Monday, September 13, 2010

Travel Journal: Day 5 (Monday)


We woke up around 5:45 to the sounds of other families leaving their rooms and heading downstairs for breakfast. We got dressed, packed up our things, and went down for coffee. Unfortunately, they informed me there was no milk, so I chose to go without my normal morning coffee. I was served eggs with peppers for breakfast. I guess that’s their interpretation of Scrambled Eggs. They were also white.

After taking 2 bites of eggs and faking an upset stomach and inability to eat due to sleep deprivation, they finally took my eggs away. The rest of our group got their food in shifts. All the scrambled eggs came out first, then 10 minutes later all the porridge, then 10-15 minutes later all the French toast arrived. French toast in Ethiopia is bread dipped in egg and deep fried in oil. It does not look lovely. It is also served with jams and jellies instead of syrup at this hotel.

Soon, we were on our way back out to the van. We were surrounded by many beggars – mostly children and old women. Several in our group handed them some birr, but they kept coming. We got into the vans and the security for the hotel asked them to back up. There was one older man who was arguing with the guard and our driver in Amharic. We asked our driver what was being said and he informed us that the older man was upset because he didn’t get his “share” –meaning no one had given him any birr.

I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for the poverty you see here. No photo, no video, no words can do it justice. I have seen babies – no more than 3 years old – sitting on the side of the road with no adults to be seen. I have seen young children no more than 5 years old herding goats and cattle down the street –with no adult around. I have seen men, women and children bathing in gutters and filling bottles with water that washes off from the road.

Our trip back was about the same as the trip to Durame. It was sunny part of the drive today, so we were able to see more of the beautiful countryside. I am amazed at how lovely it all is! There were several parts that would make you think you were on a scenic drive in Colorado, except for the occasional circular mud/straw hut, the donkeys and goats in the road, and the people carrying their goods up and down the road. Everyone seems to be going somewhere. They are walking along the road in between cities like they are on a mission. Several will hold out their hand, palm side up and make an upwards motion. This is the Ethiopian hitchhiking sign.

We stopped at the Shinshinco Clinic on the way back to look at the medical services and buildings provided by Holt’s Mother and Child program. The doctor there looks to be 25-30 years old, but very kind and knowledgeable. The buildings remind me of a 1960’s motel with a courtyard in the center. They have several exam rooms, patient teaching areas, in and out-patient services rooms as well as the birthing rooms.  

The Doctor explaining the hospital and telling us about patients who come here.

Let's play ... count the code violations! ;)

There were some men demolishing a building to make way for the new hospital. It was interesting to watch them taking it apart by hand. We would expect to see a bulldozer working to fill up a dump truck. Here they knock walls down by hand, carry the demolished parts away on a stretcher made from two sticks and some corrugated metal.  There was a man standing on a beam that was at the roof line. He was banging on another beam to knock down the section that made part of the roof. Paul said that the beam he was standing on was nailed into the support, not resting upon it. It looked like an accident waiting to happen for sure.

We reloaded the vans and drove another hour or two to the same hotel/restaurant where we had stopped on the trip down. We again had coffee and several ordered Dabo – bread. The bread was described to taste like a hybrid between French, Italian, and San Francisco sourdough. Everyone enjoyed that particular dish as it was a somewhat familiar taste and texture. I think the culture differences are really getting to a lot of people at this point.
The hotel/restaurant where we stopped.

After coffee, we were back in the vans on our trip back to Addis Ababa. This segment of the trip seemed to take forever. More farms, more beautiful countryside, more poverty, more children alone in a field, more people bathing in road wash-off. 

I LOVED these trees!

Eventually, we were back in Addis. It was a VERY busy day on the streets as we made our way back to our hotel. We saw a fight on the street which was very interesting as there are very few police officers around to break up such a thing.

We arrived back at the Union and we were SO happy to be there! Our room felt like the Ritz Carlton after what we had endured in Durame! As we were on our way up to our rooms, Emma and Mike found out their bags had (FINALLY!) arrived to the Addis airport! I am so happy for them! They have been very gracious about it up to this point, but taking custody of their daughter tonight would have been difficult with no supplies other than what was in their carry-on bags. We went up stairs and took showers. Even though our water heater had not been plugged in, and the water wasn’t very warm even after waiting 20 minutes for it to heat up, that was the best shower I have had in a long time! It felt so good to finally get cleaned off from the Durame trip.

Feeling human again, we met some of the travel group down in the lobby to walk down to a grocery store nearby. I was surprised at how little begging we encountered along the way. I assumed we would see people running up to us with their hands out as we did in Durame, but we only saw two older people on the sidewalk begging for change and they did not approach us as we walked by.

The grocery store was really wonderful! They have fresh fruits and vegetables, butter, yogurt, juices, canned meats and fruits, frozen items and every dry good you can imagine. We purchased some mango juice for the babies, some diapers for Joshua, washcloths and the Babelac 3 formula that the care center said our kids drink still. We were told that it is hard to preserve milk, so all of the children drink Babelac instead of regular milk. It was pricey for Ethiopian standards at around $7-8 per can.  They had everything in this store. Upstairs we found kitchen appliances, fans, dishes, pillows and blankets, towels and washcloths, some tea sets, and baby toys and supplies. It was almost like an Ethiopian Walmart!  We checked out and paid around 300 birr for everything we purchased (around $30).  I asked Paul for the change so I could give it to the two beggars on the street.  

On the way back, we wanted to stop at this one man on the side of the road selling scarves. Just as we were walking there, we were introduced to Danny, a boy from Addis Ababa who is 11 years old and in the 9th grade. He informed us that he has passed his other friends in school because he studies so hard! He has near-perfect English and walked with us to help us negotiate. We were unable to reach a deal with the man on the street, so Danny told us he would take us somewhere else where they have nicer things. He walked us over the foot bridge to a pink building where they sell beads.

The story with the bead store is that the women of Addis who do not want to beg on the street to feed their families, or resort to selling their bodies for money, will come and make necklaces and other hand-crafted items to sell at the store to make money in an honorable way. It was a very small shop, about the size of a large walk-in closet in the USA, but they did have very nice things! We were able to find many items that we wanted to purchase! We bought hand carved wooden animals, some animals that were wrapped in wool yarn, an Ethiopian painting made on goat skin leather, some beaded hair elastics, and a necklace.

As we were walking back, Danny told us about his life. His parents both work. His father works for the local paper and his mother works as well – but I forgot where. Combined they make 750birr a month. Danny said that he has to make his own money to attend school which is around 100birr a month. We asked what he does and he stated that he works as a tour guide to the Americans who come to stay. He said some give him 50 birr, some 100 birr, some more… but all of the money goes to his schooling, books and supplies. He hopes to come to the United States some day and go to Harvard to become a doctor. As we walked closer to his home and our hotel, we discovered that Danny, his parents and 3 other siblings all live in the tiny yellow building across from the Union Hotel. We asked him if he has enough food for his family and he said that he did. Paul made arrangements to meet him again tomorrow to go shopping in the Mercato. Danny is such a kind, sweet and impressive young man and I really pray he is able to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.

Back inside, we had around an hour before it was time to walk over to the care center and take custody of our kids! I picked out clothes for them, did some baby-proofing, and had a snack while Paul went to the lobby to use the computer and check in with the kids. 

We have been unable to talk to them so far on the trip since our mobile phone for the group to use requires phone cards and the day I tried to buy one, the lady had no idea what I was asking for – even after showing her one from someone else. It has been good to be able to check in through Facebook and chat online with them for a few minutes, but I really miss hearing their voices and tucking them in at night.

At 5pm, we were ready to go take custody!  I packed the outfits up in a bag, grabbed my baby sling, and out we went! Our group was so excited to get there and we were all so ready to bring them back! The nannies brought the kids downstairs and they ran right to us! Finally – they ran to the correct parents!

We played for a minute and waited for Sister Martha to come out and say goodbye for the night. Lily saw my bag and looked inside and got so excited to see the new clothes! We quickly dressed all three kids and found out everything fit except for Joshua’s shoes were too small, but the care center said we could take their shoes and just bring them back on Thursday. I put Joshua in my sling and we were off!

Walking out the door of the care center with three beautiful children was amazing! We were all smiling from ear to ear and ran through the drizzling rain back over to the hotel.  We arrived to many smiles and greetings from the Union staff. They were all very happy to see the kids! We decided to go ahead and eat dinner so that we could go up to the room and relax for the night. We looked at the menu, but told the server that the kids normally eat Injera and something called “wet” and asked if we could have that. She obliged and 10 minutes later, we were feeding our kids their first dinner outside of the care center in almost a year.

The rainy season decided to arrive with a big crash of thunder right during dinner! It was an amazingly strong thunderstorm! It may not have felt so huge if we were in our home in Tennessee watching out of our windows, but here for some reason it just felt frightening. Maybe it was the thought of our new friend Danny across the street living in a metal house, or maybe it was the picture in my head of all of those people – women and children- living on the streets in a thunderstorm. You want to do something, but there is really nothing we can do.

At dinner, we had some issues figuring out the sippy cups I had brought, so I had to take the straw part out of the center which made them more like a normal cup with a soft straw. We gave the kids papaya juice at dinner, some mango juice and water in the room and then their Babelac 3 at bedtime. It became apparent as we entered the evening hours that Joshua takes a bottle at bedtime still. This was not mentioned to us at the care center, but he really seemed restless and fussy until we decided we would try the milk. All three kids self-soothe with some kind of sucking. Evie sucks on her cheeks and lips, Lily sucks her thumb at bedtime and Joshua would not put the sippy cup down all evening since he was sucking and chewing on the straw.
We gave the girls their American Girl Bitty Twins first… Lily loved hers; Evie didn’t want anything to do with hers!  We gave Joshua his Woody doll… he HATED it! Okay… 1 for 3… so we went with the blankies! Blankies were a huge hit! Success! We played in the room, lotioned up the hair and bodies, put on pajamas and watched a little of Finding Nemo and all of Abe and the Amazing Promise. They were acting sleepy so we decided it was time to try out bedtime.

First we put three wiggly little kids into one queen size bed. 
That didn’t work.  
We tried staying in there with them and singing, 
rubbing backs and generally just trying to keep the peace until they fell asleep. 
That didn’t work either. 
We decided to try the Divide-And-Conquer approach. 
I picked up Baby Boy and took him into the main room where our bed is and laid him down to go to sleep. I lay down next to him and tried to get him to go to sleep. He was having such a problem with his head being itchy. The pediatrician had said he has some kind of infection and they were using an antihistamine cream, but they didn’t give it to us. I was wishing I had it at this point.  He finally fell asleep! Paul was also able to keep the girls still long enough to give up and go to sleep. 
We had cleared our first big hurdle!

Later in the night, around 2am, I heard whimpering. I went into the girls’ room to find a soaking wet Lily lying on the floor uncovered. It made me so sad that she hadn’t thought to leave her room and walk the 10 feet to our bed to get help in the night. I quickly changed her pull-up, putting her into a smaller size, put her back into bed and covered her up and she went right back to sleep. I put Joshua on a bed on the floor next to me and tried to get more comfortable in my bed. I was afraid to take something to help me sleep thinking I wouldn’t hear a whimper in the middle of the night if I was in such a deep sleep. Around 4am I was able to get back to sleep. The babies were all awake around 7am. None of them got out of the bed until I came and got them (finding Evie on the floor and also wet). That also made me sad. (It’s one of the signs that a child has been in an institution – they learn that even if they cry in the night, even if they want to get up for someone to comfort them, they will not have anyone there. Eventually they stop looking for help and learn that survival method of just being alone. This makes me incredibly sad.) 


  1. And when they finally realize that you will come get them when they cry, it's such an amazing feeling! Even though it's more tiring that Eden wakes me up when she doesn't feel well, I'm so very thankful she does!

  2. Begging is one of the things that Jeff's mom said she will never forget when she was in ET in the Peace Corp. Since she lived there and was a nurse, she said that it was constant and she felt like she could never do enough.

  3. Ahhhhhhhh..... Danny. He haunts me. I wonder if he has earned enough yet to buy a cell phone. Or gotten a girl now that he smells so deodorant-fresh!!!


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