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  


  1. Hmmmm.... I'll try to explain this as politely as possible - but YOU'RE the one who opened the proverbial bathroom door.

    It sounds to me like that bathroom has been modified for toilet squatting, but with modern toilets. I imagine you've seen or heard of squad (or slit) toilets where essentially it's a hole in the floor you step over and conduct business in a squatting position. You can do the same in a regular throne, with a small bit of balance and practice.
    First grab that empty water bottle and fill it from the barrel and return it to the empty tank - you will need it later.
    Strip below the waist (or hike a dress or skirt way up if you are lucky enough to be so attired. Position your feet up on the edges of the bowl and squat down. Evacuate. If you only did #1 some people opt to just "shake and dry" and be on their way. If you are a bit more fastidious or if you did #2 this is the part that requires practice and coordination: While still squatting retrieve the water bottle with your *RIGHT HAND* pour the water in a small stream down your back side, starting where you would imagine water would naturally flow. While this water is running down use your *LEFT HAND* to clean yourself as you would in the shower. I would save a small bit of water, if possible, to do a preemptive left hand rinse still over the throne. Put your clothes back on and flush. Leave the (now empty) water bottle where you found it. Again, using your right hand, go to the pitcher and use it to clean your left hand - and when you left is clean then proceed to clean the right if necessary. This is why socially you must be very careful what tasks you use your right (clean) hand and you left (dirty) hand for - some places don't have the luxury of water and the procedure is still largely the same, but you clean your left hand afterwards with a leaf, some sand or dirt or bark.
    As a side note, many people agree that the positional squatting is a much cleaner evacuation than standard throne sitting because your bottom spreads out - YMMV. The paperless cleaning is considered by many to be far cleaner than our American habit of paper or tissue - some Europeans are very unhappy when a bidet is not available (which just mechanizes the water bottle). Of course it's also more economical.

    And that is the straight poop on alternative bathroom etiquette. I highly recommend practicing at home until you are confident that you can repeat the procedure in a public restroom in an emergency.

    On the rest of your post, I seriously LOL'd when I read about the boys eating cake with some PUNCH! Pretty funny stuff, don't be surprised if it puts a little hair on their chests. ;) I also like your "junior tour guide" showing off the tortoises.

    1. WOW Brandon,

      Thank you for that overly detailed explaination of how to use various toilets and restrooms. I have used the slit toilets when I was driving through France and I actually have a slit toilet at my house for the staff to use (I have a shower for them too). The difference between the slit toilets in my house and in Europe as compared with some of the toilets I've seen here is that the toilets at my house and in Europe FLUSH. I've seen a few here that are basically out houses with permanent structures built around them. BLAH very yucky indeed. In my master bathroom I have also have a bidet although I don't use it as intended I mostly use it to squirt Jake while he is in the bath.

      I'm glad that you are enjoying my adventures and misadventures. Thats what I'm here for!

    2. Hey! I just don't want you to get caught with your proverbial pants down and not a clue what to do (pun intended).

      I confess I'm not a huge fan of the "modern outhouse" model, I am spoiled to love my running water, at least for hand washing. The Roman's really were ahead of the curve on that one and I'm glad it caught on. If I don't have running water I'd prefer to go full primitive in the bush with a cathole - so at least it's peaceful and not odorous. I know that Tim shares my opinion on that, at least.

      I'm loving the pictures, any chance you could take some more pics of the markets and stores where you are shopping? I love seeing "day to day life" type pics from over there!

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  3. Priceless!! I love it! I laughed til I cried - keep it coming! And the pix are awesome too ;-)