Things I’ll Miss

I was browsing the New York Times this morning while drinking my coffee and came across this article from the local section about how actress Amy Ryan spends her Sundays in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a particularly interesting piece but it made me tear up a little bit out of homesickness. No, I am not from Brooklyn; I didn’t even grow up in America. But some of the simple things she describes about her “lazy Sundays” include things that are impossible to find in Addis, such as bagels, lox, cream cheese, public parks, chicken. (Okay, you can get cream cheese and chicken but it’s not convenient or always available.) Even her Sunday night laundry routine made me sad. I long for a nice, warm, dry laundry room inside my house. To get to ours you have to go outside and battle mosquitoes, spiders, and stray cats.

But the crazy thing is, I bet I will really miss some things about Addis. I KNOW I will. So let’s focus on that.

  • Bunna! Ethiopian coffee is delicious. I don’t think I’ve had a bad cup of coffee since I arrived. You can also get a latte or macchiato pretty much anywhere, for a fraction of Starbucks’ prices.
  • Our garden: it’s small, but packed with lovely herbs, vegetables, and beautiful flowers. I often take work breaks by taking my camera outside and practicing on them. I especially love the Bougainvillea and after 4 years of being surrounded by them, I’m disappointed that we don’t have any in our new yard in Yangon.
  • Our household employees: Gazaw and Genet have been with us from the beginning. Both have been promoted and have doubled their incomes. Gazaw is now our gardener, day guard, and housekeeper. He works hard all day during the week and I never see him idle. I wish I’d just given Genet the nanny position from the beginning–but she had never worked as a nanny before, and I felt it was important for her to have that experience. I was wrong. After all, you have to start somewhere, and this just happens to be her first nanny job but it doesn’t mean she is less qualified to be one. She has children of her own, I sent her to a nanny training course, and my children absolutely adore her. I never hear tantrums anymore while I’m upstairs working. She is kind, gentle, calm, and intelligent. She was not the best housekeeper and there were many times that I thought about replacing her. She was frustrated, I was annoyed, and many of my clothes and dishes were ruined in the process of trying to train her. But as it turned out, she was just in the wrong job. Now, everyone’s happy. Abu continues to be the best driver in Addis–and he always remembers to pick up sparking water (Ambo) for me when he’s out. I have absolutely no complaints about any of them at this point and I hope I can find them suitable employment by the time we leave.
  • Ambo: this is the one brand of sparkling water in Ethiopia. It’s naturally sparking and bottled at the source here in Ethiopia. I am kind of obsessed. I know it’s not environmentally friendly to buy so many plastic bottles. It’s my vice. Leave me alone. I’ll make up for it by showering less. Anyway, when you order it at a restaurant they ALWAYS ask you if you want it cold. I can’t imagine that there are people who prefer it warm, but I will drink it either way. You can order it like this: “Ambo woha kaskaza afelgallo” (I would like cold Ambo water). My transliteration skills are kind of bad–so don’t try to pronounce it.
  • Amharic: sadly, all that time spent learning Amharic was kind of a waste. Well, that’s not entirely true! I love learning languages and I’m happy I studied it while here. I understand a lot of people’s conversations and [okay, I can’t even finish that sentence. As I was writing this, someone called the house 4 times in a row, speaking Amharic, and I couldn’t understand a word. I didn’t know how to say that this is not the house they are looking for. Clearly, I did not learn Amharic.]
  • The school: the girls’ preschool, Head to Toe, has been wonderful. With a focus on art and play, the kids enjoy going. I’ve been slowly reorganizing the library and it’s almost done. I will miss spending time there.
  • Weather: minus the rainy season (June – September), the weather is sunny and warm, never hot. I know I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating because it really is spectacular.
  • Culture: I actually love hearing the church music and chanting over the loudspeakers from the nearby Orthodox churches. It sort of reminds me of the Muslim call to prayer, which was always comforting to me as a kid in Egypt. Of course, we also have air purifiers that drown out the noise while we sleep, so I can’t say I would like to hear it all night long (and they really do blast it all night long sometimes).
  • Our house: we live in a huge house. Maybe not that huge by U.S. standards but certainly the largest house I’ve ever lived in. I never wanted a big house but I have to admit it’s nice to have so much storage space. We could literally fit everything we own into our basement and still have room left down there. The girls have a big play room, I have space upstairs for my little office, and we have so many unused spaces that it just feels excessive. It’s really too much–but I am sure I will look back and miss the storage space. And did I mention our furniture? It’s gorgeous, and no one else has anything quite like it here. Everyone admires it when they come over. But it’s not ours. Hopefully, the next family will enjoy it as much as we did.
  • People: obviously there are people we’ll miss. I feel like I am just now starting to make friends. When I arrived I had a baby who wasn’t sleeping, and no car, and was just totally overwhelmed. It took a while to settle in. We just spent a beautiful Saturday at the pool with friends and when I realized that we only have a few Saturdays left here, I was disappointed. I just discovered a yoga teacher and wish I’d found her sooner. She is the best yoga teacher I’ve ever had. (She’s also South African, so pretty much my favorite person here.) She teaches ballet to Charley as well. We feel incredibly lucky to have opportunities to get lessons from people like her, who would be way out of our price range if we were back home in the States.

These are just the things I will miss about our lives here. I haven’t even mentioned all of the other ways I am grateful for our time here.

With our remaining two months, our goals are to enjoy our new friends, see a little bit more of the country, and not worry too much about the next big move. I have a few blog posts I’ve been meaning to write and will try to get to those before we get to Myanmar. I have enjoyed meeting people through this blog, and I hope it has been helpful to those of you who are moving to Addis. I hope I can keep it up through our next post.

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