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!

Ellie’s 2nd Christmas & Other Celebrations

Our lucky girl has already celebrated 2 official Christmases and one New Year’s day in her first 4 months of life.  December/January is packed full of festivities.  Here in Ethiopia Christmas is celebrated according to the Orthodox calendar on January 7.  (We’re also only in the year 2004- so technically Elaine is -8 and Ben and I are still in our teens- well maybe not technically, but still, how strange is that?)

So we celebrated the start of 2012 and Christmas 2004 all in one week.  Who needs time machines when you live in Ethiopia?

For New Years we had some North Carolina friends, the Posts, from Addis come down for the weekend.  It was relaxing and refreshing and a great way to start the year.  They were so patient as we badgered them with parenting questions.  Their kids are so well behaved- and cute to boot.  We tried to soak up all their advice.  Meanwhile Elaine was thoroughly doted on by their daughter Kiki.

The Post fam

Hike up Mount Tabor over Lake Hawassa

Elaine also got to meet her little boyfriend, Levi Hall.  Laura and Brian Hall live in Langano, about an hour up the road from us.  Laura and I were due with our babies the same week and shared pregnancy notes over here.  Levis is the cutest little thing.

After the New Year’s celebration, we hopped right into Ethiopian Christmas.  We got to celebrate with two great families- the Grays that live in Soddo (where my grandparents lived many, many years ago) and the Swarts that live down on the Omo River near Kenya.  We had 6 adults and 6 kids running around the house- never a dull moment.  Elaine loved the excitement and even got her first mouthful of hamburger (whoops) and had her giraffe stolen by a monkey. TIA.  Ben and I don’t get a lot of time with people around our age and it was so nice to just relax and laugh and speak as fast as we wanted to.

Grilling out with the gang

We also got to celebrate with our co-workers and neighbors at two different gibshas (feasts).  The meals were full of doro watt, dulet (goat intestines) and tripe (more innards).  My stomach does not get along with other stomachs very well.  But the doro watt (spicy chicken stew) I love!  Elaine got passed around and loved on and was on cloud 9.

The men and the kids…lots of kids!

My sweet friends Liya and Tsehay and our babies.

Sometimes I’m just blown away by the community God has lavished on us.  Who knew that out here in the middle of Ethiopia we would find such good friends.  As a new mom I am so aware of how lonely this journey could be out here- And I’m so, so thankful for the women that have come alongside me for this season.  Seriously.  It blows me away.

Happy New Years, Friends (a wee bit late).  Love from Ethiopia!

 

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!)

Nani and Papa Joe come to town!

One of the perks of being a 3rd generation (me) and 4th generation (Elaine) Harding in Ethiopia is that we get to see lots of family over here.  Just this past month there were 5 Hardings on this side.  Ethiopia has a way of drawing them back- and we like it!

This Thanksgiving we got to share it with Nani and Papa Joe, my mom and dad.  Elaine was pretty pumped about it.

Obviously…

 

Ben was even in town for their visit and we got lots of good family time in.  Ben and I even went out on a date thanks to some pretty stellar babysitters.  We were only gone an hour.  There just isn’t that much to do for date night in small town Ethiopia.  But a meal without distractions was priceless.

It was so nice having them here.  I don’t think Elaine took one nap lying down.  She was constantly snoozing on Papa Joe’s shoulder.  They are two peas in a pod.

We were sad to see them go.  Ben and my parents headed out the weekend after Thanksgiving leaving Elaine and I to fend for ourselves.  It was quite an adjustment.  But we’re back in the swing of things and already looking forward to their next visit!

We miss you!!

Easter in Ethi

Well we survived our 2nd Easter in Ethiopia.  I say this because it was a close one.  One is not supposed to eat FOUR large Easter feasts in 1 day (with a baby taking up a large part of their belly, mind you).  It’s just not right.  But, oh man, it was good.

You see we started off on the wrong foot.  I had resurrection rolls in the oven in the morning and they just smelled so good I thought we should sample them….with eggs and bacon and fruit.  This was our first mistake.  But I should back track.  Do you know what resurrection rolls are?  You bake rolls with a marshmallow in the middle and it melts and is gooey and delicious and leaves a hollow “tomb”.  And you open it and say “Aha!  He is risen!” (ok, you don’t really have to say that).  I realize these would probably be more appropriate with kids.  But they are oh-so-good.

Ok, I digress.

After our breakfast we had some time to reflect and read the Easter story.  I miss going to a sunrise Easter service.  Listening to one at home in my pjs just doesn’t feel quite the same.  But the story does not change.  Maybe the truth of the story was even more evident this year.  Without the Easter cantata, themed worship songs and sensational sermons we have to dig for it.   And finding it never gets old.  He is Risen!

After a slow morning we welcomed my Uncle David and friend, John who had just arrived in country.  They’re here for meetings (David’s our boss) and got to join in on the day of feasts.

We started out at our landlords house for doro watt (spicy chicken stew).  I heard the chicken being killed earlier that morning- yum.  Elsa make the best doro watt in all the land.

Elsa preparing the traditional coffee ceremony

It’s hard to start with the best and not get too full to not enjoy the meals to follow.  It’s an art you see.  One we have yet to perfect.

From their we went on to our co-worker, Paulos’ house.  His wife just had a baby 45 days ago. Her name is Meheret which mean “Mercy”and she is beautiful.  We celebrated with some of our Selam coworkers and had another delicious spread of food.  Including Dulet (goat organs) and more doro watt.  I also brought a wacky cake (the never fail, can make it in the middle of nowhere cake).  Not quite traditional, but I think they liked it.

Cutest kids around

From their we went home, picked up the resurrection rolls and brownies and headed over to our friends home for a more western Easter dinner.  They even had ham.  Real ham.  Pretty special in a pig-less country.  Injera was on the buffet but I skipped that section.  Four injera meals in 6 hours would not be good.  Not that 3 is much better.

Ben and Felecia cooking in the dark thanks to a power outage

the gang

Straight from their we headed over to our 4th and final meal of the day.  It was 6:30pm by this time and it took a little pep talk from Ben to get me to go.  All I wanted was bed and a bottle of tums.  Did I mention I’m sharing stomach space with a baby?  Leah, our coworkers wife was so sweet and had made soup- just in case I’d had enough injera.  Bless her.

Ben, the entertainment for dinner numero 4

We finished off the night with one more coffee ceremony and wobbled to the car to head home.  It was another great reminder of how blessed we are by the people God has surrounded us with here in Awassa.  A little part of us will always miss the loud, crazy, American family holiday gatherings back in North Carolina.  But for now.  This is good.  Really good.

Happy Easter.