Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday in Ethiopia!!!

Wednesday – So much has happened today and I don't want to bore you with every little detail so I'll breeze over some points in an effort to keep things condensed.  We got up at 4:30 am after a great night of rest, packed a bag for an overnight trip and then met the rest of the group for breakfast.  We got on the road a little before 6 am, heading for Kombalcha which we were to understand is about 6-7 hours north of Addis.  As it turned out, it took 11 HOURS!!!

 

But I have to say, it was one of the most enjoyable 11 hours I've ever spent in a vehicle.  (Jay and I have talked many times about how we wished we had an opportunity to travel into the countryside the last time we were in Ethiopia but we did not get a chance.)  The views and the terrain were absolutely incredible!!  We started out in early morning 60 degree temperatures.  The roads soon became unpaved and we were bouncing along so violently we actually had a few injuries (bumped heads on the ceiling and a bruised shoulder).

 

Soon the road started twisting and turning and as we climbed higher in the mountains (we topped out at just over 10,600 ft) and the roads turned to mud.  Our vehicle actually became mired in the mud and we were all eyeing the thick, deep mud thinking about who was going to have to get out and push, when suddenly another truck stopped and four guys got out and pushed us out of the mud.

 

So we continued roller-coaster ride up into the mountains, and the mud got slipperier.  There are no guard rails on these steep mountain road and we were slipping and sliding in the mud.  After driving through a tunnel, we came out on the other side to what looked like a completely different climate.  We were up in the clouds and it was COLD!  Moss was covering the trees and everything was wet and green!  We began the descent and soon we could see a patchwork quilt of dark browns and light browns where the earth had been freshly tilled or left with stubble.  The ground was so rocky and people were in the fields clearing rocks.  They would line the fields with the rocks, making little rock fences and actually terracing the hilly ground so it could be farmed.  But the ground just seemed to keep birthing more rocks!

 

Many of the mountain roads were under construction and the workers were carving a new road with pick-axes and shovels.  The construction work caused a lot of mud and several detours onto very bumpy and pot-holed roads (thus the bumped heads and bruises).  During our 11 hour drive, we stopped for "squatty breaks" twice (yes – behind a bush or a hill on the side of the road) and a quick lunch by the side of the road.

 

The temperature started to rise to the 80s once we descended from the mountains.  Suddenly, we were seeing dry river beds, dessert-like foliage, cacti and CAMELS!  Of course there are the usual herds of donkeys, cows and goats in the fields, being herded along the side of the road and across the road right in front of the vehicle, but now we were seeing lots of camels as well!

 

Finally – we arrived in Kombalcha at about 5:15 pm.  The care point we visited is managed by Grace Baptist Church and serves over 1000 children.  All of the children served at this location have been identified by the government as "at risk" – meaning they do not have access to adequate food, clothing and medical care and come from very poor families.  Grace Baptist Church provides education for all of these children.  There are 125 children served here that are identified as double orphans – meaning they have lost both parents and are currently living with a guardian (a relative or neighbor) and Grace Church provides their education for free.  But oftentimes, these children have nothing but the clothes on their back and they come to school with empty stomachs.

 

We were ushered into a small area with bench seats and were given the place of honor up front.  We each introduced ourselves to the children and then the pastor spoke for awhile to summarize what they do for the children.  We then had just less than an hour to interact with the kids – play a few games, kick a soccer ball, blow-up balloons and take pictures (they LOVE to see themselves in the camera).  The kids are so polite and well-behaved but when we started passing out balloons, a near brawl occurred. 

 

The kids are quick to shake hands and say hello, and the love to try out their English.  They could all say "Hello, my name is _________.  I am 7 years old."  They then wanted to practice their English by pointing to body parts and reciting "nose, mouth, eyes, ears, etc."  As it got dark, they were ushered out of the gate and sent home.  We are going back to spend part of the morning with the children and to nail down some of the details for possible development as a Hopechest care-point.

 

We then loaded up our two vehicles and bounced through the dark streets to get to our hotel.  It's clean and serviceable – but we have no hot water and we had to beg the front desk for towels.  They could only give us one bath towel and one washcloth and asked us to share (I'm sharing a room with Shiloh.)  But that's better than no towel and trying to air dry after a cold shower!

 

Overall – everyone is doing great.  Two of the girls (Candy and Heather) did have a quick bout of the stomach flu but hopefully that has run its course.  They both recovered very quickly!  Up again early in the morning to spend time at Grace Baptist with the kids and then we brave the 11 hour drive back to Addis tomorrow (Thursday).



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