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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 grief...no 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.

5 comments:

Dawn said...

Masti & Bizi sound like great guys!! Jody, I have loved reading your journey... the way you write makes me feel like I'm right there with you. Thank you for being a voice for the people of Korah. I can't help but smile to think of the children that will get sponsored because of your blog. So proud of you! Love ya and see you in a few days!!!

Sarah said...

I too have LOVED reading your posts. So thrilled that you were able to share your experiences with us. It all just makes me so wistful...wish I could go back, wish I could adopt another, wish I could sponsor, wish...well, wish I could see you guys in TN. Hugs and love and blessings to you, Jody!

Dana said...

Oh to be back.... there....I love your blog! Finally checked it out. Wish I had been so good at keeping mind updated now! :) Love your art, too...

Dawn - "Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

WOW- I have been more than Blessed by reading about your trip. Such a personal eye opener, and a lot to think and pray about. Thank you!!

Melanie said...

Jody,
I so wish I could've met you at the picnic. I read your journey in Ethiopia every day. There were so many people at the picnic and I couldn't tell who went with what blog.haha!!;) Thanks for sharing your journey.