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.....