While in Ethiopia, I carried a notebook in our backpack which went everywhere with us. In it I wrote lists of children to photograph, foot tracings and measurements of some of those children (after I met them), notes, phone numbers, our schedule (which was too complicated to keep in my head), questions I wanted to ask, etc. I also kept two lists: “Things I’m Glad I Packed” and “Things I Wish I had Packed”. I hope they will be useful to somebody who is getting ready to head to Ethiopia.
Things I’m Glad I Packed:
1. Keens – or in our case, “knock off” Keens from Payless Shoe Source. Unlike our last two trips to Ethiopia, this time it was the rainy season. The tough sole was perfect for the rough and muddy terrain and they dried quickly after rain showers. We bought them on a “Buy one get one half off” sale, so they were cheap. Lands End and other companies sell similar shoes.
2. Fleece Jackets – It was much colder in Ethiopia than we anticipated, so we wore our fleece jackets nearly all the time. Russ’s jacket has a vertical chest pocket with a zipper which was the perfect place to carry birr (Ethiopian money) when we were in more risky places such as the Merkato.
3. Nylon pants – Russ packed his nylon backpacking pants and was glad to have them since they dried very quickly. They also had a hidden zipper pocket within a pocket which was another safe place to carry money. Most of the time I wore cotton pants rather than jeans because they also dried quickly. We got used to having dried mud around the ankles of our pants.
4. Money belts – Because nearly everything is paid for with cash, including large fees to the American Embassy, we carried a significant sum of money on our bodies. Russ wore a waist belt and we both wore bags around our necks which enabled us to spread the money out over several places.
5. Travel Pillows – We forgot to pack the one travel pillow we own, but after our flight from Seattle to Atlanta, which we spent trying to get comfortable, we stopped in an airport shop and bought two neck pillows which we used on our other five flights. They were a perfect investment at two for $20.00 and helped us get much better sleep.
6. Shawl/Wrap – My friend, Heidi, is a seasoned traveler and she told me once that she always travels with a shawl of some sort. I took her advice and I used my shawl as a blanket on planes, to create a wrap skirt over my shorts in order to enter a church in Rome, to hide my camera in the market in Soddo and on the streets of Addis (Heidi, a professional photographer, showed me a nifty way to do this), and to wear as simply a shawl. It was perfect. I kept it rolled up in our backpack and used it nearly once a day.
7. Travel umbrellas – We took two and used them often.
8. CD player and CD’s of children’s music for Honeybee.
9. Antibacterial wipes and gel – it isn’t always possible to locate water (or soap) for washing before eating or after using the bathroom.
10. Food: beef jerky, almonds, protein bars, granola bars, chocolate. We ate everything we brought and wish we had carried more food with us.
11. Fleece blankets: We took a number of fleece blankets to give away as gifts, but it was so cold, that we hung onto two of them until our last day. We also packed a very soft fleece throw for Honeybee which she slept with every night and used on our flights home.
12. Ziploc bags: It is always amazing how useful these are for everything from packing leftover pizza to sorting various power cords, chargers, etc.
13. Backpack for Honeybee: I ordered a pink backpack with Honeybee’s name monogrammed on it from LLBean. She was thrilled, delighted, and enamored with her backpack which she unpacked and repacked countless times. On the trip home she carried her own blanket, small pillow, snacks, and activities in her backpack.
In family news, we are nearing the end of our first week home with Honeybee and she continues to do very well. She is eager to do whatever her siblings are doing, whether it is jumping on the trampoline or catching grasshoppers. On Tuesday she went to the pool for the first time and LOVED it. She kept a tight grip on Ladybug most of the time, but even went down the big slides.
On Wednesday we had our semiannual dental appointments and Honeybee went along. I was quite happy when they fit her into the schedule allowing her to have her first dental check-up and cleaning on her fourth day home. I’m sure most adoption books would not recommend it, but our hygienist was patient, gentle, and wonderful with her, assuring Honeybee that nothing was going to hurt. Best of all, her teeth are in great shape! Ten appointments down, only Sweet Pea and Mimi to go, and they can manage their appointments on their own.
In other happy family news, Sweet Pea had her medical school orientation on Friday where she was presented with her first stethoscope. Russ and I attended the stethoscope ceremony and then went to a picnic with her class and their families. Classes begin on Monday and she is looking forward to it.
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