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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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! :)

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