Monday, October 31, 2011

The kids in Korah were very impressed with Blaine's muscles. People there tend to have skinny arms that look nothing like Blaine's. All the kids took a squeeze and declared him, "Rambo."

As most of you know, Korah is a community of 130,000 located in Addis Ababa directly adjacent to the city garbage dump. This is the trash dump and as you can see, there are people picking through the rubbish to find things they can sell or eat.

It does seem that the government is trying to make changes as it relates to the trash dump. In the last 18 months, many people have had pictures of it on their blogs and on facebook. Having the world now aware that people live and make their living in the trash dump has begun to bring about some changes by the government there. There was a sign on the corner of the dump that said something about a "reclamation project." They are letting grass grow on parts of the dump. It seems like they are attempting to make it better.

The other difference we noticed was that the roads around Addis Ababa were in MUCH better condition that they were the first time we were there. Seems like the government is pouring money into benefiting the people. Many, many improvements...lots of new construction.

Back in Sheshemene at the students health evaluations...Maste came dressed for the part but trust me, he's a lot of fun and a great interpreter but he is NOT a doctor!

These are poinsettias at the boarding school in Sheshemene. Honestly, they are about 10 feet tall! So beautiful. I had no idea they got this big.

If you need love, visit Ethiopia! There are always kids surrounding you, hugging you and putting their arms around you. If you bring out pics of your family, you have a completely captivated audience. These kids are looking at our family pics on Blaine's iPhone.

This is the street that the Ethiopia Guest Home where we stayed is located. The homes are in gated compounds and each have their own guard.

And the truth comes can eat REALLY well while in Ethiopia. Not just Ethiopian food either, although you can get that anywhere and it's wonderful. This is Sishu. It's owned by an American and you can get excellent burgers and fries here...just like in America!

More tomorrow,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 2 in Sheshemene

Our first morning in Sheshemene we awoke to monkeys right out our hotel window! I was so excited, never having seen a monkey in the wild before! We got ready as fast as we could. Katie and De were already up and De was after a closer look at the monkeys:)

To get a closer look at the monkeys, where would one need to go? Up on the roof! So De led the way and I followed. This is as far as I got because going up is one thing, coming down is another! He took this pic without my being aware...can you read my mind? "Oh, I really, really want to do this but..."

I found my Halloween costume in Sheshemene...I'm going as Eve! Is this a huge leaf or what??

This group got up early and took a walk. I went out to the street to find them coming down the street on this donkey cart. It's not a mode of transportation for people but Maste (light blue shirt) thought it would be fun. The people on both sides of the street were stopped, looking and laughing.

My sweet De, who doesn't ever want me to be left out, called to me and said, "RUN!" So I did with my 30 pound backpack on my back. He hopped off and yelled, "I'll take your bag! GO!" So go I did and flew onto the donkey cart. I hate to be left out of fun!

Just as we got off the donkey card this group of school children came running up to us, yelling, singing and cheering. They had just won a trophy for an academic competition and this was their way of letting the town know and celebrating their accomplishment. It was awesome!

We took the quick 5 minute drive from our hotel to the beautiful Lake Awassa. We all wanted to see it but Biruk had never seen it before so we made the visit there a priority. It was everything an African lake should be. Absolutely, positively beautiful!

Kevin and Denise at Lake Awassa.

These boats could be rented for 500 Birr, about $30 USD. A guide would take you out onto the lake to view the hippos. Yes, I said HIPPOS!! Unfortunately, it would take over an hour and we needed to meet the rest of the medical team for health evals. at the Akake boarding school. Notice the cute little bird sitting on the boat.

Kevin, Biruk, Katie, Me and Denise. Notice the man fishing in the reeds behind Biruk.

Biruk, De and Katie.

Aliya lived in Sheshemene for a few years before coming to the orphanage. As I watched the people there, especially the kids, I imagined her as a young girl attending school, eating sugarcane, and just living the life they live in Sheshemene. All children who are adopted have a past...a "before they joined your family" past. She has so much more "past" than most kids who are adopted. She was a 10 year old running those streets. Seeing this gave me a better appreciation for where she came from and just how far she has come from there. We missed the majority of her growing up years. She came to our family at age 14 1/2. That's a lot of years.

Without giving too many details...we took care of some business in Sheshemene for Aliya. It was difficult, emotional, hard, but also good and we pray that it helps bring her closure. At least now this girl knows just how far her parents will go for her-all the way across the world and back.

I pray that this experience will never be far from my mind. So easy to forget.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sheshemene Ethiopia

A couple days after we arrived, the Medical team and us made the 4 hour journey down to the town of Sheshemene. Over 200 children who once lived in Korah and got their food from the trash dump there now live in a beautiful boarding school here. Last year was their first year at the school. I cannot even imagine the transition they had! I think of Aliya's transition year with us here in the U.S. Wow! How much more difficult would it be for a group of children who once lived with no rules and in and among dangerous gangs in a dump to come to a structured boarding school? It is nothing short of a miracle to see the changes in the kids.

The young man who is talking to me in the pic above is Tilahun. He was instructed to give us a tour while the clinic was taking place on the rest of the students. We were told that our job for the day was to visit with the students. SCORE! There is nothing I like better:) Tilahun walked us to the cafeteria since it was lunch time. On the way, this articulate young man told me that he loved school and wanted to be a pastor when he grew up. Melt my heart! He loves the Lord and wants to serve Him.

He wanted to take and show us his dorm right away but I insisted he eat lunch with the rest of the kids first. We sat down for lunch and he asked me if I would share his lunch with him. How could I turn that sweet offer down? The kids each received a huge lunch of injera, wat (lentil stew) and cooked cabbage. Tilahun shared his injera and wat with me. I was very moved by this unselfish gesture.

It wasn't long before Katie found Habtamu...or Habtamu found Katie-not sure which one! Katie and Habtamu formed a special bond when the kids were there a couple summers ago. He always called her, "My muzzer" (mother). As you can see, this young man is just a few years younger than Katie but he really loves her and she loves him.

Katie and Habtamu. Is he a handsome kid or what? He and his older brother are both sponsored and at the boarding school. They have an older brother named Wendimu who is a 3rd year engineering student at the University of Addis Ababa. He spent a lot of time with Katie and De while we were doing the clinic in Korah. After his classes were over, he came and talked with them for hours. He actually invited us to their home, which of course we accepted. Just wait for that post! Amazing!!

De and his little buddy whom he calls Little Thug. It seems that De holds some sort of celebrity status with the people of Korah. As soon as we entered the lunchroom, kids started pointing and saying, "DE!" Kids peeked in the lunchroom window waiting for him to acknowledge them. They didn't forget Katie either, as they were calling for her, too. Many asked where "Freeek" was. That was their name for Blake, as for them "Freeek" is a name used for a person with a different style. At the time, Blake had a mohawk and the kids loved it!

Tilahun escorted us to his dorm room, which he shares with 7 other kids. He was so proud to show us his bunk and then he opened a small cupboard, probably a 2 foot cube size which held all his worldly possessions and pulled out this certificate. He earned the rank of 4th in his 6th grade class! He also pulled out an Amharic/English phrase book and told me he wanted me to have it. I tried to turn him down but he was insistent that I have it. He was so proud to have something to give to me. I was so humbled. So humbled. All he owns is in this cupboard and he wants me to have one of his books. How unselfish! I will treasure it always.

Our trip was absolutely wonderful! We had the best traveling companions in Kevin and Denise, Katie and De. Any opportunity that presented itself, we all jumped in with both feet and no fear. No one hesitated. No one complained. We took everything in that we could! This was the best 25th anniversary destination that we could imagine. So many memories, so many bonds formed that will not be broken.

In the days ahead, I will walk through our trip with pics and memories. It's too much all to do at me:)

Thank you for your prayers!

Tomorrow, more Sheshemene.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow!

The time has finally arrived...we leave tomorrow. Katie and De left very early this morning and will be waiting at the airport for us when we arrive late Friday night!

We have actively been preparing for this trip for over a month. It's amazing how much work goes into a trip like this. We are allowed 2 suitcases per person at 50# a piece. So with Katie and De, we are allowed 8...and we have them, believe me. In total, 7 bags are full to the brim with donations. We have shoes, beautiful clothes for teenage girls, great teenage guy clothes, medical supplies, jugs of glaze for the women to make bead necklaces, dolls, baby bottles, backpacks loaded with goodies for our Compassion boys who we will meet next Wed., boxes of Pop Tarts for Sumer's kids there, rubber rain boots for a couple of extra special girls in Korah and a goodie bag for each of them, and on and on. We're loaded! We will take our clothes in our carry ons to make more room for the donations.

We found out yesterday that Air Canada is threatening to strike tomorrow...yes, we are flying Air Canada to Frankfurt. Any prayers would be appreciated!

There are a couple special missions that we will take on this trip. Next Thursday, we will meet with the boys' family. We have a photo album to leave with them and we'll have them watch the iPad to see a little movie Blaine made of the boys, from the time they joined our family till now. I hope they LOVE it. I need to process that trip and then we will see what's going to be ok for us to share with you all. It will be an emotional time for all involved but I will try to be strong and not cry! This will be a very exciting and exhausting day:)

Another mission we will be on concerns Aliya. We will be trying to acquire something for her that she greatly desires. I cannot say more but do please pray for us as I think we are entering unchartered territory here. Pray for a positive outcome.

Otherwise, we will be spending as much time as possible in Korah at the clinic. Not sure if I shared this yet or not but my job will be triage nurse. I am an LPN and will so the specialized job of applying bandaids to owies and giving hugs when needed. Seriously! That's my job! How perfect is that? I will send all other more serious health problems onto the doctors or more experienced nurses if they need much more than a bandaid. This is totally the perfect job for me and I cannot wait to do it!

We will have stations set up and each station will have an interpreter and a non-medical person to be a runner and to take the patients to the next station or pharmacy. Hopefully the people will get the relief and help they need medically as well as the spiritual help they need. We pray they all understand that they each are a unique creation of the God who wants to know them personally.

Katie just called me and they made their connection! They had on hour in Dulles to make their flight and it went perfectly. They got to the gate and boarded immediately. God sure worked that one out. They are so excited and in 13 hours they will be landing in Ethiopia.

I will not be able to update this blog while we are gone. Hopefully, I can post on facebook so check there if you can.

Thank you for all the support, prayers and encouragement you have given, neighbors and friends. You are a blessing to us.

Laura :)