I woke up at noon today (after 14 hours of sleep), grateful to have survived the long trip back to Ethiopia. When the girls woke up at 2:30 pm (after 16.5 hours of sleep), we were all craving macaroni and cheese. Well, lucky us, we had lots of yummy cheese to choose from! Yes, the cheese also survived the trip.
Genet bought some basics for us yesterday (milk, butter, bread) so that we wouldn’t have to go grocery shopping right away. As I snipped open the bags of milk, I braced myself for the strong milk odor. I sniffed the bags anyway, to make sure the milk wasn’t rotten (the bags never have dates on them), but discovered that the milk smelled exactly like the milk in America. Huh. Next, the local butter. Sometimes it smells almost like cheese–not quite rotten, but not awesome either. But this time it smelled great. I tasted some: delicious. Just like American butter. What is going on?
I think that perhaps the shock of American convenience and cleanliness, and the deliciousness of the food, tricked my brain into thinking that Ethiopia was the opposite of all those things. By the end of our 4 weeks in the U.S., I was dreading our return. But here we are, and it’s actually nice to be home. So I am going to write about some of the things we love about this place, to remind myself, but also to balance with my my recent complaining to all of you.
1. Fresh, local, cheap produce
There was a big bag of ripe mangoes waiting for us here at home, along with bags full of veggies and other fruits. Genet left the receipt, showing that she spent just a few dollars on these items. We could easily cut our grocery bill way, way down here and eat nothing but fresh produce and various beans and grains, if we cut out the expensive meats and imported foods. I have no idea how low we could go–but I’m thinking like $25 a week.
It’s perfect throughout most of the year. Never hot, never cold. There are three months of rain, but it’s nice to have real seasons. We’re in the rainy season now. Last night I heard a thunderstorm and some showers. Today it rained a bit off and on, but the sun came out a few times too. Our garden is loving it.
Ethiopians adore children. In the United States, people sometimes came up to us to say nice things about the kids. No, I take that back! They always said things like, “enjoy it. Before you know it, they’ll be grown.” Or, “you are so lucky to have such beautiful daughters–don’t take this time for granted.” It’s like they assumed we were unaware, or ungrateful. Here, everywhere we go, people talk to the kids. What is your name? How old are you? You are so beautiful! They listen to the silly things Charley says and they kiss Willa on the cheek. They think children are delightful and I don’t think it would occur to anyone here that a parent would not enjoy their kids.
4. Weight loss-friendly
At higher altitudes, you lose your appetite and burn more calories at the same time. Actually, I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but it is for us. Dan’s lost 30 pounds in the last year, and I have lost 20. I have struggled with my weight for years, but here I don’t have to think about it. I had a check-up while we were in Michigan, and my cholesterol and blood sugar are in the normal range. My doctor said I didn’t need to lose a single pound. She scolded me for even asking about it–but every doctor I had before told me I could stand to lose a few.
Home truly is where the heart is. As long as we have each other and the kids, Dan and I are pretty happy. We had a great day today with the girls, just hanging out in the play room and watching them make up games and stories. I didn’t even take off my pajamas, because why? When it started to get dark around 6:00, Charley said “but why is this such a SHORT day?” In Michigan it didn’t get really dark until 11:00. We could never get the girls to sleep at a reasonable hour and they were always tired. Tonight, they were asleep by 8:00. Hopefully they will sleep through the night, and we’ll get right back into our old weekday routine tomorrow.