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Monthly Archives: December 2012

An Untraditional and Unforgettable Christmas

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a Christmas fanatic. Few things bring me more joy than my mom’s Christmas decorations, I’ve had more than one Christmas party in July, and I struggle to make it to Halloween without breaking out the Christmas carols (I know you feel me, Rach!). So I was a little unsure how I’d handle the holiday season not only continents away from home, but in a country that celebrates Christmas 3 weeks later than most places and in a much more subtle way.

Silly me for worrying because once again, Ethiopia did not disappoint! This has turned out to be one of the neatest and most unforgettable Christmases I’ve ever had, and I’ll always cherish the memories of my Ethiopian Christmas.

Before my friend Xavi left to spend Christmas in India, we kicked off the holiday season with a sheep slaughter and barbecue at Yaya Village. I wasn’t thrilled about watching Amente slit a sheep’s throat, drain the blood out of its neck, hang it upside down, and peel its skin off… but animal slaughtering is an important holiday tradition here and quite a privilege for those who can afford it, so it was an honor to participate. And the sheep tasted delicious.20121229-103350.jpg

Countries represented at the barbecue included: Ethiopia, England, Australia, United States, Somalia, Sudan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Ukraine, and Djibuti. A pretty stellar mixture I’d say! It was cool chatting with them all over dinner and continuing the night by a toasty bonfire.20121229-103357.jpg

Thanks to Julia, who comes from a German background and so celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, I then got 2 full days of Christmas-ing. On the 24th, Julia and her boyfriend Kevin treated some friends to Stollen, a traditional German cake made of sweet bread, dried fruit and marzipan. Although the temperature was in the 80’s, we paired it with hot chocolate and macchiatos and lounged in the sun until it was time for our afternoon run. Julia also gave Dan and I about the best gift I could hope for: apples! They’re serious luxuries around here as they have to be imported, and so Kev brought some from the UK as a special treat. It was almost 2 months since my apple, and it was even better than I remembered!20121229-103803.jpg

When it was time for our evening run, Julia, Celia, Richard and I decided to keep the holiday spirit rolling by turning the jog into a straw hunt. We talked about buying straw from one of the fields we run though and using it to make Christmas decorations, and thankfully Kevin was on board to bike with us and lug the straw home. The farmers we bought the bundle from were thrilled with our purchase, but even more entertained by our unusual request. I’m pretty sure we turned into the neighborhood joke as Kev resembled a white mule on wheels and was shedding straw strands the whole way home.20121229-105142.jpg

For Christmas Eve dinner, Julia and Kevin provided a beautiful homemade centerpiece, red wine for the table, and a steady stream of Christmas music on their ipad. We dimmed the lights, talked about our family traditions, and enjoyed some nice Ethiopian steaks. I was thankful to have such great company for dinner, as they helped take my mind off my family getting all ready for my dad’s birthday feast and Christmas Eve mass. They also helped me realize how luxurious it is for my whole family to be together- thanks to Matt and Luke’s Colorado stints and now my world travels, 2013 will mark 4 years since all 6 of us spent Christmas together. Talk about a cause for celebration! I’m excited just thinking about it.20121229-103930.jpg

My Christmas morning couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. I woke up at 5:30, hiked up to Entoto, ran 12 miles, and hiked down- a perfect time for reflection on the real reason for this holiday as well as the countless blessings that enrich my life so much. Back at Yaya, I grubbed on some peanut butter and honey pancakes and coffee while enjoying the cloudless, 80-degree weather. I also opened a super thoughtful gift from Dan- a frame with one of my all-time favorite pictures from Ethiopia so far. I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my trip and will love having a constant reminder of this incredible part of my journey.20121229-105133.jpg

Around midday, my 5 British friends and I headed down the road to Banchi’s house, where she and Tgerida were preparing an elaborate coffee ceremony for us. They know how important the holiday is and how difficult it is to be away from home, so they went to great lengths to make it a really nice afternoon. Tgerida prepared the coffee while Banchi worked on the shiro and salad, and both of them sweetly served us first, seconds, and thirds until it was all gone.20121229-104357.jpg

They also demonstrated and taught us some Ethiopian dancing (see below), and had some good laughs at our pitiful attempts, which I won’t indulge you with.

After a few hours, things started wrapping up and Banchi presented Julia, Celia and I with wrapped gifts: beautiful wooden necklaces and bracelets. Once again, I was overwhelmed with her generosity and immensely grateful for all she and Tgerida did to make our Ethiopian Christmas one to always remember.20121229-104108.jpg

Dan and I then headed into Addis to ensure that we’d have reliable internet to Skype with our families. I was overjoyed to get to talk to and see Mom, Dad, Rach, Matt, Luke, Grammy, Chris, Deb, and even Emma, and felt like I was right at home with them. I could have used a little brunch puff, coffee cake, La Vazza coffee, Mariah Carey on the speakers, a cheeky letter from Santa, and a lazy morning around the fire… but I’ll definitely settle for a long, uninterrupted chat with the people that mean the very most to me on the most important day of the year.

I never imagined that I’d be able to fully enjoy Christmas without my family, friends and lifelong traditions, but my Ethiopian spin on the holiday turned out to be pretty spectacular. It was refreshing to be disconnected from the materialism that twists the holiday so much back home, and I will try to carry that mindset with me for many more Christmases in the future. While I don’t wish to spend another Christmas away from home (or another Christmas Eve not in my sister’s bed), I’m thankful for the personal growth that this holiday fostered and the people from all corners of the globe who made it so special.

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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Random Happenings in Ethiopia

There’s never a dull moment in Ethiopia, and I love the surprises and new experiences that each day slings my way. Before I post about my trip up north and my Ethiopian Christmas, I’m going to catch up on some random things I’ve been up to recently…

  • Getting fake married.
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  • Watching and loving a real wedding reception at Yaya Village (Mom, do NOT forget my horse procession or raw meat butcher when my time comes…)
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  • Learning from Banchi, Derartu and Meseret how to hand wash clothes in the sun. Can’t wait to teach ya in a few months, Luke!
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  • Hanging out with the super fast mid-distance guys based in Qatar (but also originally from Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia), their Somalian coach Jama, and their Ukrainian physio Sergei. And by fast I mean the recent 1500 Olympic Champion and the 1500 World Jr. Champion
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  • Dipping into the Ethiopian music scene and jumping onto the Teddy Afro bandwagon. I have no clue what this song means, but I do know that it’s impossible to listen to without loving life!
  • Learning how to make shiro and injera from the staff cooks
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  • Jumping in with some Ethiopians for a run at Entoto and participating in a photo shoot at the top.
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  • Racking up this unfortunate score:
    Wallet-snatcher: 1
    Becky: 0
  • Running with a massive bundle of pea branches for over 30 minutes after some women stuffed our arms with them as we crossed their field mid-way through a run
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  • Going hyena-spotting real early one morning and failing, but still learning some awesome animal calls (and catching a peek of 2 hyenas on a run a few weeks later)

  • Missing a little turn and turning a 2-hour run into a 3-hour run with an hour hike on both ends. (Shocker, I know, that I got lost!) It was all between 9,500-10,500 feet elevation, and let’s just say it wasn’t my fastest run ever.
  • Witnessing this. I couldn’t help but remember when Rachel gave my mom a ram charm for her bracelet because “she butts into everyone’s business.” Rude! (but hilarious, I’ll admit)
  • Watching the national cross-country club championships at Jan Meda.
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  • Taking a day trip to Debra Libanos, and getting an awesome view of a huge canyon and an interesting experience being chased by religious officials with guns and canes (It’s a long story, but I promise we didn’t do anything illegal!)
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  • Living up my last couple weeks in Ethiopia, both at Yaya Village and in other parts of Ethiopia. Updates on last week’s trip to Gonder, the Simien Mountains, and Lalibela, as well as my African Christmas, are coming soon!
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    Posted by on December 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

     

    A Tribute to My Favorite Fella

    My dad is the man. And tomorrow is his big day!
    20121223-130414.jpgAmong the many, many wonderful things about him, he…

  • Taught me everything I know about schedules and sacrifices, once setting a record of coaching or attending 16 of his kids’ events in a single Saturday
  • Stops whatever he’s doing to sprawl out on the floor and listen to my piano music as if I were Beethoven himself
  • Gave me the courage to attend my first cross-country practice and has since been one of the most influential coaches, fans, and bike-riding companions I have
  • Has the broadest knowledge of anyone I know, and will definitely be my first phone-a-friend choice if I ever need one
  • Appreciates nature and animals to the maximum, tricking the neighborhood birds into thinking he’s one of them and teaching the squirrels to eat peanuts from his hands.
  • Goes above and beyond to make others happy through acts as simple as heating up sunscreen before lathering it on our backs and waking up extra early to prepare a fresh pot of coffee

  • Unfortunately, when you have a dad who’s as awesome as mine, it’s not really fair to try to capture him and all he does with words. So I’ll let these guys, who I met in the Simien Mountains last week, offer a little analogy for the role my pops plays in my life:

    Not unlike the big baboon who swoops in to sort out his kids’ nonsense and offer some protection for his little one, my dad is the one person I’ve always been able to count on. Although nowadays I don’t have to worry so much about mischievous brothers- who liked to fold up their little sister in the couch and use her as a trampoline, plant fake roaches on her pillow, rocket her down the stairs in a sleeping bag on top of a board, and tell her that she’s the runt of the littler like Wilbur- I’m just as confident in my dad’s ability to get me through absolutely anything and pick me up when I need a boost. I’m confident that his friends, clients, and other family members feel the exact same.

    So Pa, thanks for everything you do for me and our family. I would say that I hope this birthday is your best one yet, but let’s be real- your childhood party thrown by the Dallas County jailbirds will be hard to beat. I love you very, very much, and am counting down the days til our first WRL run in 2013!

     
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    Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

     

    Gone Camping!

    I’ve been internet-less for the past week so am behind on all sorts of updates. Unfortunately, I’m about to be even more behind because I’m leaving tomorrow for a week-long trip to the north of Ethiopia (Gondar, the Simien Mountains, and Lalibela). While it’s hard to be so far from home over my favorite time of the whole year, hopefully I’ll make up for it with some dangerous animal spottings and such.

    Happy Holidays!

     
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    Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

     

    The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

    According to legend, an Ethiopian goat herder first discovered coffee berries when he saw his animals flailing and dancing around after nibbling on them. Whether that story is true or not (and I hope it is, because who doesn’t love a grooving goat?), I’m indebted to Ethiopia for its discovery and production of coffee. The drink fuels me for sunrise runs, late night races, marathon study sessions and gatherings with friends, and apparently does the same for many others; Besides water, coffee is the most popular drink in the world.

    In the past 6 weeks, I’ve gotten to see how Ethiopians incorporate the drink into a special, almost sacred, tradition called a coffee ceremony. The day after I arrived in Ethiopia, Banchi, Derartu and Meseret invited Dan and I to their room for our first one. While Derartu prepared the coffee over a coal fire and tended to the candles and incense, Meseret roasted small shimbra beans on a hot plate and Banchi arranged platters of sugared popcorn, cookie pieces, orange slices, and candy. They were methodical and delicate with each step and displayed everything on a bed of fresh green grass.20121113-170833.jpg

    When the coffee was ready, the girls stirred in a heap of sugar and served us small cups of the strong drink. We sat on their beds and chatted away, pausing every minute or so to comply to their orders to Belu! (Eat! in Amharic). We sipped, nibbled, laughed, and exchanged vocabulary words until the coffee ran dry and our Eshis (Okay) turned into Bakas (Enough).20121113-170916.jpg

    While the coffee was certainly fresh and delicious, above all I found it to be a gesture of hospitality and an invitation into the girls’ personal lives. As the ceremony occurred when I had only been in Ethiopia for two days, it prompted a degree of interaction and openness that transformed my relationships with the girls from polite and friendly running partners to real, relatable friends. And as a result, coffee will never be just another morning alarm, afternoon pick-me-up, or pre-race ritual. It will remind me of that first afternoon, and many more after, when the barriers between two very different cultures came crashing down and lasting friendships took root over a grassy platform and a steaming labor of love.20121113-170922.jpg

     
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    Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

     

    Visual Representation of October

    Is it seriously December already? That makes my October timeline outlandishly late, but here it is anyways:
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    Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized