Happy Spring to all! For this months CultureBaby Mom profile, we head down to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to hear from Sara W, a talented photographer, entrepreneur and mom to three beautiful girls.
Where are you living now and with whom?
Myself, my husband, our three young daughters (ages 1, 3, and 5) and our dog Lucy are living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can read about our adventures at Our Yuppie Life.
How have you exposed your children to the culture of Ethiopia?
In Ethiopia we don’t have a choice but to expose our children to the local culture on a daily basis. We are firm believers in taking our children with us everywhere and they come with us to restaurants, stores, cafes, markets and bazaars. We travel all over the country and are immersed in the culture during our travel even more so than when we stay in the city. We hike, ride mules up mountains, camp on the top of plateaus, visit churches and castles, experience village life, befriend locals, photograph monkeys, eat injera and tibs and drink coffee during traditional coffee ceremonies. Ethiopia has a rich heritage and is bursting with cultural experiences and the children take it all in stride.
How have you adapted your life to living overseas and to moving frequently?
I’m still at a place in my life where I am happy to be in a constant state of flux. Having three little ones, rather close in age, is a fluid state of being in and of itself. Adding the additional fluctuation of moving and adapting to life in other countries feels normal to us and makes life with our children exciting and adventurous. There is no time to get stuck in a rut or bored with your surroundings or routine because there is always exploring to be done in a new country. There are always new food or artwork to be discovered and we try to instill that sense of adventure in our daughters.
Tell us about your work as a photographer and baker.
I’ve always loved to take photographs and over the years I’ve developed a healthy passion for improving my skills. In Ethiopia, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to photograph some of the amazing places we’ve visited as well as local businesses. For the first time I’m taking photographs for clients, rather than just as a personal hobby. It’s been exciting and creatively fulfilling work. One of the best things about living in a culturally rich yet raw country like Ethiopia is that I’m never lacking for things or people to photograph. The opportunities for interesting and beautiful photos are absolutely endless.
Within the last year I’ve turned one of my other passions into a small business. I bake and cook and I started Ladytroupe Sweets which is my home based bakery/catering business. I’ve found that the best food and sweets come from my personal kitchen. Especially when we are living overseas in third world countries. Expats from all over desire delicious cupcakes, scones, and pies and I love fulfilling this basic need for people. Hearing stories about how my ice cream cake or chocolate chip cookies have helped my customers deal with the hardships of Ethiopia and allowed their family to enjoy life a tad more while they are away from home; makes my work as a baker that much sweeter.
What is one thing you’ve learned as a parent through your experience raising children overseas?
It’s easy to be nervous and concerned about health, safety, and cleanliness for your home and family when you are living in challenging locations like Ethiopia. But if I worried as much as I have the capacity for, I would be consumed by anxiety about this disease, that parasite or the lack of emergency care available. I’d spend my entire existence in these countries deepening the worry lines on my forehead!
Mothers naturally worry and I do my fair share, but if I’ve learned anything about raising my children overseas is that it’s important to let go of some of my worries and just let my kids be kids. They’re going to blow bubbles in the not-so-clean bath water. They’re going to touch the ground and then put their hands in their mouths. They will consume something that makes their bellies ache and yes, we are going to get weird bug bites from time to time. Kids will be kids no matter where you are living in the world. It’s been important to let go of my worries and give my girls a bit of freedom, so as a mother I don’t get myself too tied up in knots about the little things. I’ve become a much more relaxed mother since raising my children globally.
How do you encourage global citizenship with your kids and how do you think this will help them later in life?
We encourage them to open their eyes to the world around them. At this stage in their lives home is home no matter where we are and they place complete trust in their parents. They don’t know anything other than the world we show them. The wonderful thing is that their impressionable minds absorb it all. Our daughters may not completely understand all the experiences they are having, but some day they will draw on these memories and piece together their own thoughts and opinions about the world.
Tying our luggage to the back of a donkey and trekking around ancient church ruins is just another day for them. We hope that these experiences will make them open minded and compassionate people. We hope that they will always have the desire to see and do things that most people would never dream about. We hope that being a global citizen will not be a conscious decision on their part but just who they grown to be as a result of the experience we are giving them now.
Do you have a favorite CultureBaby product?
The Indian print dress in saffron yellow. The moment I saw that dress I wanted one for each of my daughters for their next photo shoot! The color is vibrant and the sleeve and waist detailing is beautiful.