Monday, December 28, 2009

How to travel cheap, but still enjoy yourself--Addis

First photo with Y and her Babba at Sidist Kilo MT home

If you are attempting to do adoption travel on the cheap, I will include several points of interest in this post. Here are my tips:
1. Fly Turkish Airlines----I had flown Turkish before and totally recommend it for cheap travel. Even at the last minute, our flight was only $1200 per person. (Because Y is over 2, she had to pay a full fare coming back which was also $1200, but for one way!). We flew directly from Chicago to Istanbul and had a quick layover of three hours. During that time we utilized the free Internet in the airport, but compensated with outrageously expensive and mediocre food and coffee! The flight was smooth, all luggage arrived as planned and the plane was new and well kept. Booking was easy. We did it through Cheap and then phoned the airlines to book Y's ticket which was linked to ours. Turkish has consistently had the cheapest tickets to Addis for over a year now. Although the ticket is nonrefundable, you can pay an extra $200 once you are in Addis if you need to change your ticket, and this is very easily accomplished. CONS: It was a slight nuisance to book over the phone as the connection was obviously through a distant call center, but totally worth the money saved. Also, flying back through Istanbul security was very tight. We had our passports checked six times. With a three year old in tow, this was a hassle and almost made us all go crazy, but one week later we are just glad to have saved so much $$$. No regrets on choosing Turkish. I would note that a stroller would have made this part of the trip 100% better!
2. Mr Martin's Cozy Place Guest House (or "German Guest House"): Some would call this "no frills." It is fairly basic, but still allows you to feel comfortable and safe and has the modern amenities one needs (hot water, electricity, and a shared refrigerator). We stayed in the single room one night before we picked up Y ($10 USD) and then switched to the family room ($19.50 per night). The family room included a sitting room with a desk, wardrobe and chairs and an attached bedroom with a double and single bed. The bathroom is down the hall, but felt like a private bath because only one other suite shared it with our room and the suite was empty most of the time. The staff are super friendly, they were understanding and accommodating to our screaming three year old, and all of the guests are fairly social, which is good given the amount of time spent in the guest house. They have a cafe with reasonably priced "Western" food ($3USD breakfasts). They have a decent Internet connection and the staff can help you get anything you need including changing money and running errands for you (the latter does not come for free, but is cheap!). Most of the other guests are tourists or low paid researchers or interns, which is nice because the place clears out during the day making the staff extra attentive and eager to chat with you! CONS: The walls are pretty thin in this place, so the noise really depends on your neighbors and what sort of...ummm, shall we say "activities," that they wish to participate in. (None on this trip, thankfully). If you are a Gladney family, this guest house would be far from the Care Center...about 30 mins, but totally accessible with your driver (this is in the "Atlas Hotel" neighborhood). Again, it is pretty basic, but they clean everyday and it is bud free etc.
3. Eat Local---This will save you a TON of money. Right outside of the guesthouse is an Injera house. We ate the local "Shiro Wat" daily which cost around $1.20 total. With drinks included we would spend about $2.50 on lunch and sometimes eat breakfast and dinner there as well. However, I am a saladaholic and need my salad fix, so we also ate at the neighborhood Lebanese restaurant that caters to foreigners...great, but much more expensive (still cheap at around $13 total). CONS: none! Injera and Shiro Wat at those prices can't be beat.

Hmmm those were our big price cutters! We also didn't have a driver at all, which worked well for us because we know Addis public transport, but most likely would not be a good bet if this is your first time to Addis. We aren't really super thrifty people and these things were all fairly easy to do. We certainly were not suffering.

To make up for all of our savings, I did feel the need to spend around $100USD at this store. I consider it an Ethiopia MUST!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's sexier than sex?

I interrupt this otherwise normal blog to discuss the nastiness that has permeated our home----it is ringworm and it is on my face, on my daughter's face and threatening to overtake our life. Not really, but if you ever Google images of ringworm you will get the idea that you will never again be without it. Any suggestions? I'm sure other adoptive families have had it and I want to know what to do about it (we have OTC cream) and how long it will last!

It's kinda like lice or flies or bedbugs...once you hear about it, you are convinced that it is taking over your body and you itch and see it appearing all over the place!

Yuck and Happiest of Holidays! :)

Monday, December 21, 2009


Photo and joy created by the illustrious Sara B

I'm a mom, y'all! And can you believe that I am so lucky as to parent this cutie pie???

Y is a living and breathing and RUNNING....oh yes she runs, child in our home!

Stealing from the Office a bit in regards to parenting. I totally know what I am doing, but "in a much more real sense, I have no idea at all." :)

Ethiopia was wonderful! It was great to connect with friends, eat shiro and injera literally every day (except one) for lunch, drink endless amounts of coffee, pay $1.20 to get Y's hair braided, meet this family, meet this families children, shop for things we REALLY needed...(I mean who doesn't need yet another scarf?) and to just be in a place that celebrates being. It was for sure a different trip than any other, and we underestimated how much work it would be to have a child along for the ride! We dramatically scaled back on our initial plans of meeting friends for lunch, coffee and dinner everyday and actually just spent a lot of time in our guesthouse.

I feel like I have tons to write about; Y's adjustment, my adjustment to parenting, adoption travel on the cheap, adopting an older child, Missionaries of Charity orphanages (home to Y).....but for now I will sign off because it is not yet 6am and I need coffee and find this hour repulsive without it! And mostly because little Y is screaming that the "the urine has arrived" (literal Amharic to English translation) and how can I not attend to that???

Monday, December 7, 2009

Addis (All things new)

Istanbul, Turkey Airport

"Has it hit you yet?"

Hmmm, actually.....not really! But it should, right? We are within 20 hours of picking up our daughter and embarking on a new life together. Forever. And that is good and great and wonderful. And I can't wait to see her and hold her and play with her.

But something about this seems so unreal. Maybe it is because of all of the ups and downs that we have experienced throughout this journey. (I'm pretty sure that is why)I think a part of me, even though it is not rational, still might not believe that this is all really happening and that Y really is my daughter until I see her again. I realized this week that it has been eight months since I last saw her. Sure, I have seen pictures, but I see pictures of people's cute adopted kids from Ethiopia all of the time.

The craziness of life in the last month has contributed to the strange feelings as well. I have wrapped up my job of six years (well, mostly......a project or two hang over!), started a new one, and tried to plan for life with a three year old (but how do you really do that?). I was literally sending work emails until the cabin crew forced me off of the computer. And now? Now I am dreaming of macciatos, reunions with friends and one super cute little girl! (added bonus: N's sister, who is working in Kabul, will be joining us at some point on our jouney!!!)

It's all good, it's just all new!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day---December 1st

(Photo repeat, but it's important!)

I remember when I first learned about HIV/AIDS. It was scary. It was incurable and people I didn't know got it. Then someone I did know had it. And he lived next door to me, and then he passed away. It was the 80's and no one knew better and I remember his family burning his clothing and mattress "just in case."

Cut to 1999. One of the best things about my Bible college was our required volunteer work in the great city of Chicago. My eyes were continually opened and challenged by both the needs and the beauty of such a rich city. I was assigned a year of volunteering at a home for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. I remember when the head nurse told me that one of the babies was infected (let's disregard that HIP AA violation). I remember crying and praying over the baby every week while I rocked him.

2002--Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My friend Julie regularly volunteered at the Mother Teresa home for HIV infected children. I went with her to visit and play with the kids. It was a day full of fun and sadness. I distinctly remember thinking how amazing it would be to one day spend more intensive time in a home like that just loving the kids and caring for them.

2008--Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Same orphanage, same kids, six years later. We played so much and laughed so much and some days I would forget just how sick they were/are. And then the nightly rounds of medicine would come around and in the quietness (well, kinda quietness) of the toddler room, I would think about how precious the kids were and how tragic and ugly it was that they were sick.

...and now when I think about that ugly, scary incurable disease, I don't think that it happens to people so different than myself. Because I know names and faces and personalities of so, so many infected and affected. And it is so very personal now.