The end is near

The end of our trip here is near, at least for some of us! My little family and I have the pleasure of a few more days with my parents. But all the others are leaving tomorrow. So people are packing and doing "last things". Today I finally went to town with my brother. We walked a lot, took the local minicabs and enjoyed being around town. It's so amazing to me that I can just walk the streets. When I was here last time that was just simply not possible. We never went out to go shopping, took a taxi, or did anything that brought us out of our little safe ex-pat world. And now I walk the streets in peace and can really soak in the atmosphere here. It's one of the big differences that I have seen. I feel safe and comfortable and am surprised by the apparent "wealth" which is here. I say wealth in quotation marks because there is still a lot of poverty, but internet and mobile phones can be found everywhere as well. It's a weird contrast. And I am totally over the idea that I can really share my experiences with my kids. There's just been too many changes! But I love the fact that they are here and have gained some concept for how I have grown up.

Christmas Spirit

The Christmas spirit has come and gone intermittently here in Ethiopia. I didn't realize how where you live defines so much of how you experience Christmas! Should have known better of course, having lived in so many places! With my family we celebrate with gift giving and a lovely meal on Christmas Eve. So that is what we did. But first Herman and I went tourist shopping. Then we came home to a rushed house where everybody was getting their best clothes on to celebrate Christmas together. The transition is so big! And this morning we went to a church service, then did some more tourist shopping (stores stay open all the time here....) and went out for injera. And now I'm sitting here in my dads office writing this blog feeling like Christmas was about a year ago.
It was good to be together with family though, and some of our Christmas moments were truly "cliche". Like singing Christmas songs together after having our evening meal with my mom playing the guitar. Most definately a "flashback to the past" kind of moment. Or watching the enthousiasm of my little nephew as he handed out presents and eagerly helped unwrap them. And breakfast this morning with the typical dutch bread that I dragged out of Holland in my hand luggage.
Lunch at the Ghion Hotel was also very memorable. The place hasn't changed and it's a great joy to watch my kids eating injera eagerly in the same place where I enjoyed it so many years ago. Funny thing is I'm much less caught up in the whole thing of going down memory lane than I thought I would be. It's enough just to be here and let my kids see some of what I saw when growing up. Things have also changed a lot. We had coffee at a real nice place tonight, practically nicer than in Holland and definately cheaper! And that was just not done when I lived here before, unless I went to a real high class place. And I can walk the streets without being harassed. Another new experience. My kids and husband think that's normal, but I definately remember differently!
So it's just good to be here and soak in the sun and the atmosphere and get back in touch with my "tropical" side. I hope I'll be able to hold on to it once I get back to cold, chilly, cold-cultured Holland.

Mixed feelings

One of the things that has really struck me this trip is how our different personalities and circumstances influence the way we experience this trip. By we I mean my little family unit, but also my roots; brother and sisters and parents. Each person carries with them their own history, expectations, feelings, hopes and dreams and that leads to totally different experiences. What I perceive as a wonderful time may be really miserable to someone else. The way you wake up in the morning inflluences your mood obviously, but also the way you look at your past, at who you are as a person. We all carry our bagage with us and it influences us in so many ways! I know I'm stating the obvious, but somehow being here has made me so much more aware of it.
Maybe I'm so much more conscious of it because I feel that we have all shared the same experiences in the past. And to a certain degree that is true of course. We all grew up here, at least partly. The other day we discovered that we all lived here for a different amount of years! That is one difference, our ages are another, and our family positions. I think what I need to realize from this is that each person is unique. My past is mine, not someone elses. My experiences here and now are unique to me, I can't generalize them and simply assume that others are having the same good time as I am. This counts for all experiences, not only this one. It's important to be respectful of each persons "eigenheid" (dutch word meaning that which belongs to a person, that which makes a person unique). That way I can be sure that I can be open for how others experience things and that I will not let my own judgement cloud how I react to others.

Home Again

It's the end of our tour of ethiopia. We're back "home" and the house feels packed to overflowing. It is quite a lot to have what pretty much amounts to 5 families in one house! But it's good to be back, to see the kids and hug my husband. Feed them sugar cane and find that they don't like it at all!! (But actually, neither do I, it's mostly the memories that makes the stuff taste so good :-) ). We had an excellent last day, with a stop at the Portugese bridge which really had us oohing and aahing. An unexpected gift. The day before we were on Lake Tana. I had some fruit juice that didn't sit well so I ended up feeding the fish and exploring the local toilets. Also an experience which belongs in these kinds of trips. I mean, we're in Africa! Stomach upset is part of the whole happening! I thank God for camera's. Now I get to redo my trip all over again. On the other hand it can be so dissappointing to see what actually ends up on a picture and to find that in no way does it compare to the real thing. I asked my kids what they thought of the pictures and my daughter calmly said " I wasn't there, so it doesn't mean much". I guess that about covers it! That's why I want to take them to the Portugese bridge, so that they can see what I've seen. I'm looking forward to doing that the next couple of days. Herman is loving the atmosphere here. He had a great time bargaining at the Markato and is in his element there. This trip away from them has made me realize how much I love my little family. It's good to be reminded of that sometimes!
More some other time, hopefully with the added attraction of pictures. I took a stunning total of 250. Really, I'm quite ashamed.... But some will be sure to show up here and on facebook.

Middle of Ethiopia

Here I am, in the middle of Ethiopia, sitting in a well-lit little office with a very slow internet connection. We had a busy day today! It all culminated in a visit to the Blue Nile falls with my dad and brother. Poor sister Joy had to stay behind with a bad head cold. The pictures are great. I was telling my family that I have to view the pictures in order to understand that I've really been there. It's almost too big to grasp! That's what a lot of this trip is, a lot of things coming right behind the other, a lot of which are hard to realize are really happening. We left Addis yesterday, and it feels like a week ago. I left behind a sick daughter who thankfully wished me a lot of fun and told me she would be able to manage with all the other mothers in the house. Then we took a 7 hour car drive to a city which just "happens" to be the city where my friend has adopted a son from. How cool is that! So I took a lot of pictures of the environment there and even had a little attempt at tracing some of his family members. That was not a succes, but I'm sure they will be thrilled with any pictures that I come back with.
Today we drove to Bahar Dar, Lake Tana and then visited the falls. Tomorrow we'll be taking a boat trip to some monastaries here in the environment and then heading back to Addis with a lot of stops for pictures on the way. The weird thing to me is how normal everything seems to me. In Holland I'm often very aware of how my surroundings look, I can look at things through the eyes of a tourist. Here I just am, I see and absorb and look and enjoy but it feels so totally comfortable and normal that I forget to take pictures! So I have to consciously grab my camera and take shots to show the folks back home. And at the same time I realize that the pictures which show the way things really are just don't exist. But I have to come back with something!
And I still keep on smiling all the time. I love driving through the space here, seeing the countryside change. Having coffee in a local place, eating lots of injera, staying in a hotel with hardly any regard to the costs. My smile is just pasted to my face. I guess that's what comes with feeling totally comfortable and at home.

The second day

Another day that feels like a year at least! This morning I walked around the compound here with a huge grin on my face the whole time. I practically felt my face cramp up from smiling so much! It was just from the pure pleasure of being here, soaking up the sun and the smells and the sense of belonging that comes from being here. It's like putting on an old pair of shoes, no sore toes or blisters from having to walk them in.
I'm torn between all the different things to do. Be lazy, go shopping, be a tourist, call old friends, catch up with family, be a tour guide for my kids..... Today we ended up going to the pool at the Sheraton Hotel with the kids. That in itself is an experience, like living a lie. By the poolside, in the midst of the lap of luxury, while the drive to the pool is one where beggars come up to your window at every stop and the sights on the street are those of extreem poverty. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it tremendously! And I felt a real sense of vacation.
Tomorrow I'll be travelling with some of the clan for a couple of days. Leave behind husband and kids and see some of the country. I never saw much when I was living here, so I guess I should take the chance when I get it! But I leave with mixed feelings. I've only just gotten here, and now I'm leaving. It feels like I should be showing the kids where I grew up before I go and explore the country! But the timing works out this way, so I will enjoy the sights while I can.
I probably won't be able to blog from where I'm going, so there will be silence for the next 4 days unless I find an internet cafe somewhere. I kind of hope I do, because it will help me write down what I'm doing and then I'll have something to read and reminesce (spelling?) over when I go back to Holland. Have you noticed that this has become home, and Holland is not?

Home sweet Home?

It's only been one evening here in Addis and it feels almost like I've never left. So it also doesn't feel very emotional, just welcoming and comfortable and homey! Those feelings are obviously also emotions but not the ones I expected. I though I would be crying on every street corner while memories hit me right and left. But I actually didn't remember anything much until we were almost home. And things have really really changed. That was to be expected, obviously, after 18 years! Things have shrunk most awefully. What I thought of as miles of space has turned into meters somehow. Does the world shrink when you get older or something?
I walked around the compound with Herman, showed him all the corners, but the kids were too zonked after not sleeping all night in the airplane. I'm sure more memories will come as I wander around here.
I love where we're staying here the feel of this house, the space in it and around it! It's wonderful to smell the eucalyptus and the occasional diesel fumes mixed with a bit of poop. Very ethiopian!
I'm really looking forward to the rest of the time here and am secretly hoping that I will get hit by some stronger emotions some time soon!

Lift Off

It't 5.38 in the morning, THE morning of the day that we're leaving to go to Addis. Back to the place of my youth. Time for many "oprah-esque" full circle moments. Or so I hope!
I don't have to be up at this ungodly hour, because we're not leaving till at least one this afternoon. But here I am anyway, with my head full of all the things that still need to be done.
I just found out that I can post through e-mail, so I will be keeping you up to date on my time in Ethiopia. Only I won't be able to see what a post looks like because I can't log on to blogger from there. So if things look strange, or you don't see anything at all, or ethiopian language appears in my blog, I apologize beforehand!
I still can hardly believe we're going. Things are just too mixed up right now I guess. Our house still looks like our house instead of looking like an empty shell. Which is a roundabout way of saying that we still have an immense amount of packing to do for our move to our new town. Yesterday was a day full of goodbyes, and shopping trips for last minute things for my mom, and celebrating Hermans birthday. I broke down once, after getting kidded just one to many times about my hairstyle. Ended up screaming at everybody to "stop it now!!". After which we went out to eat. (Luckily I managed to recover my sweet, calm, pleasant and friendly mood ;-) )
But seriously, I need a break now. The stress is now really getting to me and it's time for a holiday! I'm still amazed at the patience I have had the last couple of weeks. I guess sometime the real nasty, shrewish, impatient, flying of the handle, annoyed and irritated me has to come out. I can't keep her hidden forever :-(
Now I will crawl back into bed and cuddle up to my hubby. It's literally freezing outside. Maybe I will catch an hour or so of sleep and wake up feeling ready to rock and roll.

Hey everybody!! I'M GOING TO ETHIOPIA!!!!

Last times

Last day at work today, yesterday was my last
bike ride "home". Yesterday was Tristans last soccer practice. This picture is of the last social event for my volunteers that I attended. Here I am unwrapping the last gift that they will ever give me.
Tomorrow is Tristans last day at school. And Marinda's last visit to school. I'm doing my last loads of laundry, typing possibly my last post in this house. I will wake up early for the last time in this house, we had our last dinner here tonight.
If I'm not careful I may get emotional!
Not really though. But I do want to make sure that I am aware that we are leaving here. I want to make sure I say my goodbyes properly and not leave anything unfinished. So far, that's working out pretty good!


The countdown is beginning! Today was the last day of work in our new house. We got our bedrooms done and a floor down in the living room so it's enough to camp in when we get back. So now we can focus on preparing for our trip to Ethiopia! Wow! My sister is at this very moment staying in a hotel close to the airport because she has to leave real early tomorrow morning. Brings a smile to my face, knowing she's almost there. She and my other sister will meet up at the airport and then get picked up by my folks. Just four more nights and we'll be flying too!
I have hardly had any time to really think about what I want to do there but maybe that's a good thing. Then I won't have any expectations which turn into letdowns. Our time is open to us, we'll see what we do. Just the thought of really being somewhere else, our trip as a family, seeing all the others and spending Christmas in the sun is a really awesome thing.


I read this quote the other day

"The thing is, it’s a bit sad to accept yourself.

You face all the things that you will never be.
But to be yourself is the only way to be happy."

What especially struck me is the part about facing the things that you will never be. One (very minor and pretty unimportant) thing that I am facing is the fact that I'm not an intelligent reader. Maybe you all already knew that, but I'm experiencing quite a sense of sadness about it! I figure that my gift for speed reading combined with the fact that I am moderately intelligent should make for a person who does read Shakespeare and Jane Austen. But every time I try, I just don't want to! And then I feel guilty for reading less intelligent books.
So it's out with my need to seem intelligent and in with the love of reading anything I can get my paws on. Murder, science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales and even a bit of romance, welcome! I'm just me and accepting this little part of me makes me more myself and makes me a lot happier!

Sinterklaas evening

Working in the house

I'm taking a break from working in the house. Things are going pretty well! We've almost finished painting all four bedrooms and are going back this evening to wallpaper Marindas room. She has expensive taste, that girl! She's chosen a very classy grey and black wallpaper. There goes her budget for her room....Our room is shocking because one of the colors we picked turned out much darker than we thought it would be. We're going to see if we can work around it though.
Doing this makes me feel a bit more at home in the house, just a tiny bit more like it's really mine. I still look upon our move with a certain amount of trepidation, it won't disappear no matter what I do. I guess only time will tell if I really will feel like this is a good place to be!
I have a little boy around me now, blowing spit bubbles in my face. I think he needs some attention badly. I will go do my motherly duty :-) and give him some!


It's friday evening, I have done practically nothing here at home while Herman has been busy in our new house. I dragged myself to work, bought some Christmas presents to take with me to Ethiopia, made it home and then pretty much did nothing but vegetate behind a book for the rest of the evening feeling guilty the whole time. I neglected to feed the kids properly, didn't clear up the kitchen, hang up the laundry, or vacuum, or pack boxes, or do anything that might be construed as helpful in this busy time. Shame on me....
We have to leave early tomorrow to start work in our new house. The troops will be waiting for us around 10 and we have an hours drive to get there and we have to stop at some store to get something we forgot on the way in. I should feel pretty harried, but I'm too tired!
But thank God for small mercies, there's no soccer match tomorrow so I can actually help in the house. We have a car, so don't have to take a long trip by train to get there, and preparations are well under way, we might even get more done in our house than I originally thought. On that positive note I will shut down the computer and get my ass (scuse me, butt/derriere/hiney/rear end) to bed.

Nine happy tips

Here are nine tips for keeping yourself feeling happy during the holiday period. (I have shamelessly "stolen" these from

1.Get enough sleep. Turns out that, although it seems like a minor life issue, not getting enough sleep is a major disturber of people’s moods. Jet lag, traveling, parties, and over-excited children all make it hard to get your usual number of hours. Making an effort to get to bed at a a decent hour really pays off.

2.Exercise. Studies show that one of the quickest and surest ways to boost your mood is to exercise. If you’re away from home and can’t do your usual routine, even a short walk will help. Even better…

3.Go outside to exercise. Or at least go outside. Light deprivation is one reason that people feel tired. Research suggests that light stimulates brain chemicals that improve mood and focus. For an extra boost, get your sunlight first thing in the morning

4.Stay in control of your eating. It seems to me that guilt about holiday binging is a major source of the blues.

5.Don’t rush around. Hurrying to pack, rushing through stores, sprinting to make a flight – these are sure to put you in a bad mood. Give yourself plenty of time. Do a few errands or buy a few presents each day, starting now.

6.Learn from the past. What has made you unhappy in years of old? Think back. Avoid your triggers. Stay out of the kitchen, stay out of the mall, stay away from Uncle Billy – sometimes there’s a weird triumphant satisfaction in getting worked up, yet again, by a particular situation. Don’t do it! Don’t expose yourself to known happiness risks.

7.Make time for real fun. Sometimes holiday vacations, which are supposed to be “fun,” are actually just a huge hassle. Figure out ways to have fun. In my family, we decided to reduce gift-giving. All the adults “draw” for each other’s names, and we each buy stocking presents for just one other person. Also, include time for things YOU like to do: going to a movie, taking a nap while everyone else goes skating, going to the gym.

8.Behave yourself! If you sulk, snap, tease, or shirk, you’re not going to feel happy. It may feel good, but only for a moment. Then you’re going to feel bad. Instead, try to help out, bite your tongue, clean up, or run to the store. Look for opportunities to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” or “This is fine,” or “What should I be doing?” Do good, feel good—this really works! The way we feel reflect the way we act, so if you act in an affectionate way, you’ll feel more affectionate.

9.Fill your heart with love. If you’re heading into a difficult situation, take a moment to fill your heart with love. Think of all the reasons that you’re grateful to your family, and the happy memories you’ve shared, and how things might look from other people's perspectives. This can be very hard to do, but it will make you happier. And if you’re happy, you’re going to be better able to make other people happy.


When I was fourteen and living in Louisiana, I was diagnosed with leprosy. By accident actually. I had had a white patch on my knee for a while and just for the heck of it my dad decided to give it a sensitivity test. Leprosy attacks nerves, making them less sensitive. Well, the joke was on me because that test turned into a number of tests, including several skin biopsies. And finally the diagnosis that I was indeed practically the only young white girl on the planet to have leprosy. Believe me, it's pretty unique! A total of two, no three, documentaries about leprosy have been made with my story playing a roll in them. That part of it has been fun! When I was 18 I travelled to Nepal for a documentary there, and when I was 20 I went back to the States (where I was originally diagnosed) for a documentary there. Not bad!
It was stressful having leprosy in the States though. I had many worried moments because there was such a taboe around it. My best friend at that time knew about it, also because her father was our doctor and worked in the same leprosy hospital as my dad did at that time. I had panicked moments when I had bandages from the skin biopsies and was worried people would ask what that was for. I couldn't lie, I really couldn't! So I just prayed and prayed nobody would ask. Nobody did either!
I think that was the biggest problem. Not the leprosy itself but the tremendous amount of ignorance that surrounds it. And the total panic that americans can get into sometime. Yes, I am discriminating, but really the reactions to us living and working at the leprosy hospital were just aweful in their stupidity. It even went so far that some of the nuns working in the hospital felt that I should be exempt from swimming in the swimming pool. (the chances of catching leprosy like that are totally nihil). So I spent the month september not swimming and telling people that I prefered reading instead. A vague untruth that I only just managed to tell.
All in all it's a strange time to look back on.

No Time

No time for any of this nowadays!

Another goodbye

Today was Hermans goodbye at work. He took the time and effort to write personal notes to all his direct colleagues and have the last ritual of coffee with cake with them. That's a very typical dutch thing on any momentous occassion. The one who's celebrating his birthday, departure, marriage, birth, drivers licence, or whatever, has to bring cake and then celebrate with the direct colleagues, preferably sitting in a circle. When at home, you do the same. The circle is a terrible thing. You get stuck next to people you neither know, or care to know, and then you have to spend the rest of the time making pleasant small talk with them! Many a birthday has been spent trying to get people out of the circle, but tradition must prevail at all costs...
But I digress... I was actually trying to tell about Hermans goodbye. He had a reception from his work (the same principle of the circle was repeated here, only the circle was big enough to contain about thirty people). I was invited too so I got to meet a lot of people from his work. Some of them for the first time. It doesn't sound very logical when I write it down. I mean why should I show up all of a sudden, when he's leaving? It's not like I was working there! I did enjoy it though. Lots of people showed up, he got a lot of gifts and people were very personal in wishing him the best. I enjoyed watching people enjoy him! He got a good sendoff and now has 5 weeks of vacation to look forward to. The weeks in Ethiopia will be peaceful (hopefully), the coming two weeks will be rushed. So glad he'll be home to bring some semblance of normality back to the house!

A churchly goodbye

Today we said goodbye to our church, (picture taken this morning) and surprisingly it wasn't emotional at all.
I say surprisingly because this is a church that we have been attending for 14 years, which is quite a while! You'd think that goodbyes would be coupled with liters of tears and lots of hankies. No such thing....I guess it means it's a good thing we're leaving, and that the time is right to move on.
When we first came to the church we were a young couple with major problems. I was really depressed, had barely any parenting skills, and our marriage was hanging on a thread. The church was a good place to be, the people were supportive, there were jobs to be done, opportunities to grow. The name of the church is The Shelter, and that is what we did. I wonder what church we will go to now? Maybe we ought to chose a church based on its name! Something like The Challenge or The Growth or the Church of Great Opportunities or something like that ;-)


I'm pretty proud of ourselves for staying sane and even friendly during these last couple of weeks. I've written before that I'm somebody who needs time for herself, and that I love my moments alone. I havn't had a lot of those because of all the things that have been going on and yet I'm still doing ok! More than ok even. I think I need to give myself a pat on the back for that. That may sound arrogant, but I'm firmly convinced that it's important to be nice to yourself with great regularity and to reward yourself when you have done something well. So I guess that's what I'm doing now!
Our whole family is functioning pretty well. Herman has a lot more energy and patience than years ago, I have more patience as well. I'm so glad to see that we are growing! Better late then never I suppose. There have been plenty of moments when I have despaired of ever having a normally functioning family or any kind of positive atmosphere in house. The hard work pays off!