Category Archives: Ethiopia

Tata and Akoi

August 31, 2012 · 3:39 pm

On Wednesday, Yohannes’s parents (Meseret and Worku to the world, Tata and Akoi to Nati and Lily) arrived from Ethiopia.  We’ve been over to visit them twice since Nati was born, but this is the first time they have visited us since shortly after our wedding and their first time to see Lily.

It was love at first sight on both ends.

Meseret (Tata), Lily, and Akoi (Worku)

Lily has warmed up to them faster that I have ever seen.  She is usually a little timid about being held by new people.   Nati, on the other hand, has seen them on Skype and in pictures, and was very excited for them to visit.


It’s going to be a wonderful visit. 🙂



June 7, 2012 · 4:42 pm

Four years ago today, I woke up in a convent.  More accurately, it was the guesthouse of a convent, because I had given up my aspirations of becoming a nun, and this was my wedding day.

Everything started off smoothly with the electricity being rationed (we were in Addis).  We were prepared for this possibility and headed across town to the house where the wedding would begin (and where there was electricity) so we could use our curling irons and other electrical contraptions.  I hadn’t quite been prepared for the fact that this was the domain of the “Paparazzi” (AKA wedding photographers and videographers).  They graciously agreed to leave while I put my dress on, and that was the last time I didn’t see them all day.  They memorialized our special day through hundreds of beautiful pictures, and almost as many awkward ones.

Awkward because of the Paparazzi:

Awkward because I threw rose petals in the air.

Awkward because I’m standing on a bed in my wedding dress.

Awkward because we’re all laying on a bed in gowns and high heels.

Awkward because there are now two of me.

Looking adoringly into each other’s eyes….

…and awkward because I got my makeup all over his face.

Awkward because, What am I doing?

Awkward because he was supposed to kiss my collar bone while I leaned back or something? At this point one of Yohannes’s cousins wisely gave us the advice that we don’t have to do whatever the Paparazzi says or they will try to make us into a Bollywood film.

That Paparazzi leaning dangerously out of the car to video the processional of cars.

Awkward because I didn’t know what I was doing:

This is the part of the Wedding where everyone crouches around the bride and she has to hop in a circle on one foot in her high heels.

This is the part where I brought non-alcoholic champagne from the States for the toast…

…and then the hotel gave the bridal party whiskey on the house, and me and my sisters pretended to drink it. I made a face when I tasted it and everyone laughed.

The cow that was served at our wedding raw.

Yohannes offering me some of his raw cow, and me saying very politely, “No, thank you.”

My sisters and I giggling because, as good Mennonites, we had our DNA altered to remove any God-given dancing ability, and these people don’t seem to know it.

Me feeling intimidated when the professional traditional dancer came over the dance “with” me, and begging Yohannes to please get me out of it.

The pictures weren’t all bad:

At the end of the day, we were married.  Four years removed from the awkwardness and two kids later, I can say without a doubt that it was one of the best days of my life.  Happy Anniversary, Johnnye.  Love you. 🙂

Not Tonight

May 19, 2012 · 6:45 am

It happened again yesterday.  Nati was at the playground chasing a little boy, shouting, “CJ! CJ!”  The kid’s dad chuckled and said, “That’s right. His name is CJ.” Then he turned to me and asked, “What is your son’s name?”

“Nati,” I said.

He looked a little flabbergasted and went back to watching the kids without saying anything more.  Now there are two reason why he might have responded this way.  The first, much less horrible reason, which I’m inclined to write this off as, is that it was a new name to him and he was afraid that he heard it wrong or that he would pronounce it wrong, and decided not to try to repeat it.   The second, and inconceivably common reason, is that he thought I said Nazi…as in Nazi Germany…as in Hitler.

This is not something that happened once.  This is something that has happened many times.  Someone will ask what my son’s name is. I will say, “Nati.”  They will look surprised and concerned and unsure, and then say, “Nazi?”

No. Not Nazi.  I even made Yohannes listen to me as I said it over and over again to see if I might be saying it wrong.  Does the name that is coming out of my mouth sound like Nazi?

When we were choosing Nati’s first name, we knew we wanted it to be Ethiopian.  Especially with us living in the U.S., I wanted him to be able to identify with his father’s heritage.  It was actually his grandfather Worku who offered the name Natnael, and we liked it.  But I knew that the name wouldn’t roll easily off of the tongues of many of our non-Ethiopian friends and family, so I insisted on a nickname from the start.  Nati is a common nickname for Natnael.

Shortly after Nati was born, My father asked Yohannes what his name was.  Yohannes said, “Natnael.”  My father heard, “Not now.”  Okay, then I’ll wait to find out till later, he thought.

The midwife who delivered him asked what his name was.  Yohannes said, “Natnael.”  The midwife referred to him as Not Tonight from then on.

This seemed to affirm our choice to use a nickname.  I had no idea that people would misunderstand his nickname in a way that was So. Much. Worse.

So today, for your edification, I have a short lesson on my son’s first name. It is NatnaelNatnael is the Ethiopian equivalent of Nathaniel.  If you call him Nathan or Nathaniel, no one is going to die or kill you.  However, here is the correct pronunciation:

Napronounced like, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.”

t prounounced just like any old letter t is pronounced.

na, as in, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.”

el, as in elegant, or elder.

His nickname is Nati.  It is not Gnatty, as in, “This place is so gnatty. There are gnats everywhere.”  It is not Naughty, as in “You are such a naughty little boy.”  Again, no one is going to die or kill you if you say it wrong, but the correct pronunciation is as follows:

Na, as in, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.”

ti, pronounced like tea.

How it is not pronounced, is Nazi.  If you pronounce it that way, maybe no one will die or kill you, but I might lose it and scream in your face, so just be prepared.