I'll do my own little reflection today regarding THE THINGS I LOVE AND TRULY MISS ABOUT ETHIOPIA. These are in NO certain order, simply a stream of consciousness really. Also please forgive me for any generalities I've made that might not work for everything, as we only spent a week in Addis Ababa... this is in reference to what I learned, saw, and understood along the way.
THE THINGS I LOVE AND TRULY MISS ABOUT ETHIOPIA
- Unhindered Affection: If you care for someone, appreciate someone, and/or love someone - you show it in Ethiopia. Men holding hands/women holding hands as they walk down the street together means nothing more than, "I appreciate you and love you, dear friend". I think we call could use a little more of that in our lives - a friend giving an encouraging hug, a quick grab/massage of the shoulders, a touch here or there on the arm... males not worrying about being macho enough, rather showing they truly care and not being afraid of that. I loved it. I truly felt a difference on Saturday, our last day in Ethiopia when we didn't visit the children but rather prepared for our departure home - I felt something missing a bit - my affection meter had been raised and gotten used to so much more affection, and on Saturday it was going back to the "American, here's my bubble, stay out of it way". I physically felt a difference that day and wished for the unhindered affection to continue. It's contagious and I think healthy!
- Tight Hugs, Wet Kisses, Cuddles, and Beautiful Smiles - ugh, how I miss them. The children! They gave such wonderful tight hugs, wet kisses, cuddles, and the most beautiful smiles. Daily I had multiple children sitting on top of me - I loved it! I prayed that they could feel the love of Jesus pouring out of me! That any love and affection I could give was only because of Him! I wanted them to feel they mattered and were cared for, even if it meant from a white women thousands of miles and many many hours away. And that even more than I could ever love and care for them, we have a Creator and Savior that loves them beyond measure! I have been aching for those tight hugs, wet kisses, cuddles, and beautiful smiles this week. I want to look into their faces, each one, and remind them again that they have a Hope and a Future! I'm so thankful for the work of The Forsaken Children and all the staff in Ethiopia working hard to proclaim that fact to the children daily. I ache for eight hands to be all within my hair, pulling and tugging, touching and braiding, for the smiles on their faces as they leaned down to make sure I was okay. Contagious. I want more!
- Food (berbere spice/seasoning) - Most everything cooked in Ethiopia is made with a spice or seasoning called berbere. It has a kick to it but I sure like it. I almost brought some home, but I so rarely use spices I knew it would sit in our "pantry" for the most part. However, I might have to borrow some from a few Team Ethiopia members in the near future. I really enjoyed the food in Addis Ababa... especially the process of eating with your hands. You see, most everything is served on a bed of injara - think a pancake like substance. You pull pieces of the injara off an use that to pick up the food, bit by bit, piece by piece, using that almost as your utensil. I loved it. I think there's something more personal and intimate about eating with your hands. I miss it.
- Perspective - it's hard not to have perspective when you're not surrounded/attacked by the "American Dream" in direction. When you see a child or person in general curled up in the median of a large street sleeping - hard not to have perspective about what matters. When you see children wearing shoes three sizes too small because that's all they have - it puts things in perspective. When you see "home" after "home" and shelter after shelter made of the scraps we'd throw away in America - it puts things in perspective. What's important in life? What matters? Addis Ababa, Ethiopia helped me obtain and gain perspective.
- The Laughter - Whether it was the children's or Nega's - I miss the laughter in Ethiopia. I told Nega, Onesimus formerly known as CHE, Director on more than one occasion that I wish I had recorded his laughter to take it back home. If I was having a bad day, all I would need is to replay the recording of Nega's laugh and it would be impossible to go without a smile. In the same way that Nega's laughter is something I miss from Ethiopia, all the childrens' laughter is too! I love the fact that this project, this Drop-In Center allows for a safe place for the children to come and be CHILDREN... to laugh and play. To be fed, loved, attended to!
- Coca-Cola Ethiopian Style and Shai - glass Coca-Cola bottles with Amharic writing on the other side...Mmm Mmmm Good! Different than Coke here at home... the sweetness is different and delicious. I surely enjoyed my fair share of Coca-Cola's while in Addis Ababa. Yum! Oh and the Shai - hot, delicious tea.
- "Nega Says" - So take the game, Simon Says, and throw the director's name in there instead... bam! You've got a brand new game that the kids were CRAZY about... NEGA SAYS! It was hilarious and so much fun. The smiles on the childrens' faces as they played! The laughs and yells as people messed up and were pulled out of play. The laughter of the staff members as they got tickled by the entire event also. Oh, and the joy of watching the LEADER of Nega Says, whether that was me one time, Mr. McGoo most of the time, or Joe trying a time or two! Hilariously fun!
- Feeding One Another - I've already hinted that I'm missing the food in Ethiopia... however an even greater or another part of that is the cultural process of "feeding one another". We were told this was a sign of respect, admiration, and caring. Nega told Mr. McGoo that feeding someone once, wouldn't do - but feeding them twice, the bond would never be broken. I had the pleasure of watching Nega feed Mr. McGoo twice during our dinner with the staff and it practically brought tears to my eyes. Those two husky football lovers quickly learned to care for one another. The most intimate time I remember in this "feeding each other" process for me happened at the boys halfway home. During a coffee ceremony one of the boys sat next to me in a chair, practically in my lap. For some reason during coffee ceremonies, we were always served popcorn (will have to figure out the cultural reason, if there is one, for this later)... I saw my little friend beside me eyeing the popcorn, so I grabbed a handful and fed him - he reciprocated. There, for the next 45min to hour, we fed one another popcorn. Ahhh, my heart melts thinking of it again and seeing his gorgeous face. I miss that.
- Through the Eye of the Camera Lens - As team photographer/blogger for the week, I rarely was without the camera around my neck. There is something about watching the children, staff, and people in general on the streets through the lens of my camera... catching small moments I never want to forget... holding a watchful eye to that moment you know the team would want to share. I'm not sure I accomplished my photography task very well - I go with the "take enough photos and surely you'll get a few good keeper shots" approach, however I truly enjoyed the process of viewing it all through the eye of the camera lens.
- Weather - Uhhh, coming back to Memphis was a HOT surprise! Addis Ababa's temps were impeccable during our Ethiopia adventure. Most days pants were the dressing of choice and need, as well as once the rain came a light jacket would do. I would gladly take the mountainous weather of Addis Ababa right now!
- Feeling Right In the Middle - And lastly, but certainly not least... I miss feeling right in the middle of where God wants me to be like I did while in Addis Ababa. God so surely orchestrated and called Mr. McGoo and me to this trip and it felt so good to be right in the middle of it all. Beyond that, the work that The Forsaken Children is doing with Onesimus and its other projects such as Kota Ganate and such is surely doing the work of the Lord. So cool to be a part of that! I know there are ways to be right in the middle of it while at home, and Mr. McGoo and I are looking forward to continuing to figure out how to live that out daily!