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June 5 - Gonder and the Four Sisters

   

 

After visiting Lalibella, we had a short flight to Gonder which is consdidered the Camelot of Africa because of the Medieval castle ruins of the Gonderian kings. The castle ruins are encircled by a wall in which there are 12 entrances. We used the royal entrance and the warrior gate as our exit. UNESCO and the Federal and Local Government are all working in collaboration in preserving the ruins. The ruins sit on over 6 acres of land and includes stables, a feasting room, musical performance hall, a spa for the king and his concubines and a cage for lions. The lion was the symbol of strength and courage of the kings. One of the wives of a ruling king, succeeded him upon death and served as a model of female leadership by promoting women vocational programs. 

 

After leaving the ruins, the group relaxed at a local coffee shop/retail store. Lost sunglasses were replaced, a much needed horsehair flyswatter was purchased along with a Jebena (traditional ceramic coffee pot). A pop up dance party ensued after the shop worker turned up some music and displayed the neck and shoulder movements of the traditional Ethiopian dance moves. 

 

 

We had dinner at Four Sisters restaurant which is actually three sisters and one daughter. The place is rather obscure as we drove through what appeared to be a desolate field and absolutely empty gravel parking lot. We were greeted by a bugle blast from the parking attendants who directed us to the lit entrance where a couple was performing a musical welcome. We chose to dine outside and because it was windy, each diner could choose to don a poncho-like garment for warmth. The restaurant was beautifully decorated with paintings by local artists and we were serenaded by the same man who greeted us at the door. We feasted on traditional Ethiopian injera, wot and tej. We were well fed and ready to get an early start the next day to visit water projects. 

 

 

June 3-4 - A few full days

It is the end of day one and we've managed to see sights, shop, and experience a coffee ceremony. The flight was as easy as a 13-hour flight can be. We arrived early Saturday morning, and after checking into the hotel and resting for a brief time, we toured the National Museum where centuries of Ethiopian history are displayed.

The most famous exhibit is the display of Lucy, the earliest Astralopithicine afarensis discovered at the time and named after the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. We also toured the Trinity Church, which is an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church and the most dominant religion of the country.

After a short night of sleep, we were off to Lalibella, the home to the monolithic churches which serve as a second pilgrimage site for Christians who might otherwise travel to Jerusalem.  We were treated to an afternoon rain shower, which is unusual for this time of year since it is technically still the dry season.

Following the tour of the churches, it was time for shopping which involved lots of bargaining, refusals, smiles, and hugs. Our journey back to the hotel was highlighted by a ride in the local taxis, or tuk tuk, which are three-wheeled covered carts creatively and brightly decorated. Our tuk tuk held six in a space designed for four.

Back at the hotel, we were treated to the traditional coffee ceremony. The coffee is served in three courses; abol, tona, and bereka. Each course is progressively weaker and served in tiny cups without handles.

We are looking forward to more adventures and visiting water projects in the coming days.

 

 

June 2 - Safely there

We have arrived safely! Apparently the government has shut down the Internet because of national exams, just opening it up again late today. We are safe, well fed, and tired. Off early in the morning to Lalibella.

 

June 1 - Travel Day

On our way to Africa doing God's work through our hands. The hotel shuttle driver is from Ethiopia. She was so happy when we used her language to say thank you. I love making connections.

And they're off!

June marks our first trip in 2017 to check on the progress that’s being made on wells in Ethiopia. Susanne has taken off from Austin with two other travel companions. Through June 16, the group will have a packed schedule. Not only will they be visiting multiple well sites, but they’ll also make time to see some sights and take in the Ethiopian culture we love.

We can’t wait to see pictures from their visit to the Castles of Kings, the famous sacred monolithic churches, and of course our water projects. Susanne will send blog posts as the rural Ethiopian Internet connections permit. You won’t want to miss a moment of their trip, so make sure you follow their progress and experiences on our special travel site. And if what you see excites you, make sure to email us at team@watertothrive.org to find out how you can travel with us on future trips!

 

A Time to Remember

It’s the weekend we all look forward to... The kick-off to summer, filled with barbeques, pool time, or taking the boat out on the lake. A long weekend to kick back, relax, and start the summer season off right! However, Memorial Day is not just the unofficial beginning of summer (yay!) but a day of remembering the men and women who have died while serving our country.

We’re eager for all the adventure that summer holds, and we’re currently tending to the final preparations for our first trip of the year to Ethiopia next week. During this time, amongst all the goings-on, we make sure to take time and step back to reflect on the sacrifice that this holiday has been set aside to remember. We have been given so much by those who have fought and died for the freedoms we often take for granted. This year, as we’re simultaneously taking part in remembrance for our loved ones, and preparing to head to another country, we can’t help but be humbled by the luxuries we experience daily.

 

We are so fortunate for what we have been given. It’s easy to feel discouraged, sometimes guilty, because we reap the reward without partaking in the sacrifice. Using the gifts we have been given to benefit those who are still in the midst of struggle is part of the way we honor those who sacrificed for the comforts we enjoy. When you donate to Water to Thrive through our website, you always have the opportunity to make your donation in honor of, or in memory of, someone special. As you celebrate the joy and laughter this weekend, don’t forget to stop and send up a thank you. If you feel inclined, make a donation to honor those close to you who died to make a better life for you, whether by serving our country or in other ways. In doing so, you’ll be supporting an organization working to aid those in Africa who are still struggling to find a way to build something better for their loved ones. Happy Memorial Day!

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Mothers

We’re less than a week away from that special day every year where we pause and celebrate our moms. Hopefully, we’re remembering to do this constantly through the year as well, but it’s always nice to reflect, and say thank you. This year we wanted to honor all the mothers out there, starting with a few of our own. Here’s what Sussanne, W2T’s Executive Director, had to say about her mom:

“I credit my mother for believing in me and giving me the self confidence that I can accomplish anything I set out to achieve. We grew up in small town, Kentucky. My mother was a college graduate, had five children, ran a couple of little businesses and also assisted my father in running a farm with a 100 head of cattle and several crops.

“I remember her many words of wisdom including, ‘can’t never did anything’, and I believe my mother is responsible for my positive outlook on life and ability to see good all around me. I’m sure my mother made sacrifices I’m unaware of, like mothers do all over the world. It has been 8 years since she passed away. What I miss most is being able to pick up the phone and share our day, talk about current events, share stories and laugh. There is truly nothing that can replace the love of a mother.”

 

 

Jazzy, W2T’s Outreach and Communications Coordinator, had a similar sentiment to share when asked about her mom:

 

“Strong, creative, compassionate, inspiring, beautiful. These are just a few words that describe the woman who I am blessed to call my mother. In my short 23 years of life, she has been there for me through thick and thin - from moving across the country in 5th grade to going to prom, from the death of my brother and her son to graduating college Summa Cum Laude. She has been there. And not only has she witnessed all of this, but she’s walked with me through it. And the most incredible part? Some of my deepest valleys have also been hers, yet she still supports and loves me. Her strength is unfathomable. No matter the circumstances, she has given me a life filled with the love of Jesus. And honestly… What more could you ask for from a mother?”

 

 

Often times it isn’t until we’re older that we realize the many, and sometimes subtle ways, our mothers have guided, supported, loved, and directed us through life. Motherhood is universal, and this Mother's Day, we want to help celebrate mothers with our community in Ethiopia. In the rural communities where we work, women are the backbone of their societies. They carry the burden of collecting water, cooking, cleaning, and watching after the children every single day. Without these strong women, these communities would fall apart.

You may remember from our World Water Day Blog that just $70 provides water to a family in rural east Africa for at least 20 years. Starting today, through Mother’s Day (this Sunday, May 14th) consider making a contribution towards Water to Thrive in honor, or in memory of, your own mom, grandmother, or mother figure in your life. Every dollar is going directly to people across the globe to better their families, communities and quality of life. Your donations will help provide clean water to these villages, the implications of which reach far beyond what we can imagine. With the time saved from not having to gather water, these women will have more time for income-generating hobbies, be able to cook healthier meals with cleaner water, have more energy to look after the children, and make time for much needed rest.

As an added blessing for this campaign, one of our Water Angels has agreed to anonymously MATCH all donations for our Mother's Day campaign up to $5,000 - so your donations will make twice the impact. To donate, please visit our campaign page on our website, and to all the moms out there from all of us at Water to Thrive, thank you for all you do. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

3...2...1... Happy 2009?

Remember when Marty McFly time travelled for the first time in Back To The Future? You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would pass up that opportunity. When the topic of time travel comes up in conversation, some might start thinking about all the things they would have done, or the things they’d try to change. Plus it’d just be a fun way to pass the time. We completely agree… And at Water to Thrive, we time travel a few times every year! Okay, it’s not exactly time travel, but it’s still a little weird and probably the closest you can get.

Internationally, the most widely used calendar is the Gregorian calendar. We use this calendar here in the United States, and in fact it’s so widely used that there are only four countries that don’t use it. You may have guessed by now what one of those countries may be. That’s right, in Ethiopia, it’s currently year 2009. Like we said, it’s a little weird.  

 


 

It may be because Ethiopia was independently settled, but regardless of why, the country uses their own Ethiopian calendar. It’s a solar calendar derived from the ancient Egyptian Calendar, that starts their year either September 11th or 12th. As advertised in the poster above (which was hanging in the lobby of one of our hotels in Ethiopia last fall), the calendar is made up of twelve months of 30 days, and a 13th month of five or six extra days depending on the year. The discrepancy between the calendars is due to disagreements on the correct calculation of the timing of the Annunciation, which marks the announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive the baby Jesus by the angel Gabriel. Because of these differing beliefs, Ethiopia will always be seven to eight years behind us.

 

Because a lot of the wells we build are in Ethiopia, we spend a lot of time there. It often makes us stop and ask ourselves, “What’s the point of time?” Not to make your head hurt too much, but does it really matter that we believe it’s 2017 here, and Ethiopians believe that it’s 2009 there? If the answer is “No,” then does time really matter? Of course it does to some extent, but when you realize that time was created by civilizations as a tool for measuring, it helps put things in perspective. We put so much value and importance on time, and the passage of time, that we forget we’re the ones that give time the power to have significance. Everyday at Water to Thrive we try to focus our energy not on time, but on people, because the people are what’s significant.

 

We love sharing our trip experiences you, but are always happy when people travel with us to experience it for themselves. If you feel like time is moving too fast, then come relive 2009 and experience first hand the 13-months of sunshine Ethiopia has to offer.

 

 

  

Happy Fasika

Traditional sanctuary at an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church

 

Today, as Good Friday ushers us into a weekend of togetherness and remembrance, we wanted to stop and take a moment to reflect. Often the commercial holiday of Easter casts a shadow over the true meaning of the holiday. We forget that Lent is a precursor, to remember how Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Good Friday is to honor the day of the crucifixion when Jesus sacrificed himself for us. And Easter Sunday is not just the event, but rather the resolution, and the day we celebrate His resurrection when all was made whole again. What stands out for us during this time of remembrance, is the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was for all. It was for everyone, and in a way binds us all together, reminding each of us that we are more similar than we are different.

Traveling to the remote villages in rural Ethiopia is a stark contrast to the luxury we enjoy here in the States. At first it can feel overwhelming and out of place. However, once you begin interacting with the people, it is a comforting reminder that while circumstances may divide us, humanity bonds us. The longest standing religion in Ethiopia is the Orthodox Church, and enjoying the community of shared faith in God is always an uplifting activity during our trips.

As we enter this weekend, we have our brothers and sisters on our mind. Because Ethiopia follows a different calendar (more fun blog posts to come on that soon!) they often celebrate Easter, or Fasika, weeks after we do. However, this year the Celebrations fall on the same day for both of our calendars, and we’re so excited to celebrate together. Culturally, the birth of Jesus (Christmas) tends to be the more focal holiday for us here in the States. In Ethiopia, while Christmas is celebrated, the larger annual celebration is Fasika. The Orthodox belief is that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus was the fulfillment of the word of God.

That’s definitely worth celebrating! To complete the fasting of Lent, Ethiopians attend church on Good Friday, and begin the preparations for the coming celebration, when the fast will be broken. Where we tend to celebrate the main event Sunday Morning, the main religious service in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church takes place on Saturday night. It is a somber, sacred service with music and dancing until the early hours of the morning. At 3:00 a.m. many return home to break their fast, and a chicken is slaughtered at midnight for the symbolic occasion. Later in the morning, after everyone has rested, a sheep is then slaughtered and the feasting and celebration of Easter Sunday begins.

This weekend, while you celebrate with your friends, family, and loved ones, take a moment and remember our Ethiopian brothers and sisters who are celebrating with us. While the distance between us may seem great, remember that there’s more that connects us, like the love of Jesus, than the geography that separates us.
From all of us at W2T, Happy Easter to our American friends, and Happy Fasika to our Ethiopian friends!

 

 

 

World Water Day 2017

 

In the age of social media, we’re suddenly aware of every silly celebration like International Talk Like A Pirate Day and urged to celebrate “accAHRRrrdingly”. While I’m just as much of a fan of National Send A Card To A Friend Day as I’m sure you are, today we wanted to stop and really focus on why today, March 22nd, World Water Day exists.

Naturally this is an important day to us here at Water To Thrive. Sometimes it’s more fun to focus on National Cake Day (November 26th in case it’s not on your calendar like it is on mine), than to stop and think about not having clean water, which is the reality for so many globally. WWD was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. Currently over 663 million people worldwide are living without a safe water supply close to home. That’s an overwhelming statistic that is hard to comprehend let alone know how to react to. The UN however, didn’t designate today as WWD just in an effort to raise awareness. They designated it as a day of action.

 

It’s easier to feel like you’re contributing by biking to work on Earth Day or buying chocolate for a loved one at the grocery store for Valentine's Day. But how do you “celebrate” World Water Day? We’ve all been at this point of overwhelmed inaction at some point. The gravity of the problem is so big that we get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing because it’s easier. We get it, 663 million is a big number. But so is 400,000, which is the number of lives Water To Thrive has been able to impact through the wells we’ve built in remote villages in Africa. Each well that we build costs $5,000 to fully fund, another big number. What we so often forget is that numbers are made significant by the context of time, quantity or bigger amount they are put into. For instance, 20 years is much harder to wrap our minds around than 1 year. 663 million people is basically impossible to fathom, but 7 people is manageable. Depending on who you are, $5,000 might seem like a fortune, but $70 for some of us is the coffee budget for the month.

 

Today, on this day of action, we don’t want to focus on the big numbers - sometimes it’s more than we know what to do with. But a number is constructed of lots of smaller numbers working together to get to the bigger number, and that’s where our focus lands. Our reality, and our focus today, is that $70 provides clean water for a family of 7 for 20 years. Those are 3 small numbers with a huge impact - not on numbers, but on people’s lives. If $70 is still too large for you to consider, what about just $10 which provides one person the gift of clean water? We’re all human and we’re all responsible for each other. Today we’re not focusing on wells, we’re focusing on people.

 

On this World Water Day, commit to changing lives through clean water. Whether you help 7 people today or just one, know that it ALL matters. You have the power to make a difference. Donate now by going to www.w2tgiving.org.

 

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