We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Sipping tea in Ethiopia

I drink a lot of tea, usually black tea with milk, and Bug and Giggle always want sips. They often request and make their own versions, anything from warm water with honey to milk and sugar and probably a dozen other concoctions they have neglected to share with us.

When Bug and I were in Ethiopia in December, we’d eat breakfast each day at the hotel, usually sharing a meal. Each morning I’d order tea, which came with lots of sugar and rarely milk. Even with milk, it still needed some sugar. Not surprisingly, Bug really liked it. So he wanted his own. I eventually obliged. He enjoyed the ritual of adding the sugar and stirring the tea as much as actually drinking it: he’d usually stop after a few sips and I’d finish his tea and mine.

At lunch I’d often order a coke, and soon Bug decided he wanted a soda as well. I’m not a big fan of giving my kids soda, but it was a special trip, we were pretty active, and I didn’t want to keep fighting him… so I gave in. As parents, Mr. Four is usually a bit stricter than I am, but I tend to be more concerned about their nutrition, so I was a bit chagrined to think I’d get home with a kid demanding tea for breakfast and Fanta for lunch.

But you know what? It didn’t happen. At all. Bug hasn’t even asked. I suspect he returned to his regularly routines so quickly he forgot about the good life of tea and soda.

I haven’t blogged much about Ethiopia, but I will do more eventually. In the meantime, some photos.

A farmer at the market in Bahir Dar gathers his teff, the grain in injera.

Beans and grains for sale at the market in Bahir Dar.


24 March 2009 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, food, giggle, parenting, tourism | 7 Comments

We’re back!

Bug and I had an amazing trip! It was the trip of a lifetime.

We spent most of our time in Lalibela and Bahir Dar. (Photos to come.)

Let me whet your appetite with this photo, from an apparently recently re-named establishment in Bahir Dar. Bug and I did not actually dine there.

The Obama Bar & Restaurant in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

In Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Now I’m off to bed, at 4 or 5pm in the afternoon, after a very tiring nighttime flight.

13 December 2008 Posted by | ethiopia, tourism | 9 Comments

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.

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

The plans, they are a-changin’

You may recall a few weeks ago when I reported that Giggle has been saying he doesn’t want to visit Ethiopia. Well, he surprised us last week. Now he does want to go. And he’s kept to this for a bit.

So, our holidays plans have changed. Instead of Bug and I dashing down to Ethiopia for a week in early December (during the Muslim Feast of Abraham), we’re all four going for about two weeks, over Christmas and New Year’s. We’ll be with all the other holiday travelers, but so it goes.

I’d love to spend more time there but there are these two concerns called money and time. Mr. Four’s job means we have a bit more money than we did last year… and a bit less time. So it goes.

The best part about this trip? Last February, we decided to take a trip this Christmas to Ethiopia. Only more recently did that plan change. But we’re back on track to taking exactly the trip we hoped for.

Tentatively we plan to relax south of Addis Ababa around Lake Langaro for a few days and then visit some of the historical sites up north.

We are still hoping to spend next summer in East Africa as well, specifically Tanzania and Kenya. I’m really excited for these trips–indeed, they are a big part of the reason we moved to Egypt in the first place. I feel my writing should be more infused with enthusiasm, so I will end with this:


27 October 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, giggle, holidays, tourism | 4 Comments

Looking left in London

London is so helpful. At crosswalks at busy intersections, a painted sign reads, ‘Look left’ ‘Look right.’ Of course that isn’t for Londoners, but we dumb tourists. But isn’t that terribly accommodating of them? Thank you, London. I wonder how many Americans got run over before they painted those signs.

I am having a great trip! I’m staying at a small hotel/large B&B, on the fourth floor, four flights up. That’s four sets of staircases up, since the hotel has no elevator. But the room is pefect, small but very comfortable. It only lacks a radio. So I haven’t been listening to the BBC, one of my favorite London activities. Otherwise, perfect.

Today was my day off. My work stuff here starts tomorrow and goes through Friday. Today, I shopped. I spent a good amount of time and money at the amazing, seven-story Hamley’s toy store. So much fun! Because I actually had a budget, I was able to buy some really fun stuff, guilt-free, for the boys for their birthdays and Christmas.

I also bought the boys some great clothes at H&M. Plus I managed to find a thing or two for myself.

And, I’m just about out of time at this internet cafe. So, more to come, but maybe not for a few days.

[Edited to add: One should not drink Guiness and blog.]

15 October 2008 Posted by | tourism | 3 Comments

Off to London

I’m in the midst of packing and suffering luggage angst. I wanted to travel light. I was so pleased with how little I was bringing that I tucked it all into a small rolling bag. Now I’m realizing that I have to re-pack into a larger bag to fit the birthday and holiday presents I want to bring back for the boys.

So that’s what’s on my mind.

What’s on your mind? Let me know in a comment, to keep the blog hopping while I’m away.

13 October 2008 Posted by | tourism | 2 Comments

Trip of a lifetime

All that Kenya and Tanzania talk inspired us. But a vacation like that is too expensive and too complicated to plan on short notice.

I do have six weeks off in the summer for home leave. And I will have a pile of money from my employer to pay for that home leave. And there are no rules that say we must actually go home on home leave.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Mr. Four and I have decided, tentatively, to spend about six weeks next summer traveling around East Africa, probably Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda or Rwanda. With the boys, of course.

This gives us enough time to actually figure out what we want to do and where we want to go, and to save some money to supplement our home leave funds. And then take the trip of a lifetime.

I’m so pleased that Mr. Four finds all of this as exciting as I do. Hurray!

12 October 2008 Posted by | holidays, tourism | 8 Comments

Birthday parties, Halloween, and other adventures

It’s the weekend for the Four Family. The kids have a pre-Halloween costume birthday party coming up this afternoon. We don’t have a lot of dress-up clothes around the house, and the boys are asking for superhero costumes, so I hope to have a creative burst soon. Either that or we’ll be at the local toy store, buying some cheapie pre-made costumes they’ll probably love and wear to pieces before Halloween even gets here.

Last Halloween they had fantastic train costumes made by the then-unemployed Mr. Four. This year the adults have less time and the kids have more opinions. A difficult mix but I’m sure we’ll persevere.

The next adventure coming up is my trip to London next week. It’s for a conference, and it’s work, but who cares! I was so excited for London last December, and I was not disappointed. I’m not quite so desperate for a change of scenery this time around, but who cares, it’s London!

I’ll be spending some time in seemingly-dull-but-actually-thrilling places like Boots the pharmacy. Plus I’ll pick up some colder weather clothes for the ever-growing Giggle (4T last summer; now comfortably in size 6-7 tops), probably at H&M. I’ll also be buying presents for the November-December-February series that goes birthday-birthday-Christmas-birthday for the Four Family. And all this while trying not to spend too much money.

Most importantly, though, each evening I’ll enjoy a draught Guinness (or two) and fish and chips with some of those mushy peas. Yum.

We also have some family travels coming up, maybe. I have a week off in early December for Eid el Adha, the Muslim Feast of Abraham. It’s too early to combine with Christmas, unfortunately, as that’d mean Giggle missing more than a week of school. So Bug and I are thinking of taking a week-long trip to Ethiopia, where Giggle doesn’t want to go anyway (too soon for him). However, this might mean we can’t afford a longer trip for the whole family over Christmas.

Should Bug and I go to Ethiopia for a week, or should we try to get the whole family somewhere for two weeks in late December and early January? The somewhere is unknown, but Europe is too expensive, the Middle East is too similar, and Kenya and Tanzania are too close not to go. Right? But can we afford them once we get there? Hmm.

10 October 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, family, giggle, our life in egypt, tourism | 5 Comments


Folks, I don’t get out much. I know, I know: I usually seem so cosmopolitan!

Truth is, I go to work, sometimes take the boys to school, go to the pool on the weekends… but that’s pretty much it. I don’t even get to the further-flung supermarkets, accessible only via taxi and planning, instead preferring the convenience of the place around the corner. And we certainly don’t spend every weekend at the Pyramids.

If you live anywhere long enough, life becomes normal. Even in Egypt.

But I was reminded of my own special dullness tonight when, unlike most evenings, I was actually out at night. I took Puppy Four back to the vet. This dog now freaks out when he gets out of the taxi at the vet’s office. Makes for a fun evening. Anyway, his brain is definitely scrambled, even though he’s sweet most of the time at home. I had a good cry over the whole thing last week, but tonight the vet suggested we wait a few more weeks before we make any decisions. The vet says he’ll never really be normal, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a happy, seizure-free life. So we’ll see.

Anyway, I had to go pick up more meds (this time, a steroid) for the pup, as well as a few things we need for our vacation. So I found myself at the local shopping center. It’s not the giant western mall, but one serving pretty much just my corner of Cairo.

And it was bustling. At 9:30pm. When usually I am home and, if not asleep, pretty close. And not thinking at all about going out.

Ramadan ends tomorrow night, and the holiday Eid el Fitr begins. Egyptians usually celebrate Eid el Fitr as a family, and they buy new clothes for their kids. So there were tons of families out tonight, choosing their Eid outfits.

It was great fun to wander around the shopping center spying on people. I was one of the few westerners there, so maybe they thought they were spying on me. The mood was festive, and it inspired me to do some of my own shopping. I got some very cute red shoes, locally made and pretty cheap, so we’ll have to see if they last. Plus I bought some sand toys and a jump rope for the boys.

Tonight made me wish I was out and about in the evenings more often. Maybe it’s the weather, but even when it’s not Ramadan, Egyptians really are night people.

I am also a night person. Which is why I’m awake and blogging at 11:30 when we’re leaving tomorrow on vacation and I have tons of things to do.

So, yeah, that vacation. We’re going to Dahab again. I blogged quite a bit about our April trip there. We had an amazing time, enough fun to make us want to go back. Mr. Four will dive a couple of days, and we’ll all snorkel in the sea, swim in the pool, and walk the Corniche. It’s super relaxing.

The shopping spirit was with me earlier today, when I indulged in new paperbacks, which I rarely do. So David Sedaris and Sarah Watters will be joining me in Dahab.

Plus we have a whole week! Eid last a few days, and early next week there’s an Egyptian national holiday… the timing is perfect.

It’s been a quiet month for me on the blog, and this week will be doubly so. Eid Mubarak!

29 September 2008 Posted by | books, family, fun, holidays, shopping, tourism | 5 Comments

Back in the USA

Phew. What a week it’s been. I am not going to write any more about the flights over as they are best left repressed deep within my brain.

Mr. Four arrived late last Friday night. Between our arrival and his, the boys and I did a lot. It was pretty crazy. We went shopping (Old Navy, Target, and Kohl’s, along with a dollar store and a funky local toy store), swam at the lake, swam at the pool, played baseball in the yard, hung out with my dad, celebrated my birthday, went to a great science museum, bought toys, attempted to eat out in restaurants, went to a movie, stocked up on College Town paraphenalia, chased fireflies, played with friends, visited with other friends, and ate pretzels and ice cream (though not at the same time).

Since Mr. Four’s arrival, we’ve done more of the same, but with a break here and there for me.

A couple of friends here have asked us how it feels to be back. The answer is that it feels totally normal to be back. Totally normal to be able to call my mom and dad and sister without advance planning or a check of the clock. Totally normal to walk on nice wide sidewalks. Totally normal to be able to buy soy products at the grocery store. Totally normal to have play dates with our old neighbors. Et cetera.

Of course what’s not normal is trying to cram a month’s worth of activities into a week’s time. Right now we’re in College Town, a charming area with lots of old friends and kid-friendly activities. In a few days, we head to the mountains, to a small cabin Mr. Four built there years ago. We have a lot of friends up there, including friends with kids, but we’ll be much more isolated. Mr. Four is envisioning canoeing on the lake with the boys. I hope we find enough to do. Giggle and Bug are both pretty interested in bugs these days, so maybe we can go bug hunting. Other ideas are also welcome!

What’s been most striking about our trip home is how much my kids had become city kids. Especially for the first few days, things that seemed utterly ordinary to me were quite remarkable to them. When we pulled into the driveway of the house where we’re staying, Giggle said the front yard, with a few trees, was like a forest. Every patch of trees became worthy of comment.

The next night they ran inside, terrified, screaming at me about some strange flashing lights which turned out to be fireflies (they got over this fear quickly).

They’ve loved seeing mailboxes and checking ours multiple times a day. Fire hydrants also earn a call out.

It’s been a bit rainy here, and Bug is particularly stressed by thunder. This was true last year when we lived in the US, but the absence of thunder from our lives has only increased his fear. I’ve never seen him so terrified. Any plane in the sky has him asking if it’s thunder. Suggestions for dealing with this particular fear are also welcome.

We’ll be mostly unplugged, I think, in the mountains. We have a TV there (our cabin is set up to be a vacation rental when we’re not in it), but no internet access except the public library. I’m looking forward to some long bike rides, now possible as Mr. Four was able to dig my road bike out of storage this morning, and lots of reading. Another big treat for me has been buying the Sunday New York Times, even though it took me all of last week to read it, and I still haven’t cracked this week’s.

I’ll post again before we head to the mountains. What are your questions about our time back in the States?

30 June 2008 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle, holidays, tourism | 4 Comments