What We Have Learnt In The Last 7 Years.

This month we celebrate  7 years in Ethiopia! Our hearts are so grateful for the time spent here, all the things that God has done to bring us to the place we are at, and our biggest accomplishments here- our enlarged family and being a part of the Grace Centre.  I have been doing a lot of reflecting these last few weeks and thought I would repost a blog I wrote a couple of years ago when I shared some thoughts about what we have learnt from our time in Ethiopia (some life changing and profound, some humorous, maybe a little sarcastic, but true). It has been a journey of great joy and sadness, laughter and tears, sacrifice and reward, hardship and blessing. We have been faced with many struggles and obstacles, yet the whole time have never once regretted the decision we made to move here. It has changed us, grown us and blessed us beyond measure.

As you read about the things Ethiopia has taught us I want to thank you for sharing this journey with us…

Negede Village and marcie promo 009 - Copy


Friendship surpasses language barriers.

Sometimes all you need is someone to believe in you.

When someone invites you for a coffee, you cannot simply squeeze it in. It is normally a 2-3 hour ceremony.

Coffee Ceremony


There is no such thing as washing your hands too much! (but this is not practised in general)

Anywhere is a good place for a man to urinate.

Never say ‘maybe’ as it is sure to be taken as a yes.

A corn field is not just to produce corn, it can also hide beds and other possessions during home visits.

Get petrol when they have it in town, you never know if it’ll be there next week.

When hearing a life story, do not expect the truth the first time.

People are generous and will give, beyond what is thinkable, just because.

It is easier for a mother to put slits in her dress to feed her child than to work out another way.

Never eat with your left hand.

It is quite normal to pick your nose, no matter what age.

People will lie for any reason and not understand what is so upsetting.

You can be very happy in a mud hut and no shoes.

People have the right to tell you what they think, even if you have never met them before.

Don’t river walk on weekends unless you want to see a bunch of naked men bathing.

There are many differences in the cultures and religions in Ethiopia, and until you try to understand and respect them, you won’t get very far.

Cockroaches are not as bad as I always thought they were (though are still pretty gross).

A greeting can go on for a few minutes, or longer.

The use of the car horn is not considered road rage, rather a considerate act to let someone know you want to pass.

There are zebra crossings, but people still do not know how to use them.

You can fit up to 18 people uncomfortably in our Grace mobile… (Two years on the Grace mobile is currently not working, but I am sure 18 people can still fit inside!)

Kidist, Worku and Josh


Recharge your computer when you have the chance. Electricity is unreliable, especially during the rainy season.

Living without hot water is hard, but not impossible.

Living without a fridge is hard, but not impossible.

When construction is given a time frame, pay no attention.

It is rude to refuse food or beverage when visiting someone’s home.

A person with a heart condition has little chance of survival in Ethiopia.

Not too many people want to stay in their country Ethiopia to make it a better place. But the ones that do… wow, they are more loyal and dedicated to their cause than anyone.

Loud sorrowful moans that sound like serious childbirth labour commonly means that someone has died.

A funeral will last up to 40 days. But it is not expected that you mourn a child’s death more that 3 days.

Ethiopians do not like to have sugar with their tea, rather, tea with their sugar.

If someone spits on you, it may be a blessing rather than someone displeased.

Wear a long skirt when travelling long distances. This is necessary for the side of the road toilet stops.

When you stop on a deserted roadside, people will appear from nowhere.

It is a sign of respect to be on time for a meeting, but do not expect that the person you are waiting for will arrive on time.

A kiss on the neck is given in a very fond greeting.

Men hold men’s hands and caress, without it meaning anything more than brotherly friendship.

Rejecting a ‘gursha’ (someone handfeeding you injera and wat from their hand to your mouth) can be highly offensive, it can also lead to giardia or typhoid, but accepting can lead to honour and good friendship.

Worku gives Melishew a gursha


In rural areas it is much more appropriate to show a breast, than to show a shoulder or thigh.

It is also appropriate (but not!) for small children to drink alcohol and hot coffee.

Animals, bikes and pedestrians have right of way.

A used cardboard box is a suitable new bed for someone sleeping on a dirt floor.

Don’t drive a bajaj (tuk-tuk) in a dress.

Marcie driving a tuktuk...in a dress.









Fat is good. It is a sign of health and prosperity.

It takes practice to sit on a squat toilet and go without it splashing back up on you.

Always keep toilet paper and antibacterial close by.

Everything is about relationship; people won’t truly listen to you before they know you really care.

Never underestimate a woman who believes she can!

Never put off a birthday or family photos when a sick mother is involved.

Death and sorrow are unavoidable… so is the beauty in life here…

Appreciate everyday you have.


Thanks for reading and being a part of our journey.


Dee and Andrew xxx

Hanging with the weaving ladies

Andrew, Kate and Kidist

Andrew and Dee, Alan and Carri and Leasdership

knife erickson pic


  1. Jo An Carter

    I have such fond memories when I visited with Marcie’s mother back in ’07 in Ethiopia. Dee, your reflections are so great. Loved them!

  2. Debbie Graham

    Dee and Andrew – Please know that we love you and support you and pray for you. We are incredibly grateful and proud to be able to help you and the work that you do. Thanks for sharing and for being you – so dedicated to helping others – with open arms and open hearts. Thank you Thank you Thank you.
    Debbie Graham
    Grace Center Foundation

    • deeknife

      Thank you very much Debbie. We love doing this journey with you. Thank you for all you do for Grace. I hope we meet one day.

  3. Regina Sommer

    Incredible words, incredible jouney, incredible people, you are adored my many, love & miss u guys xxxx

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