7/25/15 Addis Ababa, Washington DC… home! (written by team member, Debbie Wyne)
Today begins the long journey home! We take advantage of a little more leisurely schedule this morning and get a few extra minutes of sleep. Lori has a meeting at Hope Enterprises scheduled, so we all pile into a well loved Land Rover that is owned by Hope, and our driver, Aganani skillfully winds his way through the bustling street of Addis. I was a bit intimidated by this city the first time I saw it, but find that now I’m adjusting to the chaos of it all.
We are in Addis at a very interesting time because Barack Obama is arriving here tomorrow! We drive past the Ethiopian President’s house and observe guards stationed on the periphery of the grounds. Some are armed with machine guns, and others carry a large metal baton. We also drive past the African United Nations and the streets are lined with Ethiopian and American flags! Everywhere we go, people mention that the American President is coming to visit, and we joke and tell them that he is following in our footsteps!
We meet Worede at the Hope offices and Lori goes into her meeting. The rest of us walk through the surrounding neighborhood with Aganani, and do a little shopping. Aganani’s English is quite good and although he seems disinterested at first, he quickly joins with us in the hunt for bargains.
After a bit, Lori and Worede join us and we finish up our shopping. The next stop is the Azee Café! The shop owner has become a friends with Laura and Gary Taggart on a previous trip, and he welcomes us with a warm smile and a handshake. He is very proud of his coffee and pastry shop, and gives us the grand tour. We see where his chefs create the delectable desserts and we learn that he uses this facility to teach others the craft. In the back room there are many burlap bags full of fresh coffee beans, which he opens and shows us. Then he points out a roasting machine and opens the bottom of it to reveal freshly roasted coffee beans. Coffee is one of the crops grown in Sintaro, and I imagine that some of these beans may have originated in the fields there. I’ll never walk into a Starbucks or Peet’s coffee shop again and see “Ethiopian Blend” without remembering this experience! We finish our tour and delight in some of the delicious food and coffee.
It’s time to head back to our hotel and freshen up before we head to the airport. We eat some dinner at the hotel and prepare for the long journey ahead.
As we pull into the airport parking lot, guards direct our car off to the side and ask all of us to exit the vehicle. It seems they are doing this with the majority of cars that enter the lot. Lori climbs out of the front seat and the door is ajar so the rest of us can climb out from the back seat. The van next to us maneuvers to leave and as he does so, his vehicle catches and pulls our passenger door, which scratches up the side of their vehicle, and tweaks our door to the point that it will no longer close. The rest of us choose to stay put in the back seat as there is a flurry of activity and animated conversation from the drivers, passengers and police. Fortunately, the police were right there and observed the whole thing. It’s terrible that this has happened to Hope’s vehicle. After several minutes, Lori, Worede and our driver re-enter our vehicle and we drive the rest of the way to the terminal. It seems the guards have forgotten all about wanting to search our vehicle or question any of us! Once again, we thank God for His protection. There were so many opportunities for things to happen on this trip, and when it does, we are sitting in a parked car with police all around us!
Without further ado, we pass through the 3 levels of security at the airport and proceed to our gate. We fly from Addis to Dublin, Ireland for refueling, and then on to Washington DC. Unfortunately, there is a passenger in Dublin who is evacuated from the plane for medical reasons and this delays our departure somewhat. The flight is looong and every seat is taken. There are more crying babies on this flight than I have ever experienced before and I’m thankful for ear plugs! It feels like we’ve been on this plane for days, and truthfully, we have.
There’s something reassuring when the plane touches down on US soil and the knowledge that we’re “home”. The first phase of going through customs is a breeze, but we have to wait for our luggage, and we’re watching the clock closely because we don’t have much time before our next flight departs. Lori’s luggage comes out first, so she heads straight for the gate to try to hold the plane for us. We only have about 20 minutes before our departure, and the rest of us still don’t have our luggage! I hear a man behind me on his cell phone talking with the airline. It turns out he is also on our flight to SFO and is worried that we’ll miss the flight. He learns there is another flight into SFO two hours later, but there is only one seat left. I say a silent prayer that we will make our flight and not have to deal with any travel complications. Right about then, the baggage carousel stops moving, but we are still empty handed without our luggage. We know we can’t board our next flight without getting our bags all the way through customs and TSA so we must wait. A few more anxious minutes go by and finally, the last 3 bags emerge and we’re on our way! Our dreams of using an American restroom, eating Chipotle, drinking Starbucks and filling our water bottles from the tap, disappear as we only have minutes now to make our flight.
Finally, we are through TSA and we literally begin running through the airport terminal to our gate. It is empty and they are making the final boarding announcement. Out of breath, but elated to have made it, we board the plane.
Six more hours of flight, and we arrive safely back at SFO, where we started. It was just a few days ago that our adventure began, but it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened, and we have been changed by our experience in Sintaro. We’ve experienced a different culture and will see the world around us differently as a result. We’ve left behind our Sintaro family but we will forever hold them near and dear to our hearts, and in our prayers.
We have many stories to share of our experience and a lot to process, but first, we are joined by our families and enjoy a much anticipated and hearty meal at Chipotle! Aaaah, it’s good to be home!