Sunday, April 10, 2016

I Love This Place

First the important stuff. The flight was long, but uneventful. Everyone sat pretty close together, so it was nice to start getting to know some of the folks a little better. For the most part, I was in my seat. I had a window seat, so while it was neat to be able to see the icebergs floating down below in the Atlantic Ocean, it was hard to get up to move around without bothering the others in my row. I caught up on some movies, watching Spectre, The Martian, The Intern, and Creed, all of which are pretty good.

We sailed through immigration (they have improved it a lot, so while it has some ways to go before I would call the process efficient, it was much better. All of our bags were there, so we were out in no time. Unfortunately, that meant our ride wasn't there yet as they were assuming we would be much later (it has taken anywhere between 90 minutes to two hours to get out of the airport). A quick call to Zelalem to let him know we were waiting, a little more of a wait, and we were on our way.

The Massachusetts contingent in front of the Addis Ababa airport. (Jayde Thomas,
Glen Bogdanovich, Lori Thomas, Theresa Yebernetsky)
I've written before how interesting it is for me to see Ethiopia through others' eyes. I listen to the comments that are made on the first van ride from the airport to the guest house. This year, though, it was very quiet. I don't think any of us slept on the flight, so everyone was in a stupor. There was a comment after our return to the guest house that the poverty in Addis is worse than they expected, that the thinking was the poverty was limited to areas outside of Addis. As much as things have improved, it's clear that it's an uphill battle. When we were here in 2008, the exchange rate was 12 birr to one dollar. This year, it's 21 birr to one dollar. Inflation here makes playing catch up so much more difficult.

We arrived at the guest house, hoping for a quick drink of water and a nap. However, as is Ethiopian tradition, we were treated to a coffee ceremony. I'm not a coffee drinker, and it's in poor taste to refuse the coffee, so I dutifully drank a cup. So now I'm wide awake writing this instead of taking a nap like the others.

Addis continues to change and grow; new roads, new highways, new buildings. The big change this year is the opening of the light rail system. It's pretty impressive and has apparently done a lot to ease congestion. Another interesting sight was the countdown timers on the traffic lights. I've seen them on walk signals, but many of the intersections let you know how much time before the light changes to red or green.

Today, we're hanging out at the guest house. Tomorrow we board a plane to Kombolcha and spend time with the kids at both care points. At CHDA (the care point we just started working with last year), we'll play some games and do crafts with the kids. The (older) kids at Meserete have a program planned for us. It is always quite entertaining.

Today's devotional was about putting our worries and concerns in the hands of God. I have to admit that I'm struggling with that right now. Maybe I'm just tired (I've been awake for 21 hours), but as Rob was leading us through the devotion, I kept thinking "don't call on me or I'll lose it." And then when others were telling their stories about how they were able to put their own worries in God's hands, I started thinking that I must be doing something wrong since I've not been able to do that with the things weighing on my mind.

On the plus side, though, I'm in Addis Ababa, sitting on the front porch writing this (with WiFi, yeh!), listening to children walk by on the other side of the wall, chattering about who knows what but having a great time, and the birds are chirping. 

It's great to be here again.


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