Trip 3, Day 7: The Conclusion

We are grateful for those friends and family who have been so supportive already. It seems like everyone and their dogs are praying for us. Whether they were joking or not, I have been encouraged by some of our dearest friends who have offered to buy us a cow. Keith goes through 2 gallons of milk per week. Oh, Ethiopia has milk, but it's either powdered or $5 per quart. A few other helpful, loving, maybe bizarre offers: Simon has been claimed. There is actually a line of families waiting on us to get out of here so they can have him. Everyone adores him, obviously. A friend asked how she could send me cases of tampons. (She asked me this with neither of us knowing the official tampon situation there, only that products in general are usually of a lower quality. Ahh, the luxury of finely crafted toiletries. Something I will miss.) Many individuals have expressed interest / desire to come for a visit. FYI: I have taken down names and will be contacting you to set up a trip once we move. A family we had nearly lost contact with said they had been praying about moving and now want to come with us. A few friends have already committed to support us financially. Um, we will need many more.

Now, to those of you who are supportive but also secretly praying that God will change our hearts and close all doors, we have sad news. The move to Ethiopia is looking more and more like a done deal with each encounter, experience, conversation, contact, etc. We have said this move is solely the result of where we feel God is leading us. (And, the entire story of how we arrived at that decision will unfold at another time.) We will continue on that path until He leads us elsewhere.

We’ll go ahead and start answering some of the questions you have:

Q. When are you moving?

A. Our goal is to be back here before the end of the first quarter of 2013. That gives us about a year to get things in order.

Q. How will Jessica survive on Ethiopian cuisine?

A. Ah, great question. That was actually my first question as well. We sent a list of questions to the first couple we found living in Ethiopia. The only one I added to the list was, “Can someone live in Ethiopia and not eat injera?” Their reply: “Yes, but with difficulty.” God never promised an easy road. This will just be the price I pay for putting all previous wait staff, dinner guests, hostesses, friends, family, my husband, etc. through hell because of a lifetime of picky eating habits. On that note, I have eaten a surprisingly large selection and amount of food here. Yesterday at a non-tourist-catering restaurant, I finished 80% of my meal. I was told there were no substitutions, withholdings of sauce (Gasp!), or changes to menu items, but the cappuccino came with about a cup of cocoa powder dumped right on top of the tiny porcelain cup. Delectable!


Trip 3, Day 6: The Travel Essentials

It is February, and I have already decided on Keith’s Father’s Day gifts. I typically don’t plan gifts 4 months in advance, and usually there is no planning for Father’s Day. That one can be the kids’ responsibility. Two items he needs if we are to travel by plane ever again. Just as I am positive he will adamantly rebel against them upon receipt and initial use, I am positive he will use and love them. Don’t be surprised if these become the essentials…the backbone…of his travel. When it happens, You Know Who will be right here to document it.

Although I’ve seen it coming for years, I realized his need for the first gift while we were in the Atlanta airport as he dumped everything in his hands or pockets into my purse. Wallet, sunglasses, keys. Yes, he’ll entrust his wallet to me yet not my own plane ticket. The problem has nothing to do with whether or not there being enough room in my purse. There is always enough room. I am the Bag Lady. The Very Big Bag Lady. The issue is the principle. I carry a bag large enough to hold my crap. (For the record, we don’t use the “C” word at home, so don’t panic over my profanity.) The more crap the bigger the bag. Not so much crap means I can downsize. If he wants to haul around crap, he needs to get his own bag, right? He actually carries a pretty good sized back pack when traveling, but it’s apparently not as easily accessible as my purse. It’s not just that he expects me to carry his crap, but he also wants me to dig it out on demand. “Tell him to dig for it himself,” you say? I’ve tried. But he gets overwhelmed by the amount of crap in there and dumps the entire thing out looking for the one tiny thing he needs, leaving me to replace and reposition the items. Yes, it would be easier for me to just reach in to get it. And, it’s really not that big of a deal. But I have spent years hauling around other people’s (i.e. my kids) crap and would like the chance to just carry my own crap for a change. Is that too much to ask? Enter the fanny pack. Right there at his waist and in the front so he can see what it is he’s digging for. Perfect! Gift #1…check.

His need…no, his desire… for the second gift came as a big surprise to me. As you already know, I am The Most Prepared Traveler. A few situation-saving, if not life-saving, unconventional travel items with me: my own coffee sweetener, coffee creamer, spill-proof coffee mug, 6 pounds of assorted nuts in addition to several boxes of protein bars, Emergen-C pouches, eye mask and ear plugs, 8 highlighters with matching post-it flags, 4 books plus my Kindle, house shoes and full-length robe, an entire medicine cabinet including antibiotics, rubber gloves and those butterfly strips. Oh, and, most importantly, Avery’s new unicorn pillow pet. Besides the butterfly Band Aids, which were medically necessary, can you guess the other item Keith has needed and attempted to steal on this trip?

Let me give you a hint: It’s covered in pink and purple fur with a soft finger-like forehead protrusion, and when I returned from the bathroom on the first flight Keith was snuggled up against the window on it and unwilling to let go. However, I demanded it back not because I wanted to take a nap as well but because he had ridiculed and shamed me since I first mentioned the possibility of this snuggly animal making the trip with me days prior to departure. Plus, he refused my offers to find a travel pillow for him. Why the pet and not merely a normal C-shaped travel pillow? Well, we had 2 of them, both to which Keith adamantly rejected. I looked to the unicorn as my only (free) option when I realized I left one in Texas at Christmas and that Simon chewed a hole in the other.

So, the unicorn it is! Although I was possibly the laughing stock of security, especially in Germany, I did see other adult travelers with pillow pets. Okay, I saw one other lady traveling with her daughter, but my flight attendant friend Sierra told me she once saw an entire family traveling with his or her own pillow pet. Assuming there were 2 adults in that family, that’s 4 adults. I think that makes it a little less abnormal.

I would like to make a formal recommendation to all travelers, by plane, train or automobile, to get your hands on a pillow pet. Not just any though. For instance, the ladybug is out of the question as a gift for Keith for obvious reasons but also because it has no neck. The unicorn was perfect because I secured the head behind my neck leaving the pillow to one side for sleeping. Need a bigger cushion? Fold it up and Velcro. It also doubled when I was awake as a lap table for reading or note taking. I’m not sure why I’d be taking notes on the plane, but I could do it with ease on the unicorn. I’m still shopping around for the perfect pillow animal to wrap up my shopping, but I’m thinking zebra. Gift #2…check.

Keith eventually gave up his thieving efforts and made his own pillow using his hoodie and 2 airline travel pillows. Who is the winner?

Trip 3, Day 5: The New Preacher

Today was fantastic. I actually have zero frustrations to vent about. Boo. But I guess with the possibility of moving here, I should be grateful. The only inconvenient incident of the day was a power outage, which is still going on. However, I have hope it will return before we hit the hay so that we can use AM static on the alarm clock as our white noise machine. Combined with earplugs, it does wonders for the nighttime sounds here. Tonight it’s a parade of crickets and the ranting of a scary, mad, maybe crazy preacher in a church nearby.

That makes 2 power outages on this trip so far.

We visited 2 churches that serve as sites for a women empowerment program/ministry. There is so, so much about this particular ministry to share that it will likely take its own post to get through. But basically the ministry targets women who have no other hope for keeping their families intact, so they are brought in and taught how to make beads out of paper and clay. The jewelry is sold at a retail price, and all the women collect a paycheck to support an average of 4 people each. These women were so gracious when we interrupted their day. They led us in worship (which they had already done as part of their morning routine), and after we heard from the pastor a few women shared their testimonies. Amazing! After hearing much about how we (and other Americans who come here) are an answer to prayer, Keith preached to them a little about how Jesus is their savior, not us (or any American)…and how much difference they are making here and around the globe and the impact they have on others. Although he hates to be the center of attention or speak out…ever, it was awesome. We were all in tears by the end. Perhaps he has found a new way in which to serve the Ethiopians. Hmmmm. Then Keith and I were schooled in the art of jewelry making. I won’t brag about who turned out a better product, but we both rolled the paper and shined the clay.

Our van passed 2 men urinating on the side of the road today. I barely noticed them with their backs turned to us. Their stance along with a projected stream gave them away though.

We were served 2 scrumptious meals here at the guest house today. An entire plateful of a meatless spaghetti pie for lunch, of course topped with the parmesan cheese I brought. For dinner seasoned and grilled chicken and veggies. Chicken breasts with a bone sticking out the end of it. No fat or gristle. A skilled farmer handled that bird. I ate every bite of mine. Oh, and strawberry smoothies! They are like no other smoothie. Yum. Yum. Yum. The third and merely edible meal was breakfast: cinnamon rolls, no icing. Gasp! Luckily an assortment of condiments have been on the table for every meal. I was able to down a few bites with a dab of jelly. Still hungry, I reached for a granola bar stashed in my purse. I had purchased 2 single bars based on the brand name, which was healthy sounding. Aren’t they all?

What I missed in my rush of my last shopping trip was the small print along the bottom of the bar: vegan, dairy free, soy free. In other words, minus all the yummy stuff. Somehow I managed to choke down the chocolate dirt bar, which means I can handle any food Ethiopia throws at me.

I’ll have to teach the ladies how to make a simple powdered sugar icing. They will love it too!


Trip 3, Day 4: The Pitch

Ethiopia may not be the hottest vacation spot, but it is warm...all year long. And, although you may not be on vacation, you’ll feel like it with the speed at which people move here. Let me tell you what “we” have here to offer you in this equator-level country.

#1. Affordable produce. Dirt cheap. Avocados are my favorite. A staple in our house. I have been addicted to guacamole since I was first introduced to it at Tovah’s first birthday party. Now, I make it every day for lunch. The going rate for a kilo (or 2.2 pounds) is 10-12 birr (or $0.70). You got it. All those avocados for less than a dollar. Fresh picked organic avocados. Wow. Forget the orphan crisis. That might be reason enough for me to move here! Any takers?

#2. Beautiful people. Stunning. Perhaps you’re not in the market for attractive people unless you’re a single person, a talent scout or just creepy. But they are here. Unashamed I’ll admit catching myself staring too long…wondering just how someone’s features could be so flawless. I would estimate that 90% of the population here are outright gorgeous. Have I enticed you yet?

#3. The sight seeing. While I am always honest, and perhaps a bit too brutal in my delivery, I think last year when I wrote about Ethiopia my perception may have been skewed. Yes, people urinate right in the median of a highway in broad daylight, but I have seen zero men expose themselves during this trip. Thank you, Jesus. However, at one stoplight a woman with a child resting on her hip approached my side of the van with her right hand extended asking for money and her left boob exposed. This was no accident. It didn’t just pop out a little. No. She had pulled the whole thing out and flopped it over her V-neck shirt. Was this part of her ploy to get money? You know some people will show off a disability or hold a sign explaining the sad reason they are begging for money. Was there a fee assumed with being shown the boob? I do not know. But it was a sight to see. Oh, the animals! No need to buy season tickets to the zoo. Just take a walk to the market or a drive into the city. You’ll see plenty. Down a little side road on a walk today stood a silk factory with real, live silk worms! Seriously. Plus leaves for them to eat, women weaving the silk, and items they produced right there for you to purchase. Field trip! Plus, tons o’ shopping. I’ll leave it at that. Ready to pack up?

#4. The culture. Just in general. The people here are amazing. They take care of each other, including the Americans living here (They love us!), as if they’re all a close-knit family. It would put Americans’ idea of community to shame. Whether they know each other or not they serve each other. Greetings and pleasantries can go on for hours, which is sweet….unless you’re in a hurry. That’s another thing: It’s so relaxing and slow-paced here. There’s actually a chance to get to enjoy life, which is rare in the states. Want me to get you a room at the fabulous Ethiopian Guest House?

#5. The lack of crime. With the exception of pick-pocketing, there is virtually no crime. While I have no idea the penalties for petty or serious criminal acts, I do know that people in prison sleep on dirt floors and have no TV. During an inquiry about getting a vehicle and license, we were told if you get caught driving without insurance the fine is 7,000 birr and a year in prison. No warnings. When would you like that reservation?

Life here isn’t that different from life back home. Grocery stores, movie theaters, churches (even English-speaking ones), schools (public, private, even home-school co-ops), malls (I know of at least one), gyms, and a multitude of cable TV options. Take away all conveniences and a sense of entitlement and you’ve got a normal life. Well, a reduced sense of entitlement. Almost normal. Oh, no tampons here! Never even heard of them. So when you come, bring me a box or two.

Trip 3, Day 3: The Important Stuff

This post was originally published last month between Day 2 and Day 4, but blogger still won't let me put in links directly to the sites listed. So, just copy and paste into your browser the old fashioned way.

The purpose of our current trip is to figure out where, with whom and to what capacity we will be working/volunteering in Ethiopia. Beyond kids in the orphanages, we were unaware of the overwhelming needs here. Even if we knew the needs, hence the resulting orphan crisis, we didn’t know about the organizations and efforts already established here that we could have been working with. It wasn’t until about 4 months into our journey of considering this move that, with basically the discovery of one contact, God threw about a dozen others in our direction all at once.

Coming here and personally visiting has been overwhelming as well. Eye-opening might be a better word to describe our first few days here. It’s kind of funny in a sad way that it took 3 trips to the same under-developed country for God to open my eyes to the complete desperation here.

Let me just list a few of the ones we’re looking into this week. Here are websites (links not working in blogger right now) to each non-profit organization or ministry that is working in an attempt to relieve the multitude of crises here.

www.project61.org Targets kids who live in a trash dump. (No joke. They live there, most of them. Others spend their days there foraging for food or trash to sell in order to support their families.) Raises money for sponsorship to send currently 300 students to boarding school, giving them a home, food, education etc.

ethiopianorphanrelief.org/AHOPE_for_Children.php Looks after the medical care, education, family situation etc. of about 200 orphans living with HIV. (There is such a stigma in society regarding these kids. They are literally the outcasted.)

www.theforsakenchildren.org Pulls “street children,” some who are classified as orphans and some who truly have no one, into a care center in order to give them a normal life and rehabilitate them into society through education, mentoring, counseling, proper nutrition etc. (For many of these, living on the streets is better than living at home. By far better. I can’t imagine a street in the states that would compare to the filth they are living in on the streets of Ethiopia.)

www.missionethiopia.com Empowers women by teaching them a skill and employing them so that they can care for their children keeping their families intact. (By keeping them intact, I mean keeping children from being kicked to the streets, the trash dump or an orphanage. Teaching anyone, but especially women who are seen as a lower class here, a sustainable skill does something powerful for humanity.)

www.embracinghopeethiopia.com Provides day care, including breakfast, lunch and early childhood education, to children on the verge of becoming orphans so that the mothers have a safe place for their kids while they find/go to work. (These women are likely the breadwinners of their families, and kids are an obstacle to survival. Sad.)

www.acaciavillage.org Run by Christian World Adoption and serves as a transition home for children who are being adopted. The facility is working to expand its capabilities to provide medical care to the impoverished and a mission site. (This is the adoption agency we went through. Loved them! We actually chose CWA for its establishment and investment in the country.)

Most of the above websites have great videos that will give you a taste of the situations here. We highly recommend them.

Which one will we work with? That is still up in the air, but we do have a little more direction. No amount of videos, websites, books, emails to people living here would replace the experience of digging in ourselves.

Perhaps highest on “The Important Stuff” list is my lack of hygiene thus far. Well, tonight was the night! And in the dark too thanks to a convenient power outage. We moved to the room next door since the hot water issue seemed to be unresolvable. Although the shower was fantastic, I agreed to the move because the window was smaller and facing a different direction, therefore, less of that blazing sun. With the previous night’s wet wipe and accidental soap bath, I didn’t even really need one.


Trip 3, Day 2: The Dust Bowl

Last night’s dinner was a treat: a platter of chicken fajita-enchilada type wraps. Homemade tortillas, yum. Seasoned shredded chicken, which I picked my way through. Mozzarella cheese sprinkled over the tops and lightly toasted. Very American. Okay, maybe not. Listen, if it’s not injera, I am a happy camper.

After dinner the 7 other guests and me were a captive audience to Keith’s story-telling provoked by learning that one of the women is a nurse. Keith explained to her that with all the gushing and gaping of his wound, he had to push something back in. Um, his flesh. Vomit. Turns out the absence of running water was actually God’s protecting Keith, as it would have been too dirty to effectively clean a wound. And, I probably would have used it to brush my teeth again without thinking. Another guest produced a bottle of saline solution upon Nurse Jill’s suggestion.

Pancakes for breakfast this morning. Woo hoo! Everybody eats pancakes, right? Not this gal. You never knew to what level of maintenance I require. Pretty high. As to not be offensive, I ate a few bites dipped in syrup, which by the way bragged in a large print banner below the brand name about being a whopping 2% maple syrup, then divided up what was left and threw the remnants to the other guests so that it looked as if all guests enjoyed most of their pancakes.

Today’s agenda was supposed to be a trip to a smelly dump where a slew of kids live, which I understand is not that uncommon. But our itinerary changed when a psycho with an abusive history returned to the little trash village and threatened some lives. (Am I making this place sound appealing?) So, the police were all over the place, and instead we accompanied the woman, who began the ministry there, to run all over Addis for her errands and to check on the school children.

I’m not sure what mortified Keith more: either my ginormous straw hat, which my new friend Liz assisted me in turning soggy into floppy…or that I used a wet wipe doubled with my hoodie as a mask with which to filter the dusty, smoggy, exhaust-filled air. The entire day. Everywhere we went. People kept asking if I was throwing up or needed medical attention. Nope. I just really couldn’t breathe. (I’m not good at selling this as a vacation spot, am I? But it truly is a great place, i.e. you best come visit us!)

The 12-hour day was filled with dust. Lots of it. Covered my skin, clothes and shoes. Filled my lungs, despite the most sophisticated mask I could rig. Imbedded the callouses on my feet. Stuck to my lip gloss. Clogged up my tear ducts. Made me feel plain nasty, to the point of desiring a shower. Gasp!

When I returned to our room, I had the best intentions of showering but remembered Keith’s shower the previous night. I thought he was silently crying over the pain of his would being flushed out by water. Turns out, we have no hot water. The rest of the guests do; therefore, we, meaning Keith, think a knob needs to be turned on. What I heard was the sound of him hyperventilating in the freezing cold shower.

No thanks. All I need is a wet wipe and moisturizer. I bathed myself with the wipes and grabbed two containers of moisturizer, face and body, and headed down the pitch black stairs to join Keith. After slathering the moisturizer on every visible surface, I noticed I didn’t recognize the smell of my favorite Curel Advanced Moisture Therapy Lotion. Half a second later I felt the sticky residue left not by lotion but by soap. I quick checked the label on the travel container, and there it is: “Body Wash.” Oh, I prayed I had somehow mislabeled the containers, but upstairs in my room I found the “Body Lotion,” untouched.

Now, all I would have to do to remedy this problem is jump in the shower and rinse off. It would actually go a step beyond the soap issue and take care of the dirt issue as well. However, you know if I won’t lower my standards to eat a soggy pancake, as all pancakes are soggy, I will not lower it to take a cold shower, no matter how desperate. I proceeded to give myself the second bath of the evening with more wet wipes, although this one was much more difficult and needed to be much more thorough. Yes, I’d rather go to bed covered in dirt than covered in soap. Truly, I am disgusting.

All of the sudden, something hit me. Not physically. It’s that feeling you’re being watched, or that you forgot something vital. Or both. I stopped my bathing, which was right in front of the bed and in the line of vision from the door, to which my back was turned. And I saw it. That thing I forgot. To close the door.

Filled with horror, I didn’t know what to do. I was a deer in the headlights. Do I run naked to shut the door and risk being seen by another guest walking by? Do I scramble to cover myself leaving the door still wide open?

That’s the thing. Forget the police story I mentioned. It’s so safe here that I rarely shut the door and never lock it. And, I wasn’t worried that a creepy man was going to get a show. The only other people on our floor are 2 girls and a baby down the hall. It’s that I went to great lengths to avoid a shower, which in that split second was apparently a tiny bit embarrassing. Avoiding a shower is not even something I’m embarrassed about back at home where a daily shower is assumed at the least. Why here? I do not know.

Keith got another cold shower tonight, claiming he stayed in long enough to enjoy it. The cards are definitely stacked against my showering on th.is trip.

Here are the kids at the airport with Sherlyn, a.k.a. Gu Gu. Calvin was taking the pic. Yes, you are seeing this correctly. They are on a leash. This is the only way I manage in public.

Watching the planes. Garrison said the biggest plane was for Jesus, and all of them were disappointed as the planes took off leaving them behind. Sorry kids, we'll have to walk to Texas.


Trip 3, Day 1: The Stabbing

I woke this morning to the sound of someone repeatedly beating on plastic. When I removed my eye mask and ear plugs, I saw it was Keith using a hefty knife to cut off the zip ties that were holding lids to the totes of donations. You know what I’m thinking. It’s the same thing Keith thinks as he watches me torture an avocado in an attempt to remove the pit. I held my tongue and meandered groggily to the bathroom, which luckily is inside our room. Moments later, I heard, “Ahh! I knew I’d do that.” And, I mumbled to myself, “Honey, I did too.”

After assessing the damage, I was a bit concerned. There was a half-inch slit in the flesh of his forearm that quickly grew to a gaping hole as blood poured out. I grabbed for the facial cleansing wipes handily stowed in my carry-on as Keith wadded up toilet paper he had kicked across the floor. Wait, isn’t the first thing you should do with a fresh open wound is to wash it out? Yes. Yes, it is…when there is running water. When our toilet wouldn’t flush upon arrival, we were informed that it had been cut off. This morning it was still not working, letting 12 hours of urine brew in the toilet.

Keith said there was no way he was getting stitches and requested that I find some tape to close it up. I hesitated because on our first trip here, the receptionist dug for half an hour to find a piece of scrap paper and a pen for me. There’s no way they keep any kind of advanced office supply like scotch tape on hand. Then I remembered I am the Most Prepared Traveler. I had not only packed two separate bags of Band-Aids with a tube of anti-bacterial ointment in each (one in my carry-on and one in my bathroom bag) but I had also grabbed a box of butterfly closures from our bathroom closet thinking, “Just. In. Case.”

So I got Keith fixed up before he bled to death and quickly got ready for church since playing doctor put me behind schedule. When the rest of the guests here heard we were going to an authentic Ethiopian church, they jumped in the van to come along. Same church as last time. Maybe even same interpreter on the little headsets. One difference: we got to be Back-row Baptists because I knew better and requested to Bisrat that we NOT be ushered to the front and center seats.

It’s been a pretty relaxing Sabbath except for a killer headache, which is likely a side effect from the half a Lunesta I took last night. When just one Tylenol PM knocks me out for a good 12 hours, I know to go easy on the sleep meds. Still, I have slept the day away, except for the church outing. Thank you, Lunesta. Dinner is in a few, which will be the first meal I’ve come out of my room for today. It better be good. But I have a container of parmesan cheese if not. Most Prepared Traveler.

The toilet finally flushed this afternoon, but I’ve left the door to our room open to air out the sewer smell. No water in the sink yet, which means I may have a great excuse to skip showering altogether on this trip. Keith’s stab wound looks descent. I’m sure I’ll have to force him to get a tetanus shot when we get home.


Letting the Cat Out

For the past year Keith and I have kicked around the idea of moving to Ethiopia. Gasp. No joke. Again, gasp! Correction: kicking around isn’t something you do to an idea like moving your entire family to an under-developed country.

We have considered it, run from it screaming in horror, researched the logistics of it (Keith literally made a list of all the reasons we can’t move there), tried to shove it far from our minds, made one stab at obtaining housing info which was met with countless volunteer opportunities and God’s-perfect-timing scenarios, spoken to and received counsel from our families, church staff and former missionaries, and now have a “vision trip” planned for this month.

Actually, at this time tomorrow we will be heading to the airport.

For the past several years, living and serving abroad has burdened both our hearts. Keith’s gushy heart more than mine, which I preserve in the freezer. Although we never had an actual conversation about it, like many issues and life-altering events in a marriage, there were comments. To me, these were very frightening comments. I can’t speak for Keith, but I have declined to entertain any thought remotely related to missions. Downright refused it! Plugging my ears in response to that still small voice, speeding up my reading pace when I got to the topic, skipping a segment during a podcast or tuning it out altogether. I was trying to pretend it wasn’t even a blip on my radar.

What a fool. A very shallow fool.

I say I hate stuff! I am even disturbed by people who, like Madame Blueberry, see an empty spot on a shelf or in a closet and have to run to the “Stuffmart.” I have lied to myself, saying I didn’t need “stuff” to live when in reality that need, the security of it, drives most of my decisions. That’s the first reason this choice is at least challenging if not complete insanity for me.

Well, maybe that comes in fourth after #1 being the food, #2 the water situation, and #3 the random who-knows-how-long-they’ll-be power outages.

Oh, the language…#5, the general living conditions…#6, the lack of transportation…#7, the mosquitos, which, by the way, grow to be the size of hornets…#8, the necessity for a bug-shielding tent around your bed…#9, the selection of furniture options: wicker…#10.

Plus, let’s not forget to add that I’m a teensy, weensy, little bit OCD. Reasons #11-49. If you were to see my closet, which gets cleaned out and reorganized on a weekly basis, we would no longer be friends. Still, my problem is so small, really it is. But I’m not sure Ethiopia can accommodate this kind of disorder on a long-term basis.

Who am I kidding! It’s barely manageable here, and that’s only because I am heavily medicated. I’m having the heart palpitations of a panic attack just thinking about giving up my fabulous glittery peep-toe 4-inch heels in exchange for sneakers, which up until now I have refused outside of the gym. Sneakers! All day. Every single day. It’s not just the traveling by foot. It’s that, in addition to the dirt and gravel, those feet are maneuvering rocks and boulders. Giant boulders I tell you! In the blazing sun!

However, when I look at it in light of the Gospel, it’s not so crazy. While I would like to make a list to prove that we are not deranged and explain a little about what we plan to do in Ethiopia, my eyes are so tired. I know. Lousy excuse. But I do have 3 kids, and another 97 things on my mind…keeping me awake at night.

In short, this is where we feel God is leading our family. And, a change of heart (which includes our desires) will overcome any reason you or I can come up with as to why we shouldn’t do this.

I know you’re in shock and have a thousand questions. I’m right there with you. Still in shock with loads of questions. I’ll make an attempt to answer what I can on another day.

Have we told the kids?

No. Absolutely not.

Two reasons: 1) they will ask me for details and a specific departure time at least a hundred times each day until we all board the plane; 2) the boys refer to the orphanage as Ethiopia, and Garrison remembers before arriving at the orphanage, in his words “before Ethiopia.” So they would think we were moving back to the orphanage. Therefore, please do not tell them. Please do not discuss this within even a distant proximity of them. Garris has selective Go-Go-Gadget hearing, commonly seen in young ears. He oftentimes doesn’t hear me address him from across the table but always hears what I say to Keith, Avery and Ivan even though he may be separated by walls, doors and stairs. Warning: If one of them finds out because of your loose lips, whether it be by accident or on purpose, I will pounce on you.

Oh, you should be scared.

Very scared.