What to say after that last post? Actually, my real last post ended up on Dan’s blog (oops), ayearinhawassa.wordpress.com. So check it out if you haven’t already! I have a lot of love/hate feelings towards this place lately. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like had we put the kids in school and I had worked outside the home. A totally different experience for sure. We would all be speaking better Amharic anyway. But, here we are, three months left to go (well, 83 days at least, but whose counting?) Why is it so hard to live in the present moment? I feel like I’m always looking forward to the next step. But, then again, the step I’m in is pretty cool too and I continue to have those moments of wonder where it feels so overwhelming and awesome to be living in Ethiopia. Where else would I get to hear the bizarre lilting strains of traditional Ethiopian music blaring from storefronts or from some guy walking around with a boom box selling cds? Where else do you get to see wooden carts all in a row with the donkeys that pull them curled up in the shade they provide?
Brugmansia blooms at Aregash
I’m starting to make a concerted effort to learn how to cook Ethiopian dishes. It’s Lent or fasting season when Ethiopian Orthodox Christians eat only vegan dishes (fish is also ok) until Easter. I only have about 3 weeks left to get my fill of deliciously spiced lentils and vegetables at restaurants and I’m trying to take advantage of this while I still can, even if it requires dining out with small children. I must get my fix!
som beyenet, Ethiopian fasting food
Gus and I celebrated our respective birthdays this week, which was fun and relaxing and included a visit to Aregash Lodge (http://www.aregashlodge.com) which remains one of my favorite places in Ethiopia if not on earth. The juice alone was worth the journey.
Ethiopian flag juice
One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about staying home with my kids this year is having the luxury of leisurely mornings. Getting small children ready and out the door and yourself to work by 8 AM is never super fun. I have very much appreciated the fact that my now 4 year old can take his time getting dressed. Because believe me, it takes some time. What’s the rush anyway? The other thing that has kept me sane this year is running. Dan and I take turns going in the early morning. You are much less likely to be harassed at 6:45 AM and if you do its usually in the form of a shout of encouragement. Long distance running is a much beloved and well recognized sport by Ethiopians.
So, I am just taking one day at time (sweet jesus) just like everybody else on the planet. Trying to live in the moment, not always successfully.
This is a list of the things I will never again take for granted having lived in Ethiopia:
(in no particular order)
- Running water
- Hot running water
- Running water that does not first require boiling and filtering in order to drink
- Fast and reliable internet
- Reliable electricity
- Not having to worry about getting malaria or dengue from a mosquito bite.
- Not having to encounter human excrement on a daily basis
- Not having to encounter dead animals by the side of the road on a daily basis
- Not getting yelled at every time I leave my house
11. Not getting charged twice the price because I am a foreigner/have white skin
12. My clothes washer and dryer
13. Air conditioning/heating
14. The convenience of car ownership
15. My dishwasher
16. My oven…let’s just say my kitchen in general
17. A proper garbage can and regular scheduled garbage pick up
18. Rose Rock School
19. Good quality dark chocolate
20. Good wine/craft beer
21. Not living across the street from an evangelical church with loudspeakers.
22. Not having common garden pests invade my kitchen at night
won’t miss this
I received a new bird book in the mail this week (thanks mom and dad!) I was very excited to receive it. My previous bird book covered all of East Africa. This one is specific to the Horn of Africa and covers species found in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and the island of Socotra off of Yemen. There is a high level of endemism (species found only in a specific area) due to geography of the Horn. My father took me birding from a young age and while I was never very interested in it back then, coming to Ethiopia changed all that. The birds are truly amazing here and birding is one of my favorite hobbies now. Its impossible not to notice them here. From the jewel-like finches that dot the ground to the enormous, dinosaur-looking Abyssinian hornbill, to the iridescent glittering sunbirds flitting from flower to flower.
The variety and quantity of birds here is overwhelming. One of my favorites has always been the mousebird. They are ubiquitous and a bit comical clinging to branches in, yes, a mouse-like way. They have very long tails and a crest of feathers on their heads.
When Dan and I were married shortly after our return from Ethiopia in 2005 we had our respective “spirit” animals from Ethiopia printed onto tumblers with the word “love” in Amharic printed beneath and gave them away as wedding favors. His chosen animal was the Simien wolf. Mine, the mousebird.
Living close to the lake has opened up a whole new realm of birds to me. The lake trail we often walk is teeming with different species including another favorite of mine, the hamerkop (with a hammer-shaped head just as the name suggests).
Also spindly legged, long-toed jacanas which walk on the lilypads, often with fluffy spindly-legged chicks alongside. The magnificent white pelicans, Egyptian geese, squacco herons, sacred ibis and the old-man-looking marabou storks which are almost tame as people feed them the remains of their fried fish dinners eaten lakeside.
Many species are palearctic migrants, meaning they breed during the summer in northern Europe and migrate to Africa during the non-breeding winter season. These birds have it figured out. Scandinavian-style maternity benefits and winters in Africa? Sign me up.
A lot of the news out of Africa these days is concerning gay rights. Or rather, the lack thereof. In recent weeks Uganda passed an anti-gay law purportedly fomented by American evangelicals. I’ve never met an “out” Ethiopian and my sense is that in this deeply religious country, and as a foreigner, I might never. Public displays of affection between persons of the same sex, especially men, is however very common. In fact I would say more so than between persons of the opposite sex (though this is changing). You routinely see men walking around holding hands or with pinkies locked. Its funny in way, to an American’s sensibility, this gesture would surely indicate that the pair were a couple. Evidently, one of the things Ethiopian immigrants are told about when they enter the U.S. is that men don’t hold other men’s hands to show friendship, just love.
Another interesting discovery I made on my EthioTelecom mobile phone. There is only one mobile phone carrier in Ethiopia, government owned of course. I have the cheapest, simplest phone manufactured by Tecno. You buy mobile cards in different units of birr to recharge your phone whenever its running low on minutes. Its got lots of great features really. The battery lasts F O R E V E R between charges and its got a sweet “torch” function which basically enables it to be used as a flashlight (great for all the power outages). It also has a built-in radio that I love. If only it got NPR. But perhaps most intriguing of all are features I stumbled upon in the “Lifestyle” sub-menu. While “Ringtons” is admittedly intriguing, I love the juxtaposition of the options
You have to pay a whopping 5 birr (25 cents) to access these features and I will be honest, I just haven’t gotten around to looking into it any further. I’ll save that for another blog post.