Sunday, 30 December 2012

all in a month

It seems that it has been a month since we blogged - helped by not having internet for three weeks in Addis.

So what have we missed blogging about? Probably more than we can mention here - so you might be spared hearing all about end of year reports and other thrilling things like that. But here are the highlights...

Sunday, 18 November 2012

bonfires and sparklers

We were invited to share some bonfire fun by some fellow Brits which was a lot of fun. It is not the first time that we have celebrated Guy Fawkes in Africa, but still somehow it is strange to think that everyone back 'home' would have been wrapped up in their scarves and hats to go and watch fireworks and we hung out in shorts and t'shirts.

We sat outside eating soup and rolls while it got dark, then we lit the bonfire. Various people had  found fireworks and sparklers in Addis and one family had even managed to find marshmallows for us to roast, which I had been convinced didn't exist here at all. The fireworks here are all quite small and quiet, but our boys don't have much to compare with and it was fun seeing them go off.

Josh with his first sparkler :-)

Thanks to our lovely hosts. Next year we'll have to see if we can plan something at Bingham!

Friday, 16 November 2012

cross country race

Cross country training for the smaller kids has now finished, ending with an inter-house cross country run.
 This was another event where the kids could collect points for their house teams, both our boys ran and had a good time.
Tom ran in the Grade 3-4 boys race and came second - well done Tom :-)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Travelling North of Addis

 As you travel out of Addis to the North you pass eucalyptus forests - it is grown here for firewood as it is fast growing. There are donkeys and women carrying leaves and firewood for miles up the mountain. 
I liked this photo as the donkeys almost look like bushes! There were so many donkeys that our boys lost count.
There is plenty of countryside, not too far out of our side of Addis.
We traveled past lots of these little thatched huts and beautiful scenery. It is incredibly different here to the African countries we have lived in before. It feels a lot safer and a lot greener.

Monday, 12 November 2012

school pictures

Recently the school photos were taken so here are some pictures of our boys and their classes (oh and one of Tommy and his class hanging out on the climbing frame....)

 Tom (age 8)
 Grade 3 (Tom's class)
 Josh (age 5)
 KG2 Class (Josh's class)
 Tommy and his Grade 12 (Year 13 in the UK) class ;-)

A long time

It seems a long time since we have had time to write some blogs but hopefully all that is about to change :-)

Friday saw the deadline for my (Sarah) latest MSc module looking at issues surrounding normal birth, especially reflecting on midwifery in Africa. It was a pretty good feeling to email that assignment and know that I don't have to write another for a good few months. I have to start reading for the next one to get ahead before the baby arrives, but somehow that seems a lot easier than writing!

Tommy has been studying too - he has been taking a course with the Cambridge exam board relating to teaching business studies, which is also coming to an end.

So here's to more blogging in the next couple of weeks....

PS. Less than five weeks until we return to the UK for our 'baby break', just over ten weeks until Pip is due...not that I am counting or anything....

Monday, 15 October 2012

Pip update

Following more than a couple of requests, here is a token photo of the bump, as of last weekend (at 24 weeks).

We went for a scan a couple of weeks ago, which was a bizarre experience, although a very positive one! One of the parents at the school arranged it for us, and even arranged it for us at a time when they wouldn't usually have a Dr at the clinic so that Tommy could come with me which was really great of them.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

crazy hat day

It seems that Tommy can't get away from school dress up days! We recently had one called 'crazy hat day', where by wearing crazy hats the kids could collect points for their house. This was a challenge for us, we have no craft supplies, no string, not much at all really to create a 'crazy' hat from, but the boys gave it a go anyway and it was fun to see what the other kids came up with.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

cross country running

The boys have started cross country running club twice a week. The running track is currently out of action due to the new high school building that is currently being built so a 1/2 km route has been measured around the school buildings.

This is some of them setting off from the field, through the car park, around the back of the gym, down the hill past our apartment, then back up past the offices and some classrooms to the field.

The boys love running, thanks to that being one of the few things they did on the ship, but still haven't got the hang of pacing themselves to run long distances, they still think the only point of running is to win a race! Unfortunately the football team doesn't start until 5th grade, so hopefully this will keep Tom fit until then as he is counting down the days (two years to go!) already.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


The end of September saw another Ethiopian holiday - Meskel.

Meskel is an Ethiopian Orthodox religious celebration said to commemorate the discovery of the 'true cross' by Queen Helena in the fourth century.

(taken from Wikipedia:)The Meskel celebration includes the burning of a large bonfire, or Demera, based on the belief that Queen Eleni had a revelation in a dream. She was told that she shall make a bonfire and that the smoke would show her where the true cross was buried. So she ordered the people of Jerusalem to bring wood and make a huge pile. After adding frankincense to it the bonfire was lit and the smoke rose high up to the sky and returned to the ground, exactly to the spot where the Cross had been buried. One explanation for the high rank this festival has in the church calendar is that it's believed that a part of the true Cross has been brought to Ethiopia from Egypt.

 We had our own demera at Bingham with some friends in the car park!
 We learned about the Meskel festival, while the boys got to have some fun playing with fire!
 And we learned what happens if you all throw flour at a fire at the same time - not a traditional part of Meskel just boys having more fun playing with fire. If you wish to try this at home, make sure any children (well everyone really) are standing well back - don't worry Mum ours were very safe :-)

Monday, 8 October 2012

water or not

Occasionally on the ship we'd run out of water, or get close to running out of water at least, so that we had to limit or ban showers and laundry and reserve the water for drinking. It always felt so ironic that we were living on a ship, completely surrounded by water, but that we could still be without safe water.

This is the second time we're without running water since we arrived in Ethiopia. They are predicting that it will be restored in a few days (or so rumour has it, I am not quite sure who 'they' are). The rains have stopped now, and so we can't help but wonder how much this affects the local people and whether they have extra supplies in their homes.

We have a big barrel outside our door with 'emergency water', albeit not very clean looking (the nurse in me would quite like to swab it and see what grows), but perfectly fine for flushing the toilet and for boiling to cook and drink if necessary. Our filtered drinking water supply has also run out (mental note, keep the jerry can in the kitchen full rather than empty), but a friend says they have enough to share some of theirs. We also have some 'treat' bottles of Mirinda in the fridge - a bit like fanta orange and appletizer, which I am sure the boys won't be complaining about drinking at dinner time after their cross country running. 

So really, we may smell a bit for the next couple of days, but actually we can't complain very much. It is always good to be reminded not to take water for granted.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

changing seasons and GRASS to play on...

 Rainy season is officially over and so the field is open. This is pretty exciting for two little boys who have been desperate to kick a ball on some grass since we arrived :-)
 There are some swings at one end of the field and plenty of space for running about.
Tom's classroom overlooks the field and he eats his lunch outside in the little hut you can see or on the bleachers (the steps around the edge of the field that are harder to see).

Friday, 28 September 2012

one to make Mr C jealous AKA the school gym

Here is a shot I took of the school gym, you have to look pretty carefully to see my boys playing football. On the left there is a climbing wall, on the stage a couple of table tennis tables and some more basketball hoops out of the picture to the right.

They take sports very seriously here as do the other nearby schools, so the gym is well used. Living on campus we are able to use it whenever it is free, so we've enjoyed some indoor football while it's been rainy.

There is adult indoor football one evening a week which Tommy is enjoying, and Zumba/pilates on a Saturday which I feel currently justified in avoiding, given that I can't even walk up the hill without sounding like I ran a marathon, but it looks a lot of fun!

So Mr C. what do you think?? I'll show you a picture of the football field and running track if the gym isn't torture enough for you....

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

playing outside

 Halfway up the hill from our apartment is the grade 1 and 2 play area. The field is still out of action while it dries out after rainy season, so this is the main place where the boys have been playing after school.
 There is enough space here for a game of tag or chase, plus a big slide, a couple of things to climb on and a tyre swing.
This is taken from the doorway of Tommy's (grade 12) classroom, looking down towards the grade 1 and 2 classrooms. He does break duty out here when the grade 1 and 2 children are playing twice a week, when he has to check they are playing nicely while avoiding getting bitten by the ants!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Normal life - the laundry!

 Downstairs in our apartment building we have a laundry room with a communal washing machine, freezer and ironing board. Each apartment also has one of these big blue water storage tubs in case we ever loose water and need to use it for washing, cleaning etc.There is just one machine, but with only a couple of families and a couple of singles using it we don't bother with sign up sheets like on the ship, if it is being used chances are it will be free within an hour or two.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

house sports

The Bingham kids are split into three houses for sports and other fun events. Our family are in the 'Carey' house, in the yellow.

We have had one inter-house sports event so far, which was so loud you probably heard it and wondered what all the yelling was coming from this part of the world.

The kids (and lucky teachers who got to join in) had to do a variety of different events including wheelbarrow races with bananas in their mouths, passing footballs down lines of people only using their feet without it touching the floor, fish potatoes out of a bucket of water with only their mouth and carry it to the other side of the get the picture hopefully. This was not a serious sports event by any means, but was a lot of fun and it started the year off nicely for collecting house points.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

our apartment and the 'mountain'

 To continue giving an idea of where we live here are some photos around our apartment. This is taken from the top of the hill, with the gym on the right. Our apartment can just been seen at the bottom of the hill, the white building with the red roof.
 This is where we live, there are four apartments in the building. We live on the top floor at the back.
 This is the route we take each morning, from the bottom of the 'mountain' to the top where the Kindergarten classrooms are. And every day Josh moans because 'slow coach' is far too slow and needs to hurry up. I look forward to beating him one day - I am not promising that day will be very soon, as I might get slower before I get quicker, but one day I WILL BEAT HIM and call him slow coach.
This is the full mountain. In case you are thinking 'that is just a little hill', yes it probably is, but until you have lived at altitude while pregnant and have to walk up it a good few times a day, keep quiet ;-)

Monday, 17 September 2012


 (photo thanks to Jess Garnett)
Today saw the groundbreaking for the new high school building. The whole school came outside to mark the occasion. It is estimated that it will take a year to build, but will be a huge blessing as the high school has grown over the last few years and needs space to expand.
Josh and I went down this afternoon to join the rest of the school for a short ceremony. We can see the big digger from our apartment but it was fun to go and have a closer look and see where exactly the building will be.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Melkam Addis Amet!

or Happy New Year to those of you not so fluent in Amharic :-)

The Ethiopian calender has 12 months of 30 days plus a 13th month of 5 or 6 days. Today Ethiopia enters the year 2005. We (actually just Tommy) heard cannons fired at 6am this morning as the new day starts at 6am here, rather than midnight.

Ethiopian New Year is a big celebration for people , involving family gatherings and plenty of food from what we have heard. We celebrated with cinnamon rolls for breakfast, given we don't really know what is traditional, and are enjoying a day off school :-)

Pictures from Tommy (one for Roger)

It has been really fun taking pictures of the various different plants and birds that we have seen here. Am happy to spring for Coffee for any positive identifications of species!

Some flowers from our weekend in Bobagaya:

Thursday, 6 September 2012

View from the apartment

 From our lounge balcony you can see the chicken house. To the right between the bamboo fence and the wall is the cross country running track which goes around the school grounds.
 If you look the other way you can see a few buildings beyond some big trees. 
Our bedroom balcony overlooks a small garden area (below). 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Our apartment

 I have tried to take some photos of our apartment, it is rainy season so a little dark in this first one, but they should give you an idea. Firstly our lounge - complete with tree!You can just make out the small balcony area outside too. Next to the tree is the wood burner, from which we nearly set fire to the apartment, but that is another story.
 From the other side of the room you can see our dining area and computer desk. So if you skype us, this is where we'll be sat as the internet only works in this exact spot!
 Tom and Josh's room. They have a decent play space and what you can't see is a couple of double wardrobes behind where Josh is sitting. We have been excited to collect a new (highly attractive) toy box each time we grocery shop so that the toys now live in cardboard boxes rather than zip-lock bags!
 Our bedroom, there are wardrobes to the right of the picture you can't really see, a chest of drawers in the bottom left and a window with a small balcony area in the corner (the same as the lounge) to the left of the drawers.
Not much to say about this picture! Except that it is quite exciting to have a bath and a shower after being on the ship 3 years - and no water restrictions!

There is a smaller third bedroom, which the baby will eventually have, which is currently where we throw our shoes until we get a shoe-rack built, so maybe a photo will follow another day!

Oh and a kitchen with a pantry that I still haven't taken a photo of. I probably need to give up the plan of waiting until there is no washing up on the side and take one anyway ;-)

It feels pretty spacious, most of the cupboards are empty as we only came with our suitcases and some of the walls still need pictures, but I'm sure in time we'll make it more homely :-)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Rescuing the projector

When we arrived on 2nd August our projector was held in customs as we didn't have the cash to pay the customs charge. In fact we spent most of the rest of the month deciding whether it was worth going back for it, but after finding the four year old invoice and recalculating the fee, plus Tommy starting teaching and deciding it would be pretty useful to have, we decided we should go and bring it home. We meaning I, Sarah, as for some reason unbeknown to me they had taken my passport details on arrival so I had to collect it. Important note to self, don't ever make that mistake again. Tommy certainly should experience the fun of trying to retrieve something from customs if the need ever arises again.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Addis traffic

We've both started driving in Addis Ababa. Compared with the UK it is a little crazy, but compared with Freetown it is a piece of cake driving here. People generally stay off the roads, the policemen don't stop you for bribes and the traffic generally moves, even if busy in places.
The blue mini-bus taxis are everywhere, they also have blue taxi cars for private hire and buses that go out of town.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

School has started

The new school year started at Bingham today, it feels good to finally be getting into what we came here for and also to be able to get into a routine and work out what normal life looks like!

Tommy is the Grade 12 mentor teacher, he is teaching A level Maths, AS Business Studies and Grade 12 Bible.

Tom has gone into Grade 3 in a class of 25 children, 10 of which are boys. His classroom overlooks the football field, so once the weather gets better they will have their breaks out there.

Josh has started in KG2. He was not too happy about coming home for the afternoon with all the bigger kids still at school as he has been at school all day in the UK, but otherwise enjoyed his first morning. The Kindergarten classes have their own play area.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Steps to getting your driving licence

Getting your Ethiopian driving license is an activity where your patience may be stretched, but as long as you go into it with the expectation that 'this is Africa' and things take time and many fees will need to be paid along the way then you'll probably come out of it ok! Here's how it worked out for us:

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Getting SIM cards

It is slow getting things set up here, but yesterday's accomplishment was that we managed to get SIM cards for our phones. SIM cards are regulated much more than in the UK, so we had to provide copies of our passports and get passport photos taken before we could get one. We managed it with a short stop at Kaldi's (the Ethiopian equivalent of Starbucks) while we waited for the photos to be printed :-)

The photos cost 28birr for 6 - we will buy a Kaldi's coffee for the first person who leaves a comment with the correct equivalent price in pounds (or dollars for our US readers).

Monday, 6 August 2012

In Ethiopia

We arrived Thursday night and the last couple of days have been a bit of a blur, but we are all feeling very happy to be here and the boys have very positive first impressions of their new home and school.

We have been well looked after by our buddy family who took us shopping to the supermarket, bakery and fruit stalls, gave us practical lessons in how to get cash and filtered water, how to bleach our fruit and vegetables and also had us for dinner on Friday.

The boys were unwell traveling and Tom has continued to not be very well, so we had a quiet weekend unpacking and visited some new friends for dinner on Saturday. Josh has been playing in the sports hall with his new friends and enjoyed walking around the running track.

We have a lovely quiet (well apart from us being in it!), spacious apartment and are looking forward to this being our home. We'll try and take some photos soon.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Update - flights and accomodation (and Pip!)

Our preparations seem to be moving in fits and starts. We seem to have a quiet few weeks as we wait for certain things to get sorted out and then there is a burst of activity as we move on to the next step. This is a busy week as we have been given the green light from SIM to book flights. Once we have booked our flights we need to send off for our visas and then we will be ready to go, from a paperwork side of things!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lilies and Ravens II

God has been so good to us since we left the ship and as we prepare to go to Ethiopia. In the last post we talked about accommodation. Here we will show that God has really looked after us in all areas...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Lilies and Ravens

We feel compelled to share the great things God has done for us since we left the ship. He has consistently given us more than we have asked or hoped for. First up, somewhere to live...