Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ethiopia: Day 2 (continued)

Getting visas was a quick and easy process, as was immigration and customs. Well, for me anyways. The guy at immigration literally didn't even look at my passport or me - he was talking to another lady and just stamped it and shoved it in my face.  I guess several of the other people had a hard time getting through because they didn't have the phone number for the guest house on the form (I didn't either...).  

I went straight to the currency exchange and got plenty of birr for the next week - its a huuuuge stack of bills!  The exchange rate is 17 birr per dollar. From there I went straight to baggage claim - its a very small airport.  And shockingly enough, ALL of the bags came. It was a very pleasant surprise! Aaaaand then I just skipped  customs - just walked around the  X-ray machine, and as crazy as it was with all of us, no one even noticed or cared! I was too tired and impatient to stand there in that line (too many people that had NO idea what was going on) and I didn't have anything to declare anyways. 

Once everyone made it through, we all walked down the stairs and through the parking lot to load up the bags. All 100 of them (at least).  It looked so funny - how many we bad piled on there.  And then we were off through Addis. Its a big dirty city just like so many others...super dusty and reaks of diesel.  

We arrived at the cute  little guest house after only about a 20 minute drive and checked in to our rooms - I'm with Julie and Monica on the 2nd floor. We have one  bathroom per floor, and there are 13 people on our floor.  Could  be interesting.  This looks like a safe place - there is lots of giant barbed wire, and I think that's a good thing! Comfy beds, running water, electricity, a kitchen, and very spotty wifi...what else do you need?!

Front door

Our room.  Julie (pregnant) got the big bed.  Monica and I had bunk beds just to the right of the picture.)

The view from our window (sorry about the fog!)

Once we got organized, we sorted through bags (there is seriously a ridiculous amount of luggage) and laid down for a few minutes while the staff packed a box lunch for us. My phone is receiving texts but not sending them, so I called AT&T to try and straighten it out (didn't happen). I also broke down and just called $3.50/minute. The whole no communication thing just wasn't working for me! I'm pretty tight, but that conversation was absolutely worth $10.50!

At 11, we all loaded up again for the long drive out to Trees of Glory. We didn't get to give the kids the care packages today (that's tomorrow), but we did take some books, jump ropes, soccer balls, and nail polish (me).  We did a head count to make sure we had everyone and set off. Stopped at the edge of the city - about 30 minutes away - at a little shop called "Afro Super Market" on he side of the road to buy a bunch of bananas for lunch. I guess the  nearest town (Duber) doesn't have amy fruit, so its a real treat for the kids!  

Well while we were paying for the fruit, Karen got a call from the guest house. Sarah had fallen asleep and somehow we left her. Ugh - this is why I travel by myself, ha! I'm just not patient enough for things like that! ;) The other van kept going and we had to sit on he side of the road for 30 minutes and wait for her. I was beyond anxious to get out there and play with the kids (and meet Mita)!! To kill time, I got out of the van and played with a little kid at a restaurant on the side of the road. He was too cute and repeated everything I said. His name was Joaney and he loved to blow kisses!

I also had my first of many (I'm sure) bad bathroom experiences. I walked in to a little restaurant looking place ... and the only bathroom was a dark hole in the ground, which was just soaked with urine. It was all I could do to keep from gagging from the smell as I hovered over that, ha!  A few minutes later, the driver took everyone else just a couple buildings down to a nice hotel - with a nice bathroom! Oh well, I needed to get out on my own for a couple minutes and I love experiencing the true  culture - even if that does include standing in someone else's urine! ;)  

Shortly after that, I got hit up by an old lady begging. She didn't have any shoes and her feet were swollen and so dry they cracked. She kept bowing to me and pulled on her throat to tell me she was thirsty. Ugh - SO hard not to just give her some water, but it wouldn't have turned out well. As soon as the little street kids saw her working me over, they came running up holding their hands out. No dice for them either. They just go high-fives. :) I really wanted to give them some money, but we were of course already warned not to. 

Sara eventually showed up, and we continued the drive to Trees of Glory.  As soon as we reached the edge of the city, the strong smell  changed from diesel to eucalyptus and it looked like we were driving into a forest!   There were lots of women walking down the mountain side with their backs just loaded down with huuuge bundles of firewood. Every morning they make the trek up the mountain, gather firewood, then walk back down to sell it. That is how these poor women - young and old - make a living for their families. So sad.  

We continued driving, and wound up in the beautiful Ethiopian countryside. It really was just gorgeous and not what I expected at all. Such a change from the big city of Addis! I took lots of pictures (of course) that I can't wait to upload!  All of the houses, even in the little villages we went through, were made from sticks/cow dung or tin and they all just had a thatch roof. They looked really cool out there in the hills...  Saw lots of little boys working in the fields and herding cows/do keys. I couldnt help but try and get a glimpse of each of their faces to see if it looked like Derebe - the little boy I used to sponsor whose non-Christian uncle pulled him out of the TOG school.  I just wonder where he is now and what he is doing...

We arrived at Trees of Glory after a few hours (I think I dozed off a time or two) and all the kids (120 total) were lined up along a fence clapping and singing. It was too cute not to share, so I got out my fancy iPhone (which isn't working too well over here) and recorded it!

We still hadn't eaten lunch yet, so we didn't even get to go see the kids right away! Torture! We all sat in one of the cement block buildings and ate our "box lunch" which was two giant tubs of pasta with carrots and green beans.  The picture I took of my plate is pretty funny. It's a small pile of pasta and two pepto bismol tablets. Karen said we should all take two before we eat anything prepared here to coat our stomach and hopefully keep is from getting sick.  It really wasn't too bad (how sick can past make you??) and then Julie gave me a little pedialyte powder thing for my water bottle.  What an interesting lunch. 

As soon as I was done eating, I found the bathroom (another hole in the ground) and ran out to the kids. The director at TOG just happened to be right there, so I asked if Mita Tafesse was there and if he could find her for me. There were way too many kids running around and I wasn't sure if I would remember her little face or not. But as soon as he called her over I knew I would have recognized her a mile away.  She is so so SO shy. She walked up to me with her head down and her little hand stuck straight out for me to shake. Yea-freaking-right, sister. I flew half way around the world to meet you - you're getting a big old hug!! It was obvious she was pretty timid, but I just wasn't having it.  And GUESS WHAT She was wearing?? The filthy old pink fruit loops t-shirt I sent her almost exactly a year ago.  I seriously couldn't believe it...

I wanted the translator - wait, TWO translators... One for English to Ahmharic and one for Ahmharic to Oromo which most of these kids spoke - to ask her if she knew I was coming that day and that is why she wore it. He kind of  chuckled amd without even asking her he said no way.  It's all she has and she wears it almost every day.  :(

A few minutes later, I noticed she had something around her neck. I pulled it out to see what it was...and it was the bracelet from Disneyland I have her last year too. Someone re-strung it in to a necklace for her!! I know I just said it, but I really just couldn't believe it. When I told Karen about it later, she told me how filthy Mita was last year and how she changed clothes immediately after receiving my care package. She has probably worn that pink (almost brown now) shirt everyday since then. These kids are the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia...

I was of course pretty enthralled with shy little Mita. I don't even know how to deal with someone so introverted, but I was determined to make her come out of her shell!  So I got out my hot pink nail polish...and aaaallll hell broke loose, ha!! Mita wasn't too sure about it, but when I showed her what it was - and since everyone else was clawing me for it - she stuck her cute little hands out and I painted her dark nails sparkly hot pink!! She loved it...and so did everyone else! I took her hands and shook them and  blew on them to dry the polish, and the kids must thought it was just hilarious!!

I didn't paint anyone else's for awhile - Mita was the special one...  But I eventually caved. Which I'm not sure was a good idea, but the kids knew I had it and were going crazy! I sat down in the dirt, which was mistake number two, and the kids just malled me. I bet I had 30 kids at one point literally trying to sit on me, pull my hair, pinch my skin, stick their filthy little fingers on my face begging for hot pink nails, ha. It was a bit much - even for me. I would look up, grab a hand, put it on my leg and point to the face they belonged to, and wave the other hands out of my face so I could see. (I was told to only paint girls' nails - not boys.  And the boys were NOT happy about that!!  They ALL wanted sparkly pink nails, too!)

Painting nails is one thing I'm pretty good at, and I could get 10 fingers painted in no time. It wasn't my best work because I had kids shoving me trying to get my attention the whole time, but no one seemed to mind a little pink polish on their skin. This continued for hours I think. Literally. The madness died down some, but there were always plenty of little hands in my face. And I'm happy to say that every little girl who wanted her nails painted now has a little hot pink sparkle! It really was fun, and they all wanted their picture taken showing off their pretty nails.


Mita stayed nearby and I saw her looking at me a lot, but I don't think she was too sure of me just yet. Once I was done painting I went straight over to her. She wasn't really playing with any other kids, so we just kind of walked around and observed. I got the two translators to ask her if she wanted to play. She was so shy she literally wouldn't even answer them! He asked her if she was even too shy to even say thank you, and here eyes got big and she finally looked up and shook her head no and said quiet it wasn't even audible to me, but apparently she said thank you and I love you! Insert heart melting!! Ugh - she's just too cute! After that, she stuck right with me. And when I turned loose of her hand to do something else, I would feel her little hand in my back pocket or clinging to my tshirt. She loves me!! (And ooooh do I love her!!)

I spent a little more time playing with all of the kids (with Mita attached).  They are all just SO beautiful, and I can't get enough of their sweet little faces!







We got a little tour of the land the care point is on before we left. It's actually really big - they own a lot of property...clear down to the river.  They have guard dogs, a little guard station, cows and a donkey! We saw the sight of the old well - the one we raised so much money for -and it turns out that one is not usable after all. They originally thought they could re-bore that hole for the new well, but no such luck. And the drilling company who won the bid is booked up until the first week of December, but drilling on a new well will start then!! So exciting for these kids to have fresh clean water! They will send us updates as things progress, and I'll be sure and post them here as I get them!

We left the care point around 5:45 and it took several hours to get back home. The weather has been great here. Sunny and warm during the days, but it gets pretty cool at night! Oh - and I'm not taking any of the malaria meds but I haven't seen one mosquito! 

Sunset on the drive home

Back in the city at dark
We were all exhausted and hungry when we got home. We had some chicken and cheese kind of casserole thing - after two pepto bismols, of course. I've felt fine so far, so that's a good thing! A lot of people showered, but eventually there was no water pressure, and by the time it was my turn, no water at all. Not even to flush the toilet or anything. I can't even tell you how disgusting I felt, but I had to just hop in bed without cleaning off at all. I've been wearing the same outfit (tshirt and sweatpants) since I left KC on Thursday!  I NEED to take a shower tomorrow! Hopefully we will have some water by then!  Oh, and still no Internet or wifi, so sorry for the lack of updates! I've been typing everything out on my phone, and whenever we get Internet, I'll post everything!

Off to sleep now, which shouldn't be a problem. I'm exhausted and the bed and pillow are pretty comfy!

Sent from my iPhone

1 comment:

  1. I love that you tell all the details and how you're feeling all the time. Makes me feel like I'm there with you! I can't believe how shy little Mita was. How sweet! I cannot wait to hear more and I'm curious about the not taking malaria pills. I remember you didn't do it last time either and I'm so glad! After working at the pharmacy, I have not been a big believer in flu-shots or any other medicinal precautions. People go crazy about all that, but if your'e smart, you won't get sick and if you do, well there are worse things in life! (like these poor people that live in filth most of their lives!) Miss you and glad to hear you're well there!