Saturday, March 21, 2015

More Home Visits! and a Dark Trek

March 12, 2015

Today was the first true day of the Vacation Bible School. We're a small team, and each of us have been assigned a station. There are two sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The kids are supposed to come either before or after school, depending on their schedules.

Last year, many of the kids skipped school and came during both sessions. This year, Candy had sent along red and yellow wrist bands so we could tell when they were supposed to be there. We knew very quickly, though, that they were not going to work. We found them on the ground, and somehow, some of the kids had multiple wrist bands, some of the same color, and some with each color. Myndi observed that these kids only see us for a few days per year, and if they want to attend both sessions, so be it. Our only concern was whether we had enough supplies.

Each of us are assigned a station. Rob starts out with a Bible lesson and then the kids rotate to one of three stations (music, crafts, and rec). Benjamin and I have been assigned to rec, along with our friends Glen Bogdanovich and his son Ty and our new friend Brian. For rec, we divide the group in two. Half start out playing hot potato and the other half can throw cloth frisbees, do a bean bag toss, or play with a parachute.
Hot potato is fun. The kids sit in a circle, passing a ball around while someone looks away and counts to three (in Amharic, it would be "Aunt, Zost, Hoolet"). Whoever has the ball on Hoolet is out and has to come help count. This continues until there is only one person left. We try to keep them on their toes by sometimes counting to four ("Arat"), or only counting to "Aunt" or "Zost"). It is a loud and joyous time.

After twenty minutes everyone rotates to the next station.

Another problem we had last year was that some kids decided they didn't want to do a certain station, so would slip back into their favorite activity. We'd often end up with the same kids several times over. This year, Candy had each of the kids wear name tags with one of three colored stickers (blue, orange, green). It was very easy for us to see where everyone should be and help find their way back to the right group.

At the end of the rotations, everyone comes back together and we distribute the bananas. The kids leave, and we had back to the hotel for lunch.

After lunch we go through the same program. Sure enough, several kids have returned for more. Sometime during the day, Natnael, a 12-year-old sponsored by my boss and his wife, hands me an envelope, letting me know it is a gift for them. How touching to know that he wants to give them a gift with the very little that he has.
We are scheduled for three home visits today.

Our first visit is to the home of Kabaye. She is sponsored by our friends the Dineens. She lives close to the care point, so we are able to get there pretty quickly. Time is against us, as we don't get started until after 5:00 and the sun is setting around 6:30. We are scheduled for four total visits, as Ben and Patricia Johnson are visiting the home of a child sponsored by someone they know from their church.

Kabaye's home is along a narrow, stone and dirt path under a canopy of trees. As is typical when walking, the path is littered with animal "bombs" from the goats and other wild animals wandering around. Her home is typical of what we've seen, a small one room house with mud walls and a packed dirt floor with a small rug, and cushions lining the outside. There is a single light bulb attached to a cord hanging from the ceiling. Kabaye's mother is not yet home from work when we arrive, but her older sister and nephew are there. We are told that the mother is on her way home.

Kabaye's mother and father are both day laborers. She shares this small home with her parents, her sister, and nephew. Five people live in this small home. I can't imagine how crowded it gets. As we prepare to leave, Kabaye's mother arrives. She is very thankful for her daughter's sponsorship and tells us that she really enjoys receiving pictures of the Dineen family. She especially loves pictures of the youngest boy (Matthew is seven years old) and would love for him to visit. 

It's 5:30 now, so after saying our good-byes, we quickly head back down the pathway to the van.
We had forgotten to buy gifts for the home visits, so we make a stop to purchase oil and coffee. Unfortunately, nothing seems to happen quickly in Ethiopia, so by the time everything is purchased, it's clear that dusk will soon be upon us.

The outside of Mohammed's home.
The inside of Mohammed's home.

Our next visit is to the home of Mohammed. Mohammed is fourteen and lives by himself. He has a sponsor (whom we do not know) but the Bogdanovich's are giving him some extra support to help him with his needs. I can't imagine taking care of myself at that age, but, with some help from neighbors and others in his community, he is completely on his own. His home, though small, is neat and organized. There are bugs crawling across the floor, but everything else is well kept.

We head back out to continue home visits, next dropping off the Johnson's and a translator at a home and drive on, heading towards Nuredin's home.

Nuredin is sponsored by the French's. We drive a very long distance to get to his home, at least seven miles. His home is close to the highway so we arrive without much of a walk. It's definitely starting to get dark. Nuredin's mother runs a coffee shop from her home, so there is a small porch with tables and chairs, underneath a tarp. Because of time, we never go inside the home.

Nuredin's family used to live in Woliso, which is south of Addis. She has two sons (Nuredin's brother is also in the program). After the boys' father died, their mother moved them to Kombolcha. Nuredin's grandmother also lives in Kombolcha, at whose house he sometimes stays (she lives much closer to the care point). One of the more touching moments occured when I played a video that Dawn French, his sponsor, had made with my phone before we left. First, his face lit up when the video started playing, even before the translator told him what Dawn was saying. I then asked him if he would make a video for Dawn. He was hesitant at first, needing several prompts from me. After a few moments, though, Nuredin started talking on his own. I haven't seen the video yet, but I'm sure it'll be a special treat for Dawn and the French's.

By now, it was completely dark. Poor Seada (sponsored by our friends, the Wise's) was in the back seat, quiet as a mouse. Fikre had gotten a message to her family to let them know she was on her way. Seada's house is close to our hotel. I had told Benjamin that I would like him to go on this visit. However, when we got out of the van, he and Myndi were directed to stay put.
Seada and her younger sister on the floor of their home.

The trek to Seada's house was very interesting. I wish there had been enough light to take pictures. The walk started on a rickety wooden bridge that traversed a smelly river (it's down stream from a brewery, which most likely was dumping waste into the water). The next half mile (in the pitch dark) was over a rocky path, sometimes no more than two feet wide, with a steep drop to the river on the left. People were walking both ways, sometimes passing shoulder to shoulder to stay on the path. Seada took turn after turn, never looking back and never hesitating. While we had our devices lit to show us the way, she needed nothing to direct her home.
 
While we were walking I started to wonder how we were going to get out of there. Seada would not be coming with us. I asked Yfruit if he knew how to get back, and he answered in the negative.

Seada, her sister, and her parents.
Finally, after what seemed like about half a mile, we arrived at Seada's home. It was typical of the homes we'd seen. Inside, her mother and little sister were waiting (her sister must be one of the cutest little girls ever). We were invited in to sit and talk. However, at this point, because of the lateness, I didn't want to keep them. We posed for photos so we could figure out how we were going to get back to the van.

As we were taking pictures, Seada's father shows up. Turns out he had been waiting for us at the bridge, but because it was so dark, he hadn't seen us. We took a few more pictures and then headed back down the narrow, rocky path and across the rickety bridge. 

Then, we headed back to the hotel to eat dinner.

While I was eating, Lori called. I walked outside to talk to her. Her news was not good (we'd already had bad news on the home front. Leia, our dog of nine years, was not doing well and had been back and forth to the vet (she's fine now, but we were worried)). Lori told me that our neighbors were moving. Benjamin and Drew have been friends since they were three years old. We shovel a path between our two houses in the winter to make it easier for them to get back and forth. Lori told me that Drew would be calling later that night to tell Benjamin the news.
At 11pm (4pm in Massachusetts), Drew called with his news. Benjamin asked no questions and said, simply, "OK. Bye." I encouraged Benjamin to ask some questions about when he would be moving and what his father would be doing. Benjamin only asked questions with my prompts, and finally hung up. There was no emotional reaction.

Benjamin and Drew at three years old.
Tomorrow, we continue VBS. We are done with our home visits.

Additional note: Ben and Patricia Johnson, and the translator had decided they didn't want to wait for us, so took a small taxi back to the hotel. The taxis in Ethiopia are interesting. They are small three-wheel vehicles, painted blue and white, usually with a curtain for a door. The driver sits in front with a steering wheel that looks more like what you'd see on a bicycle. There are hundreds of them driving around Kombolcha.

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