Tuesday – Day 4
Tuesday we decided to forgo a wake up call and try to sleep as late as possible. Our theory was if we can stay near our “normal” schedule then when we returned our bodies wouldn’t be as out of whack. Our theory fell very, very false but it may have something to do with our cousins who picked up a virus in Cancun and then infected our kids who just so happened to be at the hay day of the virus when we returned and thus infected both of us. Yes, read that right, we go to Africa and come home to the states to be infected by some highly contagious virus that was passed around a cruise ship in Cancun. I don’t even get the pleasure of going to Cancun to pick up their virus, but Heather and I both suffered through it.
Once we did wake up we had to come up with a battle plan for the Yesus on the Streets campaign. This was our final full day and we had to check out of the motel tomorrow morning so we needed to have this done today. I went down to the lobby to try to contact our friend one last time, and still was unable to go through. Well the receptionist asked why I was trying so hard to find this guy and I explained our predicament to her.
She was very confused about why we were doing this. I tried to explain it to her a little and then we were interrupted by the head maid. As they were discussing something about one of the rooms upstairs I was suddenly struck with a wonderful idea. Once the maid left I asked the receptionist if there was anything she would want from the US that is hard to get here, and she said conditioner. I then asked about how much the maid that just left made a month, and was told roughly 300 birr (a little less than $40). From what I have been told by others this is an average salary for this kind of work at this kind of place. Well I ran upstairs to Heather to see what she thought of the idea of giving these bags to the workers at the hotel, and anything left over to give to the receptionist to take to the local church. Heather responded with an enthusiastic yes, and there was a tremendous peace about this decision.
Well the receptionist wanted to see what we were talking about before we just started to hand the stuff out, so she came up to our room and sat on our bed and started to rummage through the bags, crying and laughing, and still asking us “why?” She called the bell boy up to carry the luggage downstairs to distribute it and when he got there and saw what he had to carry he was upset that not only did he have to carry it up, but now down too (the stuff was HEAVY) But as soon as he was told what was happening and that the stuff was for him too he suddenly was very happy to carry it down. Everyone kept trying to thank us for the wonderful gifts, but we kept telling them not us, Yesus, Yesus getano! There were many a teary eye, and much celebration as the workers all came and said that they had never had such a day in their entire life, that ouside of the movies from America they had never heard of such a thing and they were truly blessed.
As they were distributing the bags, the moment became such a sacred place that we dared not even touch our camera, and we left the receptionist in charge of the distribution, an American man and his Saudi friend walked into the room. We had spoken to these characters on occasion in the hotel, really nice guys on vacation here in Addis. Well the American asked me what was going on, so I explained it to him, and he asked me the question of the day, “WHY?” He even went so far as to ask me if I had stolen these supplies from some other organization, he just couldn’t grasp why we would have brought this stuff to indiscriminately hand out in Ethiopia. Then when he saw the photos and found that every bag was from some one different he was really blown away. His comment to me was that his family was from Ethiopia, he was born in Italy and grew up in New York, but his extended family was still in Ethiopia and he had never even thought to do this for them, much less strangers. He was blown away by the kindness and looked at me and said we must belong to some very special kind of church, to have a group of people that have a heart that would do something like this. He left literally scratching his head, looking over his shoulder at us ever few steps with a look of bewilderment and awe. The last thing I would have expected was to minister to an American here in Ethiopia.
One of the things we learned though this project is that you really need to have a contact point in Ethiopia for distribution. Had we tried to distribute this on the streets alone we would have had a massive mob, an a bigger issue of safety. Also these bags would have worked wonderfully to hand out to the homeless here in the US, but in Ethiopia the level of poverty is so much lower that they really would have had no use for most of the items. I don’t really know of how to properly do a project like this, but the focus needs to be food, shelter, medicine, clothing if you are doing it to reach the street families of Ethiopia.
As it was getting late, and we had yet to eat, so we headed down the road to try to find some pizza. I was just extremely curious as to what the Ethiopian version of pizza was. We found a great place, with a very modern atmosphere called “The Great Rendezvous” We sat on a 3rd story balcony on chrome chairs and a chrome table leaning over the railing snapping photos of the city below and shooting video of the day life on the streets. It was a very unique opportunity to sit in a birds eye view of Addis, watching the normality of life without sticking out as the crazy ferenj. I ordered a “personal pizza” and Heather ordered a quesadilla. Yep, Mexican food in Ethiopia as well. Well the reality of what she was served was a pizza folded in half, but it was good. And I had a really good pizza, called the “farmers pizza” with “all the favorite toppings of the Ethiopian farmer” peppers, onion, and pineapple basically. We had a couple of cokes, and a couple of macchiatos, and the food, and we were still WELL under $10 including he tip.
On the way back to the hotel we swung down an alley with some shops and came to a place selling gebanas (ceramic coffee pots) and had one of the most hilarious encounters yet. I selected one for a buddy of mine back here in the states, and asked “sent now” or “how much” she replied 80 birr, ok, a bit high, but I was fine with that so I pulled out a 100 birr and tried to pay, but she kept telling me she had no change. So I kept asking for something else that would cost 20 birr. She would hold up a vase or flower pot but then still tell me, “no change” Eventually one of the shop owners hear her came over and asked what was going on. And we discovered she had confused 80 with 8. Yes, you are reading that right, she only wanted 8 birr for it. Once I understood I gave her a 10 birr and all was well. Now when I selected it she whacked it with a stick to show me that it was good, and could be used, and said I could cook my coffee in it, and so we decided to buy another one for ourselves. You see we already have one, but our Ethiopian friends make fun of us telling us that out gebana is too fancy to use, and that we should have it in a china closet or something. I just looke at it as something I bought at a place called “Tourist and Gift Shop” and got the pot, the incense burner, 6 cups and a sugar bowl all for under $15. It is fancy looking, and that is why I bought it, but we wanted a “simple” one as well, just so we could have a simple one for when our Ethiopian friends are over.
To skip ahead a bit, the one gebana made it through ok, the other one shattered into a powder. Now being as I have experience in pottery I know what that means, it means the pots where never fired. Also as it had shattered I was able to see the inside of this pot and it was never glazed inside either. It was also extremely thin and I’m kind of glad it shattered as it would have been extremely painful when it shattered from putting hot coffee into it. And had it not shattered than we would have been drinking the clay as it would have dissolved into the hot coffee as well. Now with all this said, I’m still irate with Ethiopian Air for the obvious manhandling of my bags marked “fragile” I saw them being tossed at least 3 times, once in Ethiopia and twice in the US by Ethiopian Air employees. Now the place I bought this from was well off the beaten path, she doesn’t deal with ferenj, but with Ethiopians. So the simple fact is that this cheap unfired thin pots would have made it into an Ethiopians home if not for me, so I don’t feel as if we were conned for being ferenj, we were just her client of the hour.
Our visitation time was used helping the kids with the homework again tonight. The kids got done a little early tonight and we had a chance to play a little with them, but we also wanted to get a nice family photo with both kids. I set my camera up on the tripod, as I was doing it all the kids gathered around and watched every move I made. One of the foster mothers informed me that they had never seen a tripod before, well she informed us they had never seen “that” before and we told her it was called a tripod. (by the way all this “we” stuff is just for my ego as this is my blog, Heather is the one who did all of the talking as she is the one who can actually communicate in Amharic) Well I set the auto timer on the camera for 10 seconds and sat next to Heather to take a great picture. The kids were all looking at me and then looking at the camera, trying to figure out what was going to happen next when the flash went off and the picture was taken. There was a moment of shocked silence, then suddenly one of the girls (a very cute wide open boisterous older girl) gasped and exclaimed, “Avery is magic” and suddenly all of the kids were agreeing, “magic, magic, magic” I was dying laughing, and so we just had to do it again. Of course this delighted the kids, and even the nannies were calling out to come see the “magic”
Afterwards we had an impromptu photo session where I took a photo of every single child there. This is always a fun experience as the kids keep trying to out do each other, and the older girls try to play a game where they say I can’t make them smile, so I tell them say, “sake” say “wusha wat” and they are always stone faced with me until I say “BOYFRIEND!!!!” and I get the biggest smile ever. Of course when I asked Yosef about his girlfriend Tsegerda he got all embarrassed scuffing his feet and laughing as he hid. She came home to her family a few months ago, but they were very good friends at the orphanage and I’m sure they will remain friends through e-mail and the like once he is home.
Of course the time was gone before we knew it. And it was time to go. The kids knew we had to go home tomorrow and the good bye tonight was a very solemn occasion.
For supper the lunch was so good we decided to go back. On the way a man named Girma told us that he was going to a very “special restaurant” and wanted to take us with him. That it was next door to the Minister of Waters home. Yes, that’s right, different scam, same place. If my coke cost me 600 birr what would a meal cost? Well we were coming up to a group of police and I looked at Girma and told him I was going to invite the police to come with us as the police really liked bunna beats and they would have a fun time coming with us. Surprisingly the guy took off running.
We ordered one pizza between the two of us and sat on the balcony watching the nightlife below. It was a bit cold but it was still fun to watch the city, and it was nice to just talk to Heather about the trip and what we hoped to do when we returned. It was kind of a “debriefing” for us and it was a very nice dinner.