Teaching Hope

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Slimy Puddles, Dead Sheep and the castles of Gonder February 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — teachinghope @ 12:19 pm

3 February 2008

Woops… I think I have the worst record in the amount of time passing before writing blogs. I will work on it. Well I’ve got a lot to cover so let me get started. Maren’s birthday has passed, my birthday has passed as has Christmas and the New Year- thankfully Valentine’s Day hasn’t passed yet or that would just be way too much time to not update you all on this thing we call “life”. Well since I am covering such a large array of topics let me just bullet point on through some of our recent memories, adventures, etc:

–    Maren’s Birthday: Maren’s birthday was good- she turned the big 24! She loved getting all of your calls and your cards- it truly made her day. Maren and Sarah had a choir concert that evening so when they returned from their concert at 10pm Josh and I surprised her with a birthday cake with chips and salsa. I know strange combination but such is life here- we get big treats on special occasions and tortilla chips are definitely one of those treats! ☺ The next day Maren got another surprise… the teachers at school had organized a surprise party for her in the staff room after lunch. It was a rather short celebration but it was good- it included diffo dabbo (traditional bread), candy, soda, cake and lots of talking and laughing. It is always fun to celebrate things with our Ethiopian friends here.

–    Christmas Party: The next celebration was Sarah’s great idea to have an “American-style” Christmas party in our home. Wow- it was great to share this with our 20 Ethiopian friends. On the 21st we had them over for dinner, cookie frosting and hunting for the baby Jesus. The dinner was rather unusual- fried rice. We did this because it was a fasting day so a few of the people coming could not have any food products that have animal products (ie: milk, eggs, meat, etc). The cookie frosting was classic- I don’t think the Ethiopian’s had ever experienced anything like this. They are used to using their hands while eating, but they aren’t used to decorating their food. It was fun. Lastly, Maren and Sarah shared a part of their family tradition by hiding the baby Jesus from the nativity set in our yard. All of our friends had the responsibility of finding that tiny baby. They laughed and eventually they found the babe. All in all it was a great night. It is always a blessing to be able to share our culture and traditions with people here.

–    My Birthday: Well for those who don’t know my birthday tradition- I will share- I go snowboarding with my friends and siblings every December 23rd. So I must say I was a little disappointed that all of my friends and siblings didn’t come to Ethiopia to surprise me with a trip to Kilimanjaro for a snowboarding trip, haha. But really it was a great day! I got some very special calls from all around the world and also some wonderful birthday cards. We also got to spend some great time together as a team- playing games, enjoying a Mexican meal out at a new restaurant and also eating some great lasagna at night made by Chef Josh. It was a wonderful day and a great golden birthday.

–    The Holiday Season: For me, experiencing the holiday season here was a great lesson. There was no countdown to Christmas, no hustle and bustle, no gifts being bought, no decorations and the weather was hot. The only thing that really reminded me that it was Christmas was the date on the calendar. With such a unique setting for my “holiday season” I was able to reflect on why the holiday was so important to me. I believe that this season here helped me grow in my personal faith as well as my gratitude for my family. It also helped me realize even more how the United States is often times taken over materialism. I believe that experiencing such a different “holiday season” here has taught us all a lot about our lives and it will continue to affect us as we return to the United States.

–    Christmas: Christmas was so different for all of us this year. It was the first time that we were away from our families on such a big holiday. I must say it was quite bittersweet. We had a wonderful day sharing some of our traditions with each other as well as having two gift exchanges- one white elephant and one regular. It was all in all a good day and a good celebration together as a family here. On Christmas night, I got a real piece of my family here… my aunt (father’s sister- Maureen) came to Addis Ababa for 11 days. What a treat!

–    My aunt’s visit: It was fun having someone here to show around “my home”. It was interesting for all of us to hear what my aunt’s reactions were to things around the city. It reminded us that some of the things we see here are strange and aren’t the same as the United States. For example, when my aunt ordered a cheeseburger here she said, “Wow- that doesn’t really taste like a cheeseburger.” I forgot that they didn’t. I don’t think I remember what a cheeseburger tastes like. She pointed out a lot of things actually that I had thought were maybe “normal”: the uneven ground everywhere, the donkeys, cows, goats, and sheep on the street, the crazy drivers, the extremely crowded public transportation, the smells. It was interesting again seeing the first impressions. Other than that we got to experience a lot of Addis Ababa together. Because I can’t go into all the detail of her trip let me just share a couple things that were fun to experience here with her:
1)    Let me just tell you my aunt is a trooper. She might be even stronger than I am due to this one fact alone. We were walking to a restaurant on the opposite side of town about 45 minutes from our house. As we walk around the city there are many things you must look out for: holes in the ground that go down 5-10 feet, animal dung, trash, and puddles. The puddles here are filled with dark smelly water and often times you can’t really tell how deep they are. With my aunt’s lack of experience with the puddles here she decided as she crossed one that the shoe floating in it was solid and she could step on it. Well you can tell where this story is going- the shoe wasn’t solid it was indeed floating about a foot on top of the deep puddle. So my aunt sank in the puddle- it was dirty, she smelled…. BAD… but not a tear fell- only laughter came. She laughed, so then I could laugh. Not only was that amazing- but she didn’t insist on going home- we still ended up going to the restaurant where I helped clean her clothes in the bathroom sink. So needless to say this woman was a trooper and she experienced the dirtiness of the Ethiopian puddles.
2)    The second adventure actually happened the same day when we hiked up a mountain about an hour to an old rock hewn church, Tekle Haymanot Church. The church is said to date back to the 12th century. It was built out of one stone and the top of the church is at ground level. There are many of these rock hewn churches built in Northern Ethiopia but only few outside of that region. It was very special to see this church that was built outside of Addis Ababa on top of a mountain.
My aunt’s trip all in all was wonderful. It was great to have someone to show around, but also great to have someone here who knows me. She is suppose to write a post for this blog too of an “outsider’s opinion” so be ready for that soon! My aunt was the first out of four other people coming to visit- so now we have more adventures to look forward to soon. (Jon Vaux- May Jarret Mylander, Ric Mylander and Gail Mylander- May/June.)

–    Ethiopian Christmas: As you already know from reading the rest of our blogs- Ethiopia is on a different calendar then the rest of the world- so as you may figure from this title the Ethiopian Christmas falls on our January 7th. So we celebrated in the traditional way with our two “families” here. Josh and I started off the morning by going to watch our family slaughter the sheep. It is interesting coming into a culture where they still slaughter their own animals. For us that is strange, because besides hunting, we buy our meat nicely packaged in the store. We never have to witness the animal being slaughtered. At first you think how strange that they do- but then you are taken back and you think wait we are the strange ones… we buy it nicely packaged and marketed in a store. Nonetheless for our first meal (lunch) we went to Manbera and Werku’s house for all of the traditional food- including the sheep that was slaughtered that morning. After lunch we hung out with them for a while, and then headed to Pastor Matteos’s house for our second big traditional meal (dinner). It was another wonderful meal and we were all stuffed with way to much injera by the end of the night. So Ethiopian Christmas was good- it was much different then ours, they exchange cards only, no gifts and only few decorate their homes. So it was a learning experience for all of us.

–    January: The past month has been all of the usual things: walks to school, lots of macchiatos, Arsenal soccer games, hanging out with friends, learning how to cook and make new things (ie: hummus, pizza, banana bread, etc) teaching classes and ending our first semester with our students.
Now I am caught up! Wheh! So now you ask what are we up to… you are lucky you asked… we have three weeks of vacation, so we are heading up to the Northern part of Ethiopia on Tuesday. We are going to travel to the ancient ruins of Axum, the beautiful Lake Tena and source of the Blue Nile, the rock hewn churches of Lalibela, the Simien Mountains and the castles of Gonder. It should be a fun adventure. We are traveling by car- so it will be long- but no worries we are safe. We have a professional driver and an SUV. We are very excited for this time of rejuvenation and overall fun. We are also looking forward to starting a fresh semester with our students when we return, because this semester will be a bit different- we will actually know what to expect! So with all of that said- thanks to all for reading and we look forward to getting your updates.

Staying strong and learning continuously,
Bethany and the gang

Praises: We finished the semester and learned a lot. We are loving all of the packages we received from friends and family and they have given us such joy. We are also still praising Him for our overall protection and guidance in our time here.

Requests: Pray for the team that we learn how to love each other deeper and stronger. Pray still for our health- we seem to struggle still. Lastly- pray for the safety of our travels in the next week.