July 25, 2006

Catching Up

We have heard the cries from all over the world, “Please update your blog! We’re sick of reading about your kid’s sleeping arrangements!” So much has happened since March, so let me give you a quick (ok lengthy) rundown…

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Our shipment finally did arrive in mid-March. To our astonishment, it was completely in tact. Our house finally felt like a home after the arrival of our furniture, and then life suddenly accelerated to warp speed. We have been hosting a series of guests from around the world, which have made our house so exciting – especially for the kids. And Zelalem has also started the school. And we’ve been appointed to various committees and made other various commitments to various things that are filling up every spare moment of our newfound free time.

First, let us tell you about our guests. I can’t tell you in detail about each guest, but let me just say that we’ve had guests arriving from and travelling through all parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Each have the most fascinating stories and life experiences, and it has made our home very very rich. One of our our guests, Katy Anis, has decided to settle in Ethiopia, and so she is staying with us until she can find a job and a place to stay. I can’t tell you how fascinating are her stories of life (and death) in Afghanistan. And through Katy, we have another guest named Allison staying with us for a month. On her own expense, has come to stay with us to help train our teachers at the school. She and her husband run an orphanage for 29 children in Afghanistan, and she has spent a year in Italy being training in Montessori.

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The other fun thing about life in our house is that my brother Shane and his wife Brukty have been living with us. They have been working on their television production (children’s TV show for ages 3-6) so the office is full of the sounds of children’s television and sights of children’s animation. On Sunday, we just celebrated the completion of their 8th episode, and we hope to begin seeing them on TV in the near future. But it has also been fun to have them around. We got totally hooked on watching the TV series Lost. We have watched season 1 and we are eagerly anticipating the release of the Season 2 DVD (so don’t tell us what happened). We also like to watch episodes of Scrubs, Arrested Development, and Oli G. Shane and Brukty have become extended parents to our five kids – especially when I or both of us have been out of town.

As you can imagine, all these people add up to a lot of people in our house. When you add up our family, with our extended family, and our guests, and then you include the people who help us clean, cook, do the laundry by hand, take care of the kids, and guard the house, there are a total of 15-16 people living under our roof!

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In June, we had the once in a lifetime opportunity of going to the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel on a Baha’i pilgrimage. It was, of course, an indescribable experience. As you may have heard in the news, Haifa is currently under constant bombardment from Hezbollah in Lebanon. We are keeping an eye on the news at all time as we have many friends there, including our dear Zekre and Negar. We are so lucky to have been there in a time of peace. I will, at a later date, enter a more detailed blog about our pilgrimage.

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The amazing transformation that has occurred since our last blog, is that Zelalem started a school from scratch. Since our last entry, Zelalem rented the facility and transformed it into a school, hired teachers, launched a marketing campaign, recruited students, and opened a summer program! This is the kid’s second week of class. Jasmine, Yonatan and Shane are students at the school. The main emphasis currently is training the teachers so that they are carrying out our vision and philosophy of education and raising children. So far, we couldn’t be happier. And with Allison and Katy helping us, it is beyond anything we could ever have hoped for. Please see the school Web site at www.OnePlanetSchool.com. (Sorry, this site only works in Internet Explorer currently!) If you’re interested in helping us out, you can click on You Can Help from our Web site, or go to the Wish List page at Amazon.com.

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What about the kids? What about life in Ethiopia? Everything is really great here. The kids have really made a seamless transition to life here in Ethiopia. We haven’t regretted our decision to move here for one second. The only thing we regret is that we are far from family and friends at home. We have a plan to have them all move here! Or at least visit often! The kids get to see their grandma over the Internet and vice versa, but they really need the real thing. Shane has resorted to calling strangers grandma and grandpa.

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The kids are doing well. Dagm has become an avid reader. He has gone from reading “Danny the Dinosaur” three years ago, to reading volumes 1-4 of Harry Potter and has started tackling the DaVinci Code. He went with us on pilgrimage and I think it was a great experience for him. He is now doing Ruhi Book 1 and is memorizing all of the quotations. He is a great great kid, and we have seen a lot of new maturity in Dagm since he arrived in Ethiopia.

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Yonatan has simply amazed us with his newfound command of English. When he joined us in January, he didn’t speak a word of English. Now he can communicate nearly anything he wants to. He is a very good kid. If you ever hear him crying, it is either because he is hurt, or he is watching a scary episode of Scooby Doo. Yonatan is very bright in school and is particularly good at math.

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Jasmine is a very happy girl, and is also turning out to be a very bright student. Since her arrival in January, she has learned to read in English, learned how to read and write the Amharic alphabet (which has over 250 unique letters) and has begun doing addition. Jasmine is fascinated with life after death. She asks questions every day about what happens after we die, where were we before we were born, and where is God. Today I told her that I will be going to America tomorrow on an airplane. She asked if God was going with me. I told her yes. Then Yonatan asked me if God was going to ride in my suitcase.

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Jasmine and Yonathan are the best of friends in particular. They are in the same class together, and they play together all day. They also discuss important issues such as "trust" and "kindness" and "sharing" and life after death.

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Since our arrival, Shane has began to speak in full sentences. He is fascinated with plumbing and the path that the water takes through the pipes. (It seems that he can sense where the pipes are underground!) He is fascinating to watch and interact with, and we are often found ROTF LOL (rolling on the floor, laughing out loud) with his daily antics. He was recently found helping Sheggi washing the clothes by adding handfuls of dirt into the wash basin of recently cleaned clothes.

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Little Layli is a constant source of joy with a face full of smiles. Just this week she has begun to truly walk around the house without holding on to anything. When she sees mom or dad, her face lights up and her arms are thrust into the air, begging to be picked up. She is also saying a lot of words in English and Amharic: Mommy, Daddy, Nay (come), Ten Ten (the cat), Babo (supposed to be dabo which means bread), tuto (bottle), heegee (get out to the dog), Doo (Scooby Doo or Scrappy Doo, our dogs), and no no no no.

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The other thing that has really made us laugh this past week is that she is starting to assert her rights with Shane. At least three times this last week the two of them struggled over a toy, and Layli won and left Shane crying on the floor. Yesterday I heard Jasmine wailing downstairs. I went to see what was the cause of the commotion cause it sounded like someone had a limb torn off. Jasmine was sitting and crying with an empty bowl, and Layli was standing next to her with two fistfuls and a mouthful of chocolate cake. She had stolen Jasmine’s precious chocolate cake. She has found her place among the kids now, and the four of them are quite a team!

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On Sunday, Shane became ill and threw up four times. He became a permanent fixture around my neck. Layli of course became jealous, so basically I had to find a way to hold both Shane and Layli for a good part of the afternoon. Sometimes, I find that every kid wants a piece of me. I'm thinking that I might need to sit in the middle of the dinner table so that they won't fight over who gets to sit with me.

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Scooby and Scrappy, or no longer cutie-wittle-puppies by the way. They are dogs! And now during the raining season, they are often wet and smelly dogs. And Ten-ten (the cat we brought with us from America) still has not adjusted to the food. She will only eat boring dry cat food which you can’t get here. (No tuna. No chicken, No milk, No cheese, No meat). So if there is anyone wanting to send us a care package, the only thing we really need that we can’t get here is Persian tea, Diet Coke, Hostess HoHo's and dry cat food!

Posted by gail at July 25, 2006 10:56 AM (Click images to enlarge.)