My last post got me to recalling how in the pre-travel days when I had nothing to do but worry about details large and small of our trip to Ethiopia, in my lighter moments my thoughts would turn to "the souvenirs." The less selfish side of me wondered what type of gifts I could find to give our little girl on the yearly celebration of her adoption day. Special little things to remind her of the culture, arts and life of her homeland... it was definitely one of the more pleasant things to contemplate. It occurred to me that other adoptive parents may enjoy the same diversion. So, for all those other families out there waiting; here's a list and some photos of my shopping successes in Addis. Most of the items were from the shops in Post Office Square (mainly from my favorite stand on the main corner across from the parking lot), and from the gift shop at our orphanage, Toukoul. The Toukoul gift shop sold a great assortment of woven scarfs, handmade quilts, table cloths, cloth animals and dolls, doll outfits (on the famous Ethiopian doll- the only one made in Ethiopia - see him/her in the photo - yes its gender neutral!) and the proceeds go back to the orphanage to help fund their Werku program to teach job skills to single moms so they can keep their families intact. So, on to the booty:
1. Ethiopian Jewelry - I like the colorful chunky kind (ie. not the really expensive fine gold kind - its available at the Hilton but its not my style). Some of my favorites shown here came from the gift shop of the museum at the University of Addis Ababa (which I'd recommend - not just for the shopping mind you!). The rest is from the Post Office Square market. The finer silver items which look like Ethiopian Orthodox crosses are sold by the weight. One of the necklaces has a Haile Selassie coin on it.
2. Wood Carvings: Widely available but more expensive than I'd anticipated are the carved wooden animals. While you can find them here in the States (for about the same price), I like to know they're straight from the source. The male and female figures, which I love, came from the gift shop at the Hilton which has some surprisingly competitive prices. I always like to check their wares, go out and compare against the market and then know I could get them there if all else failed. I really liked the sculptural quality of the wooden hair pick. I think it may be better as decor than in use... its pretty sharp! The biblical painted piece is a reproduction and was described as what the early priests used to illustrate their stories since paper was not available. The art on it is representative of stylistic trends we saw in much of the Ethiopian art in galleries and museums. We were told the early painting styles were introduced by early Italian missionaries. Another piece not shown here is a small stool hand carved out of a single piece of wood, it was a bit of a challenge to pack - but once we need a "time out" spot it will be worth every bit of the effort! There were many many great household items carved from wood - trenchs, game boards - all beautiful... if I'd only had more room!
3. Textiles - Embroidery and woven goods made great gifts for all my friends (in addition to the wooden salad spoons that pack easily and have a great modern look with their black and
white bone handles). The traditional clothing we saw in Addis and during our trip to Awassa was mainly white with embroidered edges. We had hoped to go to Harrar which is known for the more colorful textiles but since it was rainy season we didn't make it. The women of
Werku who work for the Toukoul gift shop had made the very colorful scarfs shown in the photo with the molded plastic "original Ethiopian doll" dressed in their handmade male or female dress (at top of this post). I didn't see this doll available anywhere else in my travels so I felt lucky that they had them available, they also made the rag doll shown here. Each plastic doll has a tuft of molded hair on top and could easily be male or female (or hobbit...look at those toes!). The quilt, backpack, giraffe and rag doll in the photo were also from Toukoul. Some other items I found for my little girl were a cloth purse and a tshirt with Haile Selassie on it for her teenage years.
4. Woven goods - colorful woven baskets and serving trays were easy to find and pack and a
good way to store and present all the great jewelry. The leather items will be fun to send her off to kindergarten with.
5. Artwork - We bought only three souvenir type pieces while we were in Ethiopia although we'd hoped to find a piece from a local contemporary artist. We did visit a couple nice galleries in downtown Addis but with limited funds ended up with our custom-ordered angel (see previous post), a historical style (repro) piece on an aged wood panel, and the biblical triptych shown in the photo with the carved items. There were paintings available in the markets on stretched leather and parchment which some of our friends purchased. The frames made the packing process difficult. Our angel was able to be rolled and traveled well.
6. Other Shopping Adventures - One of our favorite spots was a grocery store called Bambis. It was a relatively large one with a fascinating selection of local snacks, tea, chocolate, candy, liquor, coffee and some gift items. The italian pretzels were addictive! There was also a very nice but small grocery at the Hilton accessible from the parking lot.
Packing tips - We were lucky to be at our guesthouse with some seasoned travelers who advised us to save our plastic water bottles and any newspaper or shopping bags we received. When it came time to pack, we cut the tops and/or bottoms off the bottles to make tubes to pack delicate items like the wood carving in. It was genius! We had brought a spare duffle bad and was able to get all the bulky items in it padded with clothing and the very thick quilt we'd bought. The only casualty was one carved wooden candlestick.
Start making your lists!