(Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)
Our flight arrived on Saturday, Jan 31st, at 7am local time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My first impression from the plane as we came in for landing, is how brown and dry the area is. From the air I could see virtually no green plant growth and no water.
After clearing immigration and paying $50 for a temporary Visa, we sought out our luggage and Kindri’s bins. They scanned everything as we left the airport and I had an anxious moment when I had to answer for some of the things in the bins. The officer accused me of having electronics and when I gave him a confused look I think he decided it wasn’t worth it and he waved me through. Phew!
We were met at the airport by a friend (Worede –pronounced “Waraday”) who works with Hope Enterprises. Hope is the local organization that our church is partnering with as we come alongside and bring support to Sintaro Village. Our driver took us through town where we met up with the rest of our group at “The Amenities”–which is basically a small hotel. We had a bite to eat together and then were welcomed by Dr Lemma, who is in a position of authority (General Secretary?) with Hope. He talked for a bit about current events with Hope and the status of projects in Sintaro. We enjoyed a few minutes of prayer together and then we began the long journey to Awasa.
Driving through Addis Ababa I was struck by how much unfinished construction there was. There were many, many unfinished buildings surrounded by rickety looking bamboo scaffolding. People walked everywhere. Street-side shacks were the town market. Men offering shoe shines were readily available to the dusty walker.
It’s a six hour drive from Addis Ababa to Awasa. We made the drive in the heat of the day in an non-air conditioned small bus. It was a long, hot dusty drive, but I had time to observe life in Ethiopia from my seat. Lane markers are merely suggestions. Everywhere we went, we saw people walking. We also encountered countless goats, cattle, oxen and dogs crossing the road and many donkeys pulling carts. It was a constant dance for our driver to avoid the many obstacles in the road. I learned that goats are prized and drivers will stop and slow down to avoid them. Dogs, on the other hand are a different story. From my vantage point on the front bench seat of the bus, I saw the last look of a dog in our path before our driver hit it. He kept right on driving and I couldn’t bring myself to look back, but I’ll never forget that thud as long as I live.
Walking is the primary mode of transportation for people here. We saw people walking with jugs and I’m sure they were making their daily trek to get water. Donkey-drawn carts, laden down to overflowing with everything under the sun, were also very prevalent. I can imagine how fortunate those with the carts felt that they didn’t have to walk everywhere and carry everything. At one point our bus crawled behind a cart piled with kids. Three of them looked back and could see me through the window of the bus. I waved at them and they broke into big grins and waved back. We made a connection!
Along the way, we stopped at a “restaurant” in the middle of nowhere. It was such a contradiction to everything else I saw. They had western style flush toilets and served delicious fresh strawberry drinks and even cream puffs! What a place of contradiction this is! It was hilarious how one person on our team would pick something out of their meal to leave behind and someone else would snatch it up! Whatever one person didn’t want, another truly enjoyed. We decided that we already make a good team!
About four hours into the drive, I was really ready to be done with it. I was hot, tired and dusty. It had been 48 hours since my body had slept in a bed. I succumbed and shut my eyes a couple of times to help with the sandpapery feeling behind my eyes, but I didn’t sleep. I’m so tired that I can barely think straight.
Finally, after 6 hours of driving, we arrived at our hotel in Awasa. As soon as we get out of the bus, we are reminded by the wildlife that we are in Africa! We see a giant billed bird up in the tree. Moments later, a monkey scampers over and looks longingly into the open windows of our bus. I’m sure he is eyeing our luggage and trying to decide what he can make off with! The hotel staff offered a delicious fresh juice beverage, which was just what I needed to refresh my weary body, and then we moved on into the building to check in. After a quick bathroom stop, the team met up again and walked about a half a mile down the road to the Lewi, a lovely restaurant where we ate beside the lake. My grilled Tilapia dinner hit the spot, but I was beyond ready for bed. We walked back to the hotel, I took a brisk shower (no hot water tonight) and now, after being “up” for more than two days, I’m headed to bed!
Tomorrow morning we’ll be up early (breakfast at 6:30) and will make the 45 minute drive out to Sintaro to attend church with the villagers. I’m anxious to see this place that I’ve been praying over and finally begin a personal relationship with some of the people there! For now though, I’m off to catch a few ZZZZzzzz’s!!!