India: Getting There.

Well, I did it. I went on my first official missions trip. Laugh if you must, but it’s true. I live on the mission field. I’ve hosted countless mission teams. But I’ve never been part of team myself. Until now.

I enjoy hosting people very much – particularly because I love that they are coming to Niger and leaving with a part of Niger in their hearts, and leaving a part of their hearts in Niger. I like helping to facilitate that process. But I must say, I also very much enjoyed being ‘hosted’. Showing up to a place to stay, wonderful meals prepared and ministry all set up for us to step into. In other words, the only thing I had to plan was what to put in my suitcase. Well of course there’s ministry preparation, but that’s a different category of preparation.

Ministry prep done, house organized and details regarding Tobi and his stay with Grandma and Grandpa were more or less done by Tuesday.  Mostly.  Wednesday was packing day.  Packing takes a good portion of my brain cells, and I’m pretty sure it kills a few in the process.  Packing is one of my least favorite things to do.  Probably because I’m no good at it.  Which is odd, considering how often I do it.  But every time I put that open suitcase on my bed I stare at it like it’s the first time I’ve seen a suitcase before and have no idea where to begin.  What makes it all the more annoying infuriating is that Neal throws his bag up on the bed and within 30 minutes – 45 tops – he’s ready to go.  So sparing all the gory details, I finally got packed.   Just in time to leave for the airport at 5am Thursday morning.  No – just kidding.  We actually had a pretty relaxing evening and a decent night sleep.  Tobi moved to Grandma and Grandpa’s that night before so he didn’t have to get up at 4:30.  Grandpa took us to the airport – yep, at 5am.  What a guy!

Niger is developing, but there aren’t very many airlines that fly into our humble international airport.  So though our flight to India was on Ethiopian Air, one must use one of their ‘partner’ airlines, Asky, to get out of Niger.  We flew on Asky when headed to Ethiopia earlier this year and I was pleasantly surprised overall.  The Asky office told us to be at the airport at 5:30am for our 8:15 flight.  The Childs family is very well known for its’ timeliness and today would be no exception.  We arrived at 5:20.  I guess no one else got the 5:30 memo because we were pretty much alone.  The door to the check-in counter/room was closed and it was dark.  Though not surprised I couldn’t help but think about the additional 30 minutes (or more) of sleep I could have had…

Some time later….

There was movement behind the closed door and lights started turning on.  Other travelers were arriving and had the nerve to walk to the front of the line — in front of where our bags had been sitting for the better part of an hour!  I seriously wanted to express to them that we had been sitting there for some time now and who did they think they were to march right to the front of the line without even passing Go?  Someone should acknowledge that we followed Asky’s rules, even if we were alone.  And I should add that we have known this airline to take off an hour or more before scheduled flight time, without telling the passengers…so better wait than sorry.

We got through check-in with no problems, making sure that even though we had several stops, our bags were checked through to Delhi.  We made our way through immigration, said goodbye to the police and went to the ‘gate’ to wait some more.

I pulled out the homemade breakfast burritos and we enjoyed those while waiting to board the plane.  We took off more or less on time, and here we are somewhere over Niger.  We were obviously not on a large plane – check out the propeller.

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We were fed an overload of carbohydrates for breakfast, on our way to Abuja, Nigeria.  The orange juice, tea and fruit were lovely.

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We landed first in Abuja, but didn’t have to leave the plane – it was kind of like a bus stop.  Here we are descending in Nigeria – though it’s our neighbor, what a contrast!

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A little bit mountainous.

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Landing in Abuja, Nigeria

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I honestly don’t remember the time on the ground so it must not have been very long.  Next stop was Lome, Togo.  There we would change planes to a ‘real’ airplane for the journey from the west of Africa all the way to the east.

Here we are on the plane to Lome.

IMG_2196The airplane food was endless with so many flights, and I was dreaming about my breakfast burritos…I do however always enjoy drinking tomato juice when I fly.  And they even served it with fresh lemon.

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Landing in Lome, Togo.  That’s our shadow!

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By the time we got our boarding passes and seats we didn’t have long to wait before boarding.  And before we knew it – we were landing in Addis.

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We had several hours in the Addis Airport so we cruised around some shops for a bit, but that’s cumbersome with carry-ons and computer bags.  So we found a restaurant to kill time in because once we went through security, there was no food or drink allowed, and no ‘facilities’.  While sitting there, we noticed there was pizza on the menu.  We remembered how we enjoyed the pizza when we spent 3 days in Addis back in March, so we figured we should get some, you know, for old times sake.  It was worth it.  And here’s Neal, looking all bright eyed and bushy tailed, in spite of an already long day.  And I have no idea what time of day this really is.

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What I do remember is that it was cold.  Check out Neal’s winter ware!

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I was seriously cold.  Cold enough that it didn’t matter how dorky I looked.  These are my travel socks.  I always keep them in my purse when I travel be it by road, air or sea.  And they came in handy.  

Everything blurs together, but I do remember the walk to the plane was a long one.  Several ramps. And  the plane – it was huge!  Called a Dreamliner I think.  And we got exit row bulkhead!!  That is also huge.  And no one else was sitting in the 3rd seat in our group of 3.  We were counting our blessings.  This was the longest of the 5 flights.  And yes I actually walked to the plane looking like this.  

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And again, more food.  We usually accepted it, but then didn’t really eat it.  I think this is chicken.  Enjoyed my tomato juice though!

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I think we got some sleep on this flight.  Getting ready to land in Delhi.

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We’re in India!

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We had to collect our bags, which both showed up – even though Neal is wondering…

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Immigration / Customs was a breeze and the officials were very friendly, welcoming us to their country and seemed sincerely happy that we were there.  It was a nice welcome and helped to revive me a bit.  I found myself smiling.  The journey had been pretty long to this point, and we still had an 8 hour wait until our next flight to Chandigarh.  Knowing what we know now, we probably would have just found a taxi and made the 5 hour road trip.

Things at this point were a bit confusing…We were feeling so excited to actually be in this country, but we didn’t know where to go.  We had to figure out how to leave the international section and get to the domestic section.  The airport was pretty secure, with guards/police at all the entrances.  We were hoping to be able to check our bags right away, so we didn’t have to sit with all our stuff for 8 hours.  We inquired and were told we had to go to such and such counter.  That counter was through a door that was being guarded.  The only hard copy evidence of our upcoming flight was a printout of all of our flights, and it didn’t have our names on it.  Without proper documentation, we weren’t getting in.  Babu shigowa – no entry.  We were told to go to such and such counter and get a print out of our ticket.  We explained that we had already tried such and such, but they wouldn’t let us in.  Because we didn’t have the right printout.  We finally found a way in, waited in line and were then told we had to pay 10 rupees for the printout.  We didn’t have 10 rupees.  We had plenty of dollars, but no rupees.  And to go change our dollars required us to go beyond the doors that we weren’t allowed because we didn’t have the printout.  Get the picture?  It was all quite confusing.  And probably even more so since little sleep had been had in the previous 30 or so hours.  The counter lady had mercy on us and gave us the printout for no dollars or rupees.

Printout in hand, we headed to domestic flights to hopefully check in.  When we got to such and such counter, they looked at the printout and smiled at us like we were overly excited about our flight and explained that this flight wasn’t until much later in the day.  I think it was just after 8am.  We smiled back and said we knew that, but we just arrived and were hoping to check our bags.  Counter lady  explained that there was an 11am flight to Chandigarh (ours was at 5pm) and she was concerned that they would be put on that flight so wisely advised us to wait until after that flight left.  She also explained that we were only allowed 15 kilos each.  We had more than that— forgot that international and domestic baggage allowances are not the same.

Waiting until after 11 gave us time to shuffle some things around in our bags, and add some heavier stuff to our carry-ons.  So in the end we only ended up paying about $20 for our excess bags.  They were quite gracious about it.  Could have (should have) been much higher.

Finally freed of our bags we could now wander around the terminal.  We found the food court!  KFC, McDonalds etc.  But none of that for us.  And keep in mind that beef is not eaten – so don’t be expecting two all beef patties. (But I think it’s debatable that McDonalds in beef-eating countries can claim ‘all beef’ patties either) We went straight for the Indian food.  And it was quite tasty.  Chicken biriyani, samosas, daal and some really tasty sauces.  Hit the spot!

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Now to go and find a place to clean up and wait for our last flight.  It was a pretty big terminal, and surprisingly sparse.

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Pretty nice place to wait.  I dozed, Neal read.

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But first, we took turns in the bathroom.  In Niger, the bathrooms in nicer homes or hotels all have boudets (it’s a French word that I have no idea how to spell)…kind of a cross between and sink and a toilet.  I’ve never used them – because to be honest, I don’t really know how.  Well the toilets I’ve seen here so far all have a spray hose/drain.  Again, something I probably wouldn’t use under normal circumstances.  But we haven’t had a shower in awhile, and that sprayer complete with water (it worked, I checked), looked like it had great potential.  Armed with my baby wipes and a hand towel, I took a mini-shower in the bathroom.  Washed my feet in the toilet.  No – not IN the toilet.  I held  my feet over the toilet, soaped them up with my travel shampoo and sprayed them off.  Nothing like clean feet!  I brushed my teeth and washed my face (no, not in the toilet!) and emerged feeling semi-clean and ready to complete our journey.

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Our 8 hour wait was finally up and we boarded the plane for our less than 1 hour flight.  Here we are landing in Chandigarh, India.  I know I’m not supposed to take pictures at airports with security around etc, but I got this one on my phone while I was walking away from he plane.   Managed to actually get a picture of our plane.  Interesting that our journey started and ended with a plane this size.
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It felt so good to be on the ground.  Our bags came last, but they came!

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We were being picked up by our host, Pastor James Chacko, whom we had only met via email/Facebook.  He was standing right outside the airport and graciously welcomed us and made us feel right at home.  Which is how we felt when we made the drive from the airport to his home. Driving in India may have the reputation of being crazy, but it really did make us feel at home. If you’ve been to Niger, you know what I’m talking about.

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It was Friday evening and we arrived at Pastor James and Usha’s beautiful apartment and were shown our room and got settled.  We enjoyed some Chai tea and got to know each other, and then Usha cooked for us.  Yep.  More food.  But this was by the far the best we had eaten, and it was only the beginning!

I’ve been wanting to write about this journey since arriving back in Niger almost 2 weeks ago, but today is literally the first day the internet has been good enough to do so.  Blogging with bad internet is quite tedious, but I’m determined to record the details of this amazing journey we had the privilege of making.

For now, I need to go make some Chai.

Exploring Addis Ababa Part 2

Well.  We have enjoyed our rooms and lovely breakfast served with tea each morning.  The only thing lacking is a more comfortable bed.  Over the last 15 years we have traveled to the US about every 2 years for about 3 months.  While there, we move around quite a bit, usually not staying in one place for more than 2 nights, and often just 1.  It used to be no big deal — the sleeping in a different bed on a different pillow every other night thing.  It’s become more of a big deal now.  Wonder why that could be…?  ANYWAY – the fact is that these days it takes more than 1 night to get used to a new bed.  In other words, we don’t really get used to any beds when we travel.  Our bed at ‘Z’ was the only downside to its many ‘ups’.  First of all, it was a double.  We don’t both fit very well into a double.  It’s doable, but difficult.  Then this particular bed sort of sloped on both sides, making it seem even smaller.  Add to that it was quite hard.  Quite.  On the 3rd night, Neal gave me the bed and he moved to the couch in Tobi’s room.  He slept much better which was great given his sacrifice.  I however was awake most of the night – but I don’t think it was because of the bed.  More on that later in this post…

We had planned our day the night before.  Visit some cathedrals, go to  Entoto Hills (overlooks the city), and end at Little Italy.  In the evening Neal’s high school friend, Steve Olson,  invited us to come for dinner.  We were ready to start our day!

Since it was going to be a pretty full day, a taxi was in order.  Todd arranged one for us and taximan was on time.

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First stop was St. George’s Cathedral.  You can see it in the distance.

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The cathedral was built in 1896 by Italian prisoners of war.

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We were dropped off at the bottom of the hill and we walked up.  There were people everywhere.  Not crowds of people, but just people everywhere.  We assumed the cathedral was catholic, but we were wrong.  It’s Orthodox – the main religion in Ethiopia.  There was a very reverent feel as we walked around outside. People of all classes were there from beggars to business men in 3-piece suits.  They would walk up to any part of the cathedral and kiss it and bow down to it.  It was fascinating.

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While we wandered around a man approached us (we were a little conspicuous) and asked if we’d like to see inside.  It wasn’t a mass time, so all the doors were locked.  We of course said we would, and hoped that he had the authority to take us inside.  He explained that we should first purchase tickets for the museum, and the inside tour would be included in that.  There was a small museum on the cathedral’s grounds.  We went and purchased our tickets and our guide, who was now dressed in a white robe, returned to take us into the building.  He explained that we should first remove our shoes and meet him at the door.  He had to go around to open and enter.  In the next picture Tobi is taking off his shoes while worshipers kiss the door.  The door you see is the door we went in.  Fortunately we were allowed to keep our shoes inside.  It felt awkward though asking the kissing people to move so we could go inside their cathedral.

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Once inside, our mild-mannered guide was suddenly in character.  Here, he is demonstrating ‘slow’ worship.

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Next he modeled ‘fast worship’ where he danced around, sang (chanted) while he played the drum.  He even asked us to clap.

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The cathedral is an octagon so we walked the perimeter of it while he gave us the history.  It was quite interesting and he was well versed.  Sadly, I can’t remember a whole lot of what he told us.  I should have taken notes.  In writing this post I did search a few things, but I’ve decided if anyone is interested they can search for themselves.  I am so behind in my writing so I’m going to be as quick as I can.  That means resisting the urge to research.

The center – where only the priests are allowed to go – was the holy of holies, modeled after the Holy of Holies in the jewish temple which was home of the Ark of the Covenant.  (The Ethiopians claim to have the Ark of the Covenant, but no one is allowed to see it).   During mass, the masses of people are allowed inside – but only around the perimeter.  We felt fortunate to be getting our own personal tour.

What I do remember is something I’d not heard before.  In the Book of Kings, the Bible tells us that the Queen of Sheba (from Ethiopia) heard of King Solomon’s wealth and had to come and see it for herself.  She was awed by it and blessed Solomon’s God.  King Solomon then gave her everything she desired and asked for.  I knew that part.  What I had never heard was the ‘rest of the story’ according to Ethiopian Legend.  Apparently he seduced her and after she returned home she gave birth to Menelik I who became Ethiopia’s 1st Emperor.  So the story goes.  I have no idea if it’s true because the Bible isn’t clear on that, but knowing what we know about Solomon, it wouldn’t surprise me…

The artwork inside was pretty impressive.  Our guide also wore the photographer hat for us.

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I felt awkward taking pictures outside, but I was fascinated by the variety of people that were there.

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We finished inside and our guide escorted us over to the museum where it seemed again we would be getting a private tour.

This guy greeted us in front of the museum.  I can’t remember his name.  But I know he was significant.

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It was a maze as we walked through, and it displayed a throne, stained glass art and items and clothing of the Emperors of Ethiopia.  Unfortunately we  weren’t allowed to take pictures inside.

At the top of the museum was a working bell.  Eleven tons of brass.  It was impressive and we were invited to climb to the top.  Which we did.

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It wasn’t an easy climb.  Mostly because it was narrow and had no guard rails.  A bit intimidating.

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This is one serious bell and I was glad it didn’t bong while we were up there!

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This is just a replica.

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Needing to find some ‘facilities’ before our next event, we decided to ask our multi-talented guide.  He said that yes they had what we were looking for but he wasn’t sure if they were up to our standards.  I felt like saying, “You jest.  Do you have any idea where I live – and what type of ‘toilets’ I’ve experienced?”  But I held my tongue and assured him that whatever they had would be just fine.  And they really were.  Real toilets with water in them.  When we were done, he even turned the water on so we could wash our hands.

Next up was to find a taxi and negotiate a price to Entoto Hills.  All we knew was that this place was high and overlooked the city and that there was another cathedral up there.  I remember when we were talking with different taxi drivers I overheard one comment that he wasn’t going to ruin his taxi going up there.  I didn’t know what he meant until we were on the way.  We did find a taximan that agreed to take us and wait for us while we looked around, and then bring us back.

The road was steep.  And rough.  Our taximan didn’t really speak English.  He just kept saying ‘yes’ to everything we said.

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Some scenery IMG_1736along the way.  Not sure what it is, but it says, “Jesus is Lord.”

It was no surprise to us when the taxi overheated.  Now I understood the other taxi drivers comment about ruining his car.   This was a seriously rough road and it was all uphill.  It was clear though, that this wasn’t a first occurrence.  He was equipped with a bottle of water and the skill to continue to reuse the same water to cool his engine down.  It only delayed us about 15 minutes.

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We finally reached the top.  This is Addis Ababa but it’s hard to see because of the smog.  Sad, I know.  IMG_1747

HIMG_1742ere’s the cathedral that was at the top.  Love the colors!

Again, we were approached by a man who inquired if we wanted a tour.  This was becoming familiar…  We weren’t invited inside the cathedral, but we were given a tour of Emperor Menelik’s ‘Palace’.  I don’t know if he was Solomon’s son, but I do know that this was some ancient history!

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This is inside his house.

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This is what I call the ‘pantry’, where the fresh meat was hung.

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There were priests and nuns currently living here.  But the nuns have to beg to live.  Didn’t sound right to me….

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There were also beggars around the cathedral.

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And people worshiping.

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A statue or picture of Mary is behind the curtain.

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Lots of people sitting around.

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There was another museum here as well.  No pics allowed.  It was small and mostly contained clothing of Emperors and their wives.  Though fancy and all, made me thankful that I’m living in this century.

We finished with this tour.

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And were ready to make our way down the mountain to find some food!  This was the entrance/exit.

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For some reason our taximan took us a way that seemed much easier — even though it involved incline/decline, it didn’t involve a rocky dirt road.  Maybe he just wanted to show us what his little taxi could do.

On our way down we saw something that to me was heartbreaking.  I know it’s part of the culture there, but it still made me sad.  Which is interesting since I live in a nation that has again recently been determined to be the poorest nation on earth (Niger).  So I see heartbreaking things there every day.  However I realize that because I see them so much I can get immuned to them to a degree.  That ‘commonness’ doesn’t make them any less heartbreaking.  Just normal.  Sadly.  It was kind of a wake-up call or reminder.

So on our way down the mountain we passed many women loaded down with what I learned to be loads of eucalyptus wood on their shoulders.  They were carrying these loads on their shoulders all the way down the mountain.  I can only imagine how heavy they were.

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I could only get pictures from behind because they were going down the mountain, the same direction as us.  But they weren’t young people, that I can tell you.

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Niger isn’t the only place that has lots of donkeys.  What I wonder though is why these old woman have to carry those loads of wood when there are donkeys that can do it.

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Lots of donkeys.

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I wish pictures could capture the full beauty.

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We made it down the mountain and asked our taximan to take us to the ‘Italian District’ for lunch.  He dropped us off here.

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Can’t get enough Italian (pizza), but we also wanted to have some real Ethiopian food as well.  Probably the most well known Ethiopian food (my opinion) is injera – a sponge like bread.  It’s made with teff flour (no idea what that is) and has to have a starter that takes 5 days to make.  But once you have that, apparently it’s a cinch.  And I’m pretty sure the locals eat it every day.  From what I can tell, injera is really an edible utensil of sorts – to carry whatever other food you are eating.  So we ordered our faithful pizza, some italian pasta and a traditional ethiopian meal and shared.  You can see the injera rolled up on Neal’s plate.  That’s how it’s served – in rolls.

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It was all good, but wouldn’t compare to the meal we had that night.

We made our way ‘home’ for a brief rest before venturing out to another part of the city to meet Steve at his workplace.  The traffic wasn’t as bed as anticipated so our taxi dropped us off earlier than anticipated.  That gave us some time to people watch.  Well, maybe people were watching us.  This is where Tobi would have been pick-pocketed if he would have anything in his pockets to pick.  (Say that 3 times, fast).  A sneaky looking older boy got very close to us when we were getting out of the taxi.  I turned around and saw him by Tobi trying to be sneaky and man did I react – I started chasing him away.  He only went a short distance and turned him around.  I just stared him down.  I was surprised by my response. Anyway….

Steve arrived.  He was in Neal’s high school class in Jos, Nigeria and has done many exiting things and lived in different places.  It was fun to hear his stories.  Seven years ago (I think), he married his beautiful ethiopian wife who’s name was as beautiful as her but hard to pronounce.  The English version is Jerusalem.  Though it’s something they normally do on Sundays, they planned a coffee ceremony for us.  What an honor!  It starts with roasting fresh beans over a fire.  Did you know fresh coffee beans are green?  My, being the coffee connoisseur that I’m not, didn’t know that.

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Here everything is set up for the traditional coffee ceremony.

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The beans are getting darker.

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They’re done.  Next step is to grind them.  And that won’t be done by your run of the mill electric coffee bean grinder…

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They are pounded by hand….

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With mortar and pestle.

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Outside.

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Now that’s fresh-roasted coffee!

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In the meantime, we looked at wedding photos while Jerusalem worked on dinner.  She didn’t want me to help – said her kitchen was too small for more people.  I think she was just being gracious.  They have 4 children ages 6 and down. All sweet and social.  Tobi drew pictures together with the 3 older ones.

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He enjoyed the kids and they enjoyed him.

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Meanwhile, our coffee is being served.

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You may remember in a previous post that I described in a fair amount of detail my dislike for coffee and my love of tea.  So here I am, being honored at a real Ethiopian coffee ceremony and I have no intention of not drinking what’s offered to me.  However, neither do I have an expectation of enjoying it.  And this is some SERIOUS coffee.  It’s not the picture that’s making it look that dark.  It is that dark.

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Hey Mikey!  She likes it!  And I’m not kidding.  I am more shocked than anyone. I don’t know if it was the ceremonial part of it or what, but I amazed myself.  I wanted more!

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Neal liked it too.  Despite the momentary look of concern on his face.

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That was just the first round.  I suspect it has an official name.  But the same grounds are used again, and maybe again.  All I know is that I had 3 cups of this black liquid.  Infused with sugar of course.

With me still amazed at my new love, dinner was served.  This too was the real thing.  Injera.  Here Steve is passing it to Neal.  You roll it out on your plate and add whatever else is being served with it.  Notice the lack of utensils.

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In this case that was lentils, beets, green beans with tuna, spinach and eggs.   You pull off a piece of injera and fill it with what you want to eat and pop the whole thing in your mouth.

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The kiddos had their own table.  Tobi loved this stuff!

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What a wonderful time we had with a wonderful family.
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The Chef Extrordinaire

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By the way, this family runs a tourism business – setting up all kinds of tours in Ethiopia (and believe me, there’s a lot to see – all over the country)  If you’re in need of his services, contact: EthioGuzo Tour and Travel plc.

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What a special ending to a wonderful day.  Steve graciously drove us back to Z where we were faced with packing our suitcases for the next part of our journey.   The taxi would be picking us up at 6:30am to get us to the airport.   One of my very least favorite things to do is pack.  Funny, I know, since I do it so much.  You think I’d be better at it.  But I’m not.

Oh, and remember how I mentioned I didn’t think the bed was the reason I didn’t sleep all night?  My last ‘shot’ of coffee was somewhere around 7 or 8pm.  And that coffee was introduced to a system not at all used to it’s effects.  So sleep?  Wasn’t gonna happen.

Next up – Lusaka,  Zambia!

Exploring Addis Ababa

As I mentioned in my last post, we were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by ‘force’.  Our goal was to get to Lusaka, Zambia, but what choice did we have but to follow our itinerary?  And since it appeared that we would have a 12 hour layover in Addis, I decided to go out on a limb and see if there would be any price difference if we were to stay, say, a day or two longer.  Turns out, there wasn’t!  Except of course for lodging.  We specifically planned this travel year quite some time ago, which is the reason Tobi is homeschooling this year.  So we can have these experiences together.  So we decided that a few nights of lodging was very worth the experience we’d have.  We were right.

I ended my last post with details of Z Guest House were we stayed, and of our wonderful host, Todd.  Again, highly recommend this place for lodging.

After pizza and our brisk walk, we had a great night sleep.  Awoke to lovely sunshine streaming in, cool breezes, and English breakfast served in our room.  That was wonderful until I poured a steaming hot cup of what I thought was tea – but it quickly became clear that my tea was really coffee.  It was an English breakfast for goodness sake.  Don’t the English drink TEA?!  But ahhh, I thought, we are in Ethiopia, and if memory serves, they are known for coffee.  However, I still don’t like coffee.  Neal doesn’t like coffee.  Our parents and our kids (minus Tobi) drink it with a faithfulness that is to be commended.  I’ve tried to like it.  I’ve been told I will learn to like it.  I’ve had my sister doctor it to what she deemed to be irresistible.  Nope.  Still easily (and readily) resisted.  However, I have become and avid tea drinker.  Especially Earl Grey.  Or Lady Grey.  Or Russian Earl Grey.  I really love the Grey family.  But any tea will do.  As long as there is milk (preferably evaporated milk – learned that in Nigeria).  Love cream too, but try to avoid that.  So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when the dark fluid that poured from the lovely TEA pot was in fact coffee.  I was really looking forward to enjoying my tea in the cool morning sunshine.  Todd had been wonderfully accommodating so I decided to go knock on their door and see if tea would be a possibility.  I gingerly tried to explain that if possible, we would prefer tea over coffee (didn’t want to offend an Ethiopian and his coffee!).  He quickly obliged and even apologized, saying they normally serve both tea and coffee the first morning, and then take note of whatever the guest consumed and serve that thereafter.  I got my tea.  I should mention here that there is a reason that I went into such a long discourse over coffee/tea that will be uncovered in my next post.

Following our leisurely breakfast, we hit the road.  We got some basic direction from Todd and were on our way.  The weather was lovely so a walking we did go.

Neal was particularly impressed by the staircase on this school.  He’s always looking at architecture like that.  Getting new ideas for buildings…

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We found it interesting that even though it was pretty cool (cool to me is 70’s/80’s), many people used umbrellas in the sun.  In Niger, where 90 – 110 is the norm, seeing an umbrella would be rare.

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The streets were busy, but there were walkways over them for pedestrians.  It was around here we changed some money so we could pay Todd back for the Birr he lent us the night before.

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We walked and walked and walked.

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And we came across Niger street.  Pretty fun!

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Even though the roads/traffic had a Western feel, the vegetable sellers on the side of the road (well, in the road) reminded me that we were still in Africa.

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From a distance we weren’t sure what we were looking at here.  Was it really a slanted building, or were we just looking at it at a strange angle?

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Nope, it really was slanted.

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For some reason, and I’m not sure why, I thought that Ethiopian’s spoke English. I took a little while to realize that this wasn’t the case.  At first I just thought they didn’t understand my accent.  There were some that had enough English to understand us in a restaurant – mostly.  However the majority didn’t speak English, but Amharic.  Tobi was quick to recognize that that sounded like a language spoken in the Bible.  He was right – Jesus spoke Aramaic.

We walked on.  One of our goals was to find an internet place -which we figured a big hotel would have.  So we were pointed in the direction of the Hilton but after what felt like several miles, we still couldn’t see it.  Shouldn’t a hotel like that be able to be seen from a distance?

We went to the leaning building and asked there – but the English thing was a problem.  By the way, the bottom floor of that building was a car dealership.

We continued in the direction that looked like a hotel of Hilton Status might be.  We stopped at a park and tried our luck with English again and were told that the Hilton was right there – right across the street.  And so it was.  No fanfare.  Not recognizable until we got closer and saw the H – but it was very understated.

We weren’t sure if ‘non-residents’ were allowed in, so we made an inquiry at the desk as to the price of rooms, to appear interested.  I wasn’t interested in staying there, but I was interested in the price – which was if I remember right, about $400+/night.  Made me really appreciate our $80/night sunny place.

This was leading up to the entrance.

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What we were really after was internet.  We had yet to inform family (or anyone) that we had in fact safely arrived.  ‘Z’ has internet and I tried to use it, but I was paying per minute, and I literally sent 20 minutes trying to send an email and finally gave up.  I knew it wasn’t much per minute, it was the pain of sitting there waiting for something to happen that caused me to give up.   H had internet as well, and I can’t remember the exact price, but I think it was about $5 for 30 minutes.  Perfect.  Plenty of time to do what we needed to do.

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News sent to loved ones and we were on our way.  However our feet were expressing their desire for us to use a different mode of transportation so we decided to look for a taxi.  They were plentiful outside of The Hilton, but taxi’s waiting there charged more than twice what a taxi should cost.  We knew that because Todd had told us what to expect to pay for a taxi.  We explained we weren’t guests at the Hilton and that they price of the taxi should be half that.  Mr. Taximan reluctantly agreed.

It was beyond lunch time and the only place we knew of was the place we had eaten the night before.  We asked the taxi man to drop us there (it was amazing how much shorter the distance seemed from a vehicle).   We happened to mention to him that we were going to eat and he informed us that he had just the place.  Fortunately that place was close to where we wanted to be.  And it looked promising.  We excited the vehicle and entered the Museum Restaurant.  We were beginning to see a trend.  We would have missed the restaurant altogether if we had not been dropped in front of it.  Like the Hilton, it was hidden from the outside but lovely inside.  It was an indoor/outdoor kind of place,with  beautiful flowers and landscaping.  The food was lovely too.

As you can see, we are thoroughly enjoying it.

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Since we had just finished a wonderful and re-energizing lunch at The Museum Restaurant, In only made sense that we visit the museum  next door.  It was pretty cool.  This picture is in the shape of Ethiopia.

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There is so much history in this country.  This is one of the Emperor’s thrones.  You can get a perspective of how massive it is if you notice the person standing nearby.

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If I remember correctly, this was the first vehicle driven in Ethiopia.  It was, of course, a Ford.

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Pretty nifty.

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There was a special temporary museum of art from many nations set up.  This was the only picture I got, before I was told no camera’s were allowed.  Bummer.  Some of the art was pretty impressive, some, looked like my kids art when they were very small.

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We were allowed to take pictures from the outside of the museum…

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After the museums, we remembered that we wanted to get in touch with a high school friend of Neal’s that was living in Addis.  We had his info on FB – but no internet.  Out on the street however, we saw an ‘internet cafe’ sign that we decided to try.  We’ve seen many such signs in our neck of the woods (Niger), but they don’t always deliver.  But we decided we had nothing to lose.  So down the street, through a restaurant and down an alley we went, following hand painted signs.  Success!  We came to a small room (very small) with a young man at a counter and about 10 computers.  How much was internet there you ask?  $.50/ 30 minutes!  No kidding.  We successfully found the info we needed to call Neal’s friend.  At those rates, I was tempted to stay and write a blog post!

Our fatigue – I know, that sounds so dramatic – demanded however that we go back to our rooms for a bit.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time in our lovely accommodation, with the sun streaming through the windows.  Todd kindly allowed us to use a phone and make plans with Steve and his family for the following day.

We headed back out on foot on the route that had become pretty familiar to a place we checked out that was near the internet cafe.  We were confused at first, because their sign said they close at 5 o’clock.  But it was a pizza place!  What pizza place isn’t open at night?  Made no sense.  So we began investigating.  It wasn’t military time either.  Finally we figured it out.  It was Bible time.  That’s not what they officially call it, but that’s what it is.    You remember in Acts when those in the Upper Room were accused of being drunk and Peter responded by saying, “How can we be drunk?  It’s only the 3rd hour”.  That really meant 9am.  That means that 5 means 11 pm.  And they really go by those times.  Even the taxis.  Though they understand ‘our’ time as well.  They would verify which time we meant.  I found that very interesting…

We can’t seem to get enough pizza, and this one was especially good…

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Don’t worry, it wasn’t really Mouse Pizza.  (I hope)  And I can’t remember what was on it.        They had very memorable fresh pineapple juice too.  It was so fresh, it wasn’t even cold!

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Thus ended our first full day in Addis Ababa.  It was a wonderful day and we were wonderfully blessed and tired.

Next, Day 2.