I wish I could really explain Ethiopia. The people are incredibly nice, they are very giving, and very polite. But Ethiopia is a completely different world. One that I wasn’t used to seeing. I was not used to seeing children sleeping in the medians of roads. I was not used to so many people being hungry and asking for just a little bit of food. I was not used to houses that I think would be considered shacks here in the U.S. are nice homes in Ethiopia.
When I first stepped off the plane in Ethiopia and knew that I was in a completely different world. To say that it was unlike anything that I’ve ever seen is an understatement and I was honestly in shock. After my wife and I arrived, we took a walk with a woman who was staying in Ethiopia with her 5 year old daughter and waiting to bring her Ethiopian child home (she would eventually leave the same day we left). This was the first day that we arrived and my initial thought was how could this woman and her children feel safe here.
My eyes needed adjusting. I needed to see the forest through the tress if you will. What I thought was an unsafe place really wasn’t an unsafe place at all, but really a place that was really as normal as it could be, but with a lot less fancy stuff. This picture was taken from the rooftop of the hotel that we stayed at:
See those brightly-colored store-fronts? Those are fairly nice shops in Ethiopia. And I think everyone has a shop, usually a one-room shop where they sell stuff. Whether it be a small convenience store, or a restaurant, or clothes, shoes, a tailor, butcher, baker, cell phones, etc., I think a lot of people have shops. I also get the impression that the store-fronts are brightly colored to draw attention to them. The other thing that you might be thinking is that the shops seem a bit run-down. This is what I was talking about when I said that my eyes needed adjusting. What you and I might see as run-down is normal. It takes a while to adjust, but the stores that we actually went inside to look around and shop were nice. They were just fine, but they just didn’t look like what you and I might be accustomed to seeing.
When an adoption agency gets a child, they are then transferred to that adoption agency’s home. They called our home the “transition home” because it was the transition home from the orphanage to eventually going home to their parents. This is the classroom, doctor offices and inside the classroom at the transition home:
These are very nice accommodations in Ethiopia. The children are well taken care of and are happy and well-fed and attend school, and have time to play games. This is good.
I wish I could post pictures of those kids playing, but I can’t.
As we were driving, these are some photos that I took. The first is a nice building that’s being constructed. The thing that struck me as odd was the wood scaffolding:
Next, I saw two places like this while we were there. There were locals sellling goats and there were these places, right in the middle of the city (remember, Addis Ababa is a city of 5 million) and this is normal:
On one of our last days, we toured a coffee factory. The women and men working at this coffee factory:
Last, but not least, we traveled to one of the highest spots near Ethiopia. Believe it or not, Addis Ababa is over 7,500 feet above sea level, so the notion that this is a place that is arid and dry isn’t true. In Addis Ababa it actually rained every day that it was there. This isn’t to say that in other parts of Ethipia there is severe famine and it’s incredibly arid. There is a reason why people are fleeing from Somalia and Ethiopia into Kenya, but in Addis Ababa, the temperature was a high of 80 degrees and a low of 50 degrees. At this high spot, this is a picture looking down on the city of Addis Ababa:
There is a constant smog in Addis Ababa and this is normal. On top of the highest part was this church (a majority of the people in Ethopia are Christian, our guides said that it was close to 60% and 40% Muslim):
It’s standard to carry granola bars and treats with you, in case you encounter kids or adults that need food. We are not allowed to give food from a vehicle, so, despite women holding their babies and begging for food, you are not allowed to hand a granola bar out the window. The thought is that if you did that, you could cause issues with people surrounding the vehicle asking for food. At the top of this mountain, we saw these four boys. To say that this is an average looking bunch of young people would be accurate.
They are happy, but they are hungry. One boy took the rest of our granola bars and I had to ask that someone translate to him that I wanted him to share. When you don’t have very much then you take whatever you can get. I wanted to make sure that his three friends could share in what he had.
On the way down from the highest point, it was standard to see women carrying these branches down to their homes. Our guides said that the women do this every day:
When I say that I could write for a few more days and hours, that would be an understatement. I think it is hard to make a living in Ethiopia. It is unforgiving and it can be very tough, but it is also very beautiful. There is incredible history in Ethiopia, but it’s largely undiscovered.
The one thing that struck me was that it was so much more simple. At the transition home, each day in the afternoon, the toddlers are given bandanas. Every day, they play with them. I would go sit on the floor and have 16 beautiful toddler children surround me and all want me to tie their bandana on their head. They would then go walk around and show each other, rip off their bandana and go back to you to put it back on their head. This would go on for half an hour to an hour. I don’t think that it was necessarily that the children loved the bandanas (actually, I think that they just might have loved those bandanas), but they loved the fact that you were paying them attention, that you were touching them, loving on them, and kissing on them was really what they loved.
This is Fitsum and my wife enjoying the simple things: