Here I am. In Africa. This situation is so surreal; I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t a fascinating documentary or a special on Discovery Chanel. THIS IS MY LIFE, and it couldn’t be more perfect. So far, I’ve loved every minute of this trip, whether it’s been cleaning and painting a dump of a bathroom, turning it into a proud little masterpiece or drinking coffee so strong it could give you a heart attack. All the fundraising has been worth it, and we’re not even half way done with the trip. Today was not the most adventurous of days. We bid our fond farewells to the ridiculously endearing people of Shashemene (I shed a few tears), and packed into our van for the 4 hour trip pack to Addis. Though I said that today was not adventurous, I must say that the driving here is ALWAYS an adventure. Swerving around pedestrians and dogs and dodging mules and other cars while flying down the road at hair-raising speeds. When we got back to Amazing Grace guest house we all breathed a sigh. We felt like we were home. This team has bonded so much in the past few days, we are like a very odd and diverse family, each person with an incredible story to share. I pray that when America finds us again, we will be able to keep our hearts knit together like this. I know this post isn’t very long, but I just don’t know how to put these last few days into words. So, for those who read this back home, keep us in your hearts and prayers and always remember that God can make your life incredible if only you say yes. Ciao!
Today was our day to start our work at the school. As I have learned everything operates rather slowly here in Ethiopia. Our scheduled time to start was nine o’clock in the morning but we finally got going at noon. While we were waiting, some of the local kids took us for a short walk. It was less than 200 yards from the school, but it was an amazing sight; one of the best waterfalls I have ever seen! After the hike, we began our work which consisted of replacing cabinet doors, sorting rat infested matresses, and cleaning the womens restroom. The matresses were in very poor conditon and were almost all not worth salvaging. The cabinets were all put back into working order with new hinges and latches. Our biggest success, by far, was our effort on the restroom; we painted and scrubbed making it look virtualy new. After the work was complete we went into Hawassa for dinner. Yosi, our guide, took us to a resort that would give the Ritz Carlton a run for its money. What a feeling, to go from living in some dorms and really “roughing it” to seeing this massive resort in the middle of town. It was right on the lake with a really nice pool, marble floors, piano, bar… etc. In most instances I would have not even thought twice being in an establishment like this, but after our first few days I felt extremely out of place. It really humbled me to see people fighting for thier next meal just outside the gates of the resort. This expierience was really the first time it hit me, as it was much easier to see what were used to, right next to the average citi,zen of this country. We left the resort, all with somewhat confused looks and headed to dinner. We enjoyed another great Ethiopian meal, and some amazing ice cream. It is so rewarding to see the smiles on everyones face here, they are so rich in faith, it blows my mind. God is everywhere and it inspires me to invest more in my faith, and attempt to become as rich in spirt as the people I have met here. Since we got all the work done at the school we are heading back to Addis tomorrow. I have never looked forward to a real toilet and a warm shower this much. I am really enjoying the trip and look forward to what is to come in the remaining time. Much love to all of you!!
So the girls woke up today pretty fearless, then came getting ready in the bathrooms. The smell engulfs you as you are greeted with soiled damp concrete and you can’t really tell the difference between the showers, the toilet and the sinks. The water coming out of the faucets is a shade of sand brown that turns your stomach. With horror on their faces Kim and Maddie realized that they had washed their faces in this water the night before in the dark……yes they did. After getting ready you feel dirtier than then you went into the bathroom.
I opted for washing my hair in the spigot in the courtyard and taking a baby wipe bath. God bless baby wipes. Not glamorous but it worked just fine. We then were given tea and sweet bread with jelly which we enjoyed casually on the porch. I can’t say enough about how much I love out team. We all fit together just like a puzzle. Each one of us is uniquely different and beautiful, but together we all are a wonderful powerhouse and a picture of beauty. It is such a joy being together.
They told us we were not allowed to work on the day of rest so we were planning on visiting a sugar cane plantation but instead headed up the mountain where we found some hot springs. As we pulled up, working our way through the most desolated town I had ever seen, we were greeted and flocked by 50 kids. To say the least we stood out. They all kept looking up at us with watery eyes, their hands out saying “one birr, a gift for me”. We were all slightly taken aback since we all have a huge heart for children. We proceeded to hike up mountain accompanied by a local guide and about 10 kids. As we crossed over the bridges made of logs and stones and piles of baboon poop (which I stepped in ;)……in my flip flops), we learned the language and all stayed in awe of what we would see next. About half way up the mountain we realized we each had a child that had “adopted” us for the hike to make sure we were safe.
They were all little angles. We got to see volcano glass, showers that were hot springs flowing out of the mountain, a small village family that lived at the peak of the mountain and views that made us stop and took our breath away. I just can’t even describe how much you could feel the spirit of Jesus as we stood up on the top of that mountain. So we headed back down for lunch after a choral of a welcome song from the kids at the top of the mountain.
The hardest part for me was the end of the hike when the little guy who was my angel had brought me some sugar cane. It meant so much to me until he held out his hand and said 20 birr. At that moment I realized I was being used and it wasn’t about the fun, or the friendship or keeping us safe. Every moment of every day that he lives, he is living to make money for survival. I almost started crying but at the same time felt a bit angry. I had been punked into caring.
So we went to lunch and enjoyed the sugar cane I paid so much for. We had spaghetti and mystery meat sauce. I am just telling myself it is goat 😉 Then back home we went. On the way home I was talking to Yosi and he opened my eyes to the fact that it was no easier for him to see these children than it was for us. I guess it doesn’t matter how much you see it….the sight of poverty breaks everyone’s heart. Living here doesn’t make it any easier. So after returning to the school we took naps and had some quiet time. We then ate dinner which consisted of 2 pieces of Njira which is a sour crape like patty with some kind of sauce resembling very thing chili. We had our team meeting then the girls decided to take showers.
We opted for the spigot shower in the moonlight and the other three not showering were portable walls for both privacy and for the sake of the other women in the compound. Kim almost fell over trying to put her clothes back on. As you can imaging we were all rolling with laughter. Then came Lizzy’s turn. She did fantastic and was multitasking….washing her clothes while she showered. Then Maddie lit up the whole experience. She couldn’t get over how she felt like an elephant in the rain forest. She proceeded to throw her arm over her head like a trunk while soaking the moral support team (me ;). Her giggles were so cute and she said to pass on the word that if you haven’t had to live in Shashameni…… “Put your big boy pants on ;)”.
So after throwing out the bug spray…. Summer is not in the room with us. Goodnight to a fantastic day…..Goodnight Day 3
-“Jesus Juker “ ie Averee 😉
Tonight was such an exciting night. We went to the college in Shashameni. They told us we were staying in this courtyard that was surrounded by 3 dorm halls, a bath and washroom and the house of mamie and her family. Greeting us in the courtyard were clotheslines strewn with brightly colored tattered clothes, flies, bees the size of half dollars, small cobblestone paths being engulfed by grass and weeds. We then headed to our dorm room which all of the girls shared and there we found metal hammock bunk beds with a flower patterned mattresses.
After meeting the wash ladies, mamie and the president of the college we began moving into our rooms. We dressed the beds and then started the ordeal of getting our bug nets hung while trying not to get covered in the cockroaches as we lifted each of the ceiling tiles. After about a half an hour we all finally had our mosquito and roach free fortresses. We then made the decision to escape for a bit and head into town for some dinner. We had lovely pasta dishes and lots and lots of coca-cola. I ordered a water and little did I know I was getting a foot and a half tall bottle and with a hole in the ground for a toilet- my nice cold bottle of water was a challenge in the making.
We then for three hours tracked down some sugar and flower (which is near impossible to find). While shopping we bought some sugar cane toothbrushes which you gnaw on till the fibers fray and then you proceed to brush each tooth with the frayed end. This as you can imagine was quite the commodity.
We then traversed the bumpy dirt roads back to our courtyard sanctuary, which even though not physically the most comfortable, was quite the escape from the heartbreaking scenes in the city. The overwhelming scenes of animals that were bones with skin, children who were only 40lbs wearing xxxl shirts that were so dirty and full of holes they might as well be naked, flies swarming the eyes of the babies who had become so accustom they bore the discomfort, the laborers breaking their backs under the sun just trying to earn enough for a mean and the horse and donkey buggies bulling 15 times their weight in grain and straw being beaten with whips as they tried tirelessly to pull the loads they could barely move.
Needless to say, it was great to feel safe again. It gave our hearts a break. We then tried to head to bed and as we were settling down the whole team hung our heads in exhaust and started laughing as we realized it was only 7:30. The boys headed to their dorm which was as far as you could go across campus and the girls began the experience of their lives.
As we headed into our bug net forts, we realized there were cockroaches spotting our walls. They don’t harm you so this would not have been so bad except that Summer is deadly afraid of them and started fogging our walls with roach spray. This in turn caused hundreds of them to flood out from behind the door frames. Kim and Melissa started grabbing shoes and killing the roaches left and right as the roaches started darting around the room trying to scatter to save their lives. After one hour we could not breath because of the spray. After enough migraines to go around, we finally were sleeping and Summer spent the night in the van.
Goodnight to a great start to the trip….Goodnight Day 2
We made it the guest home in Addis safely late last night! Surprisingly there were few glitches in our travels. On our first long flight from Seattle to Amsterdam the in flight entertainment system was dysfunctional so we had to settle for watching three small children terrorize the surrounding passengers and flight attendants. They succeeded in grinding more cheese into the aisle carpet than they actually ate, and rang the flight attendent call bell incessantly – all with ear to ear grins and a look of “who me?” each time they were caught in the act. Thankfully, most of us were able to sleep. On the second 10 hour flight from Amsterdam to Addis we were well fed and remained in good spirits. Shortly before landing they offered us small sandwiches that consisted of cheese and ketchup – unusual but tasty. Arrival in Addis was a burst of diversity in the airport. We easily got our money, visas, and luggage. Only one bag out of 11 checked was misplaced. A short van ride to the guest home and soon we were all unpacked and resting. Today we head to Shashamanae for 5 nights where we will help rebuild a school. Mosquito nets and DEET in hand we now set off on our next adventure.
The day started awfully early this morning as all nine of us were up and going well before the sun could make it’s morning debut over the Bridger Mountains. I wish were able to make my first entry from a land far far away and about things exotic and daring but since today is mainly a travel day the most interesting thing I can see from my current location is the Qdoba Mexican Grill at Sea-Tac. (rest assured i’ll be making that expedition very shortly) It’s a few more hours until we head out to Amsterdam and then on to Addis Ababa with an expected arrival time of 11:35 pm…TOMORROW! To anyone taking prayer requests, I could sure use an isle seat!
Although we’ve been meeting as a group for almost two months now, it’s been real cool to see how each one of us is going to operate in this group dynamic. So with my self proclaimed expertise in group studies let me catch you up on how I see things so far. Kim (my fellow co-leader extrodinare) is clearly the organized, caring and experienced aspect to this leadership tag team. Thayer, a fellow Griz, is clearly an experienced traveler. From his cute little pillow to his kindle, he’s the guy I hope to sit next to on the next leg of our journey. Cody will be my fellow adventure seeker and envelope pusher. Lets just say he had a pet bobcat! Doug logged his second flight ever today and is still bright eyed after being awake for 24 hours now. (that could be due to his Coke Cherry and 5 hour energy) Lizzy and Maddie bring youth and levity to just about situation and no conversation is ever focused for more than about 10 seconds. Melissa is the groups personal trainer and personal OBGYN. Im not sure how that’s going to work in my favor yet but I have faith in her skills. Averee is the considerate and compassionate component. I’ve also dubbed her the official JesusJuker! (google it)
Now let me finish with something a little more weighty. A lot of people sent us off with wishes of having fun and being safe. Now i’ll gladly take the wishes and prayers for fun, but lets hold the phone on “safety”. I’m holding out for experience, wisdom, strength and a whole lot of growth. Now in my experience most of these things are best learned in the absence of comfort, control and safety! Any parents and family members reading this, my mom, rest assured we’re going to bring everyone back alive but hopefully not the same! So lets all hope that the next sixteen days prove to be jam packed full of fun, growth and God!
Ok, time to get on the next flight. Europe here we come.
Finally, thanks to all the families and friends who helped us make this happen. (ie. Matt & Steph, Mike & Wendy and my family)
Talk to you all again on day 15. XOXOX