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Wow! I had the largest traffic to my post about our anniversary. Thanks all! It was an awesome celebration! The best ever!I'm so grateful...so blessed!

Now, it's STORY TIME. Here's an excerpt from a writing course:

Twelve Hours in the Land of the Eunuch

It has been said that every disappointment is a blessing; so it turned out for my family and me during our Christmas trip to Nigeria.
We didn’t look forward to telling the kids that we were flying via Ethiopia on the Ethiopian Airlines. We could already gauge their reaction.
We told them as they were watching one of their favorite movies, The Chronicles of Narnia, in the hope that they would not give us their full attention.
“I thought we’re taking the South African Airlines or Virgin Atlantic from Johannesburg to Lagos,” observed my son, Lee, frowning.
I removed my eyes from his sisters’ dissenting faces and fixed on him. He’s always the reasonable one.
“We tried but all the flights are fully booked because of Christmas.”
“We’d rather remain in Pretoria while you two go,” said my eldest daughter, Eureka. She’s the most assertive of the four.
“So you’d miss all the fun in Nigeria just because you’d rather we flew straight from Jo’burg to Lagos?” Mark, my husband asked.
They were quiet but resolute. Estella, my second daughter, had such a huge frown on her face I feared it might leave a permanent set of vertical lines between her otherwise beautifully set eyebrows.

“How many hours would it take?” asked Lee.
Instead of saying that it would take double the time it would have taken were we flying straight from Jo’burg to Lagos, I answered, “We leave Jo’burg in the afternoon on Christmas Day, arrive Addis Ababa at night; take off for Abuja after midnight and arrive by 4 or 5am. Then we’ll fly to Lagos.”
“Travel on Christmas Day!” screamed my youngest daughter, Nicki, in disbelief. Her clear oval eyes looked like they were going to pop out.
“Two days and three connecting flights?” asked Eureka in her usual exaggerated tone.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm, somehow we got everyone packed and onto the airplane.

We started on that trip not sure what to expect. As we flew to Addis Ababa, we were plied with mouth-watering meals, tea and coffee by cheerful flight attendants. We began to relax. By the time we boarded the five-hour connecting flight to Nigeria, there was excitement in the kids’ voices.

In no time it seemed, our visit to Nigeria was over and we were headed back for Pretoria. The visit had left us exhausted. There were so many relatives, friends and recreational places to visit. When we thought we could stay indoors and rest some, visitors took up the time. Without saying so, we were relieved to be going back to our well-organized lifestyle.
Our return trip turned out to be remarkable.
We flew into Addis Ababa from Abuja, Nigeria around 8pm and spent the night in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian Airlines put up the passengers in various hotels. My family and I were accommodated in the MN International Hotel.
The few hours we spent in Addis Ababa has remained indelible in my mind.
As the airport shuttle took us to the hotel, we were fascinated by the ancient look of the city. It was like walking through history. The Ethiopian eunuch in the Bible must have walked on those roads.
The following morning as we rode to the airport around 7 a.m., we saw two huge ancient looking but not dilapidated churches. Many people sat outside the churches and more were walking into the premises. Everyone wore a white robe from head to toe.
The people we saw on the streets, like those at the churches, all wore long white gowns and white head covering. Some wore a belt with the white garb.
We had realized earlier that morning that it was Christmas in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, like Coptic Christians, celebrates Christmas on January 6. We had said “Merry Christmas!” to the hotel staff as we had breakfast and to the people we met at the airport. They all responded with charming excitement.
At the airport, there were decorations in the shops. The shop where we bought some beaded necklaces had special lightings, burning incense, confetti, and ribbons. We turned towards another row of shops. I was the first to see the young women.
There were about eight to ten Ethiopian maidens dressed in similar white robes. Their oval faces looked serene. Some were ebony complexioned and others were lighter. They talked in low tones and smiled at one another.
“Don’t they look like the ten virgins in the Bible?”
“They remind me of the movies of Mary the mother of Jesus,” Estella said. These young beautiful ladies sat together on mats.
I was captivated. “They’re so adorable.”
“What do you think they’re doing?” my husband asked.
I drew closer. “Eating and talking…the camaraderie is amazing!”
When they saw us watching them, they smiled.
We greeted them. “Merry Christmas!” they smiled even more broadly and enthusiastically mouthed something we couldn’t hear. There was solemnity and serene beauty about them. In order not to appear intrusive, we moved away.
We window-shopped as we waited for our flight. “Look!” screamed Nicki pointing to one of the cubicles. Turning in that direction, we were enthralled.
There were real children gathered around a life-size nativity scene. We walked towards it to get a closer look. We got within touching distance of the scene. The overall setting was about the size of a one-car garage.

“What a Nativity story scene!” I exclaimed as we stared at a group of 15-20 children of ages 7-10. They were all wearing white robes.
“The manger is real,” said my husband.
“And so is the baby Jesus,” I added. Upon closer look at Mary and the baby Jesus, I added, “She’s holding a real baby.”
Mark nodded, still mesmerized. “How can they remain so still?” he asked. Indeed they were stationary except for the baby who moved his hands calmly.
“They make such a beautiful and moving picture, Mark.” I said. We stood staring in awed silence.
“Mom, why are the people we see everywhere wearing white gowns?” asked Nicki.
Before we could attempt to find someone to answer the question, our 8am flight was announced.
We left Addis Ababa that Christmas day with a feeling that we had just walked through history. It was a memorable experience.
On the plane, we heard Yuletide music playing.
“Same Christmas carols they played when we were travelling in December,” commented Estella, sitting across the aisle from me.
“Yes. It was Christmas then and it’s Christmas today,” I said.
“Interesting, isn’t it?” she said, trying to sound adult.
I nodded. “Hmm….”
Since our return, we’ve often recollected that trip with nostalgia.

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