Friday, May 23, 2014

Highlights of Ethiopia

Addie getting her hands washed in the traditional way before a meal at Four Sisters in Gonder

People are surprised when I tell them that I've enjoyed living in Ethiopia more than I enjoyed living in the Philippines.  And really, it's one of those statements that requires tons of explanation.  I loved Manila, I really did and I really didn't appreciate how awesome it is until we had left.  But you have to remember folks, the entire 3 years we lived in Manila, I was nursing, pregnant and mothering babies.  That's a hard job no matter where you live.  I was exhausted all the time! We didn't get to explore the Philippines as much as we've been able to explore Ethiopia.  Simply because our family life in Manila revolved around parenthood to little ones.  That's not to say that we didn't get to Boracay and Cebu and other amazing spots in the Philippines.  We traveled plenty but maybe I was mentally focused more on the children.  Maybe that sleep deprived fog took over a lot of the time.
Rainy season at Selam's Children's Village

The funny thing is that we arrived in Ethiopia with a very tiny infant and two toddlers.  Possibly, the issue is that in the Philippines I was a new mother and still more cautious.  When we arrived in Ethiopia, I felt more confidant and ready to explore.  For whatever reason, the exploration of Ethiopia has been less intimidating to me and a bit easier.  So we had some pretty great family trips in Ethiopia.  We've seen some amazing things and experienced Ethiopian culture in a way that we never experienced the culture of the Philippines.
Giving a soccer ball to a little boy at Bethel Women's Center

I've been doing a lot of reflection and comparisons lately of our past posts and in a way it's hard to compare Manila with Addis Ababa. But I compare anyway, I think it's something humans like to do.  We measure things up and think about our future experiences in reference to our past experiences.
The priest at Debre Brihan in Gonder

Silver Ethiopian crosses.  

Anyway, seeing as this post was intended to be a simple list of highlights from Ethiopia, I better get on with it.
The painted ceiling at Debre Brihan

1. Gheralta
We visited Gheralta Lodge twice and it was amazing both times.  Very peaceful and lovely with some of the best accommodations.  Having friends take us to Gheralta only a month after our arrival in Ethiopia was the best thing they could have done.  It immediately showed us that the best of this country is to be seen outside of Addis Ababa.  It also alleviated all my fears of traveling here with small kids.  Once we did it that once, it opened the doors and ignited an excitement in me to see the rest of the country.  The second trip to Gheralta was with friends and we were the old experienced Addis people.  Funny how that works.
Ashlynn at about 4 months old in Gheralta, Right before bed!

Hike to the church in Gheralta

The view from Gheralta Lodge in Mekele

The priest at the church in Mekele
2. Gonder
Also a destination we saw twice.  Spectacular after rainy season and a different sort of beauty during the dry season.

3. Lalibela Hudad
Hard to describe how epic this trip was for us.  The four hour donkey ride/hike up to the plateau, camping in huts at the top of a mountain, fresh slaughtered goat for dinner.  The most authentic Ethiopian experience we had.  Definitely the most adventurous. We had a donkey carry our pack-n-play as well as another suitcase up the mountain for Ashlynn!  HA!
Our accommodations at the top of the plateau
Bella on her donkey for the hike to Hudad

4. Lalibela
Seeing the ancient rock hewn churches was one of the most spectacular things I've seen in my life.  It was like walking through living history.  I highly recommend going at Ethiopian Christmas.

5. Wolliso and Negash Lodge
My favorite road trip with our family.  Great lodging and a great hike to see Wenchi crater.

6. Mombasa, Kenya
We spent Thanksgiving 2012 with friends in Mombasa.  We rented an entire home for a week and enjoyed the beach.

7. Cape Town, South Africa
This almost month long trip took us everywhere in Cape Town and will likely go down in our family history as the very best vacation we've ever taken.
7. Paris, France
This was my first single trip without my family and away from my children.  Paris is amazing for many reasons but this trip was spectacular because I met my friend Sunny there for the ultimate girls weekend.
I've stated in an older post just what Ethiopia has meant to me as a creative person.  My love for this country stems from my personal success and growth I've experienced here.  I was really truly happy in Ethiopia.
Our friends here have made this post unforgettable.  I love that the friends you make don't ever get left behind.  You can carry friendships from place to place and goodbye is really never final.  We almost always end up saying "see you later" instead.  I don't like goodbyes and I'm not very good at them.  I don't like being the center of attention with people getting emotional (me included) about the experiences we've had together.  In a lot of ways I'd rather quietly slip away without making a fuss.  The fact is we live a life of transition and change. People coming in and out of our lives is a huge part of it.  We're used to it and so are our friends but as much as you can be accustomed to it, it can still be hard.

Entoto moss

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