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.

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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!

Miss·Elaine·eous: 6 months

Considering that my last post was about a Christmas party and we’re now deep in 2012 and Valentines has come and gone, I should probably step up my game on here.

Elaine is well past her 6 month mark and I breathed a sigh of relief when that milestone whizzed by.  She can now wear sunscreen, eat food, and take malaria meds.  Somehow I feel like some of the pressure of keeping her alive is off of me, but at the same time I’m also more exhausted than I have ever been.

As I type this she’s sitting on a mat beside me, singing to a throw pillow with a big cheesy grin on her face.  It doesn’t take much to entertain this little ham.

This past month has been one of the more difficult ones for me.  Trying to figure out sleeping routines, solid food, and mobility.  This girl can m-o-v-e.  As frustrating and sleep-depriving as this past month has been, it’s also been one of my favorites.  She balances her absolutely terrible nighttime routine with being a gregarious, lovable, easy-going baby during the day.  If she’s awake and not crying she always has this huge cheeseball smile on her face and I love it.  I mean, how can you not?

Ethiopians love her and her gummy grins just egg them on.  If I go to the grocery store or a restaurant it’s not rare to have her whisked away and oogled over in the kitchen or backroom.  Sometimes they ask, but most of the time she is just taken.  I’m not gonna lie, I’ve even gone to church just to have a break from Elaine because I know she will removed from my arms the minute I walk through the door.  I often have to hunt her down when I’m trying to leave somewhere as she’s usually up to no good with one of her loyal fans.  As much as I love her ability to go to others so well, I also love that Ben and I are her favorites.  She can pick us out in a crowd and she squeals with excitement when our eyes meet.  Too much cheese?  Ok.  Moving on.

This month has marked all kinds of milestones that I have completely neglected to write down anywhere and swore I’d remember…but have already forgotten.

She has started eating food and, surprise, surprise, she’s a fan.  I could go on and on about my love affair with making baby food, but I’ll hold off for now.  Surprisingly she loves zucchini, squash, and green beans, and isn’t really a fan of bananas or avocados (which we have coming out of our ears over here).

Elaine has also mastered the art of sitting and can now pull herself up to a sitting position.  After her nap I can usually hear her talking to herself and when I go in she’s sitting up flipping through pages in one of her books.  This little lady is 6 months going on 30.

She has also become a pro at crawling backwards, and has started going forward just a bit.  Yesterday she was showing off by pulling herself up to a wobbly standing position…without any help.  Slow down, woman!  I was enjoying the immobile stage.  If she’s like her dad, she’ll be walking in a few months.  Now that is a scary thought.

At the risk of being redundant, these moments are just flying by.  These have been the hardest and best days.  I have never felt as unprepared for any role in life as I have for motherhood.  I have a degree in Child Development.  I majored in babies.  But I can’t remember a single thing when it relates to my own.  The majority of the time I feel like I have absolutely no earthly idea what I’m doing.  I don’t know if these are normal feelings or if they are exacerbated by the fact that I’m figuring this whole thing out in the middle of a third world country, a billion miles away from my family and the closest Target.

But somehow in the midst of all these feelings, God has given me great joy in the fumbling.  I find myself on my knees much more often, praying over mosquito bites and fevers and tears. And I am so thankful that I’m not doing this alone.

And a few more photos from the past month or so…

Mac Love

 

Telling a very animated story to cousin David’s picture.

Christmas in (H)awassa

When we moved to Awassa it was just that- “Awassa”.  But now (and by now I mean the last few years-we’re a little slow) the thing to do it change the name and/or spelling of towns and cities back to their pre-communism name.  Thus we should now be “Hawassa”.  It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks- especially when that trick is a silent “H”.  So we vacillate between Awassa and Hawassa.  But it’s the same place.  So bear with our fickleness.

Anywhoo.  Christmas in Awassa.  It was a first.  Not my first in Ethiopia.  I think it was my 14th?  Maybe?  Something like that.  My 17th or 18th in Africa.  But my 1st in Awassa and my 2nd this far away from family.

We really celebrated on Christmas Eve.  In the morning, Ben got a call that we had packages to pick up from the post office.  A Christmas Eve miracle.  And one of the reasons it’s nice that Ethiopians celebrate on the 7th of January and not on the 25th of December- the post office was open!  So Ben went and picked them up and put them under the tree.  Two USPS red, white, and blue boxes nestled under the tree.  It was beautiful.  Really, it was.  My mom and dad had also brought us Christmas gifts when they visited so they were under the tree too.  We felt so incredibly loved…and remembered.  It was perfect.

For Christmas Eve dinner we went over to celebrate with our friends at the Helimission compound.  We had an American/ Swiss/ German/ Canadian feast.  It was delicious.

And there were plenty of kids to entertain and love on Elaine.

Can you tell her dad dressed her?  Those shoes….

We spent the afternoon relaxing with friends and the kids even got to go on a donkey ride.

The big kids got a ride too

Christmas Eve night we read Twas the Night Before Christmas to Elaine and put her to bed while we watched White Christmas (my all-time fave) and sipped on apple cider (ok, maybe it was really hot apple juice, but we pretend).

Christmas day was really low key.  We spent the morning making and eating a delicious breakfast, reading the Christmas story and opening our gifts.  It was exciting and relaxing and fun and anticlimactic all at the same time.

In the afternoon we went to a Christmas service with our fellowship group.  Elaine got all dressed up in her beautiful Christmas dress that a friend made for her.

We also got to skype with our families.  I don’t know if this technology makes it easier or harder to be so far away.  99% of the time it makes it easier, but seeing everyone together, actually touching each other- not just looking at each other through a computer screen, with a big, glowy tree in the background and blocks of cheddar cheese and turkey sandwiches in hand did make us incredibly homesick.  (Ok, they didn’t actually have turkey sandwiches and blocks of cheddar cheese- that would have just been mean.  but you get the point?)

Overall it was a great Christmas…just the three of us.  Celebrating the birth of a King that came into the world in a place that probably looked pretty similar to what most of Ethiopia looks like today.  Animals everywhere, dirt, dust, inadequate healthcare, oppression, no running water (if you’ve delivered a baby, the no running water thing is especially painful to think about).  Even I left this place to have my baby.  And as wonderful as I think Elaine is- she is no King of Kings.  And God sent His son here…for us.  The undeserving.  The depth and pain of that sacrifice was especially evident to me this year.

It’s now January 4th and Christmas is long over and I’m just now getting around to posting this.  Ethiopian Christmas is this weekend- so if you think about it, I’m actually ahead of the game.  We’re looking forward to spending the weekend with friends and celebrating Christmas all over again…this time with a lot less cookies and a lot more injera ba wat.

Merry Christmas from the Taylors!

Tis the season

This past weekend, in the absence of all things Christmas, I decided to host a Ladies Christmas tea.

It was so much fun celebrating with people from all over the world…Ethiopia, India, America, Canada, Sweden…and I’m probably forgetting a few.  It was fun to hear how each culture celebrates this holiday.  We all feel especially far from home at this time of year.

Ben helped me whip up some Christmas goodies to share.  Not so easy to do out here in the middle of a sugar shortage.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

It was a special time with some special people.

While we were having our little tea party, Ben and Elaine were doing their own thing…which looked a lot like this:

She’s is definitely a daddy’s girl.  And his identical twin.  I’m finally starting to see what everyone has said since the day she was born.

This week the Hawassa gang also got together to make Christmas cookies.  We went over to our friend, Gitte’s home to make all kinds of Danish treats that I can’t even try to spell or pronounce.  (I was going to make up fancy names, but then I realized my Danish cousins, Erin and Niels, would totally call my bluff.)  They were little vanilla buttery ring things and gingersnap-esque things.  Know what I’m talking about Erin?  So delicious.

 And, if we weren’t getting a Christmas cookie overload already, I decided to make and decorate gingerbread men with some of the kids we know.  Their mom, one of my good friends, has been under the weather and stuck in bed for quite a few weeks and I thought the kids could use the distraction.  And let’s be honest, gingerbread men are just fun.  A big thanks to my friends Rachel and Charlotte for actually doing most of the work:)

And that’s a little bit of what the pre-Christmas activities have looked like around here.  Ben and I have been kind of down this season.  Just missing home I guess.  Kind of ready for it to be over with and for the new year to start.  How’s that for a very un-Christmasy attitude.

And on that note…Merry Christmas!  I hope it’s a cold, snowy, white one, surrounded by all the people you love…oh man that sounds nice.

Making Christmas

It’s easy to forget that Christmas is coming up out here in Ethiopia.  There’s no chill in the air (to say the least) or Christmas parties to go to.  No holiday shopping frenzy or familiar tunes on the radio.  I’m guessing it would be entirely possible to get to January 1st out here and realize you completely missed Christmas.  It doesn’t help that Ethiopians don’t celebrate Christmas until January 7th.  And even then it’s not as big of a deal as Easter and some of the other holidays.

Growing up my mom always made the holidays special.  We had a beautiful tree.  Believed in Santa.  Made Christmas cookies out the wazoo.  Our house even smelled like Christmas during the holidays.  Now, as a wife and mom living back in Ethiopia, I’m realizing what a feat that really was.  There are no stores to run to for lights, no fun ingredients to make beautiful Christmas cookies, no pageants or Christmas concerts to go to.  It’s either a made-from-scratch Christmas or no Christmas at all.

This year Ben, Elaine, and I are celebrating our first Christmas on our own in Ethiopia.  Our first year out here we went back to the US for my sister’s wedding and celebrated Christmas on that side of the ocean.  Last year we had an epic Christmas in the Maasai Mara while on safari in Kenya with our closest friends from UNC.  This year it’s just the three of us- and it’s fun, and lonely, and exciting, and peaceful- all wrapped up in one.

I’m married to Mr. Christmas, so that takes some of the pressure off me.  He actually spent part of Saturday morning making a garland for our front porch from some shrubs from the office.  Yes.  Indeed he did.  I can’t make fun of him, because I loved it….and I also spent my morning making a wreath from those same shrubs.  We’re quite a pair.

We have our supermarket tree up.  Decked with African ornaments from our travels…and whatever else we make or find to hang on a tree.  We’ve also started Elaine’s Christmas ornament collection. Growing up, my parents got my sister and I a new ornament each year from their travels or a major event that happened or a hobby we had (like the little wooden girl with a plate full of food. yup. my favorite hobby was food. no joke).  When we moved out of the house and had our own trees, we were fully stocked with a beautiful collection to hang.  It takes ages to hang them, much to Ben’s dismay, because I have to tell the story behind every single one.  He is a very patient man.  Well we didn’t lug those across the ocean, so he lucked out this year.  Anyways…we started Elaine’s collection.  A beautiful corn husk angel that Ben picked up in Uganda.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas this year has been our Advent study.  I’ll be honest.  I wanted to do the whole Advent thing because I thought it would make it feel more like Christmas.  But in the midst of my selfishness, God decided to do something beautiful.  He’s good like that.  This is the first year that I’ve really studied what Advent means.  The anticipation has been building- not just for Christmas, like I had intended, but of the coming of Christ.  And not just the warm and fuzzy image of a little baby Jesus asleep in a manger, but the whole glorious and powerful and earth-shaking idea of Christ’s upcoming arrival.  Takes my breath away just thinking about it.

This Christmas will be different for sure.  Being this far away from family and friends leaves a very evident hole in our hearts during this time of year.  But we’re trying to embrace the empty space and turn it into something great…something that it probably was supposed to be in the first place.  Blank slates are good, right?  Remind me of all of this on Christmas day when we’re skyping with our family and watching them open presents and eat turkey and being merry together a million miles away.

What could be better than celebrating out first Christmas as a family of 3 in the motherland?  Well I can actually think of a few things, but that’s besides the point.  What I’m trying to tell myself is that it’s a good time to start new traditions and maybe focus a little more on what this whole season is really all about.

So here’s to our first Taylor family Christmas on this side of the ocean…

Melkam Genna! (Merry Christmas!)

Traveling Mercies

If you ask me what my biggest fear is living over here in Ethiopia, I would hands-down, without a doubt tell you that it’s driving on the roads here.  These roads are treacherous. We’ve all too often passed mangled cars and even bodies on the side of the road on our many trips around the country.  Not to mention our river incident and out donkey run-in.  It terrifies me to think of what could happen.  Terrifies me.

That’s why, on Monday my heart stopped beating when I got a call from a very shaken Ben.  He was telling me that he hard been in a wreck on their way down to the Kenya border where we are helping with the on-going famine.  The truck had flipped and he was bleeding from a wound on his head.

I’m standing there.  Phone in hand.  Baby on my hip.  Quizzing him for signs of a concussion.  Thinking, is this really happening?

I’m not gonna lie.  My mind raced to images of me as a single mom, Elaine growing up without a dad.  I know, I know, it seems dramatic.  But really that’s where I went.  Not because the accident was that bad, but because those images so easily could have been the ending to this story.

I pictured Ben sitting on the side of the road- his Carolina blue shirt turning State red, boxers plastered on his head to stop the bleeding- so full of relief.  God’s hand of protection was all over Ben and our co-worker, Paulos, who was driving the car.  I could go on and on about how God perfectly orchestrated the events surrounding the accident- the people that helped Ben, my parents being in the same time zone for my tearful calls, sound medical advice, and the list goes on.

Thankfully this story ends well.  Ben made it home the next day (after a white knuckle drive back with co-workers:), he was able to avoid stitches (this guy will do  anything to avoid needles) and go the glue and steri-strips route for the cut on his head (which is healing beautifully!), and other than being very sore and a little bruised, he’s no worse for wear.  Praise the Lord.

So Ben has another scar with a story to tell and I have another reason to pray like crazy every time he leaves the house.

Someone else was pretty excited to have him home:)