Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sights, the Smells, the Noises

I am truly in love with this country. My heartfelt emotion toward Ethiopia, from its beautiful people to horrendous filth, defies logic. Logically, I should be afraid and uncomfortable as elementary age boys run beside our van begging for money and swarms of men try to sell me their wares. Back home, I am ashamed to admit, negative judgment would cloud any sympathy I might feel, but here I am in awe God is working in me.

As I write, I have a view of homes and streets. Donkeys wander around loose. I learned that they are owned by families and everyone knows which donkeys belong to who. I've seen a few with collars on, but it seems they are identified by their individuality. Isn't that funny?!? When I said, "But they all look the same," the man replied, "As do Americans until you get used to them." True that, true that.

Taken from our guest house room.

Right now I see a little girl skipping down the street. Yesterday I watched a group of schoolboys test apart styrofoam and get chased away by a very upset woman who proceeded to pick up the tiny pieces of snow like bits. Everywhere we go, kids peer at us with curiosity. They seem excited to use their English authentically and greet us with a wave and enthusiastic "hello!" for all they lack in material possessions, they seem filled with joy and affection. It is not uncommon to see boys holding hands with each other or arm in arm.

We went shopping downtown yesterday. We had a driver and interpreter and were told ahead of time unless we bartered, we'd be ripped off. "Charged a tax for your pale skin," we were told as the man rubbed his dark arm. I did the best I could, but I think we were still robbed. We told ourselves we were helping those who were trying to make an honest living rather than beg, but the truth is bartering is so uncomfortable for both of us.

Downtown was a shock. Kids begging everywhere, and others trying to sell primitive toothbrushes, saying "toothbrush make stocking stuffer." Mothers with babies pleading for money with their arms and hands and eyes. We were in a van and the window was open. A woman was leaning in so intent on begging us for money that she failed to notice that her breast was exposed. Our interpreter said something to her and she walked away in shame. My heart broke.
Downtown Addis

This was not an auto accident.  It was successful parking that took 20 minutes.

We were escorted to a popular coffee place, Tomoca Cafe. Coffee originated in Ethiopia! Here we were stepped in front of in line several times before our interpreter pushed his way up front and ordered for us. This was really the single time we've been treated with disrespect since our arrival. We bought ten small bags of coffee and the aroma makes our guest house room heavenly. Seriously, Starbucks doesn't hold a thing compared to coffee here.

Everywhere we venture, we are driven by an orphanage rep or a driver for our guest home. And the driving! Never again will I complain about the Gig Harbor North round-about. Rather than street lights, most intersections are round-abouts. There are no marked lanes, so drivers just inch forward and gun it. Nor are there marked lanes on most roads, and most people are going about 45 mph. To pass, a driver just taps their horn and passes on either side. A horn here means, hey look out, I am here. There are overpasses for pedestrians, but most people just dodge across the road. Adults, kids and mothers carrying babies alike. This is extremely dangerous, as pedestrians DO NOT have the right-a-way here.

Our guest home is pretty amazing, which is an answer to prayer. We've heard of bed bugs, poorly prepared food, dishonest hosts and dirty rooms and bathrooms. Our accommodations have been nothing but satisfactory. They've exceeded any hope I could've had. A guest home is basically a bed and breakfast. We have a suite of sorts, with two bedrooms, our own bathroom and a small kitchen, which we do not even use (but it gets cleaned every day). The hosts are so sweet. They speak English and attempt to teach us Amharic. Today, our host Salom was teaching Ty to say "thank you." When he finally mastered it, she laughed and said, "I'm just kidding you. I just taught you to say, 'I killed a lion."
With Mercy & Tsion, two of the four amazing hosts of Ethiopia Guest Home.

Though we would like to try authentic Ethiopian food, the cooks prepare American style meals for us: pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, pasta, zucchini bread and pizza. Consider the work the cooks go through cooking three meals a day for us from scratch. Breakfast and lunch are included; dinner is only $5 each!

When our agency warned us about the noises at night, they weren't kidding. But, nothing could prepare me for the sound of wild dogs roaming the city at night. Howls, barks, whines, yips, all so loud! Thankfully, I brought earplugs. We sleep well, but are usually awake between 2 and 3 AM. Just when we get used to the time change, it'll be time to return home.

Our biggest struggle, by far, has been the loneliness. Typically, several adoptive couples are in the same guest home and have opportunity to socialize and process their experiences. There are five guest homes that make up Ethiopia Guest Home, and we are the only family staying in ours. We visited Tana at her guest home, and there were four families staying there. We know God has a reason for our "isolation," but for Ty especially, who is very social and outgoing, it's easy to get lonely and feel depressed.

One thing that helps our spirits - sunshine and warmth every day! And the wi fi at our guest house works most of the time. Last night I was able to chat with Mari (my sister in law), and it lifted my spirits tremendously before heading to bed.

I can feel the prayers of others, the protection of angels and peace from God in this amazing land.

Sunrise view from our room.

Horse drawn carriage, taken from the Thomas Center orphanage.
Sunset from our room balcony.

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible, beautiful experience. I am so glad you are able to share it with us all...