Melkam Enkutatash! (Happy New Year!)

Ethiopian New Year Card (1)

Melkam Enkutatash! (Happy New Year!)

Today it’s New Year Day in Ethiopia. It is the year of 2005. Yes, 2005. Coming to Ethiopia, I have gone down the time machine and gained 8 years ( a lot to be done/re-done if I were really given eight more years in my life!) The Ethiopian calendar is a unique form of the Coptic calendar, derived from the earlier Egyptian calendar. It has 12 months of 30 days and then a small month of 5 days at the end, making a total of 365 days a year.

Enkutatash is the name for the Ethiopian New Year, and means “gift of jewels” in the Amharic language. It is an important time for family gathering or reunion for the Ethiopians. Most people have gone back to their hometown or village for this festival.

The celebration is both religious and secular with the day beginning with church services followed by the family meal. Usually they will kill a sheep or goat for this occasion.  Young children will receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing and boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends and adults drink Ethiopian beer (Tej/Tella). When asked of their new year’s wish, most Ethiopians will tell me they want to find a good job and earn a good living. Many people (men, women and kids) today wear their traditional costume, the white woven cotton with colored embroidered borders or scarfs/shawls.

I have received two new year’s card too. Let me share with you the good will and  greetings from Ethiopia.

Melkam Enkutatash! (Happy New Year!)

Ethiopian New Year Card (2)



I made a deadly mistake in bed last night. I turned over to sleep on my stomach. The consequence is 7 new bites out  of  20  are on my tummy! Now you can tell how desperate I am to show my sexy belly button to the whole world. Anybody has any good ideas what is the culprit and how I can get rid of these annoying biting nuisance?? Obviously steroid creams and antihistamines do not take an inch off that itch.

My sexy belly button which looks even sexier embellished by these exotic African spots.

These are the faithful good measures I have been applying for the past 6 weeks: spraying my bed, mattress, wool blanket and clothes with DDT, and on top with chlorine water or lemon water. I am also spaying my clothes and all seams with the same and wash them in hot boiling water and then dry in the sun whenever the sun is out (It’s cold and rainy season in Ethiopia right now.)
Please send me any good ideas you have for this bug war. I am desperate to try any good suggestions. I am having wishful thinking may be just plain exhibitionism will magically ban the itchiness.
I hope this blog may pass the censorship of the volunteer organization, lol!

Jumping from One Puddle to Another

For those readers who have been following my previous blog and wondering what has happened to the struggle between me and the leaking roof in my house, you need to read on. Here is how the story goes. When you finish, you will also have a good grasp why it is so difficult for the volunteer organiztion (VSO Ethiopia) to find new accomodation for me.

Even though I have been constantly moving around the world and can claim my packing skills equivalent to, if not better than, any professional movers, this is the wildest move I ever had in my life. I was packing in total darkness as power was out as usual that evening, avoiding my best not to step on puddles. I did not have any moving boxes. All I could use to contain my belongings was water buckets and washing basins.  The move was done by both modern and traditional means. Most of my smaller belongings was transported by a modern vehicle. However, the heaviest furniture was carried to my new house on a cart pulled by an incredibly strong donkey. See pictures below.

Here are the two vehices that had facilitated my move- a modern SUV and a traditional donkey cart. The most ironic thing was donkey cart had carried the heaviest items

The donkey who worked hard but ate very little. It even refused my small gratitude of a leaf of cabbage

So I have left my luxurious feregi (foreigner) house and is now living in a more modest habishar (local Ethiopian) house sharing the same compound with my Ethiopian landlady.

Front of my new house

This is how a local kitchen looks like- where my landlady makes her injera

Narrow side corridor connecting the front and back of compound with a small ditch (obviously I see it as mosquito breeding grounds)

Hey, there are even coffee trees in the yard. The famous Ethiopian coffee, freshly picked , roasted and brewed. Buna (coffee in Amharic) anyone ?

Another resident living in the compound- a constantly whining little puppy sitting on its empty food bowl. I dont know if it needs to be fasting like his Ethiopian owners. Obviously meat is scarce and its staple diet is injera.

I was happy too soon thinking I could stay dry moving out of the leaking house. To my dismay, I was only jumping from one puddle to another. It  was not for the better, but for the worse. The first night in my new house ended  with the one bedroom  and the kitchen flooded  with rainwater.  This time it was not from the leaking roof, but from the windows. The windows were poorly made and malaligned with major gaps in between and also cracks around. The malicious pouring rain together with the ruthless winds were bashing on the windows. Water came gushing in.

Now you can visualize the extent of the flood. Windows were at the top of the picture. The rainwater had travelled the length of the bed almost to the border of the room. PS There is only compact floor in this house, no tiles nor wood floor.

Basically, changing out the faulty windows or altering its malalignments is a huge deal and not quite an option. I have told you earlier that Ethiopians are very creative and this is one good example of their creativity.

The creative Ethiopian way to stop the leaking from windows is to give the windows a raincoat so that it wont be splashed by the rain – wrapping a layer of plastic to the windows from the outside. Please pray that this creative method works. Cant wait for a major storm to test this out.