We are back home in Gimbie. Our family had a wonderful, strenuous, and rewarding trip home to America. At first when we arrived in America some things were quite a shock: The huge Walmart with a parking lots full of shiny cars. The wide, fast, paved and landscaped highways and byways of MD. The beauty of orderliness and the byproducts of relative wealth. Being able to drink water from the tap. Prepared food. Salad bars. Big green lawns. Silence. Anonymity. Wild Wilderness. Solitude. It was joyful to hug loved ones tight and talk face to face. It was comforting and memorable to finally be home for the holidays after two years abroad. It was Jonah’s first traditional Christmas that he could remember and it was fun. We ate good food and gained 20lbs + between Mark and I (don’t worry we are already losing it back in Africa-traveler’s revenge was upon me before two days in Addis). We chose a Doug Fir at a Christmas tree farm excursion with family. We read the story of Jesus’s birth each day of the Advent. Jonah wondered why there were so many Santas in America and hardly any Africans in Sabbath School. He made re-acquaintance with his babyhood buddies Luke, Noah, Jocelyn, Aris and Aleko and cousins and friends but he missed Boni and Maron and was concerned he would be forgotten. He got lots of spoiling from aunties, uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas.

But, being on the road constantly with a three year old was not easy. Along with personal networking for GAH Mark spoke at nine different locations on the topic of GAH and we lived out of suitcases the majority of our time home. I am glad now to be settling into the beauty of a home routine. And, thanks to God’s blessing through generous donations for GAH there is lots of work for Mark to do from improving our water system to provide clean campus water to importing a new generator and hospital vehicle. We are so encouraged.

Our Gimbie home is relatively cozy despite a water pipe being broken during our absence, a toilet that leaves a huge puddle on the floor after you flush it and the continued precariousness of our mud brick living room wall (which is cracked through in six places and appears to have moved a bit). Bagelech (our helper) had kept a garden in our monkey cage and there is fresh basil and parsley in abundance. She cleaned the house and baked fresh bread for us when we arrived home. What a blessing she has been to our family!

We were able to bring some new books and things that improve home cooked food such as Brewer’s yeast, gluten flour, Mckays Chicken Seasoning and niceties such as dried apples and tree nuts on our return trip. I brought a cookbook called “ Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian” which is packed full of Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern recipes. Many of the recipes in this book can be made with ingredients available in Ethiopia. Last night I made pancakes out of plain shurro powder (chickpea powder) with cumin, turmeric, beriberi, fresh parsley and water. They were delicious and so healthy. There are many familiar things that aren’t available here in Ethiopia but recipes from these areas of the world lend themselves well here and are often too good.

Jonah is quite well. However, he lost his precious stuffed cat “Milo” somewhere on our trip from America to Gimbie. Milo (I may have mentioned before) was given to him by Iris (a volunteer who stayed at Gimbie for a short while). Milo traveled, played and slept with Jonah most of 2009. Milo has been lost before- once we found her in the travel section of REI after backtracking through a shopping trip to Fresno. But, I have my doubts about her return this time. Today Jonah drew a picture of “the many faces of Milo and a letter telling how we miss her and want her to come home quickly”. In the interim he has been sleeping with a hot pink giraffe with a bow and hearts around its neck, left for him by Renee on her return to America.

We have been greeted by the core group of familiar volunteers left at GAH (Bobby, Becky, Kelsey, Nick, Cassie, Mark P. Jeremy, and Scott.) and have met several new short term volunteers who have recently arrived which include an NP, physicians, a pharmacist and an IT guy (A great blessing for our virus plagued computers). Paul and Petra are still in America but return on January 21rst. Our Ethiopian friends greet us with a strong handshake, a bilateral shoulder bump and enthusiastic comments about how fat we look (a complement in this culture). We anticipate the arrival of the Oxenholt mission group which includes medical, surgical, and dental professionals in February. The Lutz family who will help with our water project also arrive in February for a short stay. We have heard so many amazing stories which happened in our absence. There are many challenges facing GAH right now, but there are plenty of abundant blessings to rejoice in as well. We thank you for your support and prayers. Happy New Year!