Saturday, August 10, 2013

Enjoying our little one

We've been home for almost six months now! The time has flown!

We came home when it was still cold outside and it really fit our time of bonding and acclimating Myla to her new environment. For a little more than a month we were exhausted all the time. By time the weather was warming up outside Myla was sleeping better, getting more comfortable with us, and we were ready to try some new activities.

We have taken Myla to the zoo, to the lake, to Galveston, on many many walks, on bike rides, to family dinners, to two different plant shows, out to eat on family dates and to an outdoor music festival. We've found that Myla is generally laid back and a really happy baby most of the time. She is up for just about anything. She enjoys being outside, riding in the boat, going on walks, eating all sorts of foods, and having books read to her.

Myla has also made some big steps forward since she has gotten home. She wasn't quite crawling when we got home, but that changed pretty quickly. Now she is walking all over the place, using our fingers or her little walker for support. She really likes to walk up and down stairs. Just last week she began walking on her own!  She has gone from all gums to four teeth with two more on the way, and from a tiny curly mohawk to more and more curls all over her head. When she came home she was only drinking from a bottle and eating mushy foods. Now she is eating all sorts of table food (including spicy items), feeding herself, and drinking from a sippy cup. She is not speaking yet, but she understands a lot of what we are saying.  She likes to give hugs (the cutest thing in the world) and she has started giving us a cheesy smile. :)

We're still trying to perfect the nighttime sleeping, but we're not exhausted from being up all night and we're able to stay up later than Myla now! Life is good and we are really enjoying being parents - especially to our wonderful, hilarious, loving, squealing, curious, adorable little girl!

Here are some pictures from our first six months home!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Trip Report: Bahir Dar

We have one more trip post from our first trip to Ethiopia!  After our hike in the Simien foothills, Abebe took us to the bus station and found a bus for us to take to Bahir Dar.  We sat on the bus at the station for about an hour, watching as people got on and off.  We never understood why so many people got on the bus and didn't stay.  As we were in motion, pulling out of the parking lot there were still people hopping on the bus.  The drive was about 3.5 hours to Bahir Dar.  When we arrived in Bahir Dar we were greeted with a pleasant sight - streets lined in palm trees.

We had some dinner at our hotel and then I checked my cell phone and found that our friend, Dawit, had texted us and said to let him know when we had arrived because his mom had prepared a meal for us.  Whoops!  Dawit met us at our hotel, with his sister, Diane, and we rode in a bajaj to his home.  We met his parents, three sisters, several cousins and neighbors.  Everyone else was fasting for Christmas, so Dawit and Christie and I were supposed to eat ALL of the food that his mom had prepared.  Just as we would start to make a dent on the platter, she would serve us more food in its place.  We were stuffed beyond belief, but we really enjoyed the food and the opportunity to meet Dawit's family.

The next morning we took a boat ride out on Lake Tana with a group of people staying at our hotel.  The lake was really peaceful.  We passed several fishermen out on their tankwa canoes.

Not long after we had gotten out on the water our driver spotted hippos in the distance!  They ducked under water before we could get very close, but we were close enough to see them flap their ears before they disappeared. 

The lake has many islands and each island is home to monasteries, known for their Biblical paintings.  Many of the monasteries do not allow women inside, so our tour group visited the monasteries located on the Zege peninsula, where they allow both genders to visit.  In all, we visited three monasteries and we also got to see where the Blue Nile River begins.

The following day we traveled by van to the Tis Issat Falls, east of Bahir Dar.  There is a hydroelectric dam which diverts water away from the falls and we had been warned by some other tourists that the falls had not really been flowing just a couple of days before.  The van took us most of the way and then we hiked for about 30 minutes to reach the falls.

It was another really nice hike and the falls were amazing!  There is definitely more water flowing over them during the rainy season, but the flow was really good while we were there and the water was not muddy brown, like it tends to be during the rainy season.

The guide let us up to the top where the water falls off the cliff.  You might notice my eyes are looking up in this picture.  Just as Christie was taking this photo a vervet monkey came running from out of nowhere, jumped in the tree behind Christie and ran across the branch over her head!

We walked upstream a ways and then took a boat across the river to get to an area where the car could meet us and take us back to Bahir Dar.  The boat that crossed just ahead of us was filled with kids going to school.  What a cool commute!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Home with our baby!

We were back in Ethiopia from February 17 to 22.  On February 19 we took placement of our little angel baby!

We had our embassy appointment on February 21 and were back home on the 23rd, greeted by friends and family at the airport.

We have been enjoying our time at home, getting to know one another and learning all of our little girl's cute faces and mannerisms.  She is an incredibly cute baby and loves to squeal and babble.  She also loves to be held by her mommy and daddy and suck her thumb while holding a piece of fabric.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Trip Report: Simien Hike

We were able to see all of the sights in Gondar in just one afternoon so the next morning we had some time to spare.  We joined our tour guide from the previous day and he got a driver to take us north of Gondar to the foothills of the Simien Mountains.  We drove a short distance (about 40 minutes), parked on the side of the road, and started hiking off into the mountains.

We totally had not expected to have this opportunity so we were really excited to be getting to do this.  We hiked for a couple of hours, taking in spectacular scenery.  The pictures are nice, but they simply don't capture the beauty that surrounded us.

We had our guide, a scout and a guard hiking along with us.  From a high vantage point they spotted gelada baboons in the distance.  We headed in that direction and would stop periodically to take photos and watch them from our improved proximity.  Then we would hike a little closer.  Abebe kept telling us we were as close as we would go.  Then he would say "okay, let's go a little closer."

There were about 30 baboons in the group that we were watching.  We were close enough to see little babies jumping around and playing, and the adults showing their patterned chests.  Eventually the baboons started to move along and so we headed back.  We hiked for about 2.5 hours altogether and had a fantastic time.  As we neared the road we were joined by several kids that tagged along, congregating around Christie and holding her hands.  We were invited into the home of a woman that lived near the road.  She gave us each a glass of an alcoholic beverage made from sorghum.  We tried to decline since we don't like alcohol and everyone assured us it had not fermented long so there wasn't much alcohol.  It sure tasted strong though and we ended up giving our nearly full glasses to our guide when it was time to leave.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Trip Report: Gondar

We awoke early and took a flight from Lalibela to Gondar, stopping briefly in Axum.  Gondar is known as the "Camelot of Africa" thanks to a conglomeration of medieval castles that resemble those of Europe.  You can see the castle theme throughout town.  Even the airport has the appearance of a castle.  When we got to our hotel it was about lunch time.  After a snack lunch, we headed out to explore the sights.  The castle complex was just a short walk from our hotel.  We paid admission and got a guide, Abebe, who was our most memorable of the trip.  He told us all about the history of Gondar and its role as the 3rd major capital of Ethiopia (after Axum and Lalibela). 

The castles were built in succession by several different rulers in the 1700s, following the style of other castles built by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries.  The complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just like the churches of Lalibela.  The main castle is still intact and in very good condition.  Many of the other castles and buildings were bombed by Britain during World War II in an attempt to expel the Italian invaders.  There are some really neat features to the castles, including a system of guttering leading to an underground cistern and a steam house.  Other buildings on the grounds include stables and lion cages.

Our admission also included access to Fasilidas's Bath.  This is a large pool with a castle/residence in the middle.  There is some debate about the original purpose of this pool.  Our tour guide told us that it was primarily for recreation for the royal family.  Now, the pool has become the venue for an annual celebration at Timket.  Timket is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany, the time when Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River.  Every year on January 19 hundreds of Ethiopians travel to Gondar and come to this location to witness as priests bless the water.  Then everyone jumps in for a renewal of their baptism.  We were in Gondar just 2 weeks before Timket and they were beginning to fill the pool.  It takes about a month to fill and then it is drained about a week after the Timket celebration and is dry the rest of the year.

We hopped in a bajaj and rode over to the Debre Birhan Selassie church, famous for the ceiling painted with hundreds of angels.  The church is not large, but a good percentage of the Bible is represented in paintings covering the walls inside.  Abebe showed us each paiting and explained the stories to us.  It was really great to see this in person after having seen pictures of this ceiling so many times.

We finished our sightseeing for the day and headed back to the hotel where we got to enjoy a New Years Eve party with traditional Ethiopian music and dancing.  We were sitting right in front and had a great view of the action.