Ever since I moved to Uganda I have been reminiscing about our life in Ethiopia. I think I will always feel nostalgic about Ethiopia, first because it has an amazing culture that gets into your blood, but also because we started our marriage and family in that country and culture. Greg and I moved to Ethiopia five days after saying “I do” and it was an adventure from the start. Then we brought our first child home from that country a few years later. I can’t tell you how nervous I was to bring our newborn baby back to that remote Northern city of Mekelle, but the act itself of flying across the world with the most valuable thing in the world to me and entrusting her to a new place, bonded me forever to that town and its people. I was also bonded to that place because I found my courage there. And even though it was a quiet place out of the way of the world, that strange town helped me to re-enter the world.
I wish I could return in kind all the gifts that Mekelle gave me during my time there. This children’s book, set in the town where we built our family, is my small offering. It is true that I am an aspiring author, but children’s books weren’t in the original plan. This book came to me over time, and it seemed to gain importance as I plugged away at the writing and illustrating process.
I wrote the manuscript over three years ago when we first moved to Ethiopia. My husband always saw this particular donkey and dog duo hanging out around Mekelle. He thought it was hilarious that they seemed to be friends. At the same time, tensions in Ethiopia were rising between the different regions there. Then this story came to me of this donkey and dog that were from different backgrounds, but who needed each other to survive, and it seemed to have a larger meaning in the context of what was going on politically. So, I wrote this little tale with some hope that this children’s fable could shed light on adult problems. Then the manuscript sat for six months on my computer.
I finally found some inspiration to get a local Ethiopian artist and friend to do some sketches for me. I needed to get my ideas drawn on a page. Then I left those pencil drawings sitting on my desk for over a year because I was unsure of the next steps. I finally decided to try out an artist on Upwork that could help me take the sketches and transform them into colorful illustrations for kids. I landed on hiring a Pakistani artist. I was so excited every time he sent me a new illustrated page that he brought to life with his own style and color. But I wasn’t sure what to do next, and again I didn’t do anything for a few months.
Then I moved from Ethiopia and I got discouraged about ever finishing it. I wrote it for kids in Mekelle, but I wouldn’t be there anymore. Plus, the formatting and cover design seemed to halt the whole book in its tracks. I told my husband I wasn’t going to finish it. A few days later, he encouraged me to finish it for Rowena, so she would always remember the place she spent the first year of her life.
The fact that I actually finished this book is a huge shock for me, but I am really proud of the story and I love the illustrations that accompany my words. But mostly, I am happy to preserve a part of our life from Mekelle in this story and these drawings. I think this book would be interesting to families and children that either have a tie to Ethiopia, or more specifically to Mekelle. The drawings have scenes from Mekelle and the story has cultural references that will make any child that has spent time in Ethiopia feel right at home. Of course, there are also the messages of friendship and loyalty that can cross all cultural barriers.