Ethiopia Trip Blog: Day #7

January 19. Saturday, 9:18AM Ethiopian Time

We got up this morning, ate breakfast, and prepared to head to the orphanage when we got word that Liz’ grandfather died last night. This could not have come at a worse time. There is nothing like being thousands of miles from home and have a tragedy happen. There’s no way to go home, no way to contact anyone. It’s just bad. So our schedule has been cleared for today and we’re just going to take the time to unwind, support Liz, and recharge.

Now I know they say God’s timing is perfect, but honestly, at times like this I have to wonder. I mean, why couldn’t He postpone this tragedy for a week? It’s certainly within His power, right? Don’t the kids at the orphanage need us? Wouldn’t it be better for Liz to be home with family during a crisis like this? Honestly, is there really some greater purpose being fulfilled by this sequence of events? Or is this just the way life goes, and God hasn’t seen fit to exempt us just because we feel like we’re doing something good here? Maybe we need to be knocked down a peg once in a while to remind us of how imperfect we are?

January 19. Saturday, 10:00AM Ethiopian Time

I’m sitting up on the balcony, watching life go by for Ethiopia. I wonder what they think of me. Am I just another white guy from a rich country, come to exploit them to make another documentary? Convert them to my religion? They must be disappointed in us. Despite the promises and effort, their world really never changes. Sure things are better now than it was under Communism… it has to be, right? But for the extreme poverty stricken, it’s no different. They still live in mud houses and struggle for the basics of life. I mean, my vehicles have a space that’s cleaner and more waterproof than these people’s homes.

Some observations about my neighborhood here: The roads are dirt. Very rocky. Piles of rubble everywhere, I’m not sure why. The roads run every which way and the houses, if you can call them that, are packed together, facing in all directions. People walk down the street in dirty clothes, obviously second hand since they have 10 year old American prints on them. I saw a kid with a Jabberjaw t-shirt on. I haven’t seen that cartoon in 30 years. A few people will pass by that are dressed modern, even stylish. I wonder where everyone is going since unemployment is something like 60% here. Where do you have to be?

It’s kind of interesting because this is the only place I have ever seen where you can see a guy walking burros down the street, filthy kids in tattered clothes playing with trash for fun, a woman in tight pants and fancy jewelry,  and a guy in a suit driving a high end SUV all on the same street. This is Addis.

The truly amazing thing is that all of these people get along. The common thread throughout this society is respect for others. Sure there are a-holes here. There is in any society. But you simply don’t see the class separation that you do in the States. You don’t see the rudeness and the turning up of noses at others. I don’t hear people complaining. At least this is my perception as an outsider. Ethiopians are a proud people, and despite differences, there seems to be a strong national pride that runs through them.

One thing that really bothers me though is that every property of value is walled off and lined with razor wire. Some compound walls are topped with broken glass. In a city that has a low crime rate, I wonder why such precautions are needed. Maybe it’s a hold out from the Communist days, maybe from the Italian occupation. But it makes the whole city feel like a prison camp.

January 19. Saturday, 11:23AM Ethiopian Time

I just got back to my perch on the balcony. Terry called us down for some devotional time and it was good, but I had to get some air. Some people may benefit from group therapy and I think it’s good to take a few minutes and talk about issues the group may be facing. But I get annoyed when it’s assumed that I need to be comforted or need to examine my feelings. I’m a man. I have a job with serious responsibilities to deal with, I have a family that I must support and lead, and honestly, if I let every situation turn me into a sobbing, self examining mess, I would never be able to function. Yes you have to feel it when hardship strikes, yes you have to turn to God and ask him for strength, but then you have to suck it up and move on. At least I do.

So I’ve come back to my balcony to have some silence, some time to flush out all the worry and deep thoughts, and empty my head. Even Jesus needed His time alone, right?

So I’m sitting here and it feels good. I hear the sounds of the children playing in the street. They see me and yell out one of the few English phrases they know:  “What is your name?”. I hear the sounds of construction in the distance. I hear strange music with twangy instruments and wailing vocals. I hear a Jet fly overhead. I hear conversations in the street that I cannot understand. I hear sheep, donkeys, dogs. Cars sounding their horns.

I smell the scent of the city. Coffee roasting, meals being prepared for the holiday celebrations on hot coals. It reminds me of Thanksgiving back home.

It is cloudy out, but every now and then the sun breaks through and the hot African sun warms my face, then the breezes cool my skin. It is so peaceful sitting up here, just me and God and his creations. I could stay right here for hours.

January 19. Saturday, 11:06PM Ethiopian Time

We just got back from the Crown Hotel. We went for dinner, but I didn’t eat. I’m just too full. We’ve eaten so much since we got here. The Crown has a band that plays traditional Ethiopian music and there’s a group of dancers that come out and perform different dances for each song. Each song originates in a different part of Ethiopia and so it was quite interesting to see and hear. We met a friend of Mica’s named Mimi who made us get up and taught us to dance the different dances. I’m sure we looked like complete retards, but it was great fun and a great mood lifter after an introspective day.

Hitting the sack.