Category Archives: Culture Shock

Furlough

So here’s the thing, when you return to your home country there are a few things that generally happen.

You pack for several days, several days! After which, of course, your home in Africa is pretty much turned upside down, so you clean for a couple of hours. You’ve stocked the freezer with dog bones to last Sam and Frodoe, our German shepards, for a while. In Awassa, they don’t sell dog food, you make your own… yeah I know. So you go to the butcher and ask for bones and offal (disgusting) and because you’re from the good old USA and didn’t see an FDA certificate on the steaming hunk of meat you cook the bones. The smell is so bad that it has to be done outside (lol)! But I digress.

You wrangle your 8 pieces of luggage, including 5 massive trunks into the van and drive 5 perilous hrs to the airport. Why perilous, well it’s torn up in some spots and there are deep potholes that entire families could live in. And dare I forget the donkey carts, crazy Isuzu drivers, (I’d tell u what we call them but I might get kicked off social media), cows, motorists, trucks with trailers and children… Let’s just say perilous is a fitting description!

It turns out that the airport in Addis Ababa is a major hub for all of Africa, and believe me when I say, there are people there from all over the world! There are Indian’s going to India, Germans “on holiday”, Ethiopians headed to the Middle East and on and on and on. People are everywhere!! This airport is not for the faint of heart!

And we’re off, 8 hrs to Frankfurt with a 7 hour layover, and then 11 hrs more to SF. After traveling for about 30 hrs, you can understand, we were more than a little tired. We get on the wrong shuttle with our 8 pieces of luggage, drive to the hotel we thought was ours only to find it wasn’t that location, climb back into the shuttle and circle back to the airport, onto the right shuttle and to the right hotel, and reception asks “How was your day”, Gary’s tight lipped response “Fine.”

We arrive at my daughter’s house only to be greeted by these 2 lovely Angels, a.k.a. Grandchildren! And they have so much to tell me, so much they want me to see, and then there is the mention of ice cream, wow, is this real or am I dreaming?

We run to give a quick kiss and hug to Bobby (our most recent grandson) and we’re back at our home away from home. My granddaughter and I are listening to Corey read her a story, when I here him say, “leave her alone, she’s sleeping”, and I realize I’ve literally “nodded off” to the gentle press of my granddaughter’s nearness and her Dad reading us a story about, oh I can’t remember.

Furlough, Day 1.
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True Religion Pt. 2

I’m out for a stroll. I do this often, in the cool of the day, but before it gets dark. I pass this little cafe, which is basically a hole in the wall, and I notice these two little boys standing off to the side of the cafe entrance. They’re pretty dirty, like unbelievably dirty and they have no shoes on. Most everyone wears shoes, but they were pretty dirty and barefoot so immediately I thought street kids. Maybe they are 5 and 9, but I have no way of knowing.

The Lord just dropped it in my heart, buy them dinner. My natural reaction was, “really Lord?”, after all we can’t communicate, and Lord knows I don’t frequent hole in the wall cafes, but ok Lord. I’d walked passed them so had to double back. In my poor Amharic, which they may or may not have spoken, I asked if they wanted to eat. Walking into the cafe I got the waitresses attention, and told her we would like injera and wat for three. She looked at me then looked at them, then the entire restaurant turned around and looked at me then looked at them. I have known folks to treat street kids like untouchables, and I didn’t know if this fine establishment aka “hole in the wall” was going to decline service to them.

But no, God had this. I guess she spoke with the manager or someone, who smiled at me and the boys and asked if they wanted vegetables with their meal. Soon she brought out a large plate, one for them family style and one for me. I smiled, said “Grace” and dug in. They were a little tentative at first but no Ethiopian worth his salt is going to pass up a meal of injera and wat. We ate in silence except that there was a scary movie playing on the TV. I wondered should I distract them or something because I didn’t want the images to frighten them. Then I realized the images on the TV screen were probably incomprehensible to them. It was a story about a little boy afraid of something in his closet so he hid underneath his bed. These children sleep on the street or in a mud hut, they don’t know what a closet is, and the bedroom shown on the screen is something they have never seen and probably would have a hard time imagining. I guess I felt they couldn’t even understand what they were watching.

They ate and ate, then the waitress, realizing that I’d finished my meal, motioned for me to give the leftovers to the kids. She asked the older boy if he had ‘plastic”, a plastic bag, and he pulled one right out of his dirty pocket. She added my left overs to theirs, shoved it all in the bag, reminded him to say thank you, and we waved goodbye. The waitress tried to tell me the meal was on the house… But this was my blessing, so I paid the $2.50 for the three meals and walked home.

I trust God to grow and water the tiny seed that may have been planted into the hearts of those precious boys tonite. I was just obedient. So often we get an “urging”, or “prompting”, or “idea” or “notion”. Though it doesn’t make sense at the time, God may be in it so do your part to be obedient. “True religion is to minister to the widows and orphans “

Something’s in the Attic

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A Life in the Motherland flash back.

There’s something in the attic… maybe. The first day we moved into the rental I noticed in front of each bedroom the attic access cover was missing. I’ve been trying to get Gary to climb up the homemade 15 foot ladder to fix them. Yeah we haven’t seen a real ladder, but there is one made out of eucalyptus trunks, the same thing they use to build scaffolding, in the backyard. It had rags or cloths tied at the four ends and it’s about 15 feet tall. Throughout the house, the ceilings are maybe 15 feet high.

Today is Saturday, Gary’s been covering my “honey do list”, and brings the ladder in the house. One access cover slides easily back in place, but the one in front of our room seems to have disappeared. Being ever resourceful, GRM makes a cover. He pops it in place and “ta dah”, the ugly holes in the ceiling are covered. The holes are about 15-18 inches square, so it was a fairly big gaping hole. Glad to have it finally covered.

I woke up at 5am, the Muslims were calling everyone to prayer, and I just didn’t feel I could get back to sleep. Correction it’s not just a call to prayer, they actually broadcast the entire prayer service over a megaphone/loud speaker. It involves chanting and a great deal of raving. No, I couldn’t get back to sleep.

But wait, I think I hear skittering across the floor…the house has hardwood floors throughout, but maybe it’s my imagination, and after another 30 minutes I’ve forgotten about it. As I’m leaving the bedroom I happen to look up, and the attic access cover has been moved. Ohmygosh! How did that happen, what could have caused it? SomeTHING has moved the access cover, someTHING is up in the attic.

On no. I thought I heard something this morning while I was checking my emails at 5am. I just dismissed it as monkeys on the roof, or maybe ducks, or those 4 foot crane thingys. I see ducks on the roof of the other homes and the roofs all conduct noise well, when it rains it’s pretty loud. But today when we returned from running our errands Lindsey said she heard noises in the attic, a lot of noises. I assured her, monkey’s on the roof. But someTHING moved the attic access cover, someTHING is living in the attic.

I run to find Gary, because now I’m afraid to cross under it, who knows, a monkey might jump out or jump down. We have company Mesky and Endala. I get my husband’s attention and show him. Something has moved the cover, what could have done that? He looks and says, you better have Endala tell the owner to come and remove whatever is living in our attic. Oh no!!!!!!! You mean the skittering wasn’t my imagination, and the sounds Lindsey and I heard were not made by animals on the roof, but IN the attic….oh No!!!!…living in the attic…Oh NO!!

Endala, do you think that’s possible, could there be a monkey living up there? At first thought, he says, not a monkey but maybe a rat, A RAT. What??????? Is that better??? A little furry creature, that we’d have to set traps for??? But no, I haven’t seen droppings, and though I’ve only seen mice droppings I’m thinking they must be the same.

Endala grabs the homemade ladder and investigates. The cover is light weight, and Gary explains that he looked for the proper cover, couldn’t find it and fashioned his own. The next thing I hear is our friend Endala making a strangled being-attacked-noise! UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

I scream, Endala’s being attacked by the creature living in the attic, he’ll fall 15 feet to the hardwood floor, and maybe die. UGH!!!!!!!!!!! Gary runs to me, Mesky is laughing and Endala is looking at me like I’ve grown two heads. He was only trying to “wake up” whatever might be up there. Oh, seriously, and that’s better… I guess kinda :/

He doesn’t see anything, he’s flashing the “torch” around. Yeah, a torch, not a flash light, it’s that blasted British influence. It’s everywhere, and the reason my accent sounds funny to them. Anyway, Endala see’s nothing…except… the actual attic cover Gary couldn’t find. He maneuvers it into place, climbs down, and mystery solved… for now. I guess the styrofoam cover he made was moved by the wind. According to Gary, now it would take something fairly strong and intelligent to move the real cover. Yikes!! How do I feel about that…is that good news???

Kansas, it’s way overrated!

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I loved the Wizard of Oz, and Dorothy’s comment to Toto, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…” has become my “go to” phrase when I think about my life in Awassa, Ethiopia. One day I decided to go adventuring so I changed my clothes, grabbed my umbrella and a few Birr, and was off.

Immediately I stopped short…I had to wait for a monkey to run across the street. He looked just like the “Outbreak” monkey! Now that’s something you don’t see everyday in the States, but in Awassa it’s an everyday occurrence. After he scurried across the street, with something resembling a loping gait, I began to notice he was on all fours carrying a baby that was curled up and holding on for dear life. Suddenly I realized, what I thought was a “he” was probably a “she”! On top of all this she was balancing this really long tail. And I thought, for the umpteenth time, yup, no Kansas around here. Sure, life in Ethiopia is pretty unusual by our western standards, but the Bible tells us “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Matt 28:19. Yes, He even intends for us to go to those nations which force us to move outside our “comfort zone”. So, I may not be in Kansas, but I’m where I belong… Kansas, it’s way overrated!

I got over myself…

Image I suffered from a little culture shock when I first moved to Ethiopia… kids are everywhere, and many of them are working for their family, even as very small children. One of the things I had to get over was seeing little kids, 3yr olds and 5yr olds, shepherding  these gigantic cows, or camels ,or herds of goats. (Ethiopia is the largest cattle  producer in Africa.) You couldn’t even see the kids but you’d see these itty bitty legs peeking out from the herd of cattle, and this long shepherds staff rising above the herds. I about had a heart attack when I saw this… I was afraid they’d be trampled by the herd. But these kids are very smart and very careful… you see in the country side they are the rich kids, b/c in the countryside owning cattle is a sign of wealth… I got over myself, but sometimes, when I see a little one standing alongside a huge cow, I just have to remember, that kid knows what he’s doing!!

As a person coming from America it is not our place to tell ET families how to raise their kids, especially not in this case… But we have the privilege of learning how another culture does things, who am I to say its right or wrong, its what they do and what works for them… so I got over myself!! Thank you Lord for saving me from being the ugly American, yet again!!