The days on the long road of one families Ethiopian Adoption

This blog started out as a way to record the twists, turns, highs and lows in my families journey to adopt siblings from Ethiopia. Now our children are home and we have just finished celebrating our first year as a family.

I'm Kimberly (or Fendesha), an adventurous person who aspires to be a vagabond- but for now- I spend all of my free time travelling and my down time thinking of travelling. I'm a mom of 3 (the oldest being my gorgeous canine companion), a IT project manager, and on occasion I find myself the primary writer of this blog.

Happy Reading and thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

There is something Magical about Ethiopia

There is something Magical about Ethiopia

Have you ever met anyone that went to Africa- came home and said "boy that sucked"??

My trip to Ethiopia was life changing. Ethiopia has this magical power that pulls at the heart strings of people who visit her. Ethiopia expertly played mine as if my heart were a harp and it an expert harpsichordist.

The unmasked poverty, the innocence of its children, the tribal diversity of its people and the rich cultural traditions fed my heart and soul what it had been missing in the rich but empty western life I lead.

On my arrival I was shocked by the things I saw: Poverty presented to me in the streets and in the villages. Poverty represented by her people in an unimaginable volume, presented in every imaginable way. There were so many children begging along in the streets- big kids, little kids- kids holding smaller kids, groups of boys sleeping together on the crowded, diesel intoxicating sidewalks- often protected by a dog or two. Men with deformities, disgustingly exposing their deformity, hoping to extract what little sympathy you may have left in you- asking for 10 Cents, or men with really thin bodies holding a letter in Amharic saying that they were diagnosed with Aids, gave it to their wives, lost their jobs, their wives and now live on the streets trying to support their non-infected children, women with children at the car windows begging –with a similar story. Soon you become desensitized to it- you eventually walk down the street saying hello to them all- saying “ Eg-zabia-estaling” or-“may god provide you with all of your needs”. You can’t support them all- so you find more effective ways to funnel money into the communities (or given the corruption you have learned about you hope that they are more effective). Money to the churches for specific functions, money to food banks, money to orphanages, money money money. “Misses Money” has a small amount to share- and so many places will take it- who will use it best and who needs it the most????

The electricity and water rotate on and off throughout the week but it’s hardly noticeable. You work around it. Big corporations work around it, the locals drink a Macchiato at the shops that have generators. They sit and talk- a little about the government and recent events, then family, then friends- sometimes about a school or their education. And the poor people look in- sometimes walking into the restaurant in their ripped up rural clothing asking for a Birr (10Cents) – sometimes receiving some change, mostly not. The lucky poor have become entrepreneurs- they sell lottery tickets or sing for the money-but not so many. Most are so destitute that they sleep or sit rocking them-selves back and forth while they beg –noticing you as little as you notice them-some mothers asking their children to beg (teaching them what they need to know to survive). There are so many-that at times- you’ll find yourself tripping over one-as you hurry to your class or on through the congested taxi area-trying to score a spot for yourself on that mini-bus. That mini-bus you need to catch, they are going to stand outside the windows of, looking in- with their hand raised- the children -happy to receive even a half of piece of gum from you. They will wonder around the mini-bus standing – asking for some change- at the door while you are sitting sometimes for 15-20 minutes for the bus to fill up. Mostly the buses fill up quickly because of the transportation shortage (in that case you’ve waited outside for that 15-20 minutes to catch the bus) but sometimes you will sit there waiting for your ride-while the poor person stands there staring at you – asking for money. All he wants is 10Cents or 1 birr… but you do not give it. You hold onto it- tired of the requests- tired of feeling like a walking ATM. Tired- of not knowing what your 1 birr can do to really help. These poverty stricken people are not like the poor at home. They are barefoot, hungry, barely clothed. As you walk around you see little to no drug use- even cigarettes are not popular. Especially not with the hungry- they are a luxury- these are the world’s real poor people you are saying no to.

You are a foreigner and are reminded by the children every day that you are different- that your white skin, blue eyes- stand out. They call to you “Fereng or Ferengi”. At first you hate this, then you make a game of it and play with the children.. Calling back or giving them the smile they desire (only encouraging this behavior you dislike-but you laugh at the irony). I would joke fully yell back – Habesha, Habesha- or “Ethiopian/local” and the children would giggle some-more. The poor children laugh and play in the streets – the middle class children seeing you as an example of what they see on TV. Do you have a boat, do you have a house? Have you been on a plane? If you are alone- Are you lost? They come up to you- hold your hand and practice their English. Some ask for a Birr, or Dabo “bread” after being with you for a while, some right away, some not at all. You never know.. but all of them want to be with you. I would sometimes have 10-12 children walking to the bus with me. Sometimes just one would come and we could have a nice talk, sometimes a small group of 4-5 boys wanting to know where I was going or if I knew about football- often they would ask me to buy them a football.

I would meet other volunteers that would say- they didn’t like Ethiopia- that the poverty was too much or that the culture is learning to beg and has become a culture of aggressive begging to foreigners. That other African nations have not been affected by this and that foreigners created this behavior with the hand outs in the first place. There is always a westerner blaming something on somebody it seems. The the reality is- they are begging for food- not for beer money- or shelter (they probably have some sort of plastic to cover themselves with on the street during the rainy season). The poor that we see in Addis, they are lucky, they are the countries are the rich poor people.

There is something magical about Ethiopia. I believe the magic that touched me was finally the ability to really make a difference. Ethiopia is a place in the world where you leave feeling like you can really do something to help. The little bit that you as a single person can do, really will impact people’s lives- perhaps an entire communities. In Ethiopia, your time, education, a little bit of hard work and some money -can really make a difference. In the western world where we hurry past the street bum that has a shelter to sleep in and Nike's on his feet-and we think about the time we volunteered at the food kitchen or the money we gave to the church, where we recycle and drive our hybrids to shrink our “carbon footprint”, where buying the fair trade “label” is how we are “empowering” a farmer, a real impact is seldom tangible.

In Ethiopia- what you can do for the “world” is Tangible. You can see it, hug it, watch them smile-laugh- and sadly- even be thanked for it. And for this reason alone- Ethiopia really is magical.

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Oh the places I've Been (and might go again)