Today we had a free day. After a very sound and wonderful night's rest, we woke up early, got ready, and went downstairs with the Gerig family for breakfast. We all enjoyed complimentary french toast and traditional Ethiopian coffee, which is very strong, but oh-so-good! They serve it in these tiny cups and it's more like a couple shots of espresso with a tiny bit of water added to it. It was a great boost to start off our day :)
After breakfast we met our taxi driver and soon-to-be new friend, Yosef. Our plan was to pay Yosef extra to stay with us for the day and show us around. This was the best decision we made, because he took great care of us made sure we saw everything. We loved Yosef!
First off he took us to visit the Imperial Church where Prime Minister Haile Sellasie and his emporess are buried. We spent about an hour here on a guided tour learning about the history of the church.
Next we went to the Ethiopian museum where a casting of "Lucy" is kept and learned more about their amazingly rich culture.
From there we went shopping. Becky and I had our lists of what we wanted to bring back for our kiddos. We were thinking ahead into their teenage years, so there was much to be done :) First on our list was canvas art. We really wanted to have pieces of art that captured our children's heritage in our home. Yosef took us to an art gallery called "Makush." It is located inside of an Italian restaurant. Here we were able to kill 2 birds with one stone. We each found beautiful paintings from local artists to bring home and we enjoyed some wonderful pasta for lunch as well. I think this was my favorite purchase of the trip. I can't wait to get it hung in my house. The paintings here are beautiful and diverse. Expect to spend at least $100.00 American dollars or more, depending on what you get. In America paintings like these would be 5 times as much or more! To us this purchase was worth every penny! Love, love, love my painting. Next Yosef took us to a local market area where we were able to find everything else on our list which included, traditional Ethiopian outfits of different age sizes for when they grow, a jabana (traditional Ethiopian coffee maker), and a pretend jabana set (much like a play tea set), hand embroidered table cloths, key chains, and t-shirts and hats...all of which we plan on dispersing as gifts as he grows. This market was so much fun! We spent a couple hours here collecting all these treasures for our children and getting souveniers and gifts for our girls and family as well. We, of course, were bombarded with children from the very beginning of arriving. One group of boys followed us the whole time begging for money and patiently waiting. We were cautioned not to hand out money in large groups because then you would really get bombarded with people flocking to you and following you around. It was so hard seeing all those sweet faces, not to want to just give them everything in your wallet. Self control was put into practice big time. Here is where our driver and friend Yosef came in handy again. Finally about after and hour of being followed, Yosef asked Aaron for 10 birr, which is less than 1 US dollar. 17 birr equals 1 US dollar. Aaron handed him 10 single birr and Yosef spoke to the children in Amharic and said something of which I assume went like this..."if I give you 1 birr each will you stop following us?" All the chidren agreed and this seemed to do the trick. If we, ourselves had done this people would have flooded us, but since Yosef handled it, it was controlled. Did I mention yet how much we loved him?
(Yosef talking to the kids that had followed us for about an hour)
So after this we were able to continue on shopping and after a while we were followed by an elderly half-blind man and 3 more new kids. I must have looked like the easy target because they all would come up to me and smile their precious smiles and put out their hands to me and ask for money. They would say..."ha-lo...one please." Oh my heart!!!!! One sweet boy saw me chewing gum (which happened to be my last piece) and asked me "gum?" I told him sadly that I didn't have anymore gum. Then he said to me "shoes?" Although I wanted desperately to buy him shoes, I knew I couldn't without causing a scene because the market was packed with people. So then he points to a food cart and says "Food?" ok I thought that is all I can handle. I asked Yosef if we were allowed to give him the money and he could go buy these kids some food. He told us that it was ok. So we and the Gerig's gave him some money. He then took the 3 boys, which had then grown to about 10 boys, and also the elderly half-blind man as well that was still following us and begging, and sat them down in a small restaurant area. Yosef ordered them water and injera and about 5 different other meat dishes. These children were so excited!!!! They held up their water glasses and wanted me to take their pictures clanking them together. So of course I did! This reminded me of my girls at home clanking their drinks together before meals and saying "cheers."
(half the boys, some were sitting on the other side)
We stayed a while to make sure they got their food, and when it came out, the kids dovoured it, and the old man sat in the back eating his share alone. We left as they were eating, and as we started to leave in our car, we looked up and all these beautiful smiling faces were running towards us saying, "thank you." They were shaking our hands and as we drove away one boy says in the best English he could..."have fun in Ethiopia." As we drove away they were all giving us the thumbs up sign. I so wish I had snapped a picture of all of them giving us the thumbs up! It was so precious! Yosef looked over at me grinning his amazing smile and said,"this is good." This was one of the greatest moments of the trip asside from us meeting our son! Their bellies were full and so were our hearts!!!! We didn't think our hearts could love Ethiopia more, but after today and mingling with these precious people, our hearts were overflowing! I, myself, was on cloud nine all day long! Being here was like a dream! I loved every second so much!
( Some of the children and the eldrely gentleman in the back)