Monthly Archives: November 2010

photos: favorite things

oprah just did her favorite things show.  my favorite things have been in the form of belly-aching-laughter this week, and I have been lucky enough to catch some of them on film.  here are three of them.

1.  every year my mom gets each member of the family new pajamas for hanukah.  usually it’s a surprise.  but I had a special request this year.

yes, those are footie pajamas.  and yes, I have a full picture.  and no, I won’t post it on the internets for all to see.  at least not today.

2.  when I eat cereal at midnight, I use a soup bowl.  this boy?

uses a mixing bowl.

3.  what do you get for your (jewish) parents who have everything?

the one thing they don’t have.

bonus:  it’s shortly after midnight, which officially makes it my mom’s birthday.  and two of her children just sang to her in voices only a mother could love.  happy birthday, mom.


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thoughts: I left my circadian rhythm in ethiopia

in a few hours I’m getting on a plane to minneapolis.  tonight (AKA this morning AKA daytime to my jet lagged body) I finished unpacking the suitcase I took to minneapolis two weeks before I left for ethiopia.  then I unpacked the little pieces of ethiopia stowed away in a much larger duffel bag.  some were chipped or broken.  others smelled like the warm dust, with a hint of diesel.  some had been hand-washed and pressed, but were now wrinkled from the long journey.  yet others I’d almost forgotten, but quickly placed in temporary new homes on cluttered bookshelves.

now some of those pieces are going into yet another bag that will go with me to the frozen tundra.  and there’s something strange about it.  ethiopia felt like a new home.  los angeles became a new home almost a year ago.  and minneapolis is my first home.  and pieces of each will go with me there.  ethiopian gifts in the form of scarves and baskets.  california shirts sustainably made from hemp and organic cotton.  minnesota mittens borrowed long ago from a high school friend.

these mittens were one of the pieces of my minnesota home that I stupidly (and stubbornly) insisted on bringing to my new home in los angeles.  something clearly useless in sunny california, but a tangible piece of home nonetheless.

I bought a bracelet for 15 birr (about a dollar U.S.) on our last day in ethiopia.  it has rarely left my wrist since that day.  it holds no particular significance.  other items I bought represent certain days or moments, or evoke memories of skilled artisans.  this bracelet, though, came from a souvenir shop only frequented by tourists.  and yet it’s comforting.  something to hold onto of time gone by.

like I alluded to earlier, though, time hasn’t really gone by yet.  at least not on my internal clock.  the circadian rhythms of wake and sleep set by the days and nights in ethiopia are not fading easily.  this weekend I had the brilliant idea of taking sam to an afternoon showing of the new harry potter movie only to sleep through the whole thing.  the whole thing.

maybe jet lag is meant to keep us connected ever so briefly to an experience.  until we have our feet more firmly planted in the next place.  at least I can keep telling myself that in between 3am, 4am, and 5am infomercials.

I looked at the minneapolis weather report more than a few times tonight.  judging each article of clothing for its appropriateness in 4 to 34 degree fahrenheit weather.  california sun hasn’t been strong enough to reset my clock.  here’s hoping a good ole minnesota freeze will do the trick.

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photo: somewhere over the north pole

would you have guessed that the trip from addis to los angeles (via dubai) takes you right over the north pole? me neither.

(imagine my surprise on the first leg of our trip over a month ago. “we’re flying over the NORTH POLE?!”)

on the return trip we enjoyed incredible views of the moon. this only partially made up for the heartache of leaving beautiful ethiopia.

yes, I’m safe and sound in los angeles.

silly me to think I’d easily overcome the 11 hour time difference.

dear jetlag, you win.  again.

(more thoughts and photos from the past month soon.)

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photo: addis from entoto


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photo: michel bob

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photo: shiro

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thoughts: still here

Sorry for the absence of posts lately. A combination of toddler mania, high altitude, overly emotional experiences, and an unidentified allergic reaction to mysterious bug bites have rendered me incapable of making sense of anything in meaningful words.

It’s hard to believe we only have one more week here. Today I found myself taking photos of the neighborhood where we’ve been living. It isn’t until the end of trips that I start photographing things I see every day. Until then I take these things for granted. The street signs that are sponsored by Pepsi. The cows that graze next to a makeshift volleyball court. The cafe down the street where we sip macchiato.

I can already say that our first week here was much different than this last week will be. Our first week prepared us for the general way things happen here: expect the unexpected. Or just have no expectations other than that you’ll stop for macchiato on the way.

Our first day here included a missed visa line, the confiscation of video cameras in customs, a trip to the Swedish Embassy’s clinic for a small medical procedure, and a 2-hour flat tire. (Bringing the video cameras into the country would have required an unobtainable letter from the Ministry of Information. Does this sound like Addis or Hogwarts?)

The following morning someone asked, in all seriousness, “When did we get here?”

Now I can say that you know we’ve been here a long time when there is both a newly adopted child and a newly adopted puppy living in our guesthouse. Yes, we rescued a puppy in Addis. His name is Michel Bob. He lived at Kolfe, a government orphanage for older boys. And now he’ll live at the guesthouse, where we’re sure he’ll add many years to the landlord’s life.

While I was taking photos today, I started talking to three businessmen who live in this neighborhood. They told me they were glad that I was here and hoped that I would give people the full picture of Ethiopia when I return to America. Yes, there is much poverty, they said. But there is also much success and prosperity.

That is the mystery of this place to me. Driving around Addis my eyes are glued to the window, even after a month here. The things I see are so foreign to me that I still haven’t absorbed everything. A gargantuan mansion with beggars outside the gates. Donkeys being led through intersections while kids sell tissues to passing cars.

To some extent, poverty and wealth exist everywhere in the world. But they’re so close together and so far apart here. There’s something extreme about it that’s hard to put your finger on. Something very wrong about the vital aspects of your life or death that are determined solely by where you are born.

I wish I could find a way to adequately explain the good and bad of this country. The three businessmen would like me to start by making sure you know that no one lives in trees here. They were not the first Ethiopians to tell me that they’ve encountered Americans who think this. Our driver has encountered this so many times that he says his tree is the 12th one on the left from Bole Airport.

It is difficult to reconcile the good and the bad, though.

Today I learned how to make shiro. In our beautiful neighborhood. And we visited the local park.

Yesterday we visited Kolfe for the third time. We heard stories of loss that shouldn’t be possible in 2010.

At this point I’ll refer to the first paragraph to remind you that I still can’t make sense of all of this. Maybe I never will. And maybe that’s the point.


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