In Which I Try to Sum Up Ethiopia in a Single Blog Post and Fail

Before we left Andy bought me a journal so I can “blog” when we are in Ethiopia. It was my first Mother’s Day gift from Davy. I did journal like a mad woman when I was there. However I am leery to write about this trip in any linear fashion because right now, home on my comfy couch, drinking water from the tap the trip just seems like a jumble of emotions, places, smells, feelings and people.  Andy and I kept joking that this is the trip of a life time that we will hopefully be making again and again.

People asked me “oh my god did you love it.” the answer is a complicated yes. A very complicated yes. I loved Ethiopia. It is the singular most beautiful place I have ever been to on this earth. It is also one of the most brutal. It is the birthplace of our beautiful beautiful  daughter, of an ancient civilization, it holds the arch of the covenant (for crying out loud), religion is everywhere you look, the sky is literally the biggest and bluest I have ever seen. The earth is red, green is everywhere. History is steep.  People love to shake hands. Coffee is amazing. People were kind to us. Kids yelled “ferange” or “arab” as we drove by. Both are words for foreigners, it was charming and funny. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia. We traveled over 2200 km. Not enough to even pretend to be an expert. Enough to feel lucky that we could make that trip. Enough for a first taste. Enough for a few neophyte opinions.

We also witnessed the brutality that comes from abject poverty. Young mothers begging on the street. Children everywhere. People walking for miles and miles. Young girls carrying heavy loads on their backs. The single most horrific auto accident I have ever seen in my life. A truck hit 10 camels on a country road. Not a soul survived this accident. I saw a man weeping on the side of the road. Weeping in a way I have never seen a fellow human being weep. Gut wrenching. And sadly, not the only auto accident we saw that trip. We gave a candy bar to a man who grabbed it like he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I saw a leper (and not at the sanitized leper hospital). Some people come home full of reverence or awe for this place. I feel that we can’t begin to comprehend any of it. These are just things we saw and felt. Things that defined our trip.

The people we met were life changing. Our travel group couldn’t be more perfect. Funny and kind people. We all got to witness meeting our kids for the first time. We got to experience  joy and heartache of the Ethiopian court process.The families who where there for embassy gave us hope that we would be brining our kids home. We got to meet dear sweet Tsegaw who showed us his country. I kept referring to him as my Falashia Enat (Jewish Mother) because he was always telling us to “eat eat eat”. He didn’t understand Andy’s and my weird dietary habits. Americans who will eat tiny bits of food- but any food he put in front of us. He was the most enthusiastic when we shyly told him how much we loved kitfo. He then set out to find the best kitfo in town (all of the towns) we were in.

I am saving the meeting of our daughter for another post. As hard as this post is hard enough for me to write, trying to put into words the meeting and the time we spent with our daughter is even more difficult to write. She is perfect beyond words. I am not a die-hard believer in God. But meeting our daughter. Our beautiful, brave, giggly big-eyed daughter. Makes you believe in something.

So yeah, two weeks in Ethiopia. We are a lucky family for even being able to go and have the time and luxury to spend time there. We have literally 2400 photographs to go through, jet lag to get over. Drinking from the tap seems like a simple pleasure. Portland seems even weirder and whiter than ever. Today I was at kinkos and a woman was wearing a neckless with a pentagram. Made me giggle. Whole Foods made me feel strange. We have gifts to give out, dogs to cuddle, Davy’s room to set up. Andy and I have spent the last 400 hours together. Today he was gone for a few hours. I really missed him. He leaves for a business trip to Canada in 3 days. Poor guy. Too many times zones.

As you can probably tell, we are still processing this trip. I know I am grateful to my daughter for bringing me to Ethiopia. I know we will be back (hopefully sooner than later). I think when she is old enough to ask about it I will tell her that it is the most beautiful place on earth, and that  she would have had a very different life if she had stayed in Ethiopia. I will promise her that when she is old enough. We will go back. We need to go back. We are beholden this this country now.

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3 thoughts on “In Which I Try to Sum Up Ethiopia in a Single Blog Post and Fail

  1. LOVE this post!! You are such an amazing writer. Thank you so much for sharing. I still have not yet been able to put into words either of our trips. I don’t know if I ever will, my mind is still struggles with what we saw in that beautiful country.

  2. Where do I begin? I am literally crying as I read this post and I am so not a crybaby. But it reminded me so much of my experience too. I think that only people who have never witnessed a developing country ask questions phrased, “Did you have a good time?” but when you’ve witnessed abject poverty and beauty the question is more like, “How was the trip? Tell me about it.” all the time knowing you really can’t. When I came back from Ethiopia (and Haiti) there just wasn’t room or space for me to talk about it. Anything I wanted to say seemed inadequate, like I didn’t have the right words to explain the feeling that comes from the smell of a coffee ceremony or seeing a baboon on the road or hearing TK laugh for the first time with us. Words seemed to diminish thoughts that are larger than life inside of me.

    I’m not a religious person. At all. But when Ben and I were able to take our sweet boy for a moment of solitude I honestly thought that is what reverence must feel like. This is what devoutly religious people feel when they have the sense that there is a greatness beyond their place in the world.

    I’m so happy you got to experience that! And that you took us with you for a moment.

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