Thursday, July 28, 2011

Week 2 - Settling in...

Saturday through today has been a ride.  Saturday was a good day yet still presented things
to reflect on.  I was able to change the rest of my money and we went to the largest
cathedral in Addis Ababa.  There's a museum there that has artifacts dating from the first
century.  Being here has been a great experience.  The history of Christianity in Ethiopia
has actually been recorded in the bible in Acts 8:26-end for those of who are into biblical
history.  It's great to feel like I can help continue that legacy, even if it's only in a
small way.  While we were driving I saw a naked man, about 50 or so, sleeping on cardboard
in the middle of the street.  No one attempted to drag him to safety which was kind of
interesting to think about...
Sunday, Trish (a new volunteer), and I had a great time going to Tiggist's (our house
keeper) daughter's birthday.  Her daughter, Salioam is so precious!  When you go to the
house, you one could be shocked at the living conditions.  It was a little smaller than the
size of the size of the couple's house from the Alart Village (leprosy colony) but when you
strip away all the luxuries we are used to, you realize what's really important.  Tiggist
is so hospitable!  They kept filling our plates!  I was stuffed because I had eaten before
(but felt bad about it...).  I also had an opportunity to witness my first coffee ceremony
and I helped to grind the beans which was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Monday was another day of teaching.  I started painting  and I must say that after three
days of painting, it looks GREAT!  I've been having some help so it's been good.  Also, the
full time teachers have started teaching a portion of the classes so I am now only responsible for a 30 minute class.  Tuesday and Wednesday were similar to Monday except for the fact that I've been having dreams about issues that I thought had been resolved in the past.  Perhaps God is reminding me not to forget where I come from and how important humility is as I move forward.  It came in good time too because yesterday (Wednesday) I had a run in with one of the guards who was helping me paint the previous two days.  I had feeling there were some cultural miscommunication and looked to Dundy for advice.  Trish had had similar experiences and we looked to get support from Dundy together.  Dundy was great and immediately put us at ease.  After journaling last night, he and I had a conversation and it ended with prayer and an opportunity for us to get to know each other better.
Today was a little difficult because due to the events that occurred yesterday, there was a meeting for all the employees at Strong Hearts, so I ran the morning class for an hour.  Things were a little uneasy with the conflict the day before but I'm trying to not be discouraged and am looking to continue to move forward in love.  Dundy and those who I have looked to for council have been extremely supportive.  I've also started feeling congestion in my head.  I guess this is a part of the experience :D. 
Considering all of the challenges of culture shock and work that I've been doing, I'm still in good spirits.   I'm spending time in the Word and reading Forgotten God.  After class we watched the boys play soccer and I was extremely touched when a little boy came up to me snuggled up on my lap during half time.  Although our verbal communication is minimal, I feel protective over the kids, and I think they feel safe at Strong Hearts.  Most if not all the kids were prescreened before being admitted to the school and are the kids in the community that need the school the most.  From what I understand, most of them come from broken families and seeing them play soccer is a treat.  You can really see that for that hour, they are completely letting go of anything that was bothering them before.
I started focusing on typing and some of the kids are progressing fast!  I'm trying my best to spend time with those that need it the most.  Tonight I participated in another street ministry.  We went to visit a mom who had just had a baby a month ago.  She was living on the street and Dundy was actually called to bring her to the emergency room when she was in labor.  She just found a place to live and we went to visit.  In order to get to her house we had to hike down a creek off the main road about a quarter mile.  She lived in a metal shack about 2 meters by 1 meter.  The baby was so adorable and you could tell that the baby was loved.  We spent some time visiting and prayed for them.  Then Dundy offered to take them house hunting, saying that Strong Hearts would pay the rent.  I could tell immediately how much that meant to them.  I hope I get an opportunity to see them again.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Week 1

So today marks my first week in Ethiopia.  I apologize for not updating my blog sooner, but the Internet is hard to come by.  I actually intended to post on Tuesday but right before I posted, the Internet went out.  Here's what you've missed out on so far:

The best way I can describe the past week in one word is "real".  Before I left, there were a lot of things running through my head and I was a little anxious to see how I would react.  Well, now that I've been thrown in the mix, I'm really starting to understand what is really important.  I have already had so many experiences.

On Sunday I attended the international church in Addis.  It was a great experience seeing so many people from so many different cultures.  After Church we got Yemeni food.  Addis is apparently the political capital of Africa and as you drive around you see embassies.  Because of that, you can pretty much get any type of food (if you drive) so I've been eating pretty well.  It tastes really good but unfortunately I haven't really felt "well" since I've been here.  I think the food is sitting weirdly in my stomach and it doesn't help that the water will go out for days at a time.

I took my first bucket shower on Sunday as well.  Not a new experience since I spent time in Vietnam a few years back.  Since then I've started teaching a preschool class.  We just learned our ABC's and I'm teaching them body parts (in hopes to do the Hokey Pokey) and numbers.  I'll be teaching this class for another two weeks until Vacation Bible School starts.  In addition, I'm taking over the computer classes for the older kids.  I'm teaching them Excel and they are catching on extremely well!  I'll probably move onto basic typing skills  so that they can start progressing faster.  The playground is not what you would expect coming from America.  The fence is made of sheet metal, the ground is a mixture of big rocks and mud, and the slide and swings are rusty.  Even though the equipment would make any mother from Irvine shriek from the play hazards, the kids have tons of fun.  They play a lot rougher than in the states, but they also look out for each other when they get hurt.

In addition to the school, I've already participated in a street ministry and home visit to the leprosy colony.  There are 10,000 people that are forced to live in the leprosy and it's  only a 10 minute walk from the guest house.  To get to the house that we went to visit, we had to walk through mud that was at least 4 or 5 inches in some parts.  Even by our guest house, you can see people walking with missing fingers or limbs from leprosy.  When we reached the house, it was an inspirational site to see.  It was an old couple, both affected by leprosy.  The man was 97 years old and just went blind.  The couple met in the colony about 50 years ago.  They have no children and never get a visit.  The whole time we were there, the man and women were crying happy tears and kept asking God to bless.  Here I am, living in America while they are suffering from leprosy and living in the poorest part of one of the poorest parts of the world, and they are asking God to bless me!  As we were leaving we ran into a girl who is a neighbor to the couple and helps them out frequently.  She just found out that day that she was HIV positive.  I'm beginning to realize how much faith can really sustain life.  No amount of money that I can offer will save any of these people  so the only thing I can really do is encourage them and bring hope.

This idea took root even further when we did our street ministry.  On Wednesday night, we drove to a part of Addis where I had never been.  The streets are lined with bars and prostitution is common.  At the end of the strip, the road goes down a hill and right when the road curves to the right, there's a dump to the left.  We got out of our car and walked into the dump to find 5 young guys who made a shelter in the dump and had been living there for quite some time.  They scratch for food or things to sell to make a living.  Some of them were even addicted to a drug called chat that they chewed to get them high and one of them just got released from prison 9 days prior to us being there.  The place had an odor that stung my nostrils but I soon got used to the smell after about 5 minutes.  We had to watch  where we stood to make sure that we didn't stand on one of the many ant hills.  After hearing from one of the guys and his story, it was really touching.  We took some time to pray, sing songs, and give them loaves of bread to hopefully hold them over for a few days.

The last highlight was the soccer game yesterday.  Once a week Strong Hearts hosts a soccer game for their kids at a local community center.  This week it was the girls and each week they alternate between boys and girls.  They games are held on a cement basketball court which was good for scraping knees and handing out bruises.  It was great to see the girls play because they were all into the game.  One thing I've treasured since I've been here is how the people are so "present".  When they play soccer, they play soccer.  They're not waiting for a phone call, worried about the weather (it started to rain), or worried about bumps and bruises.  They would fall, get up without even checking out their injuries, and have fun.  Talk about tough girls!
If I wrote every thought I had, I'd probably be here for another 4 hours so I'll stop here and allow you to ask questions when I return.  I've been getting your emails and I wish I could reply to all of them.  If you don't get one back, please understand that it's tough to find time with everything going on, and know that the encouragement means a LOT.  Keep the messages coming!


Thursday, July 14, 2011


I'm am glad to report that I am safe in Addis Ababa.  After an hour long delay and dealing with lost luggage I am happy to say that I am in one piece :D!  The city is much like any big city but when you start reaching the outskirts at about 6:30 or 7 in the morning you start seeing hundreds of people walking towards the city.  Perhaps to go to work.  I was also able to catch a glimpse of some runners stretching after a long workout.  The guest house is a lot nicer than I had anticipated and there are a few other volunteers from New Zealand, Scotland, and other European countries.  There's running water (half the time), a fridge, and electricity.  The weather is a little overcast and reminds me of San Francisco. We have tea, coffee, cereal, and toast for breakfast and everyone is extremely nice.  Getinet, my host has a great sense of humor and has already started teaching me wrong things to say to people in Amharic.  I've already said "Hi elephant" to a lady that works in the guest house...  Until my next opportunity to check in!
I'm sitting in the Cairo airport in Egypt for a five hour layover and it's already a culture shock.  Tons of dutyfree shops line the walkways and I'm actually sittingj next to a Burger King awaiting my gate information which should be available over the next couple hours.  On one side of the main square there are African people dressed in their traditional bright clothing, on the other there are two egyptian children pushing each other in a cart (which brings me back to my childhood), and on the other there is a mixture of Muslim women covered from head to toe and business men enjoying their lunch.  Throught the airport you see the occaisional caucasian tourist either ariving here as their final destination or passing their time until their connecting flight.  Things are the same in America in regards to purchasing something in order to sit as I was just interrupted while writing this.  Apparantly I'm sitting in the haagen-daze section of the food court and was forced to buy the most expensive drink I've ever paid for, about 8 dollars, but it was surprisingly amazing!
I'm beginning to realize that nothing could have prepared me perfectly for this trip which is where the idea of faith has become such a huge factor.  As the clock continues to tic down to my boarding time, I'm feeling at ease with how everything's played out.  After spending two weeks as a tourist in Italy i'm ready to get my hands dirty and invest my time into something that matters.  I can't wait to meet everyone!  While there is still a sense of nervousness in my system (much like an actor about to take the stage opening night), I'm ready for this show to start.  From my time fundraising until this moment, I'm beginning to realize how much "bigger than me" this trip is.  Thank you all who are supporting me by praying and financing this experience.  There is absolutely no way I could have done it without you.  Just knowing that you have all invested in this is a huge encouragement and I look forward to bringing you all along for the journey!

In Him,


Ps sorry if the post is messed up, the site is all Egyptian and apparantly they write from left to right...