No passing zones
This is not a thing here. Every zone is a passing zone. Those double yellow lines? Pure wishful thinking of the ET Transportation Department. Enormous bus coming right at you in the opposite lane? Still a passing zone. The middle of the road, the shoulder, the median, the sidewalk…all passing zones. It is irrelevant how many cars are next to you, in front of you, or coming at you. These are not details that matter. Simply beep your horn and barrel around someone. Everyone else will move. Except the donkeys. The donkeys will not be moved. The donkeys clearly have a death wish.
This is a non-existent population. I have several friends “off coffee” and they might actually die here. Die from Ethiopian shaming. Aschalew stopped us 20 times a day and hollered, “I cannot think! We need double macchiatos!” Every time you sit still, someone brings you coffee. Jillian is a non-coffee drinker and she has put down her weight in java this week. Bless. Consequently, when we were trapped in the van for five hours one day, Kristen screamed: “I feel like Helen Hunt in that after-school special ‘Angel Dust’ when she took PCP and jumped out of a second-story window screaming! I AM FREAKING OUT!” We were too hopped up on caffeine for five hours in a vehicle, people. We were like a van full of addicts with the shakes.
And When HH goes flying out the window like a lunatic, I could not quit laughing
because that is EXACTLY how we felt in that freaking van.
Electricity that isn’t insane
It is feast or famine here. Either the entire city has rolling blackouts and we sit in darkness for however long, or the electricity surge is so strong, it is guaranteed to destroy our appliances. Korie turned her hair dryer on for two seconds on the first day and it blew up: Kaput. (This is Aschalew’s word and we use it with abandon. Everything is kaput. This rain is kaput. This driver is kaput. This weird lamb/beef/goat is kaput.) Korie borrowed my hair dryer another day and brought it back with a very sorry look on her face and said, “Bad news. Yours is kaput now too.” We had a lot of air-dried hair and buns on this trip. Ethiopian electricity, you are drunk.
Helicopter moms with a Pinterest Account
I looked hard, but I didn’t see one single ET mama cut her little’s sandwich into dolphin shapes swimming in kale for his bento box. I saw no Cowboy-themed birthday parties with actual saddles owned by John Wayne as party favors. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t believe there is an ounce of chalkboard paint in the entire country. A Facebook commenter once threatened to call CPS on me because I kicked my misbehaving boys out of the car and made them walk four blocks home in their own neighborhood. I can tell you confidently that is not a thing here. I believe my ET neighbor would probably spank my sons for misbehaving and make them drive some goats as penance. They would be kaput.
You might think an hour is an hour, but you would be wrong. An hour here is more like 2-5 hours. If something is “20 minutes away,” you will get there tomorrow. When the IT guy at the café says he is coming back “in a minute” to fix your internet connection (another mythical unicorn over here) so you can send a blog to your precious American readers, you will see him never again. Memorize the back of this head. Good-bye. Aschalew would say, “Is no problem! We will be there in three hours…Aschalew time!” When we all gave him the side eye, he would just laugh and say he is the boss over here and we just needed to deal and quit whining about our elusive internet connection like a bunch of crybabies. (This is not our fault. Our mothers made us sandwich dolphins.) He promised to comply with American punctuality and OCD when he comes over next month. I cannot wait to mess with him.
Social safety nets
Life is hard everywhere. Divorce, illness, family disruption, abandonment, death…these happen in every community. But in Ethiopia, there are no systems to catch the folks who fall through these cracks. There is no welfare, state food programs, public school system, standard healthcare, subsidized housing, foster care. When these people fall through the cracks, they fall tragically. Though our systems are certainly imperfect, they exist.
This is what double-sponsorship through Help One Now provides: the safety net. By identifying the most vulnerable kids in Gunchire (mostly HIV+ widows with multiple children and no outside or inside support or income), the basic needs fall into place with the first sponsorship: school fees, uniforms, books, daily nutrition, medical care for the entire family – and the second sponsorship moves into economic empowerment: land development, microloans, capitalizing on existing skills and assets, farming and agriculture, and the medical and social tools to overcome an HIV+ diagnosis.
Not only did you help us hit our goal of 300 sponsorships (the top 150 most vulnerable kids in Gunchire and their families, double-sponsored), but we added the next 12 on the list and they are all double-sponsored as well! (We hit the original goal heading home yesterday in the Addis airport after Mike and Brandon kept refreshing the Help One Now page every two minutes. We laughed and screamed and hugged and cried like crazy people.)AND we have moved willing sponsors still queuing up into the next critical group of sponsorships in Uganda – same exact mission and model with a high capacity in-country leader, Edward Magumba. You can find these kids on the same website and your sponsorship of them will provide the same safety net.
IT IS ALL SUCH GOOD WORK.
Thank you, dear moms and dads and kids around the world. What a joy. What a delight. What a story. What a privilege. So grateful to do this with you. This is the stuff. This is the good stuff. THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You cannot imagine how much your sponsorship is going to change this community.
And now I plan to go home, hug my babies, and sleep for a hundred years.