Saturday, July 25, 2009

Once upon a time at twilight


When I worked in Bonga Refugee Camp (Gambella, Ethiopia) it is no exaggeration to say that I saw true hunger. The term "feast or famine" became very real, for it was in harvest time that food was abundant and in the dry months of March and April that food was scarce and the NGO food trucks would arrive several days late. When you are hungry, you become resourceful. I cannot pretend that I have ever experienced true hunger, but I can say that my time in Bonga taught me to appreciate food and to utilize every possible part of vegetable matter to make a meal (something that I wish that I still did as the amount of food that I waste is truly shameful). As the only vegetarian potentially in the entire region, the lack of meat was of no concern to me. For the Uduk (Sudanese) people that I worked with, this was a great loss. Older men would speak fondly of long days hunting in South Sudan and the thrill and challenge of the chase.


Bush Pig was often spoken of. I never saw one of these creatures, but always imagined it to look something like a wart hog (which I would later see plenty of in Awash National Park). I remember one night towards twilight, the camp became particularly loud with children running and playing and trying to catch something. The air was extra smoky as more fires seemed to be crackling in places that they usually didn't exist. I soon found out that the children were chasing some type of fly with long wings. The smoke was used to encourage the flies to gather near. Once around the smoke, the kids would pounce. Guess what the wings taste like? Bush Pig!


So when N called this week to say that Y was thrilled about bug catching, it didn't take me long to know exactly what type of fly she was so thrilled about. Apparently they are a seasonal "delicacy" (one that city folks do not enjoy). But Y sure seemed to have a good time catching the bugs and pulling off the wings. N and Y spent one whole evening chasing these creatures around the compound and pulling off wings (Apologies to PETA). She would scream in half terror and delight as the flies lethargically flew around her. Not sure if they actually consumed the bugs, but they sure did have fun chasing them. Y is not chasing the bugs out of hunger (for which we are so thankful), but she chases them with a similar resourcefulness mindset and certainly is enjoying the thrill of the hunt.


These stories help me to feel connected. Both to Y and N and to Ethiopia, a country that I am passionately in love with! Still no word on her status, but that only gives the world more time to pray and send out good thoughts!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Waiting on the world to change...

No news here!

N called this morning with the report that we have no news to report! The good news is that the Sisters have learned some interesting information in regards to Y's situation and they feel very equipped to make the application for her. After receiving additional information on Friday, they are choosing to make the report sometime later this week!

I can't say that I am feeling totally positive, but I am also not wallowing in a pit of despair! I have so appreciated the e-mails, phone calls, text messages, comments and general support from all of you! Thank you for following our story and for caring about Y!

I had to force myself to be engaged while at work today! Being present is so super hard when your mind in 7000 miles away! I had a wonderful weekend visiting a long time friend, having dinner with another and catching up on sleep and phone calls. My goal for this week is to try and be a bit more present and less focused on things that I cannot control! Wish me luck in that venture!

We still seek your thoughts and prayers for Y this week!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Adoption Update and Vicarious Living

N has been in Ethiopia for just under a week now, and I already feel so much more connected to what is going on with Y! I am insanely happy that N is able to see Y everyday and that I am getting so many wonderful updates! They are together on the same compound every day and spend several hours playing together in the evenings. (The story of what she did when she saw N will be saved for the day that we can announce to the blogosphere that she is ours forever.)Every morning (11pm Chicago time) N hikes to the top of the hill to get cell phone reception and we chat. I can hear the buses passing by and sometimes even get to chat with someone I know who passes by. It is lovely and makes me heart just a little bit sad, but I am also so thankful that N can be with Y during this time of waiting.

About that: Although Y has lived in the orphanage for over 2.5 years, and no relatives have been able to be identified, she has not been granted "abandonment status" and we thus wait. The Sisters will be headed once again to the powers-that-be to advocate for this status to be given to her. This will occur on Monday. Inshallah we will hear something positive and we can FINALLY move forward. I really don't want to think of the possibility of this not happening. If you are reading this post now, please pray for some good news on this front. Updates from N only serve to remind me that I so desperately want Y to be apart of our family and cannot imagine it otherwise.

Should she receive the necessary documentation this week, the process is still long but POSSIBLE! If she is denied, we will need to keep waiting and asking. I am filling my time this weekend with fun stuff in order to forget about the waiting time! Heading to visit a special friend who I have not seen in over a year! Should be fun!

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I'm thinking about today...

If anyone can talk about joy amidst suffering, it is Mother Teresa. A women of remarkable grace and love, she cared for the world's orphans and destitute by giving of her time and heart. I have recently started reading this daily inspiration book and deeply appreciate the opportunity it provides me to think beyond myself. N and I both have copies.

We often say that Ethiopia is the perfect place to make decisions. For us, that has included the decision to get married (2002), the decision to pursue careers in Ethiopia (2005) and the decision to adopt a child (2008). We find a kind of clarity, apart from the distractions of our often insanely busy North American lives, that we don't find in other places and have been able to spend time thinking about what is important to us. We value friendships, family, having a strong relationship together and do find joy in serving others. But we often forget about what we love . and what we value gets pushed to the side as we focus on career, school or other things that really don't seem important when we are surrounded by life and death issues in Ethiopia.

For five weeks N will be working with the Missionaries of Charity in Addis. He will spend his days playing with kids who are pretty sick. They may not always look sick, or act sick. Sometimes he will forget they are sick. But then in the quiet of his room, he will think about the unfairness of the sickness that they do have and will question how such sweet faces should have to life with bodies that are so frail. He will eat simply (although will enjoy plenty of delicious coffee, I know) and will wash his clothing by hand.

I remain here in Chicago. I will continue to work with refugee kids, but these kids have families. They have endured war, famine, illness, death, separation and so much loss. But they are now in a safer place. We will play all day in the sun and enjoy the wealth of free activities that this city has to offer. At the end of the day I will return to our home, and most likely eat a delicious meal, because I don't like the undelicious kind.

We will both be reading this book daily and writing down our thoughts and feelings about the words of MT and how it applies to our present situation.

I am eager to reflect back with him on how our present situations and surrounding impact our thought process. I wonder what decisions he will be making while away this time and how we will join our thoughts together upon his return. I feel ready to make some changes in life. Not sure what those changes will be or when they will happen, but I am starting to think about what they might be and that can be exciting!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

$174.30 Chicago/Albuquerque


Seeing my nephews and niece and their AMAZING mother for the first time in almost a year: priceless.


August 1st 2009: May you come quickly.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Joy of Cleaning (Bon Voyage N)


It's confession time: I don't clean the house. I used to pretend that I did, but now I am readily admitting that N does all of the housekeeping. Maybe I've done laundry, say, twice in the last six years. Dishes? Hardly. Toilet bowl washing? Forget about it.
I know, I know.
How lucky am I, right? Well, N left for Ethiopia today and here I sit wondering how I will learn to do the tasks that I have gotten out of for most of my life. I have historical roots in uncleanliness and have always somehow had some nice soul willing to assist me in my task. Here's a look at how I have gotten out of the housework for the last 29 years:

1980-1998: My mother really likes things clean. Too bad for her, I take after my father. From my long pointy noses to my love for food, I just didn't get my mother's genes or cleaning skills. Lucky for me, my moms desire for a clean house was equally matched with my desire to trick my younger sister into doing anything I wanted. Voila! Clean room! (And it usually only cost me a piece of candy or something).

1998-2002: College. Let's just say that my roommates liked me for my personality and NOT my ability to keep our living space in tip-top shape. I wised up and got a single room so that I could live judgement free. I do think that I had a college wide reputation for living in a total pit. This is when I realized that I could use my cooking skills to get people to forget about my other domestic failings. From marinara sauce to spinach dip, I whipped up culinary delights in the dorm kitchen and people always helped me clean my room so that we could all dine together. Another successful diversion...

2002-2003: Ethiopia. Working in Bonga Refugee Camp. It was hot as hell. I was teaching for the first time, overwhelmed with life without electricity, running water and living in a roach and sometimes rat infested home. Enter 'Monkite. Her name means "no soup" which described the condition of her family when she was born. She wanted a job and allegedly liked washing dishes. For a salary that is less than I spend on tortilla chips in a week, 'Monkite scrubbed my dishes until they shined as much as they ever would. (The decision to have a housekeeper while living in rural Ethiopia was a struggle to come to, but ultimately something that I would do again. More on that later).

2003-Present: Marriage. Aaghh.....wedded bliss, right? I always told N that I was messy. He swore before we lived together that he didn't mind. We got married in September and he would start grad school in Jan. Without a green card or work authorization, his time filling prospects were pretty bleak (Let's not engage the deeper issues of my potential power over him )Thus his role as domestic manager as I worked to pay the bills. Well, our roles stuck, and the rest is history. Not to say that he actually enjoys the role. I sure do, but his feelings are not as loving as mine. (He is in DC now and has ample time to form a rebuttal before his next flight takes off).

Today: Me, a sponge, some kind of all natural spray and the bathtub. Cross your fingers for a successful five weeks. The good news is that kid sister (now 25 years old and a law student) is back for the summer living in the back room. I plan to entice her with something that she doesn't know how to cook and tell her that I will give it to her if she cleans the tile. After all, it's worked for the last 29 years, why not now?

All this to say, N will be deeply missed for many reasons, including his mad house keeping skills (including coffee roasting). Enjoy this super cheesy photo of him looking demon possessed as he browns our beans to perfection!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Weekend Update



Busy times around here! But not the kind of busy that we have become overly accustomed to. You know, the not fun kind of busy: work, school, sleep and no play. Nope! Not us, not now! We have left that kind of busyness in the dust for a summer of serious fun! I actually can't remember N and I ever having so much spontaneous fun. This week (give a couple of days) has included outdoor music fun with friends, Ethiopian soccer game, late night trip for coffee with friends, a too late night at a dive bar, more Ethiopian soccer, and then some more, two meals of injera, a family reunion, thoughts of visiting Michael Jackson's house while driving through Indiana, house guests and BBQ's. It just feels so nice. We are both still working (N will finish teaching the first section of summer school this week), but it does us both well to have a rest from being in school.

The spontaneous fun as a union will end in a few days as we part ways for "Part II" of Summer 2009. N is off to Addis for five weeks to continue with language, work at the orphanage and see Y (who we hear is growing bigger everyday and is still the "queen" per reports when we phone the Sisters). I will continue on with 4 more weeks of programming with work and then a break when N returns. Any suggestions on vacations spots?

Perhaps a highlight for the week was a chance to truly practice Amharic with a 78 year old gentlemen. I say "truly" because my friends always provide me with the wonderful out of using English to fall back on when I forget words/or never knew it to begin with! We went for a meal/coffee at a new friends house only to discover that she had not yet returned from work. Her father opened the door and immediately greeted us in Amharic and launched into a super long monologue. He was thankful to have someone to speak with and got a kick out of an American/Canadian duo attempting to navigate the lingo. I'm blaming some of the initial language confusion on the fact that his first language is Tigrinya. Man, it was tough. I would say that the two of us managed to understand and contribute fairly well, but it required conversation skills that I have not used in months and maybe even a year. We talked government, adjustment to life in America, growing old and the chill of Chicago winters. Thankfully, our friend came home after about 20 mins. Wonderful practice for us and a fun chance to interact with a generation that often does not immigrate to the US.

That's all for now! Peace out!
PS: With all of this fun, guess what I haven't been doing? Ummm maybe exercising and eating "right." Maybe a few too many tortilla chips and not enough Bikram and running. Tomorrow, right?