Today was an interesting day as it always is here, with plans being made as you go along. This morning was spent at the church in Korah where all of the guys on staff were treated by a chiropractor here from America. She not only treats backs/spines but does holistic medicine and acupuncture and was treating them for various ailments. I have to say I was pretty skeptical about the whole practice b/c it had a lot to do with "energy systems" in the body but it ended up being more interesting to watch than I felt like admitting and really did seem to work to help relieve some stress and help them feel better. I was, however, eventually getting bored watching so I went outside to wander around and when I was out there, the sweet little man who is the guard at the shelter came up to me. He was saying to a bunch of things I could not understand and pointing to his back and I nodded along, trying to understand what he meant and thinking he wanted to see the doctor. He turned around and pulled his jacket and shirt up and showed me his back, revealing a large hump on his back. I wasn't sure if it was a recent injury so I rubbed my hand across his back to see if he indicated pain and he did not. I pointed to the church building to ask if he wanted to go in - he smiled and so I took him into the church to the doctor and asked if she could look at him. It turns out when he was younger he had fallen off a horse and they told him it was not broken, but the doctor today felt there was no way it had NOT been broken and was very concerned. It had healed back poorly, which had caused the hump, and if left completely untreated would cause worsening problems over time. He got cracked and twisted like the others and then sent over to be a human pincusion all along his back. He is such a sweet man and seemed so happy to be being treated and I was so happy for him.
After a while, Danielle, myself and 2 of the guys walked up to the ALERT hospital, which is the original hospital where leprosy was treated and around which the Korah community has grown. It was, with gorgeous tropical flowers and plant all over with white-coated medical staff walking about. Everything here is sort of indoor/outdoor so it was not like a hospital back in the States, more of a large compound with many separate buildings/shelters that have various purposes. One of the best parts about the compound is the hand craft area. There are several different crafts that are handmade there, by the leprosy patients, some of whom have been there for over 40 years! We went into a tin-walled shelter that had a dirt floor and random cast-off chairs and piles of things to sit on. Inside there was a group of women who were spinning cotton fiber from fluffy wads into yarn on hand-held drop spindles-it was AMAZING!! Some only have parts of their hands and fingers and yet had incredible skill at working that spindle. Danielle got to sit with one woman who showed her how to spin and and D gave it a try as well. It was not easy at all and yet these women do this all day everyday and are so fast! The cotton yarn is then either woven into blankets or crocheted into stunning bed covers/table cloths/sweaters/etc. The crocheters were hard at work in the metal shack next door and we went in to sit with them and see their work. I watched in awe as these women, most with only shiny stumps where fingers once were and some with functioning eyesight in only one eye, deftly making lace items on the tiniest crochet hooks ever. They were so much fun, too! Just like knitting circles back home, they chatted and laughed and let us join in their conversation. They all asked to have their picture taken and gave beautiful smiles as I took their photo. I was just overwhelmed with their beauty, really and truly. Their smiles just lit up their faces, and they just giggled like girls. I really and truly loved the time with them. They told us next time they would make us coffee, today they were not prepared. So sweet!
We eventually said goodbye and walked up to the porch of a building where a very friendly old man wash working on a loom to weave straw mats. He was quite talkative and was happy to have his picture taken and show off his amazing work. He told us he has been doing that for 45 years!!! He wears leg braces and has lost parts of his feet and walks with the aid of crutches and if that is not enough, he does not have fingers-yes, for real. And there is no way I could weave a mat with the skill he did, it was mesmerizing to watch him take the fibrous strand and weave and twist it over and under, again and again. We went into the building into a room filled with giant weaving looms and were led to another sunlight-filled side room by a woman clad in a bright purple dress. In this room, she and another woman, who had had parts of her hands and face and legs brutally claimed by leprosy, wound the spun cotton yarn onto sections of bamboo sticks that served as bobbins. There were boxes of fully wound bobbins in various places and on the floor, small wooden wheels with a simple cranks with which the bobbins were wound. I had the privilege of being taught how to wind by the purple dress lady and sat on the floor, filling up a bobbin (after the 3rd try) and feeling quite pleased with myself, until I turned to see the other woman (the one with no fingers) whizzing along filling up bobbin after bobbin in the time it took me to do half of one. Show off ;).
We next visited the women who sew and hand-embroider the traditional clothing and textiles with the elaborate patterns made of colorful threads. They had ornate antique Singer foot pedal machines to make the items with the woven fabric (woven downstairs from the yarn spun on the drop spindles-this place is a full service operation, all done here and no machines-amazing) and then they are embroidered with the gorgeous patterns. These women were also very welcoming and asked us to eat with them, but we declined knowing it was their lunch, and left them to eat in peace. We ate there at the compound with the guys and then purchased some of the hand-made items in the store they have that sells them. What a fascinating place! It made my heart so full to spend the afternoon there!!
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing laundry outside in a tub and I spent the evening at the home of a family I know who lives here and who has a relative in my home town. They live in a very beautiful home on the other side of the city from where I am staying so it took the whole evening. They made an elaborate meal for me, which was very good for the most part, aside from a few traditional dishes I just cannot really get past, like the one with intestines and organs and assorted things in it. I ate some, and it was honestly not terrible, but finally the spicyness and the thought of what it was just rendered me unable to finish it. We ended the evening with a coffee ceremony and then Bisrat,who had come with me, took me to where he lives to show me his room. It was small, with just a bed and a mat on the floor where he prays and reads his Bible, and I got to meet the family who have the main house in the compound where he rents his room. They are very nice and like a family to Bizy.
We finally made it back to the house where I am staying and who was here when I got home? Maste! (a friend from my trip here this summer, just fyi if you didn't read then) What a nice surprise! We chatted a bit and then I went upstairs to hang out with Danielle and Alicia (who lives here) and I got to do something VERY fun. I got to.....HOLD A REAL LIVE MONKEY!! The guy who lives across the street had just gotten it today, it is some kind that only lives in Ethiopia and they call it a little baboon. Well, it is like a velcro monkey and it grabbed itself right onto me and snuggled onto me! It even made little squeaky monkey sounds!! At last, I got to not only see but HOLD a monkey on this trip. My little Things at home would have LOVED it!! (especially you, Thing 2!!) We took pictures and you can see them above along with shots from the rest of the day. At this point I have no idea what tomorrow holds but I am sure it will be different than whatever we plan since that has been the theme of the week thus far, haha. Please pray the clay will FINALLY get delivered so we can do the beads!! Whatever ends up happening, I am sure it will hold plenty of stories of God's amazing goodness and grace because those seem to be around every corner this trip.