Ethiopia: On the Ground

by jenna on August 13, 2013

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The fashionABLE team landed in Addis Ababa at 7am on Sunday morning after about 24 hours of travel. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, as I’ve never been to Africa before and all I know is what I’ve seen in movies or read in books. Previously, when I thought of Africa, I thought of lions and zebras and fresh coffee beans. I thought of war and poverty. Honestly, it freaked me out a bit just because it’s so far from my comfortable home, my husband and my cat.

When we arrived on Sunday morning my luggage didn’t arrive with me. After I swallowed down a brief bubble of panic, I tried to embrace it. Here I was in Africa without any of my stuff. It sort of seemed fitting. I pulled on my big girl panties and just went with it {my luggage did finally arrive a day later!}.

What I have found so far in Africa are the most generous and kind people I’ve ever met. Yes, there is extreme poverty but there is also extreme beauty. We have been greeted with such so much kindness that it’s almost ridiculous.

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On the first day of the trip, we were invited into the home of an Ethiopian woman who just gave birth last week. She not only invited the ten of us into her home, but also served us snacks and shared a bit about the gift of adoption. Then, we visited a transitional home for children that had been adopted and were waiting to go home to their new birth families. I randomly caught up with one of my Noonday friends there! She and her husband were visiting their new son. It was such an unexpected gift!

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Today, we visited with the women of FashionABLE. When I say “visited”, I mean we just spent time with them. We danced together, we sang together, we drank coffee and shared stories. There was lots of laughing and some tears, too. These women are just incredible and their courage makes them true heroes.

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I have already learned so much from these women and this new culture. Tomorrow we are heading into the countryside to spend time with more of the women and their kids. Their big hearts and generosity truly inspire me. It was so fun today to show Mulu a photo of my wedding of how my bridesmaids and I all wore their scarves and how much we loved them! Though we don’t speak the same language, little bits of connection like that really count and help us feel closer to each other. I hope today meant as much to them as it meant to me.

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Thank you all so much for all your sweet thoughts and prayers for our trip! They are definitely felt. If you have any questions, the team here will be hosting a fun Twitter party TODAY at 11am PST. You can read more about that here and I hope to “see” y’all there!

xoxoxo

J

PS- the food is AMAZING here. I tried Injera and fell in love — so many spicy delicious sauces! The injera itself reminded me of a soggy sourdough bread…but in a good way. Also, I’ve eaten lots of really yummy chicken satay with rice and bottles of ice cold Coca Cola. Love.

Disclaimer: Though travel + accommodations were generously sponsored by fashionABLE, all opinions are my own. I am truly passionate about these women and this organization and am so happy to share my experiences with y’all!

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Elle August 13, 2013 at 4:08 am

Wow, what an amazing experience.

What are “new birth families” that you mention in the transitional housing?
Did the woman you visited who had just given birth place her child for adoption?

Have fun!

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Madison August 13, 2013 at 4:45 am

This is so inspiring and so beautiful! Thank you for sharing. :) Cannot wait to hear more!

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Mish @ eatingjourney August 13, 2013 at 4:57 am

I felt the same way as you have described…the sheer vacillation between beauty and poverty is at time numbing…when I was in India and East Timor. What I’ve always felt is that no Matter our differences, we all have a spirit. And it’s a beautiful thing when we all get to experience how our spirits and humanity bridge gaps we never imagined bridging.

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Molly @ RDexposed August 13, 2013 at 5:21 am

I hope there are many more of these posts to come!
Best of luck on the American culture shock on your return.

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DessertForTwo August 13, 2013 at 5:36 am

I’m so excited to be reading about your trip as it happens! Keep us updated :)

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Lauren @ The Highlands Life August 13, 2013 at 5:38 am

I love this. As someone who has been to S. Africa a couple of times, this warms my heart and brings back so many wonderful memories. I will continue to pray for The Lord to bless your trip, that you will continue to learn and grow and these awesome women will feel loved and encouraged by you.

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Cookin Canuck August 13, 2013 at 5:52 am

I’m so excited to follow along on your trip. Every since learning about the women of FashionABLE and their handiwork, I’ve been intrigued and inspired. It’s wonderful to see more of the amazing faces behind their work.

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Cookbook Queen August 13, 2013 at 5:55 am

So much beauty and your heart just shines right through. The smiles on those photos melt me!!

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Karen August 13, 2013 at 6:08 am

These snapshots of pure joy made made my day :)
Continue to soak in this rare opportunity, and safe travels home, Jenna!

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erin @hooleywithaz August 13, 2013 at 6:13 am

what a wonderful learning and growing experience! best of luck and blessings on the rest of your travels.

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Kristin @ W [H] A T C H August 13, 2013 at 6:34 am

I visited Ethiopia a few years ago and absolutely loved it. So glad you have the chance to experience this wonderful country. Have some injera for me!

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Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health August 13, 2013 at 6:55 am

I have been following your trip on your Instagram and it looks incredible so far! The women seem so kind and welcoming. I hope you are having the time of your life!

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Joelle ( on a pink typewriter) August 13, 2013 at 7:21 am

Enjoy! I’m glad you’re embracing the experience.

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Dana August 13, 2013 at 7:28 am

Great photos! Beautiful!!

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Averie @ Averie Cooks August 13, 2013 at 7:43 am

Thank you for sharing your trip photos and journey, Jenna! It’s wonderful to see all these images and see those smiles!

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Zainab @ Blahnik Baker August 13, 2013 at 8:14 am

It’s good to hear you are having a great time in Ethiopia. Glad the lions and zebra image will no longer be in your mind when you think of Africa :)

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jan August 13, 2013 at 8:42 am

What stunning pictures. I’m glad you’re having such a good time!

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sarah August 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

How wonderful! Oh my what a great experience:) P.S Loving all the smiles, pure beauty for sure!

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Suzanne de Cornelia August 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

What a completely beautiful inspiring post! ‘Big Girl Panties’ lol…

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De @ Cooking for the Other Half August 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

It looks like you are having a great time and having such an interesting adventure where you’ll learn a lot! I love the photos!

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jenn @ runnderlust August 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

what a great experience—and it’s only getting started! have a great trip.

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Mel August 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Extreme kindness must be an ‘Africa’ thing. I’ve been in Morocco for almost 18 months and am still blown away by how kind and helpful people are. Have fun!

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Brandy August 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Love this. Keep sharing stories!

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ljb August 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm

So what country/countries are you visiting in Africa? Is Africa different from other continents insofar as people have more of a “continent” identity than a national one? Ha, not true for us (never) “North American” folk!

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Jenna August 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Curious as to why you keep referring to Ethiopia as simply “Africa”. Africa is a pretty big continent, with each country having its own rich culture, and are all vastly different, in the same way the each European country is (as you probably say on your honeymoon!) Not trying to be snarky at all but as a former Anthropology major in college I just wanted to point that out. Hope you’re having a nice trip. :)

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Robyn @thereallife_RD August 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

This is so beautiful, I can’t wait to read more about your trip!
Praying for you Jenna.

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Padma August 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm

simply beautiful and so inspiring. I’m so excited for you. Take care and be safe! :)

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Lauren August 14, 2013 at 7:00 am

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central Africa, I love reading about your experiences in Ethiopia. I had no idea what to expect upon arrival in Africa either, but I have fallen in love with this place. The people here in Rwanda are so beautiful, generous and persevering! Can’t wait to see more pictures.

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Caroline L. August 14, 2013 at 8:33 am

So much beauty in these photos – enjoy the rest of your time!

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Steph August 14, 2013 at 5:45 pm

What you’re doing with this organization is amazing. Have a great trip and enjoy the opportunity!

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cyndi August 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Jenna keep going … I love everything that you are brave enough to do.

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SP August 14, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Bekoji, in Ethiopia, is home to some of the best distance runners in the world. Would you go there? Could you please get me the recipes of chicken satay and Injera?

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Emily @ Life on Food August 15, 2013 at 7:23 am

What a memorable trip! I cannot wait to hear more about it.

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Ashley@cupcakesncrunches August 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I spent some time in Africa a few years ago and I was blown away by how happy the people were in the midst of such poverty. It was convicting and challenged me to reevaluate what is truly important in life. During my stay I met some of the most beautiful people and I learned so much about the importance of community and relationships.

I hope you have a wonderful trip! :)

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