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!*