Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunday and Monday

Sunday was truly a day of rest. Most of us attended a church service and then split into several groups. I decided to stay at the hotel, kick up my feet, and relax.

The church service was a unique experience. There were more than 600 people in attendance, and were they happy to be there. The first hour of the service was all singing. I didn’t understand a word of the songs, but there was lots of clapping, very loud singing, bouncing up and down, and in addition to the clapping at the end of a song, a chanting, high octave “loo, loo, loo, loo, loo…”. I have goose bumps now just thinking about it.

One of the members of our travel group did the sermon, with a translator. Jeremy interwove some of our experiences over this week into the sermon. It was inspiring. Periodically, the congregation would respond with a boisterous “Ah-men” after he had said something.

The sermon was followed by another 30 minutes of singing. It was a two hour service, but time really flew. A memorable experience.

Today, we visited a “drop-in center” about an hour south of Addis Ababa. The facility serves as a place for “double-orphans” (both parents have died, and the kids are living with relatives or family friends), “single-orphans” (one parent, usually the father, has died), or living in severe poverty (families making less than $1.00 a day). There are fifty-six kids between the ages of five and six receiving their schooling.

These children are at the drop-in center, receiving schooling, between 8:30am and 3:30pm. The center is able to gather funds (through donations from the teachers) to provide the kids a meal once a week. The meal is usually injera (think of a puffy, spongy tortilla). While some of the kids bring their own meal on the other days, most of the kids do not get food during the day, and some have not had food prior to school.

In order to get to school from the village, the kids cross a river. The river is downstream from two factories. The director walked us over to the river. Actually, to call it a river is a misnomer. This “river” emitted the worst smell I’ve ever experienced. The water was a dark brown with a green tint. The smell was overpowering, such that a few people had to quickly walk away. Unfortunately, once we’d experienced it, we were able to smell it even when we walked back up the hill to the center.

Right now, because it’s the dry season, the river is shallow and the kids can step on rocks to get across. In the rainy season, though, the water can get quite deep and the kids have no choice but to walk straight through.

Of all the kids we saw this week, these were in the worst health. They were nothing but skin and bones. They had sores on their faces and heads. Some of them had bad teeth. One of the girls had pus running out of her ear. As usual, these kids just wanted touched and hugged. I was pushing a couple of the kids on the swing, and others kept on coming to me saying “Agate, agate” (pronounced ah-gah-tay), which means “play with me”.

We had a great time playing with the kids, but were sad to know there is no immediate solution to the conditions in which these kids live.

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