Keith and I recently played host to our first overseas visitors in Awassa. My parents came
to town for a whirlwind week’s tour of "our lives in Ethiopia". Shortly before they arrived,
Keith and I were sitting in our living room when he said, "In two weeks your parents are going
to be sitting here." It seemed inconceivable. The distance between Awassa and Echo Bay simply
too great in terms of geography and time in my own mind. But in fact, they did sit in this
very living room. And while they were sitting in it, the fact that they were doing so seemed
very normal and right.
My mother has often told me that one of the joys of parenting for her has been seeing the
world through children’s eyes. Their visit here was a chance for me to see Awassa through my
parents’ eyes. It wasn’t the dirty, difficult place I had feared. It was something resembling
home, albeit a temporary one, with strange accents and food. And it was a place filled with
I knew that my parents would get a warm reception from our Ethiopian colleagues and
friends. Ethiopians pride themselves on their hospitality towards visitors and
their respect for elders (in a country with a life expectancy of 46, my parents
definitely fall into that category!). However, I was not prepared for the outpouring of
affection, invitations to lunch, for beer, for coffee ceremony, for dinner. Many colleagues
greeted me with cries of "Congra!" and "Inquan denamatachoo" (let us celebrate together - the
greeting uttered at big festivals). The occasion of my parent’s visit demanded official
congratulations. Mom and Dad utterly charmed my colleagues. The academic dean declared after
their visit that they were so loving and caring and I was the luckiest person in the world!
We tried to pack a lot into a short visit - a trip to the local hot springs, coffee ceremony, a
tour of the college, a stroll by the shores of Lake Awassa, a visit to the Addis museum to
see "Lucy", and even some shopping excursions (ask Dad to model his new leather jacket).
The visit was short but very sweet! While my parents loved the people and the scenery, I don’t
think they were too enamoured of the food. Ethiopian food is its own thing. Most
volunteers "like" it because we have to. Similarly, I suspect that bathing with a bucket
of cold water wouldn’t have held any charm past five days.
I’m sending some pictures of some of our favourite moments of the visit:
1. We took Mom and Dad to the post office so they could see where all their parcels end up. And
I wanted the post office people to meet the crazy Canadians who send all those boxes. When
we arrived, another one of Mom and Dad’s boxes was waiting for the four of us!
2. One night, we went to our "local" as the British say, the bar close to our house. Almost
all the volunteers came out to meet my parents. It was a crowded, beer filled, great night.
3. Keith’s favourite part - taking Mom and Dad to his office. The folks at the SRRA gave
them a warm Ethiopian welcome.
Hope all is well in your part of the world!