My Etsy Shop!


Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Place That Has My Heart

Please watch this to get a small view of Korah, the place where I left part of my heart, and the place to which I WILL return in some capacity, when the Lord shows me how and when.

The Village of Korah - A short documentary from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Last Day

 (Sorry it took so long to get these last days posted...the rest of the journey is posted in previous days if you need to catch up!!)

I awoke with a heavy heart today as we were leaving. I wanted so badly to see Pat and my girls back home, but I cannot explain it-I felt like I was leaving part of me there. I was close to tears much of the morning knowing that time, as usual, is both fleeting and unstoppable and this day proved no different. We all scurried to get our last things packed up and hauled down to the lobby so they could be loaded onto the top of the bus. We took lots of pictures and the guys (Tekabe, Masti, and Bisrat) all got OH Africa shirts like we all have. We said our good-byes to the guest house staff and loaded ourselves up in the bus to make a quick stop at El Olam to drop some things off and say goodbye to the first group of children we met. That was a sweet visit and after that, we went on a surprise last visit to the children at Korah. (It ended up being much less of a surprise though b/c on the way there, we managed to get the big bus snagged on multiple low-hanging electric lines b/c of our massive quantity of luggage on the roof-hi, we know you have next to nothing in this life, and we're here to also rip down your only power source!) This was one of my favorite times there b/c we got to see their summer camp program in action-the children were all in class rooms (do not think of an American classroom-think benches on red lava gravel floor surrounded by a wooden frame covered in tarp material with a white board nailed to the frame in the front-voila! Korah classroom! I loved it!) The children were all finishing their exercises where they were learning English and then the best part. An Ethiopian young lady came in and "taught" them I think 'fast' and slow' or something-by them singing!! IT. WAS. AWESOME. That place was rocking out! I took a ton of video and intend to take the sound off it and put it on a CD to listen to in the car, oh my goodness it was AMAZING!!! Those kids can SING, and it was with so much JOY to the Lord-I am thinking of introducing this as a means of learning at my daughters' school ;) After that was finished, a group of kids gathered around me practicing their English by interrogating, er, asking me all sorts of questions about my life. It was so much fun, if a bit oppressive. Seriously, NO. SUCH. THING. as personal space here whatsoever. I realized I had my laptop with me in my backpack so I got it out and showed them some pictures I had on it of my girls-it was so cute hearing them repeating my children's names in their thick Ethiopian accents. They were all excited by my Habesha (Ethiopian) daughter and I had a random picture of my kitchen in there so I showed them how I cook on an oven that gets hot inside, rather than over an open fire, like most of them. They said, "America kitchens very clean" and I decided that they were my favorite children ever :) They all soon disappeared and I realized it was lunch time, which we were helping to serve. I brought in a stack of plates to the church building where they were all going to eat and heard excited voices behind me saying, "Jody, Jody!" I turned around to Netsanet (found out the real spelling, btw) and her little friends! Yay! I hadn't seen them yet! I got to help serve them lunch and then they completely melted my heart by calling me over to feed me a bite of their lunch-I would rather have died than take even a bite of food from sweet Netsanet, but I know in Ethiopia it is a a sign of affection to feed a bite to someone and children often do so to their parents so I gratefully took the smallest bite possible that could still "count". Oh these children have such kind and generous hearts-I miss them already. I gave Netsanet the last bottle of nail polish we had left-a super sparkly pink and she asked to have them painted on the spot. Well, Masti was nowhere to be found so I went ahead and did it. I showed her mine and told her Masti painted them which sent her into a fit of giggles. Oh this girl is too sweet-I am so so so happy she is going to get a chance at a better future by going to boarding school in September-praise God! We took some group pics at Korah and pictures of all the staff guys with huge hearts of gold, and it was time to go. Netsanet squeezed the life out of me as I squeezed back tears and then I hopped on the bus, needing to "rip off the band aid" so to speak. I was finally getting anxious to just go home-all this good-bying was getting too hard. We pulled out with cheers from the kids following us-what blessed memories we have made in this place and I am thrilled to know this is not the end of our relationship with this special community. We ended our trip with some final shopping but since I had finished all my shopping earlier in the week, Bizi and I went off to buy coffee for the entire team to take back to the states. We walked to this place he said was the best place to get it and it was like a game of Frogger, zig zagging in and out of cars, buses, donkeys, etc.We finally arrived at the coffee store, a bustling place that felt like any other local coffee house back home. After buying 65 bags of coffee and convincing Bizi that no, he really couldn't carry that much by himself despite his usual insistence to carry things for us (American boys reading this, listen up!!!), we both went off hauling multiple bags and eventually made it back to the bus where we dropped it all off. Off we went again to the Compassion International office as I had brought some gifts for our sponsored child and had been trying to get them to the office all week unsuccessfully. Wow, did I get baptized into full Addis Ababa culture then-hopping random busses and crowded taxi vans one after another, blindly following Bisrat's lead. It was fun, though-I got a small taste of just real life in this city. No such thing as hopping in my Honda van here and getting somewhere in 5 minutes. On the way to one bus, we passed a man who was squatted down on the side walk, dressed in nice enough clothes for me to know he was not someone who lived on the streets all the time, and he was holding his head and tears were streaming down his face. At first we walked past, but then I asked Bizi why the man might be crying, and he said, "I don't know-should we go check?" I said yes and so Bizi bent over and asked him what was going on while I looked away so as not to embarrass him by people looking-they are always looking b/c my white face stands out here. We found out the man lived in the countryside and had just gotten robbed (pickpocketing is not totally uncommon here) and he had no way to go home to his family. There is no homeless shelter here and if he had no money and no way to go home, he was stuck here, in his mind and maybe reality, forever. I think I would have just sat down and wept, too. Bizi and I put together enough birr to get him a bus ticket home and maybe some food-all told? Less than $12 US. Yes, that can mean being ripped from your family and living on the street for an undetermined amount of time, or going home, here in Ethiopia. How many times have I thrown away 10 or 12 bucks on drinks at a football game, or a new pair of sunglasses I didn't need? This man said he could not believe he was holding 100 birr and thanked us—I walked right back and hugged him, deciding I did not care at that moment whether or not it was culturally appropriate, and off we walked in search of a bus. Fortunately we got off our bus before it got super crowded-they pack these things FULL! As in, you cannot move an inch full-I was so happy we got off soon after getting on, only to hop in another blue and white crowded van taxi. Some girl hopped in beside Bizi and he said something to her that made her giggle a lot. Seems Masti isn't the only ladies man of the group...he later told me he had told her she was very pretty. Good picking up girls in the taxi when we are trying to run an errand, Bizi! Soon we hopped out across from a high wall with bronze mini-scultpures of Africa all around it—this surrounded the African Union for all the African countries. We crossed the street Frogger-style again and walked up a big hill, with my trying to not sound like I was sucking wind as much as I was from the smog and the altitude here, and then we rounded the corner to a large office building. I was told there were lots of NGOs in this compound (non-government organizations that do humanitarian aid). We found the Compassion offices on the 3rd and 4th floors (of course, couldn't be on the ground level after walking the entire city)-I loved that place! It was so busy and it had all Ethiopian employees-which made me happy to know it was not only bringing help to children in extreme poverty, it was bringing jobs to the people in this country as well. Everyone there was very friendly and they took my gifts and promised they would get them to Sultan. As we were going back down the steps, the man that had helped me leaned over the railing and offered us coffee or tea-the Ethiopian people give the South a run for it's money in the hospitality category, for sure! We had to decline as we were already running late (or right on time, African time....) and took back off for the bus full of the rest of the team who had called and were waiting on us. Oops. 47 taxis and one Frogger game later, we arrived back at the bus to the cheers of the team. Sorry, guys. :( We made a quick stop outside an orthodox church where we saw GINORMOUS tortoises that just live in the grassy areas outside the church. We didn't go in the church but the grounds around it were beautiful and very peaceful. Lo and behold it looked like a storm was rolling in and so we got back in the bus (I am NOT going to miss that thing, ugh) and headed to the National Museum which houses the Lucy skeleton, the oldest discovered human skeleton, found here in Ethiopia. I laughed at the admission price of 10 birr, or less that $1US. Can you imagine going to a museum with priceless artifacts in the US for less than a dollar???? We saw all sorts of interesting artifacts and works of art, including the Lucy skeleton (which may be a replica as I think the real one is still touring the US, oddly enough) and then we went to a restaurant right next door called, appropriately, the Lucy Restaurant. Masti and I shared a questionable pizza that we both agreed was not very good for different reasons-he said it was too American style while I thought it was decidedly NOT American style enough and the "ham" that was supposed to be on it was definitely no, and I still don't know what it was. I drank my last Mirinda (of this visit anyway ;) ) and we all took some pictures and finally, it was really time to head to the airport. Sigh. Saying goodbye to Eyasu and the driver was bittersweet as we have spent a lot of time with them this week, but saying goodbye to Masti and Bizi was incredibly hard as we have become such good friends, or in Bizi's case, as he said "now we are family". I am so thankful for the friends God brought me here, ones I never in a million years expected, but ones better than I could have asked for or imagined. God is once again SO GOOD.

Wolisso Day

(Sorry it has taken me so long to get these last days posted...)
Today we had to be up and ready to go very early-we had to make one stop at a small orphanage that we had missed the day before b/c of our whirlwind day, and then we had a 3 hour drive south to Woliso. We were on the bus by 8 a.m. and headed out to Miskaye Orphanage. It was a small, nice place and when we got there, all the children (about 15?) were standing on the steps singing us a welcome song in thickly-accented English-they were SO cute!! I got to go back and see the babies-I had spent very little time on this trip with babies personally so I needed to get a baby fix. I quickly took possession of tiny Binyam and we spent the next hour and a half just hanging out. He was so still, just snuggled onto me and looking around. He was also so tiny, and it was strange to me that my wild and crazy almost 2 year old was this size when we met her a little over a year ago here in Ethiopia. Amazing! This little guy and I just sat on the porch, half in the sun, half in the shade and just made faces at each other and snuggled. We also walked around a bit and it was just a sweet time with this little guy. There were a handful of boys who spent time kicking a soccer ball around with our guys and the little girls got treated to dolls and special sunglasses that made one little girl in particular break out into uncontrollable giggling. She just could not stop giggling about her heart shaped glasses and was more than pleased to pose for any photo ops-ADORABLE!! All too soon it was time to get back on the bus so we said good-bye to the children and they surprised us by singing the good-bye version of their sweet welcome song. We waved and yelled "Ciao!" out the windows and we were off to Woliso. The ride there was long but amazing! The countryside of Ethiopia is absolutely stunning, particularly during the rainy season as everything was green and lush. We saw amazing round huts with thatched straw roofs and had to yield the right of way more than a few times to oxen in the road. We drove over what we all thought was a lake as it was muddy water as far as the eye could see, trees reaching up through it here and there, but our guides informed us that no, it was simply a flooded field from all the rain that would go back to being all dry when the rainy season was over. Unbelievable. There were houses at the edges that the water cam right up to the door and they had built stick bridges to be able to get out and across the temporary moat. Children and adults waded through the muddy water, skirts tied up and carrying things on their heads to wherever they were going. At one point we saw a pair of white legs out there with some brown ones and we were intrigued as to why. This way of life was both beautiful and amazing to see, and also worrisome to think of things like typhoid and malaria and who knows what else that comes from SO MUCH standing water, right outside of their doors, literally. Also, I wondered if there might be a better way to harness all that water in some sort of dam or retaining pond to distribute throughout the year when water is non-existent. Teri, one of my teammates who was sharing a bus seat with me, and I discussed how to balance doing something of that nature, without also completely changing the very identity of who these people are and we were not sure it was possible. They are farmers who have lived this way of life for centuries and while it would make their life so much easier to have some good water systems, it could also very well extinguish some of the beauty of their way of life. No easy answers... Because I had been sitting at the front of the bus, I had helped serve lunch to the team and just stayed sitting up in the middle facing backwards for a change of scenery. I was so glad I did b/c right as we were coming into Woliso, we passed a place called the Lodge and I saw a grey monkey scamper up the wall! I shouted out to everyone that there was monkey but by the time they all turned to look, we were well past it and it had gone over the wall. They all were not sure they wanted to believe me :) but I saw it! Amazing! I have never seen a monkey outside of the zoo, for sure. (Aside from my children, that is ;) ) We pulled down a muddy, rocky side street and were greeted by dirty brown faces with big smiles, and outstretched hands. These children were so poor-they had little clothing and what they had was filthy and torn. One poor sweet boy stood off to himself, eyeing the bus warily, clad in only a tattered old shirt. We unloaded all the stuff for the orphanage and got ready for yet another muddy trek in as it was impassable for the bus. At his encouragement and to my detriment, I followed Bisrat (Bizi) who I am certain took me the muddiest way possible. How do our guides never end up seeming to be muddy themselves, though?? We entered the gate to a beautifully landscaped place that was right out of a national geographic photo of a 3rd world orphanage. They had used native plants to make a tropical border to a dirt path that ran around the compound. There was a green painted room that served as the boys dorm, where every bunk bed was covered by a thick mosquito net. The girls dorm was next door, although several of their mosquito nets had large holes in them, completely defeating the purpose. This made me sad-I need to think about how to maybe get them some replacement nets as this could literally mean the difference between life and death for these children living out in a land where malaria is a huge issue. All the floors of each building were covered in long strands of thick green grass that had been laid out, not uncommon in Ethiopia-usually seen at the coffee ceremony and it symbolizes freshness and life. They has even put it on the floor of the dining building, which was also adorned with pieces of notebook paper tacked to the wall with various scriptures and sayings about God, both in Amharic and English. It was a nice place for how incredibly poor it was-they had made it a really pleasant place to be (except for the bathroom-so gross, just a disgusting hole in the gound, breeding who knows what kind of diseases-no, I didn't use it) We all were handed a Mirinda or a Coke to drink, which the guy giving them out totally impressed us by opening one bottle with the underside of the lid of another. Then Masti showed off that he has mastered the same skill and was pretty pleased by the oohs and ahhs he received by his onlookers-ah,boys....;) We all dutifully pulled back the plastic in the Mirinda bottle caps to see if we had won a mikena (car), which none of us had-rats. Although one of us might have, as it was written in Amharic characters and Masti and Bizi were doing the checking for us so I should have paid closer attention to see if one of them pocketed the bottle cap after telling us it said "sorry, try again", haha! I told them I'd give it to them anyway, though, so I think it was legit ;) It makes me laugh how many things are universal across cultures-how many of us have opened a coke bottle looking for a free coke, $5, etc? Ha! Anyway, after our little soda break, we did our usual split and the soccer guys grabbed some soccer balls and headed out into the muddy center of the compound to play and the rest of us went to the building where they do church and group activities and set up craft stations, some inside, some outside, and some in a chicken-wire enclosed space in front of the office. I had a few of the children come color with me, but not a lot. So in between children I walked around and took pictures of other activities. Masti had decided he wanted to help paint nails and oh my...he needed some help. This sweet girl sat down, giggling about Masti wanting to paint her nails, but was a willing victim. One nail in and I knew he needed a lesson so I showed him how to put nail polish on a finger in a way that was different than putting white out on a document-poor girl had blue nail polish all over her pinky! He eventually got the hang of it, although he painted a blue dot of polish right in the middle of her forehead. She laughed and laughed and I asked him what he told her-he said he told her he would make her the prettiest girl in the whole village. Good grief, Mr. Ladies Man...I think she was smitten as she let him work on her nails for quite some time-I walked back over later and he was making a design with white polka dots on each finger. Overachiever... He did mine later in the day and I still have it on to show my kids-I told him he needs to start a manicure business-he'd have ladies lined up outside, haha! (Incidentally, the next day he told me he took the nail polish home to his mother and she bought a blue scarf to match it-how cute!) There was somewhat of a communication mix up about the children's lunch that we were going to serve and take care of for the kids so they ended up all having to go in and eat lunch instead of continuing to do crafts with us. Unfortunately, b/c of our long drive back, we had to pack up and waited till their lunch was over but had to say good-bye. There were children that were not part of the orphanage hanging on the gate made of sticks, looking longingly at the children inside, and it struck me as so sad that children in a very poor orphanage way out in the middle of nowhere probably have it better than the poverty stricken children outside the gates. Sometimes it just doesn't make me sad, it makes me angry. Why is it this way? Why has it gotten this bad? Why aren't more people stepping out of their comfortable worlds to do something about it? This is all of our problem, as we are all equals in the eyes of the Lord, and all charged with loving and caring for each other. It is frustrating, to say the least. We trekked back out, trying unsuccessfully to find the least amount of mud possible so that we didn't track it all into the bus. The children outside the compound all surrounded the bus, begging for food or a small toy, and then an elderly man showed up in the middle of the mass, aggressively begging for food. Heartbreaking-he finally seemed satisfied with the granola bar and pack of peanut butter crackers in his hand, but I knew that might be it for some time for him. What a terrible way to have to live. We all headed back out once the bus was loaded, I was again facing backwards in the middle for the start of the trip and guess what? I saw ANOTHER monkey! And guess what? NO ONE else saw it, EXCEPT the bus door opener guy (Eyasu) who pointed to it, but only speaks Amharic, so now of course no one believed me—but I saw it, it had white tufty fur around it's little face and was sitting on the top corner of a tin roof. There was also this neat area down over in a wide low spot with a line of concrete semi-circle basins formed on the ground which was where they were doing laundry. Laundromat, Ethiopian style :) I wondered how they felt with all of us snapping pictures, as I pictured a mass of Ethiopians crowding into my laundry room taking pictures of me switching loads. I put my camera away :) We were in a hurry to get back before dark for a couple reasons-one being the huge number of times that we almost impaled the bus with an ox horn many times as they just wander in the road-in the dark, you may not see them until it is too late. Also, apparently being robbed is a very real possibility and with a busload of white Americans, we were like a magnet. We did take a few minutes to stop and get fuel for the bus and were lucky enough to stop at a station where someone had parked a truck full of... CAMELS! Yup, for real. So cool! They would just pop their heads up and look around with their droopy, unamused camel eyes. So funny! Not the usual sight at the gas station back home. We also found the closes thing to a "real" bathroom at a little motel next door and we were all relived to find flushing pottys, a rarity it seemed on this particular day. There was a big UN truck parked there, too. Glad to know this part of the country is not forgotten. We were back on the bus and headed home, all of us tired and a little groggy. We invited the guides and Eyasu to eat dinner with us at the guest house, learning that Eyasu lives very far away and sleeps on the bus when he does not go to his home. We were horrified to find out he basically lived on this bus, even though that is not uncommon here, and he also gets paid very little money. Well, you cannot tell a bunch like this that-after getting permission from the bus driver (his "boss") we took Eyasu to eat with us, one of the guys gave up an entire clean outfit for him (down to the underwear and everything-thanks, Nick!) and we took him to the guest house and let him take a shower and put on his new clothes. We also got together some money to give him but we had to give it to him without the bus driver knowing b/c Bizi explained that if the driver knew, he would not pay him b/c he would think he already had $$. This was shocking to us as the bus driver was quite nice, and Bizi said, no, it is not a good thing, but that it is just the way it is here. Frustration again... It was so much fun blessing Eyasu-he was so cute all in his new clothes but the poor guys was probably completely overwhelmed and frightened by 15 overly-beaming white girls circled around and staring at him all excited while we gave him the money. He was so excited and gave hugs out to everyone-what a fun night! However, our keeping him there as long as we did sent him home in one of the hardest rains I have EVER seen/heard in my life! Unreal-and it came in the closed (but apparently leaky) window right onto my bed, of course. That bed and I are not friends. I will not miss it one bit when I am gone!! Oh but I will miss so much of this place-so much of my heart is here, in this weird, hard, strange, beautiful, gracious place. I love Ethiopia so much, and I cannot explain it. It is NOT comfortable, easy, convienient, efficient—but I love it and the people here so very very much. I have made deep friendships here and am so sad to think about leaving them behind. This may be a developing nation, but praise God they have email! :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Interested in Korah Sponsorship?

A number of you expressed intereest and I have emails for some of you, but not all-if you are interested in sponsoring one or more of the children in Korah, will you please contact me (click on that) so I can send you the particulars of how to do it? THANKS!!

A Quick Hello

I am home since Saturday but have not been feeling great-seems like bad allergies but could be something else. Pray it is just allergies as I have a trip to go on this coming weekend...I have the last 2 days of our trip written up and will post them later today, but wanted to say hey to all of you and thanks for journeying to Africa with me. I am having a really hard time balancing my joy at seeing my family again with my heartache at leaving Ethiopia. I love that country and it's people for reasons I cannot even explain b/c it is such a hard place. But oh I could have stayed another month...or 6. Maybe. Although it HAS been nice to be able to freely brush my teeth or get a drop of water on my mouth in the shower without freaking out ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Busy Day!

Today was to be an exciting day-for the first time we were going outside of Addis Ababa! We drove for awhile to the north of the city, getting to see some beautiful countryside and traditional huts. We passed so many donkeys loaded down with saddle bags or sacks of grain, etc. Masti sat with me on the bus ride and informed me that they call those "donkey-bishi" like "Mitsubishi". Ha ha, I laughed hard at that. It was very cold and rainy all day long. We were relieved when the orphanage we were visiting had a large indoor room that we could do all our craft activities with the kiddos. We set up several stations and just had a great time doing activities with the kids-they were all a very sweet bunch and very well behaved. They were so much fun to be with and it was a really relaxing time with them. Being out in the country was a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively—there is SO.MUCH.SMOG in Addis, blech. We left there to go on quite an adventure-we went in search of the birth mother of Kelly and Shane's adopted son from Ethiopia! They had met her one other time, but not in her home so all of us went around on the bus till we got in the right general area where they thought she lived. Then our faithful Bizi hopped out to talk to some folks and show them a picture and in less than 5 minutes he was back with a thumbs up-he had found out where to go find her! I will leave the rest of the details of that meeting up to Kelly to share since it is her story, but suffice it to say we eventually found her and the reunion was miraculous and a beautiful blessing to ALL of us, really. By the time we were done with that, we thought we were headed home and could skip our afternoon plans for orphanage visits since we were so late, but we kept getting calls about when we were coming as they were waiting on us soooooo, off we went! We were visiting another place that works with HIV+ children and arrived, in the cold rain of course, to a sweet group of kids who said "Welcome our guests!" in English that they had obviously practiced well-it was so heart warming! They had waited all day in the yucky cold rain for us to show up and I am so glad we did! We didn't have a lot of time to stay there but we made the most of it-we did face painting and nail painting and coloring. The best part was that the mothers of any of the children that had mothers were there and they all wanted their nails painted too. I had such fun painting all those mama's nails and making them feel fancy!! Some seemed a little sheepish but would finally offer their hard-working hand-but only the left b/c they eat with the right :) I find that so interesting-it took us several rounds of painting nails at various places to finally figure out why the older girls or women only wanted one hand painted, ha! Then they joked that they also wanted lipstick and make up done-seems you get ladies together getting their nails done and they just get giggly and silly, no matter what the culture! So much fun! Finally it was time to go and we rolled into the guest house tired, cold, and wet and scarfed down dinner, had a team meeting and hit the hay. Phew! This day was a whirlwind!! Thanks for hanging in there along my journey-it has been fun to share with y'all back home and I love knowing that I have friends "here" with me virtually!

I may not get the next day posted (which is actually today for me) before I get home as we jump on a plane home at the time I normally post-so look for it soon after I get home! We went to Woliso, south of Addis and it was spectacular to get out of the city and see a whole new side of Ethiopia!

Mother Theresa Orphanage

Well, I literally did not sleep for any minutes. I was so nervous about the meeting with Thing 4's birthmom and also had had a little scare walking out at night (I'm fine, Pat and Mom :) ) and so sleep just completely eluded me. I gave up at 5 am and just got up to get a shower, figuring at least the water would be warm this time. I got ready and went downstairs to read my Bible for a bit, trying to get my nerves to settle, unsuccessfully. Finally I heard others stirring and went up to chat to keep my mind off things. All of the sudden the driver showed up 40 minutes EARLY (didn't he read the last post about African time??) and I was so surprised I forgot to be nervous and just hopped in the car with him and off we went to the new Hannah's Hope in the pouring rain. It was close so we were there quickly and it was good to see Almaz again-she is a lot of fun and just a special person who does her job well. We waited a bit and I was sure she was not going to come-Almaz went off to check something and I sat alone, trying to be calm. Almaz popped her head in and said "Ok, she's here!" and then all the sudden she was and we were hugging, and both just silently weeping. There really are not words to describe the moment-we speak none of the same language and live as different lives as one could possibly live, yet we have a bond that no one else has and we are family. She was tinier and younger than I expected. She had come with a friend and I completely understood, I wished I had had my husband with me also-not an easy meeting alone. We sat and talked through Almaz' translation and I showed her a huge stack of photos I had brought along of the past year with Thing 4. That was so fun to show her, but I also wondered how it made her feel at times. She asked if she could bring me some pictures of some family for me to take home and I eagerly said yes. We talked and shared a bit more and then it was time to be done-we took some pictures together and she just kept thanking me and even bent down to kiss my lower leg-ugh, that just broke my heart into pieces. I'm just not sure why God arranged it so that she would give birth but I would raise my sweet girl, but I do know it is not b/c I am anything special or someone that needs to be kissed like that. It was a good meeting, and hard, and somewhat strange all at the same time, and I am so glad I did it. I saw very little of the new Hannah's Hope-b/c of my schedule and the AGCI staff schedule and the pouring rain, we just decided to head back to my guest house to meet up with my team.

They were just getting ready to head out and off we went to the Mother Theresa HIV Orphanage. It was on the far opposite side of the city from where we were and in a slightly less populated area. We were all impressed when we drove it-it was a very nice complex with several nice buildings and a driveway that ran the length of the compound. We were not permitted to take pictures there so I cannot show you, but it was a beautiful place, and very peaceful. But the children-they were sick little ones. Even the "healthy" ones all seemed to have sniffles or spots or coughs of some kind and that 'institutional' smell pervaded everything. They were all very nice children, and they ALL wanted to hold onto and touch Colin, Kelly P.'s 14 year-old son. His teenage boy with light skin and light hair factor was like a magnet for the little boys! Poor Colin got swarmed every time we came out of a building on our tour of the facility, haha. The head Sister of the Orphanage came and talked with us, giving us a little history of the place and explaining that most Mother Theresa homes were not this nice, but it had all come from donations and they had the best HIV lab and equipment in the nation to treat the poor-praise Jesus!! This woman radiated her love for these children and the poorest of the poor and it made her giggle every time she mentioned something amazing that they had to provide to these children and mothers. She was really an inspiration. We toured the clinic where the children and mothers receive treatment, including the room with the critically ill children-there are not words to describe the emotion I felt looking at those frail, dying children. It should not be this way, and those children are innocent victims of this wretched disease. We peeked in on moms who were just as sick and I waved and smiled to all of them, hoping for a brief moment they would still feel like a person of value in this world since they spend their time alone and outcast by those who fear they will "catch" AIDS from them by being near. We were told that most of the moms with advanced stages of the disease basically come here to die, but they get to die in peace and with friends who love them anyway. Still, I had such a heavy heart at this place. Especialy after going in the baby room, which was lined with cribs full of adorable HIV positive children-all of whom spend almost all their time there. This home has only 7 full time staff to 320 children-you can do the math and see how many people are available to hold these babies. None. She said they are not often held and played with b/c there is just not the staff for it and that we were free to touch and hold and love them as much as we wanted b/c they so rarely get it. Oh, Lord, please being more people to this place to help....We also got to see a large, very nice and very modern building, brand new, at the back of the grounds—this was a building built originally for the university but that fell through and it has been turned over to be used as a school for the HIV children and also to public school children. Because it will be staffed with the Brothers of the La Salle order who are known to be great teachers, there will be many who desire for their children to come to this school, making it one of the first to be integrated with HIV+ children and those who are not, truly an amazing thing as the HIV+ children have been shunned and outcast from their schools b/c of the disease. We finished our day there doing crafts with the children outside-it was a beautiful day outside and we had a fabulous break from the rain and mud. It was a hard visit there-it is a beautiful place, but it puts a "far away" disease right in your face, and I felt helpless toward these sick little ones.

We left there and stopped off at a random lot on the street where a bunch of street children were. The ones who wanted to play soccer hopped out with some soccer balls and started a pick up game with the children. Some of us went off with Bizi in search of a grocery store and ended up getting soaked to the skin in a huge downpour. I was rapidly running out of dry clothes-good thing I had one pair of pants left at the guest house!! We got home exhausted and soaked and ready to call it a day, hence the reason for this late blog post that is kind of scant on details. I'm just super tired and taking the night off-see ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm On African Time

Day 5-African time...

Our whole day was turned upside down today as we couldn't seem to find anyone with the correct plan and schedule for our day. We ended up scrapping the plan we had and planning to do some shopping in the morning and heading to a couple places for the afternoon. We headed out for shopping after waiting around for what seemed like forever to get the bus moving...turns out that was just practice for the rest of the day. We made a "quick" stop for people to change money that turned into almost an hour (maybe more??) of sitting on the parked bus while the money exchange went on---in African time, which means devoid of any time of schedule constraints or awareness that minutes or hours even exist. FINALLY we headed out to the shopping place, only to stop several more times on the way and park, and sit on the bus, and wait while one of the guides/drivers got out, did who knows what, and got back in and drove off again. This is what happens everywhere.we.go. It has become a joke to our group. "Hey everyone hurry up and get on the bus! Now let's sit here forever and then go sit parked in the middle of the road for some more and then drive around and do u-turns in the middle of a heavily trafficked street!" Ahhhhh, Africa. It is a wonder the entire population of Addis Ababa is not wiped out in a year from the driving in this place-insane does not even begin to cover it.

After an eternity, we reached our shopping destination, fortunately the same place I went last time I was here and I headed to my favorite shop. I was pleased to see the same woman working there as last year and we bargained hard for my huge amount of purchases. I was happy enough with my prices and left only to find some street guy trying to sell my teammate Gina a plain mediocre soccer ball for 1500 birr, or about $135 US$. I grabbed Gina and told him NO WAY! And walked away from him, giving him the chin up thrust that means, 'no, and don't ask again'. He continued to follow us though and strangely enough, was finally offering the ball at 100 birr, or about 13 bucks. Hmmm, funny how prices fall in just minutes....We still were not interested and Gina asked me to come to a shop with her to buy a necklace. We went to a nice place that looked semi-familiar to me. The shop owner seemed very nice and had good prices quoted, nothing seemed over inflated or out of whack-I showed him the picture of my family and he pointed at my husband and said, "I remember this face, this man! He has been here before! Yes, I remember him!!" And I thought that must be why it felt familiar in there, I vaguely remember going in there last year and talking with that man and finding out he was a Christian too. We chatted some and he explained to me what the different ornate silver crosses I was buying meant-they are from the different original regional churches of the ancient Ethiopian orthodox faith. Masti, one of our guides (they are the 2 guys in the photo below), popped in to the store and I asked him if the prices were good, just to be sure, and he said yes. We made several purchases there and the shop owner took my hand and said "God bless, sister-see you again" when I left. He was so nice and it was a great way to end our shopping excursion.

We were hurried on to the bus as it was already later in the day than we planned, and of course, sat for like 15 minutes. Since we were running behind, lunch of noodles and bread was handed back on the bus on plastic plates and we all ate on the bus, with wafts of diesel smog puffing in the windows. Drive through, Ethiopian mission-trip style :) We decided to split into 2 groups today, one half of us going to some of the orphan care places with the same agency that works with El Olam from Day 1, and the other half going back to Korah. I decided on Korah since I knew it meant I could see my Neseret again!! We made a quick stop at the guest house to grab supplies, hopped on the bus annnnnd sat. And then we drove for a while, drivers and guides talking on phones, jumping out, going to places and sitting and waiting on ???? and then sitting some more in the middle of the road and we still don't know why. There is no getting worked up about being on time here or having a strict schedule as it just doesn't happen. Eventually we all got to our various locations and those of us that headed to Korah were treated to a roaring, cheering crowd of children when we pulled down the road leading to the shelter!!! We could not even get off the bus as they were swarming it and I saw Nesenet's beaming face in the crowd-I made a beeline for her and we hugged a good tight squeeze that must have had some sort of adhesive effect as she did not let me go the whole rest of the afternoon. Several of my buddies from the other day also quickly glued themselves to my fingers and arms and waist. We talked back and forth in broken language understanding, but they all like when I can recognize and pronounce their names—hearing everyone's adoption referral names during our process really paid off!! :) It never ceases to amaze me all the small things God has placed in my life up to this point that have really prepared me for this trip-I feel very at home with the Ethiopian people despite the language difference. I have remembered and been taught much more Amharic than ever on this trip-the children today had a great time teaching me the words for rain, girl, boy, sleep, cat, flower, and several others. And I knew them so well, until right now, when I cannot remember a single one. Ugh, I hate that.

One of the highlights of my day was when we read from my Bible the story of Philip and the Ethiopian from the Book of Acts. A little bit older boy read it in English quite well, pausing when he didn't understand something and asking me "was is dat?" and I would explain. Off to my side I realized someone in the group of probably 20 oppressively clustered around me (there is no personal space in Ethiopia) was translating in Amharic and the children were nodding in understanding. At the end I asked the reader if he understood the story and explained that the first recorded converted Christian to be baptized was an Ethiopian! What a sweet part of my day that was!! I was so blessed by those minutes we read together.

After that, we again walked down to the big field/open dirt spot by the river where we had gone the other day and the gaggle of girls I was with, and a few stray boys as well (ooh! I remembered-"sit" is girl!-I think...), sat on the grass and drew pictures and took photos and wrote our names and they tried to braid my hair. They were so climb-y I had to finally ask them if they could not touch the back of my neck and showed them my blistered sunburn I had received the first day at Korah when I had put my hair up and put sunscreen everywhere EXCEPT the back of my neck. They let out a gasp of horror when I showed them-apparently blistered and sunburned white skin is not something they see regularly and from that moment on, one girl took it upon herself to be my neck body guard and anyone that came up and hugged or leaned on my neck, she scolded in Amharic and peeled back the neck of my shirt to show them. They would then gasp, sweetly say "Sorry!" and pat my back—these kids are just too sweet considering their hard life. I had yet another wounded knee brought to me that I cleaned and band-aided and this apparently qualified me to be the area doctor. A few minutes later, a girl got hit by a flying soccer ball and apparently it hurt her a good deal and all these kids came running, "JO-DEE, JO-DEE!!" and tugging on my hands to pull me up and go help her. She was already with 2 adults and I tried to tell them that unless she needed a band aid I was fairly useless, but they were persistent and one even went so far as to call my name, re-enact the girl lying on the ground, and grab my hand and drag me over. I have never wished for superpowers more in my life!! Thank goodness another member of our team has some medical knowledge and was checking her out some so I went over and looked concerned, hoping it would satisfy my groupies that I had helped little Mekdes out, sort of like staring into the popped up hood of a car saying hmmmm.... Mekdes was having some significant trouble and a huge crowd was pushing in around her so another team member and I helped to shoo nosy children away-there, phew, maybe that counted as helping ;) One of the Korah ministry leaders picked the hurt girl up (she was about 12 or 14 so not an easy task) and carried her out of there-that is a man there!!!

After that, we decided to call the day a wrap and headed back-it was time to leave. Some of the girls showed me their "houses" on the way back, with such pride. Oh how they deserve so much more than the filth in which they live! I asked Nesenet where her house was in hopes of meeting her grandmother before I left. She just pointed 'up there' ahead of us. As we were getting ready to leave and get on the bus, an old sunken woman appeared in the street where no other adults were, came up to Nesenet and began to speak to her. I wondered...could this be??? Sure enough, after a quick inquiry, it WAS her grandmother! I said hello and touched her on the shoulder as it was clear her eyes were completely clouded over and I am not sure what, if any vision she had. I embraced her and touched her cheek to mine as is the Ethiopian greeting. She began to say something and made a gesture of holding her stomach, pointing to Nesenet, and then miming eating. One of the sweet children there knew enough to tell me that the grandmother was telling me Nesenet was sick b/c she does not eat. She kept grabbing my wrist and doing the same gestures until a leader from the ministry came up to interpret. I explained to him what I thought she was saying, I think he was trying to shoo her away, and he asked me if Nesenet was in the program. I told him yes, she had started today, and I was her sponsor. He said "Oh!" and quickly relayed this to the grandmother. Well, she picked up my hand and began kissing it repeatedly then raised her hands and made a bowing gesture to me and was talking amharic a mile a minute. Whoa, I did NOT want her bowing to me, I wanted her to know we were equals and I just was helping out with what God gave me so I gently put her hands down and kissed her 3 times on alternating cheeks to indicate a regular old greeting between 2 good friends. And I hugged her and put my hand on her face and patted it and told her "ish, ish"--"It's OK". I was so thankful God brought her into the street from I have no idea where!! I asked her for a picture of her and Nesenet together and she removed her outer head covering, which consisted not of the beautiful gabis, but of a shabby old towel saftey pinned under her chin, and it pained me that she would not look up for the photo. Such a hard life she has had, I am sure. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for the loss of her daughter, but by then the translator was busy with something else so I hugged and kissed her goodbye and walked back to the bus with Nesenet, who squeezed me tight before we said our good byes. She is such a sweet, gentle child-not grabby or anything, always insisting on wearing my backpack wherever we go, and being super protective of me when other kids got grabby or tried to reach in my bag or anything. I got a good one, that girl!!

We all hurried onto the bus as it was getting late and was had to get the rest of our group only to....yup, wait some more, like 20 minutes or so. Good grief, where was the driver now?? Dana, an OH team member, threatened to just drive us out of there herself, at which Masti said he was getting off, haha! Funny Ethiopians, they love to tease!! :) We finally rumbled out of there as it was getting to be dusk and after doing our usual stop in the road, someone gets off and then back on routine (WHAT in the WORLD are they doing all the time???), we finally collected the rest of the team and went searching for a restaurant for dinner. This turned into "National Lampoon's African Vacation" as we drove around the same place several times trying to find the "right" place that was open, according to Masti's standards. Oh my, we finally ended up in a semi-night club type restaurant and eventually ate something, finishing dinner at 9:15. Have I mentioned anything about African time, yet?? Fortunately, this time when we got on the bus, we only sat waiting for our elusive driver to return for about 5 minutes and made it home where we finally had clean laundry waiting for us after a couple days of waiting on it-seems our clothes were on African time, as well, haha.

I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow personally-I am scheduled to meet my daughter's birth mother, whom we were unable to meet when we came to get her. I was warned that the meeting is set up and they think she will come, but to be prepared that she may not, which is ok, I have walked that road before. I am excited and nervous all at the same time. I have a bunch of pictures for her of our family and life back home. I am praying it is a blessed time. I also get to see the new Hannah's Hope where our agency, AGCI, has moved in recent months!!

Oh, and for any old time AGCI folks reading this, guess what?? The place where the other half of the team went today to work with the agency's newly arrived babies?? THE OLD HANNAH'S HOPE!! Still being used for orphan care and Kelly P. said it was completely unexpected and surreal to be here almost a year later in the exact same spot, photographing new children to advocate for their adoption back home just like she did a year ago when she traveled with her sis, Kristi J, to pick up Kristi's daughter! Is God crazy or what?? So fun!! I'm off to sleep after a busy day-here's praying my bed stays in one piece ;)

*Update: Zoe's birthmom came and the meeting was good and hard and weird, yay!*

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ararat Day

I did not sleep well last night-I had a mosquito buzzing around my head keeping me paranoid about malaria until I finally got up and put bug spray on my head and face. Once I went to sleep, I just kept dreaming of walking with the sweet sweet children from Korah down a rocky path. I was awakened again by the VERY LOUD amplified muslim prayer chanting that is piped through speakers all over the city—on Saturdays and Sundays it goes from 5 am to 9 am and today's singer was decidedly off key. It was also pouring down rain. I decided to make the most of being wide awake at 6 am and take an actual warm shower for the first time this trip-it was fabulous! Even if our "shower" is a 2 ft square surrounded by a curtain hanging from the ceiling that provides no protection for the spraying water so that the entire slick tile floor is wet, and usually muddy. Not wearing shoes in the bathroom is not an option. And also? It is 9 gals to 1 weird quirky bathroom-again, good thing I have all that practice at not showering back home! :)

We had breakfast and got ready to head out to our day's destination, Ararat Ministry. No one was really sure where it was and the guy that we thought was coming to take us did not come but, our faithful guide Bizi said he thought he knew about where it was and we would find it so off we went, into the countryside surrounding Addis Ababa. It was an interesting drive, saw lots of green and also lots of BIG mud puddles from all the rain. We took a few wrong turns here and there and asked people every now and then on the road which way to go next-it was lots of fun b/c we got to see several different places in Addis. The bus helper guy (they have one who drives, and one who does other stuff like jump out with a big stick to put in any mud puddles we came up on to see if they were too deep for the van to drive through-he is a very important man-we had a couple close calls that were slightly terrifying as our bus went nearly over sideways into the puddle.) would point things out to me since I was in the front seat by him-where there are apartments for Somali refugees, what was growing in fields, what certain words were. We finally, after Bizi made several phone calls (everyone here has cell phones and the national telephone company has a monopoly on the service and controls all of it) while I wrote down #'s for him, we got as close as we could to Ararat.

By this time we were outside the city and could see the surrounding mountains all around, covered in green and adorned with puffs of white clouds at the tops. It was truly breathtaking in it's beauty, yet so strange to see the primitive round straw huts in front of us and off in the distance the relatively modern buildings of the city of Addis. Our destination proved to be right next to part of the runway for the airport, which I had always thought was in the middle of nowhere from when we had landed or taken off here. I guess it still was...We were told we would have to walk into the community on foot as it did not have a road for vehicles. We got out into a large bunch of squelchy mud that had a long puddle along the length of the road where we needed to cross. After some muddy missteps with folks getting their shoes completely stuck in the mud, the stick helper from the bus put out a cinder block in the middle of the puddle for me to cross. Chivalry, Ethiopian style :) Apparently Bizi had a similar idea at the same time only he dropped his large rock down, and my nice, finally-showered self, was promptly covered head to toe in a shower of dark brown mud. Oh the look on poor Bizi's face! I laughed so hard b/c really, what else could you do? And as Bizi was covering his mouth and saying, "Oh! I am so SORRY!", I turned to him and said, "BIZ-EE!!" in a teasing tone like, "aw man..." He was not sure whether to laugh or keep apologizing while the rest of the group-after their initial gasps of horror at watching the event happen, was in hysterics and wildly snapping pictures while Bizi ran over to me to help me the rest of the way out of my ditch. We hugged and I laughed and told him we were still friends and no big deal, and Melissa helped me wipe the mud out of my ear and off my face. There was really no hope for getting it off my clothes, backpack or out of my hair until it dried some so on we walked down a rocky path, my team members turning back to survey the damage every now and then and giggle. Then all the sudden I had 2 little dirty children following behind me giggling-I laughed with them b/c I knew I was quite a sight. We walked on down the wide rocky path, encountered a lot more mud, and then rounded the corner to the top of a breathtaking green terraced field. After some walking through sodden long muddy grass (so thankful for my water-proof hiking shoes!!), we arrived at he gate of Ararat, in the middle of nowhere, it seemed.

This place was different from the others-no small chilren greeted us with sweet smiles, although we did get some curious stares. The center of the small compound was a patch of swampy grass with some large rocks placed through the middle to walk on and it is surrounded by 3 small buildings, the church meeting place, the office maybe? and a random small hut that I don't know it's purpose. We were told to go up into the church building where they were having a service and we entered a red crushed rock floored space with white washed mud/manure? (from the smell) walls and a simple raised pulpit type space in the front. There was a tin roof and a couple of windows but with the curtains drwan, it was fairly dark in there. They made all the children sit in back so that we could sit up front and they were singing and clapping to begin their service. We sat through a long service, that Bizi translated for us, and honestly, while it was fascinating to worship God side by side in 2 different languages, was long and draining. I was fighting sleep as were several other team members despite the stand up-sit down routine we did about 10 times. The bench of folks behind me from our team kept sinking down into the earthen floor and every time I glanced back they were lower and lower, providing enough comic relief that it kept me awake until the service was over. By the end, they were all leaning forward and hanging on to the back of our bench to avoid putting any extra pressure on their bench, it was hilarious.

I noticed that the babies that were their with their mothers b/c they were nursing still had no diapers on and I knew it was because diapers were not an option in this place. Can you even imagine??? Needless to say, the babies were filthy with their own soiling. Some had some rags tucked in their pants which later I found one such child wandering with the rag hanging to the ground through the split in her disintegrating pants. I went in search of her mother, and we found her and she snatched it away hanging her head in embarrassment. I tapped her on the shoulder to look at me and put my hand on her and said "Enat" (Mother) and patted myself and said "Enat" and nodded to let her know I am a mom, too, and I know she was struggling and doing the very best she could under the circumstances. She teared up and nodded and I embraced her, and she just kept patting me and kissing my neck and raising her hand up, as if she felt relieved to be understood and to take a break from the sheer back-breaking work of everyday life and lean on someone who "got it" in some minute way. My heart broke for her-I felt her shame and brokenness as if it were my own in that instant and wanted to take her for a weekend at the spa or something-she just needed such a break and to be loved on, but that is an absolute impossibility in this poor farming community-there is not such thing as "me" time. All day I witnessed broken defeated women and I LOVED that we did simple things like paint their nails for them and give those that we could new shirts or shoes—it would not change their world, no, but for a few minutes, they got to rest and be a little pampered.

The children here were somewhat different from the others we had encountered thus far-they did not approach us and though they were curious, kept their distance, until they saw we had candy and crafts and coloring books and clothes for them. We did all sorts of activities with them, including a FABULOUS wall mural on which they all made their hand prints and we did ours and it said "Jesus Loves Ararat". At the end of the day that was hung on the rear wall of the church building, really brightening up a stark space. But the children here were aggressive and it was very much "street rules"-if they put their things (new toothbrushes, books, flip flops, crayons, etc) down, someone snatched it up and many fights broke out over things being taken from another. I watched a child pick up a fallen cracker right out of the mud and eat it, they would eat whatever they found or could take from another.

We bought the community 4 sheep again and I was the accidental viewer yet again of the slaughter-I was walking and all the sudden looked to my side right as they slip the throat-I just cannot see that again, especially since this time the sheep did not give up easily and continued to thrash about after it's neck had been cut. And they did it right on the path where everyone walked so that you had to go out into the muddy wet grass if you wanted to avoid stepping in the puddles of blood. It was disgusting. No one really cared about this place, though-they would wipe their nose on a begged tissue then toss it on the ground without even a care. All their food trash was just thrown wherever they were at the moment and when we went around with a bag for trash, they grabbed at it to see what they might be getting out of it. It was draining, and I felt like this was just a dark place spiritually. We were told the area was a place where devil worship was prominent and it felt like that was a reality. Hard to explain, just not a light-filled place. But, I did feel like we brought in some light today-and there was much more joy with those children and mamas when we left than when we came, but this group was heavy to be around and took a lot out of me. I did clean and bandage another couple of festering, repulsive wounds and teach a few children how to use a toothbrush and tooth paste, but I was ready to go when it was time to go, after the sheep was cooked and we served it to all of them. I knew this was the only meal most of them would eat today, and maybe for several days. We were told that many families have a rotation of who gets to eat at what meal-if you ate breakfast, then you were done for the day. If you did not, then you could eat lunch, then you had your one meal, and so on. Sigh. Too much to even comprehend in a country where my kids eat 3 meals and a couple snacks a day.

On the way out through the muddy, slippery field (where Bizi grabbed my arm as I stepped on a slick part and held on to me as we walked across the muddy hill and I teased him that oh NOW he cared about keeping me out of the mud ;) ), we passed at least one pile of dinner that had come back up due to someone's body not being able to comprehend such food. Yuck. I was so ready to get back on the bus that I may have jumped in and swam across the puddled up ditch if I needed to. Fortunately, the sun had been out and the ground had swallowed a little of the water and I jumped across the ditch with no more incidents.

The bus ride back to our guest house confirmed that others had similar feelings as I about today. Kelly Bullock, one of my roomies, and I stayed up late into the night talking about it and both agreed that maybe our purpose in being there today, besides bringing in the light of Jesus, was to stand in the gap and pray for that dark place. We spent some time praying together for Ararat before finally going to bed. We were exhausted from our day, but sleep was fairly elusive for me, and that was not helped when my bed broke in the middle of the night and I awoke with my middle on the floor. It had already done that one time today when I sat on it to put on my socks and I had fixed it, but I thought it might still be precarious and so I did laugh, but wow, this just seemed to not be my day. Bless Kelly B., she was out of her bed and to my side to help me put my mattress on the floor to go back to sleep before I really even knew what was going on. It was chilly but I was too cold and tired to get out of my mattress to get a sweatshirt so I just snuggled down in and finally went to sleep and never heard another thing for about 4 hours, praise the Lord. After today, tomorrow could ONLY get better! :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Korah Day (I have given up on numbering them)

*THIS POST IS LONG AND GRAPHIC-consider yourself warned!!!*

Korah. It means 'cursed child'. And that sums up where we went today so very well. Korah is the community IN and surrounding the city dump of Addis Ababa. It is approximately 130,000 people, who are the least of the least in Addis—it used to be a leper colony and there are still folks living there with leprosy. They are a community shunned by the people in Addis and considered forgotten. We began our day by getting things ready to head out, packing up donated items to meet some of the needs of the children in Project 61.

Project 61 is a ministry of a woman named Summer, who came to Ethiopia for the first time in January and went to Korah, was moved in her heart and called by the Lord to do something about it, and returned in March to nail down the ministry plan with some locals in the Korah community. She then moved with her entire family (hub and 3 young children) here in June, after selling everything they had. Yes, for real. And I have met her and she is normal and friendly and sweet-and amazingly humble. The folks in Korah love her and say she is an angel sent by God.

We stopped on the way to Korah to buy some sheep/goats to feed the kids at the project lunch today-turns out the $ we had bought 4 goats--which were purchased from a herd on the side of a street, lashed by the feet and tossed, alive, on top of one of our vans. Grocery shopping, Ethiopian style :) We got to Korah and got out to the sound of children singing off in a building through a gate. The walls and gate to the church shelter are painted bright, bright blue and this place stands out in stark contrast to the squalor around it. We got a quick tour of the dorms in the shelter which houses 26 children. They were relatively clean and well kept, yet very sparse and not anywhere even close to a "dorm" in the US. The doors were low and some of the guys had to duck to get inside and the walls were made of mud strengthened with straw. After a few minutes of meeting some of the children who swarmed us in the street, we got split into 2 groups, one going into some of the "homes" around Korah to visit and meet the families, and one going into the actual dump to meet a family who lives there. I was in the second group so I can only report that side of the story. And finding the words to do so is not going to be easy. But, it needs to be told....

We began walking down a rocky path off a side street, which itself was muddy and trash-covered. There were people everywhere, especially coming out to look at us ferengis (white foreigners) walking through there. They were mostly friendly and welcoming when I would smile and wave. We could tell when we were getting closer to the dump by the smell. A team-mate offered me some vicks vapo rub to put up my nose but I told her no. It was horrible, but I thought I could stand it. It wasn't until we started into the edge of the actual dump, beside the rapidly cascading streams of raw sewage and walking through the squelching, trash-laden mud, that I finally began to gag and could not stop—I managed to squeak out yes to the vicks, please, and promptly coated the inside of my nostrils. I never thought I would love that stuff so much. The stench was indescribable, really. Trash of every sort all over the ground, in the weeds, with a narrow trodden path through the middles of it that we were being led down. I was informed we were not actually yet IN the dump at that point, just on the outskirts-um, WHAT? How could it get worse?? We traipsed down down down a grassy trashy hill and finally arrived at our destination-the home of a boy who is in the sponsorship program at the church shelter where we had first arrived. We all ducked through the low tin door of this home, which consisted of mud and straw walls, corrugated tin/cardboard roof, and a dirt floor. There was a narrow bench running along the back wall on which all 12 of us tried to sit, but some spilled over onto the floor. There were large posters of Jesus and Mary on the earthen walls and a scraggly plaid curtain hanging from a string in the corner, and I'm still not really sure why. There was this main room and a small sleeping room off of it, which had a filthy blanket on the hard floor, I presume where they slept. This whole place was about the size of our dining area at our house,
which is not big by American standards. The family of Haptamu had set out the items to do a coffee ceremony for us-which pained me for them to make popcorn and coffee for us when I knew they had nothing. Not "not much", nothing. The father rose and spoke to us via translator. He thanked us for coming and helping his family, explaining that he is too old and weak to work and his wife used to pick through the trash for metal that she would sell, but she was too tired to do it anymore. He could not provide for his family, but the church/school (part of Project 61) was making it possible for his children to have a good life. He told us how he had lost one house there in Korah and the one they were in now could be gone at any time as it was on government land, technically, and if they decided they wanted to bulldoze it or dump trash where it was located, they certainly could and he would have no home. One of his sons is actually going to the University in the fall, which is truly a MIRACLE, along with Haptamu's schooling that will begin in September. He was so thankful, I felt so unworthy of his thanks as we had done nothing really but come visit at that point. Summer asked Kelly if someone from our group would feel comfortable sharing about the Lord and why we were there so Kelly stood up and, with the help of a translator, told him that we were sent there by Jesus to help them b/c they were loved by Him. And that we are grateful for what we have so that we can share it with their family. She also shared with them that in heaven, where we will see Jesus, there is no sickness, and no poverty-we will all be free, and we will all be brothers and sisters, no difference, no outcasts. It was a holy moment in that mud shack.

After this, the family made line outside their home where they shook our hands and hugged us and thanked us again. My heart just hurt for them to think that they live in that dark mud house, in the midst of filthy trash, and here they were graciously serving us coffee and hugging us just for being willing to come where they spend We trekked up the hill and turned left to head into the heart of the dump. I re-loaded my vicks after another round of gagging and sheer willing myself not to vomit. We walked along a very narrow path that was muddy and every now and then covered in crazy swarms of ants (which very quickly crawl up your shoes and bite, and hurt, btw) There were streams of brown, repulsive water flowing from several points, all the drainage from the mountains of trash. Although my jeans were rolled up, they still ended up smeared with the oozing mud, particularly after a wrong step sent a blob squirting up the back of my uncovered calf-yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. We made a precarious leap over one of the streams of trash water and at that point were "officially" in the dump and were no longer allowed to take photos. I will try to give you a word picture then.

It was unreal. Swarms of human ants, all over the piles of rotting trash-bones, old shoes, tires, torn fabric, old food, and on and on. Big black vultures circled over-head. One of the girls showed us one of the plants on the ground that people there eat, growing right in the middle of all the trash. The women were all clad in belted gowns of trash bags. They carried MASSIVE sacks on their back as they would leave, filled with scraps of plastic or metal that they had found by digging through the garbage. They were covered head to toe in the same mud we had walked through, and yet when Summer would see them, she would walk up, embrace them and kiss their face without hesitation. They are the mothers of the children in the project. Some came to check us out-a few were sponsored children that will go to school in September. One gave me a big hug and in the process her mud-covered sack slid across my bare arm, leaving it covered with....I don't even want to know. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as I wiped it on my shirt so as not to appear ungrateful for her embrace. We walked on a bit more and for some reason, the 2 large pigs surprised me-I had never seen pigs here in Ethiopia before! They were doing what pigs do best, being gross in the mud, right nearby to a woman digging through some trash. I walked a bit with one of the guides and he told me the small bunches of animals we saw-some goats, a few oxen, pigs-were part of farms. Farms? In the DUMP?? He told me yes, and they plant vegetables there to eat and try to sell. No, do not think of a nice tidy community gardens area or a pretty rolling green Virginia farm, think of a foul-smelling, disease-laden pit of filthy rotting garbage-and the animals standing atop small piles of trash and some sort of scraggly plants growing here and there-a farm in Korah. I shudder to think what is in that soil, and therefore their food. This is why there is disease, this is why they die, this is why children here have no mothers and fathers.

We finally came to the end of our "tour" through the dump and walked and talked on the way back with Summer and one of the guides about their project. The one boy who came as a guide used to "work" in the dump (read: pick through garbage to make a few cents a day) but now comes to the project's summer camp in hopes of getting sponsored and then sent to the boarding school. The sponsorship, which is $700 per year, covers everything for a child: for the rest of the summer, they go to the summer camp where they get one decent meal a day, and then in September they will go to a boarding school which is 3 hours away. They will have covered: room, board (3 meals a day), books, tuition, hygiene needs, uniform, and transportation to and from school when needed during breaks. They have room for 200 at this school and have 130 sponsored already. The boy who was working as guide told me "sponsors-this give us hope, a great lot of hope!" as he patted his chest. Summer explained that the children literally view their sponsors as saviors b/c it means they get to get out of Korah. She said many of them refer to the sponsors as mama or abat (dad) and she and the staff (all Ethiopian except her, most from the Korah community as well) try to cultivate that relationship between sponsor and child, rather than it just be $$ coming in. We passed another group of mothers of the children from the summer camp and she was greeted warmly by all the ladies-the boys in our group from the project said "Summer, she is our strong sees-ter!" to which she simply giggles a dismissive response.

We arrived back at the church alley and as I walked up to the group of other team mates and swarms of little brown-faced kiddos, a dark mahogany-skinned girl I had not remembered seeing before came up to me. She stopped in front of me and pointed to herself and said in a tiny sweet voice "my mother?" and made the gesture for sleep with her hands by her head. I had a feeling she was not telling me her mama was napping and she confirmed my fears when she repeated "mother? mort (dead)". I told her I was just so sorry and I hugged her, and then I felt something I had not yet had happen to me-this broken little child was clinging around my middle and crying in my arms, for her dead mother. And then this broken-hearted white mother was crying too, and holding that girl for dear life, telling her I loved her and I was just so sorry. I knew it must have been recent since she was still openly crying about it. She and I became inseparable from that point on and I made some inquires as to her story and status in the program. It turned out she had just been there 2 days around the project and her mother had died and she had held her mother's dead body for 2 days before she was told that her mama was dead. Her grandmother, who she now lived with, is crippled (and possibly had leprosy? Not totally sure) and had dragged herself (I was shown a gesture of pulling herself with her arms) to the church to see if they could help in any way. Well, to make a long story short, guess who now has a sponsor and is headed to boarding school in the fall?? My girl Nesenet!!! (Oh and Pat? guess what honey!? Another girl for us!) We went right into the office that minute and got it squared away and I was just not prepared for the men who worked there to get up and kiss my cheeks and tell me, "thank you thank you, God bless you, sister". And the news spread like wild fire-those kids know the word sponsor and they all kept coming up asking "sponsor?" while patting my arm and pointing to Nesenet. They were so excited for their friend, it was so humbling to see them rejoicing for her. I felt so humbled and so ungrateful of their attention-b/c really, in the grand scheme of things, $700, for a year of completely covered everything, that would change her life forever???? Even with a tight budget, I knew that would not be a terribly big deal to come up with since it was God put that little girl in my life (hmmm, Etsy shop has a new focus I'm thinkin').

After some time hanging out (which included several thumb wars-did not know that Ethiopian kids knew that but turns out it is international!!) with my new daughter who will live in Ethiopia, I got to watch the slaughtering of the goats we had purchased earlier. Oh my word, I cannot say enough how grateful I am once again for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for me so that I still do not have to offer animal sacrifices like they did in the Old Testament. I did not think it would bother me as much as it did, but wow, after a few seconds of when they began to pour the blood out of it's neck into a bucket, I needed to be done watching. (I also got to watch some of the skinning and let me tell you, you praise the Lord every time you walk in to Kroger and buy a nicely wrapped package of meat) Those 2 goats ended up being cooked into an enormous amount of stew for all the children and we got bread as well. We were not sure if it would feed them all since they had also brought in any of the street children that had been hanging around the group so I got out my Bible, read the story of the feeding of the 5, 000 to myself and prayed for the same-and those children all got full tummies today. Just for the curious, we did not eat the goat stew, we ate rice and bread that had been packed for us by the guest house-not sure if the stew would have been good or too traumatizing, haha

After lunch, Nesenet came and found me and sat on my lap while we had another coffee ceremony. Oh how I love the bunna here. We all then left the compound of the church and headed to a "field" to play soccer. We walked down through muddy streets running with some sort of murky whitish water that again had me fighting back gagging. There were people everywhere living in places that defy description, some round huts made of hay (like in our cartoons), some in piles of tin arranged to make some sort of lean to, some just in the dirt with their things in piles. Small children just stop and go to the bathroom in the street (which is made of rocks and mud) and so many of the children have no shoes or shoes that bear no resemblance to actual foot protection. I walked the whole way with Nesenet glued to my side, holding my hand, arm around my waist, while 3 other children also held onto various fingers of mine all at the same time. We went down a very steep rocky hillside that I found challenging in my top of the line hiking shoes, and down which these children ran like it was a flat grass path. We arrived at the bottom to the most beautiful area-an open space of dirt surrounded by Eucalyptus tree skyscrapers all around. Nesenet got very excited and tugged me over to this hillside saying "water water" and I looked over the very step edge to see a rushing brown muddy river-it was amazing! She told me "koshasha" which apparently means "dirty", which fit. Some kids were playing in it and a girl tried to get me to go down and go in it with her-no way, jose!!

We spent the rest of the afternoon there just playing soccer, sitting and loving on the kids, etc. Nesenet wanted to see what was in my backpack so I showed her and when I showed her the band aids, another little girl grabbed her friend's feet and thrust them toward me. Both of her little ankles had small open sores on them where her ill-fitting shoes had rubbed. I cleaned them off with an alcohol wipe and put band aids on them, only to turn around and be brought another older girl with a large sore on her leg. I took a deep breath, asked God to help me out on this, and wiped her off with another alcohol wipe, took out some first aid tape I had and a stack of tissues and taped them over her wound securely. (FYI, I told the director Sami and he will be getting them both taken care of at the church, just for you Mom and Tracy, since I know you are reading this and yes I was careful and yes I cleaned my hands afterwards.) I had several more kiddos come over for me to check spots on their faces to see if they too needed band aids-seems like it is universal for kids to want band aids!! They were all ok and too soon it was time to walk back up the steep steep hill and head toward the bus to leave.

Leaving Nesenet was very very hard-she has had enough loss, I didn't want to add more. I gave her a special stuffed bunny to remember our day together and told her we would write letters and she would too, from SCHOOL!!!! And I cried, a lot. She stood outside the bus waiting the whole time for us to leave, moving at all times to make sure I was in her eyesight and giving me a big grin and a wave any time our eyes met. My heart was so full, and so aching. Any of those children there could have been my daughter Zoe had God not brought her to our family. Between that and leaving Nesenet, my heart had had a workout. Then Sami (who himself grew up in the trash dump) got on the bus to tell us thank you and God bless us and that no one comes there to Korah, not even people from Addis-it is a forgotten, shunned commuity-but we gave them hope that they are not forgotten. Oh my heart! We came back, ate a very small supper and met and talked about what was next for Korah. Kelly and Shane had met with the directors for a bit asking how we could continue to partner with them. It was explained to Kelly and Shane that no one comes there, not even ambulances if people are sick and when Kelly asked how they get the help they need, they were told "God sends us angels like Summer, and your group." Apparently we were the first group to stay and play with the children and feed them-others had come and toured, taken photos, and left. We had no idea and so we are all committed to letting people know about these beautiful people so that they WILL NOT be forgotten. We are their voice and want them to see that God's people take seriously the command to love people. If you want any information about getting involved, please let me know. We have some goals in mind to work toward for them, one of which is filling all the possible sponsored child slots at the boarding school.

The rest of the evening was an uneventful wrestling match with tortoise speed internet and a chilly walk back to the guest house where I sit, trying to sum up a day that defies description in hopes that I can be a small part in helping these people to have hope that others care and think they are worth every minute and a million more...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 2/3-What Day Is It??

Day 2/3 or whatever day it is...;)

After a shortish night of sleep, I woke up and got to take a frigid semi-shower due to still no electricity. Again, not a huge deal, just not a relaxing shower at all. We got together a bunch of clothes, shoes, diapers, and formula as well as art supplies for our day at El Olam orphanage. After a breakfast of cream colored eggs (they look different b/c their chickens eat different things-we will not talk about what different things b/c well, ew), bread and fresh mango juice (yum!), we were off!! We made a quick stop at the bank to exchange all our money and the rate was 13.5 birr to 1 USD—great for us Americans but not great for the Ethiopian economy, even a year ago it was 10-11 birr to a dollar. I'm not sure if it is even possible for Ethiopia to be poorer than last time I was here, but it sure seems it. It is both heartbreaking and maddening-it just SHOULD.NOT.BE. This is an ancient country rich in so much history and beauty and it is literally crumbling and the people are so beautiful, both physically and in spirit. They exude warmth, you just have to smile first :) But a woman I didn't even know came up, asked me why we were here, and then when I told her, she hugged me and planted a (wet) kiss forcefully from her hand to my mouth, as is customary here. Now, picture that same scene on a street in NYC, eh??? Not likely, at least w/o someone getting knocked out, haha.

We arrived at the orphanage and were greeted at the gate by a mob of brown eyes and loud voices and hugging and jumping up and down. Apparently today was scheduled as a party for them and so party we did! I passed out a zillion stickers which were promptly stuck on hands and foreheads and cheeks. Children mobbed those who had candy and I watched as the quick ones hid their suckers in the back of their waistbands and then put out hands and pleaded for "one, mama-one" I was glad to remember one key word in Amaharic-"beka" which means all one. Some of the folks on the team were being overwhelmed with mobs of greedy kiddos so I got to be the enforcer and tell the children "beka, beka!" and they dutifully listened (you hear that, Hilt girls? I told them all done and they PROMPTLY LISTENED! :) just sayin'. ) The children were then split up and went to various rooms to color, have their faces painted, or play soccer. Some folks went into the baby room to hold the babies-they were so tiny and weak and all of them had horrible, in need of medical attention, coughs. They were definitely undernourished and extremely underweight. They also had clearly been in the same clothes for days, for various reasons that were not understandable to us. Some gals on the team gave their day to changing the babies, holding, feeding and just generally loving those sweet little ones, in a room deviod of anything but a couple of old tiny cribs and 2 mattresses on the floor, presumably for the nannies that work there? But those sweet nannies had nowhere to sit, no chairs at all, let alone a rocking chair—and there were 2 of them to 8 babies-and the carpet on the floor on which they sit felt damp and smelled of urine. Blech. (Hey, have I mentioned yet that you might want to consider adoption? Don't think you have enough space/$/etc? This is what their alternative is-a million dollar house where every child has their own room and they can play every sport and do every activity is really not necessary, folks --but love, and food, and clothes not covered in their own waste and filth are-do you have any of those things? You are qualified to adopt then ;) )

Our group provided lunch for the kids that day and they had a feast of injera, wat, shiro, potatoes and carrots, and dabo, all served on multi-colored plastic Ikea plates just like I have at home, haha. That Ikea is everywhere!! They also got to all drink Mirinda, the Ethiopian equivalent of orange Fanta. Our team also had some of the Eth food for our lunch and some were seeing injera, a rolled up spongy flat bread on which food is served and with which food is eaten in Ethiopia. They were pretty skeptical and many decided to pass-since the food was really not very spicy (rare here!!), I actually really enjoyed it, especially the shiro, a sort of refried beans-esque dish made with (I think) chick peas or lentils. After lunch we were treated to a coffee ceremony where we munched popcorn (traditionally served at the coffee ceremony, and oddly goes quite nicely with the rich, deep mahogany opaque liquid they call bunna (emphasis on the second syllable). It is unlike any coffee in the US-the beans are green and are roasted over open coals, then hand ground and poured through a special pot called a jabena/gobena (seen it spelled both ways but was informed today by our guides Bisrat and Tekabe it is pronounced the "j" way)-I might have been informed of that by them when they got done laughing at my original pronunciation but that is not important...

We spent the time after lunch just sort of hanging out and chillin' with the kiddos. A sweet older girl became my shadow and I dreaded answering her when she finally asked the question I knew was coming, "Miss? you, me-we go to America together?" Ugh. There is no real way to say no without feeling like garbage, btw. Especially by the 3rd or 4th time you are asked. At some point in the afternoon, all the donated clothes we had brought were taken into a room off to the side and we called the children in 1 or 2 at a time to fit them with new shoes and a new outfit, which were SORELY needed. I put some pictures up below of some befores and afters of the shoes that they showed up in, and the ones they left with. So much fun to see them clomping around in their new, apparently strange feeling flip flops, especially the boys who had chosen the flip flops that were decorated with floofy, colorful strips of fabric, haha. We painted nails (including gigantic Clay, as featured below-he's single, ladies, for all y'all whose hearts just melted at that picture :) ) and played more soccer and then, Kelly, our team leader, and Carol, another team member, came back with.....a brand new washing machine for the orphanage!!! Yes, really. They needed one and one of Kelly's goals for this trip is to leave each place we go with something sustainable to help them, not just swoop in, play with some kids, leave, and feel like we did something—so off she and Carol went with a guide and they got a washer with a spinner that will take most of the water out so that they can hang them to dry easily. Jesus in action. There's a pic below of it being brought in. The children also performed some songs for us, including their version of "Zaccheus" (HILARIOUS!!) and "Go Tell It On The Mountain" I got these on video so maybe when I am home, I can post it. When it was finally time to leave, we all gathered in a circle and prayed together, both in English by Shane (Kelly's husband) and by Mesfin, one of the orphanage employees. It was hard to say goodbye to our sweet new friends, especially since my friend had disappeared and I never got to say goodbye to her. :(

When we got back to the guest house, we were still without power but there were guys working on it, in the rain, outside. Not surprisingly, when we were standing in the lobby, moments later there was a LOUD popping and crackling and a bunch of puffs of smoke all along the wire they had run in from the outside (did I mention it was raining??) and connected to the light fixture in the ceiling. Electical work, Ethiopian-style. A few minutes later, we had power, then we didn't, then we did, then we didn't, and it has not come back. Oh well. BUT, actually two of 3 floors do have electricity now, just not the floor I am on, haha-good thing I'm conditioned to rarely showering due to having 4 kids. Once again we had some confusion with the guest home staff and we had no dinner so we headed out to a restaurant and ate the YUMMIEST Italian food!! Whew, it has been a long and busy day that is ending with another cold damp night so I guess I better head out to walk back to our guest house. I hope y'all are not too sick of my hugely long posts, but there is really no way to tell about my days otherwise. And honestly, even these words seem inadequate.

I have another post to put up about our trip to Korah today (which was mostly while you were sleeping, so please come back to read it. It was quite a day.....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day One (super long post, sorry)

**this is really long b/c we had no internet connection for me to post it in bits-sorry!!*

I'm in the middle of my travel to Ethiopia and so far so good! The day started off early at home in Blacksburg since we had to drive to Charlotte, NC for my flight. After getting everyone up and dressed and everything loaded, which was a LOT of stuff-4 huge suitcases for me to take, chock full of donations for the kids in Ethiopia-we were off! (also after an unfruitful attempt to capture our stupid cat, er, elusive feline, who ran out the door in the process of packing and hid under the bushes just out of reach-too bad kitty, now you get 5 days outside with only critters to eat if that's how you're gonna roll) We got to Charlotte with 218 lbs of donations praying they would waive the fees since it was donations for children-they did not. Rats. Rats to the tune of $400, btw!! But, once again God was in it as just days before, a couple of amazing friends had given me $ out of nowhere stating that it was to be uses for luggage fees if needed-and guess what?? It was exactly $400!!! Yeah, God is in the details for sure :)

The next part was honestly the hardest thing I have ever done-saying goodby to Pat and the girls. Seriously, it hit all of use like a ton of bricks that we would be apart for longer than we ever have been and it was just so hard to say goodbye and walk away from them. I know and they know this is where I am supposed to be right now, but there are never any gurantees with life and walking away from them was just plain hard, God-ordained or not. Plus I have NEVER flown completely by myself before, it has always been with other people so it was a little daunting!! But, all was easy and God mercifully had me right near my gate and I got the added bonus of "escorting" an elderly Ethiopian woman on the leg of the flight from Charlotte to DC-her family was dropping her off and she spoke no English and they were trying to make sure she was taken care of. I recognized her as Ethiopian right away by her gabbi (white shawl worn often by older women) and thing chain she wore on her forehead-I told her daughter I was on this flight and could I be of any help? She was so excited and hugged me all up-I the welcoming culture of the Ethiopian people! I felt so protective of this sweet woman who I had never met and who spoke not a lick of English-but we had a partnership, she and I. She needed to know where to go, and I needed to have something to keep me from freaking out about leaving my family-once again, God was in the details. We got on the plane, took a short uneventful ride to DC, and hopped off onto the tarmac to grab bags and go into the terminal. My elderly companion was met by an airport worker and I was able to tell her she had no carry on luggage and just needed to get to her gate-we hugged and said goodbye. I was hoping I'd see her again but I knew that there were several flights out of Dulles to Ethiopia so who knew. Again, it turned out I was right in the concourse I already needed to be in for my next flight-I was so worried I'd have to change b/c Dulles has these weird bus things that look like At-Ats from Star Wars and they confuse me :) A short walk later, after asking a sweet Ethiopian gift shop worker where the Ethiopian Airlines gate was (I specifically found her b/c like I said, Ethiopians feel like family to
me : ), I was my gate and ready to meet the folks I'd be spending the next 10 days with. After some texting, found out they were all right in front of me in the sea of folks milling around the gate and we sat and got to know each other for some time since we had a long layover. Phew! They were all very nice and friendly-I was maybe a little nervous about not knowing any of them ;) We all had a little bit of tense moments when the check in folks tried to be very strict and tell us our carry ons could only weigh 15 lbs (um, what?! That is like a pair of shoes and my suitcase!! Since all our big bags were donations, we had all packed our personal ff in our carry on little roll-y suitcases) I had some "discussions" with the workers about not charging us and it was interesting how similar it felt to the haggling that goes on in the Ethiopian marketplace—something I found both frustrating and oddly fun all at the same time last time I traveled!! Turns out haggling must be my "spiritual gift" b/c all the sudden my bag of 30 lbs was tagged to go through as was everyone else's in our group-yay, God---AGAIN!! :) During this time, I felt a tug on my shoulder, tuned around and who should be there clapping and hugging me? My Ethiopian friend from my first flight! She was so excited-it was so sweet! I was just as excited as we stood smiling and nodding and hugging each other-I hate not speaking Amharic. The plane ride thus far has It is a smaller plane and pretty crowded with very limited options when you get restless-about 5 movies that all just play on a continuous loop such that if you miss the beginning, too bad, you can catch it in 2 hrs. There is nothing else to do, not really much are to walk, and I am realizing flying Emirates the last time we came to Ethiopia has forever spoiled me with their endless things to do, see, etc. Plus, by 3 am our time, I had already been served dinner and breakfast so my body is thoroughly confused!!! We have completed the first leg of the flight and are currently sitting on a runway in Rome, Italy where we stopped for them to re-fuel and clean the plane, all while we are still on it as we do not get to get off-boo. And wow, it is HOT in here!! (and btw, the combo of a lot of people and a lot of different ethnic smells can get quite intense on a very hot plane, just fyi—wanted you to get the full experience from reading this) But, I can say I've been to Italy, right?! (which btw, from the tiny oval window looks just like the view out the window in DC-concrete, scrubby weeds, and planes. Isn't there supposed to be vineyards and pasta and people riding bikes and painting everywhere in Italy???) We have about 7 more hours after we take off until we arrive in Addis Ababa! I think I can I think I can......God has just been so GOOD, as always, on this trip and goes before and behind us. Can't wait to see what He has up His great big sleeves next! Ciao for now!

Later that day....

The last leg of the flight to Addis Ababa was mostly uneventful. I shared a row with a nice girl who slept almost the entire flight. My feet swelled to probably 3x their normal size and so I spent a good amount of time standing and walking around in the tiny amount of space the plane afforded. We got to Addis, made a beeline for the visa office to avoid the long line and got through very quickly. We spent a very long time waiting for ALL the luggage to get there but eventually every single piece showed up-and of course one of mine was both broken AND wet—ewwww. I asked an employee about the broken suitcase, but he just shrugged and walked away. Good times. We finally got all the luggage through security and out to meet our driver from the guest house, Masti. He was very friendly and I remembered once again why I like Ethiopians so much :) They took us to a mini bus that was very very tall (with a oriental carpeted, fringed interior ceiling and a big plastic framed photo of a hite Jesus with blue eyes-I'm thinkin' of pimpin' out my Honda Odyssey in the same style....) and proceeded to load almost ALL of the luggage on top of it in a precarious mountain that makes Americans freak out and ask about ropes and bungee cord and makes Ethiopians laugh and get in to drive away. It is "winter" here and was quite chilly and raining-the kind of chilly where you can see your breath, yep, in Africa. It DOES get cold here, just not like it does at home. The drive to our guest home was dark, wet, and suprisingly devoid of other vehicles or people on the street, which is unusual for Addis. Our guest home arrival proved pretty confusing for everyone-we weren't sure what to do with out mountain of luggage they had unloaded into the foyer, we weren't sure where the boys were staying (in another guest house around the corner it turned out) or what we were doing for dinner, although after the plane ride's continual feeding schedule, no one was especially hungry, it seemed anyway. Add to that the trying to figure out our schedule for tomorrow with the drivers and some difficulties understanding everyone's accents, it sort of was the icing on the cake when the power went out. It is still not back on and probably will not be until tomorrow-and I was super thankful for the tiny flashlight I packed-it was one of only about 3 we had in our group!! We ended up walking to the nearby other guest house to eat dinner-pizza, with a little bit of Ethiopian flair, a not totally uncommon food here actually b/c of a brief Italian occupation decades ago. It was ok, not like home :) Everyone was starting to get a little bleary-eyed from traveling so we headed back to our guest house to get settled in, in the candlelight, and listen to the street dogs bark wildly outside our gate. There are strange sounds here in the city of Addis Ababa, but they make it what it is and they do not bother me like they do some. I realized, upon returning to our bags, that my nicely secured locked bags were going to stay that way unless I figured out a solution since I left the keys with Pat back home-oops. Leaving at the airport was kind of a blur, I might have mentioned that.... Anyway, I tried 2 other girls' luggage keys to no avail and finally asked Masti if he had any bolt or wire cutters. He and another guy scurried off, came back with 2 different sets of lopper looking things, ended up taking them apart and stabbing the point through the lock and popping them open by banging it with the other half of the shears. Locksmiths, Ethiopian-style :) It is interesting to see the group's reactions to Africa as none of them have ever been here except Kelly and her husband, Shane (our trip leaders), and myself. I am so excited to see what God does with all of us on this trip-I know we will have changed hearts for sure!! I'm dying to call home and talk to my family since I cannot email without power. I can find the person with the cell phone soon-it is just amazing what technology we rely on in our lives and when we are without it, we (maybe just me??) feel a little lost. Up semi-early tomorrow to head off on our first adventure at El Olam orphanage-guess I should go to bed!! Hopefully the power will be restored tomorrow but if not, no biggie! It's just like camping, but in Africa :)

(I posted just a few photos of travel stuff and tomorrow I will post a re-cap of today at our first orphanage--tomorrow we head to our day with the kiddos at the dump/leper colony---so excited!!)

If you want to see more photos now, go to the Ordinary Hero blog to check it out! (just google "Ordinary Hero blog" b/c I don't think I can ppost it as a link from here.