Written on 9/29/2007
Well friends, it’s been an action-packed last week and it seems unfortunate that our Internet access in the last week has been even less than usual when it comes to being able to blog. We found out that the little café that we use for internet is pretty infested with computer viruses, so we can’t use our jumpdrive there anymore. We’re figuring out a plan. Also, our week has been so filled that even if we had access to the net, we didn’t really have time. Which leaves me with the situation I am in now. I have a lot of things to tell you but I don’t want to give you more than you can handle at once. But…you’ve been faithful thus far and if you’re like my grandma Edie, you’ll just print it off and finish it while drinking your morning cup of joe. So I won’t spare the details (that’s not my style), but I won’t drown you in a raging river of verbiage. So hold on tight as you ride the rollercoaster that was my week!
Last Saturday we woke up in the morning, went through the normal breakfast routine and got out the door at about 9:30am so we could get to a market at our church called the “NGO Bazaar”. A ton of the non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations in Addis Ababa get together once a month and sell all sorts of cool things from trinkets to authentic Ethiopian dinnerware to wooden Coptic crosses to baskets to cards to clothes to bread. So we went to check it out and see what they had to offer. We didn’t know what to expect and were blown away by not only the amount of stuff they had there, but also the quality and the authenticity of all of it. So we shopped around and got a bunch of cool things for the house, for ourselves and for souvenirs. We had to make it quick however, because the week before, Pastor Mattewos had invited us to an authentic Ethiopian Protestant wedding that afternoon. We had arranged for him to walk to our house around 11am so we could take the taxi together to Mekanisa (an area of Addis) where the wedding was to take place. Mattewos was do the vows segment of the ceremony, so we were considered guests of the wedding party. Whiel we were waiting for him at our house though, it started to rain. Then it rained harder. Then harder. And harder, until it was raining harder than I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. And we had to walk out in it in our nice clothes and go to a wedding. Great! We trudged through the opposition though (it was a muddy adventure to say the least) and made it to the wedding fifteen minutes before showtime. Only to find out, as time wore on, that the wedding would start almost 2 hours late due to the rain!
Being the guests of honor that we were, we sat in the second row behind the bridal party! Sort of ridiculous, but great for the view. The wedding began with an emphatic pastor giving the opening sermon and then leading a stellar choir in song. The congregation sang along and danced and clapped and we stood and smiled and clapped. The choir was full of life. They sang with all their hearts and made it very clear that although the day was for celebrating the joining of two souls in marriage, that God was the center of it all. We wished we knew the words so we could sing along and join in the celebration. But we couldn’t. This is a very hard part of the language barrier. Then the bride and groom went through the motions of another pastor’s sermon, another two songs by the choir, and Pastor Mattewos’ vows looking like they didn’t even want to be around each other. Then came the signing of the marriage license. They smiled big and then the celebration continued outside where there were Coca-Colas and all sorts of finger foods. I think I accidentally ate a piece of sheep liver. It wasn’t good. So I stuck with the meatballs. After the food, we went back to our house where we relaxed and listened to the rain fall on the ground outside. Sunday would be another day of excitement.
Pastor Mattewos is a pretty down to earth kind of guy. He isn’t in your face a lot and isn’t loud and boisterous at any time. That’s why we were pretty shocked visiting his home church, that it was almost Pentecostal! Not that Pentecostalism is bad, but I just never pictured him going to, let alone pasturing, a church of that nature. When we walked in, we were obviously the only white people and took a seat near the back. We sat in silence and joined those around us in silent prayer and reflection. Then a pastor started praying up front. He prayed. Then prayed louder. Then prayed still louder. Then was virtually shouting at the congregation at the prayer’s crescendo and wound down to a soft whisper and then too a seat on the side of the sanctuary. Pastor Mattewos sat next to us only for a moment to invite us to sit in the second row (just like the wedding!). So we moved up where we would be closer to the action. The congregation began in song and sang about three of them. This lasted for about 35 minutes. We knew then that the service would be fairly long. And even longer due to the fact we had not a clue what was going on. Except for Mettewos’s play by play. Which was more like play by every thirtieth play. And with very little information. Like after a ten minute song was sung with six verses a pre-chorus, a chorus, a bridge and a postlude, he would say something like, “that was about God’s faithfulness.” Thanks Mattewos. So we sat through all two hours and forty-five minutes of the service and were to tired to do anything else, so we went home. That was Sunday. Two days down, only five more to go! Bear with me.
Monday morning was to be our first day of school! We were excited to start observing the classroom, getting a feel for the students, the schedule and our respective English teachers. When we got to school however, we were informed that the school day would consist of only the opening ceremony. Then all the students and teachers would go home. That was it. So we walked to the basketball court (gravel playing surface), many small, Ethiopian children in tow, and took seats next to where the school director would be giving his speech. During the speech, we heard the word “America” and wondered if he was talking about us. Sure enough, he had plans to introduce us by name, grade we were teaching, and asked us to stand and wave to the student body. All the students waved and for the rest of the ceremony, there were a constant set of eyes always looking our way. After the ceremony, we walked back up to the main courtyard area and talked with multiple groups of children about whatever we could find in common. For me and the little boys, that was soccer (not because I play, but because I know the names of teams and famous players and that’s all the kids were concerned about), which was a topic of conversation because when asked the question “What is your name?”, a little boy replied with Christiano Ronoldo. Also, we talked about other sports, fighting, and what grades they were in. Bethany got a few good pictures of me and a large group of the boys and then we were on our way home.
On Tuesday, I woke up to a sick Bethany and Maren, so Sarah and I went to school by ourselves. Sarah was to spend the day in the classrooms watching classes, but since two of the three English teachers had taken Tuesday and Wednesday off for the holiday, she only went to two classes. I spent my Tuesday in the wood shop trying to find the rugged manliness that I knew was inside me but hadn’t shown its face since we landed in Ethiopia. I found it there as I used large table saws, a planer, wood glue, a hammer, nails, plywood, a workbench, and a few c-clamps to begin constructing two shelving units and two nightstands for our bedrooms. They are desperately needed and I assured the team I would be able to make them for a fraction of the cost that we could buy them for (and probably better quality). So I spent my day working in the shop, covered in sweat, using my hands like I love to do. One of the greatest things that came of this day was a new friendship. Getu, is a twenty year-old, second year wood work student in the HOPE Vocational School. He helped me all day with the shelves and nightstands and so I took him out to lunch at a nearby café. I bought him his favorite Ethiopian dish, kittfo, which is raw minced beef served with spices and butter. I chose the steak kabob with veggies and rice. Cooked. We ate, talked, and laughed before we had to get back to the school to finish up our work. It was the first real friendship that I have made with an Ethiopian that is around my age. And he’s a guy! It was great to work with him, but even better to relate with him and share some of our stories with one another. We discussed everything from the Trinity to attempting to explain what a llama was. After the day was over, we walked home together, as he lives in Zeneba Work also, and I showed him our house. We promised to hang out again, but unfortunately I haven’t seen him since. But we will meet again for sure.
Wednesday, I spent the day in the shop again finishing the shelves and nightstands then came home. The only significance in even including Wednesday in this post is to say that upon arriving home at the end of the day, I got sick. Very sick. Let’s just say I frequented the bathroom over fifteen times between 2pm and 10am the next morning. I think it may have been the kittfo I tried. Never again. I stayed in bed almost all day Thursday until I took some “stop you up” medicine so we could go with Befekadu to one of the most amazing things ever.
Thursday was a national Christian holiday called Meskel. The Ethiopians celebrate this holiday in memory of the finding of the True Cross. They believe that some number of years ago, an empress conducted a search, based on a vision she had while burning bundles of sticks called cheubu, to find the cross on which Jesus himself was crucified. The search was fruitful apparently and they believe they have it in a church in the north. Whether they do or not, the holiday is nationally celebrated and a huge gathering of upwards of 75,000 people congregate in what is called Meskel Square where there is a huge parade, speeches by both the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the Pope of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. We stood amongst the crowd as almost the only white people and held candles to symbolize the millions of lights of the people of the country. The parading and the poor speaker system screaming scattered bits of Amharic speech and song lasted for about three hours until the culmination of the celebration took place. The pope came down from where he was speaking and lit a thirty-foot tall pyramid of cheubu sticks. The crowd roared and broke into songs in unison. It was an incredible experience and it brought together the city and the country in loving celebration. As the singing continued the crowds started to move down the terraces we were standing on. This decision to leave soon became involuntary as the crowd pulsed together and at times lifted me off my feet. Keeping my footing and holding tightly to Bethany’s hand so as not to lose her in the sea of people, we made our way down to flat ground where we reconvened as a group and headed to the car. As we marched through the crowds, Befekadu turned to us and said, “Watch your pockets.” I reached to mine to make sure I heeded his advice only to find out that I had already been robbed. For the first time in my life I had been robbed. Someone had pick pocketed over 120Birr from a zippered pocket which also happened to contain my new Swiss Army knife (thanks Katie!), my house key, the gate key, and the key to my room (locked). Thankfully these were still there and 120 Birr is only about $13 in the US. I did learn my lesson though and Worku made fun of me when we got home. This wasn’t until we went to Bole Road (the cool part of town) to have Italian for dinner. Italian is huge in Ethiopia since it was occupied by the Communist Italian regime for a number of years. The influence has remained in certain ways, food being one of them. After dinner we came home and stood in the driveway with the whole family as we stoked a fire of cheubu as a part of a rich tradition. Friday would be our day of rest and relaxation until today, which was full of surprises.
After waking up and getting in my first workout since before getting sick, I enjoyed a piece of toast and two fried eggs and got ready for the day. We were going to the museum, the National Museum to be exact. We had arranged for Befekadu to drive us to the museum at 11:30 this morning, so we hopped in the car and putted our way to the north side of Addis called Piazza. This area of town is heavily influenced by the former Italian occupation and boasts a great number of Italian restaurants and small cafés. When we got to the museum, we were patted down by the guard and made our way up the stairs and into a large four story stone building. Through a set of large double doors, we paid our 10Birr ($1.11 USD) and began our tour by descending a long staircase to the lowest level. Here we began with a tour of the archeological history of Ethiopia—fossils, bones, paintings of what prehistoric and more recent animals looked like, and best of all, a room completely devoted to Lucy. At 3’5”, she is miniscule in stature, but represents the oldest finding of a creature close to our body shape and appearance. It was quite intriguing to see the vast amount of archeological history and evidence held within the borders of Ethiopia. I had no idea. Once finished with Lucy and Sarah’s photo shoot, we retraced our steps back through the lower level exhibits and made our way back upstairs to the main floor. Here, there was an array of recovered clothing, armor, thrones, crowns, and weaponry of Ethiopia’s past emperors. The most eye catching, in my opinion, was a sixteen-foot tall throne belonging to emperor Haile Selassie. It was about six feet wide and seemed like it would have been quite difficult to get into the seat. I sort of wanted to hop the rope and take a seat. I don’t know that I would make a great emperor, but it would have at least been fun to pretend. The next level contained artwork, both sculptures and paintings, from many Ethiopian artists depicting the lifestyle, history, and religion of their homeland. From Orthodox impressions of the Trinity to reenactments of wars long ago, we got a taste of the creativity, passion, and focus of the Ethiopian people. The top floor was a ring of display cases that held artifacts from different tribes and peoples. There were cases on jewelry, religious pieces, clothes, and cookware. My four favorite ones though, were the farming equipment, the hunting implements, the armor and weaponry, and the musical instruments. When we finished, we went back downstairs and outside under a newly overcast sky. We got in the car and drove maybe 200 feet down the street to a restaurant that we had read about in our Ethiopia guidebook. Blue Tops Restaurant (cleverly named after the blue tent-like roofs on the tops of its two buildings) was to offer great Italian cuisine, an assortment of fine pizzas, and what made it the most intriguing, ice cream! When we got there, sat down, and opened our menus, we prayed that the food would be extremely good. This was because it was the most expensive restaurant we had been to since coming to Ethiopia. In the end, two dishes of lasagna (one for me), one dish of spinach risotto, one dish of cannelloni, one dish of ravioli fromaggio, two ice cream sundaes, one ice cream cone (mine), two macchiatos, and two cups of buna set us back 306Birr! Now I know that is only about $40 USD for five people to eat dinner, dessert, and have coffee on top, but it was the most we have had to spend at any restaurant thus far, so we decided maybe we wouldn’t seek out such expensive restaurants in the future. After our late afternoon lunch, we headed to what Befekadu called the “Lion Zoo”. We had no idea what to expect so when we got there and were standing just inches away from these incredible beasts, the kings of the jungle and their mates, we were blown away. With only a thin fence between us and them, we were about as close as one could get without being dinner. One was being riled up by a zookeeper (if you could call him that) and was roaring and jumping on the fence. Then it turned to walk away. Or so we thought. What takes place next is mildly disturbing. It lifted its tail and sprayed through the fence and onto Bethany and I a shower of urine! Now some of you may know Bethany’s history with birds and poop, but I had no idea that her bad fortune extended to lion pee! I got it on my waterproof jacket and Bethany got it in the face, so I guess I made out a little better than she did, but it was pee nonetheless. We left shortly after and made our way to home. Not before stopping at Befekadu’s friend’s grocery store (where we had another macchiato) and then at the 7-11 where we do some of our shopping. We came home and have been having a lazy evening filled with reading, typing and snacking on whatever we could find since we didn’t feel like cooking dinner. So now I sit, five pages later, wondering if anyone is even going to make it this far down the page, especially with two more posts to read. I hope you have stuck with it though and I hope you have enjoyed a somewhat more factual post. I promise to write sooner next time and include some feeling within the words.
I hope you are well and that you are in good health. I think we all are now as well! Know that you are all thought of often and I look forward to your comments.
With a new choice of cologne,