Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My life, this week.

I feel like I just need to exhale into the blog... release my thoughts onto the web page, which may or may not seem connected.

I just started a new job. Which I'm not sure that I like. Looking back- I felt rushed into it, but I might just be blaming that the job interview I had been hoping and waiting for came only two days after I started this new job. It's hard, because I thought I really wanted the other job, and now not knowing is frustrating me and I wish I had had more of a chance to weight the two options more unbiasedly.
Maybe it was the first semi-day at work (filling in at a house that I wouldn't be working at usually), working with a girl with extreme needs- who had to have two people working with her constantly (not including the staff for the other house members). It was exhausting and frustrating- someone with specialized training should have been working with this girl- and definitely not two new employees (not to mention the third staff for the rest of the house was also new). I wasn't impressed with how they handled that- three new people in the same, most highly demanding house?
And then when I walked in the house where I will be working. It made me sad more than anything. The house was shabby looking. Posters instead of decorations on the walls. The television was propped on a gigantic office desk and a large crack in the window was left unrepaired. Are the kids supposed to take pride in where they live? Should they respect the house? What types of messages are being sent to the kids with a house in that shape? I understand if there were no finances, but this is an organization that gets contracted from the government- they aren't running short.
What does this say about how the youth should view themselves in the area of dignity and respect? How does a how in poor condition effect their self esteem? Walking into a house with posters about Hepatitis or House Rules has to take a toll on a kid.
I've thought about it, and feel that the three-month probation that most jobs have to determine if the job will be permanent, should work both ways. I'm going to give it a little while, but I refuse to stick with a job that I don't like. I'm sure that any job at some point, I won't like. But having this many struggles in the first two days doesn't propose a positive future. And I don't want to become cynical, have a poor work ethic which impacts the clients or begins to effect the organization- it's better that I leave before that happens. But, I'm also trying to be optimistic and see if it turns around in the next month or so.
As for my other job, my part-time one- I'm loving it more than ever! My boss told me that when I get a car, she will be able to offer me many more shifts (which sounds great if I hand back the job I currently have).

Biruk has made the restaurant beautiful. I'm so proud of him- amazed at him. His only regret is that he didn't take 'before' pictures. Really- my husband could be an interior designer or something with professional renovating- like Extreme Make Over Home Edition or something. The purple ceiling changed to white. The black and white checkered floor now with hardwood flooring. The blinding florescent lights replaced with beautiful lamps and ugly bathroom counters replaced with new sinks and cabinets.

I hate the hate towards Muslims. I lived with a Muslim family for several months, have relatives who are Muslim and several co-workers who are Muslim. My experience? They are caring. They are generous. They are people. I'm not for discrimination in any form. (Should clarify this- I think boycotting on a basis of ethics is more than acceptable- however, discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference or religion is very, very different). Someone the other day said to me that they used to boycott homosexual's businesses, but they've recently stopped -this isn't aimed at them, but it did make me think.
I wonder what good it ever did... Did the business owner know that you were boycotting them because they were homosexual? If they did- what would it change? Would it offend them? Drive them to change their decision? What good things would come out of that discrimination? Rather, what good things would come from building a relationship and getting to know someone on a deeper level?
What about, if we didn't judge people... what about if we pursued relationships with them? What about, instead of boycotting- we did the opposite. Like, loving instead of hating. Forgiving instead of being bitter. Accepting (not tolerating) instead of judging. Turning the other cheek instead of fighting back. Going further than asked or demanded. Giving up more than requested. What if we did that?
What if I did that?
What if I didn't make it about 'Christianity'? But instead, about taking small, slow steps in obedience to what Christ said. What if it wasn't about the end result that I receive, but instead about me at the end- how I am transformed? What if I focused more on myself and was my worst critic than focusing on judging others?

And now, it's time to inhale.

Monday, August 09, 2010


I haven't been very clear about our newest venture- opening our own restaurant, so this post is devoted to giving details.

A few years ago, Biruk talked about opening his own restaurant 'some day'. Off and on since then, the topic has come up, but never seriously. Biruk always had a good income in construction and was about to pursue continuing his education in that field. However, since being injured, working construction was out of the question for a few months. Biruk claims it wasn't a near-death experience driving him to pursue his dreams, but more of a combination of timing and deciding that he really did want to do this, now.
I'm incredibly proud of him- within weeks of being able to stand up straight, he was already plowing away at this new venture. He has been more organized and responsible than I've ever known him to be, making appointments, figuring out legal stuff and arranging a lawyer for some essentials. He's so optimistic, focused and really happy. He might work twelve hours a day renovating the place, but he'll come home with a smile on his face and satisfied with his day. He's great with people, makes friends easily and everyone who meets him, likes him.
We've been blessed- getting a great location at a great price, and wonderful neighbors. I've met more of our business neighbors than those who live in our apartment building. Sharing the same building is a nice Somali lady who already offered to share her garbage bin if ours overflows. Across the street is the most organized pawn shop I've ever seen, run by this Chinese couple with a feisty, funny lady and her skinny, quiet husband. Then, there is the liquor store and the attached burger joint- with an enormous spotted cow as a slogan taking up half the side-walk- both run by the same Lebanese friendly family.
While the location is ideal, its also in a ghetto area of the city. On the one hand, it's in the immigrant area where plenty of Ethiopians and Somalis live, who are the target clientele. Also, it's seven blocks from the main down-town and three blocks from a large university. This also means, that some of the just-off-main problems are also present here- prostitution, drug dealing and homelessness.
The restaurant we bought used to be run as a cover for a drug dealing operation, apparently it was busted with lots of drugs and tons of money. The neighboring businesses all told us how excited they are that we are opening a real restaurant, helping to bring positive, legal business to the area, cleaning things up a bit.
It's a nice feeling, too- knowing that in simply opening our business and doing something for a profit is also helping others.
This also helps to explain our amazing deal for rent and purchase of the restaurant; a combination of hurrying to sell the place because of the former drug-dealing operation, and just being grateful we're doing something legitimate.

Biruk is going to be the owner/operator/manager of the restaurant. And anything else that is needed; dish washing, extra cooking and serving. He is going to hire a cook (or two) and a server for the weekends.

Papyrus Lounge is what we decided to name the place, not wanting to be too exclusively Ethiopian. Papyrus is for the plant that grows in the Nile River, which covers several countries and suggests a type of North African-type culture. We're terming it a lounge because food is not going to really be the focus, but rather shisha and billiards/pool (there are two pool tables). Shisha originated in the Middle East, it's a light fruit-flavored tabacco that is smoked with a water-pipe, it's popularity has moved south and has really taken-on in Ethiopia. There are a few shisha lounges in Edmonton, but none in the area where our restaurant is.
The coffee filters that came with the restaurant are small, individual things for each coffee mug. I wasn't sure how to use them, so I asked a sweet Veitnamese man (as it's for Vietnamese coffee) how to use them, and it turns out, that this is amazing! It was a like the strong, thick Ethiopian coffee, only much quicker and in individual portion sizes. Coffee is a definite must in any business targetting Ethiopians, and this is stuff is really good.

Thought of the day:
It's been interesting, renovating-I've never renovated before. I appreciate better that Jesus was a carpenter. It's not just that it's hard work and a blue-collar job- it's the redemptive value. In putting in the hard-wood floors, Biruk was so careful not to waste anything. A damaged or discolored piece wasn't thrown away, but a way was found to use it- cutting away a flaw, putting it in a different area. Biruk covered over some spots, repainted others. It might have been easier to do things differently, to start fresh, but it wouldn't necessarily be better. And now, our sweat, a little blood and plenty of sneezes have gone into this place, it's becoming more and more 'worth it' when we begin to see the final outcome. I was painting the kitchen this beautiful light orange color- called 'marmalade' -and felt that I understood a little more of our carpenter God, just because we're salvaging, and renovating, and redeeming a restaurant.

We're hoping to open in a few weeks- the health inspector is supposed to be in at the end of this week, as well as all the liscensing. The major renovations, and most of the cosmetic ones have been finished and all that's left is to move the kitchen appliances back in place.
We're planning on having a party for the Ethiopian New Year, September 11.
The sign still needs to be changed, and menus printed up.
Not much advertising is planned- plenty of people already know about it through word-of-mouth, so Biruk is going to see how things go for the first few weeks.
Feel free to ask any other questions, if I've missed any key details.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


I did it.
I finished!
On Tuesday night, just before midnight, I completed my final assignment for my last class to earn my psychology minor, and thus completing my bachelor's degree and minor requirements.
I feel lighter already.
Yesterday, on my way to work I was reading the paper, which had three pages discussing the benefits of online learning and the local schools which offer online courses. I smiled to myself, because I didn't care about online classes anymore- I am DONE! Stores are starting to offer 'back to school' specials and in a few weeks the college students will return to the city. Thinking of that makes me grin, because I'm not interested.
I graduated high school early and spent six months traveling, doing ministry and working as a waitress or driving a forklift. After that, I became a student. I might have been a full-time, on campus student. Or I might have taken two years, or a semester of school off, but I would still continue with one or two online courses. I remember more than one semester, I was a full-time on campus student, as well as taking a full course load online- I was a double student!
So, for five years now, I haven't had a true break from school, studying, homework and typing assignments.
Now, I can read a book for pleasure on the bus. I can relax and watch television without a text book in front of me.
Right now, it feels almost like I have been granted my freedom, more than as if I have earned or achieved something. I am more excited about being done with school than have learned and earned a degree- I'm just so happy to be free of school!
For the record, I now have a Bachelors of science in Justice and Ministry with a minor in Psychology, to pair with my Associates for Justice Administration of Social Work. I appreciate how long that is to say, because it was a long time to complete, as well.

Now, I'm looking to work full-time. There is one organization I am especially interested in working with, as they work with youth offenders in several settings, including a half-way house, education program and in social services. But, they aren't hiring. However, I'm sure that there are other options for social work in Edmonton and perhaps something involving criminal justice, as well.
As I mentioned before, Biruk decided to open his own restaurant. I'm nervous, but also excited. So far, we're still doing renovations, but Biruk is making the place look wonderful. While the orange wall was concerning me initially, it now is paired beautifully with a chocolate-brown wall and is the most complimented area. The purple ceiling was re-painted white, and the black-and-white checkered tile has been covered with carpet squares and beautiful wood flooring Biruk found at a great price.
Now we just need to clean up a few things, and finalize who is cooking and serving, and we're set to go.
I keep saying 'we' because Biruk and I are both involved, as we're operating the place, but really, I won't be working much there once it opens. I'll help when I have time, but I want to have my own full-time job.
I am looking forward to going on vacation. One of the areas I'm hesitant about is the time that Biruk has to devote to his restaurant. While I want to support him and his dreams, it's hard for me to lose so much time with him. I'll be glad when we can get away and slow down time on some warm, tropical island. Where our busy lives won't be mentioned and well-meaning intruders can't get a hold of us.
So, I graduated, for the third and final time of my life. I'm done with school. It's a wonderful feeling that I'm going to hold onto all week!