Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ain't Nobody Mad but the Devil!

I just needed to take it back to church for a minute but this is not about about some deep spiritual revelation. It is just a time to reminese on the church of old that I miss so much.

You know the one:

  • The urshers (that would the ushers) kept that one hand behind their back and did the little turn.
  • How you had to raise the one finger to walk during service.
  • The way that the male chorus sounded on that greatly rare fifth Sunday.
  • The mother's of the church called everybody baby and kissed you leaving that lipstick print.
  • The way that the announcement lady first gave honor to God, pastor, mothers, and friends.
  • When choirs really marched in wearing those shiny robes.
  • How the stewardess said that they would rather have money in the plate that didn't jingle.
  • The hymnals on the back of the pew that were missing the page that you needed.
  • Singing the Lord's Prayer every Sunday and if you were in the Methodist church, CME, AME, or AME Zion you had to say the Apostle's creed and sing the Gloria Patri.
  • Don't you remember the tamborine and the high B flat that you hoped that sister would reach in the middle of the song?
  • How the song would be over but the musicians were really getting started. The sway of the choir and when they did hand movements to the song.
  • The hats, oh Lord, the hats! I couldn't wait until I grew up for that. I'm not quite that grown yet.
  • Whatever that cadence was that your pastor used for every sermon. My pastors was, "Isn't that right?" and his other one was "Ain't nobody mad but the devil."
  • The way that the organist punctuated the preacher's word at the end of the sermon.
  • Remember when the ushers did the row by row count in the middle of service or hung up the Sunday school attendance banner.
  • The responsive reading and call and response.
  • And the end of service when we said, "My the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another, Amen." or "Go in peace and sin no more".
  • The doors of the church are now open.
Well those are some of my found memories and here is a video just because it makes me laugh. If you are really sensitive you may not want to hit play. If you grew up in the black church you are sure to understand.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Images of Ethiopia in America

Since the start of my adoption journey I have kept a file on positive articles and profiles of successful, prominent, or noted Abesha or Ethio-American people. I have been collecting these stories because I want the kids to see themselves reflected in images and positive stories of people who look like them and have life experiences similar to their own. I did not want the children to have to look to ancient history to find reasons to be proud but to also have contemporary examples of what was happening at the time that they came to this country.

I wanted to share this story with you all about Wayna Wondewossen. Some of you will understanding the significance in the name alone. She is a young Ethiopian born woman that came to the U.S. with her mother at a very young age. [Read her story]

This year she was nominated for a Grammy for her rendition of Minnie Ripperton's Lovin' U. Yes, Minnie Ripperton takes some nerve, I know. Amazing that this year she is not the only Ethiopian born Grammy nominee. Kenna was also nominated in the same Urban Alternative category.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Of Days Gone By

We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people but wherever there is life there is always hope. Things like this give me hope for the generations to come.


There was a time when this newspaper – and many others across the south -- acted with gross neglect by largely ignoring the unfairness of segregated schools, buses, restaurants, washrooms, theaters and other public places.

"We did it through omission, by not recording for our readers many of the most important civil rights activities that happened in our midst, including protests and sit-ins. That was wrong. We should have loudly protested segregation and the efforts to block voter registration of black East Mississippians.

"Current management understands while we can't go back and undo some past wrongs, we can offer our sincere apology -- and promise never again to neglect our responsibility to inform you, our readers, about the human rights and dignity every individual is entitled to in America -- no matter their religion, their ethnic background or the color of their skin."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Ethiopia has held a great deal of symbolism for me since I began my journey. The journey is not over but I've crossed one great hurdle. Forgive me while I leave myself a personal message of confirmation and affirmation.

I will return unto Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Old men and old women will yet sit there in the broad places of Jerusalem and the broad places of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing. (Zechariah 8:3-5)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pictures from Ethiopia

Alright, so here are the pictures from my trip. Keep in mind these things, I traveled alone, I was so living the moment that I didn't capture as many pictures as I would have liked, the pictures that you guys really want to see can't really be shown and all of you PAPs know why.

So with that disclaimer, enjoy!

Oh yea, even in flight I must have information so I watch the map showing exactly where we are. On my flight home that map function wasn't working and I had to asked to be moved to another seat. Eight hours in the air and not knowing where the plane is, uh no!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Traveling to Ethiopia on a Prayer

I decided to take a trip to Ethiopia or I guess I should say that I was compelled to go to Ethiopia and like anything else once I make up my mind to do something, I do it. So, here is how you plan a trip to Ethiopia in five days or less on a shoestring budget and a prayer.

My mind was uneasy and my soul could not rest so I decided that if I could find a reasonable flight to Ethiopia, I would just hop on a plane and go. Late Sunday night, December 21 I started searching the internet for flights. I thought the trip would be cost prohibitive but I found a flight for $1550 leaving flying Turkish Air on December 24 with a 10 hour layover in Turkey. I was sure that was no reason to not go. Early Monday morning I contacted a travel agent to have him verify the flight and he said all was good. While I was talking to him I kept checking and found a $1600 flight on Luftansa. Anyway by Tuesday I booked a Luftansa flight leaving Chicago Thursday on Christmas day arriving in Addis on Friday night. I would have three full days in Addis and then board a plane heading for home on December 29.

In my opinion the Lufthansa flight was best from here. It was 8.5 hours to Frankfort with a two hour layover and then 8.5 hours to Addis.

Always check for the absolute best airlines rates. Using side step I found Kayak and that allowed me to compare flights.

Needless to say having only two and a half days to pack and prepare was like a mad dash but I did it and arrived at the airport for take off with time to spare. I had one carry-on bag for me and two 49.5 lb bags with donations for the orphanage. I focused on what was essential, prescriptions, survival stuff, edible treats, and sensible shoes. If you are not like me and don't wear heals for all occaisions you may be able to skip the shoe part.

Remove the items that you are carrying from their packing. It makes more room and weighs less. Also weigh your luggage on a home scale before you head to the airport.

The travel agent that booked my flight suggested that I stay at the Harmony Hotel at $100 a night. It sounded it reasonable and I was game -- sign me up. In speaking with another AP she mentioned that someone she knew had just returned and stayed in the Dimitri Hotel. I checked out the Dimitri online and immediately booked a queen size room (what they call standard) at $60. That also included free Wi-Fi. It was the best decision of all. I ate the majority of my meals at the hotel and my total bill for four nights including food was $307.00. My meals included roasted chicken, grilled fish, french fries, this really delicious rice, you get the picture. The food was good and I also had at least one glass of red wine every night. I did also eat Ethiopian food but that was all at the orphanage in the home of the director.

Stay at the Dimitri hotel and tell the owner Senait that I sent you! One thing, there is no elevator so ask for floors 1 or 2. I hiked up four flights several times a day. It was good cardio but uhhh...

Without knowing it, by staying at the Dimitri I was a 5-7 minute walk from the orphanage. Because it was so close I was able to go a few times a day, go back to the hotel do other things and return. The Dimitri is in an area about 10 minutes outside of the center of Addis. Next door there was a bank and down the street was a hair salon, a cafe, and a corner store. The Dimitri is small and they pay close attention to service. It was more like being in a large family residence, they took good care of the families that were there. They were able to find me a driver, book his time, and negotiate the rate. I paid $40 for five plus hours with a driver who took me anywhere I wanted to go. My driver Daniel was great and cute -- young but cute. He suggested that I go to the museum and I loved it. He also asked what things I wanted to shop for and without me knowing he called a shop owner ahead and when I arrived they were waiting for me.

Ask the Dimitri to see if Daniel is available. Let them negotiate the rate and know that you can still try to get the rate down lower but I thought what I paid was fair.

I loved the shop that Daniel took me to it had very nice traditional dresses. I went in wanting to get one traditional dress and maybe a few things for friends. As the shop owner pulled out way too much, I asked him the price. He told me to first select ALL the things that I wanted and then we would negotiate the Ethiopian way. I picked a beautiful dress and four large silk scarves. He wrote down his opening price of 3800 birr or $380.! He told me that I should right a counter and I countered with 1500 birr or $150. He laughed at me and told me that I was not serious and that my offer was almost insulting. He put a big "X" through my offer and told me to try again. He countered with 3600 birr handed me the paper and I circled my original offer of 1500. I asked how much just for the scarves. He said $80, I said $60, he said $75 was his final offer and I said it is $70 or nothing. He gladly took it and then continued to talk about the dress. I told him that I would not pay the $280 that he had come down to. He continued to get me to negotiate and finally I told him that I had a crisp $100 US bill at that would be my final offer. He went from 2800 birr to 2400 birr to 1800 birr or $180. He told me that at that rate he was making no money. I assured him that I wanted him to make money and that he should try to sell the dress to someone else for a profit. I had $100 US and that would be my final offer. No matter what he said I offered the $100 or told him I would go. He finally agreed to the $100 and then told me that I negotiate like an Ethiopian and for that he wanted to give me a gift. He gave me another beautiful scarf for "free". So I left spending 1700 birr just a bit over my opening price of 1500.

Decide how much you want to spend and don't feel guilty for negotiating for the best price.

With less than a week to plan I made it to Ethiopia and had an amazing time. In my short time there I managed to:

  1. Spend significant time with the children at the orphanage.
  2. Be the recipient of countless sloppy wet kisses and tight, tight hugs.
  3. Go to church and receive a special blessing from the priest on Gabriel.
  4. Drink coffee daily and eat one meal daily with the orphanage director.
  5. Watch the children's good night routine including dinner, prayers, laughter and warm milk.
  6. Go shopping in the supermercado, go sight seeing, visit the museum, and tour Addis.
  7. Search high and low in many markets for milk.
  8. Turn down four marriage proposals and two offers for arranged marriages.
  9. Dance the traditional dance of Ethiopia complete with shoulder and head movements.
  10. Go to the palace and be one of 90 guest a the 85th birthday party of President Girma, the current President of Ethiopia.
Photos to follow later.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Taking Baby Formula to Ethiopia

I am glad to see such a great response to the post on taking milk. I've done a bit more investigating and found that NaN (the choice formula) is the first that contained bifidus cultures making it more like breast milk that strengthens the immune system.

I believe that the orphanages are happy to have the help and support and that it is also important for the babies to have some continuity of formula. I am asking that if people take over formula that they consider taking Nestle Good Start with Natural Cultures. It seems to be the closest to Nestle's NaN formula.

Nestle Good Start with Natural Cultures comes in a formula for babies 0-12 months and a formula for babies 9-24 months. NaN 1 for infants seems to be the hardest to find so people might want to keep that in mind. Nope I don't work for Nestle or have any interest other than trying to provide continuity for the babies.

You can check out this formula against others. Right now you can get a 6 24oz cans from shipped free for $103. has Good Start NC 1for $170 and Good Start NC 2 for $150.

I know everyone wants to help and it might be most helpful if we try to reduce the number of brands and different formulations that we are taking to Ethiopia.

My Plan from Here:
  1. Contact Nestle to find out if there is a way that we can get them to donate NaN or if they will set up a way that others can pay for the formula and they will ship it directly to Ethiopia.
  2. Contact Nestle to find out if we can set up some sort of bulk purchasing for Good Start in the U.S.
  3. Check to see if there is another manufacturing that might help with number 1 and 2.
  4. Initiate a milk drive that communicates the need and focuses family on one brand or formulation.
I am counting on you all to get the word out, continue making suggestions, and helping to formulate a plan. Feel free to post this information on your own blogs and someone can post this information to the big ET board as well. If you find a good price POST it!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Please Send Milk

As many of you know I just returned from the most amazing trip to Ethiopia. Over the the next few weeks I may share more details about the trip but there is one thing that I wanted to put out pretty quickly and that is about the need for baby formula and milk.

Before leaving on the trip I saw a few post on the big ET board that there is a milk shortage. I'd like to add a little bit about what I learned spending time with the orphanage director at Hope for the Abandoned Children.

The milk of choice is a Nestle brand called NaN. It comes in two formulas one for infants and one for older babies. It's my understanding that the distributor or Ethiopian supplier is (threatening) to stop supplying Ethiopia with NaN formula and so the price has gone sky high. I drove around with the director stopping at several places to purchase milk. She explained that the price for the 12oz powdered formula had risen from about $8-10 per can and is now being sold for $25 per can US dollars. She told me before we headed out that the shop keepers will tell you that they have no formula at all and that it is being kept off the shelves and hidden that is why it seems people believe their is a shortage when the truth is the milk is there but by making it seem so unavailable they can jack up the price.

As I said I went with her. We drove around to four places and they all told her there was NO NaN milk. At the last place she told me she knew that it was there and that we would sit until the shop keeper admitted it. Some 30-40 minutes later the man said that he had it at $250 birr per piece (12 oz can) but that we could only buy it by the case at 60,000 birr or $600 US dollars. She tried to talk him down but all he said was that she might try going up towards the mountain some 30 km away.

We kept going and she just explained to me the pressure that the prices put them under. Children need milk and if they are forced to pay those high prices it means that they can not spend on other things. We kept going and stopped at one more place and went through the same type conversation and negotiation. The shop keep decided to sell it to us for 140 birr or $14 per can. I bought 15 cans of formula for the orphanage but instantly wondered how far that would go. They only had the NaN 2 or the formula for older children. So what I bought did not include infant formula or even milk for the older children.

It was very upsetting and frustrating for me to see this. Hope is a very small orphanage. There are nine older children and about 10 babies. Imagine what this is like for the larger facilities. So I ask that if you go over or know families that are going over please send milk!

As I understand to transport more, you can buy the powdered forumla and pour it into large ziplock bags to make it easier to carry. It is important to place the labels from the cans inside the bags to get through customs. If you can't take or send milk, please take or send money to purchase milk while you are there. Maybe we even need to start a letter writing campaign to Nestle for donations. I know that something more can be done.

There were so many amazing things that I saw while on my trip. The 3+ hour hunt for milk was the most eye-opening. Do what you can!

This story is from another part of Africa but it shows the seriousness of the situation.

Make sure to check this out.

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]