Melkam Fasika

Two weekends ago we had the pleasure of going for an Easter celebration at my Eritrean friend Aster’s house. It was a joyous, relaxed occasional, with a plethora of food and good company.

Melkam Fasika

We had a dazzling array of food. It’s neat to talk with Aster and the other Eritrean women about the differences and similarities between Eritrean and Ethiopian food. There are more similarities than differences, of course. That’s the way we feel about each other. One of my two besties is Menbi, who is Ethiopian. And the other of her two besties (one is me!) is Aster. I remind myself on occasions like that that not everywhere would gatherings of Ethiopians and Eritreans take place. To add to that, there were Orthodox, Evangel Christians, Muslims and Buddhists at this Easter celebration. Both Jason and I felt blessed my our community and the acceptance of Habesha friends. We love it that 1/2 of the conversation is in Amharic (with side conversations of Tigrayan and Oromiffa) and 1/2 in English. It helps my brush up on my Amharic understanding when the conversation is mixed, too.

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One of the other gems of the day was when I was talking to the Jordanian woman who lives in Aster’s basement with her family. We had met before, but didn’t know each other’s families. “Which one is your husband?” She asked. There were two white women , including me, at the celebration, so she didn’t know if we were the interracial couple. “The white one, I chipped back with a smile.” As a mom of two daughters who live as minorities in a majority white culture, I relish those few moments when my us and I are the ones in the minority.

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The last highlight of the day was the honour Aster bestowed on me when she asked me to make coffee for everyone. Granted, she was using my jebuna (Ethiopian coffee pot,) since I have the biggest one in our group. But instead of just using it, she asked me to prepare the coffee. For those of you that don’t know, in Ethiopian culture, the woman of the house prepares the coffee. If she has a daughter that is old enough (her daughter is getting there, but was playing with the other kids,) she can do it, or a younger relative. Anyway, my punchline was that I was enlisted as a younger cousin or member of the extended family would be, and it tickled me pink.

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I hope you all had lovely Easter celebrations as well, and enjoyed the peace and friendship of your communities.

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Our Family Braves the Chaos

Summer in the Okanagan is always a time for family. The first summer we were here, we were completely overrun. But now in the midst of construction and a crazy busy summer, only the truly devoted brave visit to our house.

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My BFF was so awesome… Not only did she bring her three kids including the little newest baby to see us, but she also stayed in a hotel nearby. I felt so bad not having her in our house, but it really wasn’t safe for the small children with all the medical equipment. Probably wasn’t safe for all our medical equipment to be around the baby and 2 4-year-olds either! Plus, we look like hoarders right now. The boxes filled several rooms and hallways…

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Auntie Von and her namesake, Sugar

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Anyway, their baby sleeps all but 6 to 8 hours a day, so it was nice for them to have some peace and quiet as well. We had one of the twins come over and play with the girls, had some beach time, and a nice long visit on the balcony of her hotel room. We polished off a bottle of wine and did that wonderful catching up that you can only really seem to do in person.

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Anyway, their baby sleeps all but 6 to 8 hours a day, so it was nice for them to have some peace and quiet as well. We had one of the twins come over and play with the girls, had some beach time, and a nice long visit on the balcony of her hotel room. We polished off a bottle of wine and did that wonderful catching up that you can only really seem to do in person.

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My brother also came to visit, on his annual summer voyage through Central British Columbia. We appreciate that he takes the time to CS, as it’s virtually impossible investment in time to travel up north for us at the moment. Uncle B chilled on the sofa bed and survived the chaos of living at our house with all the boxes around. We had some nice beach time, and he enjoyed some much-needed catch-up time with the kids. They have a blast when he’s around… He’s like a big child himself!

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We also had lovely visit with friends from Alberta, of which there is no photo documented evidence. Both our friends are vets, and he was great talking about the construction of our clinic with them, has been going through the same thing within the last two years. They also have the nicest kids… And ours got along so well.

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Another honourable mention went to our friends who organized to meet outside our house. We just set the night, and J booked the bowling lanes for us. Super fun… And no guilt on our part about not working, and no set up time, either! So fun, and so easy. Thank you!

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Only a couple days, and our house will be empty of boxes, and have room for more friends and family!

5 Tips for Successful Adoption Homeland Travel in Ethiopia

By popular request, I have compiled some of our family’s tips on successful homeland travel in Ethiopia. Not that I am an authority on the subject!… Others travel much more often than we did. But we had an amazingly successful trip, with happy children, happy grandparents, happy parents, and happy birth family at the end of the trip.

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1.Plan your trip around your children’s wants and needs at this time.

We talked extensively with the girls about what their priorities were at this point in their lives, at seven years old, and 5 years from their adoption. Our recent trip was as much about reconnecting with Ethiopia, as it was about seeing family in person. So the girls made the priorities, and we executed them. We made sure that no one else’s priorities took precedent, and so we were able to do exactly what the girls needed on the trip. In our case, that was to go to the spa, spend time in the bush with wild animals, and see their family.

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2.Take only useful people.

When planning the trip, we really thought about who we should invite and take along. We decided to invite my parents, and it was a great move. First of all, my mother has been to Ethiopia many times, and is comfortable in most situations. My father, well I was a little worried about him! in advance… I didn’t know how he would handle the culture shock. He just got very quiet for a few days, and after that, was like a duck in water. But I knew that the girls feel safe around him, and he would provide muscle , if needed. (Complicated family stuff.) He was also very helpful keeping an eye on the girls, and breaking the ice with young Ethiopian family members. The flipside is to make sure you don’t invite anyone to go on vacation. Homeland travel is about the kids, and their priorities can even easily get overthrown by adult priorities, especially people who have spent a lot of money to fly across the ocean.My advice is to not to take anyone who needs babysitting themselves. If they are uncomfortable in other cultures, not well-traveled, or have other high needs, take them on a cruise some other time. So in a nutshell, my tip is to take only people who want to be there to support the kids, not people who have their own agenda. Harsh, but that’s my advice.

3.Run scenarios about birth family.

Everybody has a different story, and everybody has a different relationship with their extended family in Ethiopia, or the country of your child’s birth. We have an open adoption, and my mother and I have this did the girls family before. But the last time that the girls were in personal contact with their family was five years ago, when we picked them up. So we knew exactly which family members we were going to see, but we didn’t know how they would react with the girls. We ran 1000 scenarios… And one or two more right before we left. We talked to doctors, counselors, and Ethiopians about what might happen with various groups of family members, and all that consultation and scenario forecasting totally paid off. The important part of this is that we talked through each scenario with the girls. No matter what happened, we knew what our plan was. The girls knew that if they were overwhelmed, we would allow them to stay in a safe place with a parent or grandparent. They also knew that they were not allowed to run off, and knew some of the cultural events that might happen. I can’t stress enough how much this paid off. We have extremely complicated extended family, and it helped us navigate what would have been several overwhelming days. (A side note, some people object to us saying our family, but within our open adoption, that’s what our I feel can family calls us and that’s what we called them. Family. And the parents and grandparents are included!)

4.Expose your child to as many cultural practices as possible before you go.

Honestly, we didn’t plan this. It was a complete surprise, how much the girls connections with Ethiopian Canadian culture and my many visits and experiences from Ethiopia paid off. The girls learned a few words that they have heard before in short order, the language wasn’t the mean thing. The main thing was that they understood the basic intricacies of social interaction. They knew that anybody who was connected to them in anyway would scoop them up and smother them with kisses. They knew to make themselves scarce and quiet when adults were having coffee. They knew to take their food last after the adults, and that stuffing their faces was mandatory. All those little tiny things really paid off, and the girls felt completely comfortable in Ethiopia. Well not completely… Sugar did find Addis too busy for her. But aside from that, they were right at home. Fish in water.

5.Build in time for processing feelings.

My girls actually suggested that I put this on the list, because for them it was a huge part of the success of the trip. When we were planning our adventures, we made sure that we had time just as a family, without the excitement of Ethiopian family, friends, or volunteering. Even time away from the grandparents. For us, the times our little family feels closest is in remote locations with few distractions. Every family is different, but you know when you really gel and connect with each other: You need to make sure that this happens during the trip. My dad suggested that we go to the bush, Lake Langano, after our visit with the girls’ family, just in case they had big feelings to process. Well, the big feelings still haven’t arrived… But having that space and time with us together was wonderful. The girls also said they really appreciated having every evening together, with no distractions. We made sure that, when in Addis, we stayed at the same guesthouse each night, with private space and a little garden. That meant that there was consistency in location and in routine, even amongst our travels.

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Hopefully these tips and tricks for homeland travel are useful to you. Again, every situation is different, but I recommend going as soon and as often as you can afford. We told the girls that their next trip will be within five years, and they are happy with that. In closing, the second-biggest question I always get is about the fallout of our trip. “Do the girls have unresolved feelings, or big nagging doubts or questions?” We ran the scenarios! Lol, as you we’ll imagine. But the truth is, the culture shock and angst simply didn’t happen. Maybe because we were so prepared, or maybe because we were lucky, but our trip to Ethiopia was a highlight in the girls’ lives so far.

 

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 all my trips to Ethiopia to enjoy!

Sharuba: Styles for our Homeland Trip to Ethiopia

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!

For the next two weeks, our family will be traveling in Ethiopia. We are visiting family, volunteering, swimming with hippos and climbing trees with the monkeys. You can imagine there are a lot of preparations… Including, of course, doing my twin 7 year olds’ hair!

One daughter wanted some traditional braids, (Sharuba in Amharic,) that she could take in and out of buns. The other daughter wanted something distinctly “not seen in Ethiopia,” so we did her favourite Mohawk style, with braids on top. I think they both turned out lovely, and showcase their respective preppy and punk styles!

For both styles, we used Honey Almond Braid Balm to keep their braids in good condition while traveling. And of course, we always wear a sleep cap on the plane!

Please note that while we are on vacation, our Africa Sleeps store is OPEN, but the shipping department is closed (that would be me!)

We will send out all orders placed Monday Feb 3- Tuesday Feb 17 on Wednesday, Feb 18.

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