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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wow, What a Day!

Today was UNBELIEVABLE! We slept waaaay later than we planned because
we had no idea what time it was and we were so incredibly tired. We
got up just before noon, yes, NOON! But it was so nice, we felt much
better and well rested. We were dressed and ready just in time to
join a traditional coffee ceremony and Easter celebration meal with
the hotel staff. Before Ethiopian Easter, the people fast for 55 days
in which they eat no meat or dairy products, and then after midnight,
they go to church to celebrate the Resurrection and then they break
this fast by feasting for the whole next day. We had a great meal of
doro wat (a VERY spicy Ethiopian chicken stew-wow, no sinus problems
here after that!!), iab (pronounced "ibe"-a white cheese sort of like
feta but milder), some browned and crumbled organ meat dish (yeah, um,
it was different), and beef (we think it was more like ox) that they
cooked in a HUGE skillet over an open fire that they built right there
on the floor of the driveway area where we had this meal. They just
propped the skillet on 3 cinder blocks and built the fire underneath
it and they just flip it and skizzle it around with a tiny spatula-how
they do not get burned is a mystery to me! All of this was of course
served with rolled up injera (in-jair-uh), the traditional Ethiopian
sour flat brad—kind of like a giant sourdough crepe. You eat on it,
use it as your utensil to pick up your food, and then at the end of
the meal you eat the piece your food was on that soaked up all the
juices from the food. Pat was pretty bold and adventurous with trying
all the foods, I tried them all but couldn't finish them (ox=VERY
chewy, couldn't totally get past that) and Dawn and Tim hardly ate any
and just smiled politely-haha! They are not really adventurous eaters.
After we ate we sat and chatted with the staff while one of the women
prepared the coffee ceremony, celebrated here often daily, similar to
how the English do tea, but also very different. Ethiopia is the
birthplace of coffee, it comes from the Kaffa region and here it is
called bunna (boona). For the ceremony, they actually roast the beans
in a tiny pan over hot coals that are put in a little can-type thing.
When the beans are done roasting, they bring the smoking pan around to
you for you to fan the smoke to you and smell it-it is STRONG! Then
they take the beans and hand grind them and somehow make the most
incredible coffee I have ever ever tasted, and I am not a huge coffee
fan but this stuff was WOW. Entirely different than what we drink in
the US, they laugh and tell us we just drink brown water there. You
cannot even see through this coffee at all, and they serve it in tiny
little cups and it was delicious. While they are grinding it and
working other magic to it, they put incense in another little can with
hot coals and it makes the whole place smell incense-y. (I am so
creative with my descriptions, aren't I?)

We finished up with them and went upstairs to relax a bit and check
email and we decided to go for a walk again. We went a different
direction from yesterday this time and without Danny and honestly it
was a little more scary because we didn't really know if where we were
going was safe or not. We got a bit swarmed by children and older
kids who got the greatest kick out of having their pictures taken and
we passed out a bunch of shiny stickers to them. But it was when an
Ethiopian man pulled up in his car, got out and asked what we were
doing we felt a little bit nervous-mainly because he said "you are
just walking around here? With no guide? You think that is good idea?"
which at that point I was really thinking "nope, not right now I
don't". Pat asked him, "well, is it safe?" and he said "oh yes, we do
not have any such problems like that here." So, I just prayed he was
telling the truth and we went off with a guy we met in that group of
people on the street (Tracy and Mom, calm down, I am obviously here
typing and am just fine-and it really is very safe here :) ) who
speaks English fairly well-his brother lives in Baltimore-and he took
us around the corner where they are building a new church. He showed
us the site plan for it and the foundation--it is modeled after the
ancient church in Axum-a place in Northern Ethiopia where it is
rumored that the actual Ark of the Covenant rests.

We enjoyed our walk and got back to our hotel just a few minutes
before the brother of an Ethiopian woman we know from back home
arrived. He was coming to get us and take us to their home for
another Easter feast-whew! First though, we got a treat we were not
expecting at all. He drove us all around Addis and showed us many
local sights and more the downtown area where there are actually lanes
on the roads-it was a nice little bit of familiarity! Then he drove
us up to the top of Entoto Mountain, from which you can see the entire
city of Addis Ababa and the outlying countryside that surrounds it.
It was the home of the palace of King Menelik, a very famous and
generous king in the late 1800s. At the top is a very ancient church
and many were there still in their Easter finery, blazing white
traditional Ethiopian dress. We were especially blessed because there
is a small museum up there and it was open and Moges took us to it
where we had a tour of just us and one other family where the guide
showed us amazing artifacts from King Menelik and Empress Titu's (the
king's wife) era. All their beautiful garments were there, extremely
ornate and elaborate, their crowns, all covered in real diamonds and
gold, ancient Bibles written in Ge'ez (the ancient form of Amharic,
Ethiopia's national language), even the king's former bed. It was
surprisingly about the size of a twin bed and very simple and the
guide explained that the king felt he could not justify sleeping on an
elaborate bed while people went hungry and so he preferred a simple
bed and feeding and caring for his people. This is the same reason he
went barefoot year-round except on coronation day when he wore
elaborate gold and diamond-encrusted shoes with very pointy toes that
curved upwards. We felt humbled to be in the presence of the ancient
Bibles, especially. It was amazing.

We headed back down the mountain to the home where we were having
dinner and it was a beautiful newly built home unlike any we had seen
thus far here. We were very warmly welcomed by the family and sat and
talked while the women finished preparing the meal-I offered to help
and they laughed at me and said "oh no! You are our guest!" We sat
down to dinner shortly thereafter and had a very similar meal to
earlier in the day, except this time they had made a small bowl of
doro wat minus the fire spices just for me and they also had 4
different kinds of bread and some other dishes-and this time the organ
meat scramble contained tripe, which I know because it had tiny little
bud things sticking all off of it and as I took a few bites, those
little bumps kept whispering at me "we are the inside of a ox's
stomach..." and I really couldn't get too many down. No worries
though because they just kept putting food on our plates and we kept
telling them no, it was too much but they laugh and tell you "Eat,
eat!" We had to stop though because we were FULL. So we sat and
visited some more and then they brought out MORE food, dessert this
time, a cake on which they had written "Welcome" in Amharic, and
second that had a smiley face made on it out of cocoa powder. The
hostess gave me the server to cut the cake so I did and handed a thin
slice to the oldest gentleman there to show him respect. He laughed
and said "oh she is serving us!" and I gave another piece to Moges,
our friend who had brought us there. The hostess then laughed and
pushed me aside and wouldn't let me serve them and cut me the BIGGEST
piece of cake I have ever seen. I said "oh no! That is way too much!"
and they all laughed and said "eat, eat!" some more. They are trying
to kill me I think. I did NOT eat all that cake, btw-it was just
tooooo much, but it was very delicious. One of the people there was a
17 year old boy who wanted to know a lot about American holidays,
especially Thanksgiving. He is getting ready to come to university
and he said maybe he would come to Virginia Tech so we could have him
over for Thanksgiving!! We told him any time!! At that point, they
began (yes, BEGAN!!) another coffee ceremony—these things are not
quick and it was already pushing 9 o'clock at night. We drank our
coffee and I again got laughed at for drinking it so slowly because I
was sipping it, they drink it all in one shot! It is like a million
degrees and very strong-they are crazy folks!

After the coffee, we took pictures together and said our goodbyes and
went out with Moges to go back to our hotel. Well, nope-he pulls into
a bar/restaurant where they have traditional cultural dancing and
music and says "Let's see what is going on here". At this point we
are remembering that African time is VASTLY different than American
time and that they just do whatever whenever until they don't feel
like doing it any more-there is no "schedule". And we are also
remembering no one really knows where we are and we do not have any of
the contact numbers for anyone from our group with us-again, Tracy and
Mom, it all turned out ok, see? Those people can MOVE, unlike
anything I have ever seen before-it is like their necks are not even
attached and they wildly swing their heads around and miraculously
keep on dancing without throwing up or falling over. The higlight,
for Pat videotaping, and lowlight, for me participating, was when one
of the male dancers pulled me up in front of EVERYONE and made me
dance with him, Ethiopian-style. Girls, Daddy has a good show for
you!!! We got to drink tej, Ethiopian honey wine served in rounded
beaker-looking bottles that tastes much more like whiskey than
wine-whoa, strong stuff! They pour you a TON and I drank about a
tablespoon since I rarely if ever drink alcohol. I felt it would be
bad form to be hung over when picking up my new baby daughter in the
morning!! Moges kept telling us "We will leave after the next song,
ok? Why so worried about time-it is no problem." But we knew we had
to get up early and were anxious to get back to the hotel as it was
about 11 pm by then. Finally, they did the national song/dance of
Ethiopia especially for us at Moges' request (he knows the owner) and
it was worth waiting for-the singer wore a headdress made out of a
lion's mane and the dancers did amazing things-if you were a
chiropractor you could make a killing here!! Moges told us they only
do it once a day because it is so hard on their necks, but they did it
again for us since we missed it before.

We have been incredibly humbled today by all the special treatment we
have received-God has blessed us so richly over and over on this trip
and the Ethiopian people are incredible gracious. We finally made it
back to our hotel just as the rest of our poor tired travel group
arrived from the US-close to 11:30 pm!! I felt so terrible for them,
they were exhausted. But I doubt any of us are going to sleep a lot
tonight because tomorrow we finally get to do what we came here
for-meet our babies!!! We will have met them already by the time you
read this-can't wait to share another day of unbelievable blessing
with you all!!


nell ann said...

Wow--- Jody, your days are amazing! I'm a little jealous we won't be getting the same treatment, but I am really going to enjoy living vicariously through your experiences, though! : ) Simply amazing. I'm VERY excited about your next post!!!

Ang said...

Hello Jody,

I am a mommy of two children, ages 7 and 9, and almost waiting for our referral of two babies from Ethiopia. I live in PA. Thank you so much for the detailed, and hilarious, account of your trip to Ethiopia. I am looking forward to reading your next post. I will be praying for you...Angie

"Indescribable" said...

ooooo. you got the real Ethiopian treatment! I am jealous! Sounds like a great - exhausting - time!

Leah said...

WOW! I have just gotten up had my cup of coffee while reading your journal and I feel like I am exhausted from all the activity of the day and need to go back to bed!!---The boys are headed off to school and wanted me to tell you they are praying for Zoe and your family in class. They ask me constantly to check your blog to see what new exciting adventures you all have been up to....and you NEVER disappoint!
After meeting Zoe today your hearts will never be the same! For us it was an overwhelming(yet, I am sure very small) understanding of the beauty and inner plannings that God has for each one of our lives.
our love and prayers- Leah

Troy said...

wow ... amazing. wow. I'm with nell ann ... can't wait for your next post :)

Kelly said...

I loved the ending of your last blog as it let me picture you all holding Zoe. What an incredible moment that will be! No eye has seen, now ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him--We are all anxiously awaiting pictures of Zoe, even the girls!
When I check your blog Lucy says "Zoe?', then "No Zoe". Hopefully next time we can all say "ZOE!!!"

Melissa said...

Great post J! Please send love to Almaz from Melissa, Alma and Sitina! xoxox

Kristi J said... amazing...and BRAVE of you...yes, i'll be sticking close to the hotel...i'm not very brave :) I LOVE all the detail you are writing with..I feel like I'm there...OH< please keep is so great to live this through you fun! You'll have to teach me how you posted so much because I Dawny isn't posting...tell her to get on it :) praying for you guys and can't wait for you to post you have your babies, yeah...kj

Mellie said...

we are loving the posts and pictures. Can't wait to see Zoe! Love seeing the beautiful people there. The pictures of the food are so ....exotic.Here's hoping all is well with your digestive tract! Wilson and Flash/ zippy/kitten are doing fine. Wilson is enjoying the horses out back (from a distance). We love you guys!

Anonymous said...

WOW...the class is surely amazed. Emma said, "I can't wait to see the video tape of my mom dancing!" I think the whole class wants to see that. LOL

They each wanted to send you a message today but since it took us so long to read the blog we will have to wait until tomorrow.

We all are so excited for you! We can't wait to hear about your little girl! We will be praying for you in a couple minutes as a class.

Excitedly awaiting your return,
Christy and Emma's Class

K.J. Bennett said...

I love the updates guys-- very cool. I am not a bit surprised that Pat is eating everything--I am sure he has mentioned the $1 bets in college. Am jealous about the coffee-- nothing better than mud that will hold your spoon up!

Michelle said...

How Exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tisha said...

Jody, such a wonderful experience that you will never forget. Just like everyone else, I can't wait for the next post!!! )

Erin said...

I'm so jealous I'm drooling. What an awesome time you are having! You can pay off some of those travel expenses by selling copies of that video, I'll take one!