then he bent down and lifted her pant legs to see her leg hair. (Also, fortunate they were not as hairy as mine.)

We then went on to Kofle, the older boy's orphanage. We have been there every visit, making this our fourth time there. It is sad to see some of the same boys still there and we just pray that when they grow out of the orphanage, they find their way. We brought a soccer ball since they have a dirt field next to their bunkhouses. We all played soccer, getting incredibly dusty. Every time we have visited we have played soccer, but we have learned that we need to bring the ball. The balls only last so long when that's their only real entertainment. Hopefully the ball we left them will last them awhile. Unfortunately they said that we were the first visitors in a really long time. It was quite evident in their wanting to visit with new people.

One of the realities of the international adoptions slowing in Ethiopia is that there are much less foreigners coming to bring aid and to help support NGOs within Ethiopia. Every agency has had to cut staffing and support significantly and this effects kids all across the country whether they are destined to be be adopted or not.

Following lunch, we went to Adera which we had never visited before. They have a really great program that kind of works like a free daycare for working moms. The moms have to qualify for assistance and they can drop off their kids (ages 1-5) from 8:30-4:30. The kids are given breakfast and have a preschool curriculum in the morning. This is followed by lunch and naptime. The kids are also given a daily bath, something they would not likely get at home. It's a safe haven for the kids to be while their moms are off at work. Some of the women also make these really cool necklaces out of paper which they sell to make money. Their website is This is a foundation that we will be supporting. Click on their link and check them out. I know several of the board members personally and I believe that they have a wonderful vision of empowerment (for Ethiopian women) and sustainability (creating revenue generating businesses to support the foundation and locals). The girls and Emily all picked out several necklaces.
We got there while the kids were napping but stayed till they all woke up. Our kids really had fun playing with the kids there until they were picked up by their moms.

We returned to the guest house and pleaded with the kids to take naps and got a 50% success rate. We went to an Ethiopian Cultural dinner that featured dancing and live music from all the different regions. The kids loved it for the first 90 min and then started crashing hard (it was about 9pm). -- they should have listened to us to take naps!!! Tomorrow will not be as busy.

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A tiring exciting dinner

Things you don't see in Texas

Kidist new hairdo

Bead making at Adera

Scenes from Adera