Wednesday, September 24, 2014


My sweet, strange little TCK’s.

To read more about Third Culture Kids, check out the previous post or this link.

Before Ethiopia, I had a dream of The Littles running free with all the village kids. It’s a dream that has not been realized for about 1,000 different reasons and I am not disappointed in The Littles. They have flexed and adapted well beyond what I thought they were capable. This credit goes straight to our God and all the prayers you have uttered on our behalf. 

They still do their fair share of playing with the neighborhood children, it just is different than I expected.

Somedays I wonder if they or we will ever really acculturate. We live in an “outsider” culture, simply explained by saying that our culture is one where if you come from somewhere else, that is always a part of one’s identity. Although, this has it’s own set of hope as an outsider can become a part of the community in their understood role as outsider, while still being seen as a beloved part of the tapestry. 

Other days, I laugh as I hear them playing and realize how far they have come. What is seen as “normal” to them is completely outside of my childhood realm of normal and comes with it’s own set of “yucks” and “yays”.

Like the day Debbie discovered The Littles didn’t know what ice was. Or carpet. Or the circus. There was the day when Little A asked, “Hey Mama, can we go to…Old Macdonalds? I remember we ate a hamburger there."

IMG 4151

(Since taking their braids out, the girls have begged to keep their puffy hair as they can brush it themselves. So, we are going through a four day period when they are choosing all their own clothes and doing their own hair. Unless we are going out, then I choose non-dress up clothes and put their hair in a pony tail. They love it and we are continually amused).

Last week Jon didn’t finish his dinner and was quickly told, “Daddy, there are people out there without food! You should eat it and be content."

IMG 4156

This shift in what is normal has been especially pronounced as they process our recent sheep purchase.

We have had this sheep or “cute, little lamb” as the girls call it. We made it clear from the day we brought it home that it would become our main dish at our upcoming party. As they have played with it, I overheard Little J soothe the sheep, “It’s okay, we aren’t going to eat” 

IMG 4170

Two days ago I looked out and a strange dog was making it’s way towards our sheep. I yelled, “There’s a dog!” to our guard, who was in the backyard. I ran out the front door to chase it away, followed by the girls. From the porch, Little A yelled at the dog, “Hey, that’s our sheep, you can’t eat it! We are going to!"

Today, the girls came to me and said, “Mama, do you think we could have the sheep’s bladder and make it a balloon?” (Thanks a lot, Laura Ingalls Wilder) “Umm…ok...why don’t you talk to daddy about your idea .” I am not putting my lips on a sheep’s bladder.

My sweet, strange, poofy, little TCK’s.

IMG 4192

Celebrate Now

I can identify many traits of the Third Culture Kid or TCK within The Littles.

To read a great, succinct article about TCK’s, click here.

They are faced with the many blessings and also burdens at living outside of their passport culture. A road ripe with rich experiences but also some significant hurdles.

Many TCK’s learn to really live life in the present as it is one transition after another. It seems like a continual goodbye for them...


They have grieved more than some adults maybe have to grieve in their entire lives.

But they also have a continual hello and after the initial shyness, I see a determined enjoyment of the friend. 

IMG 3560

One day I came into our main room to discover the girls drawing a travel plan all over the world map. 

And they know how to live up the moments.

IMG 3641

When Travis, a friend from Addis, visited while his wife and baby were in the USA, the girls warmed up in about one second and then made sure to include him on everything, teaching him really important things, like jumping jacks.

And they still don’t like goodbyes, but they are getting better at it. The Littles seem to understand that though it’s hard to say goodbye to good things, we get to say hello to other good things.

IMG 3699

And when Ingla, a friend from Sweden, who was our neighbor in Addis, came for a visit with her mom, I realized how much these TCK’s know how to celebrate in that moment. Ingla’s birthday is in two weeks. After they realized they wouldn’t be together for the day of the birthday, the trio begged to have a birthday party on the only night she was staying. 

I have learned much from them on grief but now I am also learning on how to joyfully live it up.

IMG 4119

And then we hiked up our hill and took our obligatory mountain shot. :)

The Littles said, “Let’s sit and enjoy the view”. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Salem No Shoulder Bump

(Today, talking in sweeping generalities.) :)

In the US, a greeting to a stranger or acquaintance is reserved, if it happens. As Americans, we maybe say, “hey”, acknowledge a passerby with a slight head nod and a smile. 

You have not greeted until you have greeted in Ethiopia, people. It’s an amazing process. One that is repeated many, many times a day. Don’t imagine a coworker slipping into work, that would be considered rude if the greeting process didn’t happen.

It starts with someone asking a question, usually, “Salem No?” but in the appropriate form if you are talking to a man, woman, elder or group. It is translated as “Is it peace?” 

Then a variation of questions along this line continue as you go in for the greet. 

A true sample of a recent conversation

Me: Are you peace?

Friend: How are you?

Me: How did you spend your night?

Friend: Are you peace?

Me: God be praised. Are you peace?

Friend: There is peace and your family? Are they peaceful?

Me: How is your wife?

Friend: And you children, how are your children?

Me: God be praised, they are fine. How are you children?

Friend: My children are peaceful, God be praised. How are you? How is Jon? 

Me: How did you spend the night?

Friend: God be praised and your family?

Etc, etc, etc. Sometimes, I decide in my head that I will not answer a question until the other person does. I often cave. :)

To get to the conversation without appropriately assuring the other’s state would show an disregard for the person you are addressing.

Picture walking into a hardware store in the US (considered a cold-climate culture). If you were approached by an employee, it is perfectly appropriate to say, “I am looking for nails, can you direct me to them?”  However, as we now live in a “warm-climate” culture, walking into a hardware store would consist of greeting the employee and inquiring about their family, even though you are perfect strangers, before you get the point of why you are at the hardware in the first place. If how different cultures relate to one another fascinate you, I recommend the book, “Foreign to Familiar”. It is so insightful. If you live in the US and are working with an international community, this is worth the read. 

Somewhere in that greeting, you have also come in close enough physical contact to do the greeting motions. Man to man as well as many woman to man greetings in our area consist of a right handshake while gripping your right elbow with your left hand and with a right shoulder bump. The more you are excited to see one another, the more times you bump shoulders.

An example of meeting a stranger on a path.

IMG 9956

The approach, greetings exchanged.

IMG 9957

Head lowered in respect

IMG 9958

Almost there

IMG 9959

The bump. They were strangers, just one bump.

Repeat with the others on the path.

Woman to woman kiss cheeks and many times, men and women kiss children’s faces or hands. I haven’t been able to get down a number of kisses. It seems like whatever you do, keep it in odd numbers. Three and five seem the most common to my laywoman’s observations.

IMG 9963

Same path, another group.

IMG 9965

The Littles endure the greetings and the kissing but really, they just want to chase their daddy.

IMG 9974

And hunt for monkeys. :)

There you go, next time you meet someone from Ethiopia, pull out the shoulder bump. :) 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Meat Day 4

As you read, we celebrated Ethiopian New Year. It is a time of coming together and visiting friends and relatives. It is also one of the three times a year when most local families eat meat. It is not that people wouldn’t like meat more often but it is costly. 

So, on New Year’s Day, many families butcher a sheep. The day following New Years was a Friday, which is a fasting day in which no animal products are consumed. So, we just had a normal day but got a few invites for the weekend. We ate meat again on Saturday.

IMG 9900

It is such a place of honor to be invited into a home and served meat and we were so blessed by it. 

Chunks of bone are passed as well and though we eat everything with our hands, we use injera to scoop it up. When a bone comes, this gets picked up without injera and every morsel of meat or white meat (fat) eaten. Community plates are used and if there is something you don’t want or like, it can be spit or thrown on the floor of the house. Everything gets swept after a meal. 

By our Sunday invite, I was feeling quite nervous about eating 4 day old meat that hadn’t been refrigerated.

IMG 9905

The guard at our house was drying and cleaning the new sheep skin as we left the gate. The girls called it a “meat skin”.

IMG 9909

Here we were served a feast, a meat stew, meat on the bone, hard boiled eggs and Ethiopian cabbage.

IMG 9910

The Littles were so delighted to get their own corn stalk.

IMG 9912

We knew it was eaten as a treat but not how to eat it. This was not how to do it.

IMG 9913

This boy would peel it with is teeth and then hand chunks to the girls and then they sucked all of the sugar until was a stringy pulp.

IMG 9919

They loved it and called it their “sugar stick”.

IMG 9922

IMG 9929

Some of the kids of the house. Their father has passed away.

IMG 9944

Our stomachs were unscathed. :)

And that is the end of our 2007 New Year’s parties.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zero The Hero

I am a homeschool mom. There was a period of my life when I would have choked over those words. Contrary to my previous feelings about this status, it’s kind of awesome. 

Through talking to many other mamas, I realize that starting with two kids at the same level with no smallers crawling over my feet is the ideal beginnings. The girls are four and so school is like this exciting discovery journey…talk to me in a few years. I started this summer and then we took a two week break and then officially had a start date in September. 

The principal of the school is involved when he can. 

IMG 4045

A favorite for the girls and Jon is when he does the “read alouds” in the hammock.

Jon has memories of his principal swooping in as “Zero The Hero” on any day completed ending in zero. So, on our tenth day of school, we had a visitor.

IMG 4058

He handed out candies in the shape of zeros and explained that he came on the tenth day, “1-0” and that he would come back on the 20th, etc, etc. Jon built excitement about school day 100 because it has two zeroes and we will do a big project. Zero the Hero made a hasty exit and then at lunch time, Jon asked the girls to tell them about this hero. The Littles were convinced it was Jon until he told his air-tight alibi and how it couldn’t possibly be him. Their words tumbled out, so excited to tell Jon about our visitor. He checked for comprehension.

Jon: So, why did Zero the Hero come today?

A: Well, yesterday was the holiday and so he couldn’t come then.

Jon: Did he come because it was the 10th day of school?

J&A: blank stares

Jon: What do you get to do on day 100?

J: We will take our cute little lamb and kill and eat it. 

IMG 4059

Yep, they totally got it.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Year 2007

Before we talk about this New Year, thanks to those who have responded about our previous post. My genius SIL had the idea that I make an online lists to help with management. Thanks Sarah, what a great idea! If you are interested, here is our wish list. Thank you for your consideration!

Onto our New Year celebration!  September 11th is a day remembered by all Americans as a day of tragedy for our country. It is also the day for Ethiopia’s New Year. Today marks the beginning of the year 2007. We have a different calendar, you should google it, it’s fascinating. 

IMG 4037

If someone was here with no calendar access, big holidays are predictable by the amount of live goats and sheep on top of public transport. I have seen up to twenty live animals strapped down as the minibus flies down the road.

The morning started with a trip to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

IMG 9849

There were supposed horse races to happen but it was too muddy and is postponed to a later date. 

IMG 9854

We then went to our friend, Yeshi’s house. Yeshi lives in a town about 30 kilometers away.

IMG 3657

It was our first time meeting Yeshi’s family and we loved it.

IMG 3672

The girls made pretend injera while the other adults ate doro wet (a traditional spicy chicken and egg dish) and drank coffee.

IMG 3660

Grinding the fresh roasted coffee beans. A group of five priests came in with a drum and songs.

IMG 3677

 I am so thankful for this dear friend.

IMG 9888

We walked to a neighbor’s house for the evening meal.

IMG 4049

Here we ate sheep tibs and we had coffee full of spiced butter. Between the “white” meat (the fat is considered a delicious part of the animal) and the butter in my coffee, I decided that food eaten to be culturally appropriate doesn’t count as calories. 

IMG 9891

At 5:00 pm, The Littles were given a Pepsi and a round of coffee. Amazing. 

May your 2007 be full of life (and sleeping kids)!



Wednesday, September 10, 2014



I don’t know how to do this in a non-needy way. I am going to list a few things we would love to have or borrow.

Sign up for it here: Jon and Amy’s Wishlist

English classes are going well.

IMG 3769

Crayon #101 

The first time coloring was more uneventful than the day I decided to teach painting to kids who didn’t know what a paintbrush is.

IMG 4015

So many of you have sent craft and art supplies that our being well-used, by The Littles, our guests just passing through and our neighborhood kids.

Kids’ scissors and crayons are always great

We would like to collect items when we are in the USA for a wedding, our return to Ethiopia in early January 2015


Each class involves a story, Reference post on “What’s A Boat?!”  This experience brought to my attention that a simple flannelgraph set could greatly enhance understanding. Also, any small realistic toys, vehicles, animals, household items, etc

-world map (laminated if possible)


-Small white dry erase boards

-multiple packs of dry erase crayons (we keep losing the lids for our markers!)

-Simple kids books that could enhance English teaching experience

-Very basic coloring books

IMG 4021

-Watercolors (WASHABLE)

-Stickers that depict real life things (animals, vehicles, etc)

IMG 4026

I asked Yenework which sticker she wanted. She smiled and pulled off the background sheet and slapped it on her shirt. When you are three, bigger is always better. 

Back to the USA

As we weren’t planning on being in the USA for a winter in quite some time, we got rid of most of our winter things. As we will be coming back now, to the USA for my brother’s wedding, we are missing some winter wardrobe pieces that I was hoping to borrow.

If anyone has these items and they are willing to lend for three weeks this winter, can you please sign up here?

IMG 3869

Otherwise, my kids may look like this. A combo of dress up clothes, pajamas, too small of shoes and an oversized shirt.

-2 pairs of size 10 girls’ snow boots

-2 nice winter coats girls’ size 5 

-2 winter coats to play in the snow, size 5

-2 pairs of snow pants, also size 5

- girls jeans, size 4 or 5

 -2 car seats for age 5 kids

For Mama to borrow:

-hair straightener and blow dryer

 If you are interested in either lending or sending items, please check out this link

We do have another needs/wants list that is more care package type items, I am not going to post it as I already feel extremely needy posting this, if you are interested, let me know and I will send it to you. :)


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Lake, First Take

Through English classes, I usually end with a story. During the story, “Jesus Calms the Storm”, I realized the kids had no context for a boat. 

After a toy boat was produced, I had the kids guess at it’s function. “Umm, is it a shoe?!” They held it upside down. I tried to describe a boat’s function. Nothing clicked. So, we pulled out little toy figurines, filled a tub with water and floated our toy boat.

As Jon and I talked, we decided that having a lake only 20 minutes away was a very easy opportunity to let the students not only see a boat but also experience it. 

We hadn’t fully thought through the fact that this was also the first time the parents or children had also seen a lake. One child asked as we hiked down to the crater lake, “Is it clouds?” It was so fun.

IMG 3524

We barely got the mother to board but as we slowly rowed out, there were huge smiles. We were way more excited than the others about monkey and rare bird sightings. Monkeys here are kind of like seeing something as exotic as a squirrel. 

IMG 3539

IMG 3562

Then we picnicked in a beautiful spot with the sun filtering through the trees and told stories.

IMG 3565

The next Saturday, we repeated our adventure with another family. The mother stayed home as (aforementioned naughty) monkeys were getting into their barley crop, so someone had to stay back.

IMG 3579

This group was profoundly more nervous. 

IMG 3593

Loading the boat was met with little exuberance.

IMG 3608

We had a fun visitor from Addis who was hanging out with us doing some research while his wife and daughter are in the USA. The girls loved his time with us and monopolized every second of his non-sleeping time. 

IMG 3622

Zody made it aboard the boat but at it’s first rock, that strong little woman jumped off. Her brother followed her ashore. We talked him back into the boat but Zody would not be convinced so we kept our feet on solid ground. 

IMG 3603

IMG 3600

They held on to their dad the whole time.

IMG 3615

Until the oldest son got a chance to “captain” the boat. The mood lightened and relaxed. 

IMG 3628

We picnicked again

IMG 3634

Combine a body of water with a family we love and memories built and I would call it a near perfect Saturday.