I had three goals for our trip to Ethiopia. Let's see how well I did.
Goal #1: Give our kids a positive experience of Ethiopia.
We absolutely met this goal. Six months later, the boys are still talking about visiting their family, about Lalibela and Lake Tana, about the food, even about the Edna Mall. There were definitely things about Addis that they didn't like but those were minor compared to the pride and knowledge of their country that they gained. I give us an A.
Goal #2: Do it as affordably as possible.
We spent about US $4,800 for six weeks. This includes lodging,
transportation, food, activities/guide/interpreter fees, and souvenirs, but does not include
gifts to family in Ethiopia. It works out to just under $120 per day. We cut costs by mostly staying in guesthouses in the "budget" and "moderate" categories, and by camping for our week in the kids' village. A good strategy was to find cheap accommodation near a nicer hotel,
then get a day pass and use the hotel's pool and other facilities. We probably
saved the most money by not having a driver. Instead we used a combination of mini-buses, buses, bajajes, and locally arranged private cars. For longer distances, we flew using the huge discounts available to anyone who enters the country on Ethiopian Airlines (for example, Lalibela to Addis was only $63 for me and $53 for each child). We only used an interpreter when we were in the village and the rest of the time English and my minimal Amharic were sufficient. For tourist attractions we found the guides on site or those arranged by our guesthouses to be very good and affordable and we didn't need to bring an outside guide. Despite getting ripped off a couple of times, we did well. I give us an A-.
Goal #3: Be a bottomless well of patience.
I knew the trip would be challenging for the boys and from the first day I saw behaviors that I hadn't seen in years. One of the boys returned to what I call "shadowing," where I start to say a sentence and he finishes it with me but with a quarter-second delay - "What would you-you like-ike to-to drink-ink? Do-do you-you want-want a Fanta-anta?" This was actually a helpful strategy for him to learn English. On our trip I was generally understanding when he started to do it again. But have someone shadow you every day for weeks without a break and you will see how grating it gets. There was also a lot of complaining from one boy, especially when it came to walking anywhere. I did a good job being patient with it but it didn't leave much patience for other annoyances. Between the shadowing and the complaining, I had two blow-ups on the trip. And by the end of the six weeks, with my husband around to share parenting, I had moments when I literally hid from my children. Overall, I give myself a B-.