>Off and Runnig!

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I apologize for the delay, but it is because I have become very familiar with the term “TIA” which means, “This is Africa.” And when it is constantly “TIA” you are without at least one of the following: power, internet access, hot water, a toilet, or an awareness and adherence of schedule or time. So lately when I have wanted to tell my family I am safe and sound, I have often been met with someone shrugging and saying “TIA.” But things are finally starting to settle into a routine (I use that term lightly) and I have managed to find some time to write this blog entry up and email to Andy to post.
First, this post will only be an overview of my first week. I plan to write more a extensive entries about my experiences when I return. But I do want to include you all in my trip now, so I hope to accomplish that in providing you with a glimpse of my life in Ethiopia so far.
DISCLAIMER: If my writing appears to be in broken English, or my grammar is slightly off… please ignore. It is the plague of most travelers to revert to the English of a five year old after at least a few days in a country with a different language. While interpreters are very good, you still have to speak slowly and use less slang, less complicated words, and/or shortened sentences. So we find ourselves even speaking to our fellow Americans as if we were speaking to a national. Its quite entertaining actually.
Okay, so let me begin. We arrived in the capital city of Addis Ababa on December 30th after traveling since the 28th. (We had an overnight layover in DC.) It seems as though Ethiopian Airlines wanted to welcome us to Africa in typical African fashion (and our first experience with TIA) by delaying our plane for 90 minutes. Now, it was not 90 minutes for a specific reason, there wasn’t poor weather, a missing pilot, or problems with the plane. They just were absolutely not in a hurry. No one seemed stressed or eager, this is just how things go. Therefore, we sat in our seats as patiently as possible, trying our best to leave our impatient and intolerant American attitudes behind.
Let me now interrupt with a slightly entertaining story of our flight, R Kelly was on our flight (in first class of course) and we were aware of that from the beginning. However, the talk was not enough for him, he wanted to be sure to grace the economy section with his presence (in his sunglasses and all… planes are really bright at night, no?) and let me caution you, do NOT try to sleep through his parade through the aisles. I made this mistake and was thankfully elbowed by his bodyguard so that I would not miss this rare sighting. And I am soooo thankful for that! (I believe that “psych!” is appropriate to use at this time if you are a product of the 90’s, otherwise, I apologize for my misunderstood reference to 90’s slang.)
Our first night in Addis Ababa was pizza for dinner (there is a lot of pizza in Ethiopia which is the saving grace for Americans who do not like spicy food. Italy used to occupy Ethiopia and with that came pizza and “ciao!”) We then went to our guest house to try to get some sleep. The only way I can explain our guest house is as bare. It is nice by African standards and I am grateful for the hot water and toilet. But it is very basic. Its a house similar to what you may see in America but without all the frills. It serves its purpose and I cannot complain at all.
Onto the various projects we have worked with. The first is WAR, Women At Risk. This is a program for women who have been found in prostitution and offered a rehabilitation program. They spend six months in counseling and group therapy overcoming the psychological effects of prostitution. They are also taught English and the bible. (The organization is a Christian organization but they do not require the women to be Christian. They teach principles from the bible but they do not require the women who are Muslim to abandon their faith. They accept all women regardless of their beliefs, the director was very clear about this and I very much appreciated his emphasis of this.) After the first six months they are taught a trade and then released following six months of training. Their success rate is wonderful and few women return to prostitution. We visited their daycare facilities and their center for teaching trades such as sewing, baking, and scarf making. (Their scarves are beautiful and we bought quite a few. They are sold on mochaclub.org to support this organization.) We spent several hours over two days with the women. Despite the difficulties of communication (though we do have 4 wonderful translators for our team of 12) we were able to connect with the women and just express that we see their value. The women are treated very poorly in their society because of their time in prostitution and obviously have been treated very badly by men as you would expect in a life of prostitution. But the women were so grateful for our affection. We gave them a spa day (pedicures and makeup), took their pictures and printed out (since many have never had a picture of themselves or their friends) and brought them gifts of jewelry. It is Christmas on the 7th in Ethiopia, so we are able to celebrate with each organization. The women were so incredibly excited and thankful. One woman said on behalf of the others, “Thank you for coming across the world to serve us. Here we are treated very badly and are not valued, but you have shown us today that we have value. And we thank you for that.”
Another organization we have spent a lot of time with is Ahope. I’m not going to go into too much detail about this organization because I really want to do a in depth post about it. But an overview of this organization is that it is a orphanage for children infected with HIV. All of the children are given the anti-viral drugs, but many are still very sick (depending on when they started receiving the drugs, how long they have had HIV, etc.) They are the most precious children you could ever imagine. Many will still be adopted as Ahope works with several adoption agencies and more HIV+ children are being adopted each year. So these kids are in fact the lucky ones. The children are so beautiful and this organization has definitely touched our team more than any others. I visited Ahope when we adopted Tek and we have financially supported their work. I have seen first hand the difference this organization makes in the lives of these orphaned children and it is amazing. But more to come later! A glimpse of to come… we were their for their Christmas and Birthday Celebration and it will be an experience that will forever live in my heart and mind. I see my Teketel in every one of those children and to experience this event with them captured my heart. At one point another team member saw the tears well up in my eyes as I interacted with the children during this event and she had to tell me to “Turn it off!” because if you don’t, you will simply weep and that does more harm than good.
Another organization that I will definitely do a separate post on is a grassroots organization (I use the term organization lightly) of women putting street boys through school. The short of it is two educated and strong Ethiopian women saw a need and decided they had to help fill it. They used their own and their friend’s money (and just because they are educated does not mean they are rich) to put 40 street boys through school. They didn’t simply enroll them, they bought their books, paid their fees, bought their uniforms, and weekly follow up with them. We helped them with their Christmas celebration and fed the boys. I had the amazing experience of washing the hands of the boys before and after their meals… but again… more to come. 🙂
The last organization that we have been introduced to is the Fistula Hospital. I am SOOOO excited to talk about this because all of my small group ladies have read about it in the book “Half the Sky” and if you skipped that chapter (Holly & Misty!!) you should really go back and read it so when I post all about the amazing impact this organization is making on Ethiopia, you will have the necessary knowledge to truly understand. For those of you who are Oprah watchers, you may have seen Dr.Hamlin on Oprah (Oprah also sponsored a building on the grounds) and some of you may have seen “A Walk to Beautiful.” For the rest of you, guess you will just have to stay tuned. 🙂 This is the only organization we did not actually volunteer at, but just toured the facility. They only take trained volunteers (such as nurses and doctors) due to the kind of work they do. However, we did drop off small bags of jewelery to be distributed to the women for Christmas… and that jewelry came from Savannah, Georgia, thank you very much! 🙂 I think it is so awesome that the women who were at one time left for dead but have now been given a new chance at life will be wearing the jewelry donated by my friends in Savannah. I hope you think of those women (and say a prayer for them) whenever you open your jewelry box. Thank you to all of you who donated to give them a better Christmas. (I wish you all could see the faces of them women when they receive these gifts, it is priceless. They will likely be their most prized possessions.)
Well, that pretty much sums up what I’ve been doing for the last week. I hope its a bit of a tease and you all stay tuned for what I have actually been experiencing and also to learn more about some of these extraordinary organizations. I am so excited about the work that is being done here and am anxious to help in any way I can when I return to the states.
On a personal note, my sister and I are doing very well. A couple team members have gotten sick, but Amy and I have managed to stay well. The common cold here in Ethiopia tends to be a terrible stomach virus that will make you miserable for two to three days. Fingers crossed that neither of us experience that (I feel that taking care of my new son during 27 hours of traveling while my husband struggled with that “cold” should give me the karma I need to avoid being a recipient, but I am not pushing my luck and am sanitizing every 5 minutes.) We have eaten a lot, they keep feeding us! For some reason they seem to have this impression that Americans eat a lot. But for once I am not complaining about eating, at least not when its Ethiopian. I used to brag I could make some really good Ethiopian food… oh man was I wrong. I have had the most amazing Ethiopian food! I guess I will just have to practice some more. I keep telling the nationals I will become Ethiopian. But then they laugh as soon as I try some Amharic. I am HORRENDOUS! In my defense, it is not an easy language and why must every language roll their “r”s. SO frustrating. And yes Andy, I hear you laughing at this all the way in Ethiopia.
So, this is all I have for you today. I don’t know when I will be able to write again. We travel to Nazareth tomorrow and like is said, TIA! I hope I can update you when we return. The rest of the team leaves in a week and then Amy and I will explore Ethiopia without 10 other people. Stop worrying Mom! We have already made many connections and the interpreters are helping us with all of our arrangements. I’m not trying to falsely reassure you, but it really is more safe for us to walk on the streets here than it is in DC or Savannah at night. It’s completely a different culture than America, but you will just have to see it for yourself!
Did I mention it is 2am in Ethiopia right now? Excuse the rambling and possibly even some parts that don’t make sense. But I have sacrificed much sleep for this blog, so I hope that you at least made it to the end. Thank you again for all of the support that everyone provided to make this trip a reality. I’m doing my best to make you all proud!
I miss you all BUT MOSTLY TEKETEL!!! (which I can now say like an Ethiopian!) It makes it even harder to be away from him when I see him in the face of every child I meet.

5 thoughts on “>Off and Runnig!

  1. >Great to hear from you Kate. Exciting stuff. I have to tell you, I had to look up who R Kelly was. I was clueless. Still am sort of. Look forward to more adventures!

  2. >Katie- What a awesome time you are having. I am so proud of you and your sister working for the Lord.Have a Merry Christmas in Ethiopia…what an adventure……..Love, mom

  3. >Been thinking of you a lot. Actually both Lisa and I . Hope your doing awesome, I cant wait to here all about everything. I bet you will talk a mile a minute when you get back out of exctiment for those people you've met. luv u -T

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