December 28, 2013


Seasons Greetings!  We had a quiet Christmas at home.  To the rest of Ethiopia, December 25th was just another Wednesday.  The Orthodox calendar celebrates the birth of Christ on January 7.  So, this year we will have two Christmases.  Hopefully the Ethiopian one will involve eating lots of doro wat (spicy chicken and onion stew) and drinking tej (honey wine).  Christmas was also my daughter’s 6th birthday and we celebrated with a lunch of packaged macaroni and cheese from home and of course, being good Americans, lots of presents.  Ethiopians don’t exchange gifts on Christmas.  They visit and eat and drink instead (which seems way more in the spirit of the birth of Jesus!)  Gifts are given here on birthdays, for graduation and at a weddings.  January 14th is the birth of the prophet Muhammed so we also have the bonus of celebrating Muslim holidays here.  Then the 19th is Timkat or Epiphany (which celebrates the baptism of Christ). Ethiopia is split pretty closely to half Orthodox half Muslim…except in Hawassa and other parts of Southern Ethiopia where protestant evangelical churches are gaining a foothold.  I’ve learned that another nickname for our neighborhood is “Protestant seffer” due to the large numbers of protestant churches in our ‘hood.  I can attest to this personally.  A shout out to Vivian Houng who sent me earplugs!


Later on Christmas day/6th birthday, we walked the lakeside trail lined with small cafes selling soft drinks, beer and fried fish.  This is one of our favorite places in Hawassa and we come here to walk at least once a week.  It’s a fantastic spot for bird, sunset and people watching and we have even seen hippos from shore the last couple of times we’ve gone.  One of our favorite Italian restaurants in town is close to the end of the trail and there is a brand new ice cream place started by an Italian and his Ethiopian wife also nearby.  We’ve been there so often since it opened, its almost embarrassing. 



Today we hosted a small birthday gathering of Iris’ best friends and the neighbor kids.  There are two 2 year olds and a 9 year old living here in addition to our now 6 year old and 3 year old.  It really should be known as “tantrum seffer”.


The birthday party moves to the mango tree

I am officially accepting care packages preferably containing light fiction, parenting handbooks, chocolate, dried fruit/nuts, a real letter, or whatever you feel like sending!  We are receiving mail at:  c/o Mesgenaw Andualem, PO Box 2082, Hawassa, Ethiopia.  

Peace on Earth!


Here we are, as promised, posing in front of our Christmas tree.  Bonus!  I’m wearing my Ethiopian housewife dress.  I plan on purchasing one in every color.

Hoping everyone has a lovely holiday break.  We certainly miss our friends and family these days.  We will be thinking of you all in the days ahead.


This is a photo of an Alexander Calder-inspired mobile the kids and I made for homeschool craft.  I am inordinately proud of it.


This is a boat made entirely out of jerry cans, sticks, rope and tarps.  Lots of things that would normally get thrown away are repurposed into beautiful and useful objects here.

One for the Oklahomies…


OK, I’ll admit, I’ve never been to the Whataburger in Norman but now I can go to the one in Hawassa!  Granted, its right next to Tropical Burger which is the restaurant I usually frequent (they have wifi).  But I hear “Whataburger” has better french fries…and of course “fride chiken”.  So maybe one of these days.


This is a photo of a dead tree near the lake that I love.  That’s all for now!

3 month anniversary


I’ve been in Ethiopia 3 months now.  Our days have settled into a familiar routine and though the days often feel long, the months have flown by.  Its truly dry season now.  The mornings are so cool that a sweater feels good but by noon its warmed up to the low 80’s and the rays of the sun feel like an infrared heat lamp against your skin.  Like many Ethiopian women, I carry a parasol to have a  little portable shade as I walk.  The air feels sucked of all moisture.  Whereas I associate Jimma with the intense mud, Hawassa is all about the dust.  Everywhere, all the time.

Some of my happiest moments here are spent at one of the two major resorts on the lake: the Lewi and the Haile.  I got a swimming membership at the Haile which gives me an excuse to go as often as I can.  Sitting poolside while the kids play, looking out over the smooth surface of the lake with volcanic geologic formations in the distance sipping a machiatto, I am struck by what an amazing opportunity it is to take a year off and do something like this. These moments somewhat make up for the social isolation and day-to-day grind of staying home full time with small children in a developing country.

We’ve been mostly lying low these past few weeks.  Both kids have battled dysentery (yet again) and it sometimes feels like a losing battle keeping dirty fingers out of mouths with the enteroinvasive bacteria on the winning side.  We hiked Mt. Tabour last weekend.  More of a big hill, Mt. Tabour sits directly behind our neighborhood which is accordingly called “Mountain seffer” (mountain neighborhood).


view of Hawassa from Mt. Tabour


Lots of eucalyptus trees along the trail.  Sometimes Dan or I go running here in the early mornings.

One of my favorite places in Portland, OR is also known as Mt. Tabor.  Here is a a photo of myself taken 8 years ago when I visited Hawassa hiking Mt. Tabour.


We also had a visit from our dear friends Fred and Lidy whom we knew from our days in Jimma. They come back to Ethiopia every year (from Holland) to visit schools that they support.  They are helping to fund the construction of a new school in a very rural area located between Hawassa and Jimma.


Fred and Lidy at our old haunt, the Wabe Shebele hotel on the lake.

On the home front we’ve been busy sewing Christmas stockings and opening windows on our Advent calendar every day.  We got a Christmas tree in the form of a small palm tree that we have festooned with homemade ornaments.    (photos to come)


Walking home from the mountain, through Mountain seffer.