Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cultural Sensitivity While in Ethiopia

This was published in October of 2008 by the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS).

Every adoption is like a rollercoaster for the adoptive parents. There are always obstacles to overcome and hoops to jump through. But in every adoption there are also many highs. For most adoptive parents the biggest high is finally being able to travel, meet the child whose photo you fell in love with long ago, and holding them in your arms. It is the moment that every adoptive parent longs for and dreams of. Adoptive parents want to spend every moment with their new child, learning every little piece of their personality and spirit. Adoptive parents want to show their new child(ren) everything that the world has to offer them. This being said sometimes it is necessary for an adoptive family to be respectful of a country’s local culture and hold off these magical moments for a few days. Joint Council feels that this is the case in Ethiopia...

...The large number of adoptive families combined with the curiosity and suspicions of Ethiopian citizens and with cultural differences in parenting and child behavior, is unfortunately causing unintended yet very significant concerns among some Ethiopian citizens and the government.

Please click here to read the whole cultural sensitivity document.

Monday, March 29, 2010

People of Ethiopia

In the 1980s, the Ethiopian Tourism Commission published several books. The text that follows is the introduction from one of those books, titled Ethiopians and The Houses They Live In, written and illustrated by Jill Last.

Ethiopia is not only a large area , about the size of France, Germany and Spain combined, its altitudinal range is from a hundred metres below sea level -- one of the hottest spots on earth -- to over four and a half thousand, the summit of Africa's fourth highest mountain. This altitude range is divided into three zones: daga, woina daga and kolla, corresponding to highlands, middlelands and lowlands.

The highlands are mainly inhabited by Christian people who, with teams of oxen, plough the stony hillsides in the north and the richer arable valleys and plateaulands in the northwest. The population is not dense and the settlements tend to be scattered all over the landscape. Vast, deep gorges separate one plateau area from another, causing considerable social isolation to the Tigray and Amhara people who live here. Here is where t'eff is grown -- the cereal most favored by the highlanders. The keeping of cattle is secondary to these farmers.

Dropping from the 2,500-3,500 metre daga, we find very different cultural modes. at 1,500-2,500 metres lie the 'horticultural' areas, where the language base is often Cushitic as opposed to the northern Semitic (Gurage is the exception). This is the ensete area -- one of the few plant cultures in East Africa -- rolling green country with bamboo and acacia stands, homesteads clustering together, and the well-tended and manicured smallholdings. Here the land is extremely fertile and the population density is very high. Ancient methods of land allocation. This is the country of the Dorze, the Guarge and the Sidama.

Lower still, is the areal of pastoralists -- the true cattle people. This is the grass savanna and desert, and about twenty percent of the people who live here are nomadic or semi-nomadic. Vast areas of otherwise unproductive wastelands are ranged by the herding cultures; people like the Arsi, the Borena, the Afar, the Somali or the Nuer, to whom cattle are the source of power, prestige and security. These people are mainly Moslem and have been for several centuries, and their political structure has of necessity been based on bond friendship ties. The so-called 'pure' pastoralists who inhabit the inhospitable desert country of the Afar Triangle herd mainly camels and goats and subsist almost exclusively on a diet of milk, butter and meat. In a slightly less harsh environment you find the mixed cultivators, herding cattle and camels but also growing sugar and cotton crops. These are the Konso, the Harer Kottu, and the Anuak of Gambela, etc.

These broad sweeping categories, intended only to give a general picture of the extraordinary diversity of the land and its peoples. There are in fact an astonishing eighty-three languages and two hundred dialects spoken by Ethiopians. Each group tends to have some slight cultural difference even from its nearest neighbors. Their customs, and indeed their whole manner of living, their homes, and their diet have evolved over the generations, using local materials to advantage and trading to acquire occasional 'imported' goods. The people have prevailed, in spite of periodic famine, war and disease, and are now preparing to take a massive step forward in the time scale and adapt to 20th century technology.

It is vital to remember and understand the past, to take into consideration present cultural modes in order to transfer traditional goals and methods to modern concepts without destroying useful values, confidence and individuality. "Tribalism" per se must constitute a threat to development, but tolerance for ethnic differences, and the respect of one group for another with different customs, helps people to adapt to necessary changes and accept the idea that a part of their autonomy must be sacrificed to the building of the nation as a whole. Aware and proud of their differences, Ethiopia's people can work together towards a better life in the future.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Foto Friday

Look at these little IAN loves! So cute...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Attachment and Bonding


Attachment and Bonding - these are two huge words in the adoption world. They are words that we parents take to heart. We spend time researching and learning about. We learn the best ways to bond with our new children. We read up on signs of attachment. Signs of attachment disorders. We can tell you what we expect. We almost all say things like "we know there will be an adjustment period." "we know it takes time." "we are prepared for our new child to grieve the life they knew." And we are somewhat prepared, up until that moment our new child is placed in our arms.

When I picked Little Sister up she was so tiny and frail. Her head was about three times the weight of the rest of her. She could barely hold her head up. The number one thing I was concerned about with her was her health. I forgot all of the attachment things I was supposed to be doing and threw myself into getting her healthy. I am sure it played a part in my failing to nurse her. I would have fed her anything she would eat at that moment. I knew she needed food, I knew she needed caring for. I was extremely scared for her. And I was alone. With the other two kids with me too. I put Little Sister is the moby and tried the best I could to balance the three kids.

I had every intention of allowing her to sleep with me - well, with us since there was only one bed and we were all in it. But she did not sleep that way and the wonderful woman who owns the Yeka Guesthouse gave us a crib to help. So, Little Sister went in the crib. Now that is the second thing in my "bag of tricks" to facilitate attachment that I have failed to do. *sigh* But she is sleeping well and within just a few days I can already tell she is gaining weight. This is good.

After just a few more days I start to realize that I need to push her towards doing more than being a lump. This means I must put her down. I must get her some floor time. So, I get all the kids on the floor and I start working on getting Little Sister to sit up. And she DOES!! After just a few tries she gets it. She starts to sit there and happily watch Big Brother and Big Sister play. They, of course, are running around with the mini hockey sticks we managed to get in our bag and a piece of balled up paper. They all seem to be having fun.

I sit back and I watch. And I start thinking about all the reading I did on attachment and how I am doing everything wrong. Breastfeeding fosters attachment but that is not working, Co-sleeping fosters attachment but that does not seem to work, carrying her fosters attachment and okay I am carrying her plenty but I am also encouraging her to spend time playing independently. Each and every one of these decisions feels right individually but when I put them all together I wonder - am I hurting her ability to attach to us?

Time goes on, we come home and I'm still wrestling with these things. I am so torn. I do not know when to concern myself with her overall health and well being and when to concentrate on bonding and attachment. Once we are home Big Sister seems to realize that this fun new baby is here to stay and starts having days where all she wants is me. I have to try to balance the two. I am so lost. It starts to be especially bad when we are out. The minute I pick up Little Sister Big Sister starts to throw herself around and need me to pick her up. It is exhausting.

We have some wonderful friends who are more than willing to take Little Sister and snuggle her and give her some attention and love while I try to calm Big Sister down. I start to notice how frequently Little Sister is being held by someone else. She does not mind. She is happy that way. She likes people. She is super friendly. But does that hurt bonding? Will she not attach to us if I keep letting other people hold her? I try to draw the line. I try to not give into Big Sister as much. It seems to backfire. Big Sister gets harder to handle. She gets more clingy. And this forces me to rethink the whole thing.

I mean I can see Little Sister attaching to us. I can see the bonding. I see the way she now claps her hands when Hubby walks in after work. I see the way she reaches for us. I see the way her sweet face lights up when I smile at her. She did not smile for the first month or so of being with us. This picture is not the first time she smiled at us but it is the first picture I have of her really smiling - and it was taken almost two months after I picked her up. I do not let anyone else feed her. Or bathe her. Or changing her. Or make her feel better when she is upset. Or do any of the most basic care things for her. Those are some of the big things that I have retained from my bonding and attachment reading.

But mostly I have calmed down. All of a sudden one day I remembered something someone said to me when I was concerned about Big Sister. When I thought she would never walk because she was always in the moby someone told me to calm down that we never see kids who are not walking at three because their moms are holding them. So, I decided to translate that to this situataion and cut myself some slack. I mean really if we fast forward two years (which is about the time that most books say it takes to foster a strong and permanent bond and attachment) do I actualy believe she will not be bonded to us because I have allowed other people to hold her? Would that be true if I had given birth to her? Of course not!! And so she will be my friendliest child. She will be the one that is happy to stay with a friend while I take Big Sister to the bathroom or run an errand. And that's okay - it does not mean she loves us any less. The fact that she does not cling to me like crazy and refuse to let anyone else hold her does not mean she is not bonding - it only means that she is friendly.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Alicha Siga Wat


This is a recipe for a mild beef stew. This is great for kids or people who don’t like the spicy flavor of Berbere! I started with recipe from and made it my own. :)

This will serve 10.

3 pounds of beef cubed

3 large onions chopped

5 tsps minced garlic

vegetable oil to simmer onion & garlic

2 tsps minced or powdered ginger ( I prefer minced!)

1-2 tsps of turmeric

2 tsps of Alicha Kimem (I purchase mine from EthiopianSpices)

2 tsp salt

Enough water (depending on how much meat you use) to make it a thick stew.

In a large pot, simmer onion and garlic with oil till lightly browned. Add turmeric and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes at low heat. Stir occasionally. Add beef and water and let simmer until beef is done. When done , add Alicha Kimem and salt. Serve hot with injera!

Next time I make it, I’ll add a picture!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Foto Friday

More gorgeous, smiley IAN kiddos! Ahhhh...must be a Friday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Travel Tips: Part 2

Ideas for donations for Sele Enat:
  • Generic ibuprofen or Advil for the nannies
  • School supplies
  • Toddler clothing
  • Kids DVDs

Ideas for donations for the care center:
  • Baby soap, baby shampoo, lotion and hand sanitizer are used alot and hard to come by in Ethiopia
  • Selsun Blue to help control ringworm
  • Toddler clothing
  • Fresh fruit bought in Ethiopia

  • Bring a scarf to cover your nose and mouth while driving when the pollution seems worst.
  • Pack over-the-counter allergy medicines to potentially take daily

Over-the-counter medicines:
  • Allergy medicine to help with pollution
  • Motion sickness medicine (Dramamine) for stop/start, jerky car rides

Please leave other travel tips you think of in the comments. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

From Ethiopian
Ethiopian coffee ceremony is one of the most enjoyable event you can attend at an Ethiopian Restaurant. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called 'Bunna' (boo-na) by the Ethiopians.

The ceremony starts with the woman, first bringing out the washed coffee beans and roasting them in a coffee roasting pan on small open fire/coal furnace. The pan is similar to an old fashioned popcorn roasting pan and it has a very long handle to keep the hand away from the heat. At this time most of your senses are being involved in the ceremony, the woman will be shaking the roasting pan back and forth so the beans won't burn (this sounds like shaking coins in a tin can), the coffee beans start to pop (sounds like popcorn) and the most memorable is the preparer takes the roasted coffee and walks it around the room so the smell of freshly roasted coffee fills the air ...

The roasted coffee is then put in a small household tool called 'Mukecha' (moo-ke-ch-a) for the grinding. Most restaurants at this time incorporate modern coffee grinders into the process, this is to save time and it does not take much from the ceremony. For those interested mukecha is a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are put and another tool called 'zenezena' which is a wooden/metal stick used to crush the beans in a rhythmic up & down manner (pistil and mortar).

The crushed fresh roasted coffee powder then is put in a traditional pot made out of clay called 'jebena' (J-be-na) with water and boiled in the small open fire/coal furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room, once boiled the coffee is served in small cups called 'cini' (si-ni) which are very small chinese cups.

As you sip your first cup of coffee, you've gone through the full process of watching seeing the coffee beans being washed, roasted, grinded, boiled & now the culmination you're drinking them. By now the process is finished at most restaurants, but traditionally Ethiopians stick around to get at least a second serving of coffee and sometimes a third.

The second and third serving are important enough that each serving has a name, first serving is called "Abol"; second serving is "Huletegna"(second) and third serving is "Bereka". The coffee is not grinded for the second and third serving, a portion of coffee powder is left on purpose for these two ceremonies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ideas for Cultural Keepsakes

While in Ethiopia, it's only natural for parents to want mementos to bring back home. These cultural keepsakes are much more than souvenirs brought back from a trip though. They are touchstones to their child's birthplace, a discussion piece showcased in their house, a prized possession for their son or daughter to be proud of...

Here are a couple of suggestions for things to bring back from Ethiopia:
  • Musical instruments (like a drum)
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Books written in Amharic
  • Traditional outfits
  • Ethiopian bed pillow
  • Ethiopian rag doll (sold in the Mercato in the clothing stalls in large baskets on the floor)
  • Fabric (to make pillows, cover photo albums or journals, headbands, etc. once back home)
  • Silver jewelry (which is weighed to determine the purchase price so when you find a design that you like, ask the salesperson bring out several of that same design to compare the weight before purchase). If you ask, the salesperson will place the jewerly in a tiny yarn woven basket which is a gift itself.
  • Beads (to make bracelet or necklaces once back home)
We'd love to hear other ideas. Please add them in the comments section...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Foto Friday

What's a Friday without more silly, adorable, playful, loving and loved IAN kiddos?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Travel Tips: Part 1

Packing suggestions:
  • Lots of packages of baby wipes (what you don't use, you can leave with the care center)
  • White noise machine
  • Flashlight or headlamp (in case of power outages at the guesthouse)

For the plane ride home:
  • Kid's backpack with new toys

For babies:
  • Bottles with disposable drop-ins
  • Liquid formula for the flights home
  • Realize that the guest houses won't have bumbos/swings/high chairs, etc...I think that if you have room fitting some kind of bumboish chair in your luggage would be great advice....especially if you are picking up more than one child or are only one parent
  • If switching formula, know that there will be blow-outs and you do not have access
    to laundry like you do in the US. Diapers and formula were the only things we
    bought that were fairly comparable to US take that into account when
    planning money if you are planning on buying them there
  • Take probiotics before you leave and while you are in Ethiopia. Check Whole Foods or GNC and look for ones that do not need to be refridgerated
  • Also consider Grapefruit Seed Extract which is a nutribiotic

Once home:
  • Have help ready to stay the night for 2-3 days after you return home. Don't underestimate jet-lag and possible travel stomach bugs that could affect you (and your child's transition) once you are home
Please leave other travel tips you think of in the comments. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Communicating from Ethiopia

Since it's not possible to take every loved one with you on your trip to Ethiopia, you'll probably need to figure out a way to communicate with those left in the States while you are meeting your new child. Here are some suggestions from IAN families who have already traveled:

Regarding calling home:
  • "I used the cell phone that the Ethiopia Guest Home gave us. We set up an account back home (direction on the EGH website), and we had prearranged times that my husband would call me. It worked fine. It was incredibly expensive for me to call the US, even using the Ethiopian cell phone."
  • "I researched getting a loaner/global phone for my Verizon account, but it was also VERY expensive. I think others did that successfully and the service worked pretty well."
  • "I had my phone turned on so that I could call and receive calls on my regular cell phone. It was absurdly expensive but I wanted it in case of an emergency. I recommend doing that just in case. You just call your carrier and let them know where you are going and when."
  • "Once I was there I used a cell phone that Mittin (Abebe's assistant) provided me - the guesthouse helped me get calling cards. Although what was cheapest was for my family to call me. They got calling cards (from and called the guesthouse - this way we were only paying one way."
  • " We were able to email and skype our family at home. (when the power was not out. -that really only happened our last few days-Addis is on a rotating outage, meaning that it rotates who will be without power) We also called a couple of times on skype just for a few minutes, I can't remember how much it cost for the skype phone call-the video skype is free. We had never skyped before, but it was very easy! When the power was out, we were able to use a cell phone from the front desk at the Yebsabi to make local calls."
  • "We took our daughter with us, so the only people we contacted back home was our parents, and we did this through email and texting. We found out that it was VERY expensive to call on our cell phones, but texting was only .50 for outgoing and incoming is free if you have texting on your plan. It worked very well for us!!"

Regarding using a computer:
  • "I brought my laptop. I brought a converter. I used the internet at the guesthouse on the guesthouse computer though."
  • "We did take our laptop and converter/adapter. It worked well in our room and we were glad we had it to download our pictures and videos to as a back up. The computer in the lobby at the Yebsabi works well too."
  • "We took our laptop but was unable to use it at The Yeka. You will need a converter though, if you plan to use it for anything else.

    The computer at The Yeka was sufficient, however there is only one for the entire guest house, so it may not always be available."

Regarding updating blogs:
  • "I was able to load blogger without a problem. I updated my blog from there several times. I did set up the email function beforehand because I had heard I would not be able to get into blogger but I never had a single problem."

  • "I did set up the publish from email to be able to post on my blog. I just attached pictures to my email and it worked! You can only post one or 2 pictures on each blogpost when you are doing it from email."

If you have any other suggestions or tips feel free to leave them in the comments section. Thank you!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kik Pea Alecha (Chick Pea Stew)


So, you want to make a traditional Ethiopian meal? Well, you've come to the right place. It doesn't get more traditional than the crepe/pancake-like sour bread, Injera, topped with Doro (Chicken) Wat and Gomen Wat (Ethiopian Greens). The only thing missing would be Kik Pea Alecha, which is what we will tackle right now. Enjoy!

Kik Pea Alecha (Chick Peas/Garbanzo Beans Stew)

1 1/2 cups Onion, minced
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 cups cooked Chick Peas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 tsp. Tumeric
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Ginger
1 1/2 - 2 cups Water

1) Cook Onions in Oil until clear.
2) Add Chick Peas, Tumeric, and 1 1/2 - 2 cups Water
3) Cook for 20 minutes
4) Add Garlic and Ginger
5) Cook until soft
6) Mash (or use blender or food processor to process until smooth)

Thanks so much to for providing lots of parts of this recipe!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Foto Friday

It wouldn't be Friday without smiling beautiful IAN kids!