Confession – I love to tease children. Okay, maybe “tease” isn’t the correct word. Maybe some better word choices would be exasperate, inflame, provoke, irritate, or perhaps annoy. But I enjoy doing it. I really don’t know why (maybe I’ll ask my therapist when I’m back in the States). I would argue that I’m naturally good at it. It’s just a gift that I seem to have.
Yesterday I started using that gift on what I thought was our way back to America. We’ve been in Ethiopia for a little over a year now. Honestly I’m extremely happy and content here and I’m not particularly “needing” to go, but it was time to head back to see our friends and family. And maybe eat a lot Mexican food.
We were traveling 6 hours from Soddo to the capital of Addis Ababa in a van with a sweet family from Sweden, the Aronsson’s, who were traveling to Kenya for a meeting. The parents, Joakim and Malena, are physicians here at the hospital and their children, Leo and Isak, are 9 and 4. They call me “turkey man.” This stems from last year’s Thanksgiving (a holiday not frequently celebrated by Swedes) where I dressed in a giant turkey costume. They obviously had no idea why a grown man from America, or from any country for that matter, would dress in this way. And ever since that time I’ve become “turkey man.” Cheryl is, by association, “turkey man’s wife.”
Soon after leaving Soddo I started asking Isak over and over… “are we there yet?” This actually managed to not only annoy Isak, but most of the people in the van. So eventually I gave up on this and directed my attention to Leo. Both Leo and I haven’t had a haircut in about 3 months and he’s at the point where he looks like a bearded collie (not that there’s anything wrong with looking like a bearded collie). So I proceeded to pretend to have a giant pair of scissors and to cut his hair. And that lasted throughout most of the rest of the morning.
Soon after leaving we received word that there might be possible protests in the country and to be aware. Between times of torturing the children, I looked outside the van as we drove and saw nothing to be concerned about. However, a little over halfway on our journey we received a phone call that we needed to stop traveling immediately. That there was trouble up ahead in and around Addis and that we needed to get more information before continuing on. We stopped in a small town called Bui at a quaint restaurant that had only 3 items to serve: eggs, shiro (an Ethiopian dish), and spaghetti. And lots and lots of coffee… 😁
And we waited… and waited… and waited. It’s hard to get accurate information in Ethiopia. There’s no equivalent of CNN, Fox News, or NBC. Real time information relies mostly on word of mouth. And the word was that all roads leading into and out of Addis were shut down because of protests. We didn’t know why. We just knew that everything was shut down. The final straw was an Ethiopian friend who called who had some contacts in the security arena and he thought that the roads may be blocked for a couple of days. So with heavy hearts we got in the van to head back to Soddo, each of our minds racing about how we would/could eventually get to our final destinations.
The roads of Ethiopia are… challenging. People and animals everywhere. And not the best road conditions. About an hour outside of Soddo I heard Melena scream and as I quickly looked up I heard a “thud” and saw a donkey flying off of our van and onto the side of the road. Not good – for both the donkey and us. We stopped and our driver Galchu had to meet with the elders of the area to discuss the situation. What happens in this event is a price is negotiated and occupants of the van pay for the animal (even though this was in no way Galchu’s fault) and we move on. As this was being negotiated we were surrounded by dozens of local people who were intrigued about our van full of white people. In case you’re wondering… the going rate for hitting a donkey along the road is $68.03. Approximately.
After 14 hours of “traveling” we returned to Soddo. We’re still here, and HOPEFULLY will depart tomorrow in another attempt to return to America. And the good news is that we’re traveling again with the Aronsson’s and I’ll have Leo and Isak to… engage. After initially having some qualms about leaving a place that I’m happy and content in, I think I’m now ready to leave and for a break.
Are we there yet??…