Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy

Some of the worlds oldest human remains ever unearthed were discovered in the country of Ethiopia. Some Ethiopians even claim that all human life began in what is now the horn of Africa! I’m not sure that I buy into that, however one cannot argue with the fact that Lucy,  the oldest most complete human skeleton ever uncovered, lived, died and was exhumed here in Ethiopia. Lucy has traveled most of the world, visiting museums in cities and countries thousands of miles from her homeland. In fact Lucy, until recently, was on tour in the United States. I’m sure that to visit the “Lucy” exhibit in the USA would have been an expensive excursion. Luckily for our family we are able to visit Lucy here in her home at a fraction of the cost.  Missing out on the opportunity to see something so rare would leave me with a feeling of regret for the rest of my days! In order to avoid a lifetime of regret for my self, my children and my husband we made to commitment to visit Lucy this Memorial Day Weekend. 

The night before our anticipated rendezvous with the world famous Lucy, we contacted our taxi driver to ensure transportation to the Ethiopian National Museum, he was to arrive promptly at 9am. As we hurriedly gobbled our eggs and French toast the children excitedly chatted with each other about Lucy and how exciting it would be to see something so rare. Precisely at 9am Solomon arrived in his blue and white taxi, to which Jacob joyfully exclaimed “Oooo, get in blue car”! All five of us quickly piled into the blue car while Solomon loaded the stroller into the trunk.

As we pulled out of our “neighborhood” and onto the main road we were greeted by the hustle and bustle of a city that was already in chaotic motion. We made our way into the thicket of cars, trucks, blue donkeys, sheep and actual donkeys. I began to feel slightly apprehensive as the road became more and more crowded. At some point we stopped driving. We were just sitting in the car, not driving! The traffic was so heavy we could not move, bumper-to-bumper, we sat, inched forward and sat again.

Boy DNA requires that any amount of stillness will not be tolerated, James began playing the drums on Brenden’s head. Jacob decided that the view out of Brenden’s window was suddenly more spectacular than his own and speedily climbed over James to have a better look. Brenden, in self-defense, pinched James on the arm, Jake began rolling down Brenden’s window and shouting at the sheep.  James then attacked Brenden in earnest forcing me to intervene. I swiftly grabbed James’ arms straightjacket style and held him in place while the Hubs threateningly told them that they must be quiet for a minimum of ten minutes or be forced to walk along side the taxi. Meanwhile Jacob decided that he was no longer was required to wear his shoes and proceeded to tear them off of his feet and then chuck his socks onto the floor.  It was at this moment that I saw the sign. Two large birds, not just any birds, two large vultures circled overhead and then landed on the overpass just in front of us. I should have known at that moment that today was not going to be the day that I had envisioned.

The traffic did eventually thin out somewhat and after a 35-40 minute drive we arrived at our destination. Our family, excitement renewed, endured the search of our bags and persons and finally entered the grounds of the Ethiopian National Museum. Ethiopian National Museum has a bit of a regal sound to it, doesn’t it? Well its not regal, it looks like something that may have been regal long ago but has been ignored for a long time.  I wanted the Lucy’s home museum to be a beautiful Smithsonian style museum, I should have known that we are in Ethiopia and I should never ever have expectations for anything. I do have to say that the museum did look nicer than many other places in the city and perhaps I should not judge.

 The Hubs and I carried the Stroller up the steps (they don’t have any handicap ramps in Addis) to the museum entrance. I felt my anticipation at seeing Lucy swelling inside of me. We reached the front desk and just as the Hubs asked what the entrance fee was, I saw it.  Written on a plain white sheet of paper, the top part was in Ahmaric and the bottom in English. “The Lucy Exhibit is temporarily closed”. WHAT!!!??? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? I traveled for 40 minutes in a non air-conditioned vehicle that is likely to fall apart at any moment with Moe, Larry and Curly and the one thing that I came all this way to see isn’t HERE?  BAH! Ok keep it together. It’s not the end of the world. I live here, right? I can come back at anytime to see Lucy.

Come to find out the reason that Lucy was not at the Museum was because she was being displayed at the African Union building not far away.  This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the African Union and this weekend is the 50th anniversary African Union Summit. This explains why the traffic was so horrendous and the reason that there was no Lucy! Wish that I had realized this a little earlier! If I had I would have avoided this entire episode and opted to visit dear Lucy another weekend, which I have to do now anyway.  

The museum was nice enough. We saw the throne of Haile Selassie. It is enormous, a really big chair for such a small man. We saw some crowns and paintings and crosses. We also saw some authentic Ethiopian farming utensils all the things that you would expect to see in a museum about Ethiopia, except Lucy of course. Apparently I was also a part of the exhibit. In attendance with us at the museum was a group of Chinese gentleman who must have been confused as to what the Ethiopian National Museum was actually about because they began taking pictures of James and myself. They even asked us to smile for their pictures.  Sadly I have to say that this is not the first time that this has happened to me, when visiting the Grand Canyon my children and I are often photographed more than the picturesque canyon we are visiting.

Before our departure from the museum building I asked the front desk where the restroom was. I was told that it was in an out building to the back of the museum. I headed over to the building and as I walked inside I noticed that none of the toilets had seats and that there was no water in them. The top part of the toilet tank was missing, it was not filled with water but each toilet had an empty water bottle sitting inside of the tank.  I also saw a large water barrel with a large pitcher next to it sitting near the sink. Oh and there was no toilet paper. I have NO idea what I was supposed to do in there and I decided that I didn’t have to go that bad after all. BAD IDEA! I should have figured it out.

We toured the grounds of the museum with a little boy who spoke surprisingly good English. He said that he lived at the museum with the guards, I’m not sure if that is true or not. He was a pretty good little guide though.  He showed us the first car to come to Ethiopia and some statues and gardens. Then he showed us the tortoises. There were 4 of them, a family. The Dad was 89 years old, the Mom was 86 years old and the children were 66 and 12 years old. He even picked the smallest tortoise up to show Jacob. He had to suddenly take off because his mother showed up with his little brother I chased him down and handed him a few Birr, he didn’t ask for money so we actually gave it to him! 

The Hubs said that he knew of a pizza shop near by so we took a left out of the museum and headed up the hill toward the pizza. We walked and walked and walked. I began wondering how far away the pizza was. We walked past the Addis Ababa University at one point we crossed the street but continued walking. Finally I asked the Hubs how much further to the pizza and he said that he thought that we turned the wrong way out of the museum! Seriously?!?! It was too late to turn back now! We had nearly walked all the way to the American Embassy! We decided to ask one of the Embassy guards where a good place to eat might be. He said, “Oh, 500 meters up the road”. YEAH RIGHT! We found nothing! Well we found lots of people, Jake got lots of love and attention (on a side note, I’m beginning to fear that Jacob may have some real issues resuming life in the USA. What will he do when every single person that he meets does not sing his praises?) but we saw very little in the way of appetizing cuisine. Hey, it could be worse right? It could be raining…..oh, wait it did start raining! It rained SO hard that we had to quickly duck into a dress making shop. The dresses were actually very nice authentic dresses. If any of my nieces would like traditional Ethiopian dresses please send me their sizes and I’ll try my best to have something made for them. 

Lucky for us we were the first people to shelter in the dress shop. After we made ourselves at home many other people crowded into the shop.  It was wall-to-wall people all hiding from the downpour outside! As the children and I waited the Hubs ventured out into the torrent, his mind set on providing a positive dining experience for his adoring family.  The rain did eventually die down, the hubs returned and we all headed to a café that the Hubs had spied out for us.

The café seemed nice enough, we shoved our way through the dining room to a place in the back where we could fold and stow the stroller. We ordered pizza for the boys and lamb tibs for the hubs and I. Our waitress didn’t seem to have a clue what the heck we were talking about but nodded her head and said ok many times. She eventually came back with another waitress who seemed to have a better grasp on the English language and our order was taken for the second time. A few minutes later the waitress came back and told us that it would be 45 minutes before the pizza would be ready! There is no way that Jacob would have lasted that long so we ordered two more of the Lamb tibs. She left but then returned again to tell us that the lamb was probably too spicy for the children and suggested another dish. FINALLY our order was set. Somewhere in there we got a large bottle of water for the table and settled in to wait for our food. Of course the waiting period cannot be a time of peace and quiet. Why should it be a calm moment to recover from the trials of the morning? Jake got it in his head that the floor was a better place to sit than his chair, the rain came back causing the power to go out, luckily this restaurant had a generator but those machines are LOUD! I eventually took Jake outside where he had a major melt down inside the power continued to come on and go off despite the generator, which I’m not sure was in the best condition.

The Hubs went to check out the bathroom but informed me that if I wouldn’t use the restroom at the museum there was no chance of me tackling this bathroom. It’s been a good hour or more since we left the museum at this point, so I REALLY have to go! The lights did come back on and the sun did come out while we were waiting for our food. The funniest thing about the power outage was that everyone else in the café acted like nothing was happening. Can you imagine losing power while out to eat in the USA? You definitely would have heard some grumbling from people. Not here, it is such a normal occurrence that people don’t even pause in their conversations. The food was good. Traditional food is probably always the best way to go. We had Injera with some meat veggies and some sort of sauce.  The kids loved it and cleaned the plate!

The Hubs had promised the boys cake while we were out last weekend but wasn’t able to deliver so he decided to allow them cake on this excursion. Brenden chose three slices one for himself, one for James and one for Jake. James and Jake both had the same chocolate cake and Brenden had a coconut cake. James exclaimed that his cake was “REALLY GOOD, but a little strong”. Hmmm that is an odd way to describe cake. Jacob was devouring his cake as well. I had to see what the fuss was about and before Jake could finish his slice I had a bite. This cake was delicious and it was very strong. Not strong in a chocolaty way, it was strong in an alcoholic way! Oh MY GOSH My baby is eating a cake that had been soaked in alcohol! And he likes it!  The cake was literally soaking wet and the frosting had alcohol in it as well! James and Jacob enjoyed that cake entirely too much! Who sells alcoholic cake to an 11 year old?!
After we finished turning our 2 and 8-year-old children into drunks we decided that we would head up En Toto Mountain to visit some churches and the original site of Addis Ababa. In the interest of time (yours and mine) I’m going to end this post here and continue the story in the next post.
Until next time friends and family!

Survival Tips
1)   Try not to do much travel when an international summit is happening.
2)   Be prepared to deal with noisy children (duct tape and rope are )
3)   ALWAYS always carry toilet paper with you.
4)   Carry water with you just in case you end up walking in the wrong direction for several miles.
5)   Always carry rain gear (I think that I already mentioned this but I’m having trouble following my own rules!)
6)   Traditional food is the best way to go when out to eat.

This is a picture of us not driving to the Museum.

Ethiopian Cross

First car to come to Ethiopia

Our little guide showing Jacob the tortoise  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just Another Saturday!

There are a number of things that I could write about this week. I could talk about my new job, well I don’t get paid and I show up when I feel like it but I do some work when I’m there.  I could talk about the school that my kids go to, the school is awesome but I think I will post about the school another time. I could talk more about the lack of driving rules; instead I think that I will settle on writing about my latest weekend adventure.  

In order to avoid killing each other this weekend we decided to walk to a museum that is a ways down the road from our house. When I say a ways down the road what I mean is, about 2 miles down the road from my house.  I might be exaggerating a little bit but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it; a minimum of 2 miles. As I’ve explained in my previous post the road conditions here are not pedestrian friendly because the roads are not pedestrian friendly the pedestrians walk in the street making the streets un-friendly to drivers as well.

The “side walk” that I pushed the stroller on consisted of rubble. There was a space where the sidewalk should have been but instead of sidewalk there were rocks, holes and dirt. I’m so glad that I have a stroller that can somewhat maneuver over this terrain!  It took us about 30-40 minutes to walk to the museum. Along the way we saw all of the usual craziness. Jacob was kissed by a minimum of three different people on our way to the museum, that’s about once every ten minutes. I have learned that Ethiopians LOVE children. I was talking to someone from the UK who has lived in Addis for the last 5 years and she explained to me that it is considered rude not to kiss or at least blow kisses to small children when they are out in public. I love that people love Jake and want to kiss him, however it does make me nervous that he will get sick! I keep wipes and hand sanitizer on me at all times now!

 The name of the museum we visited is “The Red Terror” Museum. The red terror is a year and a half period of time in Ethiopia’s history where the Government killed, imprisoned and tortured thousands of people! It was sad to learn about the terrible things that happened here not that long ago. There were stories of children being murdered because “they were a threat to the regime” which is an insane assumption. The man that gave the tour walked us through every piece of information on every wall of the museum. We discovered halfway through the tour that he had actually been imprisoned. He was 15 years old and was taken off of the street and put in jail for no reason at all. He was not working for the rebels he was just taken. He told us that he was tortured and had his toenails pulled out! He spent a total of 8 years locked up and totured!  It was crazy to talk to this man who had endured such atrocities. To look at him he seemed like such a normal person.   I want this blog to remain a light hearted blog but I believe that learning about the history of the country that I am living in to be important so I will leave you with the website for this museum and you can decide how much of Ethiopia’s recent past you would like to learn about. You can find the link on the page tab “Red Terror” at the top of the blog next to the “Book Club”.

After the museum we went to a café for lunch. This week’s dining experience was much improved from last week. We ordered pizza and honestly it was not the worst pizza that I’ve had. It wasn’t great but not bad. James ordered mango juice, what he received was pureed mango. James didn’t mind he devoured it all! Jacob was acting like a “red terror” himself and at one point I had to take him outside. I made him sit in a chair while he was screaming and crying throwing an epic tantrum. Two Ethiopian women were staring at us like we were crazy. Remember, Ethiopians LOVE babies and little kids so I’m sure that they believed that I was being entirely unreasonable. I assure you that Jacob was in fact being the unreasonable one. On the other hand I have never seen an Ethiopian child act as naughty as Jacob does.  So, Maybe they were wondering why Ferengie children are such brats. He finally calmed down and we went back into the cafe and finished our meals. We did really well this week we only spent 130 birr or about $7.00! That is two juices, two bottles of water, one soda and a pizza!

Just down the street from the museum was Meskel Square. Meskel square is where the Meskel day celebrations are held on September 27th. Meskel square is a massive square that can hold thousands of people.  There was nothing going on while we were there but I can imagine what it must look like to have thousands of people all over the square and road. The square is also used for other festivals and large gatherings.

Across the street from the museum was a large Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  We have wanted to explore the Ethiopian Orthodox Church buildings or Cathedrals since we arrived in Ethiopia.  This beautiful church was too much for us to ignore, we decided to cross the 8 lanes of traffic and make our way over to the church. This was an insane undertaking with out the help of streetlights or stop signs.  I believe that the road we crossed was Meskel Flower Rd and it is largest road that I have crossed on foot while living here. There are cross walks but they don’t mean any thing. The cars didn’t even slow down as we ran across each lane. I was so terrified that I nearly peed my pants. I felt like we were the frogs in the video game Frogger! Luckily we did make it across this huge highway type road!

We made our way toward a large stairway that led up to the Cathedral, rather than take Jacob out of the stroller we carried the stroller up the stairs to the church. Ethiopian people do not use strollers. They strap their children onto the their backs if they bring them out at all. Most people don’t take their young children out very often, maybe that is why people kiss the babies that are out and about…hmm? I have only seen a few people pushing strollers in Addis and every one of them was ferengie. Anyway, we are carrying the stroller with Jake in it to the top of this large stairway. The Hubs is in front and I’m in back and the strange looks we got from people was almost comical. We made it to the top of the stairs and began to look around. The church was beautiful! There was a dome on the back and many Ethiopian crosses on the top. Ethiopian crosses have lots of points around the cross. I’m not sure of the symbology for this cross but I will research it and let you know. On the front of the church there was tile work depicting St. Stephan being stoned and going to heaven, a little graphic but still beautifully done.

The most unusual aspect of this church was the HUGE speakers that were mounted on all sides of the church. If you are not an early riser naturally, living in Addis, you just might become one. On my first morning here in Addis I woke to the sound of what I thought was “call to prayer”. Now that didn’t make any sense, Ethiopia is a primarily Christian country! I was extremely confused until I learned that the Ethiopian Orthodox also do a “call to prayer” in the morning. Lucky for me I have about three churches around my house! I actually like the way it sounds and now I am able to block out the singing and sleep through it in the morning. The funny thing about the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia is that they do not always do call to prayer at the same time. So you can’t really say “I will get up at “call to prayer” because sometimes they start at 4am and other times the call to prayer will be at 7am. Like much of the rest of Ethiopia they are pretty laid back I guess.

We wandered around the church for a while but decided that we didn’t know enough about the rules to go in. The women here cover their hair when they go to church and there were people prostrating at the door and kissing the priests cross, so we would have felt a little odd using their place of worship as a museum or historical sight that needs to be explored. Well, and that priest looked like he was giving us the stank eye. We carefully carried the stroller down the stairs and headed back across the huge road, James was literally inches from being run down by a blue donkey during that ordeal. Rather than traverse the rubble again we decided to take some back roads to our house.  As we neared the road that we live on some little boys decided that we needed an escort and that Jake needed to be loved up some more. They walked us all the way home! They even tried to push the stroller. The gate guard for the house across the street finally ran them off (our weekend guard quit on usL). After such a long day all I wanted to do was rest! But alas a mother’s work is never finished!
Until next time friends and family!

Survival tips for walking and visiting Holy places
1)   Be sure that you check with a well-informed local about rules and traditions for  the religious place you are visiting.
2)   When going for a “walk” even in the city in Addis wear appropriate foot wear.
3)   Prepare for your children to embarrass you repeatedly!
4)   Don’t be afraid to go out and be with the population, you have a lot to learn!
The outside of the Museum

This is a bad picture of a wedding
Memorial to the people who were killed during the Red Terror

I have to love him or I'd get rid of this crazy boy

This is in the Cafe where we had pizza

Part of Meskel Square

James at Meskel Square

I think that this is St. Michael's but I'm not sure

Note the speakers!