(I suggest watching in full screen:)
The Amharic word for thank you is pronounced Ah-Meh-Seg-Hay-Nah-Lay-Hoo. Which is not easy to recall when an Ethiopian stands before you deserving this salutation. Most of the time the familiar “thank you” slips out, but there have been a few times in a day I can recall the word.
It’s 4:00 AM in Addis Ababa on Friday morning and my mind will not let me rest. The task of processing my relationship with Acacia and my first trip to Africa is too consuming. I could watch television, but the rainy season results in daily power outages. We are located at our agency’s guest house, about 15 minutes from the children’s transitional facility. The area is a blend of residential and commercial that would induce a cold sweat for even the most relaxed zoning board in New Hampshire. There are major roads that are paved, with the look of a drive down Main Street in Derry, NH or Gravois in St. Louis. Turning off the main roads you reach an extensive network of dirt paths that are more densely populated. These paths are full of stone and metal shacks without a hint of open space. When all the doors and gates are closed, it has the feel of an open air multi-colored tunnel. Nearly everything is painted a bright color, regardless if its a make shift door out of scrap metal or an ornate wooden gate.
Behind each wall is a family, a court yard, or a shop. During the day the city opens many of their doors affording you a chance to see what’s inside. For the shacks there are the expected produce and variety shops. Then there are the less expected auto part shops, which would lead me to believe that Ethiopia supplies the world, but we are told this is just the district for such goods. Finally, there are open doors that just reveal families sitting on the floor with exhausted faces and a general ambivalence about what they should be doing.
The stone walls with metal gates provide a different picture. While adjacent to the shacks they only seem to open for entry and exit. When returning to our guest house, a quick horn from the van is followed by a guard sticking his head out of the gate. The gate opens and we enter into a sizable stone courtyard. I’ve seen a few others and they all appear to have a similar layout. Enough room to park two cars, allow walking access to one or two building/room(s) that are located inside the walls of the property, space for a few plants and maybe a small table. While a bit cramped, I believe it is considered spacious for Addis.
Our days have been spent between our guest house and the transitional facility. We make the round trip at least twice a day via our agency’s transport van. Each time we arrive our driver washes the van. Every time, even though we will just get back in the van and rive on the same muddy path in a few short hours. There is just something important about that van being clean. This is not a unique phenomena to this single driver. I’m beginning to realize that if it can be cleaned, someone in Addis is ALREADY cleaning it. Everyone is washing either a car, laundry, a wall, a floor, a tire, a chair, etc… All is being purified, even though we are in the middle of the rainy season. Soon the sky will cloud over, the rain will fall, the earth will soften and whatever it was that you cleaned will be dirty again. Yet it doesn’t matter, that is the pattern, and the society embraces it.
There is little wasted in Addis. I’ve seen many delivery boys moving carts full of glass coke bottles. Coke that is so delicious by the absence of plastic bottles and high fructose corn syrup. While I’ve seen these bottles on our dinning room table, I’ve also seen them strategically broken and installed on the tops of shack walls to prevent intruders. Even further I saw two men playing checkers with the metal cap, while sitting on old tires. Caps up and down distinguishing the allegiance of each game piece. I am so inspired by the resourcefulness of the population and an acceptance of working with what they have. Of course I’m not naive enough to believe they necessarily have a choice.
I could say that work is hard to find in Addis and wages are low so the majority of this neighborhood sits around. But I don’t know that this is true. What I do know is that I am thankful that I have a family and a wonderful new daughter. A daughter that can embrace where she comes from, but doesn’t have to struggle through the hardships that I’ve seen over the last few days. It is important to understand that we are not saving her. She would have had a life in Ethiopia and from my brief experience with her personality, I know she would have had a good life. What we are offering her is a platform to further reach her greatest potential.
We leave for the US soon, and I say Amesegenalehew for my safe and comfortable life, as this trip has further let me appreciate this.