Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guest house review: Yeka


From January 2010:

For awhile I have been meaning to write up my review of the absolutely lovely hotel we stayed at in Ethiopia. We stayed at The Yeka Guesthouse which is slightly off the beaten path in Addis Ababa and is beautiful and friendly and owned by the most wonderful woman. They have a cleaning staff - that actually cleans the place top to bottom every day. The rooms get cleaned. the floors get mopped, the sheets and towels get washed - daily! They have the most wonderful cook who works all the time. She only works half days on Sundays but otherwise she is always there and she is always happy to cook for you. And she is excellent!! I mean Big Brother ate better in Ethiopia than he does at home. We all loved her cooking.

We stayed in one of the smaller rooms at first. That cost $50 a night. It is a very large room with a queen size bed, table and two chairs as well as a desk. It also has a balcony and a small kitchen - no stove but it does have a range for boiling water and a tiny refrigerator which came in handy for storing bottles of breastmilk. And a big thing that it has (which does not seem like a big thing in America but is a big thing in Ethiopia) is a private bathroom. A full bath with a tub, sink, toilet - the whole deal. Like I said if you are traveling in America you would not even ask how many people share a bathroom - but in Ethiopia it is a good question to ask. So, to have your own bathroom is AWESOME!! And for us it was imperative. I simply cannot imagine having to walk my three kids up and down the hall every time someone needed to go to the bathroom or take a bath or anything.

After having been there for awhile and do to an odd turn of events we wound up moving into one of the larger rooms. Originally we were going to be in there for just one night but after that night we had no desire to move back. This room was $75 per night and honestly, if we had been in there from the start I think I would have been less stressed while I was alone. There was still the no going out rule that played a big part of why Hubby and I decided that he should come early (and of course the communication issue) but part of it was definitely being stuck in that one tiny room all the time. Point is it was WAY worth the extra $25 per night. This room was huge!!! It had a full bedroom - same size as before with a full bath. But this room also had a full living room and a full kitchen and a small dining area.

Once we were in there we could cook. The girls could take naps and Big Brother could play. School work started happening (albeit inconsistently). The kids could go to sleep and Hubby and I could sit up and talk - and NOT be sitting in the hallway. Life started to take on it's fairly regular pattern. Both rooms came equipped with tvs but we did not even turn on the one in the smaller room. Once in this larger room where the tv is in the living room we did watch some at night while the kids were sleeping. There were a handful of channels - we mostly watched the movie channel.

In addition the hotel has a small gift shop downstairs - there are some traditional Ethiopian things in there as well as some convenience items. baby wipes, disposable diapers, candy bars and cookies. We bought cookies from the little shop a few times. Big Sister got very frustrated about not having any cookies after about two weeks.

As I said before the owner is super duper nice. She drove us to the airport herself. We needed a car for our things and another one for us so she had her driver take our things (rides to and from the airport are included in the cost of your room by the way) and she drove us herself. One morning Sunday morning she went to church with us. That was an awesome experience. She was fantastic. She also does lots of convenience things for you. You can exchange money with her, she will arrange a driver for you whenever you want.

The one downside is that she does not take credit cards. She does take traveler's cheques. She also excepts either birr (Ethiopian money) or American money. Things like the laundry service and meals (breakfast comes with the room all other meals you pay for - although they are VERY cheap) are simply added to your room bill and you pay when you are leaving. Or you can pay more often if you want to try to keep up with your bill.

Ultimately we loved it there. We were very happy and we were sad to leave. Big Brother cried the entire drive to the airport (okay it only took ten minutes but still he was very upset) and while we were waiting to check in. The people were so incredibly nice and it was just such a nice place to be. I am so glad that we stayed there. I think that the people there and the accomidations made a trip that could have been very difficult into a memory that we will have for the rest of our lives. The Yeka does not have a working website at the moment but if you are planning on traveling to Ethiopia and staying in Addis you should email them at yekaguesthouse at yahoo dot com and consider staying there.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Guest house review: Ethiopia Guest House


From July 2009:
One of the things I stalked adoption blogs for was information on where to stay while in country. We stayed at the Ethiopia Guest Home and I highly recommend it. We loved our time there. It was very comfortable and we really like the part of town it was in - kind of a residential area so not as busy as main roads. It's about 15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from Sele Enat and our agency's care center.

We originally booked the Adoptive Family Suite - which is huge, has it's own bathroom, a queen bed and bunk beds with plenty or room for a crib or two. We ended up switching rooms with this totally amazing family because they had all 5 of them crammed into a much smaller room (due to a last minute booking change they had to do). It worked out just fine. We moved to a room that was smaller but still had a queen bed, bunk beds and room for a crib for Grace. We shared a bathroom just outside our door, but that was no big deal at all. Oh and the fourth floor suite is incredible - two bedrooms and a bathroom, a living room and the most amazing deck with a view. If you are traveling with a crew - it would be perfect. This was our room.

The food was also great and just easy. Breakfast and lunch included and dinner for just $5 per person more. We actually ended up eating dinner there every night. We had planned originally to go out one night but we didn't want to leave Grace and the fellowship with the other families was just too fun!

The lobby has toothbrushes, diapers, formula and some medicines for sale and they let us use the lobby laptop anytime we wanted to. As for internet access, the EGH has wireless, however, its out a lot due to rolling power outages. They have a generator so we were never without power, but that just means that the only internet is dial up from the lobby computer. Oh and you get a cell phone thats yours for the week. It's preloaded with a few minutes - you can get more pretty easily but have your family at home buy a calling card with cheap minutes and they can call you whenever you want! You can get these "calling cards" online. We didn't realize exactly how this would work and so we payed a pretty penny for our family to call us without this cards.

I cannot say enough about the staff at the EGH. Everyone from the sweet girls who do 24 shifts at the front desk to the cooks to the drivers - totally amazing. It was so neat to sit and talk with them. They were willing to help in any way. They showed Scotty where to go buy water and cokes and snacks around the corner. They cared for Grace one morning. One driver took us shopping all over and bargained for us. Another driver took us to Grace's town so we could get some pictures and was an awesome translator and friend that day.

Here are a few shots of the guest house.
Of course, the absolute best part was the friends we made. We hit the jackpot with house mates. Hanging out with them was one of the best parts of our trip. We all left our doors open, loved on each other's children, shared supplies, learned a ton from one another and had some serious laughs. Here's our house bunch. We miss you guys!!!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Foto Friday

More smiles from IAN kids and families!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Guest house review: Yebsabi


From February 2010:
While I was in Ethiopia, I stayed at the Yebsabi Guest House. I had heard many things about the accomodations in Ethiopia and I was a little nervous about what I would find. I'm not a hotel snob but I also don't enjoy camping. I'm good with something in-between. The Yebsabi far exceeded my expectations. It was beyond clean and the people working there were both gracious and helpful. We had a room with two twin beds and a private bathroom with plenty of hot water and great water pressure. Our room was part of a suite which included another guest room, a living room and a kitchen area. We were fortunate that there was no one in the other guest room so we had the living room and kitchen to ourselves.

We had great internet in our room. Every day, our room was cleaned and we were given two bottled waters. There was also a stocked refrigerator/mini-bar in the kitchen area where we could get bottled water and sodas (including awesome coke bottles written in Amharic which came home with me).

The kitchen included a sink, microwave and a wonderful hotpot that boiled water very quickly. This was wonderful for making hot chocolate at night and for cleaning Daniel's bottles.

Breakfast was included with our room and there was a wonderful spread every morning--including coffee, tea and eggs made to order. We ate lunch there once (yummy fish and chips) and dinner most nights. David was the chef and he was a fantastic cook. He made a traditional Ethiopian dinner one night at our request. We also had a pasta dish, chicken with rice and lasagna. It was all fantastic.

The Yebsabi has a rooftop terrace that is amazing. You can see the whole city from up there. I got some great pictures and wonderful video of the sights and sounds of Addis.

The only negative that I encountered was the rooster who lived next door and woke up promptly at 6am every morning. When I mentioned it to the manager and woman working the front desk, they had no idea what I was talking about. I think they are just used to them. We don't have a lot of roosters out here in the 'burbs.

The balcony off our bedroom:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest house review: Yeka

From an IAN mom who traveled in January 2010:

LOVED the Yeka...from what Abebe said, the Yebsabi is really the only
nicer/plusher option...but I think that they are also pricier. For the money, we
found the value GREAT. We had our own bathroom, very very little noise from
outside (no roosters, dogs, etc...or hardly any...we were happy to find this!),
they had a big room with couches to hang out in, great staff who were very
accomodating, great food, great driver...we had no complaints!! They only have
one computer with dial-up, but I found that not having constant internet access
kept me more engaged and I liked it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guest house review: Yeka & Yebsabi

From an IAN mom who traveled in January 2010:

We stayed at the Yeka first, and then moved to the Yebsabi. We had originally wanted to stay at the Yebsabi, but everyone else in our travel group was staying at the Yeka, so we figured, "Why not?" Here are my thoughts...


Unprofessional. I reserved TWO rooms online, and even called and confirmed this. When we arrived, they only had one room and said, "Oh, sorry." Other than put a roll-a-way bed in the room, they did nothing to remedy this. The room was filthy, with dead flies in the bathroom. The glass shelves in the bathroom were broken and jagged. The towels were thin and had holes in them. There was a free standing bathtub with a shower curtain that was not nearly large enough. There was one cabinet in the bedroom that used to lock, but was broken, so there was no safe place to put your money or valuables. They didn't provide any bottled water, and instead filled a pitcher from a source downstairs, which didn't give me too much confidence in it. Breakfast was included, but I thought it was substandard. There was one cook and one "waiter", but it took them forever to get anything. They were constantly out of coffee. Now, I will say that they were full, as our traveling group was large, but all of these things seemed like they could be easily remedied. Our room was on the third floor, and we found out that all of the upper rooms had no water pressure whatsoever. I mean, literally a trickle!

They had a computer in the lobby, but only dial-up connection, which made it completely useless. The walls were paper-thin, and we could hear everything going on in the room next to ours. We were picked up at the airport (along with other families), and farmed out to 2 taxis. They did nothing to protect us from the beggars/scammers in the airport parking lot, and we wound up having to "tip" them unnecessarily. It was about 25 minutes from the airport. It was noisy at night with barking dogs, and the Sunday call to prayer seemed as though it was right outside our window. There was a nice garden area outside with a merry go round in it, but it was old and not up to American safety standards. One little boy got hurt playing on it during our trip and had to go to the hospital. Needless to say, I don't recommend the Yeka. I know that there were families in our group who liked it here, but we definitely did not! We have traveled all over the world (including other 3rd world countries), and I can safely say that the accommodations were well below standard.


This place was the polar opposite of the Yeka! Incredibly accommodating staff, and very professional. We had a suite with two adjoining rooms, each with their own locking door, and a common living area. It also had a kitchen in the room with 2 refrigerators. They provided several bottles of water daily, and there was beer, wine, water, and soda available for purchase from a refrigerator "mini bar". The place was immaculate, with a floor you could eat off of. The rooms were cleaned daily, and they provided fresh towels every day, even when we hung ours up to reuse them. The towels were thick and wonderful. The bathrooms each had an enclosed shower, with as much water pressure and hot water as you could handle. They even provided baby bath tubs upon request. The bed mattress wasn't very comfortable, but it was the same as the Yeka, so I guess that's all they have to choose from there.

They had an actual programmable room safe in every room. There was also a TV in each bedroom, although we didn't watch it. They had wireless internet available in the lobby, and cable access IN THE ROOMS, so we were able to bring our laptop and use it successfully. The food was awesome! David is the chef, and he was so nice. He'd even translate for us so we could talk to our son. Breakfast was standard fare, as well as eggs cooked to order. Even donuts one morning! Great coffee. All you had to do was tell them if you wanted to have lunch and/or dinner there, and it cost about $5 per person. Again, amazing food. There was also a nice restaurant right around the corner called the Zebra Grill that we highly recommend. They were able to change all the money we desired at the front desk with no problems, so we had no issue of trying to find a bank. They would call taxis for us whenever we needed one. Even the uniformed guards who worked the front gate of the compound were nice!

We had very few complaints. I wish that they would have closed the front door of the compound courtyard so that Shimeles could play out there without fear of him running out the door into the street! But the doormen were also very good at catching him before he escaped! It was a bit noisy at night, since the main shopping area around there is right around the corner, but it was nice to have the shopping available. Also, they have the same barking dog problems as every other guest house in Addis. We brought a white noise machine and it was probably the best thing we brought on the trip with us. (Marpac Sleepmate -- get it at for about $50). It was incredibly close to the airport -- I'd say about a 10 minute drive. All in all, we HIGHLY recommend the Yebsabi. Maybe it seemed so great because of our terrible experience at the Yeka, but we really really liked it there.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest house review: New Flower


From August 2008:
We stayed at the New Flower Guest House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia while we were there for the adoption. The New Flower is run by Helen and her very capable staff. It is a great place to be. This new house is really a great place. It has a large courtyard for kids to play in. While it is centrally located and very convenient to the city in general it is in a very safe neighborhood and feels secluded. While the guests are not limited to adoptive families it is frequented by such. It is really nice to be with other families who are adopting. It is also great to have someone who can translate for you what your child is saying, if you are adopting an older child. It is also really handy that they will also tell your child to listen to you, Mom and Dad. For translation they are always helpful and we felt they were not intrusive.

A word on bathroom accommodations in Ethiopia in general: Hot water is not often plumbed in like it is here. Nicer accommodations like the New Flower have installed hot water heaters in each shower. It take some practice but is a definite luxury in Ethiopia. Most of the rooms have showers but larger plastic tubs are available to wash your baby or toddler in.

The New Flower recently got a dryer! This is a huge perk and luxury. When you have your laundry done it is done MUCH faster and this is especially good in the winter when nothing every drys.

You can expect to be treated well and you will find yourself in good and helpful hands with Helen and her staff at the New Flower Guest House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Please check out their web site by clicking on New Flower.

A dad from our agency recently (December 2009) stayed at the New Flower and this is what he has to say about it:
The New Flower is maybe a 4 minute drive from the airport, really close. (New Flower will have someone pick you up if you need it).
The New Flower was really nice, but the people who worked there made it an even better experience. Yonathon, the main man, was awesome. The two drivers, Ayela and Alozar, were great as well.
The NF was approximately 1/4 mile from the Friendship Mall, which was a 4 story building that housed a grocery store, internet cafe, a place called Kaldi's (looked exactly like Starbucks). It's located about 1/2 mile from a really nice cafe called Limetree that has WiFi where some families have been able to Skype with video. It's about 3/4 mile from a pharmacy where you can get antibiotics, cough medicine, etc.. over the counter without prescription. The (IAN) Care Center and Sele Enat are about a 10 minute drive. All in all, the New Flower is in a awesome location. If you need to buy something and you think your getting ripped off have someone at your guest house who is Ethiopian buy it for you. I needed a 4GB USB Flash Drive and they were quoting be 1500 Birr ($120). I knew that was ridiculous. Yonathon went up there and got it for 450 Birr ($35).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Foto Friday

So many IAN Valentine cuties!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Robel Teklemariam: Ice Slider

Ethiopia has no snow. And Amharic has no word for "snow." So Robel Teklemariam, the only Ethiopian compteting in the 2010 Olympics, is known as "Beredoe Shartate." This nickname loosely translates to "Ice Slider" which Teklemariam feels is the best description of what he does as a cross-country skier. For more about Teklemariam, read here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Little Ethiopias

Washington, DC has the largest Ethiopian community in the United States and is home to approximately 20 Ethiopian restaurants. In the Shaw neighborhood, specifically the U Street corridor, there is a concentrated number of Ethiopian businesses. This area is unofficially known as Little Ethiopia.

Los Angeles has the second largest Ethiopian community in the US. The area on South Fairfax (just south of Olympic) was officially named Little Ethiopia in 2001 and boasts its own business association. The area is home to approximately 8 Ethiopian restaurants (including one that is 100% vegan), a hairdresser, tax service, travel agency and several Ethiopia specific stores.

This site lists Ethiopian restaurants around the world. Check out if there is one near you or your next vacation spot...

If you don't mind, please leave a comment with the name of your favorite Ethiopian restaurant, store or merkato and the city it is located in. Thanks!

Note: My research on DC's Little Ethiopia brought up very dated results. If you have more current information please leave a comment so I can contact you. Thanks!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Foto Friday

More gorgeous IAN kids!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

IAN Feedback Request

In case you missed it on the IAN Yahoo group forum or the News and Updates blog, IAN is asking for feedback regarding your experience with them. Please read this post for more details.

Additionally, if you are member of either the EthiopiaAAR or EthiopiaAdopt Yahoo groups there are places within those sites that you can leave comments regarding your experience(s) with IAN. Within EthiopiaAAR, you can add a record to the database called "Rate Your Agency." There is currently only one family's experience with IAN. Within EthiopiaAdopt you can add your information to the database called "Agency information." Currently there are 4 families that are available for private contact who have used IAN.

Thank you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Traditional Ethiopian Weaving

The hand made process takes the raw cotton from the market to the "Shemane's" (traditional Ethiopian weavers) place of work. There the cotton is separated from the seed and piled one side.

Once the pile of cotton is seed and dirt free, its stretched into a string by a slow process. This process is a fully manual and tedious one if you look at the color picture above the two women sitting, the one of the right is using her hands draw the cotton into strings. The woman sitting to the left is using a manually operated machine to 'stain' or 'color' some of the strings so they can be used for the colorful patterns that are sawn into the shawls or clothes.

Once the strings are prepared and made in to a bowl, the Shemane uses weaving machine (on the color picture where the man is sitting and operating a manual weaving machine) to make the gabi - shawls, dresses or shirts.

Once the cotton is turned into fabric, then the actual patterns are sawn in by hand. This whole process will take days and is not conducive to mass production; but for getting that one of a kind shawl or cultural cloth to wear and adore the 100% handmade process is the sure way.

Source: (a Los Angeles store selling handmade Ethiopian clothing)


Cotton Textiles of Ethiopia

The production of cotton textiles was carried out in all parts of the country. Gondar, Adwa, Ankobar and Harar were, however, famous for particularly fine cloth.

Ruppell stated in the early nineteenth century that Gondar was renowned for its cloth throughout Ethiopia, particularly for a silky thread which was used in the embroidery of women's clothes and for the hats worn by Muslims, while Combes and Tamisier noticed that the city produced the finest woven material.

Adwa, observed the British traveller Henry Salt, was a great centre for both coarse and fine cloth, a statement echoed by the German observer Gerhard Rohlfs in the latter part of the century.

The coarse cloth of Adwa, according to Salt, was "unrivalled in any other part of the country" and was made out of cotton imported via Massawa, while the finer material which was made from cotton grown on the low lands bordering on the Takaze River was thought "little inferior" to that of Gondar. Combes and Tamisier assert that the weavers employed by Sahla Sellassie in Shawa rivaled those of Gondar.

Further to the East, the city of Harar was also renowned for the manufacture of textiles. The English traveller Richard Burton in the middle of the century declared that the robes and sashes of Harar were "considered equal to the celebrated cloths of Shoa," and, being hand woven, far surpassed "the rapid produce of European manufactories in beauty and durability as the perfect hand of man excels the finest machinery.

The Traditional Ethiopian Loom

Two stakes perhaps as high as a man would be struck in the ground a metre and a half or so apart and would be kept firm by the attachment of a third piece of wood or pole which would be tied to the top of the two vertical posts thus joining them together. Towards each end of the horizontal pole a string made of wool was lowered to subtend a thin piece of wood, perhaps a span long. which served as a kind of balance from each end of which other strings were lowered to hold a couple of weaver's reeds or combs. These latter were made of a couple of long thin horizontal pieces of wood or cane joined together by innumerable strings between which the weft passed.

Source: Traditional Ethiopian Weaving Technology - and the Advent of Foreign Machine-made Imports by Professor Richard Pankhurst

Monday, February 8, 2010


Gursha means "mouthful" in Amharic and is the Ethiopian tradition of hand-feeding another. It's basically an act of kindness and respect towards the other person. Gursha is exchanged between husband and wife, parents and children, relatives and friends.

From Ethiopian Ethiopians (less practiced outside Ethiopia) often hand feed their guests, or guests of honors during dinner/lunch. This is to show respect(often it grabs foreigners by surprise) sometimes the person receiving the Gursha responds in kind and in turn feeds his feeder. Often gurshas are much larger than the regular scoop due to tradition, so you might find your mouth full from front to back. It's ok to decline a Gursha if you are uncomfortable, people won't take offense from this.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Foto Friday

Beautiful IAN kids and amazing families:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gomen Wat (Ethiopian Greens)


So far on this blog, we have passed along a great recipe for Injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread. Injera tastes a little strange and sour and, so, there are 3 amazing recipes that you can cook to dump on top of it. We've also given you the first of the 3 recipes, Doro (Chicken) Wat. The other 2 recipes are Gomen Wat (Ethiopian Greens), and >Kik Pea Alecha (Chick Peas/Garbanzo Beans Stew). We're going to tackle the Gomen Wat this week and, coming up in the next few weeks, we've got some Latin American recipes as well as a great FettuciniAlfredo recipe for you. Enjoy!
Gomen Wat (Ethiopian Greens)

1 lb. Green Kale, chopped fine
1 Medium Onion, finely minced
1/2-1 tsp. Garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. Ginger, ground
1/2 tsp. Tumeric
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 Jalapeno Pepper, chopped
1/2 cup Water
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil

1) Saute onion in oil until clear.
2) Add garlic and spices.
3) Cook 3 minutes.
4) Add chopped kale.
5) Add water.
6) Cover and cook kale until tender (about 30 min.)
7) Add jalapenos and cook for 5 min. on low heat.
8) Add more salt to taste (serves 6).

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

Monday, February 1, 2010

Attachment and Bonding


Attachment is a real issue. It is as real for infants and toddlers as it is for older kids. There is so much information out there there is no reason to not arm yourself with information, tactics, strategies and ideas so that you have a warehouse of information when you get your child home at long last. You will know what to look for and what to do to help him or her and yourself. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor even a really very good one. But, it is what I have found to be helpful for us and what I have posted on this blog. Happy bonding!

Here I will post some of my posts and links on attachment, as a matter of consolidation for those of you searching:
I am not going to advocate for any certain style of attachment therapy. I don't know anything about it. I am just listing resources that have been helpful for us. :)

From a general list on adoption resources:

Attachment Disorder Nancy Thomas Parenting Reactive Attachment Disorder
"Attaching in Adoption" by Deborah Gray
This is an important topic. Read all you can while you are waiting for your child referral and court date.

From a post on book recommendations:
Adoption and race for parents:
Toddler adoption the weaver's craft by Hopkins-Best
Taming the tiger while it is still a kitten by Nancy Thomas (the book is not particularly focused on Christians but I hear she is a Christian) I found this book to be a complimentary (to the Deborah Gray's book) list of attachment signs to look for and practical ideas for attachment. It is more of a booklet. I do not know anything about her particular theory's as this book does not address that.
Attaching in adoption by Deborah Grey
I'm chocolate you're vanilla by Marguerite A. Wright
Before You were mine (on making a Christian life book)*
Twenty Things Adopted Kids wish their parents knew by Sherrie Eldridge