Ethiopia Trip Blog: Days #5 and #6

January 18, Friday, 9:06PM Ethiopian Time

I fell a day behind in my writing due to the busy schedule we’re keeping.

Yesterday (Thursday the 17th) we got up and had a real breakfast. Eggs, Toast, Fruit and Tea, or Chi as the Ethiopians call it. It was very good. After breakfast we went to James & Jennifers house for a visit and then they took us to lunch.

We had real Habesha (Ethiopian) food for the first time. I’ll just say that it was good, but definitely not something I would like to make a habit of. My American palette is just too trained in it’s ways.

So what we had was a traditional dish which consists of a spongy, clammy, bread like substance called engera, which looks like a damp dishrag. It tastes a little sour, kind of like sour dough bread. They spread sheets of this stuff out on a round platter and then dump little piles of different spicy meats and things onto it. You eat it by ripping off a portion of the engera then using that piece to pinch up some of the meat and sauces from the piles, then you pop the whole thing in your mouth and force it down.

I don’t want to sound too negative here. The taste of the dish is not bad at all, in fact I loved the spicy meats and things, but it’s the texture of the engera that disagreed with me. However, when you’re in somebody else’s backyard, you eat what they eat. And so I made the best of it. If I could make a suggestion though, it would be to forget the engera and serve the meats with tortillas. Now that would be good. Must be the California boy in me.

An interesting thing to note is that you MUST eat with only your right hand. There are no napkins handed out so the expectation is that you wash before you eat, then use only your right hand for eating and not for anything else. This is probably to keep the food clean for the other people sharing your platter. Yes, everyone eats off the same plate. Once you’re done eating, then you wipe or wash your hands.

After lunch we went and visited the Educational Resource Center (ERC). The ERC is a place that provides educational text books, computers, classes, etc, to Ethiopians. It’s kind of like a college library where people can come and have access to educational materials they might not otherwise have access to. They can also sit around and talk, study, etc. It’s a really cool place and you can tell that the people there appreciate the services provided.

We had a few hours there to chill and Terry and I fired up a long conversation. She’s an amazing person and I’ll just say that Clovis Hills is lucky to have such a compassionate person in it’s family.

After the ERC we went to dinner and had Korean food. There’s one thing I have just realized about Ethiopia, there’s food everywhere. I don’t eat this much at home! Anyway, we had a nice visit with a few folks from Korea who are Mica’s friends. One of them, a young guy named Brooke, is here doing  humanitarian work. Apparently in Korea you get the option of serving in the military or doing humanitarian work somewhere in the world. He chose the latter.

The food was good, but the engera we ate earlier in the day was starting to mess with my stomach. Nothing too serious, but still uncomfortable. Justin however was not so lucky. He woke up in the middle of the night with a wicked fever, diarrhea and vomiting. I don’t know what it was, but it hit him hard. Allen stepped up to the plate though and really went out of his way to take care of him. And honestly, that was an amazing thing to see and was really cool. It’s nice to know that we have a tight team that watches out for each other.

So today is Friday and Justin spent the whole day just relaxing and trying to get his fever down. The rest of the team had to stick on schedule and so we spent the day at the Destiny Academy which is a grade school in our neighborhood. Wow, what fun that was! The kids are amazing. When you walk in to the classroom they all stand up and say “good morning teacher!”. They look so cute in their matching school sweaters.

Paul and I were assigned to teach a lesson on manners to some 4th graders, which is quite hilarious when you think about it.  It was pretty nerve wracking at first because there were teachers absent and so the principal threw us into the classroom by ourselves! Fortunately for me, Paul is a pretty good ad-libber and we managed to get through the class without any major issues. Paul joked that we probably set the poor Ethiopian kids education back at least several years though.

After the class we set up and played some kid songs for all the children and that was awesome. It’s what we do after all, and the kids really enjoyed it. Then I spent the rest of the day playing in the playground, pushing kindergartners on the swings and then playing go fish with the 5th graders.

Some funny things about Ethiopian kids; They are fascinated by arm hair! I have really hairy arms and they thought it was so funny. I was like the class dog as they took turns petting my arms. Hilarious! A few of them caught sight of my tattoos as well and that caused quite a ruckus! I tried not to let them get too carried away, but they thought my cross was really “beautiful” and kept asking to look at it. Funny how something in our culture that’s so commonplace is a major attraction to somebody else.

So after school we piled into the bus and headed out to Mount Entoto. It’s the tallest mountain in this area and from the top you can see all of Addis. Absolutely amazing. On the way up we got to see some of the local women carrying down these huge bushels of branches and things on their backs. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. Their backs must be ruined because these weren’t big women and these were really big bushels! They cut these branches and things up the mountain and then walk all the way down, several miles at least, with these bushels on their backs. It’s quite amazing.

On the way back we got a scare from some of the local Po-Po. Apparently it’s illegal to take pictures of certain federal buildings and embassies. I don’t think we took any pictures, but the AK-47 armed police at the American Embassy thought we did and so they stopped us and made us show them all the pictures in our cameras. I thought for sure they were going to confiscate our memory cards, or worse, but after we showed them what we had they appeared satisfied and sent us on our way. I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda scary.

So  it was a busy, busy day. Time to hit the sack and get some rest. Tomorrow we head to the orphanage and then I think we check out some of the Timkut celebration.