The Countdown

It’s late on a Saturday night and Ben and Elaine are fast asleep. Ben just returned from a marathon trip all over Ethiopia and is finally back here for our final 5 days in Awassa.  5 days. Just 5 days.  Now that he’s back it all seems more real. The pictures are still on the walls and the house looks semi-normal…probably not a good thing as we draw this close to the finish line.  I’ve been strangely calm about the packing and leaving process.  It’s called denial.

But all of a sudden tonight I’m all emotional about closing this chapter of life.  It’s been such a sweet season.  Nostalgia is blocking all the bitter moments and just remembering the good. I’ll take it.  So much has happened over these past 3 and a half years here.  I look around this house and the memories are everywhere.  There are the cracked walls in the nursery that Ben painted when we found out we were pregnant with Elaine.  These are the tile floors where Elaine took her first steps and where I sweated out malaria.  Our guest room, with it’s broken door, has housed dozens and dozens of friends and family members and complete strangers.  We’ve shared hundreds of meals around this rickety dining table and celebrated birthdays and baby showers and holidays in this living room. I’ve spent hours upon hours in this kitchen, side by side with Lemlem cooking and cooking and cooking.  This place was our oasis when we’d come back from long work trips across Ethiopia and need a hot(ish) shower and a clean bed. This was Elaine’s first home and where Ben and I fumbled through the first stages of parenthood.  We moved here on our one year anniversary…and we’re leaving as a family of three.  Things have changed.

But the truth of the matter is that I’m not heartbroken to be leaving this house. It’s just a building. I know that.  But it’s this feeling of being completely uprooted that gives me this physical ache in my chest. I am going to miss this neighborhood and our dusty walks down these streets.  I’m going to miss these friends that I’ve made despite all odds and have grown so close to.  I’m going to miss our road trips across Ethiopia and our work with Water is Life.  I’m going to miss this country so, so much.  I’ve spent more of my life here than I have anywhere else and it strangely feels like I’m leaving home and going home at the same time.

I’m so thankful that we found something here that’s so hard to leave.  It means we did something right…I think. God has been so good to us.  Prayers would be appreciated as we navigate this goodbye process and prepare for all that is ahead.

Good night!

The Water Side of Life

Early Monday morning Ben took off for the Kenya border town of Moyale- a hefty days drive away.  Right now Water is Life has a lot of projects going on in the Borena region.  Ben seems to be down there all the time these days, checking up on the drilling efforts and problem solving with our team there.  This week he’s introducing some visitors from the U.S to the projects and doing some reporting for donors that have been supporting our work there.

I live vicariously through Ben’s photos these days.  Although I don’t miss staying at shady hotels, I do miss being out in the field and seeing the impact that clean water has on the lives of the people we’re working for.

Now Ben has been saying he’s going to write a post about what is going on with the water side of our lives, but 3 ½ years in and it still hasn’t happened, so until he gets around to it, here are some photos from his trips to Borena…

Collecting water

The ‘hood

The drilling in progress…

Clean water!

 As hard as parts of this job have been, it’s been really awesome to see the progress that’s being made. Ben would have numbers and budgets and data to confirm the progress, but I just look at these pictures and see these faces and I’m pretty convinced.

Bright Spot

Tucked into a busy little neighborhood in Awassa and down a wide dirt road, there is a little house with a great big kitchen.  I spend my Monday morning there with a few dozen women from all walks of life.  Over the last few months, I have taken on teaching cooking classes at Selam’s vocational training program for women.

It’s one of the highlights of my week.  These women are all different ages and from all over Ethiopia.  They’re in a scholarship program through Selam to learn how to cook and they do an incredible job.

Guests are welcome on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays for a delicious 5-course meal that the trainees prepare and serve. The crowd is a mix of expats and locals and both sets seem to enjoy the cuisine equally.

My dear friend, Roman, is the lead instructor there and she requested my help to teach dessert and bread baking classes.  Slowly my course load has evolved into appetizers, soups, and main dishes too, but I’m not complaining.  I love spending the day with these women as they laugh at my Amharic skills and I teach the basics of how to measure and whisk and sift and knead. I love the challenge of trying to come up with recipes that use only local ingredients and are doable without a lot of modern kitchen utensils that most of us are accustomed to.  So far everything we’ve tried has turned out…for the most part.  Next week we’re doing a whole Mexican meal.  It should be interesting! I say a little prayer as I convert all the recipes to metric. My Amharic and my math skills are certainly being stretched!

We start with devotions early in the morning and work solidly until noon.  Ben and Elaine usually join for lunch and critique our work. Elaine spends the morning at home with LemLem.  She’s in heaven when she gets to Selam- so many eager arms to hold her and friends to play with!

So that’s a bright spot in my week.  Getting to love these women and watch them grow. This program opens the door to countless job opportunities once they graduate from the progam.  It’s really a life changing opportunity for them, and I love watching them transform into confident chefs.

Little Update

A lot has been going on in the Taylor household these past months and time is just flying by.  We’re in the throws of our last 2 months in Ethiopia.  I get a lump in my throat every time I think about it.  We’re closing out our time with Water is Life and are looking forward to moving back to the U.S for a new season.  There are a lot of unknowns in our future…where we’ll be, what we’ll be doing, but from the moment we made the decision to pack things up here, we’ve had this extraordinary peace. We’re looking forward to what God has in store down the road…a little nervous, but mostly excited.

We’re making the most of these last months here in Awassa.  Every day I love this town and these people more and more…which doesn’t bode well for the inevitable goodbyes.

Ben’s been traveling a lot, which has given me the time and incentive to really invest in my relationships with other women in town.  I looking forward to the day when I’m not home alone quite so much, but in the mean time, I spend most of my days wandering the streets of Awassa with Elaine in tow and having coffee at friends’ houses.  I’m incredibly blessed to be surrounded by women that welcome me into their lives and love on Elaine while Ben’s away.

Here’s a little glimpse of what’s been going on in our lives over the past 2 months or so.

Elaine celebrated her 1st birthday with a big bash. She loved being the center of attention and waddled around in her traditional Ethiopian dress.

We also had a visit from some Carolina friends.  Greg, Abbie, and Ashley came out for a quick whirlwind taste of Ethiopia.  We loved having them here!

These ladies below were two of my dearest friends here in Awassa.  They both are back in the US now, but I’m not sure I would have survived my years in Awassa without them!  Those goodbyes were hard to say. I’m already looking forward to coming back for a visit!

 On September 11th we celebrated the Ethiopian New Year.  Hello, 2005!  This holiday is a big deal here and we celebrated it with good friends and lots of food! We made three stops and filled up on our doro watt allotment for the year.  It was delicious!

Elaine is growing and changing and keeping us on our toes.  She’s learned how to escape from the house and twice we’ve found her outside digging in the garden and playing with the hose.  She’s figured out how to open the gate on our porch, thanks to Mac’s demonstrations, and she now prefers to wander the yard solo.  Thankfully we live in a gated compound, but I seriously have to get her under control before we live in a place where a baby wandering outside alone isn’t so kosher.  She eats like a horse and is never ever still.  Her napping skills are still atrocious, but she’s taken on the habit of sleeping in till 9, so I can’t complain.  She loves guava, which is good, because that’s all that’s in season right now, and she can down 2 avocados in 1 sitting. She is the sweetest companion and I love spending my days with her.

Yesterday we celebrated my 27th birthday.  Ben was home, and made sure it was a special day.  He even whipped up his famous fried chicken and sweet potato biscuits.  I almost felt like I was back in Charleston.  I’m so glad he was home to celebrate. I felt very loved…and didn’t have to change one single diaper.

The meskal flowers were in bloom just in time for my birthday.  I love this time of year.  Ben hired a man to sneak into the “airport” (which is really just a fenced off field of grass) and pick these.  I’m a lucky lady:)

Our internet is t.e.r.r.i.b.l.e these days.  If this ever loads it will be a miracle.

Love from Awassa!

And then she was One….

Sweet little lady. You are one now. How did this happen so quickly?

All of a sudden we have a little girl in our home. You’re not a baby anymore. I can see it and hear it and a part of me wants to slow down the clock and the other part wants to speed it up because I know it will only get better.

Your mannerisms are emerging and everyday you do something that wows us. We see so much of others we love in you.

When you wrinkle your nose when you laugh, I see your dad. (I also see him when you spaz out and body flop on the bed.) You inherited his face…in a wonderful way. But I hope his incredible patience and kindness grow in you too.

Every once in a while, I see a glimpse of myself in you. When we close the refrigerator door and you put your head on the ground and sob, deeply, every single time…I laugh. That is all me. Sorry.

You are quirky and strange and dance to your own beat. You love reggae, like your mama, berries, like your papa, and to be held and loved, like all of us I suppose.

During the course of a day I can see hints of your grandparents and your aunts and even your cousin and I love that you can’t escape this crazy legacy you were born into.

And every once in a while, I can see your namesake, my Nina. When you cover your mouth when you laugh, I see her.

As much as you are of us. You are your own. You are independent and feisty. You are determined and easily embarrassed. You love strangers well and they love you.

But even more than you are your own, you are His. You are His beloved and as parents, we rest in that.

“Beloved Daughter of my heart,the joy of God be in thy face, the joy to all who see thee, the circle of God around thee, angels of God shielding thee.” ~CoMMON PRAYER

 

Happy Birthday Elaine Finley Taylor

A Trip “Home”

This past July, Elaine and I hopped the pond and spent a few really special weeks with our family on that side. Ben wasn’t able to get away, but he sent us off with kisses and a shopping list. We missed him A LOT. (especially on the flight over)

It was my first flight alone with Elaine. And it was a whopper of a flight. The total travel time was 26 hours…not including the 4+ hour drive to the airport and the overnight in Addis Ababa. I was tired before we even got on the plane. Elaine was fine on the way over. I don’t think you can ever truthfully say a flight went “really well” when you’re traveling for a million hours alone with a 10 month old. I just kept on visualizing the handoff at the airport in Charlotte and I was able to make it through. We had a great seat and she didn’t cry…but it was just long and tiring. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours. 48 long hours with a baby on my hip. Makes me hurt just thinking about it. At one point I thought I would pass out when I was walking the aisles for the millionth time. But as far as I know, I didn’t. But that emergency exit sure did look tempting.

In Bole airport getting ready to board our first flight. Exhausted.

It’s amazing the things you’ll let your kid do when you’re traveling. She ate cheerios (and who knows what else) off the airplane and airport floor and played with anything that entertained her, regardless of their worth or her safety. Oh well. She strengthened her immune system and came out alive. Success!

We had such sweet times with family and friends in Charlotte, Lexington, Raleigh, and Boone. We fit a lot in to a short amount of time, but we were both so content with all that was going on. Elaine was in heaven with all the new toys and FOOD!

I’m pretty sure she ate blueberries for every single meal.

We even got to squeeze in two visits with Mamaaw, Elaine’s favorite Great Grandma! (and eat some delicious Lexington BBQ)

And Elaine got some cuddle time in with Pawpaw as well.

The highlight of the trip was getting to spend time with David, my sweet little nephew and Elaine’s most favorite cousin. He is just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen and getting to touch and squeeze and love on him was so special.

Elaine especially loved having a playmate. She was scoot up right next to him, turn her back to him, and just kind of lean on him. When she wasn’t doing that, she was stealing his toys. He was a trooper.

Pardon the deluge of cuteness…

 

We spent the 4th of July in Winston-Salem and even took part in the annual parade. David and Elaine were in the stroller competition. David won best in the men’s stroller division. Elaine was robbed of her medal, but she brushed it off and enjoyed the day anyways.

We felt uber American, that’s for sure.

We also had a really sweet time in Raleigh with the Taylor grandparents and Aunt Jen. This little one is very loved, no doubt about that.

Elaine with her Aunts

The Harding girl cousins and our babies- all born within 7 weeks of each other

We fit a lot of adventure and traveling and relaxing into a very short amount of time. I am so glad we got to share Elaine with her family in America before she turns the big O-N-E. Time goes by so fast at this age and I just wanted everyone to have a taste of her sweetness.

It was an epic summer vacation full of sweet memories, but it sure was nice to come home to Ben.

I think I’ll save the transatlantic flights for a tag-team event next time.

Miss·Elaine·eous: 10 and 11 months

Seeing as I didn’t lug a baby book halfway around the world with me, I don’t really have any documentation of Elaine’s life besides this. I’ve never been good at remembering dates. I have to ask for Ben’s birthdate every time I fill out a form at the airport. I’m terrible at it. I am in awe when I talk to moms that can recall the day their babies started crawling or eating solid food or gave up their pacifiers…and their babies are now full grown adults. I can’t even remember how old my baby is currently. I told someone she was 9 months old yesterday. False. She’s almost 1. Yikes.

All that to say, this whole miss.elaine.eous thing has been very helpful, I’ll feel like one of those stellar moms that can remember everything. Until I realize that I haven’t written anything in the last 3 months and it’s all one big blur of baby.

But let me give it a shot…

Elaine is now one teeny, tiny, talking, walking machine. She is on the move and she loves it. She’s a slower walker than she is crawler, so I’m enjoying that part. She gets a kick out of walking and does it best when she has a golf ball in each hand.

She may be walking, but she’s a walking baby…not a toddler. Wishful thinking? She is still so small.  She weighs 19 lbs. Which apparently puts her in the bottom 10%. But she still has rolls so I’m guessing she’s just petite and healthy.  In America she had a growth spurt and outgrew all her 3-6 month footie pjs.  She was 10 months old.  Come to think of it, maybe it’s just because all her clothes were put in a dryer for the first time and shrank…or maybe it was the pounds and pounds of blueberries she ate every meal.

Just before Elaine got to the 10 month mark, she took her first solo steps. We were pretty excited…until I remembered that I would be flying alone with her to the US. Thankfully she took a very encouraged hiatus from walking for a few weeks so I didn’t have to chase her down the aisles of the airplane.

I feel like each stage of her life is more fun than the last. She can play the whole “how big is Elaine?” game (or as we call it “touchdown Carolina!”) and has just learned how to give kisses. She can sign “more” and “all done” although her preferred means of communication is total meltdown. She has started imitating us which is a fascinating, and somewhat scary, thing.  The other day I was smacking my gum and sure enough all afternoon Elaine smacked on her imaginary gum.

She’ll also pick up anything that resembles a phone, put it to her ear and say “Hi”, pause, then fake laugh. It cracks us up.

Now that her hands are free when she walks, she carries around this little zebra pouch (thanks Aunt Carol!) and puts anything round she can find into it. Hours of fun.

She also loves sitting on things. People, boxes, Mac. But her favorite thing is her booster seat when it’s on the ground. She’ll sit there and pretend to read. She looks like a little old man in her La-Z-boy. Oh, man. We love her so much.