Friday, April 4, 2008

Travel Tips, Rooney-style

While the boy is asleep, I thought I'd include some the things we found useful while we were in Ethiopia. They appear in no particular order.

1. It comes in really handy if your seat on the plane to Addis is near the front. It will put you right in the front of the line for getting your visa (assuming you didn't get one beforehand). The visa office is directly to your left as soon as you come down the stairs/escalators for baggage claim. Another mom had told me where to look, so we found it right away and ended up close to the front of the line. It took a while even being at the front, so I recommend high-tailing it to this office.

2. Get a good night's sleep your first night and eat a good breakfast your first morning. We were thankful to be well-rested and full bellied for our first meeting with Abe.

3. Kaldi's Coffee: It's called the Ethiopian Starbucks. While it's obviously modeled after Starbucks on the surface, there are some distinct differences. Their ice cream is wonderful, and you can even get it to go. Their breakfasts are yummy: I had the "mixed juice" everytime we went. It's almost a meal in itself. It's all hand-squeezed/pureed from fresh in-season fruits. In fact, most restaurants offer fresh juices. Order them wherever you go. They are amazing. Oh, and Kaldi's also has really good cream-puffs. (by the way, the name Kaldi's comes from the folk story of "Kaldi and the Dancing Goats" about the boy who discovered coffee while out herding in the pastures of Ethiopia--really cool story).

4. Alternate internet places: My favorite was the Limetree cafe, upstairs from the Boston Day Spa. The Limetree has free wifi, though it's turned off certain times of the day, mainly during lunchtime. I had success there accessing my yahoo account, though Ted had trouble loading websites for our banking, flights, etc. For email, it works great and is decently fast.
I forget the name of this other place, but we had success there too. It's around the corner from Bookworld bookstore (a big English-language bookstore) and has a cafe next door where they'll bring you coffee and treats into the internet cafe. Belay's wife uses this place pretty often, which is how we heard about it. It's not free, but it's extremely cheap, so no worries there. There are computers there you can use, or you can bring your own laptop.
Swiss Cafe--We loved the atmosphere of this place, and we heard that when their internet works, it's the fastest place in town. However, the whole time we were there, it was always down. But go try it out. It's free too. Their coffee and treats are really good, and their servers are the nicest ever. They'll take your baby for you while you eat and work! Awesome!All of these pictures were taken at the Swiss Cafe. Not seeing much of our child was a regular occurrence here. Oh, and if you can, sit near the flat-screen TV that shows videos of various big animals stalking and eating smaller animals. All that gore really made us work up an appetite for meat!

5. Though it may feel like it's going against all the safety precautions you've grown up with in the U.S., let people you meet hold your baby. Ethiopians treasure children, and you can truly trust people who come up to you wanting to ooh and ahh over your child. Don't let it freak you out when they clap their hands in front of your child and say, "Come." Just hand them over. We did every single time, and I came to really value this aspect of Ethiopian culture. People were curious about the adoption and about us and Abe, and they were all so kind about it. Most of them would say, "God bless you" as they handed Abe back to us. Oh, and in restaurants, the servers will often want to take your baby from you while you eat. At first, I wanted to at least be able to see Abe, but there was one place (a traditional Ethiopian place Tefese took us to one day for lunch) where the servers took Abe, and I didn't see him again until we had to leave. When I did, I found him here, holding court with these women:
6. The Gladney drivers: These amazing men will be your greatest resource in-country. They are so much more than drivers: they are tour-guides, security and babysitters too! Tefese speaks excellent English and is hilarious. He has family who live in California, so he's very familiar with American culture. He's full of jokes and anecdotes and is happy to show you "insider" places in Addis if you ask him. Yasu was our other driver, and while his English isn't as good, he's quick to call Travis or Tefese if you or he have a question. Everyone calls him the "gentle giant." Here's why:We really loved our drivers. They're punctual, kind, helpful, funny, and love babies.
Tefese even chided us one day for complaining about Abe's throwing up on us. He furrowed his eyebrows when we were complaining and scoldingly told us, "In Ethiopia, we consider children a blessing, so if they spit up on you, that's a blessing too. You should really see it that way."
Here is Tefese with Abe at dinner one evening.

7. Places to eat: As I wrote about before, if you stay at Ayat House, Hill Bottom is convenient and good. My favorite place was probably Limetree because it all was so fresh and healthy. I loved their "unlimited limejuice" and chocolate cake. Seriously: you've gotta try the chocolate cake, amazing stuff. Limetree is also really family-friendly and they have a Sunday brunch there that seems yummy (we never ate there then but saw the offerings). Next door to Limetree is a cool bookstore with an interesting selection of books, including a lot about Ethiopian culture. I bought several of the ones for children, including Kaldi and the Dancing Goats. You can also find there Donald Trump's Why We Want You to be Rich! Weird.
Ask your drivers for places they recommend. You'll hit the jackpot a few times if you do.
Castelli's Italian restaurant was the best tasting meal we had (the Pitt-Jolie's ate there, as well as a couple of presidents), but the only one that made both of us ill, interestingly. Just be forewarned. Hopefully, they've gotten that worked out.

8. As for getting "sick": kind of count on it. It was never debilitating for either of us, just was mildly annoying when we had to make a run for a bathroom, once for Ted at the the top of Entoto Mountain which he says "was a hole in the ground with my name on it." I know some people have not gotten sick at all while others have been down in bed for several hours. We fell somewhere in the middle: fair amount of rumbling in the guts but never enough to knock us out. Just be prepared.

9. The Abyssinian Lions: Don't go around lunchtime. They'll let you in to the zoo but don't tell you until you're in that you have to wait until after lunch to get up close and personal with the lions. That was a real drag, as we had to wait for an hour and a half for the ten minute walk through. When we were there, there were some lion cubs you could see as well: super cute and sweet.

10. Things I wish I had brought: balm for chapped cheeks. Everyone thought Abe had freckles for a while because his cheeks were so chapped and the baby oil/lotion wasn't cutting it. Boudreaux's Baby Kisses worked wonders once we got home.
Cooler clothes: I think I was so worried about Abe being cold that I didn't bring enough clothes to keep him cool. Short-sleeved, one-pieced outfits are your friends.

11. Over-acting scares babies.

Actually, my favorite thing about this video is the reaction of Tefese and Yasu, two of the drivers, to the fake laughter. I love watching them crack up in the background.


coffeemom said...

As ever, insightful and wonderful tips!! These help so much make this trip more real now and I'm sure they will help once we are there! Thanks Lori!!

Michele G

Melissa said...

Those pictures are such treasures. They will be truly special when he's older and beginning to understand the roots and customs from where he came.
P.S. Love the video of Ted. too cute!

Natalie Fournet said...

What wonderful memories and valuable advice....thanks for sharing!

Jana said...

great tips!!!! thank you. i just watched the video like six times in a row.

mama becca said...

awesome advice--- can't wait to use your tips!!! hooray!!!

Amy B. said...

That video is see those two guys cracking made me laugh out loud. Tafesse was our driver...he made us laugh so many times. He was a lot of fun to be around. I PROMISE I am going to call you...I just have to find a moment to sit down and do it.


The Soucys said...

Thanks so much for the tips Lori! These will be so helpful! I ordered my Baby Kisses if only I could get some real baby kisses!!! Soon!

Tara said...

Glorious glorious, I have copied down all of these tips and places to go- this will be SO helpful! Thanks Lori!

Lindsey and Cortney said...

That is really funny about Tafesse saying that because Ian yacked all over him one day and almost ruined his watch!!! He was a hoot and we all had a good long laugh about it!

Stacie said...

Now I'm ready to go back and see all the things we missed! :) I have heard great things about the Limetree - if Kevin hadn't gotten sick (and he was on the really bad end of the spectrum - had to go to the clinic and all) we were going to go check it out. Next time!

Courtney Rose said...


I absolutely adore your tips. I plan on drinking many fruit drinks. Many. I also plan on avoiding the particular bathroom Ted was pictured in. From the sounds of it, we should all avoid it. Yikes.


Christy. said...

We have just started praying about adopting a boy from Ethiopia and the first blog I found was yours. We live in Portland as well. I am curious as to how long your adoption process was from start to finish. Your little guy is adorable!!
If you would like you can email me at
cgladheim at gmail dot com
or comment on my blog at
gladheimfamily dot blogspot dot com

Cindy said...

I don't think I have had the chance to congratulate your family on getting little Abe home (being knee deep in family life with a new 3 year old will do that) :)
So Welcome Home and Congrats!!!!

renee treat said...

Let me just tell you how much I love "Travel Tips Rooney Style"! This advice is wonderful and I wish it was printed in a little book for me to have on hand when we travel! I feel like I know all the places to eat, sip coffee, and surf the internet now.... Oh what a precious son you have!

LISA said...

Thanks so much for the tips!You guys are wonderful!Enjoy that cutie of a babe ABE!

Nicholas said...

Awesome tips... can't wait til I can put them to good use in Ethiopia in the coming months!