We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

One week to Addis

Our ever-changing travel plans to Ethiopia have changed again!

Earlier this fall, we had decided to take this trip as a family of four, over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. But, Giggle changed his mind. He decided he wasn’t quite ready to go to Ethiopia. And that’s fine with Mr. Four and me: we want Giggle to go when he’s excited, not reluctant.

So, we’re back to the second version of the trip, only now it’s actually happening rather than just a hypothetical.

Meaning: Next week, Bug and I leave for about ten days in Ethiopia!

I have the time off for the Muslim Eid el Adha, the Feast of Abraham. Bug has off because he’s three years old. Our plans including visiting rock hewn churches in Lalibela, trekking through the countryside (a trip done by, I kid you not, my second favorite adoptive father, Brad Pitt), and visiting our housekeeper’s family in Addis.

I’ve been to Ethiopia three times now, for a total of only about two and a half weeks in-country, but this will be my first real trip as a tourist. And this will be Bug’s first trip back since our adoption.

I told him tonight we’d be leaving in a week for Ethiopia. He shouted “yeah!” and ran over and gave me a big hug and kiss. He’ll get to use his new Amharic skills for real.

I’m as thrilled as he is, excited for our trip and so excited to have so much time with my sweet Bug. And Giggle is happy as can be with the plan, and he’s looking forward to a week with Mr. Four.

What a sight we’ll be: the ferenge mom and her habesha son. I can’t wait.

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26 November 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, holidays, nanny, tourism | 6 Comments

Travels abroad at home… and some news from Egypt

We’ve left the mountains, after lots of river trips and woods exploration and visits from family. It was really hectic but somehow also relaxing, sorta.

Now Mr. Four is back in Cairo. His first day back to work was today, Sunday (remember the work week there is Sunday to Thursday). He was working on only a few hours of sleep, unfortunately.

Our new apartment isn’t quite ready, so he’s staying in our old place with lots of boxes. Our new place should be ready later this week, which means he and our housekeeper should have it pretty close to unpacked by the time the boys and I arrive (and I’m sure I won’t like where they put everything, but, really, I’m so spoiled I’m not going to complain).

The boys and I are now at my mom’s place in the northeast. The weather is lovely: sunny, warm, and nothing close to hot. She has a small but lovely yard with plenty of grass for baseball games and a driveway big enough for the boys to race their tricycle (Bug’s, left over from last summer when we moved to Egypt but didn’t want to pack it) and scooter (for Giggle’s use, a vintage metal safety-nightmare of a toy).

We’re also visiting with our old pup, Ms. Muddy Paws, one of the two surviving animals of what, 13 months ago, was a pack of three dogs and two cats. I still think of her as my dog.

There’s lots to do around town, so we’ll be busy. Tomorrow, the excellent local public library. Later in the week, a children’s farm and museum (that’s two places).

And guess what else? My mom has wireless! And I have the laptop! (Which means Mr. Four won’t be online much for the next few weeks.)

I’m too beat from our travels today to blog extensively tonight (though I will report that the flights went mostly okay, and way better than our flights from Egypt, perhaps because we were in the air a total of about three hours; the new Leapster also helped), but I’ll be online more often, at least for this next week.

In another week I go to Seattle! Giggle is already pretty upset about this notion of me leaving, but he seemed to cool off about the issue as we settled in to my mom’s place. It’s very comfortable here.

I have found it interesting that my mother, in my childhood the enemy of marshmallow fluff and Fruit Loops, which we only had when my mom was out of town, happily bought my kids cookies, sugary popsicles, and jello. Though I guess that’s what happens when a mom becomes a grandmother.

On another note, I wanted to share a recent news story about harassment in Egypt, which reported the following:

Almost half of Egyptian women are sexually harassed on a daily basis with more than half of Egyptian men admitting lewd behaviour, the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights said on Thursday.

The group polled 2,020 people — including men and foreign women — in Cairo, and the centre’s director, Nihad Abul Qomsan, said that the figures showed harassment was on the rise.

Of those surveyed, 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women said they had been harassed at some point, while 46 percent of Egyptian women and 52 percent of foreign women said they were harassed daily.

I certainly don’t experience harassment daily, at least not that I recognize, and I suspect my ipod headphones and sunglasses cut me off from the world enough to help, but harassment is a real problem in Egypt, and I’m glad to see some statistics showing just how pervasive it is.

27 July 2008 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle, holidays, in the news, nanny, pets | Comments Off on Travels abroad at home… and some news from Egypt

Happy Enkutatash

It’s not just any ‘ole New Year in Ethiopia: it’s the millennium! We celebrated by eating Ethiopian food for dinner (courtesy of our fabulous housekeeper/nanny), and tomorrow the boys will wear their traditional outfits to school (with enthusiasm–there is no forcing involved). Plus our housekeeper has the day off tomorrow, which isn’t so much a celebration for us, but nice for her. We know she plans to spend at least part of the day at church, an interesting contrast to a typical New Year’s Day in the US.

The BBC has some great articles about the Enkutatash celebration. I’ve also been following the Ferenge Addis Blog, written by a former North Carolinian who now lives in Addis. It’s a great way to see a bit more of Addis as translated by a fellow American.

Happy Enkutatash to you and yours.

11 September 2007 Posted by | ethiopia, food, nanny | Comments Off on Happy Enkutatash

The amazing housekeeper

Desta, the new housekeeper, started on Monday, and she’s incredible. She cooks, she cleans, she does laundry, she irons, she washes dishes… and she does all this without prompting. She’s a professional person who knows how to do all these things! Plus she’s a lovely person to have in the house, evident especially in her interactions with the boys.

She surprised us the first night by asking what she should make for dinner. Mr. Four had been planning on burritos, so she chopped up the veggies and he did the rest. But after dinner we talked to her about making some Ethiopian food for us, and indeed she did, last night. I couldn’t enjoy it completely as I was sick, but her misr wat was delicious. Mr. Four commented that he had forgotten just how good Ethiopian food is–we don’t eat it because of the kids, but because we love it!

And Bug liked it too.

Happiest of all, though, was Giggle. At first he asked for a spoon (Desta is still tracking down injera ingredients, so we subsituted brown bread), til Desta chided him into eating with his hands. And then while he sopped up the misr with the bread, he became so happy and animated. Our local Ethiopian restaurant back in the States closed just before Giggle got there, so the only Ethiopian food he’d eaten in two months were my attempts at kik alitcha and some injera we had frozen. Last night it was like watching him blossom.

In fact, Giggle was so happy, he was willing to use some of his Amharic. He’s been resistant to it the few times he’s heard it since we left Ethiopia. But a few bites of misr had him saying, when prompted, “Amasegenalo!” (thank you) to Desta.

Next week, once we have injera, Desta is going to make more Ethiopian food more regularly for us. And soon we’ll invite folks over for dinner and serve them good Ethiopian food, rather than our feeble attempts at it, to try to bribe them into being friends with us.

And having a housekeeper is just incredible. My work day ends early by US standards, so I’m often home around 4 or so. And then I can just hang out with the boys. And Mr. Four can hang out with us. And the house is clean and none of us are worried about chores. It’s lovely.

And I know there are some people (hi Mom!) who be glad to know my clothes, including the linen, are getting ironed so I’m not embarassing myself or my family on the streets of Cairo.

It is weird for us to have a household employee. But she is so professional that it makes it easier for us. I think we’re good employers–we’re paying her what seems to be a good wage, and her working hours are reasonable, and she is welcome to eat food here or take it home if she wants (indeed, she took home some of Mr. Four’s lasagne tonight).

How else can we be good employers? I’d love to know. In the meantime, we do say thank you, because we mean it.

5 September 2007 Posted by | ethiopia, food, nanny, our life in egypt | 6 Comments

Desta Poppins

So our first housekeeper, who was set to start tomorrow, found a full-time position and won’t be working for us. We didn’t even realize she wanted full-time work; indeed, we thought working part-time for us would free her up for another job so she could make more. Ah well.

The good thing is that her friend and roommate, also from Ethiopia, was looking for a new position. So Hana (housekeeper number one) brought Desta (housekeeper number two) over. We liked her and could see right away that she’s good with kids, and we had a good recommendation for her.

So no messing around this time. We aren’t ready for full-time, but we offered her about six hours of work a day (full time here is 8am to 6pm, so she said). She’ll be here from noon to 6pm five days a week. We may hire her for more hours down the road, particularly if Mr. Four finds a job he likes. She’s also available (for extra pay) for evening babysitting on weekends, which is perfect. I don’t want to leave the kids with random strangers, but I do want to go out sometimes.

We asked Desta if she could cook, and she said, “Only Ethiopian food, but you can show me how to make other things.” Only Ethiopian food sounds perfect to us! And the hours sound great, too. She starts on Monday.

The process of hiring a housekeeper involves, first, a decision: whether to hire an Egyptian. Egyptian housekeepers have terrible reputations amongst expats. Indeed, even an Egyptian colleague told me that most are dishonest. They are also reputed to have a poor work ethic, napping away on the job and often not showing up. Egyptian housekeepers are also the cheapest.

The preferred housekeepers are Filipino, Sudanese, and Ethiopian (and perhaps some other nationalities I’ve forgotten). They are immigrants who prefer to be paid in dollars and are said to be harder, better workers who also receive higher pay.

At least one expat I know said she was very satisfied with her Egyptian housekeeper. So who knows. Our interest in an Ethiopian housekeeper is because of our kids, and we’re glad to pay a bit more for someone who can cook Ethiopian food and speak Amharic and who obviously likes kids.

Apparently many housekeepers prefer working for expats. As Egyptian housekeepers have a bad reputation, so too do Egyptian employers. Desta (so I was told by another expat who knows her) was working for an Egyptian family who wanted her there ’round the clock, but didn’t give her a room. So Desta slept on the floor in her employer’s room. And only had one day off each week.

So it seems like this new situation could work out for all us. (An Egyptian would now say Insha Allah, meaning, if Allah wills it.)

1 September 2007 Posted by | ethiopia, nanny | 4 Comments