Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wednesday 4 February:

Landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at 3:15 a.m. Paul got his Visa and we all got through immigration and customs with a minimum of fuss by about 5 a.m. We were met by Getachew (geh-TA-choo), as expected, and also by Field Strategy Coordinator Ermias Chiloye and his wife Mulu (we thought they’d be on holiday already). The cool of the night is noticeable as we tell our hosts, in response to their gracious questions about our flight, of the snow we left at home and the snow on the ground in Chicago and London. There’s a slight background smell of burnt garbage in the air. We were all excited to get acquainted and clarify our work dates and places, as we rode to the D’Afrique Hotel near one of our work sites.
Our rooms are on the 5th floor; luckily, there is a tiny elevator, since it will take a few days to get accustomed to the altitude here at over 8000 feet above sea level. Lying down to rest in the final dark hour of the morning, we heard the early-morning chanting that starts the day for many Ethiopians, along with truck traffic and dogs barking. We were weary but contented; as our new friend Ermias said several times, “God is Good, Praise the Lord.” We are so looking forward to meeting and serving these warm and beautiful people the Barkers have taught us to love even before we had met them.

After a couple of hours of sleep, we got up to bathe (temperamental pipes and warm water!) and have breakfast at the hotel of toast and eggs, juice and strong coffee. Now I’m enjoying the view from our room with a whole wall of windows, getting a feel for this large and noisy city. We can see low, rusty, tin roofs all around, contrasting with several-storied office buildings, as well as mountains not so far away. Down on the street, people are going about their day. Across the street, men are working (from shaky-looking scaffolding) on a new, modern office building. Women are walking to work in all varieties of clothing (from traditional long dresses with scarves and shawls, to Western short skirts, with knit tops and high heels, no head covering). We just saw a man herding his 5 donkeys through the noisy car traffic! Actually his job appeared very simple as he followed behind his charges trotting up the street, weaving among the slow-moving traffic to get to a place they probably knew very well to be loaded down for the return trip. After a large midday meal, Getachew arrived to take us to the Field Office compound for a tour. This compounds primary building is 4 floors of church organizational offices and facilities. The Ground floor is the sanctuary of the local church, the next floor is the District offices, the next floor is the Ethiopia National (Area) offices and top floor is where the Horn of Africa Field offices are located. Also contained in the building are various training rooms, technical lab and library.
Later in the day Getachew drove us and Paul to the American Consulate to check in. As we showed interest in the city, Getachew stopped to take us to a lion park, with at least 8 pairs of lions and beautiful, flowery grounds. We clarified plans for the next day, then went to our rooms for a rest on this nice warm afternoon.
We knocked on Paul’s door as the sun was setting, asking if he’d like to take a short walk before dinner. We strolled a block in one direction, then back as locals were on their way home from work. Our hotel serves dinner inside and out, so we chose a table on the patio at street level and people-watched as we ate. We’ve learned now to order fewer meals and share them, rather than try to eat all they serve.

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