Leaving the country and culture that we are used to means that there are many changes. Obviously, these changes can sometimes leave you feeling not like yourself. One thing that has remained a constant is that Jon and I are nature nuts. During my first trip to Ethiopia in 2008 I got weird looks because I was always looking at birds and other critters. Today is no different. Living in Chencha has allowed us the chance to experience new birds and other wildlife and a lot of the wildlife we see is right around our house. We even finally figured out what creature was always lurking around in the enset after dark. We are pretty sure that a side-stripped jackal is a regular visitor to our food scrap pile and the meat scraps that I set aside for any carnivorous visitors (yes, I know I shouldn’t). We haven’t gotten a photo of it yet but there are other visitors to our yard that we have captured on film. Enjoy.
Augur Buzzard. We actually have a nesting pair that hang around near our house. The nest is high in a Eucalyptus tree that we can see from our back door.
Hemprich’s Hornbill. Even if we don’t always see the hornbills, we hear them.
Rüppell’s Robin-Chat. These guys are everywhere. I even caught one checking out our sheenta bait once.
Unidentified Sunbird. Even with my field guide and the limiting factor of our 2900 meters elevation I’m having trouble getting a positive ID on this one.
Yellow-bellied Waxbill. I had trouble identifying these little birds until I finally got a photo of them. In NC we had “butter butts” (yellow-rumped warblers a la Kristin Sasser). Here we have “red rumps.”
Streaky Seedeater. Now when I hear a sing-song melody coming from the backyard I just look for where the streaky seedeater is perched.
Common Waxbill. It isn’t the best photo of this red-masked little bird, but I was lucky to catch it at all. They flit around in the shrub so fast it is hard to get a good look.
I do okay with my bird identifications, now that I have a field guide. The frogs are a different story. I may not know what kind they are, but I love finding them.
And then there are the cool moths.
Not only are we enjoying the biodiversity of Chencha, we have Dawit excited too. He loves looking at our bird guide and any time we find a frog or bug we know who will want to see it. Jon and I have joked that even at his tender age he likely knows more about the birds and bugs in Chencha than most of the locals.
I’ve been noticing a lot of folks on Facebook receiving numbers. They take that number and list out that amount of things about themselves that maybe not many people know. I haven’t participated on Facebook, but it got me thinking about things that I might share, what tidbits might people find interesting. Then I got to thinking about where we live and how we live. Though it seems normal to us, I realize that we make our own version of normal and that for most people the way we live in Chencha might seem a little different. So, I asked Dawit to pick a number between one and ten. He chose the number 7. Here are 7 things you may not know about the life of the Bridges family in rural Ethiopia.
1. Almost every morning Jonathan gets up and makes a fire with the charcoal that we buy at market. Jon has this process down to a science and can have nice hot coals for making breakfast and heating water for coffee in a relatively short amount of time. I am not as good at the fire building but I have managed to survive at times when Jon has been away.
2. We have approximately 10 lizards that live in and around our home. We are so familiar with these lizards that we can recognize some of them. Dawit has named many of them and calls them by name. Stumpy and Rascal are a couple of our favorites.
3. What time is snack time? Any time! Our house follows the American snacking tradition. What does Dawit ask 5 minutes after every meal, “Can I have a snack?” This often causes Jonathan (the non-snacker) distress as he pushes peeled carrots on us. Fortunately, Ethiopia has given us one of the most wonderful snacks in the world, Kollo (co-low). It is a part of life in Ethiopia. Kollo is a generic term for small roasted grains such as barley or roasted peas. There is also dabo kollo which is similar to the crunchy roasted barley but is actually bread. On any given day if you come to our house and look closely enough on the floor you will find dabo kollo. No matter how much you sweep, it is ubiquitous. Actually, right now there is a fare amount of dabo kollo decorating the back seat of the car. Baby girl is like a little scavenger as she combs the floors of our home in search of the crunchy little gems.
4. Our injera machine is magical. I can use it to bake almost anything, except injera. For those who may not know, injera is the fermented pancake like bread that is a staple of most Ethiopians’ diets. Most people still use a flat clay disk over a fire to make their injera but we have an electric injera machine. It is basically a round clayware electric skillet with a thin aluminum lid. I have mastered making biscuits, rolls, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pancakes and even pizza on our injera machine. The one thing that doesn’t seem to turn out well from our injera machine is what it is intended to be used for, injera. Even our house worker who usually makes our injera has trouble making good injera on it.
5. Next time you turn on your tap for water consider how wonderfully easy it is. We are blessed to have clean water to use and drink, but it is a process. Jon has dug two wells. One is around 50 yards from our back door and the other is right behind our kitchen (this is the new one with the electric pump). We haul water from both wells and then do an initial filtering in sand filters. We can use that water to clean and cook with. Only recently has Jon added the second sand filter. Our drinking water is filtered again through a ceramic filter.
6. Our daily life is apparently a hit reality show. Our compound is surrounded by a woven bamboo fence. Though at initial glance you cannot see through it, the fence’s woven properties leave small holes that allow the neighborhood children, and adults, to look through. This means that at any unsuspecting time you will hear shouts of “foringe,” or “Jon-a-ton,” from a disembodied voice. Again, we can’t really see through the fence unless we walk up to it and peek through one of the holes. So, as we are working or playing in the yard those on the other side who do choose to peek usually feel moved to shout something. One might assume that a simple greeting or a light conversation would give satisfaction and send the shouter on their way. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. We speak to them in three languages, their tribal tongue, their national language, and in English. However, all we usually receive in returned is more shouting of “foringe” or “Jon-a-ton”, until we just can’t take it anymore and just have to go inside and hide until they are bored enough to leave.
7. Fair warning – if you visit our house you may want to visit a potty first! This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of our sheenta bait (AKA pit latrine/outhouse). Literally translated this means pee house. As far as sheenta baits go, we have a nice one, maybe the nicest one in Chencha. It is well covered and has a door that latches, but you can’t get past the fact that it’s a big, stinky hole in the ground. Most of the American visitors that we’ve had are a little squeamish about using the sheenta bait at first. Some have even required training sessions, including a live demo. Once you get used to it, it’s not too bad.
I actually had to count it out the other day. That’s how long it has been since we moved down to Chencha. I had to count because we feel like we have been there much longer. We have settled into a more regular routine and things that seemed challenging or different when we first arrived are now common and part of what we call normal.
We’re also seeing things progress with the project. It seems like each day there are changes to the land that get the project closer to its goal.
We feel so richly blessed to be surrounded by such beauty and such wonderful people. Now that we are feeling more settled and Jon’s knee is healing we are looking forward to finding more discipleship opportunities and missions beyond the farm.
Our new kitchen. With the addition of the kitchen we were able to give Dawit his own room and clear out our living room.
Our new living room. We have been without living room furniture for two years. It is so nice to have a place for visitors to sit and for us to relax in the evenings.
Apple blossoms. This apple tree is just outside our kitchen door. We are hopeful to have some apples in 2014.
The rows of dark spots in the field are new holes for apple and pear seedlings. Some late rains have delayed the planting, but in the coming weeks we will plant an seedling in each hole.
The chickens have grown and are ready to be shifted again to an area with nest boxes.
New chicken feeders built by Jonathan and Aregahegn. Jonathan is excited to be active again now that his knee is feeling better.
The old pump jack was difficult to use for folks shorter than Jonathan. So, Jonathan fixed a new handle that makes pumping much easier. We will be using the well a lot now that the rainy season has ended.
There always needs to be time to play! Dawit was excited to have his daddy and our friend (and guard at the farm), Tesfaye, to play frisbee with him. Baby Girl watched from a safe distance.
If you have followed our blog for a while then you have heard of us speak of the feasts and famines of living and working in Ethiopia. I know that it probably isn’t like this for everyone, but a lot of our friends have shared similar cycles. There are times, the feasts, when we stay busy and see progress quickly and all seems to be moving at a good pace and in the right direction. Then, in the famines you experience a lull in progress and honestly during those times you can feel rather bored and like there is nothing to do. Jon and I have been in a bit of a famine over the last several months. We are seeing some progress on the farm with the chicks and also with new apple and pear tree plantings but from a personal stand point we seem stuck in a stall pattern. Jon was slowed significantly by his knee issue and is just now getting to be relatively active again. I taught English tutoring sessions for two weeks to our beneficiaries and was super excited but then between the rainy season and other logistical issues we haven’t met again. Also, I got sick just as Jon’s knee was doing better and was in bed for almost a full week with a fever. Needless to say I’ve been a bit bummed and feeling like we aren’t doing anything productive. I do have to remember we are still settling into Chencha life after bouncing around for many months and the transition can take time. I also know that culturally things don’t tend to move quickly here. All these things swimming in my head got me thinking to focus on my blessings. So, I decided to make a list. I decided to list out 3 things I love about Ethiopia.
- The People. I will admit that there are days that in the same breath I can be totally in love with and totally annoyed with the people of Ethiopia (the later mainly because of cultural differences). In dealing with Jon’s knee problem and my sickness I have been reminded of the compassion and community we are surrounded by in Chencha. Daily, people would come to check
Teaching an English lesson to some beneficiaries
on Jon’s knee and ask how he was doing and offer the traditional, “Iso” (eye-zo), which means be strong. People would also remind us that God will heal Jon’s knee. During my recent sickness I was awoken one morning to our house worker turning on my bedroom light and walking in with a man. As the fog cleared from my head I realized that her husband had walked the hour and a half with her to our house to offer a bit of encouragement and share an “Isosh” (which is the equivalent of Iso but for a girl). In a small rural community like Chencha there may be a touch of busy-body with the close tabs they keep on their neighbors but there is also a cup of compassion that overflows and knits the community together. Even with the luxuries we lack, I’m glad to be a part of that community.
- The Beauty. There is so much beauty all around us that that at times it is overwhelming. The people, the land and the sky all greet us each day with new beauty that reminds us what an incredible Creator we serve. We live in the rural highlands which means there are green mountains all around us. We see incredible skyscapes and on a clear night we can see every star in the sky. The land rolls and is blanketed by grasses, trees and flowers that offer a wide range of colors and textures. The people here both inside and out are beautiful and add to the colors and livelihood of the area.
View from the hill
- The Pace. I complain about the famine times but if I really stop and think on it I love the pace of life here. My western up bringing tells me to be busy all the time, push for progress. And when I don’t see it I use words like famine. However, it is okay to sit in the grass and talk to a friend. It is okay to take some extra time to visit a neighbor, even if that means that work will be waiting for you when you return. I love that it isn’t unusual for someone to not be at work in the afternoon because they have something to do at church. Everyday lunch is 12-2. You can see more of the beauty around you and spend more time with the people who matter if you aren’t sprinting through each day. Life here is definitely paced more at a walk or amble as opposed to a sprint.
So maybe feast and famine isn’t the best way to describe what it is we are experiencing. We have to remember we are here for whatever purpose the Lord has for us. There may be times we see rapid change and there may be times when all is quiet. Psalm 27:14 offers great wisdom for the times we feel things aren’t moving…
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Doing some dishes with a helper
It has been an interesting couple of months as we have been (finally) transitioning to life in Chencha. We’ve been learning to do without many conveniences while enjoying the pace and clean air that comes with life in rural Ethiopia.
An unexpected part of our new rural life has been an issue with Jon’s knee. When we first arrived in June, Jon had to have fluid drained off his right knee and received a cortisone shot. Problem solved! Jon jumped right into the work he enjoys. He began cutting and hauling lumber, hauling water for daily use, digging garden sites and general work around the house and yard. Three weeks into such work and his knee began to swell again. We made our way back to the Christian hospital a couple hours away. Jon had arthroscopic surgery. The only thing the doctor found was a small section of cartilage at the base of his knee cap that looked a bit frayed. The doctor smoothed the section out but also informed Jon that such a small abnormality shouldn’t cause the degree of swelling he was experiencing.
Since the surgery Jon has been attempting to take it easy. He continues to keep his knee elevated the majority of the day. Recently, he couldn’t stand being still any longer and spent a good part of the day weeding a small garden. He also stood and rocked Carter a bit that night when she was having trouble sleeping. His knee started to swell again. So, now he and I are seriously monitoring his amount and kind of activity. The swelling did go back down the following day.
With Jon having to be rather immobile I have had to take on a few new roles. Praise the Lord the rains have picked up (I seriously never thought I’d say that. With the rain comes a lot of mud!). With our rain collection I only have to haul buckets of water from the side of the house to containers inside the house. I’ve been filling the charcoal bucket a bit more and taking more of the “gray” water tubs outside to be dumped or filtered in the sand filter.
These newer more physical jobs for me recently got me thinking about the balancing act that goes on with any relationship, but especially marriage. In order to make our home work and insure that all those who are in our home are taken care of, we share our labors.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The past two months, adjusting to our new rustic lifestyle and Jon’s recovery, have reminded me how well our Lord has balanced us together and in doing so allowed us to remain strong together and in Him.
I imagine we looked like a bizzaro version of the Clampetts leaving Addis Thursday with our belonging piled high in the back of our car. Almost all of our stuff was packed into bags, some plastic baskets and tubs and a trunk. I picked up my temporary residency identification card Wednesday which meant the whole family was back in the good graces of Ethiopian immigration. With all that taken care of we were ready to head to Chencha, finally.
We stopped in Soddo, about two hours from Chencha, to let the kids rest and so Jonathan could take advantage of the health care at the Christian Hospital. For the past week Jonathan has been battling a swollen knee from unknown causes. He was unable to walk without crutches and also unable to drive. So, for the first time I drove the six hours down to Soddo. Battling huge pot holes, wandering animals and oblivious pedestrians we made it to Soddo around dinner time on Thursday. Jonathan headed over to the hospital after the kids went to bed and had his knee x-rayed.
Last night we shared a pot luck dinner with the families who live here on the hospital compound. Most of them are American Doctors who work here. Several of those happened to be Orthopedists, one of which is quite renowned, certainly the best in Ethiopia. Around the dinner table they checked Jonathan’s x-rays and poked and prodded on his knee as they puzzled over what the problem could be. Finally they told him to go to the hospital in the morning and they would take another look at it.
This morning Jonathan found one of the doctors, who drained the fluid and gave him a cortisone shot. Immediately, for the first time in almost a week, he could walk again without the aid of crutches. He’s not ready to go kicking soccer balls just yet, but at least he received some much needed relief. The cause is still unknown.
Now that we are all healed and rested we will finish our trip to our house in Chencha. We are long overdue to be settled. We are also ready to make some improvements to our house. Jonathan is planning to build on an outdoor kitchen and a patio. He also will build his workshop (I think he may be most excited about this).
Admittedly, we did not anticipate that we would be able to arrive back in Ethiopia, renew Jon’s work permit, renew our residencies and all would be smooth sailing. We’ve been working in Ethiopia long enough to know that is rarely the reality. So, there has been some frustration as we wait with our hands effectively tied.
However, for today I’m focusing on all the best parts of living in Ethiopia.
I’m cooking a lot more, so there are lots of yummy things to eat.
Fresh bread, oatmeal cookies and homemade tortillas
We love the compound where we are staying and Dawit is getting lots of play time.
Dawit tried to feed the compound tortoise a green bean, playing in the sandbox and superheroes on the trampoline
There is nothing like having time together as a family.
Daddy daughter nap time, monkeys on my back and reading time