7 Things About the Bridges Life in Chencha

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.

Our charcoal stove.

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.

One of our lizard tenants who lived in the hole by our door.

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.

I too drop dabo kollo on when I eat it but I have to say the two biggest reasons dabo kollo is everywhere are these two. Dawit is about to "pitch" some kollo into his mouth and as the arrow shows Baby Girl doesn't even know anything missed her mouth.

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.

injera machine

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.

two sand filters

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.

viewing spot

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.

sheenta bait

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.



  1. oh my! life in Chencha….woah! love seeing God’s grace at work in and through you! But there again, you just got it in ya….love, the lbg Bridges

  2. Your descriptions are so interesting Jess. You two are wonderful examples of loving, giving, caring humans and I know with your adventurous spirits you are loving every minute of it. I sure wish I could visit and do something to actively contribute to your work. I guess I will have to do it from here – how do I donate? Are there specific things you need?

    1. Jerri – Yes, we are loving every minute of it! In fact, these things are just so normal to us that we had a hard time coming up with the list. We hardly even think of our lives as being different from most of the people we know. Thanks for wanting to help us with our work. You can donate to us through our organization, either online or by check. To donate online just go to http://www.theforsakenchildren.org and click on the “Give Today” button. Follow the steps and choose Jonathan Bridges as your designation at the appropriate step. To send a check, make it payable to The Forsaken Children and include a note saying to designate it to Jonathan and Jess Bridges (don’t write it on the check itself, but on a slip in the envelope with the check). The mailing address is The Forsaken Children, P.O. Box 381483, Germantown, TN 38183-1483. Thanks!

  3. My name is Dagimihiret( meaning re mercy) from Addis Ababa,but grown up in Chencha. When I observe the future, I came to realize that it is vital to sitimulate change in the life of people and their environment. I hope that spirt will shake me, you and believers in Chencha to move around and preach Christ. As it is stated in your mission statement, empower believers and Churches to unlock our potential and to fulfill our God given mission. Jonathan, Jess and Nega move forward. God bless!

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