Archive for February, 2011

At the market with Noah

Following is a a third post from Noah who is spending a month is Soddo volunteering at CCCE .  Noah spent 2010 volunteering at CCCE working as a Children’s Home Manager.

One night Katie and I were debating staying at the Children’s Home or getting out and doing something else for the evening. We decided to eat out and just see what happened. We drove the motorbike up above town on the way up Damota Mountain to see the sun set over the Rift Valley, but weren’t able to see it from our vantage point. I turned off into a little neighborhood and we immediately had a crowd of children running after us. I was weaving through neighborhoods of mud and stick houses causing people to come out of their homes and stare. We found a great place to watch the sun say its final farewell right next to a home where a woman was standing bewildered at her new guests. We said hello and commented on the beautiful sunset in Amharic and a huge smile came across her face and we had a friend to share the end of the day with.

After departing from our sunset friend, we decided to wander around the market in the final minutes of daylight. The market is one of my favorite places in Soddo, 2nd in place behind the imitation YMCA. Generally it is a bustling bazaar with women squatting on the ground selling their vegetables; oxen, goats and donkeys wandering the aisles looking for something to nibble on; stick and tin shelters full of clothes, tools and a myriad of handy items. But this evening the market is winding down. Most of the people who sell from the ground have gone home and the majority of the stalls are closed up. The Muslim call to prayer floats over the market and Katie and I comment how different it sounds than the Orthodox chanting. We are rarely followed or bothered by children these days. I don’t know if people are just used to us, or if we carry ourselves and communicate in a way that tells others we are not tourists, but the market used to be a stressful event to undertake only on the bravest of days. It is now a place of pseudo fellowship where I can really experience this community with pleasure.

As Katie and I wander through the remaining shop keepers closing up, we greet and say the pleasantries with those we meet. Just as we are leaving a child comes up to us and opens his hands to reveal a small, furry creature. I can’t figure out what it is. It looks like a kitten, but its head is shaped differently and its body is much smaller and longer. It is grey and white striped. I ask him, “Min dih no?” What is it? He replies in English it is a lion. “Ambasa whem dimet?” Lion or cat? I ask him thinking he confused the two feline animals. “Not dimet! Lion!” he says emphatically. I can’t resist and ask to hold it and look at it in the face. It is a tiny little fellow and I am still dumbfounded at what it is. This cannot be a lion. There are no lions in this area of Ethiopia and it is TINY. By this time there is a crowd of probably 30 children surrounding us. So much for thinking we blend in. A 15ish boy breaks through the crowd and asks us in perfect English what the problem is. I tell him everything is okay and we are looking at this little furball trying to figure out what it is. He tells us it is a small lion that lives in the rural area outside of town. It must be an ocelot or something (that sounds good – I really have no idea what an ocelot is), but in any case it’s not every day you find a lion in the market. These are the things that make me laugh when I lay in bed at night and reflect over a most unusual and yet typical day.


Evenings at CCCE

Another great update from Noah who has recently returned to CCCE after a two month absence.  Read about a typical end of day at CCCE:

One evening Katie and I are just hanging out with the kids outside. It is a normal day and not much is different except it seems more of the kids are gathered around outside than typical. Sophie and Angie, nurses who work in a rural clinic outside of Soddo, and Stephanie, a new OB-GYN at Soddo Christian Hospital, come by to play with the kids and visit. I am busy learning how to build a Habisha (Ethiopian) fence out of bamboo by my experienced teacher Addisu while Abite is hanging on my back laughing hysterically. The ladies are playing games with the girls. I look up and notice the sun is setting over the mountains in the distance. The sky is bright orange and the sun is larger as it only is in Africa. I am temporarily brought back to family camp in the gold country of Northern California by the smell of the powder sugar red dirt that puffs up like little clouds with every step, the sweet scent of dry grass and the sounds of laughter. I am pulled out of my thoughts by Addisu and Biniam excitedly demanding that we go on a hyena hunt. It has been a while since I’ve been on a hyena hunt! Why not? I run down into the lower part of the property with Addisu, Biniam, Sebsibe, Tesfahun, and Ammanuel as the little ones trail behind. We pretend to stalk imaginary hyenas and whooooop for them. A good hyena hunt always ends with watching the sun make its final descent over the rift valley from the heights of the Acacia Tree. The little ones are down under the tree, jealously yearning to climb as well. Bereket solves the problem by diverting the attention to himself by yelling “Noha! Shint (pee) is coming!” I have to laugh as Bereket relieves himself out in the field. He looks at me and giggles because he knows this is funny for two reasons.

First, well, the obvious. Second, Bereket has a history of using the phrase “_______ (whatever is applicable at the time) is coming”. It started one day several months ago when Bereket yelled, “Katie, Bananas is coming!” while doing a little dance to celebrate the occasion. He was cheering on the tired boy delivering a load of bananas on a eucalyptus pole wheel barrow struggling down the hill. (yes, Ethiopia had the original precursor to WebVan and bulk food items are delivered right to the door!) We were really excited that he knew the words AND used the present continuous form…no need to sweat the singular/plural error.  Since then the rest of the kids picked it up and often use the phrase. “Dinner is coming? Noha! Light is coming! (the phrase of choice when they want to use the computers) or my favorite, Water is coming? After a week of no city water I sure hope so.  Our saving grace is the well and the children who are eager to help me haul buckets of water to the room.

Noah and CCCE boys in tree at sunset

Noah Arrives Back In Soddo

Noah, one of our wonderful Aerie Africa volunteers, arrived back in Soddo last week.  He is volunteering at CCC for a month and is following up on the many improvements that Noah and Sam implemented during their year long mission at CCC in 2010.  Below is a post from him.

This is a perfect opportunity to finally put down some of the latest events since I’ve been back in Ethiopia. It’s shortly before 5 in the morning and for some reason I’m lying here awake. It is an unusually still, moonless night, the power is out, and the night guard Sodo just passed by my window shuffling his feet. I know without looking that he is wearing his black wool coat, floppy little hat, worn sneakers and carrying his massive machete. Nothing to comfort you from creepy nighttime sounds like knowing Sodo is patrolling. But first I begin with the descent into Ethiopia.

Arriving in Addis Ababa is a mixed bag of emotion. I’m back. I can’t wait to see those kids. Am I going to be inundated with work right away? What is it going to be like to be back without Sam here? I am stoked (Southern California slang…) to see Katie. I am not so stoked to eat Injera and wat. As the plane touches down, my thoughts are jolted back into reality as the plane suddenly slams on the brakes and we all go flying forward. When the massive g-forces stop and we are able to sit back in our seats I look around and chuckle. Half the plane is laughing, the rest is wide-eyed and terrified. It is obvious who is landing in Addis to stay and who is here on a layover en route to Cape Town.  While the event has nothing to do with where we are and everything to do with the European pilot, this is a pleasant greeting to Ethiopia. I reflect how the last time I was in the Addis Ababa airport at night the power went out – everywhere.  Including the runways.  As a people Ethiopians are amazing at adapting and making due with what is available and maintaining a glowing happiness. I hope I continue to learn from this attitude during my stay.

As I am going through immigration I am amazed I understand some of the Ethiopian chatter. Escripto alesh? Yelum, escripto iza terapeza lie no. Do you have a pen? No, there is one over there on that table. I strike up a conversation with a ferenji guy next to me in line. He is here to volunteer at the Korean Mission Hospital and asks if I have any advice for someone who hasn’t worked in Africa before. I smirk and tell him to never be shy with anyone because everyone will want to talk with him and he will have the best conversations and fall in love with these people. I also tell him that operations at the hospital will most likely shock him and not to think of his work in the same terms as he did in the states. As we leave the airport, Alazar is waiting for me. It is a warm reception. But my new friend’s ride is nowhere to be found. Alazar offers to drive him to the hospital and he gratefully accepts. As we drive to the hospital, we have to go on a detour through a little neighborhood of dirt and rock roads lined with block, eucalyptus branch, tarp and tin homes. Men are sitting outside shooting the breeze as mangy dogs wander around looking for scraps. The only thing open is a meat market – a small open air stand with several slabs of raw beef hanging on a rack. The road to the hospital is under construction and is closed. We have to park a distance from the hospital and walk this confused American the rest of the way to the hospital. I can’t help but wonder what is going through this guy’s mind, but it all feels strangely normal and refreshing to me.

The next morning Alazar picks me up and we head off to see Michael. Michael has been at CCC since its beginning and is now at Addis Ababa University – the top university in Ethiopia. Seeing Michael is like seeing an old trusted friend. He was the one who helped Sam and me transition to life in Ethiopia, had unending patience with us, translated for us in Ethiopian church and spent hours watching LOST with us.

Getting back in the car we start our journey to Soddo. I take a deep breath in Addis and smile at the familiar smell. Alazar laughs and asks what Ethiopia smells like. It’s a mixture of exhaust, dust, burberry, and Injera. He tells me he hasn’t ever thought about what his country smells like. The 6 hour ride to Soddo slips by as Alazar and I discuss the uprisings in the Middle East, funny differences between Ethiopian and American culture, the ways in which non-profits help and hurt development, the differences between Ethiopian Protestant and Ethiopian Orthodox churches, and how our families are doing.

On the road to Soddo

Arriving in Soddo is a homecoming. The music is blaring from the suks on the roadside. Donkeys carry bright yellow plastic jerrycans of water wander down the road as children with sticks swat them to keep the docile creatures in line. Goats and sheep trot aimlessly (Goats– tails go up. Sheep – tails go down).

Arriving at the children’s home I am greeted with cheers as the children bombard the vehicle with arms raised. “Noha is coming. Noha is here! Sammi is coming? Allie America?” (more on these phrases later). I am inundated with sloppy kisses and have a hard time standing as I become a human jungle gym. This is very good.

Noah playing with boys - human jungle gym

Noah with boys

Birthday Party

Every month CCCE has a birthday party.  Children who have a birthday during the month are recognized.  Everyone enjoys birthday cake and occasionally sodas.  The kids especially enjoy the birthday cake.  Following are pictures from a recent birthday party.

We hope you have a Happy Birthday in 2011!