Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Arabella Jun turns 4

Our sweet Bella Bean turned four yesterday.  She has requested that her favorite color, green, be showcased for her birthday this year.  So I made mint chocolate chip ice cream with homemade hot fudge.  Amazing! The house is decked out in green buntings!
Bella is our little dreamer.  She's our fighter too.  From the moment she was born she has been our spicy girl.  She's stubborn and contrary just to be contrary.  A good way to get Arabella to do what you want her to do is act like you don't want her to do it, or comment that you don't think she could handle it.  We struggle with her on basic things like getting herself dressed or sitting at the dinner table to eat a meal.  She comes up with completely imaginary reasons she can't do these things.  Usually, her legs hurt or she can't walk. A good example of a typical Arabella challenge is after her bath we lay out her pajamas and encourage her to focus on putting them on herself (OK, I might "encourage her the first 19 times I ask, after that I shout).  We usually hear some tears, whining and most likely a few "my legs are tired!"comments.  The minute I mention that I don't think she's big enough to put on her own pajamas or that surely those pajamas are just too hard for her to manage; she snaps to it and starts putting them on with a smug little smile on her face.

It's impossible not to completely adore this girl.  We find ourselves talking about her and her antics after the kids are asleep.  Bella's the one who generally says something hilarious and I have to call Justin at work to relay it to him before I forget.  She's a character and we love her. Especially her quirks.
Green Crocs for Bean

Arabella has a fantastic imagination.  She's typically singing and dancing.  All her imaginary play requires her to sing everything her toys are saying.  Often things get so dramatic that I end up asking her if she's OK, only to hear "I'm just playing Mom!".

She's pretty klutzy, at least once every other week she has a major fall and I'm certain that THIS is the time that I will have to call the embassy and figure out how to race her to one of the horrific hospitals in Addis for her bones to be set for a cast.  Luckily, we haven't had any broken bones but her legs are in a constant state of watercolor shades of purple, blue and yellow.  One of her front teeth was bruised from a fall and is now permanently discolored.  She already has two small scars on her face.  She's a mess and I do worry about her more.  She's just going to require a bit more worrying than the other two throughout life.

It's wonderful to watch Bella grow.  She's extremely independent and lovable.  She brings us so much joy every day of our lives.  Our family would not be the same without our Bella Bean.  Happy Birthday precious girl!  We love you.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Artisans and Designers' Bazaar

This past weekend the Artisans and Designers' Bazaar at Tropical Gardens in Bole had the best display of made-in-Ethiopia art I've seen in one location.  We didn't plan on making any big purchases so we took a few cards to visit a few galleries and show rooms at later dates.  There was an amazing selection of goods including honey, jams, leather work, textiles. rugs, paintings, photography, jewelry and woven baskets. 

If you didn't make it to this bazaar you should keep your eye out for the next.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sishu: an oasis in Addis

Sishu is currently the one and only restaurant in Ethiopia where I truly feel like we could be in America when we are there.  It's comfortable, affordable, beautiful and delicious!  Truly a gem in Addis.
At Sishu you can enjoy American style hamburgers while surrounded by stylish 60's vintage decor.  The lovely co-owner, Sishu, has made design a priority and maybe that's why spending time at this restaurant is such a pleasure.  There's plenty of space to sit and grab a book to read. 
There are ottomans and side tables as well as perfectly upholstered chairs. Everything is up-cycled and the entire collection feels comfortable yet carefully curated  Another perk for families is the incredibly high ceilings in the warehouse, so kid noise gets completely lost.  This is a huge plus for our family.
Most definitely the delicious cheeseburgers and perfect french fries keep us, and all other, customers coming back time and time again.  It's a cheeseburger I'd seek out in the States to eat.  The buns are handmade and you can watch them rising in the big open air kitchen.  The staff is friendly and helpful and the eco friendly paper mache furniture is delightful to inspect and explore. 
We run into friends at Sishu every time we go.  Who wouldn't want to spend an afternoon eating delicious American comfort food in this hip spot?  It's like going home!
Sishu is now located across from the Abattoir behind GM furniture

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 4: On my own in Paris and final thoughts

Sunny and I grabbed some flaky fresh croissants for breakfast.  To be honest, I purchased two loaves of bread, a baguette, 4 croissants and 4 pan au chocolates to bring home with me on the airplane for my family.  Day old French pastries are better than anything we can get in Ethiopia.

Sunny and I said our goodbyes since her train was departing early.  I returned to the apartment and packed everything before heading out to do some walking and shopping on my own. I stopped for one last terrible cup of French espresso and then decided to wander around for an hour and a half before the shops all opened.  I found an interesting monument and park to sit in and watch all the commuters with their sack lunches and totes full of gym clothes and sensible shoes briskly walking by.
I found an entire strip of garden shops/nurseries along the Seine with beautiful flowers for sale.  Just one last morning to soak up a little bit more of France and pick up a few last minute things for my family before the journey home.

Day 4 heading home
"I had a real vacation and a great weekend being a tourist and feeling the freedom and selfishness of traveling alone.  But this weekend also made me think about how much extra work it is to live our life in Ethiopia.  So much more mental work to keep myself happy and feeling fulfilled.  I'm so used to this extra work, mental and otherwise, that I'd forgotten that life can be easier.  Things move smoothly and predictably.  People wait in lines and for walk signals to cross roads.  Trains have schedules and buses have set destinations.  Life, in general, is easier when you are going with the flow of things in the first world.  Seeing my life and myself from the me that was walking in Paris made me tired but proud.  Proud that I can be happy in Ethiopia.  Maybe this weekend was more about me really being on the other side of Ethiopia-the opposite side and the other end of the spectrum.  Maybe it was about me existing in abundance and really seeing that we are thriving in Ethiopia despite the challenges.

I had a truly wonderful time in Paris.  It was comforting and predictable in all sorts of first world ways.  No surprises when it came to cash registers, metro schedules, prices, food.  Everything was efficient as expected.  It felt good to be immersed in that world again and blend in with the crowd.  But more importantly, I'm going to give my self a little pat on the back for hanging as well as I am in Ethiopia."

Day 3: Dinner in Montmartre

Sunny and I headed to the super bohemian residential area of Montmartre.  We navigated our way up to the Sacre Coeur along with the rest of city's 25-35 year-old.  The main square in Montmartre was teeming with artists and people drinking.  We found a outdoor bistro and tucked into one last dinner in Paris.  The views from Montmatre are especially beautiful.  We took it all in before we headed back to rest for the night.
the view everyone had come to Montmartre for
puff pastry with Gorgonzola cream sauce

street musicians and urban art

Day 3: death march, life saving salad and Notre Dame

We didn't realize that exiting the palace gardens through the public pedestrian gate would require us to walk almost 3 miles out of the way and back to the city center to catch the metro.  Sunny aptly named our three mile hike the Death March!  
When we reached the city center we immediately dropped into two patio chairs at an outdoor bistro and ordered lunch.  I was so hungry I didn't snap a photo of what would be my favorite meal during my weekend in Paris.  The meal that I still think about even now after being home in Addis.  It was a salad.  But not just any salad.  The lettuce was dressed with a light Dijon vinaigrette.  There were tomatoes, hunks of Gorgonzola cheese and layers of parma.  On top was a lightly fried crepe with warm goat cheese wrapped inside.  It was a meal that put the energy back in my step. I could have withered away into the stones of Versailles if it were not for that salad.

After recharging our batteries for lunch we rode the metro back home where we promptly locked our keys in the apartment and ourselves in the hallway.  The frail little old lady who lived upstairs came to our rescue and hobbled down the few flights of stairs to retrieve an extra key from the landlord's apartment.  It amazed me that this old woman lived in this building and carried herself and all her daily groceries up the stairs.

With keys in hand we headed to find ice cream.  Always a priority.  We located the famous Berthillon Glaciers at a cafe not far from our next stop, Notre Dame. I had a hot crepe wrapped around vanilla bean ice cream.  It was perfection.  We sat along the Seine and played spot the Americans as people walked by.

This year marks 850 years for Notre Dame and people were out in troves to see the gorgeous cathedral.  We toured the inside and even sat for a portion of mass to listen to the pipe organs and singing.  Such a peaceful stop for us on Sunday.