Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Road to Kombolcha

Day Two – The Road to Kombolcha

Many of you remember me telling about the trip to Kombolcha in 2009. The highway had been built in the 1930s during the Italian occupation, and was either in a state of disrepair or was in the process of being repaired. It was a ten hour ride over the bumpiest of roads. Today’s drive was much smoother (all but a very small stretch of the highway is finished) but it still took us nine hours to travel 250 miles. I haven’t the slightest idea why…

But it’s a beautiful trip. Imagine taking a drive from a major city with the hustle and bustle of traffic and people and high rise buildings, driving across the plains of South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma, up into the mountains of northern California, across the deserts of the southwest, over the fertile land of the Mississippi delta, and into the hills of southern California all in one day . Along the way there are small villages, decent size towns, people everywhere and more livestock (goals, cattle, sheep, chickens, mules, and camels) than you can ever imagine seeing in one day. I was a bit tired yet from the flight, but didn’t want to close my eyes to rest or focus on anything else for fear that I’d miss something. 

I most enjoyed looking at the people. I saw little kids playing along the road, tending livestock, or watching (and waving) curiously as these vans full of people from another place loaded with cargo barreled (yes, barreled) by them. Young men sat idly talking with friends, playing foosball, or working the fields. Women walked with babies or loaded with wood, water, or crops. Old people also watched thinking who knows what about these strangers in their country. We saw a funeral (in a distance), men praying towards Mecca, kids playing soccer and volleyball, women hanging laundry, men bathing themselves in the river, and countless other people doing every day activities as part of their everyday lives.

We finally made it to the drop in center. The directors had kept the kids late so they could meet us before activities start in earnest tomorrow. It was really neat to see familiar faces from two years ago, and even neater when some of them raised their hands when asked if they remembered me. Each of us introduced ourselves and talked a bit about what we would be doing with them this week. There was one little girl in the fifth row whose face was beaming from ear to ear as each of us talked. Many of the kids were excited, but this particular girl looked like it was all she could do to keep seated as we talked. After our introductions, we all went to the benches that each child had so dutifully sat on and started passing out handshakes and hugs. Some in our group described the experience as overwhelming. 

Our surprise for the evening, and a reminder of our need to stay flexible; there is some sort of dispute between the church and the school that is supposed to be resolved this week. In the meantime, we are not spending our time at either of the two locations we knew about. Instead, one of the members of the congregation is letting the school use his land. The land is much smaller than the other parcels, and there is even less space to play than we had counted on. We’re taking it all in stride though, although the soccer goalie is going to have to be really good or else the ball is going to end up in the river.

As we prepare for tomorrow, sorting donations and determining logistics for working with the kids, I remind myself that we are only here for the week, and after we leave lives will go on. We want to be a positive influence for these kids, and spend our time here loving on them and giving them all the attention they deserve. At the end of this week, we will go home. It is important for us to continue working to provide long term assistance to these kids. While we will return home to our lives, the livestock will still need tending, the clothes will still need washed, the kids will play soccer and volleyball, and the crops will still need harvested. We are a part of these people’s lives for only one week, but everyday life continues. I hope that through the course of this week, we are able to plant a seed in these kids’ hearts that over time, with nourishment and continued encouragement from us, will grow and flourish and provide a positive impact on these kids’ lives.

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