It is morning & like most mornings we are awakened by the chanting wafting through the alleys and the purposeful crowing of a neighbor rooster. I sit up and place my feet on the cool black & white checkered linoleum in the aqua green guest room and my eyes sleepily gaze upon the few items that decorate the walls; the small 8×10 mirror, that I have to stand on my tiptoes to see in, the Amharic prayer plaque and the charcoal drawing of an Ethiopian couple. Although it is unclear who they are, it is beautiful. My gaze falls to the z-shaped tan line that has developed on my feet from my Chaco sandals and I take a moment to reflect. I am thankful for the experiences we have encountered here, from the many death-defying taxi rides (complete with purple shag ceilings, fur lined dashboards, and Justin Bieber on the radio), to miles we have walked, the smoke filled air that is a constant reminder of where we are, and the Machiatos that put Starbucks to shame. Mostly I think of the hope and the humility that is on the many faces of those we have had the honor to meet and serve. It is an encouraging reminder of how precious our time is as we are here to build relationships and serve those in need. Even if we make a difference to one life during our time here, then this trip is worth every minute, and every birr (dollar).
The hospitable culture is almost unimaginable yet it is one to learn from. We are welcomed guests everywhere we go and the people take, and make, time for one another; whether it is through their generous hugs or through the beautiful coffee ceremonies that encourage bonding. Ethiopia time is not American time. There is no rushing (except when driving) and the time spent for one another is quality.
Each day has brought new adventures and lasting memories, especially the simple way of life that has crept into my soul one beautifully amazing face at a time. They have so little, yet so much to offer and the littlest things bring the biggest tooth-full grins and innocent giggles. There is no judgment, there are mounds of tolerance built in to so many concepts that we have yet to grasp, and everything has a deep lasting meaning. It is impossible to not be inspired and lifted when you can see how the smallest things that we so easily take for granted are so appreciated and produce the happiest emotions – from the heartfelt thank you’s at the Hope University mission, where we had the opportunity to feed over 800 people injera and doro wot per day to the absolute largest full faced smile I’ve ever seen on the face of sweet Wendisen when we visited him and his family and gifted him a simple new outfit. Even though he can’t talk, his brightened face said everything and more. Bless his heart because it is truly wonderful.
To think, that he, like the old woman we walk by every day who sits by the side of the road smiling and laughing, and so many others that endear so many trials and hardships on a daily basis, they still let their spirit soar and shine through their beautiful eyes and wide smiles.
Every day is an adventure and an opportunity to learn something new. Everyone should be so fortunate to be a part of this, for this is an experience…this is Africa. TIA. – Brandi Lansing 5/18/12