The days on the long road of one families Ethiopian Adoption

This blog started out as a way to record the twists, turns, highs and lows in my families journey to adopt siblings from Ethiopia. Now our children are home and we have just finished celebrating our first year as a family.

I'm Kimberly (or Fendesha), an adventurous person who aspires to be a vagabond- but for now- I spend all of my free time travelling and my down time thinking of travelling. I'm a mom of 3 (the oldest being my gorgeous canine companion), a IT project manager, and on occasion I find myself the primary writer of this blog.

Happy Reading and thank you for stopping by.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chat and Shisha- more than you want to know

Chat and Shisha are strongly rooted in Ethiopia at this time. Men in their mid-20's early 30's socialize and talk business in Chat houses. Women are often present on Friday or Saturdays but seldom during the week. It us utilized much like the after work drink we have here- only lasts another hour longer than in our culture because unlike us most men in this age range have not yet started their families.

The first time you see chat being chewed it will remind you of sheep or goats eating leaves. You literally sit on pillows on the floor of a building and pick leaves off the branches of a plant, flick the dirt off them (or flick the imaginary dirt- which ever) and then tear it off the branch and chew on it. Once all chewed up you stick it in the corner of your mouth- like dipping tobacco, and then add another one into your mouth. Some folks swallow it- others suck all of the juices out of it over an hour or so and then spit it out. You'll also notice what an incredible mess it makes. Branches, empty coca cola bottles and bags on the floor of the place you are seated. *(in fact you will be amazed as an American how messy Ethiopian Men are- In the end I associated it with it being a servant based culture- but seriously- if you want to be very proud of your husband- visit an Ethiopian family for a while and watch the men-giggle- it will make that toilet seat discussion you've been having for years seem quite trivial).
The Shisha is much like the Hooka here. The difference- Ethiopia and other countries seem to use the name of the type of tabacco used to smoke- where we've adopted the name of the bong used to smoke it with. So- in Ethiopia the Shisha is different than here because the tabacco is more harsh (at least from the one time I tried it here) and the mixture is more fruity. Shisha was enjoyed mostly by the women on the weekends in the chat houses- and although men seem to enjoy it as well- it was really a girly thing. But - remember this was just my experience and I'm sure with as diverse at this country is- there are different experiences for everyone.

Most people (men) seem to chew chat at one time or another growing up in Ethiopia (remember it's legal). The high is in some ways like caffeine but stays with you for a long time. Most individuals had a couple of beers late in the evening so they could counter the affect of the chat and could sleep that night. It is less accepted in the larger cities and more popular as you get away from them. It's a way of life in Dire Dawa and Harar so much so that the stores close for 3 hours in the middle of the day so folks can actively participate in it. The men go and change into long skirts that are made of cotton and during the heat of the day sit in their homes with high ceilings and enjoy chewing chat with their friends. It's actually built into the lunch time of that culture-but in Addis it is more an after work social affair. There are different kinds of chat leaves as well- each plant providing it's own "merch-ana" or high..

Introducing a few new friends

Making friends with people that live in a developing country comes with many challenges. Calling them using the best financial ways available includes a one second delay between talking. Add in the language difference and it can be very challenging. Ethiopia is a culture where most people still check their email once a week or so- so emailing doesn't have the response time we are use to here either.

So- when you've just left the country and are missing people terribly- it's actually quite challenging to reach out and have the same in-depth conversations that you have with them while you are in country.

Here is a snapshot of 3 of the people who not only became some of my best friends in life (in such a short time) but really took the time away from their lives to help me learn the culture, and with much persistence kept me on a path of learning what different aspects of life in Ethiopia are life.

Since I'm certain many of my stories will include these individuals I thought a good place to start is to introduce them to you.

From Left to Right-

Aron- is a purchaser, import and export trader and part owner of a bar and travel company. He spent a lot of time teaching me how business works (or how to make one work) and introduced me to many people (friends and professional) in the Addis. He also taught me a lot about the social life in Ethiopia.

Eldana is an amazing history teacher. She majored in Political Science and is now finishing her History Degree. With 8 years of teaching under her belt- and the daughter of the school's owner I was teaching at- she was an invaluable resource to me as I learned to become a teacher and work through lesson planning. Eldana became like a sister to me and my life is forever altered because of our introduction. She introduced me to the diverse and complicated political situation in Ethiopia and explained much of the countries history to me. With out Eldana my trip would have been much less valuable.

Yonas (Yoni) is a high school teacher in the public school system and is going to school to become a lawyer. Yoni kept me grounded and reminded me of the cultural difference I was dealing with. I learned a lot about the struggles and strengths of large families and a ton about Ethiopian humor and openness.

Our relationship was really strengthened when we spent 12 days strait traveling to the north of the country. Something I'll write about in depth in the future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Ethiopia is amazing!! The diverse landscapes, the complexity and innocence of her people. For now - it is where my heart is.

In the last 4 months, I swam in lakes and natural hot springs, visited historical religious sites, went on an adventure that is unmatched by any travel books I've read, met the most accepting and loving people and learned a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses.

One of the hardest things I've done in my life- is get on that plane and fly back to America. The shock of being home surrounded by our materialistic and advantageous lifestyles has been challenging emotionally.

A travelers thoughts on arriving home in the US:

1) Man, it's quiet here- where are the chickens, sheep and donkeys?
2) Toilet paper does go into the toilet- not in the basket.
3) Nothing fits me- where's the tailor?
4) It's really really clean here. I mean really really clean.
5) I think the water coming out of the shower head is trying to beat me up- water (yay- it's a water day- what are our water days again?? - everyday- awesome...) but water pressure with it- what a concept.
6) You do not need to plan ahead to take a shower- Speaking of showers-why do I need 3 of them again exactly- only 2 of us live here...
7) Is there going to be lights today? - oh of course there is- silly me.
8) What day does the woman come to do my laundry again- oh wait- that's me- damn.
9) The food tastes commercial here- boy am I happy we have lots of "Soft" in this house. Are you sure I'm eating chicken?
10) Can somebody explain to me why I own all this crap???

Initial thoughts in Ethiopia-
1) The internet is ancient- how the heck am I going to survive??
2) Hospitals- oh yay...
3) I can't understand anyone..and no one can understand me- (think lonely).
4) smells, smells, smells.. everywhere there are smells.
5) noise, noise, noise- where are my earplugs?
6) this servant stuff is nuts... I couldn't stand it- now I am wondering how to live with out it-laugh.
7) is there any order or schedule to this chaos?? (nope)
8) everyone is so darn busy.
9) do we have to eat Injera again (now I'm dying for it).

Well- I'm home- there's tons to do- but I'll add stories of my adventures as the weeks progress. For those of you who hung in there- thanks.

Meme Stevens- Beautiful Song- get Kleenex

Oh the places I've Been (and might go again)