Sunday, the retreat

Sunday morning went by in a blur. We knew ourselves, and had no idea what the two extra kids would add to the mix, so we told the driver taking us to Debra Zeit to come at 11:30. It was a good thing we did as we were still trying to get everything ready at the last minute. It’s funny how going from 2 kids to 4 kids more than triple the amount of time you need to get ready, not to mention the fact that it’s like herding a bunch of cats.  


For breakfast we tried a spoon of peanut butter (protein depravation), papaya (fresh), mixed fruit cobbler (canned), and coffee cake. Not one of the kids like the papaya, Mihret only would nibble the peanut butter, the two American kids wouldn’t eat the coffee cake, and the two Ethiopian kids didn’t want the mixed fruit.   They all drank their mango juice though. 


Well Debra Zeit is at least an hour ride away from Addis, an hour and a half from where we were, so we didn’t want to go heavy on the lunch as two of the kids get carsick, and we had no idea about the other two. So bananas for all and some small cookies as well.  Let me mention at this point I have yet to eat anything.  


We had no birr as the banks have all been closed so far since we got here, and we had run out of the 700 birr we had left from our last trip. So when the driver shows up we tell him we need to go to the Sheraton as they have a bank open all the time there. He tried to talk me into the black market, but when I told him I would give him the money and let him trade it in the black market he quickly changed his tune. I guess jail time was ok for me but not for him, and for the .1 birr difference in the rate (maybe a penny?) it wasn’t worth the hassle.  


Well about 10 seconds into the ride I realized my driver didn’t know how to drive. Well not shift at least, especially from a stop going uphill. It was at one of these stops that he totally destroyed the clutch, and stalled out in the middle of a major intersection.  Well a cop showed up, demanding money for this “law break” there wound up being a major fight for about 5 minutes between the two, then we left. I found out later he may get a letter later as the police have a tendency to just mail the “fines” to the address on the license. Well I was glad to get to the Sheraton, I hopped out and ran to the bank. Apparently this really upset Yosef, as I forgot to tell him what was going on and left him behind. I met some people from Germany and from South Africa in the bank. To get into the hotel you have to pass through a metal detector and a pat down from security, of course they were a lot more lenient to me than they were to the Ethiopian in front of me.  


When I came out of the hotel the van was gone, so I started to meander around the parking lot, looking for my family. Yeah, that was a bit nerve racking coming out to find your entire family gone. Well the driver had put the van in the shade and called for a new driver as this van wasn’t going to make it.  


The ride to the resort was enjoyable, the kids enjoyed seeing the countryside, that is until they fell asleep, and it was great to get out of the city. An hour into the ride my driver asked me if I knew where I was going!!!! Great! We wound up pulling over and using a phone to call the resort for directions, but it was so typical to get that far to find out they thought we knew what we were doing! 


The resort was a beautiful place, it was a crater lake inside the mouth of a dormant volcano. There were several in the area, but this one was the only one deep enough to be cold enough to kill the bacteria, thus you could swim in it. Of course it was better to not look at all the cattle also swimming in the lake with us, yeah.  


We had a small two bedroom one bath room to stay in, it had a small porch and a bench that overlooked the lake out front. There was a playground for the kids to play, and the family that ran the place had kids the same age as my kids, they all enjoyed spending time with each other.  It was awesome to watch the 4 kids play together, there was a cycle of shifting who was playing with who, a sense of familiarity that comes from family, that these strangers shouldn’t have. They loved each other as brothers and sisters even though they had only known each other for a day. 


About an hour into our stay we were playing on the playground with the kids and Mihret decided to jump off the see-saw at it’s apex, knocking both of her front teeth loose. Shortly after that Kaitlyn decided to fall off of one of the retaining walls falling about 5 feet to belly flop on the ground below, to be followed by Lucas taking off his shoes to play soccer, and ripping off his big toenail on a rock. At least Yosef wasn’t injured, I thought it was hysterical that we made it just over 24 hours as a family until our first injury, and then all but one managed to get hurt, beautiful.  


Honestly the highlight of the day would have to be dinner. Dinner was hamburgers, French fries, and lasagna, and desert. There was SOOO much food it wasn’t funny, and we were the ONLY people there. Well as I made the kids hamburgers I handed the first one to Yosef, he looked at it and looked at me, saying ‘My hamburger is beautiful, so, so, so, so beautil, very, very, very beautiful, beautiful, beautiful” Heather and I were dying laughing, the kid likes hamburgers (and this hamburger was small, and on biscuits) I was loving it, definitely one of those moments we will carry for all time.  


Well the day, for the most part was very smooth, the resort was very relaxing, and it was great to be able to start off as a family, away from it all, just us, and in a place like this. If you are on the same journey I definitely recommend it if you can manage it. The resort is run by the SIMS missionaries, it’s a retreat center for the missionaries primarily, but they were very happy to have us there.  


As the night concluded I went over to the lounge and bought a “cold” soda (it was slightly cooler than room temperature)  and we sat on the bench watching the lake trying to process our new life. As we sat there, in awe of God’s beauty we watched a thunder storm roll in over the hills. We could listen to the rain as it was a torrential downpour, but miles away. As it crept closer and closer on it’s slow but determined path we simply sat there in silence, drinking our sprites, watching God’s creation in awe. Finally it hit the lake, and we listened as it started to creep across the lake, just like a rain stick that picks up volume as it picks up inertia, the rain became louder and louder as the storm took over more and more of the lake. We could see the wall of water moving over the lake headed at us and we stayed, sitting on our bench, watching, waiting, until the storm engulfed us. At this point Heather darted into the room, but I continued to stay where I was for a few moments, letting the rain wash away the dust from the day, bringing a freshness that the shower earlier was unable to do.  


Standing there in the middle of God’s splendor, in the land that I love, in the rain that I love (don’t ask me, I just love a good rain) wishing that I wasn’t on a resort because I had this primal urge to find a drum and strip down to just me to play with the beat of the storm and dance with God’s rhythm. Of course I could have done it here, but I’m pretty sure the guards who where watching me already though I was nuts enough standing in the rain in my shirt and shorts.  


Unfortunately this is the last time I recorded any notes on my day in Ethiopia. I will continue the journey, but it will be from memory. I’m sure much has been lost, but I promise to try to fill in as much as possible.


4 Responses to “Sunday, the retreat”

  1. I love reading these stories!


  2. I love this post, especially the vivid description of the approaching storm. Absolutely, beautiful.

    You know it is funny, I fell in love with Haiti in the same way you describe loving Ethopia. I found that not everyone who travels to Haiti feels the same way. For the longest time after we arrived home, I actually felt “homesick” for Haiti. It still hits me sometimes out of the blue. There is a blog I have listed on my site from missionaries to Haiti. I love their photos, but sometimes….it hurts too much to look.

    I will not be at all surprised if I wind up back there someday.


  3. Dena Sissay Says:

    Wow.. what a beautiful post. Thank you! I love reading these stories. I accidently came across this post. This brought back memories, from years and years ago. When I was a little girl we used to go to this lake in DebreZeit with my father…

  4. Tesfaye Chebseta Says:

    God ! you brought the beautiful memories back. I used to swim in that lake when I was young,well, that was ten years ago. I was going there almost every sunday with my best best best friends. Now I live here in the snow in sweden, hate it! missed the sun, even the dust and the simplicity of life. I also miss the down-to-earth attitude of the people there. I am soooooo home sick and I am about to burst into tears now……………………..God, what the hell am I doing here………

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