Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 3: Monday

Being ready to leave at 5:30 was not a problem for us, as we were seriously jet-lagged. Allison woke up at 1 a.m. and worked on homework (impressive, eh?) Michael rolled around in bed. I woke up at 2, but was able to go back to sleep until 5 (I hadn't had a good sleep since the hotel on Friday night). My wakeup call was the call to prayer from either the Greek Orthodox church or the mosque down the street that was said over the loud speaker. The call went on for a long time.

Unfortunately, while we were ready to leave at 5:30, the luggage wasn't and by the time everything was tied down it was almost 6:30.

I've written before about the amazing journey from Addis to Kombolcha. The geography varies from what you would see in the Great Plains states to the barren hills of parts of eastern Washington to the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest to the deserts of Arizona to the hills and mountains of southern California. Along the way, you drive through small villages bustling with activity, past the traditional Ethiopian wood and mud huts with thatched roofs, livestock everywhere, and people walking to destinations known only to them even in what is seemingly the middle of nowhere for unimaginable distances. As was the case with each of my other trips, I didn't want to take my eyes off of the scenery. There was something new to see around every turn.

I did use some of the time to study. When I was in Kombolcha two years ago, the kids were desperate for me to learn their names. I'm terrible at remembering names, so I had printed photos of the kids sponsored by our friends and family and wrote their names and the name of his or her sponsor on the back. I drilled myself until I had them down. I had also printed out a sheet of common Amharic terms and tried to memorize as many of those as possible. (I really want to learn Amharic.)

At our lunch stop, a small boy came walking by.
Michael and Glen running after the shepherd boy
to give him a rubber ball.
Glen asked Fikre if it would be okay to give him some food (we were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). Allison and Michael thought it would be nice to give him one of two small rubber balls they had brought with them. By the time they got the ball of of the bus the boy was far down the road. Michael and Glen decided to run down the road after him. It was a bit disconcerting to see Michael far off in the distance but I knew he was in good hands. After Michael had given the boy the ball, the boy wandered into the nearby field full of livestock. Apparently, the boy is a shepherd.

The shepherd boy returning to get some
food for his friend.
A few minutes after their return, the same boy comes walking back from the direction they had come with another boy. I'm not sure whether it was his brother or a friend, but nonetheless, he also got a sandwich and the other ball. They were very happy and grateful.

Finally, after ten hours of driving, we arrived at the now familiar Sunny Side Hotel. It's certainly not a Hilton, but it's pretty comfortable and the staff are friendly and helpful. Glen and I are sharing a room, and Allison and Michael are roommates. Initially, our rooms weren't in the same building, but they quickly rearranged our rooms so we were across the hall from each other.

After a brief rest, we were off to the care point to meet the kids. We were brought to the front of the room for introductions. I immediately started searching for familiar faces. They had grown a lot since I'd first met them five years ago. 

My drilling served me well. The first child I saw was Karima, sponsored by Lori's aunt and uncle. She is a spark plug (I had spent a lot of time with her two years ago). Her face lip up when I called out her name. Next I saw Natnael, sponsored by my boss and his wife, David and Linda Gregory. Then came Henok, sponsored by our friends the Masse's. Finally, I saw Seada, sponsored by our friends the Wise's. Over the next ten minutes, I found most of the kids I had come to know. However, I couldn't find Kalkidan, the girl we sponsor. Nor could I find Besrate, sponsored by our friends the Morris'. I had visited his home on the last trip.

We were then seated, as the children had prepared a short program for us. One girl welcomed us, and then a choir sang us two amazing songs. All the time, I was looking for Kalkidan and Besrate.

Belete in 2012
One face I knew would be missing was Belete. Belete was an older boy who was highly regarded by the other kids. A joyful personality, he had the traits of a natural leader. In 2012, someone had donated hair bands. The girls thought it would be fun to try to get the boys to wear them. None of the boys thought it was something they should be doing, until Belete put one on. Suddenly, everyone was sporting a head band. Everyone loved Belete.

Last November, we learned that Belete had drowned. I, as I'm sure was the case for everyone who knew him, was devastated. There would be no Belete at this visit.

After the program,we mingled with the kids. I still hadn't found Kalkidan, so asked Fikre to find her. After a minute, there she was, much taller than I'd remembered her, and even more graceful but the same beautiful smile. She gave me a big hug and then got hugs from Michael and Allison.

Michael and Allison were immediately swamped by kids hugging them, kissing Michael, and running fingers through their hair. It was great to see them interacting with the others and having a good time.

After thirty minutes, we said our good-byes and promised to return "tomorrow." Tomorrow is in quotes because it is one of the words the kids seem to know and were constantly asking us that one word as we were leaving.

We returned to the hotel, had dinner (which tends to take forever, and turned in for the night. Tomorrow, our first day of Vacation Bible School.
I had mentioned that Patty had her travel plans altered by United and was supposed to fly from South Carolina to Philadelphia to London to Addis. I learned before we left Addis that United had sent her from South Carolina to Philadelphia to North Carolina to Dulles to catch the next day's direct flight on Ethiopian Airlines. United hadn't offered Patty a hotel, so she had to spend the night at the airport (sleeping behind the ticket counter).

Patty had spoken to Lori, who gave her detailed instructions on how to navigate customs and baggage claim once she got to Ethiopia. Becka David, one of our coordinators, and Zelalem went to pick her up at the airport while we left for Kombolcha. Patty was waiting for us at the hotel upon our arrival. She was tired, but grateful to be with us. It was great to see her.

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