The loooooong trek home

(Written by team member, Debbie Wyne)

Day 8, Sintaro Village Update, Feb. 7, 2015

Its been a short night, but I’m excited because I get a nice, hot shower this morning! The Sabana has been a lovely place to stay and it’s been delightful to be where things are clean and everything is working.  The only thing not in operation is the wifi.  Still.  How many days has it been now? We’re coming to the conclusion that the lack of wifi has more to do with the government’s control over it and we think that the upcoming elections are driving the lack of wifi availability.  I’m sure my family is wishing they would hear from me, and it is frustrating that there is nothing I can do to communicate.

The morning atmosphere of the lovely restaurant is delightful.  I only eat a few bites of banana bread because this is the day we get on a plane to start our flight home and I am nervous about eating anything that may set my stomach off again.  As I eat I realize that the birds have made themselves very comfortable inside the restaurant.  They are flitting about and chirping and sit on perches all throughout the restaurant putting on quite a show for us.  I almost feel as if I’m inside an aviary!  In fact, if a plate is left unattended, the birds will swoop down for a little breakfast themselves! It seems that in Sabana, the early bird get the pancake!

The team assembles for our final day together.

The team assembles for our final day together and the journey home.

As we drive out of the gated resort, the local kids spy us.  They’ve learned that if they perform for the tourists that some may take pity on them and offer handouts.  They run into the dirt “road” in front of us and dance and do handstands.  I have to say, that it’s not at all cute to me.  It’s a dangerous and uncomfortable situation and from all we’ve learned about how to best provide assistance without negative repercussions, we know it’s best to ignore this begging behavior and just keep on driving.  If you’re interested, I highly recommend the book, “When Helping Hurts”.  It was required reading before going on this trip and it was very enlightening.

We have about a 4 hour drive ahead of us to return to Addis Ababa, so we settle in.  By now I’ve become accustomed to the sights along the road, but today I see a few new things.  As well as the goats, cattle, donkeys pulling carts, and a plethora of pedestrians, I also see 3 camels–including an adorable baby camel, baboons, an ostrich, and even a dead hyena in the road. The morning is still cool and once we hit the main road (which is asphalted), we are able to open the windows and enjoy a nice breeze without too much dust.

Along the way, we stop at the Strawberry restaurant for a restroom break and a snack.  Once again, I pass on the food, but I am thankful for a flush toilet.  I haven’t given you many details of our bathroom situation, but trust me when I say this is a luxury! My perspective has certainly changed from when I was here just a few short days ago.  Last time I was here I feel as if this is a very remote place and severely underdeveloped.  Now, I feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury by comparison to what I’ve seen in Sintaro Village and on the road along the way.

We finally reach Addis and I’m happy because we’re almost there, but it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get anywhere here.  Traffic is horrible and our driver is assertively, but safely, pushing his way through the throng of diesel spewing trucks, people and livestock.  We’ve left the windows open because it’s quite hot now and the fumes and odors that flow in are stifling. We have a 2pm appointment at the Azee Cafe with some Hope Enterprises representatives and we slowly make our way the final kilometers.

I must interject how thankful I am for our wonderful driver this week.  He has traversed some of the most difficult terrain imaginable and has safely avoided untold obstacles along the way.  Well, there was the dog incident, but I’m trying desperately to forget that… He is aware of the size of our small bus, down to the millimeter it seems, as he has narrowly brushed by all kinds of living things in motion. Also, we learn today that while he has been with us this week, his wife has given birth to a daughter!  He hasn’t seen her yet and he doesn’t even know her name.  Later we are told that she is Eldonna, which means “gift of God”.

At the Azee Cafe we enjoy some Ethiopian coffee by ordering cappuccinos and macchiato’s. My traveling companions assure me that this is the best coffee in Ethiopia So I purchase some whole bean coffee to take home and share.  Kindri and Lori meet up with the people from Hope while the rest of us snack on Tiramisu and cream puffs.  It’s been hours since I’ve eaten my small little helping of banana bread and I can’t help myself but try it.  I say a little prayer that my stomach stays settled.

You may have noticed a number of references this week to Italian food. At some point in history, Italy occupied Ethiopia and they’ve certainly left their mark, when it comes to the food here. I’m glad because I love Italian food!

Another 20 minutes of driving through Addis and we arrive at The Amenities, which is the small hotel where me met on our first night here.  We’ve arranged for a couple of rooms where we can shower and prepare for our flight home.  We have no power, but there is running water. I’m anxious to wash off the road grime before spending so many more hours traveling.  I’m the first to use the “shower”.  Once again, this is not the quality of facility we westerners are used to.  All I have is a handheld water wand, a small “shower pan” to stand in, and cold water.  I manage to get myself clean and even wash my hair, and I must admit that it feels refreshing!

We’ve been so hopeful that we’d have wifi here, but alas, it only stays connected for about 15 seconds at a time.  I’m at least able to send a quick text home to let my husband know that I’m in Addis and headed home soon.  I’m also able to get off one of my updates to Facebook from several days ago.  After about 30 minutes, I give up.

We’ve asked for our dinner to be ready for us by 5:30 so that we have time to eat and make our flight.  At 5:45, we’re told it’ll be ready by 6:00.  At 6:15, we finally sit down to eat.  Kindri, Lori and Teri are finishing another meeting and come to join us with minutes to spare. Last time Teri was here she nearly missed the flight home and we do NOT want to be in that position again!

Traffic is light and it looks like we have plenty of time after all. I feel like I can breathe again.

There are several hoops to jump through before we can get on our flight. We go through our first x-ray security scan before we even can enter the building. After a few more steps in the process, we go through the final x-ray and we are at the gate.  Lori and Teri both are pulled aside and have their bags inspected yet again, by hand this time.  Their bodies and pockets get a thorough pat down too. Somehow I’ve managed to escape this additional search. We have two hours before take-off and we are in a holding room with no access to purchase water or to use restrooms.  I’m already thirsty and after the toll taken on my body this week, I’m ultra aware of the importance of staying hydrated.

We are on the plane!  I have a window seat and the middle seat next to me is still empty as the doors are closing.  Yes–it looks like I’ll get a little extra room to stretch out!  I have my personal celebration too soon, as a passenger is re-seated next to me.  Double darn.

Addis is at such a high elevation that the planes cannot take off when they are fully loaded with engine fuel, so we must make a stop in Rome for refueling.  Oh, how I wish I could hop off this plane and enjoy beloved Italy for a few days!  I was just here in the Fall and would dearly love to spend much more time in this country.  I peer out the windows hoping for a glimpse of the Vatican City or the Coliseum, but it is dark and all I can make out are twinkling lights.

We are on the ground for about an hour and then continue the journey to Washington DC. The rest of the flight is long, but uneventful. I doze off and on. Once we land in DC we clear customs without incident and check in for our next flight to SFO. The local time is 7am, but our bodies think it’s dinner time, so we go to Chipotle for Mexican food! It tastes fantastic and we marvel at how we can drink water out of the tap!

Unfortunately, our flight is delayed due to weather at home, so we spend a few extra hours waiting. It’s okay though. Now we have time for a Starbucks coffee too! Eventually we board for yet another six hours of flight time.

My husband picks us up at the airport, and we’re happy to see one another, but also very happy that we don’t have to take BART home! I calculate that we have now been traveling for 42 hours!!!

I get a happy greeting from my beautiful dogs and then unload everything out of my suitcase and off of my body right into the washing machine. Next stop: a long, glorious, hot shower. Oh my goodness, hot running water is so sweet!

I will try to stay awake just a few more hours and then I’ll collapse into bed with happy dreams of my time in Sintaro Village. I will be thinking about this trip and processing all I’ve seen and experienced for a long time to come. I’m glad so many of you have joined me on my written journey and have enjoyed the stories. My prayer is that what I’ve shared challenges you to step out of your comfort zone to pursue areas of your life where you can serve others and share the love of Jesus. I would really mean the world to me, if you would share with me how you’ve been impacted by what you’ve read!

     Thank you for all of your kind words of support and your prayers for me and the rest of the team.  They sustained me this week and gave me strength!