Thursday, August 29, 2013

Working With What We've Got Part II

Jon came out, Little A nowhere in sight. We had plans of a family walk combined with language practice. 

He spun around and said, "We could spend $100 bucks on another kid carrier or just use what we already have!"

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Between my hysterical laughter and picture-taking, we chatted with our neighbor. While waiting to walk, LIttle A decided Mama's carrier with Little J looked a tad more comfortable. Jon said I ruined it…something about my laughing at them. Come on, how could I see this scene and not laugh?!

After we walked for awhile, with Little A on Jon's shoulders, back pack empty on his back, Little J, our daring child, decided to graciously switch spots with her sister, she wanted to try the pack. 

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 She used it as a standing platform, chatting to Jon along the way. She occasionally turtled down...

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And then would get bored and pop back up to talk some more.Image 9

Please keep in mind, we are already a spectacle on the streets because we are farenj, white skin completely sticking out. We were getting plenty of comments and congratulations on my carrying a child, "Ethiopian style".  

Then add an identical little Ethiopian girl popping unexpectedly out of Jon's backpack, chattering in English, oblivious to the shock she was causing.  I am surprised we didn't cause an accident. 

 Hilarious. We will do this again so we can video the reactions. 


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tackling Language Learning

When we get to language school early (can depend on traffic) Jon and I quiet ourselves a moment at a nearby cafe and we savor $0.20 macchiatos. Coffee and I, we don't really like each other, but we have entered a truce purely based on the coffee's positive qualities that I need in my life, warmth and caffeine.

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Husbands and wives are not allowed to be in the same class in phase one so after our drinks, we split up for the morning, (seeing each other at tea time and devotions, mid-morning).

Learning a new language is a huge and unending task; however, we are motivated by our talking obsession and we are both loving the learning. 

We are so thankful for a two week training on language learning we had in Colorado before we came because it completely debunked some myths widely accepted about language learning and the truths give us encouragement now. 

Myth #1:  If you weren't exposed as a child to the language you are trying to learn, it is impossible for you to correctly produce the sounds.

FALSE! Human anatomy is the same whether from Asia, Africa or Antartica and so we have all the parts to be able to produce every sound known to man. However, just because we can, doesn't mean it is easy. At our training, we literally had drill practice and had to put our mouths in uncomfortable and difficult positions over and over (I didn't enjoy this part of the day) but now I think of it often when I am exasperated over my inability to reproduce what I am hearing. 

When learning Spanish, I couldn't trill my "rr's". I had studied for several years and thought I was just not capable…until the day I was riding home in the back of a pick up truck with 15 teenagers (standing room only in the truck, looking back I shudder at that foolishness, YIKES). They decided it was time for me to learn and focused their energy and attention on the sound by repeatedly asking me to say, "ferrocarril". After a few days at their constant badgering, the sound came out. It felt awkward and forced and it took concentration. Nothing about it was comfortable or easy but I am thankful they kept after me because I learned. I can make that sound in Spanish and it now feels natural and second nature. There happens to be a trilled r in Amharic and I smile that I've learned that one!

As I wrestle with new sounds, it feels so awkward, to move my tongue in different ways, try to push the air out at different intervals and from different spots in my mouth and still not quite get it, I remember, my mouth is the same as an Ethiopians!  It just takes work and vigilance against laziness.

Myth #2: Children always learn faster than adults

This is one I know in theory but not from experience yet. By mimicking a child's learning style (listening for a good many months (birth to whatever age they start talking) as adults with advanced thought processing, we should be able to use their techniques with our tools and learn at a more rapid pace. However, it is easier for a child to hear a language and mimic it's exact sound and they can just learn by listening, listening, listening. It does seem like it is harder to learn the older we get…my theory, maybe our brains just get too full. :) There I go, perpetuating another myth. 

Language learning does open up new areas in the brain and that's pretty awesome, I need every area possible!

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There are six students in my class and one "nurturer". In our class, there is a mom from California, here because her Ethiopian husband has moved back to train church leaders, a woman from Korea preparing to work with remote peoples, a sweet, sweet nun from India who after serving the poor for 30 years there has retired and is spending her retirement serving the poor here, an American father of six, working with his church to open a daycare in the poorest area of Addis Ababa and a brand new Mama, also from the USA, preparing for ministry in the slums.  

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We are often touching our manipulatives, engaging different areas of learning styles. In this activity we were responding to commands like, "Amy, cut the banana in half, feed the banana to the horse. Give the dog a drink of water". So, we are still in the listening process and although their is no way I am even close to speaking those sentences, I understand and can respond and that is kind of amazing, we have been in school for 8 days. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Over The Rainy Season

This morning at language school, during our prayer time, Judy thanked God for the rain as without it, Ethiopia would be a dry and dusty place. 

I was thankful for the reminder of the blessing of rain as I've been feeling a bit grumpy about it. So, while I am a Mama who is ready for the warm season to come and the sun to shine again, I will rejoice in the downpours and the mud pies and filthy clothes, knowing this season will soon pass and it is necessary and life-giving.

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The Littles, well, they don't mind it one bit. Doug and Jill brought them these sweet little umbrellas and they look forward to the rain. 

I raise my umbrella in a toast with the belief and hope that the sun will shine again.




Monday, August 26, 2013

Busting Out of My Box

Language is fascinating and Amharic school has been nothing short of stimulating, excited and exhausting. 

Every language has a "sound box" which includes every sound that said language produces. English has 44 sounds. There are familiar sounds in our new language and uncharted territories in our mouths as well.

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For our first 2 1/2 weeks, we pack in the vocab words with pictures and have begun responding to basic commands. We are just listening now and aren't even allowed to try to speak!  The theory is that with lots of listening (learning like a child) the end accent will be better. I color during learning as it keeps my mind from wondering. 

The Littles are in a temporary situation still, we have hired last week's nanny to come to our house this week but next week need to transition to a different woman, Aberet. Aberet will be around our house in the mornings this week so they girls will get to know her a bit more. They are going through a oh-my-word-they-are-sassy-and-so-so-volatile-and-fussy stage right now. We are all feeling for our new routine. They have begun to slowly incorporate basic Amharic words into their vocabulary. Their nanny is supposed to speak to them in Amharic but I am pretty sure she slips into English often. :)

 Happy Monday!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Working With What We've Got

August in the highlands means lots of gloom and very little sunshine. So when those rays peeked through the clouds, The Littles decided it was time to swim.

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Though they mentioned, "Wow, at Grandma's house, we used to have a bigger pool than this" they were delighted to splash in tiny tubs. :)

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They did request I buy them bigger buckets for "next time it's summer".

I love to watch them make more with less.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Babies On Their Backs

Language School started on Monday.

Our M-F Schedule we are trying to get on...

7:30: leave for language school

8:15: Arrive, settle The Littles (They are playing in a small room, we take books, toys, snacks and a women nearby is watching them)

12:00: Pick up The Littles

1:00ish: Arrive home. (This can be earlier or later, depending on how much we chat after class, how lost we get, how bad traffic is and if I need to stop to get groceries)

1:15: Eat Lunch

2:00: Girls nap, Jon and I study and go over our recordings.

4:00 Girls play (We hope to start doing our language routes as a family in this hour, although the girls want to use it playing here)

5:00: I start making dinner, Depending on the days' mental exhaustion, Jon will start light homeschooling The Littles, mostly just reading good books, doing the enjoyable parts to not add stress to our lives.

6:00: Eat dinner

7:30: Girls in bed

During language school, your body/brain needs two extra hours of sleep a night. Not sure when we are going to fit that in. :)

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

Next week, we have a woman who can watch them here. Can you pray for us about this? We want to be wise and discerning and have a women who is very dear and highly recommended to do child care, but this just feels very big to me as we would be about 45 minutes away. We may possibly have The Littles play at a friends' house (parents are also in language school) 2 mornings a week.


Babies On Their Backs

I have a few more days wrap up of our time in the North.

Here are The Littles, with lovies strapped on their backs. They went into the pasture and told the girls, "We are like you". The humorous part was this lasted about five minutes before Little J started complaining that her 8 oz lovie was too heavy and she couldn't carry it. The irony was the girls looking on with babies on their backs had no complaint. :)

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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Rest Of The Story

For the many who requested the full story from yesterday's Facebook/Instagram post, I am afraid my words cannot do justice to describe last night's events but here is the brief story. 

We were meeting friends in Addis Ababa. Brad and JJ are long-time friends, even though we just recently met in person. They delivered our first care package to The Littles and sent back sweet pictures that we cherished and stared at daily while we waited and waited to hold them for the first time.

While we planned to eat out for dinner, they brought along a man, D*, who Jon and I knew had a connection to The Littles' past. We knew he could fill in some gaps for us as well. Because this is the world wide web, there are details I cannot share but it was so fabulous to hear bits and pieces of their early puzzle about which we could only guess.

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The Littles were getting down on the stage, D* was watching them and then motioned to Little J, said her Ethiopian name (now her middle name) and asked who was taller. He then said Little A's. I was surprised and after a few more questions, I realized he knew much more about The Littles. After a bit more conversation, I was stunned and said, "Do you mean, you are the man who named them?" "Yes, yes." he responded. He explained why the names had been chosen. He was the man who was at the hospital with them. D* was the one who took them to a care center and made sure they were watched over and fed enough to keep their little bodies full of life. As we talked more, he recounted their exact weight when he brought them into care.

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And what do you say? How do you ever thank the person who kept your kids alive and loved them when we couldn't?

My words are only cheapening the whole evening. 


All In A Day's Work

In Western worldview, it's common to think that impoverished people are lazy or unintelligent.

We say, "C'mon, pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get a job!"

Not everyone is born with boots.

Do you want to meet an entrepreneurial genius?

Meet the man or woman feeding their family on less than $2 a day. After looking at different sources online, I found that $370-380 is the average annual income in Ethiopia. That is about $1.04 a day. Here are approximations on what you can buy if you had $1.25 (countryside prices, slightly cheaper than city life).

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So, that could buy these bananas...

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Or a dozen eggs

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Or another Ethiopian staple, coffee beans to roast.

 Just a bit to think about as I eat and prepare my family's meals today. 


Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Apartment

We are in a very spacious apartment, it looks like it was set up for the bedrooms to be rented out separately. It was lined up for us by SIM. The building shares a compound with a privately run Swedish school.

Showing our current home feels a bit vulnerable. I run the risk of your judgement on how we should be living, what our house should look like. Maybe I am just projecting my guilt issues on you. :) So, you withhold your judgment and I won't assign my issues to you. Deal? ;) 

There are four apartments in the red brick side. Each apartment is laid out differently. Ours is a two bedroom unit. To the right (starting at the white division) is the school. This is attended by international kids as well as Ethiopian children. 

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This is walking into our front door

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If you go through the door, there is a hallway…We don't have a good spot to store our totes so you may notice a few in every room.

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There are four doors. The first on the left is the bathroom.

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It has two shower stalls and two toilet stalls. Hey! Maybe I could store the extra totes in one of the shower stalls! Wow, this tour is very helpful for me.

Across the hall, the first door is our room. 

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We have a grumpy fish painted on our wall. :)  The room is large with a queen bed. Jon keeps gushing about how big it is as we have spent the summer on a full. Simba and Nala appear to be sleeping in our bed...

Walking into the last door on the left, there is a large common living space (dining, living, kitchen combined, very practical space)

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A view of the kitchen with a very decorated fridge. 

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The last room on the right is The Littles'. It is spacious and they have plenty of room to play.

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This is really an ideal place for our family of four. Our neighbors are amazing too...

This is looking out our bedroom window. It is a playground for the school that we are free to use.

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Another view of the playground...

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Here the girls are playing with their friend Lily. Also, the woman we lined up to watch The Littles next week at language school came over this morning and spent about 1 1/2 hours getting acquainted with the girls. They liked her but were definitely touchy about everything. 

This is a view upon entering the gate to the right. It is a soccer field and the two blobs you see out there are the resident turtles (The Littles are terrified of them-of all the animals to be afraid of, I have really tried to convince them that is a turtle is the LEAST of their concerns). 

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Ready or not, Monday is coming. We are so glad to start language school and look forward to our time there. I can feel anxious about The Littles transition and behavior but have watched God repeatedly provide in this arena. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Imaginary Play

Now that we are in a city, it will be interesting to watch how The Littles play shifts.

What used to be The Littles' tea set is now transformed into a coffee set.

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I love to hear what they are pretending. This particular day, they were taking turns hosting three rounds of coffee in each in their "homes". My favorite comment was, "Okay, now you can come and use my hole potty."

It reminds me of one of our last times to eat in local home, Little J came in, "Umm. I have to go to the bathroom". We smiled, "Little J, can you wait until we go home?" (Holding a three year old up while she takes FOREVER to poop is less than ideal). She responded, "Okay, I can, but I will poop down my leg". We took her. 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Over the past several days, there has been a recurrent theme in our conversation. We spend a lot of time talking about "home" or in our case, the idea of "home". 

LIttle A said, "I have lived in five homes! That's sad!" We told her it hasn't been that many but then she and Little J recounted five they could remember (including a two week training in North Carolina and a five week training in Colorado).

So, pulling out conversations from our archives we have had with other parent's of third culture kids (TCKs) we capitalized on this to talk about our true home, heaven.

The Littles listened quietly, interested and intrigued. After I finished my explanation of our FOREVER home, Little A lightly responded, "But I want my forever home now".

We went through each home and talked about people we met and loved there, experiences and memories we never would have made if we hadn't been in that "home."

Tuesday, we settled into our apartment home in a city of millions of people. It has great potential to be cozy and we are blessed by the size of it and our neighbors. We are on a compound with two other families. One family (here for two weeks) has a three year old girl. They spent some time today getting to know each other, along with another nine-year old neighbor girl who will be here for our whole time.

We have been running like crazy around the city, trying to tie up loose ends. We popped into headquarters (HQ) where there is a guesthouse that we stay in and also our administration building. Jon had a few meetings and I had forgotten a few things in the laundry room and freezer. The Littles were playing on the playground and came and found me to tell me their shoes were wet and they wanted to take them off. Responding without thought, I said, "We will take them off when we get home." Little A began to wail, "But THIS is HOME." She is making "home" whatever is known. We have stayed at HQ a total of about 15 nights.

At trainings, we were advised to make every place "home" regardless of how short a time we are staying. So, for three-five months, we settle in here. We have chosen to make The Littles bedroom as similar as possible in each location. We drag along their lovies, pillows and lightweight fleece blanket everywhere we go. We even brought their heavy comforters that they are used to in Injibara. At least their bed feels very cozy today. :)

As I unpacked yesterday, I kept questioning how worth it this was as it will seem like we turn around and do it again soon. After spending some time weighing the pros and cons, I decided, for right now, we need to unpack, need to nest in and do what we can to make this place home.

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A typical day in the highlands became like normal to The Littles and they felt at "home" there. 

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I know soon, the space we occupy in the city will come have a routine and a feeling of home.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beautiful Torture

I sat, white-knuckled as Jon braked, swerved and breathed a prayer of relief as the donkey made it safely to the other side of the road. It seemed like it wanted to run straight into our vehicle.

Picture a 4-H parade, people and animals filling the streets. Now try to drive through it. This is what a town looks like on market day and we drive through a lot of towns from Injibara to Addis Ababa.


Because it is the rainy season the roads are in worse condition than 2 months ago. At one point, (I was driving at my husband's insistence) Jon said, it's okay, our vehicle has a snorkel. I laughed at his funny joke and then realized he was serious. About 2+ hours of the 10 hour trip, it is like trying to make good time through a freshly plowed field.

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Ahh, the wide open road...

There are portions in the Blue Nile Gorge where they road drops 2-3 feet with little warning. The Bradt Ethiopia Travel book describes the Blue Nile Gorge as such, "A truly magnificent gorge…is often to be cited as the largest canyon in Africa…you will cross the gorge on one of the most chilling roads I have ever seen. Built by the Italians and supported by viaducts in several places it is an awesome feat of engineering…"

Add on top of this the people, oh the people. If you hit a person, it could be jail time. If you hit a donkey, sheep, goat, cow, dog, horse, you need to stop, find the owner and pay for the animal. While I was driving, a woman walking in the middle of the road wouldn't move, no matter how much I honked, I tried to hit the brake and hit the clutch. Needless to say, Jon yelling "BRAKE!" was a bit frightening for all of us but I think he was the most scared I was going to hit the woman. We think she was mentally unstable, usually someone who just roams and wonders like that is "crazy".

All of that whining aside, it is seriously probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and around every bend, we see something, a way of life that we have never seen before. Here again is our paradox we find ourselves enjoying so much here. 

I describe it to you, only so you can know how much your prayers are literally a life line.

Okay, here is some of the trip.

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Definitely the highlight is seeing the baboons. They aren't so nice, but fun to watch from the vehicle.

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We saw a few too many of these.

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Two months ago, there weren't many waterfalls but because of the rainy season, we were blessed with many cascades.

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So glad for Addis Ababa to come into view but dismayed by the smog over the city.

We stayed at SIM headquarters (where we spent our first few weeks) and today we moved to our apartment for the next three-five months. More on this tomorrow. 

I unpacked things and Jon went to go finalize on our vehicle!  When he got home three hours later, he had some very disappointing news, the vehicle had fallen through. Vehicles are so difficult to find here and so costly. He had even flown down to Addis this summer to make sure we didn't miss this one. We trust that God is sparing us a vehicle full of hassles. The Lord gives and takes away.

We have until next Monday, when we start language school to attend to loose ends in Addis. 

Two prayer points:

1) God would provide a vehicle for us within the next three months.

2) We have found a woman to watch the girls in the mornings when we are at language school. Please pray they would immediately feel comfortable with her and secure and settled here. She will start in two weeks. Next week, the girls will come to the school with us and we will have someone watch them there. 

God bless you all.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Addis Bound

Yep, we have started packing and heading back to Addis Ababa 6 am Monday morning. Any of you who want to hold an all-night prayer vigil for our trek on your Sunday night, you are welcome to! ;)

This summer, we were sent to our "final" location because in trainings we have learned that where you land initially, is where you bond. We have bonded, this place is already knit tightly in our hearts and it feels like home. Jon and I credit this entirely to your prayers, that this new place in a new land feels like we belong here. 

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I guess it's not hard to love a land like this.

And a people, rich in tradition, living tenaciously, who have been warmly received us.

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Living in Addis in some ways is very welcome. We really need to learn Amharic and will soon be starting language school. In addition, we will have access to fellowship, and more food items and restaurants (Gasp! Cherie even told me there is a good ice cream place!)

We are trying to fit in a flurry of things at the end. We hosted four meals for friends and were invited to four places (all within our last five days). One of our main goals and prayers for this summer were relationships, and because of the faithful service of Mark, Debbie and Cheryl (our faithful teammates who have endured much hardship here) we came into people open to start friendships.

We have friends.

It has been an incredible summer. Even healthwise, besides the standard stomach issues (nothing serious) we felt great.

Now off to the next house, the next short chapter (5 months) in our transitional year, Addis Ababa, here we come!




Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ramadan, The Goat and Dinner Guests

We do have a routine around here. Nevertheless, like all routines, they are always being pushed and changed. Never quite knowing what life is going to throw at you can be exhausting and it can be exhilarating. To be in the midst of new experiences and realize they are becoming normal is a welcome feeling. Like yesterday, I stopped and asked directions of where I could buy good coffee. The man looks at me, smiles and says, "Scoot over, I will show you" and we are off, chatting it up with a random stranger who has us drop him off at a tea house when we are done and nothing about it felt weird.

Today is the end of the Muslim Ramadan fast and the goat that has been getting fattened at our house has lived it's last moments. About three days ago, the goat was taken off the top of the minibus where it had been strapped from a market about 1 hour away, "Dangala-where it is warmer and the goats are fatter." It was a cute goat as far as goats go and shivering from it's wet, chilly, traumatic journey.

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Jon got in the vehicle a few minutes after he loaded the goat and was vexed, "I must have stepped in manure or something, the Land Cruiser smells like animal…" and then we busted up laughing because there was a goat practically looking over his shoulder.

The goat needed a ride into town and Jon wanted to learn how to butcher it, Muslim style. We were all invited to celebrate with the family but we had already invited dinner guests over and there wasn't time for me to make food and go into town. 

Never fear though, you don't have to miss out on the experience, Jon documented it, though I will spare you the gore.

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It was a smart goat, totally knew what was coming. 

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Jon said it was the best goat he has ever had and the best tibs he has eaten. We will have an opportunity to celebrate on Saturday and The Littles and I will get to taste the cute goat.

And Jon made it back in time for dinner. We had no meat with the meal as it is now a fasting time from all animal or animal products for the Ethiopian Orthodox.

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It does not matter how smiley a person is, the standard Ethiopian picture pose is serious-faced but this is about the smiliest family in the world. 

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Aah. So much better. :) That is how they really look. Don't they  have the greatest smiles?