23 November 2007

US Trip :)

I know I know—I feel like I begin all my posts with an apology—I’ve become a horrible writer. I am sorry. The thing is I still have so much to say, so my notes come less often and are longer—not a nice thing to do to you. But, alas, here we are again—me with a million stories and an endless blank page in front of me. Good luck.

First and foremost, the most often asked question I get is, Did Henok like the US? Well, the answer without a doubt is yes. AND, he experienced NO culture shock whatsoever. I had a harder time then him, with my reverse-culture shock. More proof the return is harder. He loved the US—hard not too with so much family there. There was one bit of ‘shock’ with the ‘country feel’ of my home town. Henok was not impressed with small town life. Remember, he is a city boy—born and raised in a city of about 4million!! Me, town of 3,000 (now 6,000 but I don’t want to talk about it). I ended up dragging poor Henok all over Mapleton saying things I swore only my father said like, “These houses weren’t here when I was a kid, this was all orchards.” He wasn’t too impressed. And, the clencher—we went to our cabin. My sister Lisa has a cabin up by Kamas. For our family it’s a GREAT vacation. We go summer, fall, winter, and spring. Love it. So of course Henok and I plan to go up there—he must see this BEAUTIFUL location and enjoy the quietness—and possibly see deer and a moose. Henok isn’t sure what I mean by Cabin, but is all for it. We pack up in a borrowed car and head up to the cabin. Quick stop in Heber of course at Granny’s for ice cream (FAMOUS hamburger joint in Heber City Utah with DELICIOUS ice cream shakes). Henok was not impressed and was put off by the size of the shakes (we got mini’s). Okay, still off to the cabin we go! We arrive, unlock everything, and I give him a tour. I plop down on a bench outside to look around—about 5 minutes goes by peacefully, then—“I’m bored. What do you do here?”
“We’re doing it. You just sit and relax. It’s so peaceful and beautiful,” I reply confused.
“It’s pretty, but it’s not beautiful. Is this all we are going to do for three days?!?” he asks with alarm in his voice.
“No, we can watch some videos, we can go on hikes, we can ride the four-wheeler, . . .” I’m cut-off by my husband who immediately wants his first ride on a four-wheeler (quad bike or ATV for some of you). Okay—we ride around for about 30 minutes. Then, he’s bored. We watch a movie, then he’s bored.
“Isn’t there a town we can go see? A restaurant to hang out in?” he implores.
“Um, no. We are the restaurant, that’s why I brought all those groceries. We cook our own food and eat here.”
“There is no where to go?!?!” he sounds desperate.

Well, Henok survived the weekend -- but in general did not find the cabin as fun as we ‘country’ folk do. I had no idea how country I was until I married an Ethiopian. Ironic. Most people in the world would not think it would go that way, but trust me the longer we live together the more I realize he is 100% city and I’m a country girl who has adjusted to city life, but still longs for country (and it’s not like I grew up in the sticks either. I mean, Mapleton, UT is hardly rural, but in comparison—it is). Henok found Utah in general ‘rural’ compared to Maryland and DC (the first places he saw in the US). It’s true, we aren’t as big, but I think SLC is a big city. But when his brother and mother came out from Maryland for the wedding – they were also shocked at how ‘small’ Utah was. I’m thinking—do you have any idea how much this place has grown in the past 20 years?!?! They are thinking, man this is a SMALL town (referring to SLC)!! wow. They of course all loved Utah b/c it is stunning (for those who have not been, truly you are missing out). The mountains reminded Henok’s mother of Ethiopia (it’s very mountainous, but more green then Utah). I’ve traveled on four continents and I must say, Utah is still one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Anyway—in case you still think I am making up this whole ‘I’m country he’s city,’ I have more proof. Henok announced he wanted to go to Vegas. At first I thought he was kidding. I personally LOATHE Vegas and avoid it like the plague. I don’t like drinking, drugs, prostitution, gambling, or shopping—which is about all Vegas has to offer. Finally I conceded and we looked around for Hotel deals. It’s been a good decade since I was in Vegas, so maybe things have changed—maybe. We found a good deal in the Stratosphere hotel, borrowed my sis’s car again and we were off. I wanted to stop at a few places on the way down, but Henok was keen to get to Vegas so we drove straight (we being me, as he can’t drive in the US and well, he slept). (FYI-abroad there are few places in America people have heard of. NYC, DC, California [not necessarily a particular city], and Las Vegas. These are the sites they want to see—they’ve heard about on movies, TV, etc. So we went. CSI Las Vegas plays in Ethiopia, so most people have heard of it). We arrived at lunch time and Henok was in love. He is still convinced Las Vegas is the most beautiful city he’s ever scene. I wanted to vomit. I said, it’s neon, fake gold, and well icky—he thought it was golden. He was so excited to walk the strip (I had explained the concept on the way down). We checked into our hotel and hit the road. Henok road his first roller coaster, which he wasn’t too fond of, and we went into almost every casino on the strip. Myself, I was shocked at the colossally large new Casinos since I was there. And, how much the city has been ‘sexed up.’ Not that Vegas wasn’t always obsessed with sex, but even things that used to be neutral are now rated R. Wow. We waited around for the pirate show and found out the pirates are gone, it’s now “sirens.” The longer we were on the street the more Henok realized Vegas wasn’t as cool as it is from first glance. In the end we had a good time—and for my sanity took in Cirque du Soleil, but other then that saw the sites. Henok still loves Vegas, but has decided he doesn’t like the people in it. As they come as a package, hopefully he won’t make me go back!!!

I was so shocked and annoyed at his love for the ‘beauty of Vegas’ I had to prove to him again, Utah is most beautiful. He was convinced Vegas was the most beautiful part of the US (I know disturbing). So, on our way back I decided we needed a trip through Zion National Park. And, just as I had planned—Henok was once again convinced Utah is most beautiful. Zion is just the closest park—I actually think Bryce is more beautiful, Canyon Lands, Arches, and Goblin valley too. So—with that in mind I knew I had converted him to the fact that Utah is the most beautiful state in the union. J

Some of you are wondering about the American Wedding. It went well—just a small ring ceremony for family and a few friends then a reception. There were a few crazy moments, but it went well. If you know how to use YouTube—search for Jessica Tilahun. You will see two videos compliments of my cousin Brian. They show you some of the ceremony and a surprise we had involving the cake. Trust me it’s worth your time.

I do have one regret from the US trip, McDonalds. I let my husband try Mcdonalds and to my surprise he became addicted. I mean ADDICTED. He absolutely LOVED it. Not just a little, but A LOT. It became a very disturbing point for me. I mean, I’m an RD, a nutritionist!! I don’t even want to know how many quarter pounders with cheese he ate. It was awful. Luckily, he isn’t quite American and many times couldn’t finish his sandwich and for sure never finished the fries. He did discover ‘super size’ but only b/c he wanted more Coke not more fries. Overall, it was bad—very very bad. He knows it annoys me so he brings up how much he misses McDonalds pretty much daily. I am truly concerned for his welfare (health). If we ever move to the US what will I do?!?!? Really—how did I marry a meat loving, veggie hating, McDonalds loving man!?!? Eeek. (on a slightly better note. My sister-in-law Keiko is an incredible cook. She made some tofu for a family party and Henok liked it. There is hope).

The return. Well—I ended up cutting my trip short to come back for a work opportunity. It is good in the long run, but just about killed Henok and I. I mean, we were apart while I was deported for 2 months!! But the almost 3 weeks we spent apart (me here him in DC with his family) about did us in. Who knew I would be such a newly-wed?!?! It’s been quite embarrassing for me. Embarrassing is the wrong word, I just don’t know what word to use. I’m going to say something bad or plain stupid if I continue on this topic, so I’ll leave it at.

I love Ethiopia—I’m back and loving it. There were a few bumps in the road on the return, but they have been smoothed out and I’m back in the swing of things in Addis. I do love it here. It is beautiful, not like Utah, but still gorgeous. I have to get out of the city once in a while—Entoto is my favorite place. It’s a monestary on top of the highest peak surrounding Addis. I love it up there.

The Millenium celebration came and went. September 11th is New Years Day for them and their calendar is 7 years behind ours, so they just celebrated the coming of the year 2000. I hear it was quite a party—and they definitely spruced up the city for it. The colors of the Ethiopian flag or green, yellow, red (the colors often associated with Africa and Bob Marley). The whole city is decorated with colored lights, flags, banners, etc etc. Ethiopians have very strong national pride, and this was a HUGE deal for them. In fact, the celebration is just beginning, as they have parties scheduled all year long! Beyonce just played a concert here, but I boycotted on principle. She charged 2000 birr for one ticket!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s over 200 dollars and WELL over the average monthly income of a family of 5. Disturbing—like she needs the money. Grrr.

One thing that still amazes me about Addis is the construction. I know I have commented on it before, but I am still so shocked. From the World Bank office I can see 10 new buildings (at least 10 stories) being built. From UNICEF’s window, I can count 22!!!!!! I figured out you can pick ANY spot in the city, throw a pen in the air, walk the direction it points and you won’t make it 50 meters without hitting construction. It’s crazy. Cost of living is skyrocketing here in Addis—which annoys foreigners who liked the VERY low cost and essentially pushes more locals into poverty. It’s insane. The building is mostly good for Ethiopia, shows a good economy and international investment—which is good. This place will look so different in 5 years.

Just a few more thoughts and I’ll leave you. First—Henok and I have our first home!!! YEA! We found a place we can afford. B/c I am a foreigner, people think they can double the price. It’s so annoying. Not all foreigners have money!! Grrr. In fact, post the US trip Henok and I are on a major budget!!! But, b/c of me (his foreign wife) a lot is expected of Henok. People assume he has money and can help them, give them gifts, help their family, etc. Of course, if we could we would help everyone—but we can’t. It’s frustrating and hard. Back on topic, our home. It’s a small house. One bedroom, bath, kitchen, and living room we squished a table into. We have hot running water, in the bathroom and I learned just the other day if I pour hot water (like from just boiled pasta) down my sink in the kitchen the pipe explodes ALL OVER. It can’t handle lots of hot water at one time. Just need to pour slowly.

It’s a good home, probably not by any of your standards, but by mine it’s brilliant and it’s my OWN space. I had no idea how much I loved having my own space. Not just a room, but a house. I have been so happy.

Well, I have much more to say, but feel it will kill you—so I’ll hold off. Don’t forget to look up the YouTube videos!


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