May 20 – Boxes 15 and 16 & 17

 

I looked back at my recent posts and realized, I have no recent posts! My last post was in March. How crazy. I don’t even know what happened to April and now it is actually getting near the end of May. I was able to talk to Cait this past week which was great. She was in Addis for mid service training. It is cool when she has wifi because I can locate her on my ‘Find Friends’ app – which kinda makes me feel closer to her, but then I am also reminded how far away she is, 7,567 miles from home, to be exact.

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I cant believe it, but we are less than a year before Cait finishes up her service.  We sent boxes 15 and 16 this past month and box 17 is ready to go out this week! That means, only 10 boxes to go! We will have to double time it to make sure we get all the boxes sent by December to assure she has a chance of receiving them before she leaves in April. We still have some time to go but feel like we are heading into the homestretch.

Cait is mostly interested in food items and avoiding anything she will have to pack to go home. But we are still throwing in something fun here and there.

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Caitlin said she missed having a variety of flavors in her food, like Thai and Mexican so we included different flavor packages and a couple bottles of spice that might help her perk up her food in Box 15. I also included an extra egg coloring kit that we had as I thought it might be a fun activity she can introduce to the kids in her summer camp. I wonder what they will think about coloring eggs? I can guess they probably haven’t done that before. Box 16 is the beading kit which will hopefully be a nice activity that will keep her occupied and continue her creative flow. She recently finished crocheting a scarf this super cute scarf.

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Box 17 is almost all food items and one surprise of a ‘magic cat ball’ haha. One of the items she wanted was nutritional yeast. We were having trouble finding it at Stracks so Michael ordered it off the internet and it is the biggest container – it will probably outlast her stay in Ethiopia.

And now for the exciting news…..

We will be able to deliver box 18 in person!! Only 21 days and we will be meeting Caitlin in Rome and then heading off for a Mediterranean cruise!! Our family is going plus grandparents and two of Caitlin’s very good friends. It will be soooooo fun! 

March 24th: Box 14 +

It has been some time since I posted. Things seem to be pretty quiet for Caitlin. She is waiting to receive grant money that will allow her to start her project of building chicken coops. She is also working on curriculum and plans for a children’s summer camp. Other than that it sounds like she has more free-time than I think she has ever had. I am sure that has it positives and negatives.

Unlike the pace of life in Africa, things have been very busy for us here – between work and family, there are few moments that are not accounted for. And I am sure I am not the only one feeling these demands- it is really a ‘First World’ problem, isn’t it? I am happy to say that one of my friends, Jennifer, has made time in her schedule to prepare and send a box for Caitlin. She runs an in-home daycare. The kids made Easter crafts for her and the families helped contribute the items for the box. It makes my heart swell with the generosity of others  and their wiliness to take the time and money to put together a box for Cait. Here is the fun Easter box plus goodies that is already on its way. Thank you Jennifer and families!!

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In addition to this fun extra box. We also sent Box 14.

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As you can see there is a ton of food – pickles, olives, capers and giardiniera. All the good stuff that she doesn’t get in Ethiopia. Since there is no refrigerator it is hard for her to keep things once she opens them so I have tried to pick smaller containers. We also sent her some watercolor paper and a cross stitch kit. She has really enjoyed doing the last cross stitch kit we sent. Here’s a picture of her last creation – pretty good huh?cross stitch

Until next time.

Box 12 and 13 plus more!

As soon as we got home from Ethiopia we started on our next boxes. One of the first things Michael insisted on sending Caitlin was a Stainless Steep cookware to replace her aluminum cookware. That was box #12 and was sent within a week after we got home. Box #13 took some time to fill and was definitely the heaviest of all our boxes – topping off at 23lbs!box 13

This was the box that just kept going. We had a tea pot – again a stainless steel to replace her aluminum pot – plus many food items, cooking oil, dried mushrooms, liquid amino, powdered coconut milk, chips, powdered cheese, candy and so much more.

My good friend Sarah and her daughter Steyr also put together a ‘Wisconsin box’ and sent it off to Caitlin. They wanted to include cheese but had to remove the spray cheese since it is one of the prohibited items! Dang! she would have loved that.

Many boxes will soon be arriving in Ethiopia but it is time to start on box #14  – which means we are past the half way mark!

Ethiopia and Back (Part II)

It has been so long since my last post and I am just now finding the time to finish the story of our adventure…..But by dragging it out, it lets me continue to appreciate the time we spent with Caitlin as I relive the memories again as I write this. At the end of my last blog, we had finished our travel from Jimma to Metu. I will repeat again how difficult travel is in Ethiopia. Not just the disrepair of the roads, the need to avoid live stock and random sink holes, but the very unpredictable nature of actual departure. I would guess that we waited no less than 90 minutes each time we got on a bus to travel somewhere. Buses/mini vans, do not leave until they are full to capacity.

Metu seems to be a spot Caitlin and other volunteers meet and enjoy spending time together. We were able to meet a number of her friends in Metu. I am so proud of all of these young people and their wiliness to commit more than 2 years to service in the Peace Corps.

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We also visited the post office where she receives her boxes!! We were excited to be on the receiving end of one of our boxes, and although we visited twice, we had no such luck. The day after we left, though, Caitlin was traveling back home and she stopped again at the post office and got Box #10, I think. Here’s the post office:

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Before heading to Cait’s we also took a trip to the market to get a few supplies. Shopping in Ethiopia is much different than what we experience for shopping in the US.

Traveling to Caitlin’s required a trip in a mini bus and then we had to take a KitKit – which is basically a large bus, like a greyhound bus, that is literally packed to the gills with people. When we made it to her house, another volunteer, Mathew, met us there and joined us for lunch with Caitlin’s landlord. Here’s a picture of Caitlin and Mathew in front of her house.

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Caitlin’s lives in a single room connected to her landlord. She keeps it neat and tidy and she has a place for her bedroom and clothes, her ‘pantry’ and her ‘kitchen’. She cooks on a single burner stove and has no electricity or running water. Very little of her life is easy. Here are a couple pictures of her home. Here is a picture inside her house, one from the front and one from the side.

When you walk down the path here, you go to the back of the house where the landlord keeps his cows at night and you also find the outhouse. Caitlin gets her water from a local well. It is a about a 10 minute walk and definitely reminds you of the privilege of we have of water available anytime we want it.

We were able to visit with one of the families Caitlin works with and we spent the day with them. It was an amazing experience. They fed us – two meals – and showed us around their gardens. Here is Caitlin with Desse and Faleqoimg_3511.jpg

Desse showed us his gardens where they grow coffee, bananas, papaya and avocado. He also showed us his watering system that he uses for his plants.

We were able to spend time in the kitchen with Faleqo as she cooked. This is a small hut set away from the main house where the family does their cooking. We were able to watch Faleqo as she made the injera for our second meal.

Injera is a staple in Ethiopia and most meals are served on a plate of injera. They do not use silverware and the injera is used as an addition to the meal but also as the eating utensil.

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Heres our meal with squash, potatoes and greens served on the injera. The farming center which is owned by the Peace corps is near Desse and Faleqo’s home and we took a little time to walk to the gardens and check out the sweet potato plants Caitlin planted and we were there as she picked her first sweet potatoes!

After our two day visit at Caitlin’s home, we started our long journey back to Addis. Visiting Caitlin and getting to experience all the sights of Ethiopia was amazing. I am so proud of what she has accomplished and her service in the Peace Corps.

 

Ethiopia and Back (part 1)

We had an amazing trip! Visiting Ethiopia was a once in a lifetime experience and, of course seeing Caitlin, was priceless. She is happy and seems to have adjusted well to the demands of her new life. We were able to glimpse just a small window of what her daily life is like and I can say that it is hard. We stayed at Caitlin’s only 2 nights and spent the rest of our trip in hotels so, like I said, we got a mere glimpse of her day to day life. However, the overall trip, provided us a good feel for the culture, the people and the regions she frequents.

One of the things that surprised me was the general sensory experience of the place. Everywhere we visited, except for Caitlin’s village, was so busy with people. So many people on the streets, selling items or walking to various destinations.  We landed in the capital, Addis Ababa, and when exiting the airport we were greeted by armed guards and as we passed airport security, we were immediately greeted by people offering livery services and lines of packed vehicles in the lot. The city was loud with traffic – and car horns are used without restrain. Driving in the city is not for the faint of heart and the car horn is a frequent communicator between vehicles. There appears to be few rules of the road and a 2 lane highway easily becomes crowded with 3 or 4 vehicles all trying to go the same way.  Making a left hand turn, from the right lane, across 3 lanes of traffic also seems to be totally acceptable. There are a few rare traffic lights so being a pedestrian in the city and finding ways to cross the street – also takes a fair amount of skill.

We spent our first couple days in Addis Ababa. These area a few pictures taken from our hotel room. The city is littered with many half finished buildings. We were able to watch a construction crew at work on a building outside our hotel window and I was struck that men were working with no shoes and digging what might have been a foundation using hand shovels.

In Addis we got to spend time with one of Caitlin’s friends, Jesse, and we met up for dinner with a couple other friends, Michael and Sammi.

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After Addis we flew to Lalibela. We selected an interesting time to visit Lalibela as it was January 4th, just a couple days before the Christmas celebration on January 7th. Lalibela is the site of 11 stone churches built by King Lalibela. They were literally dug from the ground and are quite fascinating. St. George is the most famous of the stone churches which you see here in the background (below).

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30,000 pilgrims make their way to Lalibela for the Christmas celebration and the streets were quickly filling during our stay and the churches were crowded with the pilgrims.

Above is a picture of the pilgrim camps on the left and as they were starting to fill the countryside on the right. Some of the pilgrims travel for as long as two weeks or more to reach the churches.

Above is another picture of one of the churches. Removing shoes is required upon entering the churches and we had a ‘shoe holder’ who joined us. I included a picture of our shoe holder helping Michael on with his shoes. It was a funny sight to watch him help Michael on with his shoes as we left each church and also it is funny that they matched! It makes me smile again looking at the picture.

The path on the right represents the narrow path to heaven.

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We stopped for coffee along our tour of the churches. Coffee is abundant and definitely a cultural favorite. We are with our tour guide Tedesse.

When not touring the churches we met many of the local children – or should I say, they met us. They waited for us outside our hotel and followed us while we walked the streets. Their names were Michele, David, Joseph, Gabriel and a few others I cant remember. You can see them crowded around Michael here as he was looking to buy a wallet. One of the things I bought for the kids was a ball – which we are all pictured with below. In addition I purchased text books and we handed out candy and crayons.

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Our second day in Lalibela we traveled to the mountain church. Above is a picture of the peak where the mountain church is located. Do you see the square formation on the top right? We were told it was an hour and fifteen minute hike to the church or we could purchase a taxi for 900 birr. We thought an hour walk was not too bad and decided to take the hike. From the base of the mountain to the church is a 2300 increase in altitude and that, with the incline made for a more difficult walk then we expected.

On the left were were taking a much needed rest – beautiful scenery, though. And on the right we finally made it and were heading on the final hike to the church.

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Here’s the same mountain peak pictured earlier but from the bottom of the mountain. After the long hike, Tedesse, our tour guide, invited us to his home for lunch. The Ethiopians we met are generous hospitable and excited to welcome you into their homes.

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Michael and I celebrated our wedding anniversary while in Lalibela and we had a nice dinner at Ben Abeba – a unique restaurant that boasts traditional Ethiopian dishes with an Irish twist including shepards pie. The restaurant was strategically placed with beautiful views.

After Lalibela we flew back to Addis and then got on another plane to Jimma. We arrived in Jimma on January 6th and stayed through the Christmas holiday on January 7th. We stayed at the Central Jimma hotel – a very nice hotel and a great way to recharge from our long travels.

After resting up in Jimma we took a full day travel to Metu. It required two mini buses and about 8 hours of travel. Security stops along the way were part of the trip and actually brought a welcome break …..

We stayed in Metu for the night and then went to Cait’s…..more of that next time.

December 30, 2019; Box 11

Tomorrow we will leave to see Caitlin! I am beyond excited but a little nervous also. We leave O’hare at 9:30 a.m. and will arrive in Ethiopia at 7:00 a.m. on New Years day. This is definitely a new way for us to spend New Years, traveling half way around the world.

It has been some time since I posted. It seems like Thanksgiving was just yesterday, I blinked and then Christmas was upon us. I hope everyone enjoyed special time with friends and family. We had a nice Christmas, but Caitlin’s absence was felt. And the pictures are not quite complete without her.

Knowing we will soon be visiting definitely helped to ease her absence during the holidays.

We will be transporting Box 11 with us when we fly tomorrow. Our suitcases and carry-ons are filled with all the goodies we will be bringing to Caitlin.

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We are bringing scented candles. Caitlin said she was trying to explain  scented candles to some of her Ethiopian friends so we will be bringing the real deal. We are also bringing crayons and books and toys for some of the kids and of course candy and gum!

One of the people Caitlin seems to enjoy is her landlord’s daughter; a young girl of about 13 or 14 and Caitlin placed a special request for a solar powered light for her so we will be bringing that also. I am so excited to be able to see where Caitlin lives and meet other volunteers and the people she is working with in her community.

One of the best gifts we will be bringing are two home made quilts.

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Mom made these beautiful quilts for Caitlin’s host family and landlord and on each of the quilts are this special label:

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So excited to see our girl. I will post when I can.

Happy New Year

 

November 25th

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Although different without Caitlin, we enjoyed a great holiday. Caitlin traveled to Jima to celebrate Thanksgiving with other PC volunteers so we were able to face-time with her on Thanksgiving morning. Heres a great picture with Caitlin front and center – she is obviously the one on the phone haha. Too bad Brian didn’t make it over earlier or I would have had our picture for this years’ Christmas card.

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Caitlin said there were about 14 volunteers that gathered for taco night on Thursday, actual thanksgiving, and a traditional Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, on Saturday. I think it is awesome she has other volunteers to share holidays with and I love when she travels and has access to wifi.

I am sending Box #10!! Double digits which is really exciting.  I am still playing catch up and I think I am close. We received a letter this weekend and Caitlin counted the 26th of October as her 280th day living in Ethiopia.  Which means as I write this blog she is 310 days closer to returning home.

One of the things I know Caitlin misses is good tasting food. So this box is a ‘recipe box’. I have all the fixings for a delicious new recipe we tried just the other day. We have vacuum sealed most of the items in the box but particularly the ginger and garlic which are needed for the recipe. I don’t know if she has access to either of these so we are sending and hoping they stay fresh enough with the vacuum seal by the time they reach her. We eat vegetarian so it is always fun when we find a new tasty recipe. Here is the recipe. P.lease try it and let me know what you think.

Curried Lentil, Tomato & Coconut Soup

2 Tbs virgin coconut oil or virgin olive oil, 1 medium onion finely chopped ( I know she has this available); 2 garlic cloves chopped (I sent this), 1 2&1/2 piece of ginger peeled and finely grated (I sent this also), 1 tbs medium curry, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 3/4 cup lentils, 1 14.5 Oz. crushed tomato, 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (sent her all these spices), plus extra cilantro leaves for serving, 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk. Shake well. Lime wedges for serving (I hope she has this available).

Heat Oil. Cook onion until soft and golden brown about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and red pepper flakes. Cook about 2 minutes. Add lentils, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup clilantro (less since dried), salt, 2&1/2 cups water, pepper. Set aside 1/4 cup coconut milk for serving and add remaining to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes until lentils are soft. And enjoy!!

Here is the box with the ingredients…..and a little extra.

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37 more days until we get to see our girl!