And an awkward Genna to you!

It’s fun having two Christmases is in the span of just a few weeks…but Ethiopian holidays are always filled with awkwardness! And this one was no exception.

Last year, I received a grand total of one Christmas invitation – from the compound family I live with. This year, the number jumped to eight. But, of course, the one I accepted was once again the one from my compound family…since they have loved me the most this last year : )

But this year’s Christmas story actually begins the day before Genna. A friend of mine had just returned from the states and she brought back a gingerbread train for us to decorate. I know what you’re thinking: Awesome.


You’re probably looking at that photo and thinking you missed out. Well you did, but there’s always next year! We spent the afternoon creating our train, listening to Christmas music, and getting serious sugar highs.

The following day, Genna, was spent like any other holiday – me hanging out with my compound family, almost wishing I actually knew Amharic. Usually, my lack of language isn’t an issue because my landlord has impeccable English, but that morning he was absent.

So after giving the seratanyas (two female servants on our compound) their wrapped gifts (with very little explanation, I might add) I spent the first part of the day watching an Ethiopian game show with five grown men while the women cooked lunch. This year, I had the foresight to refuse the first glass of tella, because once you say yes to one glass, they don’t let you say no to any other. Which means this year, I avoided being drunk before noon : )

My friend and I had decided to give the gingerbread train to my family, so this is the gem they got:


I really had no idea if they’d actually eat it or just keep it on display until I leave seven months from now. Then everyone ate lunch, and a Christmas miracle occurred. For the first time in a year and a half aka for the first time since moving here, I was able to eat a roll of injera and not get sick! And their shiro/egg combo was delicious. Very surprising – to eat an Ethiopian meal that I really enjoyed.

Then the men left and I got to watch CNN report on how cold it is for all of you in the US. The ladies found the pictures of snow quite funny.  A short while later, my landlord came home and brought his granddaughter with him. I had wrapped a book and some coloured chalk up for her…and since it was her first ever Christmas gift, we had a nice struggle getting it open together.

First things first, we played with the chalk. I now have a very colourful walkway filled with flowers and a lot of squiggly lines. Then we read her new book: Dr. Seuss’s ABC. This next picture shows how cute she is.


We finished reading just in time for coffee, and since my landlord was home, I was able to explain what the gingerbread train was, and we all ate it with our coffee/popcorn combo. All in all, it was an awkward but wonderful day. And I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way.

  1. Hi! I just found your blog… not sure how ‘blogs’ work (sorry for my ignorance!), can I ask questions about the area that you visit? My adopted daughter is from Ethiopia, and we have not been back to visit yet. She was born in the Kembaata zone, I believe near Hossanna (spelling?). She has biological family still living there, and we plan travel to see them in the next 1-2 yrs. I was wondering if you can tell me if you have been in that particular area? Does it feel safe for a family to travel to, and stay in? We loved Ethiopia so much, and only have good things to say about it. We mostly stayed in and around Addis, due to adoption paper work. I’ve heard the drive from Addis to Hossanna can be long and somewhat treacherous, due to rough road conditions? Sorry for all the questions,I’ll understand totally if you don’t have time to respond! Any info you can pass along, would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so very much, Kim (from Canada).

    1. Hi Kim, I’m happy to help! I live in Hawassa, which is in the SNNPR region. I’m about 3 hours from Hossana and I’ve been there once. I remember it being pretty rough when it came to harrassment, but I was there almost 2 years ago (and I’m a young female, families and men specifically are treated better). I have friends who live in other cities in the Kembaata zone and really love the area (specifically Durame). Roads to Hossana aren’t particularly pleasant, so if you’re traveling with kids I would definitely recommend renting a private car. We took a minibus from Addis (hard to find), but most transportation is via a large bus, which take much longer. I think it took 5-6 hours, but I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. Let me know if you have any additional questions. We had a volunteer who lived in Hossana for almost two years – she just returned to the US, if you send me an email ( I can put you in contact with her. She’d be able to help you with more specifics.

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