Happy Ethiopian New Year!

September 11, 2012

Today is New Year’s Day in Ethiopia. Melkam Addis Amet (Happy New Year) to all of you!

Why do I know this or mention this? In October, I’ll be traveling to Ethiopia with ONE Moms to make connections with Ethiopian mothers and share their stories. I’ll be with a group of ten influential women and we’ll travel to Addis, Tigray and other communities, to meet with women, farmers, school kids, and visit health clinics. We’ll visit organizations and projects that have benefited from foreign assistance and share what we see though the lens of women and families.

I’ve written about ONE Moms before but in case you missed it, it’s an arm of ONE.org, a non-partisan organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. They never ask for money, but they do want your voice! ONE.org & ONE Moms work to change policy at the government level.

I’ve done a bit of traveling lately, but this trip feels very different. Instead of going as a tourist, I’ll be visiting as more of a student. I’ll be there to learn. To learn about what’s happening there. What’s working and what’s not. And I’ll report back to you. That said, the tourist in me still can’t help but be excited to visit Ethiopia and experience its beauty. It’s a country I know so little about!

When I was invited, the first thought I had was a flashback to being a 4th grader and listening to Band Aid on constant replay. (Raise your hand if you had the same memory). Clearly, I’m embarrassingly under-educated about Ethiopia and as part of our trip prep, ONE Moms has been sharing book titles and articles and having conference calls where we can ask questions. I can’t get enough! Visiting a country I’ve never been to before always opens my eyes to new and different perspectives. I’m sure this will be true in Ethiopia and I’m really looking forward to learning as much as I can.

Teach me, Friends. When you hear about Ethiopia, what comes to mind? Have you ever visited the country or tried Ethiopian food? Read any good books or articles with Ethiopia as the subject? Tell me everything! And please, if you feel touched by the ONE Moms mission, I hope you’ll consider lending your voice to the cause by signing up.

P.S. — The image of Meskel flowers is found here. During Ethiopian New Year, the countryside is carpeted with them. So pretty! Since September always feels more New Year-ish to me than January, I can already tell I’m really going to like Ethiopia.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary Yang September 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

What a cool trip! And with a greater purpose than simply touring. Enjoy the food. I’m pregnant and coincidentally having some serious cravings for Ethiopian food right now: lamb, collard greens and lentils. Wish I could go!


2 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

Sounds so yummy. Can’t wait to try the food!


3 Annie September 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

You should read “No Biking in the House Without a Helmet” by Melissa Fay Greene. A wonderful story, part of the story line involves the adoption of four Ethiopian children.


4 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

I’ll put it on my kindle tonight. Thank you for the recommendation, Annie.


5 Kristen E September 11, 2012 at 9:30 am

I don’t know much about Ethiopia, but the food is wonderful! Ethiopian food might be my favorite restaurant food. When I had to plan my 30th birthday celebration, my friends and I met at an Ethiopian restaurant. :)


6 The New Diplomats Wife September 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

Ethiopian food – despite the urge many people have to make poor jokes about lack of it – is really fantastic. Flavorful and best enjoyed with friends and family. Washington, DC has a treasure trove of it – 9th street corridor (especially etete) are winners for it but my favorite is still the old-school Lallibela, which is around our corner and is often full of cab drivers which I take as a sign of approval.

On my reading list has been Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir, the Ethiopian born but Swedish raised chef – and he recently published a book on African flavors in cooking as well.

See if you can get yourself invited to a wedding which you’re there, I’ve heard they are absolutely amazing parties!


7 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 10:07 am

Getting to go to a wedding in another culture is always the coolest! I’m sure it’s not on our itinerary, but you can bet I would jump at the chance. : )


8 Shannon { A Mom's Year } September 11, 2012 at 9:54 am

How exciting that you get to travel to Ethiopia for such a wonderful cause.

I have to admit I don’t know very much about Ethiopia, either, so I was glad when my book club read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It’s fiction, but I felt like I learned a little bit about the country’s history and culture.


9 Linda K September 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

I visited Ethiopia in 2002 and fell in love with this beautiful, gentle country. Given the extreme poverty and difficult history of Ethiopia, ‘gentle’ may not be a word that comes to mind, but I have a sense of your spririt through your blog (I think) and I know you will understand immediately once you are there. I spent a few weeks in Addis, didn’t get beyond that, I hope you do. I loved the beautiful art, the delicious food, and especially the dignity of the people. I can’t wait for your posts. My great regret is not getting to Lalabila and seeing those beautiful churches/monasteries cut in the rock. Enjoy!


10 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

Lalabila is totally on my travel wishlist! Though I don’t think they’re on our schedule. They look amazing.


11 Azra September 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

Gabrielle, that sounds exciting! I can’t wait to hear more about the situation over there. Also, I will check out the web site. Good luck.


12 Lulu lebo September 11, 2012 at 10:10 am

Just found out that today is MELKAM ADDIS AMET would like to say every Ethiopia people enjoy to the fullest and have a blust on your new year love u lots Ethiopia


13 Mom101 September 11, 2012 at 10:13 am

I cannot even wait to share this amazing experience with you in less than a month. Like you, I have so much to learn. What a perfect excuse to finally do it.


14 the emily September 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

When I think of Ethiopia I think of little children with big huge tummies. And then I read “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese. I had no idea that it was a green, beautiful place with a rich history and an interesting political history. It’s a work of fiction but is historically correct and I found myself doing research on the current political climate after I finished it.


15 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I really want to read it, Emily! So glad you mentioned it. I love the use of the word “gentle” in Linda’s comment. That’s how I’m picturing it now.


16 the emily September 11, 2012 at 10:41 am

(one of my favorite things from the book was that Ethiopia is not pronounced like we all say it–eee-theee-oh-peeee-uhhhh–it’s eethyopya.)


17 se7en September 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

This is just awesome – so excited for you!!! Hope you have the most incredible time – can’t wait to follow!!!


18 Caroline September 11, 2012 at 11:56 am

Hi Gabrielle, it just made my heart so happy to see this post! I grew up in Ethiopia, and though I’ve been back in the States for a few years now, I still consider it home. It is definitely an incredibly unique country: it is so different from other African countries, very much a place of beautiful people and national pride, but also a place of extreme poverty and need — and all of these aspects are piled right on top of each other. I can’t wait to hear about your trip and see your pictures and your take on it!

p.s. I’ve write about Ethiopia fairly often on my own blog, mostly because it shaped so much of my growing up years! This post is a lot about my transition to the States, but does have my perspective of life in Addis Ababa more explicitly than any other, if you’re interested: http://words-of-whimsy.blogspot.com/2011/08/holding-sway-part-2.html :]


19 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

So glad you commented, Caroline! What a resource you are for me. Thank you for that link. I can’t wait to read it!


20 Corrie Anne September 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I’m excited for this! And to read about this. I’ve done some missions & aid work, and I’ve love to do more. I have Cutting for Stone on my list of to-reads as well!


21 Anna Swallow September 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

That sounds like an incredible opportunity and experience – I’ll be excited to read your report. When I think of Ethiopia I also think of two books: Cutting for Stone and Yes, Chef – Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir (both already mentioned).


22 Mary September 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Karen Waldrond is going to be the photographer for them this year (http://www.chookooloonks.com/blog/). She went as one of 10 on this trip last year.

I work in refugee resettlement in US so we have seen many Ethiopian refugees over a number of decades. Check out Cal.org (Center for Applied Linguistics) and do a search for “Ethiopian” and you will find quite a bit of info. Have a great, enlightening trip


23 Mary September 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Sorry Karen…her last name is Walrond…one too many d’s in my first version.


24 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm

So glad you know about Karen! She is a dear friend and I was overjoyed to find out she would be on the trip. Hooray!


25 Lisa Scott September 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

When I think of Ethiopia, I think of my beautiful daughter who came into my life 4 years ago and her incredible heritage. I think about the mark the country made on my soul and the hundreds of children that have touched me since then, through my humanitarian work in that country and a fundraising in my own country. Be prepared to be moved in ways you never imagined. Be prepared that you will not be able to absorb all you experience for sometime. Be prepared to learn lessons of grace and humanity in the most authentic forms. Be prepared to fall in love.

My wise husband once told be I may not be able to fill my home with children, but I can fill my life and heart with children by using my skills to make a difference. My family of 4 has so much to share about Ethiopia. Please contact me if I can share more or help you in planning your trip!!! Selam and Happy 2005!!!


26 Zoe - SlowMama September 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I don’t know if you remember, but my husband I are adopting two children from Ethiopia and we finally met them last month — precious twin 4 year-old girls! They’re actually from the Tigray region. We’re now waiting to receive our clearance from the US Embassy and will be going back to get them — most likely in early October. When will you be there exactly?

I’m still learning all I can about Ethiopia; it’s a very diverse country and it’s terrific you’ll be able to get out of the city into other regions. I can send you some packing tips if you want, and some restaurant and shopping recommendations in Addis. Stay tuned!

Oh, and here are our amazing new daughters!


27 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm

We’ll be there in early October as well! From October 6th – 13th. Will we overlap?

Huge congratulations to you! Your daughters are absolutely precious.


28 Jeannie Lorenz September 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Oh, I am so jealous of your upcoming trip. My niece (now 8 years old) was adopted from Ethiopia. When I think about Ethiopians, and Ethiopia, what comes to mind is beauty and depth of history.


29 Elizabeth T. September 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I was fortunate to visit Ethiopia about 2 1/2 years ago – I won the trip from a radio station drawing – how amazing is that? Cutting for Stone is a great novel and a reader above also suggested a Melissa Fay Greene book, but I would recommend another of hers, “There is No Me Without You,” which is about an orphanage director in Addis and will give you wonderful insight into Ethiopian parenting, family, and culture. I hope you will get a chance to learn about the Ethiopian Orthodox religion which is fascinating. Ethiopians are very warm and friendly. You will love it and I can’t wait to read about your trip!!


30 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I don’t think I’ve heard about “There is No Me Without You”. Thanks for the recommendation.


31 Jessie September 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I have never commented before but I have read your blog for at least four years. I love it so much. I have loved the ideas you have on traveling with kids and living in France. I love the beauty of your blog and the great home made gift ideas. I had to comment because I actually live in Ethiopia with my husband and four kids and we run a project called Bring Love In. I just wanted to say that you are going to love your trip there and if I were to tell you to do one thing it would be to drink as much of the coffee as you can and to bring back as much as possible because it truly is the best. The two books I would say to read are “This is a Soul” and Cutting for Stone.
Have a wonderful trip.


32 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Would love to connect with you, Jessie! I’d love all your recommendations.


33 Jessie September 12, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Sure, anytime. I would love to share. Send me an email and I would love to answer any questions you might have.


34 E.M. September 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm

First time commenter here! I have read your site for a while but couldn’t help commenting on this- I lived in Ethiopia for four months after college, in a large eastern city called Dire Dawa. I often long for the relational, slower-paced, community-centered life there. My favorite memories involve the entire neighborhood turning out to watch a rainstorm fill our dry river bed; drinking Fanta (in glass bottles) at lazy afternoon visits to neighbors; and buying the most delicious beans-and-potatoes meal from a lady who sold it from a street corner. You brought your own bowl and she filled you up!
I only spent a few hours in transit in Addis, but have fun.


35 Design Mom September 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Your memories sound so picturesque! Maybe I’ll pack a bowl just in case. : )


36 findingmagnolia September 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Since Ethiopia is our daughters’ first home, it is one of our favorite places. You will absolutely fall in love with the country and the people. Zinashi, who was adopted at three and is five now, went back with us when we adopted Baby Elvie this summer, and it was such a special time for all of us. Sharing food is a big part of Ethiopian culture, and to eat together and feed one another from one plate is such a beautiful expression of mutual care. Zinashi recommends shiro and misir wat, and I am partial to doro wat. I am also quite fond of the coffee ceremony; there is nothing like it anywhere else, and even if you do not drink coffee, it is a huge part of Ethiopian culture and to at least observe one is a must. I wish you safe travels and a beautiful journey in the country that is part of our hearts.

Melkam Addis Amet, Gabby!


37 maranatha September 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm

thank u happy new year to u too im by the way im ethiopian


38 Chrissy September 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm

So happy for you. Selam is a great word…a greeting of peace. The locals will appreciate the effort…pronounced sort of like ‘salami’ without the last syllable. I think it comes from or is related to the Jewish word ‘shalom’. Anyhow, we brought home our two sons from Ethiopia nearly 2 1/2 years ago and fell in love with the country. Such a rich history that they are rightly proud of. I sure hope you have time to read all about it…even children’s books from the library are helpful, but maybe difficult to read in French??? The people are joy-filled despite the amazing poverty and suffering. We have so much to learn from them as they value relationships, people, communication for more than so many in Western society. I was amazed with all the color I saw…the clothing, the walls of the shacks, the store fronts. Stunning. I describe it to people by comparing the typical photos you see of the doors of Ireland…all the bright colors, but a bit (or a lot) watered down – most likely to stretch the paint. The food is marvelous and the coffee ceremony beautiful and smells wonderful even if you don’t drink it. I would caution you from eating raw fruits or veggies, but the rest is fabulous. So excited to hear about your trip!


39 Design Mom September 12, 2012 at 5:39 am

Your descriptions of the color sound so appealing. And checking out some children’s books is such a good idea.


40 Danielle September 11, 2012 at 7:20 pm

How exciting! Ethiopia is amazing. I’ve travelled quite a bit and Ethiopia is my favorite by far. My daughter was born in Harar and I founded and was the volunteer Executive Director of non-profit Ethiopian Orphan Relief for its first two years–we built several playgrounds at orphanages, a HIV clinic at an orphanage and a community center for orphaned teenaged girls. The non-profit continues to do all sorts of good stuff for orphaned kiddos today. The country is spectacularly beautiful, so much of it resembles Colorado or California. It’s not the dust bowl we all saw on the news in the 80s. The people are fabulous and helpful and lovely and gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The food is unbelievably good–my kids beg me to make it on a regular basis. I second the “There’s No Me Without You” recommendation from Melissa Faye Green. You’ll cry, a lot. You’ve been warned. Chameleon Days is also great. Try to get out of Addis and see the amazing countryside–in country flights are easy and road trips are…adventurous! Enjoy.


41 Design Mom September 12, 2012 at 5:41 am

So much information packed into this comment, Danielle. Thank you!


42 Sarah September 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Ethipoian food is delicious. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences. What a wonderful opportunity.


43 Jane B September 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Happy Ehiopian New Year… but no mention of Sept 11 today? Just struck me as odd. Oh well!


44 Design Mom September 12, 2012 at 5:43 am

You’re right. It is odd. Sept 11th was also my Father’s birthday. I was thinking about him, and about the 9/11 attacks and feeling pretty emotional, so I chose not to write about either and just kind of sat with my feelings.

I’m sorry if you came to Design Mom looking for some 9/11 thoughts and I didn’t provide them. Thanks for understanding.


45 Becca September 12, 2012 at 12:37 am

I’m so envious! I just made the comment to my husband a few hours ago that I’d love to visit Ethiopia someday. It’s been on my mind, since I just finished reading Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. I also read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese last year. The first half of the book is set at a charity hospital in Addis. Have an amazing time, and please eat plenty of injera for me!


46 Jess (Where My Heart Is) September 12, 2012 at 5:18 am

You will absolutely LOVE Ethiopia. I was fortunate to live there for a year when I was 10. I went back when I was 18. I’m longing to return and am planning a trip to share this wonderful country and people with my family.

I look forward to having you share your experiences.



47 Denise September 12, 2012 at 5:53 am

You will LOVE it. Lived there for two years. The people are absolutely incredible, I still miss the food, and the coffee, and the kids, and the mangoes, and the blue buses, and the traditional dances. You will love it.


48 Di September 12, 2012 at 6:23 am

If you have time, read ‘Gogo Mama’, by Sally Sara, and Australian journalist who travelled and wrote the stories of 12 African women. I have two copies, both loaned to friends (I think one copy is not coming back…), it’s on Kindle too. You have to read it to know, but then you will remember the stories of your sisters forever.


49 Di September 12, 2012 at 7:00 am

And also ‘Hospital By the River’, this time by an Australian doctor, Catherine Hamlin, who with her husband Reg founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, and at 88 years old still lives in the hospital grounds and operates in the hospital.


50 Tala September 12, 2012 at 9:00 am

OMG ethiopian food is so tasty. Come visit Palestine, where I currently am :)


51 Jenny September 12, 2012 at 11:34 am

Enjoy your trip. Others have mentioned the sights but I’ll always remember the sounds– especially around all the Orthodox churches with the women’s ululations. Both enchanting and other-worldly.

Those folks at ONE do a great job. And don’t forget the country’s on a completely different calendar/time system. If I calculate correctly, it’s not only New Year’s Day, it’s New Year’s day 2005! And the day rolls over at 6am not midnight… A little confusing but makes sense once you get there.


52 Kristin W September 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

I ditto what others have already said: the food is fabulous, the people are some of the most generous you’ll ever meet, and the scenery (outside the city) is beautiful. As a practical matter, make sure to get all of your birr changed back into US dollars before you leave the country…there is no where in the US that you can exchange it. And take some earplugs for your time in Addis. The city is loud all night with barking dogs and the call to prayer at 4:30 or 5:00 over loudspeakers can be disturbing. We adopted two kids in March, so I am grateful any time I hear of others wanting to help. There is great need.


53 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay September 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm

You will be a blessing and you will be blessed!


54 Lilly September 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Hi Gabby, I’m an Ethiopian-American and just spent 4 years living in Ethiopia and now my family has moved to Kenya. Ethiopia is stunning and rich country. Full of surprises and wonder. It is exquisite. Do take precautions to bring along necessary travel meds (for potential stomach trouble, especially) and Cipro. Do as when you want to take pictures in some places – I always felt strongly protective of my people and some visitors where mindful of the potential for exploitation while others were not. While I have read most of the books mentioned above, I think your idea of being
“a student” is really spot on. I am a student of my own country even now. Soak it in, watch and be still. Go to a church, go to a mosque. Breathe in the incense. Enjoy the doro wot. Dance to the kirar. Listen. Feel. I remember my first trip back to Addis (we left in 1977 due to the political climate and couldn’t return for many years) and I was surprisingly unemotional (just general happiness to return) until I went to the norther region and took in all the beauty of the country. It was the mountains that broke me. Seeing the protective wall around our country that kept out intruders, kept us un-colonized but also kept out progress for some of our communities. There is really just no place in Africa like Ethiopia and it is one of the few countries in the world with such a vast, delicate and recorded history. I have some strong connections there and if I can be of service, do let me know. Melkam Menged. Tebariki.


55 Maggie Stewart Best. September 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

One of my closest friends is from Addis… I got to visit her family with her a few years ago and it was so wonderful. Read “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Varghese as another commentor said! And don’t eat any raw meat when you’re there (it can have parasites), but otherwise EAT EVERYTHING. Ethiopians eat from a common plate with their hands and it is the best food in the world! But don’t lick your fingers– it’s rude. When you eat, drink a soda because the carbon dioxide will help you burp and keep your tummy from hurting. And go to the big cathedral in Addis Ababa, if you can– the mosaics and paintings covering the building are just awe-inspiring. And buy incense. Try to attend a coffee ceremony– it is elegant and smoky and deep. And drink tons of coffee. Ethiopia is one of the only non-colonized countries in Africa (the only one, I think? Not sure…) and it is a strong and proud country with strong, proud, beautiful people. It is sacred. Oh, and buy scarves! Enjoy!!


56 Megan Howell October 3, 2012 at 10:38 am

I hope I can travel to Ethiopia one day! I volunteer with a non-profit organization that works out of Dera, Ethiopia! It is called Hope Arising. (hopearising.org) We all live in Gilbert, Arizona though, but they make trips to Dera at least twice a year, so I might be able to go in the spring! Hope Arising just completed a water project where there was 26 miles of pipeline built to bring water from the mountain springs to the village of Dera in the low drylands. Before the pipeline, families had to waits days, even weeks for one jerry can of water. No one was working, no one was in school, life was nearly impossible without water in their village. But since October of last year, they have it! And now they have planted flourishing gardens. What a huge difference! Now that the water project is completed, Hope Arising will be able to focus on our motto: “As a sustainable organization, Hope Arising strengthens families to support and care for children orphaned or made vulnerable by disease, war, natural disaster and extreme poverty. Success will include excellent service delivery, capacity-building for grass-root partners and advocacy for children today and in the future.”
Ok sorry for the novel, I just got a little excited. I am basically SO SO THRILLED and excited to read your stories and see your pictures of Ethiopia, even though I have never been (yet??) I hold it dear to my heart! I think it is so cool that you are able to have this experience! I am glad I read this comment thread too, it gave me a lot of great information and some new books to read:) Good luck!


57 Julie October 4, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Hi there
Thought I would comment as I am currently on vacation in Tanzania and flew through the addis airport on the way here. I learned from my seat mate on the plane that the coffee is delicious but I didn’t have a chance to try it. Enjoy your trip!


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