Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Aunt Again

Yesterday, I became an aunt again. Matt's sister had a baby boy - my first nephew. I am so excited that Solomon will have a boy cousin close in age. Solomon gets to meet him on Thursday, but Matt and I got to see him late last night. While we were in Ethiopia, Katie called to let us know she was pregnant...crazy how time flies by. Welcome to the world Brody Baker!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

While in Ethiopia

 I loved my time in Ethiopia and really do miss it and the wonderful people that I met. I thought I would write some helpful tips or recommendations for those people traveling soon. Come prepared with a list of things to do or see as you will have lots of free time before you get placement of your child. Fair warning: I am sure I misspelled a lot of places. 
Immunizations: Matt and I got Yellow Fever, Typhoid and the Twinrix shots. We were already current with our Tetnus. I would highly recommend getting the Malaria medicine as I have heard of two different families who got Malaria while staying in Addis around the time we were there. I was eaten alive by mosquitos when we stayed in our first guesthouse but didn't get a bite once we moved inside of the city. So bring some bug spray/repellant. You can get some in Ethiopia. So glad I had Ambien to help with my sleep before taking placement of Solomon. It is so noisy at night time and I am a very light sleeper.
Flights/Travel Agency: We flew Lufthansa. On the way to Germany our planes were nice and had movie screens on the back of the seats. On the way back the plane was much older looking and we did not have individual TVs to watch movies but it didn't really matter because I had Solomon with me so watching a movie was not really an option :) He did amazingly well on the flights home. Since we missed one of our flights going to Ethiopia we were put on Ethiopian Airlines. The plane was much older and I slept the entire way. We didn't lose any luggage which I consider a miracle since we missed planes going and coming back. I do not have anything pleasant to say about our travel agency besides the fact that they offered cheaper flights than other agencies. Their customer service when I needed them was nonexistent. 
Guesthouse: We stayed at the B and B guesthouse owned by a Gladney driver. We also stayed at the New Flower Guesthouse which is in the city a bit more. Both were nice places. We stayed at the Lewi Resort in Awassa. 
Food/Sickness: I brought a lot of food. Canned vegetables, spaghettios, easy mac, tuna fish kits, protein bars. (If you plan on taking a day trip you should bring protein bars/snacks/meals as there is really no where to eat along the way.) I started off thinking I would not eat meat and would be careful about produce as well while in ET. Well throughout my time there I ended up eating pretty much anything and everything. Even eating the best strawberries ever from a farm along the road on the way to Awassa..just rinsed off with some bottled water. My husband even ate raw meat at the encouragement of our driver Solomon. There was only one time when I needed to take some pepto due to some stomach pains as the food can be greasy. I did have a sore throat/cough towards the end of my stay but think it was mainly due to the fact that I was not getting much sleep and the fumes from the cars are really bad. Bring lots of tissue as it seems to stay in your nose. I tried to take a multivitamin everyday. 
Restaurants: Favorites: Island Breeze. Antigua (good chicken kabob). Top View. Blue Tops (good ice cream). Lucy's. LimeTree (I enjoyed their lime juice). Sheraton restaurant by the pool. Yod Abbysinia for cultural dinner. Khaldi's and Bilo's had really good desserts, coffees, and juices. Serenade was by far the best restaurant....it has late hours and only open on certain days.  They like for you to make a reservation. The prices there are more like American prices but still reasonable for the food. We also went to Hill Bottom which is near the Gladney Foster Care Centers with some other families and their kids and took Solomon. It is out of the "city" and has a playground area. Most places had nice areas to eat outside. The menus are in English.You do have to ask for the bill or else it seems they won't bring it. You can have your food boxed up and have your driver give it to the homeless. The grocery stores have a lot of things to choose from as well. So unless you are extremely picky I wouldn't worry about food. Our driver was able to bring us food as well.
Weather: I was there in October and November and it was HOT!!  In the mornings and evenings I needed a light jacket. I think there were 2 days that it rained while we were there. 
Bathroom: Don't put toilet paper in the commode! Some public places just have a hole in the ground as their toilet. 
Internet: I thought the internet was pretty good considering we were in Ethiopia. Most days I was able to skype and never had a problem with facebook. I couldn't get on blogger. 
Things to do in Addis: I tried to see as much as I could because I have no idea when we will go back and I wanted to document and take in everything that I could so that Solomon could have it. We went up part of Entoto mountain to see the scenery but didn't go up all the way (I wish we had). We visited the government orphanages several times and even went to AHope orphanage. We went to church at the IEC. We went to the Leprosy Hospital. Got massages and pedicures while at Boston Day Spa :) We went to the pool at the Sheraton...the lavishness of this place is incredible. We went to the zoo (Nothing impressive to see, but our driver was very excited to take us there and show off his skills with the monkeys). Shopping. We did all of  Gladney's scheduled tours. You and your children will have lots of appointments as well. Went to other guesthouses for playdates.  I wish we had visited Korah and the Fistula Hospital. 
Shopping: The post office area has souvenir shops. Bring a calculator to help with conversion rates. The Leprosy Hospital. Sabahar Silk factory has scarves and other gifts and is a neat place to see. There is a ministry of maps buildings where you can get a map of pretty much anything in Ethiopia but they are pretty stingy with how many maps they will give you. Makush art gallery. There are basket shops and all kinds of other places along the street where you can stop and shop. By far my favorite shopping experiences were at the IEC bazaar (only available the last Saturday of the month) and the Tropical Garden Bazaar (not sure when it is available) The Gladney staff let us know about it. The Bazaars had hand crafted gifts..much better quality and uniqueness than the souvenir shops. Grocery stores really do have a lot of "American" things so if you forgot something don't stress too much.
Get out of Addis: Please do get out of the city. There are several nice day trips that you can take and some are only an hour away. With Gladney we went to eat at a resort called Kurifto. The countryside is breathtaking and just a nice change from the city life. We went to visit an old church in Addadi Miriam. Saw a monestary/museum at the Gorge. I would also recommend visiting the area where your child is from if at all possible. Awassa was beautiful and it was such an incredible experience to see Solomon's first orphanage and the area where his birth family lives.  

Driver: I loved our driver..he was amazing!! He helped us bargain shop at some of the shops, was our translator, helped us come up with ideas of places to eat and see, comforted me when I was upset, and showed us the wonderful Ethiopian spirit. He became a great friend and I don't know what we would have done without our Solomon. I miss him. 

Although it has been about 8 months since I was in Ethiopia..if anyone has any questions about things I left out feel free to ask.