That is where we have found ourselves.
In the hallway.
Having left where God had us and not yet planted where he has led us.
Our hiatus from Ethiopia is looking to be more lengthy than we anticipated. Partly because the issues which caused us to leave are still being settled, and partly because we had planned to be here for the month of December and plane tickets back and forth again would be evidence of poor stewardship of the resources God has afforded us.
So, we are here. The kids and I. Until January 1st. It may be in the budget for Keith to return for a time to work and "test the waters," as he likes to phrase it to tease his family.
If you are confused as to exactly what is going on, email me. Although I am an open book when it comes to my own personal life (hygiene, bowel movements, menstrual cycle, etc.), I cannot put much detailed information here, as it is someone else's personal business. You can also click HERE for our latest ministry newsletter sent on 9/25, which has more specifics on the situation.
While we are here, we will continue to work from Texas. Our hours are a little different, as Keith has been up until the wee hours of the morning on phone calls with mission teams or folks in Ethiopia. This is a job that we don't get to put down at 5 PM. A job that supersedes meal times and bed times. A job we are doing in order to help save the jobs of close to a hundred Ethiopians...who are at risk for losing their families because they are seen as unemployable. A ministry that we are a part of in order to see the Gospel spread and lives impacted both in Ethiopia and Stateside. That is our priority right now. Making connections with people here and there in order to keep the ship sailing during this time of transition.
We don't feel like God has closed the door to Ethiopia. Not yet at least. That country, its culture and people are still rooted deeply in our hearts. However, while in this hallway, we will praise him.
A few things for which I am praising God:
Kids who, in all of this shuffling around...giving half their toys and clothes away...being dropped into a foreign culture...and again leaving their home behind, haven't batted an eye. Their adjustment has been amazing.
Luxuries like Target, Walmart, Trader Joe's, and other amazing grocery stores within a few miles of us.
Parents (in-laws to me) who have graciously let us take over half their home.
I am praising God for a deli counter that slices cheese with a different knife than the one used to slice the beef. That wasn't the case in Ethiopia, hence the bits of beef on the edges of my cheese. I am serious. And repulsed at the memory.
A kitchen that always has power...so that I don't have to cook wearing a headlamp.
Water. From the faucet. With no traces of fecal matter. Safe to drink. No worries of the tank running out. I can open my eyes and mouth in the shower. Rinse my toothbrush. No chances of anyone (Keith) contracting Giardia. Oh, man. I have missed the water.
Driving my van. Driving down the road. Driving my van. Honk, honk, I go. Sing with me!
Internet. Oh, what did I ever do without you?
Finally, we all praised God for days when this arrived.
It was a day of rejoicing.
Those were the first words out of Keith’s mouth when he called me on Tuesday at noon.
Friday morning we began walking on eggshells. Tuesday morning it was pins and needles.
Up until that morning, leaving, especially leaving abruptly, was the worst case scenario.
That is where we found ourselves on Tuesday at 12:00.
The worst case scenario.
Two hours later, I found out we were booked on the midnight flight out of Addis but could not communicate that information to ANYONE until our family was safely boarded on the plane.
I didn’t know how I was to pack. Were we leaving for good? If we were returning, how long would our house be empty? How many bags could I bring? How much time before we had to leave for the airport?
Where does one start packing up for a family of five? It took me months to pack for the move, weeding down to the bare essentials. I took so many non-essentials apparently because we brought home less than half of what we took over.
I let the kids pack themselves, partly because I didn’t have time to do it and partly because I needed them out of my hair so I could pack the rest. I only checked their rooms when I was ready to pack the final bag. As far as I could tell, they did the job. However, when Garrison’s backpack was flagged in Germany for scissors among his random craft supplies, I realized my mistake.
We left our home in tears. More tears than when we left the States. We left for our family’s safety. That’s the pertinent information I can communicate right now. We will let out more details as they are settled. We do plan to return to Ethiopia as soon as possible. We are still renting our house and are still integrally connected to the ministry of Mission Ethiopia. There’s much work Stateside that we are doing while here. We’re in Houston with Keith’s family and will be going to Dallas soon (where ME “headquarters” is located).
Pray for the leadership involved. Pray for the Ethiopian government and its legal system. Pray Ephesians 6:10-20 because, ultimately, our battle is not against flesh and blood.
Here are a few pictures of us at the airport. Proof the kids are okay...having the time of their lives. And that we are still hard at work.
Finally, the stars aligned.
The rainy season, typically June-September, started early this year, which delayed the actual moving of our things an additional day. Once the moving ceased, the kids helped me open all the totes. My only goal was to find a tub of toys to busy the kids on the 2nd floor while I unpacked on the 3rd floor, the floor which our family occupies.
Meanwhile, outside was a downpour. The heaviest rain we had seen thus far in Ethiopia. Before I could even clean the dirt out of the wardrobe in my room, I heard the kids squealing with excitement about water on the stairs. Indeed, water was pouring in from a corner window. I lay down 3 towels to soak up the mess and called for Keith.
Next, I walked in to mop the room we had planned for the kids to sleep in and the water pouring from the ceiling had spread nearly wall to wall.
I continued my cleaning spree by looking for rooms dry enough to mop.
Every room I walked into was leaking in water, either from a window, door, ceiling…or all 3.
Numerous water leaks + a house that has been collecting dirt for 6 months of vacancy = Mud. Everywhere.
Sounds like the worst day ever, right? Ah, but this is where God’s divine workings and providence come into play.
In addition to us, the tenants, in the house were the following: Hanok (house hunter/translator/power of attorney/Ethiopian extraordinaire), the home owners, the home builder, and the maintenance man. The owners were adamant that all issues be fixed. “Fix it tomorrow,” the wife said to the builder and maintenance man. She was not happy.
Had the rain come before or after those individuals were present in the house, we would be living and sleeping amongst the rain and mud for who knows how long. If they hadn’t seen with their own eyes that the water was coming from a window, sink or toilet (oh, yes, those were leaking too), they wouldn’t have believed it.
There were other things getting fixed. I think the only thing that worked upon move in were the doors (they opened) and cold water (it came out of most sinks).
Weeks later after multiple visits from both owner and builder, there were still 14 leaky windows/doors to be fixed, the kitchen sink, a toilet and at least 1 bathroom sink. One day it sounded like someone was taking a shower on the stairs. But, no, it was the roto (small-ish water tank on the roof) overflowing, which poured into our house from that top-most corner window. And all the way down the stairs to the entry way.
Now, almost 2 months after moving in, we are still dealing with leaks, but I no longer run around pulling up curtains and putting down towels each time I hear rain.
More importantly, we are in a house. All 5 of us. Just the 5 of us. Well, 6 of us with Ann Rae, but she’s family for the next year. It’s been a long time. We have seen God’s provision and it is good.
We're making progress around here. Inside and outside the house. We've technically done nothing to the outside of the house, but I consider my learning my way around town as progress.
The view from the front of our house. Just behind the kids is a slightly grassy giant dirt mound, which is most commonly used as a "rest stop." By both animals and humans. Kids on the way to school. Passersby. Whoever.
The government school 2 blocks from home. Their morning program starts at 7:20 with nails on the chalkboard over a PA system. I can't make out the words, but the music is familiar. Always something American.
My half of the closet, which houses the medicine cabinet, all my hanging clothes (for which we purchased hangers a few days ago), any article I'd typically keep in a drawer, bed linens, bathroom products, accessories, and all of Avery's cool weather clothes.
Ivan and Avery having fun in front of my vanity. This mirror was intended for the kids' bathroom but it broke upon installation. Yes, the house came with no mirrors and few working lights.
Keith's garage, located in our bedroom.
In the absence of closet space, I'm making suitcases and laundry baskets work for the kids' closet. Located, where else but, in our bedroom.
For now they are all still in one room. This is a much better situation than where they were last week. Bunking with us. All 5 of us in our room, along with nearly everything we own, for one week while we accommodated a team from Cyprus. Fun.
We had an agenda: 1. Open bank account. 2. Get SIM cards for phone service.
Hanook took the whole family out, walking, of course. At the bank we learned that only residents can hold accounts at a bank. We are not residents. Yet. The months leading up to the move were spent gathering paperwork for gaining work permits, which must be done in order to establish residency. I had to call an office at the school of my undergrad degree requesting a special note and signature be added to the back of my transcript and that someone write a letter to go along with my diploma. All to be authenticated. Why does Ethiopia need my college transcript?
On to the next stop. The SIM card.
But they require a passport photo. The first little photo shop did not have power. The next shop was closed for the previous day’s holiday. We finally found an open shop that had electricity. The “photographer” took each of us one at a time through the only door for what felt like yearbook shots: cheery smile, serious face, angle the knees and tilt head. Oh, these were gonna be great pictures. And Hanook returned after the processing to retrieve them for us.
Although we crossed neither item off our list, the day was still a win for me. I picked up a kilo (2.2 lbs) of avocados for 50 cents. Five very squishy avocados. From what I have seen of the produce, it looks over ripe on the outside but is perfect and delicious on the inside. Bananas are yellow and mostly black. I’ve never even seen a green or yellow banana here. And, it’s all a little bit smaller but more tasty. Makes me skeptical about produce from the States. It’s all so big, shiny and beautiful.
The following day, we were more realistic with our agenda. Just the phone service. No AT&T or Verizon Wireless stores here. The SIM card must be purchased at a government office. Really. So, everyone has to be patted down by uniformed officers before entering, but the female officer, without even leaving her telephone booth of a post, just gave me a once over with her eyes and waved me on in. Not my lucky day, I guess. Inside, we did a lot of people watching while waiting on Hanook who was asked to go make photo copies of our passports. This was a no-frills office. Come prepared, people. Those photos we took the previous day? They were stapled to each of our applications. Yes, all this for local phone service. Two hours later, we left with SIM cards. Yeah! But would not work in our iPhones. Ugh! Apparently an "unlocked" phone has a different meaning in Ethiopia.
Our new task: unlock our phones. The following weekend, we dropped them off for a few hours at a place a little farther away. A bit more promising but in the end no deal.
We tried once more, at a shop that kept both phones overnight. When they were returned, Keith’s phone was “jacked,” having been taken back a few decades, after having specifically stated not to upgrade or downgrade the iOS and NOT to delete anything. For you Apple geeks out there, they took it from 6.1 to 4.1 and DID delete everything!
Then, one fine day, a light shone down upon a stranger. A translator with impeccable English. Within seconds, he had swiped a few screens, entered some numbers and had Keith’s phone working on an Ethiopian network. I am so jealous.
I’ve been without a phone for 4 weeks. No email or internet at my fingertips. There’s no calling the hubs to see if he’ll be home for lunch. Or dinner. Or ask if he can pick up a veggie from the nearest produce stand. Or to just find out where he is so that we know in which direction to walk. None of that.
But, I’ve managed to survive. Somehow.
Another essential I survived 4 weeks without. Washing my hair. Yep. 4 weeks of no water, no products, no tools…nothing…for my hair. But it's clean now.
A few pictures I hope you'll enjoy:
Garrison pulled his 6th tooth out one morning this week.
All the boys got hair cuts this week. Total including tip: $2.15.
Clean chicken bones, thanks to my children. Who did the best job? That'd be Avery.
My little list maker. Walking doesn't stop her.
Why does this baseball-bat-weilding knight look so unhappy?
This one is from before we left the States, but I just saw it. The cake says "We Miss You," which is true for us.
The house is big. But, the plan has always been to share a home with long-term volunteers. 1) Shared rent = less rent. 2) The volunteers would have stability with an amazing family…us…instead of at a bed and breakfast with a steady string of guests. The first volunteer will arrive in June and plans to be here a year. I’m sensing that she loves kids and will insist on letting us have an occasional date night out. Then behind the kitchen there is a row of rooms that will be used by the guest home for teams during the busy summer months. More entertainment for the kids.
The first picture is of the gate in front of the house, and of course those cuties I sometimes call my kids. A gate? you ask. Yes. Pretty much every home has a similar gate. Even many businesses in town have them. A few much nicer with a touch of someone’s green thumb, and others on the shabby and even dilapidated side. It’s really no big deal. The kids are super excited about the barbed wire at the top though.
And, a stone's throw away from that gate is a big pile of dirt. Behind it, a police station.
The common living and dining area are one large room separated by that little step you see Ivan jumping up. Avery is standing in the “dining room.” Right behind her is the kitchen.
The kitchen sink overlooks those extra rooms for busy summers. Keith must have told Hanook, the guy who did the house hunting for us, about my cooking expertise. That little door will come in handy when I smoke up the kitchen, or set it on fire. True story.
Kids’ rooms. We’re going to try for the same situation we have at home. Boys in one room, Avery in the other…but they all sleep in one room. Two rooms are nice when we need to separate them, which is inevitable in the excitement of a new house.
For now, this will be the family closet since it is the only closet. Seriously. It’ll work, but I am expecting something fantabulous out of Keith’s handy-man and engineering skills.
The only piece of grass is outside the gate. I think we can get by with a pair of scissors for lawn maintenance. That feature alone won Keith over.
Uncertain whether it was my newly adjusted internal clock or my bladder (for they are equally annoying), I woke and removed my eye mask to see that it was exactly 7 AM. Ugh! The kids were still fast asleep so I returned to bed but couldn’t sleep for Keith’s badgering me about the banging he heard. However, I could hear neither the banging nor Keith’s question to me because of my ear plugs. All I could make out was, “Mumble, mumble, mumble,” followed by a muffled, “What is it?!” I half thought he was talking in his sleep and half that he’d just give up and let me return to sweet slumber, so I let him go on for a while before finally removing one ear plug. “I hear the banging but it’s nothing I have any control over, and we are lucky it’s not accompanied by a barking dog and music from the Mosque,” I lovingly replied. He ignorantly refused ear plugs, so I put mine back in and slid into the covers just as an angry elbow met my backside. (No bruises were incurred.) Ah, it’s Mr. Crabby Britches no matter how gentle I greet him in the morning. I love him dearly, but I should know by now to keep a safe distance. He never remembers these incidents though, no matter how loud he gets or where he accidentally flails his arms. Hopefully we will have a larger bed once we move into our own home.
Keith told me to "not make him sound like a wife beater." Okay, he's not a wife beater. Really. We all have our flaws. He's sometimes a wee bit grumpy in the mornings. I occasionally have gas when I get in bed. Neither is good timing.
We all slept till nearly noon, then pasta with Keith’s favorite sauce for lunch and I went back to sleep until dinner. I blame the altitude. Always the altitude. Dinner: what looked to be fried zucchini and fried squash. My excitement quickly waned when the first few bites of squash were disappointing because they was actually potatoes, which are severely lacking in flavor compared to my favorite vegetable. The squash. Fried.
Besides sleeping and carb loading, the day was filled with power outages. Sometimes we’d have it for less than a minute at a time. We were told that because it’s Easter weekend here to expect outages…as well as more animals in the street than the usual. Alive and dead. Welcome to Ethiopia.
A goat head in the street. Evidence of the Resurrection celebration.
The kids discovered their favorite toy here in the guest home, those giant foam pop-out alphabet inter-locking floor squares. They had a hay day. We used to own a set but gave them away mainly because I got tired of them. Every day it was someone else’s turn to use them to build something ridiculous that I had to pretend excitement over: a car, bed, trash can, Buzz Lightyear costume, etc. I know. I’m the worst for giving away their favorite play thing. They don’t call me “Mommie Dearest” for nothing.
I’d been wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight, so I took a shower even though it was only my first day in Ethiopia. Perhaps I needed the shower because I found toe jam behind my ears. Both of them. Gross. How does toe jam get up there anyway? Then in the bathroom, I kept getting a whiff of someone’s awful foot odor. But I checked my feet and shoes but neither emitted such a smell. I am still perplexed over it.
We saw our house by the light of day. Haven’t signed on it yet. But I’ll include pictures next time. We have two bathrooms. And, both are inside the house. I am just giddy.