Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ethiopian Reflection - June 16

I got a decent night’s sleep last night – not perfect, though. I woke up with Muslim call to prayer at 5am and didn’t go back to sleep after that. This morning for breakfast we went to Motera Motel and I enjoyed my first macchiato and sadly my first “cooked in oil” food. The eggs I had tasted fine on the way down but left a filmy feeling in my mouth and a queasy feeling in my stomach. Cooking oil is actually rancid butter – didn’t know that until after we ordered. Liz found out the hard way – ordering French Toast just soaked in the stuff. Oh, my stomach churns just thinking about it.

On the drive over to the Hilton Hotel to exchange money, we had more people at our windows. That’s starting to make my stomach churn as well, though in a different way. We aren’t going to give them money – in part because we might get mauled (for more money) and because it’s hard to assess real need in a place so poor. The people at the window make my stomach churn because of the way I handle it. Jeff will just say “no, no” over and over – my strategy, ignore them altogether. The rough faces, deformed hands, children’s eyes – I ignore. Don’t look, don’t make eye contact, don’t acknowledge their existence in any way. That’s what bothers me so much. Here are the least and the lowly, and I turn my head. It’s not that I want to remain unaware of their plight, that I want to avoid seeing such poverty so close – that hasn’t been a problem for me so far. It is so much more that if I looked at them, told them “no,” I would have to see either the disappointment or a refusal to give up or–sometimes–anger. And so I don’t acknowledge those who stand at the car and I feel horrible.

On the way back from lunch we drove through a good deal of Addis – or at least it felt that way. So many buildings, all smushed together, many made of metal sheeting, many looking so much worse for the wear. During our drive around town, we also noticed needs of both sheep (and maybe goats – I can’t tell) and even Brahma cows. They seemed to know where to go, crossing the street as a group, guided by a shepherd. We also saw donkeys carrying large bags on their backs – I never knew that was really something people did.

When we got back to the compound, we headed over to the Bethel Makane Yesus School. There we met with Ato Teferra, the principle. He told us some interesting information – for example, the government does not allow religion taught in any schools, even private schools like Bethel. That floored me. Public I could understand, but private? Teferra took us on a tour of the school – we visited both kindergarten classes and grades 1-4. Oh, those kids were precious! They (almost all) sang “This is the Day” among other songs. The older kids we got to ask questions. I had the best time being silly with them (surprise, surprise) – asking them about their favorite and least favorite subjects. I have decided that a child’s giggle is a universal sound.

After our touring of the school and some time of rest – thank goodness for rest! – we went to an Abyssinian restaurant. There was lots of good national food and fun traditional dancing. Well, we enjoyed the dancing. Our hosts laughed hysterically at some of it. After dinner and dancing, it was time for bed!

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