In addition to Imagine families, we met a few Cafac families (Cafac is the other Canadian agency facilitating adoptions for Canadians), including one husband-wife team on the same plane as us on route to Ethiopia...it was nice to hook up with them for a few hours in Heathrow, and compare notes on our experiences when we met up again in Addis.
It was an unexpected treat for us, in such a new and different place, to connect with other couples with whom we had much in common. There was a very comfortable and instant familiarity in talking together, and it was easy to share in the joys and sorrows of the journey that we are all on. It felt a little like attending summer camp, where relationships develop quickly under the intensity of a new and common experience. All of the families we met linger in my memory, and I wished that we all lived closer...email is just not the same.
Perhaps one of the most common questions I have been asked since arriving home has been what the food was like in Ethiopia. I had wondered the same thing before our trip.
The short answer to the food question is: delicious. Between traditional Ethiopian, Italian, and Indian food, we at like royalty...at minimal cost.
I've talked briefly already about the breakfasts at our hotel. We could order from a small menu of items, and our favourite was the crepe-like pancake that was served with tiny potatoes and grilled veggies:
We had several wonderful dinners as well. One of our favourite evening experiences was going to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant (patronized by lots of Ethiopians) called Yod Abyssinia. We went with the two other couples who were staying at Afro Land, and we had a wonderful meal together: injera (sour, spongy, pancake-like 'bread'); various lentil and cabbage dishes; beef tips; and my favourite, chicken doro wat (a spicy chicken stew)...followed, of course, by a coffee and popcorn 'nightcap.' During the entire three hours that we were at Yod Abyssinia, dancers on stage entertained us with rigourous dancing that tired me out just to watch - we didn't know how they continued at that pace for so long!
When eating Ethiopian food, the various dishes are ladled onto the injera, which is spread like a giant pancake on a large platter and rolled up around the edges. To eat it, you tear off a piece of the injera, drop the torn piece on top of the desired bit of food, and scoop up the food with the injera. For Geoff and me, Ethiopian food has been an acquired taste, but having now had several opportunities to eat it, I am hooked. At odd times, I find myself craving the various flavours now. Even Geoff has become accustomed to the injera, which is slightly grey or brown in appearance and somewhat sour in taste. Yum!
Yod Abyssinian Restaurant
Dishes being loaded onto injera
Doesn't this look delicious?
(below - two pictures)
Being entertained at Yod Abyssinia
Historically, there has been a significant (East) Indian population in Ethiopia, and one of the culinary benefits of this fact is that there is excellent Indian food to be found.
(below - two pictures)
Enjoying Indian food with new friends
Another favourite evening in Addis took place with four other couples at an unusual Italian restaurant/art gallery combination. Not only did we enjoy wonderful dinner and conversation, but all of the couples ended up purchasing one or two pieces of local, original art that was hanging on the walls. It was fun to spend over an hour haggling with the restaurant staff over the price of art...and I think we all ended up with excellent deals! I've smiled a number of times remembering that negotiation process.
Enjoying new friends and good pasta at Makush Art Gallery and Restaurant...notice the art on the walls, all of which is available for sale.
Steak with delicious gorgonzola pasta
The original art that Geoff and I purchased, removed from their frames and waiting to be rolled up into thick cardboard tubes. The canvas on the right is upside down...and my favourite is on the left!
Other restaurant recommendations for dinner: Cloud Nine on Bole Road (where we ate a coconut chicken dish with lots of delish veggies); The Lime Tree (the curry we had there was wonderful); and the little Pizza Italia Restaurant around the corner from Afro Land. It's hard to go wrong when you eat such delicious food for crazy little money (a large pizza might cost $2-3, for example). Ethiopia is not a place where you need to budget a lot of money for food.
The irony was not lost on us that as we left each restaurant, chuckling about how little money we had just spent, we re-entered the world of abject poverty that immediately surrounded us; our leftovers were bowed over as we handed them to the guesthouse security guards. Nonetheless, it was an unexpected delight to enjoy the variety of food so much, and, more importantly, to revel in the company of new friends who will remain an integral part of my first impressions and memories of Ethiopia.