We did not get much sleep before this day started. We had gotten into Bole Airport a little early and got through immigration, baggage claim, and customs without incident (aside from when they searched Danielle's luggage and raised an eyebrow at Sammy's tattoo machine she had in there, haha). We waited a bit for Cherrie and the guys to get there but when they did it was so fun, Cherrie literally came running, arms flung wide and a big smile on her face, to greet us. What a great welcome to some tired travelers! We were thrilled to see them and quickly got loaded up in the van to head to the house where we are staying (btw, I think I am going to start loading my minivan Ethiopian-style in the carpool line, backpacks and lunchboxes piled up on the roof....)
We got back to the house and had a big unloading party, passing out all the goodies brought from the states. After unloading and getting settled in, Cherrie showed me how to use the internet and we all chatted and caught up some, having a hard time stopping but knowing we had only a few hours till we would get up and head out. Finally, we all turned in to get at least a few hours of sleep, which did not come easily for me. I usually am not too bothered by the sounds of Ethiopia (and they are many) but for some reason the street dogs having a massive fight outside my window coupled with someone hammering and firing up an electric saw (what? It was 2 am-what on earth were they doing??) made sleep pretty elusive. Not to mention the mosquito buzzing by my ear, causing me to smack the air and my head in vain every few minutes. Yes, it was as restful as it sounds ;) Eventually though I must have fallen asleep b/c I woke up to the noises of the guys all over the house and realized somehow my alarm had never gone off and it was almost 6:00. We all ran around like crazy people and I even got a shower in 5 minutes and we left close to 6:15. (Yay African time!)
It was once again confounding to me all the people walking walking walking everywhere in the streets. So many, of every age, walking all over the place. Where are they all going and what are they doing? Random dogs and goats here and there joined them in the streets and even a seemingly ownerless horse with one broken and casted leg. Ah, yup, I'm in Ethiopia alright! Of course we stopped once in the middle of somewhere while some people in our sardine can van got in and out and talked to some other people and then we were off again. That is always happening and I have no idea what they are doing and how/why they pick up people and drop off people in seemingly random places.
We drove for a few hours, seeing the beautiful African countryside. All the flattened Acacia trees make the olive and khaki horizon look just like God took His hand and put His palm down on the whole of Ethiopia when it got past a certain height. It was a sunny drive and we stopped at a small outdoor restaurant to eat before we arrived as we were told there was a good chance the food here would make us sick. Needless to say, I was ok with that decision and had a nice cold Mirinda (orange soda here). The guys all got some plate of strange cooked innards that we all said no thank you to and we shared a plate of french fries. We were on our way soon enough again and before we knew it, we arrived at Shashemane, pulling up the long tree lined drive and passing the church building and loads of gorgeous bright red poinsettias, which grow wild here. Trees overhead hung down long graceful arms that ended in red blossoms of some type and vibrant yellow canas graced the sides of all the walk ways. Absolutely beautiful!
We pulled up and got out and children started showing up from all over the place. It was so neat to see some familiar faces from this summer when I was here! We visited for awhile and I was escorted around the grounds by a group of boys who were trying to find the monkeys that live here to show me. We looked for those darn monkeys several times while here, by the way, and they never showed up. Hmmm, I began to have memories of snipe hunting as a child...But in the procees of looking for the possibly non-existent monkeys, I was shown the girls' dorm, dining hall, kitchen, and several avocado, mango and banana trees. Abandon all thoughts you have of a nice large commercial kitchen to serve a large boarding school-there were 3 cooks cooking in a shed-type building with no light. They cooked in large cauldrons over open fires and that building was smoky and stiflingly hot inside. They were so happy to see me and welcomed me into the room where I took a picture, exchanged hellos, and got out of the smoke-filled inferno.
We made our way back up the very steep stone staircase to the main drive and hung out some more-which was basically the theme of the day. I heard a bunch of yelling and voices behind me and I looked to see my Netsanet RUNNING toward me!! I dropped my bag and grabbed the video camera until she got right near me and then we just collapsed in a giggling hug. She looked great and healthy! We spent the rest of the day side by side. She is so sweet and gentle-spirited, very quiet but with a silly side, too. It was great to see her with a large group of friends. They all took me and showed me their beds and closets and I was blessed to meet and talk to the housemother for them. She was a sweet woman who I instantly connected with over the universal language of motherhood. She also brought up the monkey issue and said there had just been several playing in the yard out front of the girls' dorm but didn't know where they now were....likely story. (btw, I am typing this in the van on the death-defying drive home and just had to fix a large typo that was due to the slamming on of the brakes to avoid hitting a gigantic hyena running in front of us)
I was told by one of the workers at the school that there was a girl who had fallen and I looked over to see a crowd building in one area. I quickly went over and a girl had indeed fallen while running and had passed out and they were having trouble reviving her. I felt completely useless so I did the only thing I could do for her and prayed like mad. It was definitely scary and Berhanu (one of the guys from the Korah church) carried her all the way up the giant hill to the van where they quickly whisked her off to the hospital. That left me and Danielle there really on our own to just hang out with the kids. (Incidentally, the girl ended up ok and finally came to and just had some significant bruising, praise God!) Honestly, it was a long and very draining day, physically and emotionally.
It was great to see the children and visit with them, but they are very physically demanding in that they literally hang onto your arms and shirt and hands and pull you everywhere you go and we went all over the place-the school grounds are large and we walked all over them multiple times. They are also very hilly. Emotionally, there is the constant language issue where we sort of understand each other but never completely and it does get frustrating. So, that coupled with jet lag from traveling and sitting in the warm sun found me falling asleep sitting upright mid-afternoon while showing the kids videos on my camera. I guess my little cat nap of 2 minutes was enough to push me through to get up and get the kids to walk with me to a different part of the grounds.
At this point, another little buddy of mine from the summer had shown up and was very chatty-he knows English pretty well-and he came with us, too. There are a lot of avocado trees there and the children would point them out to me as we walked, as well as some other tree that had hard green fruits that I did not recognize. We went up the road and I heard from the kids "enjori, enjori" which I did actually know meant "strawberry". The girls ran over to me with a handful of some kind of berries (not strawberries, maybe mulberries or some form of not-ripe blackberries?) and gave them to me. They were SOUR, oh my goodness. We all had puckered up faces and I tried to discreetly toss the rest of mine into the grass. Rats, I was really hoping for a strawberry, haha. Anyway, somehow we all ended up in a pack of boys and so we talked a lot and then for some reason they all wanted me to give them American names and then write that name on their arm in pen. Well, there were a LOT of boys so chances are if I know you from home and you are a male, your name is written on some kid's arm in Ethiopia since I was too tired to think of more than about 3 names on my own.
Eventually, it was time to head toward the vans and we had to say our goodbyes. My sweet girl walked along the drive next to the van the entire time until we finally left the gates (which took some doing-you never really just leave here, it always includes a lot of stopping for some reason). But it gave me multiple chances to wave and say "ciao!" to her beautiful face. What a blessing to get to see her again! The ride home was long and bumpy and fairly scary as we whizzed around donkey carts and giant trucks alike. I slept a good bit of it and we arrived home safe and sound. I was glad when we talked with Cherrie about our plans for tomorrow. They are for Danielle and I to sleep late and not have any big plans for the morning and then the guys have a big soccer match (football) in the afternoon. Those are very good plans, I think :) I am fairly certain I left out a lot from today, but this is already really long and my bed is calling my name so I will end here. I have included some pictures above of the GORGEOUS grounds of the school!
ps-if you sent letters/packages with me for the kids, they are here but we didn't distribute them today because it was kind of a hectic day at the school but they WILL get to the children very soon!!