New year, new beginnings. Last year I published a recap of my 2014. I wanted to do the same for this year. This is a good exercise of gratitude – looking back at the year through photos I can see there is so much to be grateful for. Lots to learn from. Don’t get me wrong, there were of course down moments. Everyone has those. But for now, let’s focus on the good stuff. For me, 2015 was an amazing year. Life is wonderful! Like the Boss puts it: It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.
The year kicked off with exciting work stuff. Finland’s then-Minister for International Development, Mrs. Sirpa Paatero visited Ethiopia together with other high-level officials. This was such an interesting visit for me to coordinate. I found out – once again – that I love organizing stuff, I love being busy and love the adrenaline being busy and inspired brings – as long as I can wind down when I want.
Later in January it was time for a crazy trip, probably one of the craziest I’ve been on. Together with some friends we drove from Bahir Dar to Mekelle (a city in Tigray region in the north), that’s 12 hours of a roadtrip on which you get to see the vastness of the country. In Mekelle we joined a bigger group of travelers and headed to Danakil Depression, an extremely hot and arid place close to the Eritrean border. Once at the Danakil, we saw salt lakes, camels, salt miners, and finally Mordor on earth: an active lava lake. Yes, we were standing on the brink of a volcano and looking at exploding lava during a pitch black night. You can read my longer report on the Danakil trip here.
Then came the day when my parents set foot on the continent of Africa! I know they both had dreamt of that moment for a long time. They flew to visit us and we had an unforgettable time in Bahir Dar, in Gonder and at the Simien Mountains. Our guide at the mountains was of course Lijalem Meseret, the best there is. If you are planning a trip to Simien, do not hesitate to contact Lij. P.S.
Just a few weeks after our parents left Ethiopia we flew to Rwanda. The flight is a few hours from Addis Abeba, via Entebbe (Uganda) to Kigali, the capital. From Kigali we continued to Musanze, the center for mountain gorilla hikes in Rwanda, and also the place where Dian Fossey lived for years. Seeing these magnificent creatures up close is something I will never ever forget. You can read my whole story on the gorillas here. I also turned 29 on this trip. I remember having a short age crisis on my birthday. “I feel so old!”. If only I had known something bigger than my phony age crisis was coming up…
..a few weeks after we returned home from Rwanda I found out I was pregnant! I remember the day, it was a Thursday, March 13. I had been suspecting something but finding out was a different thing. It was hard to believe it first – so I took about 10 tests. After this news, everything was secretive for a while. It was our little secret. But it wasn’t always easy to not tell people about it. I had a lot of field work during that time and sometimes the occasional nausea and urge to run to the bathroom were challenging to cope with. For a while I also couldn’t stand the taste of injera. This makes life difficult in Ethiopia to say the least! Luckily the phase passed.
In March I also met with a lot of farmers and still think about many of them today. We sat in many homes, talked to many people, and our project did a lot of progress with onion crops in the region. I will never forget the kindness of Ethiopian people. In one of the farmer homes I visited frequently, the mother was carrying a newborn on her back. They told us the baby was just a few weeks old. The mother was taking care of the baby with such care and love. I hope the whole family is doing well.
Life went on in Bahir Dar. We were waiting to have our first ultrasound taken at Gamby Hospital. We were there a bit too early and actually the whole visit scared us, because the doctors suspected an ectopic pregnancy. Two agonizing weeks passed and then we finally saw our little ‘Bean’ in the monitors! Here is a photo of me waiting to get to the ultrasound. I have to smile a bit when I think about our visits to that hospital. It always seemed that the doctors were more excited about us speaking a little Amharic than our reason to see them.
A group of Finnish journalists visited Ethiopia and we ran them around the countryside in Amhara. Good times!
In April I also went back and forth with emails with a fashion designer in Finland. She was preparing my wedding dress as our wedding in Finland was to take place the next month!
This month we flew to Finland to get married. You can read my full blog post on our wedding here, therefore here I share some amateur photos. The ones in the full blog post are taken by a professional.
There was a lot to prepare. Here my beloved sisters and their kids are helping with decorations, filling tiny mason jars with chocolates for the guests. These tiny hands did a lot of work.
My sisters and friends threw me a wonderful bachelorette party. Maybe it is a Finnish thing to be a little bit shy, to not like to be the center of attention. But I think it is good to practice receiving all the possible love and attention one can get. It is an important skill to be able to give gifts and to be generous, but it is equally important to be able to receive the same from others. Thank you all the women in my life for organizing this day for me!
We officially got married a week before our wedding party. My sister came by early in the morning with strawberry cheesecake and coffee and we got ready together. Here is a fact: sisters are the best in the world.
We then took the tram to the City Hall downtown. It was such a beautiful day. I have to say it truly is one of the best moments of your life when you decide to tie the knot with a person who you love and who is your best friend. I feel lucky every single day to have this man in my life.
A week later it was time to get ready for our Big Party. It is a day one should feel like a Queen and I did. It felt good to celebrate, and I was happy we did it at a place of importance for us – at Bosgård farm in Porvoo.
A dear friend of ours gave an opening speech at our wedding and he couldn’t have done it better. Here in this moment he has just declared us Husband and Wife!
June kicked off with a short trip to Stockholm – the destination of our honeymoon. We figured since we already lived far away from home in an exotic place like Ethiopia, we’d prefer going for our honeymoon somewhere closer. What better place could one find than our beautiful neighbouring capital Stockholm! The trip was perfect. Long walks in Södermalm and one day at Yasuragi Spa in the archipelago. At the spa our little baby kicked for the first time!
Then just like that holidays were over and we were back in Bahir Dar. Our cats Aizo and Charaka were waiting for us, bless them. It was rainy season but we got some sun anyhow (the sun shines almost every day in Bahir Dar). During the weekends we hung out at a pool we’d discovered with some friends.
We had the chance to visit Finland once again. This short holiday took us to different parts of the country for family visits. It was also the time to pick blueberries and chantarelles.
Back in Ethiopia again, this time realizing we were really running out of time there. We spent our last weeks fixing passports for cats (yes, they needed passport photos),seeing friends, walking along Lake Tana, eating all the injera we possibly could…
My colleagues threw me a goodbye party at this beautiful place in Bahir Dar overlooking Lake Tana. I can’t believe how quickly two years passed. I learned so much in this job.
And then, one early morning in September, we packed our bags and the cats and drove to Addis Abeba. It is a beautiful ride, descending into the Nile Gorge and driving up to reach the capital. Ethiopia truly is a magnificently beautiful country, you should list it as your future travel destination! Flying out of the country with the cats wasn’t the smoothest experience, you can read more about it here. However, we made it.
In Finland we moved into an apartment in the city center. The first weeks we spent putting together a home. I had a real urge to make it look like a home, the baby coming soon and all. The cats were upset at us for some time but finally forgave us. And slowly by slowly the home started to look like a home.
We also took part in organizing Foodycle, an annual food festival at Viikki Campus.
It was the perfect time to fall in love with our new neighborhood. The days in October were sunny and warm.
I spoke about food systems and food security at two events, the Finnish National Days for Nutrition and Aalto University’s Redesigning Society course.
And again, my friends outdid themselves and threw me a baby shower.
To summarize it: in November I was very very pregnant. The baby’s due date was November 13 but he didn’t feel like hurrying out of my tummy..so we waited.
There was time to take many walks.
Until the best thing happened on November 27. Our baby boy was born! I know this year we’ve been standing on the brink of a volcano and we’ve seen mountain gorillas and we’ve hiked up in the Simien Mountains and we’ve gotten married and yes, all those things are mind blowing, but this one beats all of them. Easily. I became a mother, we became parents. This is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me, to us. In December we got to spend his first Christmas together with family, and we also got to see his first smile. 2016, bring it on. We are ready for you.