Written on 9/5/2007
This week has been somewhat difficult, but has had greater rewards than my meager offerings merit. Last Friday, we traveled to a city northeast of Addis called Dessie. It is a smaller city of about 275,000 people (smaller than Addis at 5,000,000) and is nestled deep in the mountains at about 4,000 meters above sea level. HOPE Enterprises has a school there and they were holding their annual graduation for the Vocational Training School. After getting a late start out of Addis, we were on the road to another new experience. The road to Dessie is 400km long but due to the quickly apparent fact that only half of it is paved, the drive took just over 10 hours. The scenery ranged from small mountain towns with people lining the road like a crowded market to even smaller highland villages with nothing but tiny clusters of huts containing multiple families. It was truly a sight to behold…that is until the sun went down and we trekked on in the black night, all but fearing for our lives at every washed-out bridge or non-railed curve. We made it safely however, and slept peacefully in the HOPE guesthouse. We watched BBC World News that night before bed. It was a piece of home.
The next morning, we had breakfast at a small hotel in the city and then proceeded to the auditorium-esque room where they were holding graduation. As we pushed through the double doors with Dr. Minas at the lead, we soon realized that we would be sharing the first row with him (the president of the whole organization), the priest of the local Orthodox Church, and the presiding bishop of the Orthodox Church in that area. Taking our seats was a bit odd, but sitting through an entire graduation not understanding anything other than ameuseugeunalo (thank you), egzabyer (God), and America was much worse. Afterward, we were approached by nearly everyone in the graduating class for photos. We were sort of the guests of honor, but I wasn’t sure why. These people are the ones we have come to serve, yet they treat us like royalty. I don’t understand. We spent the rest of Saturday relaxing and enjoying the city of Dessie and got to bed early since we were starting our journey home to Addis at six o’clock Sunday morning.
We awoke to a power outage, no hot water, and the drive home looming over our heads. We were unaware however, that the drive home would be far more spectacular than the one there. Dr. Minas had a few things to show us throughout our voyage. He called them “surprises.” The first was our breakfast stop. In a lowland village an hour or so south of Dessie, we sat in a large hut and shared injerra, shiro fashas (soya bean soup), and lamb tibs. The second surprise came about four hours later at our stop for lunch. It was the best one by far. So good that it deserves its own paragraph.
We walked up the stairs of a small tavernish restaurant and were led out back where there was an array of barnyard animals…cows, goats, chickens, etc. The men were speaking in Amharic so we couldn’t understand what they were saying, but when they came out with three live chickens hanging by their feet, we started to get the picture. One of the men, who would later request a picture with us, looked at me and said, “You slaught? You slaught?” I knew he meant slaughter, but I was still dumbfounded by the sight that I couldn’t acquiesce to his request (I give credit to Pirates of the Caribbean for the vocab in the previous sentence). They then took the chickens into a hut where they had a skinning table and three fires over which they would cook our meal. They didn’t pluck the feathers out because in Ethiopia, they don’t eat the skin. So they simply pull the skin off the chicken’s body and then chop off the extremities. We went back to the front of the restaurant and sat on the front porch awaiting our meal. When it came out, we ate for about an hour and then headed out. Our return to the road was cut short though by a stop at a local coffee shop. We stayed in the car and were served hot Ethiopian coffee and tea to settle our stomachs. Then we left. The third surprise was an incredible view that Dr. Minas called a “nature window.” It was a point where two hills came together into a large crevasse that was about 1500 feet to the bottom where crops were quilted across the landscape and huts were mere paint splatters on the canvas of green. It was on this ledge that I was swindled. My bartering skills have not had much time to be sharpened, so a young Ethiopian highland boy got me to pay six times the appropriate price for a sheep’s wool hat. I justified the amount I gave him by doing the exchange math in my head…only about $3.50. It sounds much better that way. That was the last surprise of our trip, so we pressed on the next three hours to Dr. Minas’ home where his wife prepared the most amazing meal especially for us. It included vegetables which up to that point had been scarce in our diets due to our inability to shop and cook for ourselves given that we didn’t have our own home. It was a nice change of pace. Then Monday morning, it was back to our routine at the guesthouse.
Yesterday and today have been especially difficult while at the same time full of blessings…I’ll start with the blessings. Monday, Bethany finally got the last bag that she was waiting for. We were a little skeptical as to whether that day was ever going to occur. But, praise God…it did! Yesterday, there was some communication breakdown as to who was supposed to come pick us up and what car was supposed to be used, so we ended up having the entire day to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. We expressed our newfound independence by walking to a small super market, buying some groceries, and then spending some time at the Internet café next door. We checked back at the guesthouse to see if anyone had shown up, but when they hadn’t we went to a nearby pizza shop and had a little feeling of America. We ate two pizzas and then played cards over coffee for about an hour. The second, and probably the largest blessing, was that today we found a house that we will be moving into on Monday. We have been deep in the house search for that last week, but to no avail. Today, on the way to see another house and expecting more disappointment, Pastor Mattheios saw a sign saying “Building for Rent.” Not knowing what to expect, he got out of the car and knocked on the front gate. It turned out that there was a house for rent behind the business building but they had not found a renter that they were comfortable with. They said that they weren’t concerned with the amount of rent paid, but that the people renting were good people. It turns out that people think that we are good people because the father of the household settled for a reasonable rent and said that it was God’s will that we came today. It was truly amazing and we sighed a sigh of relief. We have a home in Ethiopia!
In the midst of these blessings though, the last few days have been pretty hard. I have never missed my home, family and friends so much in my life. I desire to be with my family and to see my little brothers. I want to get coffee shakes with my mom and talk sports and music with my stepdad. I want to see my dad and laugh about everything. I want to see my friends and get nachos. I want to play NCAA 2008 with Jon and climb huge mountains and be manly with Jeff. I want to be fellow necks with Kristen and get opportunized by Carolyn. I want to shoot pop cans with the guys at the Ballard house and ride Greenlake with Travis. I want to get punched in the arm by Carly and watch ATHF with Graf. I want to sit on the sidelines of a Princess Danny game and pretend to know about soccer. Something inside me wants to pack it all up. Call it quits. Throw in the towel and just go home. Home to where I’m comfortable, home to where people speak my language and home to where I know all the street names. But not now. I have ten months left in this place to which God has called me. I will rest in the knowledge that God knows what is going on and that God will heal my hurt and equip me in my work here to be able to call this place home for just a little while. I will pray earnestly for this to be true and would appreciate your prayers as well. I love and miss you all but know I’m here for a reason.
Resting in the blessings but remembering home,