End of this season of my life, and this blog

The Rowan Family high up in a ancient castle in Sintra, Portugal

Some 11 years ago I started this blog. I was flush in the nesting phase of life: building a marriage with my new husband, preparing for adding two children, and focussing on the family we were building. I spent my evenings perusing adoption blogs, envisioning the life I was trying to sculpt. Jason and I were alone in rural Alberta, and writing about my own learning and aspirations as a parent made us both feel that we were part of a greater international adoption community. We felt less like the oddballs who had chosen to walk a different path, and more like members of a very purposeful movement.

When the girls first came home, I was so proud ( and still am,) of the beautiful little beings and trusted in my care. Through our family blog, we expressed our joy, hoped that we would inspire others to adopt, and shared many precious moments with our family and friends.

When the girls were little, I appreciated the blog as a place to archive pictures, curate memories and discuss the challenges related to international, transracial, adoption of older children. But as time passed, I found that the issues we were dealing with were much too private to be shared in a public forum. Instead, we collaborated with fellow parents in our local BC community.

When the girls grew older, Africa Sleeps was a growing business and my blog had become a part of my personal brand. I also used this blog to put a human face to the humanitarian work I did with Vulnerable Children Society, and thought it was too valuable tool to let go.

Noe seven years since the girls have come home, I’ve sold my Africa Sleeps business and no longer rely on my personal connections to spread the word of the good work done by our charity. Although the Vulnerable Children Society continues to thrive, it has its own deserved reputation that is independent from mine. And as much as our family and friends still check the blog for pictures of the children, it’s unfortunately a one-way communication that doesn’t fill up my cup for connection.

This last few months have been really hard for me: financial stress related to our juvenile business, long hours and lack of time off, and undermet needs of social connection and intellectual stimulation. In short, I’m in one of those awkward transitional phase is between the seasons of my life, figuring out what it looks like. I find myself evaluating everything I’m doing and it’s relevance for my life at this stage. In fact, I made myself a list the other day of the things that are good for me and my family, and what’s important to me. Have a look:

What is good for me?
Walking, especially with friends
Meal planning
New projects and challenges

What is good for my family?
Slower pace
Home cooked meals
Less technology
Steady dose of adventure and exploration

What is important to me?
Visiting with my children after school
Spending time with my friends
Talking with my husband
Learning and filling my intellectual cup
Keeping in touch with family
Making a difference and helping others
Travel and adventure
Tending our home
Creativity and projects

At this point, my blog, as attached as I am to it, doesn’t fill up any of those cups. So it’s taken me six months, but I’ve decided to fold this site up in 10 days time. With one more little dose of pictures, I’m signing off.

If you are friends with me in the real world, I’ll see you in person. And if we’ve been friends online, I hope to meet you one day and have a cup of tea.

Much love and blessings, and many thanks for your kind words over the years,
Arnica

Walking 15 Irish Wolfhounds

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

It’s now becoming an annual Christmas tradition… This weekend we went on a lovely walk with 14 other Irish Wolfhounds and their people down in Mission, BC.

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Our own year old baby, Tully, had a blast hanging out with other equally giant dogs. None of the puppies were even intimidated by his size, and he romped and frolicked with the other wolfhounds to his heart’s content.

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

It was great to connect with other wolfhound people, commiserate, and  ask questions. For example, we weren’t sure if Tully was lean enough, as he’s been packing on the weight in the last month or so. It’s hard to tell, though, since we don’t have any other wolfhounds to compare him too. It was great to get the feedback (although I’m sure Tully won’t appreciate that he’s going to have to lose 10lbs.)

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our boy and more beautiful wolfies! Last year’s walk pictures too!

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Where we live… Some people say this place doesn’t exist

Sometimes we forget in daily life how lucky we are to live in this gorgeous place! Yes, our Kelowna family does almost everything in the video (although not every day, of course.) We love living here because there are always so many things to do, and it’s so accessible, outdoorsy and fun for families. Come visit and see what all the fuss is about!

Camel Bones and Canopy Walks: Adventures in Vancouver with Uncle B

Last weekend I went on a short notice trip to the Lower Mainland. A cultural society asked me if I’d do some facilitation work for them in Chilliwack, and I wanted to, but I had the kids in tow (Jason as doing all his ski patrol certification that weekend, so he was out of the picture.) My creative solution was to fly down Uncle B from Fort St. John, to babysit the girls while I facilitated. That definitely made the weekend a cost neutral exercise, but it was great for the girls and I to spend time with B, who we usually only see once a year. Plus, we had a weekend full of adventure in Vancouver! Thanks to B for joining us and showing the girls and I a great time.

Click on the images to embiggen…

Melkam Bal! Our wild Meskel night in Addis Ababa

There are certain places that are famous for their celebrations. Last night, my friend T and I experienced the wonderment of the crowds, blaring music and smoky pyres of Meskel in Addis Ababa.

If you aren’t aware, Meskel is the celebration of the True Cross. It’s an Orothodox Christian holiday, celebrated across Ethiopia. The holiday is named after the Meskel flower, or maybe the Meskel flower is named after the holiday. In any case, the fields of yellow flowers only bloom this time of year, at the very end of the big rains. This is a picture of Mekel flowers form my Ethiopian art collection at home.

image

After a quiet morning of walking the eve of Meskel, we took a cab up to our next guest house, on the north side of Addis Ababa. Vulnerable Children Society’s Teenage Sex Trade Worker Project is located on the far north west part of Addis Ababa, an hours drive from our former guest house (which was as close as we could get to the Love and Hope Centre in Kality.) We had picked the guest house for its location and recommendations, but when we arrived, we were less than impressed. The whole little place was surrounded by Barry windows. But 5 minute later, we were off again, taxiing as close as we could to Meskel Square. We got dropped off just south of the Hilton, and joined the throngs walking down towards Meskel Square.

Pete were walking form all across the city. There were constant streams of families, young people with their friends, and couples decked out in fine clothes and nutellas, the white scarves. Rich and poor, everyone had donned their best clothes for the occasion. We reached the square, and after being frisked by the military, climbed with the throng up onto the grassy slopes of the massive amphitheater. The usually busy traffic square was full of white robed priests, with expanses of pavement I between the groups from different churches. T and I had expected more milling about in the square, not the spectator setup. After climbing up into the sloped grassy hills, we picked our way down a foot wide dirt path between sitting participate to. After many minutes of stumbling walking, we found two open spots next to the path, about a quarter of the way across the back. We sat down, much to the amusement of our fellow spectators. Amounted the thousands and thousands of people in the crowd, we only saw one ferengi family pass by, and a handful of ferengi individuals.

Our neighbours that we were squished into made us feel at home. The boy next to her kept taking cell phone pictures of the side of T’s head, and shouting the only English words he could think of. Rounds of laughter from the people nearby. The sweet older lady beside me tried to strike up a conversation about the crowds. I couldn’t understand a word, despite my limited Amharic skills. I said “tinish Amharinga” (I only speak a little Amharic) and she laughed and replied the same. I don’t know where she was from, but I’m guessing she is Gurege, the tribe that is epesically celebratory of Meskel. So we smiled and made little waving jokes with each other.

The crowds thickened and thickened. Whenever someone would stop on the little path in front of us, standing, a lady three spots down would hit them with her candle and tell them to move along. But after an hour of people filtering and filtering into the sitting crowd, the path was completely stopped up. I’ve never been so squished in my life. Even T, who lived in India, said she’d never been in such a sitting jumble. There was one man with rough curly hair and a pressed dress shirt sitting on my boot toes in front of my knees, bunched up to my chest. He was leaning against my knees. T was glued to my left side, and I was sitting on a lady’s bare toes, that she had slipped out of her flip flops. I never saw he face, but my back was parsed to her knees. There was a twenty year old boy to my back right, whose knee up against my right shoulder. He softly and kindly asked about my Ethiopian and Meskel experience, encouraging me that soon we would be listening to some of the best “church music” in the world. I asked him if there was dancing. He laughs, and other laughed around us. “Priests don’t dance!” He guffawed. The lady to me right kept shooting me sidewise smiles. Both T and I felt so welcomed and included, despite not really knowing the details of what was happening.

After several hours of sitting, but still an hour or so from the huge pyre in the middle of the Meskel Square being lit, we had had enough. People were still picking their way, step by step, in between the seated crowd. I was starting to feel claustrophobic, and the trampled crowds on Mecca last week kept creeping into the periphery of my mind. So I asked T to leave. We speculated if it was even possible, then stood with difficulty. We said goodbye, and started picking our way, step by step, through the seated spectators. Once we reached the side, there was standing room only, and people were pressed so tightly against each other, it was impossible to move. I started using my Canadian charm, and with no care for personal space, switched spots with people, thanking them profusely in Amharic. I dragged T forward. She later said the crowds reminded her indeed of India. At one point I flashed panic. We were trying to crawl uphill towards the entrance. The entire crowd was pushing and started to sway in a way, exclaiming in that communal tone “ohhh!” I flashed panic, and then saw a kind man several feet above me offering his hand. “Here sister!” He yelled. I grabbed his hand, grabbed T’s with my other hand, and hauled ourselves up towards the back wall.

It was easier after that, and we managed to break free of the throng as we hit the street. Much to our amazement, people were still flooding towards the square. We walked up and out against the crowds. Once and a while, a young man would shout exuberantly, “wrong way!” But we had had enough. We absorbed the outfits, the families, the festive mood.

We stopped for a brief bathroom break at the Hilton. Yes, we totally exercised our white privilege on that one. We wondered… Where do people pee when they are stuck like canned oysters in a tin for hours on end? There certainly are no bathrooms…

We hailed a cab up to the university area, got out at Arat kilo and looked for some supper. We ended up at a restaurant I had been to before during the day. It has two huge patios between the high rise buildings and the street. The music was blaring as we took a seat, as far as possible from the speakers. Blaring music is definitely one of those cultural things we’ve not quite gotten used to in Ethiopia. We ordered doro wat, shiro, a beer and a water, and it was less than $10. The best value meal we have had anywhere! There was an MC who was constantly shouting advertisements into the mic for this occasion and other events at the restaurant, and breaking into dancing between sets. Six young dancers came onto the open area in front of the bar, scattered with grass, and did some of the best traditional dancing I have ever seen. T and I barely talked, but enjoyed watching the other diners. The cool thing about Ethiopia is that almost any occasion is for kids. Very one was drinking and eating, but there were families with small children, who occasionally joined the MC at the front, busting a move. Grandparents, parents, young men and couples were all celebrating together. That’s an Ethiopian custom I totally love.

After the restaurant, it was 15 minute walk to our new guest house. The streets were busy, with people walking. Just as we passed a military compound, the soldiers started to light the pyre, walking around it with torches, singing and dancing about. Further down the dark steer, neighbours in white nutella were singing all together in someone’s yard, and they had laid out candles in the shape of a cross on the street. The pyre was covers in meskel flowers, waiting to be lit. We continued on, past a bar, and the streets got emptier. There were groups of young drunk men walking together, but less families, so I started to get nervous and beat a quick path for the guest house. T was non-plussed, but she has greater faith in humanity than I do.

Finally, uneventfully, we walked thought the locked gate, and up to our guest house apartment. The for was open, despite us having locked it when we left. T sat on the sofa, and looked at me. I looked at her. And within a minute, we decided to move. There was no guard, it was not a particularly fantastic neighbourhood, and we felt exposed with barred windows on all sides of our room.

So we made a late night taxi ride with a thankfully Muslim (aka sober) taxi driver back t our first guest house. After a half bottle of wine, some chocolate and deep sighs of relaxation, we fell to bed. A wonderful, eventful, exciting Meskel!

Melkam Bal!

Now we are off for a coffee ceremony… A lovely holiday to all our Orthodox and Hebesha friends!