Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ethiopia 2009 - Pt. 1

I'm sure you've all been in that place of frustration where you've taken what you think are awesome pictures of breathtaking scenery. Then, to your dismay, you look at the pictures and realize they fall far short of truly capturing the enormity of what you saw. That's where I am right now, not only with pictures, but also with words. Was I touched by Africa? Absolutely! Can I adequately describe what I saw and felt using mere words? So far, I've tried some rough drafts and have fallen waaaay short. I guess the only thing to do is try my best. I will start with more general background information and then maybe I'll find words for the rest. Forgive me if these thoughts are random and lack a logical flow.

First and foremost, THANK YOU to everyone who prayed. Have you ever gone on a trip and it seemed like everything fit together such that you would describe it as "easy?" That's what I felt and saw. Suffice it to say that the prayer cover was obvious.

For me, there was no culture shock, other than trying to figure out whether any "rules of the road" exist. Numerous times drivers would miss each other and pedestrians by mere inches. We never hit anyone, although the other van had a small accident. Nobody has insurance there, so the process is for all witnesses to crowd around the scene and be judge and jury on who was to blame. The guilty party pays for the damages on the spot. The process took maybe 20-30 minutes, and finally the other driver was determined to be guilty. I found out that there is an honor system in Ethiopia. If someone is dishonest, they are shamed and disgraced. In addition, if someone tries to steal something, the owner shouts "Leba!" ("thief" in Amharic) and there will be a mad rush of bystanders to catch the person. In the U.S. it's the opposite. We pretend we didn't hear, or if we do help and the thief gets a skinned knee from being tackled, we'll be sued.

The people of Ethiopia are beautiful inside and out. They are very kind, generous, accommodating, polite, you name it. At one church where we played with children, one girl gave me the stickers that she received. Before we left, I told her they were hers and I wanted her to keep them, but she insisted she wanted me to keep them. I also received some drawings that I will always treasure.

The Ethiopian food was delicious. I think I personally had Ethiopian food 40% of the time (sometimes we ate at restaurants where it was our choice). I had various dishes of beef, chicken, lamb and goat, as well as the engera (flat, sponge-like Ethiopian bread that is used as an edible utensil).

The countryside of Ethiopia was downright beautiful. I'll try to post some pics, but as I mentioned earlier, they fall far short of doing justice to what we saw. One would think, by looking at all the agriculture, that Ethiopia would not be so poor. However, even though there is rain, often the rain does not come when it is most needed. Crops grow and turn green, but do not get rain when they are supposed to produce fruit, so it is like having a green corn stalk with no corn.

The city of Addis was busy with heavy traffic and vendors selling vegetables, goats, sheep, chickens, and cows. Ordering "take out" consists of stopping your vehicle by a herd of goats, paying the shepherd, and loading the goat inside the van or tying it on top. I never saw someone load a full sized cow. That would have been interesting, to say the least. There were also delivery donkeys carrying large loads of whatever merchandise. We even saw one camel, which apparently is rare. The one thing that did take some getting used to was the smoke. Trash is burned and there were times when the smoke was quite heavy and putrid.

I guess that does it for background info from my head. Next I'll do my best to describe things from my heart.

2 Comments:

At 4/28/2009, Blogger MaineMom said...

Mark,

Thank you SO much for putting these words to paper (or screen)! I feel your thoughts completely and have been making notes here and there as I have been home. No one can know what we have experienced unless you were there.

Until you have held the hand of an orphan or smelled funky smells or witnessed the beauty of the countryside, you just cannot fathom the world that is Ethiopia.

I walk with you in your frustration!

-Wendy (MaineMom)

 
At 4/28/2009, OpenID nephos said...

Sounds like a great trip! Look forward to hearing the rest.

Blessings.

 

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