"Every child deserves a home." --Harry Holt

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ethiopia Travel Memoir: Day 2 In Country 5/16

**These are based on my thoughts and feelings while on our trip. Some events may come across clouded and foggy due to our high emotional state while encountering each event.**

While I got some much needed sleep, my tummy was back to feeling uneasy. This particular uneasiness will probably not disappear on this trip. I pinpointed what it is: anxiety. A good anxiety, but anxiety, nonetheless. I just want to meet our daughter and pass court! The anticipation was about to put me over the edge. I decided to change my mindset and just learn and immerse in the Ethiopian country/culture. 

The guest house was able to get a hold of baggage services at the airport. K's bag came in on a flight from Turkey late the night before. He was meant to leave earlier than 6:45 am with the driver to pick up his bag, as well as, a couple that was flying in and needed a ride to the guest house. I woke him at 6:53 am, and luckily the driver still took him to the airport. He kindly didn't make me go with. Love him. He knew I needed to do some deep breathing and calming to prepare for the day. Our plan was to do some sight-seeing and I wanted to be calm enough to take in all that I could.

A few "random thoughts" at this point:

*I'm not going to have fingernails left when we get back to the States. I'm not a nail bitter, but I fiddle with my nails when I'm nervous. Gross habit.

*I rely on K to just take charge and "figure it out" when I am confused about things. I need to work on that.

*Mt. Entoto--must learn more about this, because our guide was difficult to understand.
                       For now, this is what Wikipedia had to say:
Mount Entoto (Amharic: እንጦጦ) is the highest peak overlooking the city of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Mount Entoto is part of the Entoto mountain chain, reaching 3,200 meters above sea level. It is also a historical place where Menelik II resided and built his palace, when he came from Ankober and founded Addis Ababa. It is considered a sacred mountain and holds many monasteries. It is also notable as the location of a number of celebrated churches, including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary.[1]
The mountain is densely covered by eucalyptus trees planted during the reign of Emperor Menelik II; thus it is sometimes referred to as the "lung of Addis Ababa". The forest on the mountain is an important source of firewood to the city.

The Orthodox Church on the grounds of Emperor Menelik's palace contains a museum inside. We weren't allowed to take photos, and I had difficulty understanding our guide. I observed royal dress which I assume was from the late 1800's and early 1900's, and that is about all I can remember. Pathetic, I know. 
I can say, on the way up Mount Entoto, there were so many people walking up and down, so many "elderly" women carrying piles of wood/sticks that were 2x their bodies. It seemed if people were fortunate enough, they had donkeys to carry the load (and yes, I just recently complained about walking 4 flights of stairs). People were always busy, and I mean busy in the physical sense. I get cranky if I miss Glee on Tuesday nights. Need me some perspective straightening. I wish I could have snapped a photo of the 3 boys that had taken some wood, string and ball bearings to fashion themselves a "sled" to go down the road of the mountain on. Dangerous? Perhaps. Having fun waving at us and whooping while they picked up massive speed? Absolutely. 

The Church (usually, there are more people around, but it was a Monday, and actually "closed". Kindly, they gave us a tour anyway.

Our driver insisted on this pic so we would remember that this was the palace of Emperor Menelik

Not the farming I'm used to. Someone call Joe Dolan or Willis Heitshusen to fatten those skinny cows up!

My new little friends outside of Menelik's palace

To prove we were there. :)

Overlooking Addis. Our driver was impressed that K could tell him about where our Guest House was. (Me: Somewhere to the left?)

We headed back down Mt. Entoto and went to the Ethnological Museum located in Emperor Haile Selassie's (1892-1975) former palace and surrounded by Addis Ababa University. The people/students walking around campus looked like students on any college campus I've ever been on. Probably more well-dressed. The former palace now serves as the University Library, home to the University President's office and the Ethnological Museum). 

Part of the museum was done according to the lifecycle and highlighted some of the Ethiopian tribes and the significant cultural events at this time. It talked about childhood games, passing into adulthood, as well as, death and how that can be honored. Another part of the museum was the preserved bedrooms of Emperor and Empress- yes, they slept in separate quarters. Finally, there was art from the Gondor period. I think my favorite part was the section of cultural instruments. I really wanted to buy a krar! The krar is a 6-stringed, bowl-shaped lyre (see, I did learn something at the museum!). I couldn't figure out how to get a full size one into our luggage, and K wouldn't help me carry it on. I settled for a mini-krar instead (and this is okay, because I have zero musical ability anyway). 

I failed to take a picture of the outside of the Ethnological Museum (and we couldn't take any inside). I got this from google images.

Our driver took us shopping at one of the lesser frequented street shops (and I mean, there were a ton of people, just no tourists and we had never heard of it before, and I still can't remember the name). At first, I found this particular shopping experience to be rather overwhelming. We created quite a following. Some of the vendors were shouting at us and at one time, a gentleman grabbed my wrist to have me look at his wares. At that point, our driver told me I wasn't to leave his side. "Can do!" Young boys the (ages 7-10?) kept asking to shine our shoes. Our driver asked me to wait to give anything out, food or money until we were done shopping and back at our vehicle. I felt like the biggest jerk for turning people down, when I had snacks, etc. to give in my backpack, and clearly I was shopping and had money to give. Luckily, we didn't miss the chance to give to anyone. They just continued to follow us from street side vendor to vendor. My first purchase was a traditional dress for myself. The 'shopkeeper' and I had difficulty communicating about the purchase. I am fairly busty/curvy :), and the Ethiopian people are pretty petite. I was asking about the possibility of a dress fitting me. She kept holding up the dress I was inquiring about saying, "Yes, fit!" My response? "Ummmm, not so much. Too little." I think I may have even used the word "pequeno" at one point. No, Spanish wasn't helping me either... It became pretty clear that the woman knew exactly what I was asking, and decided to just show me. She ordered me to sit on a chair in her teeny tent, and showed me that she would just altar the garment on the spot. Talk about service! She finished it and it certainly did fit me! I asked her the price, and when she told me (800 birr?) I was getting out my wallet. Our driver immediately said, "No." He even started wagging his finger at her in shame. It became clear that he felt I was being overcharged.  If I'm doing my math right (which isn't likely), she wanted to charge me approximately $50 for the dress. I didn't think this was outlandish, especially because she had just fixed it up to fit me in 15 minutes. Regardless, they haggled over the price for a while. I think I paid more like 550 birr. I realize that it is easy to tell in Ethiopia that I am a tourist, and the attractive option is to overcharge me. We are probably expected to haggle on the price (my mother's word for haggle is "dicker" and I just can't get myself to use that word...). I just had this constant feeling while shopping that the Ethiopian people (most people in the world for that matter) could put money earned to better use than I (as evidenced by almost anything I purchase in life), so I wasn't really into bargaining, but our driver felt adamant that we shouldn't be overcharged. 

Waiting for my alterations. Chick behind me has some serious style...
I felt true heartbreak during this shopping experience when a woman trying to breastfeed her baby begged us for food. This was not the only time we saw this. One person speculated that the breastfeeding was done in front of us to garner sympathy. Well, it worked. This wasn't the only time we witnessed this. Really, if you are a person that needs to have the knowledge that you are more likely to be given food if you are trying to breastfeed while begging for food, you really need the food, otherwise, why would you have this knowledge and take action on it? 

When we returned to the guest house there were probably 10 families (all with our agency) that had just returned from Durame. We got to see the McManus Family! They were thinking it was a possibility that our babes are in the same room, along with the Brooke baby! So crazy to think these 3 lil darlins are coming to live in the same state and share a room in their orphanage! (Update: our daughter is not in the same room, but regadless, they sleep mere yards from each other each night!) Also, we met another family from our state and a family from NoDak!!!! Woot! Small world! What amazing connections to make to people while on the other side of the world!

Some of the families that had returned from Durame were planning a trip out to the Leprosy Hospital. Wikipedia explains better what this is:
ALERT is a medical facility on the edge of Addis Ababa, specializing in Hansen’s disease, also known as “leprosy”. It was originally the All Africa Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Center (hence the acronym), but the official name is now expanded to include tuberculosis: All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Centre.
ALERT’s activities focus on its hospital, rehabilitation of leprosy patients, training programs for leprosy personnel from around the world, and leprosy control (administration of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health’s regional leprosy control program). From the beginning, ALERT provided leprosy training for medical students from Addis Ababa University. Also at ALERT is the Armauer Hansen Research Institute, founded in 1970, specializing in leprosy research. There is currently a 240-bed teaching hospital, which includes dermatology, ophthalmology, and surgery departments, also an orthopedic workshop, and a rehabilitation program.

The families headed there allowed us to tag-a-long (yes, we are those people..."You are going where? Sounds great, I'm going to horn in on your fun!) Grateful for kind people! :) We were able to purchase some of the things on my shopping list and support the hospital. There was also a gentleman (I wish I had written his name down) that was weaving on his loom. He was definitely a master of his craft!

ALERT Hospital restroom. Suddenly, I didn't have to go anymore...
We headed back to the guest house. At this point, we were starving (okay, so I am still altering my perspective and language from this trip. I realize now, more than usual, that I can be so melo-dramatic about EVERYTHING. Clearly, I was not starving. I had just skipped lunch and now it was a little past dinner). I've not truly witnessed people that are hungry enough to approach a stranger for food (and this is extremely different from an individual with a sign on the side of an interstate entrance). So, in my very spoiled, American way, we were feeling hunger pangs. We had breakfast at 9am (some sort of fruit bread). When we got back to the guest house from our sight-seeing, we ordered "lunch" but there was some confusion between people ordering to eat soon, and those ordering to eat in the evening, so our lunch wasn't prepared (which worked out because we went out to the ALERT Hospital anyway). We had dinner (by candlelight due to a power-outage), and began packing small overnight bags, because we were headed out to MEET OUR DAUGHTER in the morning!

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