Rats, cats, and three wheat-free chocolate cakes

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Last weekend ended up as a five day driving marathon. The goal? A weekend away for mommy with her mommy friends. But to accomplish this, I had to arrange for babysitters. The closest candidates, since many of my friends were staying with me, and Gramma and Grandpa are in South America, were my sister and her hubbie over in Invermere!

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So our journey started on Wednesday, my birthday, with a surprise visit to my husband, who was working in Creston. He had repurchased a chocolate mousse cake for me, but honestly, it didn’t last past Monday. So we enjoyed my birthday, cake free, after scaring the bananas out of Jason. He didn’t know we were coming, and we coasted the car up to my parents’ house, where he was stating, out in the countryside. So when we banged on the door, he had a small heart attack. After he recovered from the shock of seeing us 500km from where we were supposed to be, we stayed up late playing battleship!

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The next day we were off to Invermere, but not without a stop in Cranbrook first. The girls’ oldest friends, also Ethiopian twins, live there. So we moms and kids had lovely visit in the kids’ school gymnasium.

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We arrived in Invermere, and the girls got busy right away making plans with their Uncle M. My considered sister, Ena, make me another chocolate wheat free cake… Yum!

After I left in the morning, I heard that they ate sushi, went to the lake, swam in the hot springs, played with their rats, played with their cats, made cupcakes, danced in the living room, played on the playground, coloured printouts of Ena’s new tatoo, ordered pizza, had a sleepover, etc…

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In the meanwhile, I drove to Silver Star, up by Vernon, for a weekend with my friends. We ate and walked and drank and talked… The usually mom stuff! And my buddy T, that you will recognize from our Ethiopian travels, made me the tastiest chocolate wheat free cake of all… I must get the recipe. I was feeling very loved!

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It was very relaxing… I was supposed to go to a baby shower on the Saturday, but my car actually got snowed in. So Sunday, we dug it out, and I skied down the hill and back to Revelstoke to pick up the girls. Auntie Ena and Uncle M obviously had a great time… But they also looked tired! He he

The things you do for a couple of days off… And totally worth it! The girls thought so too! Thanks Ena and M, for the fabulous babysitting… And thank you to Jason, Ena and T for the cakes!!

The road to Lake Langano

In February 2014, we took our daughters back to Ethiopia for the first time, since their adoption in 2009. This is one of many blog posts we have written about our family’s homeland trip. I also go to Ethiopia every year with our charity, Vulnerable Children Society, so there are additional blogposts from my trips to Ethiopia to enjoy!

I resume our travel blog …
… as we were heading south of Addis Ababa towards Lake Langano.

The best times in our lives, and certainly the best vacations, have been by ourselves in the bush somewhere. For our family of four, this started with our last trip to Langano. I think that is where we really started to become a family.

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Five years ago, when we picked the girls up, we had to stay in Addis and Adama most of the time. We were waiting for their visas and were city bound. However, as soon as their visas were announced, we heaved a huge sigh of relief, and headed out of town to Lake Langano.

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Now, five years later, we were heading down the same road… but with long legged girls writing in their journals in the backseat, and grandma and grandpa enthusiastically thumbing through a bird guide for Africa in the middle. I had time to look out the window, and simply enjoy the scenery.

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There is a huge difference in landscape and lifestyle between west and south of Addis. South of Addis, you enter the famous Rift Valley, one of the best locations for bird life in the world. Along with Langano, there are a series of famous lakes: Lake Awassa, and Lake Ziway. The land here too, here, is over farmed, but it is not done with the same density as west of Addis. The families own bigger farms, and you can see during harvest season bigger piles of wheat and teff. The trees becomes sparse, and the land is dry. There are less big ficus trees, but millions of shorter acacia trees.

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Our destination, Lake Langano, is the brown lake amongst the blue ones. It seems silly to be heading for the only brown lake in the area… Really, it is the color of milky English tea. But it’s one of the few lakes that doesn’t have bilharzia, so it is perfectly safe to swim. The girls do love swimming! The other attraction is the eco reserve on the south side of the lake. Last time we stayed at Bishangari Lodge, and we wanted to return to the same lodge, due to the eco reserve. Within that preserved forest, is one of the few intact ecosystems in the whole region. The cabins delightful… And the whole place is off the grid solar with compost generated methane cooking.

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As gorgeous as the lakes are, don’t expect much for tourist services in this area, on the road in. We did have a delicious vegetarian dish at the “Tourist Restaurant” in Lake Ziway. But except the eco-lodges, there really isn’t much to eat, sleep in, or do.

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A funny thing happened on the way into the lake.

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We had just turned off the highway and were heading down the dirt road, when we saw a bunch of camels. I looked around and didn’t see anybody who belonged to the camels, so I started taking a couple of pictures. Sure enough, three Southern tribesmen popped out of the bush and surrounded the front of the car. In angry voices they demanded payment for the camel pictures. I follow enough Amharic to understand the negotiation and they had settled on 10 birr as payment for the grievous affront.

One of the guys came around the side and stuck his arm in the window for the payment, muttering angrily at us. When I put the 10 birr in his hand, he gesturing wildly at my wallet and wanted some more. He scowled, he shouted! But the deal struck is a deal done, as far as I am concerned, so I lost my temper. I smacked him on the hand, and replied in a firm voice “bucka!”

He withdrew his hand, and we pressed on in the van. The girls were nervous at the time, but as soon as the van pulled away, they thought it was hilarious that I had smacked the hand of the tall, angry, Southern tribesman. I think the tribesman thought it was a little funny too, because amongst the anger in his eyes I saw a little bit of humour as we drove away.

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As we drew near the lodge along the dirt road, the evidence of wealth coming from this local employment was everywhere. The houses got nicer, the children looked healthier, and there were even obvious medical centres and schools. It was really nice to see the positive effects of this tourism industry. You can also see when local tourism is working well when there isn’t a lot of begging. The children were delighted to see a Farengi vehicle, as I’m sure they do several times today, but they didn’t shout “money!” But rather just waved and smiled. That’s a good sign of stable income and non-dependence on handouts. Again this is not everywhere in Ethiopia, so I really noticed it.

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When we stopped at the lodge, we were greeted by the gahri, horsecart, that trucked our bags over to the cabins. As soon as we got out of the van, you could just feel the pressure and the stress level of traveling go down. It was such a good idea…

After unpacking our bags in our cabin godjos, the girls immediately got into their swimsuits and headed for the beach. We all grabbed our books and binoculars, and set out in the sunset, watching the birds with wonder and anticipating a dinner of locally caught fish.… Heaven…

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Enjoy the pictures on our way down to the lake. I will post many more as the week goes by.

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Coming of age: Looking back at my 10 year goals

This week I celebrate my 37th birthday. It seems like an odd number, but it has real significance for me.

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When I was 26 years old, I was in the midst of a messy divorce, a new career, and a move to the middle of nowhere. It was a scary time in my life, and I had to come to terms with a lot of changes happening at once. Tools I’ve used to help me deal with overwhelming challenges are goals and plans.

So when I was 26 years old, I set out my 10 year plan.

#1 start a family
#2 get my PhD
#3 work exclusively for myself, as a consultant or business owner.

Those were my 10 year goals, and much of my life planning has centered around those priorities for me. So where am I am, 10 years later?

#1 Start a family. Well, that goal has been soundly accomplished. As of this summer, we will be the family for five years. I actually set the goal when I didn’t have a long term partner in mind; I had just met Jason and wasn’t planning on sticking with him, necessarily! But here we are almost 10 years later, him and I together, and we share our lives with the best two kids in the world.

#2 Get my PhD. Well I started off strong on this one. I actually had my Masters degree by the time I was 28. However, my PhD is unlikely to happen anytime in this decade. Other priorities got in the way, such as being with children, paying the bills, and starting our own business. Honestly, the years that we have waited to open our business and to complete our second adoption, have put off this and my goal to work for myself behind. I still plan on completing my PhD, but maybe not until our business is making enough money for me to be financially independent, ie: footloose and fancy free to spend the majority of my time reading, researching, and traveling.

#3 The third goal was for me to work exclusively for myself. Let’s get one thing straight… I am a good professor, and a very good teacher; I enjoy the students, research, and many of colleagues immensely. But I don’t generally like being supervised. I have had some great bosses along the way, that has made it much easier. But I much prefer to follow my passions, nurture my creativity, and push my own boundaries, instead of somebody else’s.

I will continue to teach and research over the next few years, but I still have this goal of my primary income coming from my own business, or businesses.

There are many things that I didn’t know about the last 10 years, when I started that decade of goals. For one thing, I didn’t know that at the ripe old age of 28, I would get a crippling disease. My rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis have had huge influence on my life… In ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I used to have super human amounts of energy; now I just have the energy of a normal person, and an overwhelming need for sleep.

I didn’t know how involved our lives would be in Ethiopia. It was always part of my planning to adopt children, but I didn’t know where from, and I certainly didn’t know that I would start a charity in the country of my children’s birth. Our entire family’s commitment and love of Ethiopia is one of those strange blessings that you never predict.

I never knew how much I would love my children… And what good friends we would become. I was never a person who wanted to be a teacher or hang around with little kids, so I have to admit that I have treated my children as “small people,” more than “just kids”. But in them, I have found a wonderful friendship. I also had no idea, on the flipside, how completely annoying and overwhelming children could be! I didn’t realize what massive time and resources, that we would choose to invest in our children and our family.

So what will the next 10 years bring? I think I am going to have to give this some thought. My ten year goals were very private, and only a few people knew them. But it didn’t mean that they didn’t influence my life, Jason and I’s life, constantly. The next decade will be that of a growing family. OMG, in 10 years, my daughters will be either heading off to university, art school, chef school, or backpacking across the world. That’s crazy to think about. The next 10 years will be investing in them and helping them become the compassionate, responsible, and adventurous people I hope they will become. But what for me? What for Jason? This is food for many discussions.

Luckily, we have our 10 year anniversary coming up soon. Maybe we will spend some honeymoon time and figure out these next 10 year goals together…

Inside my Africa Sleeps home workshop

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Most of you know that we have a home-based business, Africa Sleeps! Today I thought I’d take you on a tour of our home office and workshop. In the video, you can peek inside my house while I explain where our products come from, what happens behind the scenes, and share some of the ways our business tries to be light on the earth.

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BTW, since spring has sprung for most of my customers (even though it is currently snowing in Kelowna!) I’ve launched our fabulous springtime of Pink Grapefruit, and Strawberries and Cream lines of hair oil, aloe lotion, shea lotion, and lip balms! Check it out!

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