life as we know it

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seesai's Wings

I met a new friend today in the poorest part of Addis Ababa.  I don’t
know how you actually spell his name and if I used Amharic I’m not
sure I could even find the right letters in their 200+ symbol
alphabet.  Since we pronounced his name Seesai, that’s how I will
spell it and if he ever reads this I’m sorry for the name butchery.
At any rate, we met Seesai through our friend Yemamu (and yes that one
is right) when they showed us their new center.  Now when I say center
I don’t want you to think in American terms where a center might mean
big parking lots leading into a shopping plaza with a Starbucks on
each end.  Think more along the lines of a metal enclosed patch of
grass which has four small buildings: one will be a library, one will
be a dining hall/activity room, one already is a guard shack (metal
enclosure that a person lives in to guard the center) and the fourth
building already is a shower.

I say the buildings will be these things because as they stand right
now it is just corrugated metal on top of eucalyptus tree logs.  The
library has gone a step further and added a plastic tarp lining to the
walls and ceiling of the 22 by 10 foot building (by the way that’s not
as big as some of your bedrooms).  As of now the books can fit in a
box the size of a microwave oven and consist of a wide variety of
outdated material from Windows 97 to a fifteen year old dictionary.
But this is just what it is.  What it’s going to be is a whole other

Yemamu and Seesai  grew up in a place called Kore (sounds like Koray
or maybe Korah).  If you have seen the movie Slum Dog Millionaire
where the kids are living on a trash dump then you may have gotten a
small taste of how these two and so many others grew up and are still
living.  The noticeable difference here is the addition of fire as the
trash is burned in the exact same place these kids and people are
living.  The smoke was so bad today that we couldn’t actually go into
the dump because our friends said you can’t breathe and couldn’t even
see the person next to you if you were holding their hand.  The kids
from the dump are outcasts, so much so that they aren’t even allowed
to use the public taxi system which is sketchy at best.  They get
their clothing from the trash and eat whatever the dogs and hyenas
don’t get to first.  The idea of three meals a day and medical care
for simple, treatable issues is as much of a joke for these kids as
the thought of being allowed into a school.

One thing they do for fun is to hide in the garbage at night until
the hyenas get very close and then jump up, screaming and yelling and
laughing as they chase one of Africa’s most dangerous animals away to
scavenge elsewhere.  When we tried to explain to our friends that
hyenas were super nasty and dangerous (according to Nat Geo TV of
course, but they don’t exactly show them in a trash dump I guess) they
just looked at each other, then at us like we were the crazy ones and
said, “Noooooo! Not in Ethiopia!”  The saying goes that if a hyena
sees a man, he goes away.  If it sees a woman, he waits.  And if he
sees a child, he laughs.  Sounds to me like the kids in Kore get the
last laugh on this subject.

For the last two years our friends have been working on getting other
activities for these outcast kids to be involved in and finally a week
ago they got permission to have this patch of grass and few metal
buildings to start their center.  Like I said what it is and what it
will be are two separate things.  Later this week we get to see them
open their doors to 150 kids who will get a chance to shower, to eat
three times a day, and whenever volunteers are there or donations are
available they will have the chance to learn and to receive medical
care.  The admission criteria are simple; worst come, worst served.
The kids who are the most needy, alone, sick, and desperate will be
served first and the hope is to quickly raise the total number of kids
from 150 to 300.

According to Yemamu, Kore, the dump, and the attached leprosy village
called Alert were made in the 1940’s when there was a lack of
understanding about leprosy and the king/emperor of the time didn’t
want the disease to spread.  Out of sight out of mind may have been
the idea, but now there needs to be a new light shed on the issue.  In
a country where the unemployment rate is well over 40% and diarrhea is
one of the main killers of children these kids aren’t even being
counted.  There are zero resources being put into this community aside
from city waste and the people like Yemamu, Seesai, and another friend
named Alex are left carrying the weight of their families, friends,
and many others.  What’s strange is that our friends who live at the
dump and in the leprosy village invited us over their houses and to
walk through their part of town and I haven’t felt so safe, loved, and
welcomed anywhere else in Ethiopia.

Seesai has two tattoos on the back of his neck.  When we get back to
the states I will post a picture for sure, but until then I can just
describe them as one wing on each side.  When I first saw them at the
beginning of the day I thought to myself, “probably to fly out of this
place”.  But as the day went on and he was going out of his way to
take Kelly and I to an easy place to catch a taxi home, Seesai was
sitting in front of me.  I kept looking at his wings and re-evaluated
what they were to be used for.  Now I’m sure I have it right.  He’s
going to use those wings to fly every kid in that dump to a better
place where they have an equal shot at life.

Monday, February 21, 2011


It seems as though if I don’t keep up with my blog day to day, I’m
overwhelmed by the amount I have to update. This weekend we went to
Kechene and Merkato on Saturday and Kebebtsehay Saturday and Sunday.
There have been SO many changes at Kebebtsehay. There is a HUGE new
amazing two story building on the campus that most of the kids have
moved into. The babies and toddlers are on the second floor with some
of the older ones on the first floor. The two old buildings are
currently being remodeled to house the oldest kids at Kebebtsehay. It
was almost eerie going into the old baby house. It was still painted
blue with the old dresser missing a couple of drawers but had dust and
debris everywhere. It was silent. I explained the old set up to Nick;
what everything looked like, where it all was.
This new building feels like a fresh start, in a good way and in a not
my favorite way. All the toys we brought before are somewhere unknown,
the dry erase board with the schedule for the babies and toddler is
also gone. I haven’t given up hope yet; since it was the weekend, the
director wasn’t there and neither was Alex, so tomorrow I should have
some more information.

There are a lot of new kiddos with special needs at Kebebtsehay;
seven, actually. I haven’t had a chance to spend much time in their
room yet except to know that a few of them are very sick. Tomorrow
I’ll meet with Alex and the director to see what our objectives are
for the next two weeks. I have some high hopes of getting all the
kiddos who need physical therapy on a set program with Alex with the
ones who are appropriate set up with the stander, donated from the
AMAZING company Kaye Products. Seriously, check them out. What great
people. Because the building is so new, there is some great space in
the first floor and an outdoor patio on the second floor that the
caregivers are open to having us create into a playroom to encourage
some developmental stimulation. The outdoor patio is tricky; it
technically has a cover on it, but the walls are open to the outdoor
elements which is obviously not good for the rainy season. It also has
a metal railing that surrounds it, perfectly inviting little ones to
stick their heads in or try to climb. Also not so great for
encouraging safe development through play and toys. Ideally, we’d love
to set up the first floor because it’s really an amazing space, it’s
not realistic for the caregivers to carry all the babies and toddlers
down there every day, so we can pretty much comfortably say that isn’t
going to happen. We’re brainstorming the patio and will keep you
updated, of course!
I also have been asked to present our caregiver education program
again because so many new caregivers have been hired. We’re looking at
doing some re-working of the information and trying to condense a
little because I just don’t think we have the time to pull it all off
to the same extent this time around. My mind is swirling with some
ideas of creating it as some sort of training program that all new
employees of the orphanage must complete. Perhaps making it into a
manual with great pictures and resources. Of course this also needs to
then be translated into Amharic. Ekk. The babies and toddlers would
really benefit from being back on a schedule again, so we’ll be
revisiting that part of what we had done last time, too.

I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed with all I want to get done in my
short time here, but I’m working as much as I can to get things up and

Today we helped a team of 30 complete another shoe distribution. It
was an amazing experience to have had the opportunity to put tons of
new shoes on kiddos which can prevent diseases and improve overall
hygiene. Today really was one of those breaking point days for me
during this distribution. I prayed a lot before this trip asking God
to sincerely break my heart for what breaks His. I wanted to deeply
feel what he feels for the orphan and the least of these. I desired to
be SO moved during this trip and I KNEW that with how much spiritual
warfare I experienced prior to leaving, something amazing was going to
happen. Don’t get me wrong; I had a wonderful two months in Addis last
time, my life was changed and my heart was changed. Something felt
off, though. I have a hard time describing it, but it was just a
distant feeling for some reason. God has absolutely moved mountains in
my life this trip. I have so many overwhelming emotions and literally
wept today because of it. I just literally felt my heart BREAKING. I
was so broken inside; eyes open, heart in pieces and really felt like
I was seeing things from God’s perspective. How broken we as human
beings are and how profoundly short we fall from His glory, yet He
blesses us anyway. I will never forget today; for the good, the bad,
the amazing and the life-changing. God allowed me to change today. I
prayed for this and prayed to feel what He feels, and although I’m so
grateful for the opportunity, it sure doesn’t make it easy.
I’m taking some deep breaths tonight, trying to calm my mind and
prepare for tomorrow which will be another busy day. Thanks for all
the prayers and support; this journey is seriously unreal and I’m
blessed you would want to share it with us.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today was the day to head further into Dahley and set up for the
largest distribution of shoes. It took no time to get all the sizes
lined up considering we’ve been doing it all week, so we spent the
rest of the morning playing soccer, hackey sack and sitting around
with the kids. It’s kind of amazing that even after hours of being
around, they still can be mesmerized by staring at us. Dahley is in
the Oromo region of Ethiopia which means a new language apart from
Amharic for us. We learned basic Oromo words from some of the children
and teachers and now Nick is beginning to get the two languages mixed
up when he’s trying to think about them.

Tom drove us outside of Tafo, away from the city to a small line of
pottery stands next to the street. Between the five of us, we bought
something from each family because it was so cheap and we just wanted
to evenly distribute the income if we can. Nick picked up something he
really likes and we also have something we have no idea what we’ll do
with, but it was more of the principle for us. One of you lucky
readers may just be inheriting a lovely piece of clay pottery when we
get back home! :)

Dinner tonight was at the purple restaurant and although we had a hard
time ordering, we got for the most part what we ordered. Nick and I
both had scrambled eggs and mine came with bread while his came with
injera. The eggs seem to have more flavor than ours in the States and
I’m not sure why.

It’s weird to think that tonight is our last night here. Our lives out
here have been completely different than they will be once we’re in
the city. Our guest house is, as I’ve said before, in my old
neighborhood so it shouldn’t take me long to pick things back up of
how to get where we need to. The biggest thing is figuring out how
much it should cost us per taxi ride because I know taxi drivers are
sometimes looking to take advantage of us since we don’t speak Amharic
well, so as long as I get that down, we should be okay. I’ve enjoyed
the quieter side of live in Ethiopia but am looking forward to getting
some of the Kebebtsehay projects going. My first mission is just
really to check out the environments and kids themselves to see where
things are today so I have a good idea of what the needs are. Tomorrow
Tom is taking us into town and we’re heading to Kechene, Kebebtsehay
and the Merkato for a few supplies. It will likely be a pretty busy
day and something I’ve been looking forward to since I left Ethiopia
in 2009. I really don’t know what to expect because from what I’ve
heard, things have significantly changed. There is a new building at
Kebebtsehay, a lot more kids at each orphanage and most of the kids I
knew have gone to different places. I’m not sure how I’ll process it
all once I’m in the environment, but I’m excited either way.

Since we’re checking into the guest house tomorrow, we should
theoretically have internet! Who knows how reliable it will be, but at
least internet will be much more accessible once we’re in the city. If
you are still reading this (by the way, 8 pages later), I commend your
endurance to get all the way through! I realize I haven’t put a lot of
emotion into anything yet but I’ve felt more like this was just to
keep up with what we’ve been doing. Perhaps as I’m able to post more
frequently I’ll be able to better describe what I’m feeling as opposed
to just what we’ve been doing. Time is going quickly but we’re not
close to the end, so it’s not something I’ve thought too much about
yet. Next time you hear from me, I will be set up in the city. Looking
forward to it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Busy day! We distributed 400 pairs of shoes at a school with a lot of
older children (grades 5-8, which can actually include children into
their 20’s) and then took a tour of their school. They have a library
with no books and a science building with no equipment. We were told
we were the first white people to have ever visited that school.
Although I know we’re in a more rural area it just seems hard to
believe. It’s so hard here because we are able to provide some
assistance in a specific way but because everyone needs so much, they
ask us for books and supplies and computers and desks. Of course we
would love to provide all these things for everyone but it just never
feels like it’s enough to make an impact. We just keep reminding
ourselves that we are giving everything we can while we are here and
that we are doing some good.

During the distribution, an Ethiopian told me I sounded like I have
lived here and have spoken the language for 5 years. Yessss. Too bad I
am now proficient only at Amharic words that involve something
surrounding shoe fittings. Ha.

We are getting pretty efficient between the five of us during the
distributions so we finished pretty early. Hallelujah, one of Sally
and Tom’s Ethiopian friends, took us into the city on public minibus,
our first of the trip. We almost drove over a cliff and it broke down
with smoke streaming from an outside vent. I suppose we were broken
into Ethiopian public minibuses quickly! We walked to the next stop
and made into town to lunch. We were near my old neighborhood/stomping
grounds again, although everything still looks so different. Yemamu
met us at lunch and it was so good to finally see him again! It was
like he and Nick had already known each other because I’ve talked
about them so much. He looks the same but it sounds like a lot has
changed in his world.

We were close to Gladney’s office so we stopped into the Kechene girls
shop first. Ang and I are hoping to have them knit a few laptop covers
while we’re here so we can take them back to the States and send them
to a few companies who may carry them. Our end goal is to have the
Kechene girls making a few things that are REALLY marketable and
modern that appeal to Americans that can be carried by a company. This
takes out the requirement of us having to do all the marketing and
selling back in the states ourselves and creates a continued business
relationship for them. We’ll see if it all works out.

We walked around a bit and caught up with Yemamu and headed back by
contract taxi to Tafo. We made it back here by dark which is always a
plus. I’m still feeling pretty sick and keeping Nick up at night while
I’m blowing my nose but I’m making it through.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I woke up in the middle of the night really hot. It wasn’t long before
I knew I was actually feeling sick and when my alarm went off at 7, I
got out of bed. I have continued to feel hot, feverish and
lightheaded. My throat is sore and it’s hard to swallow and my nose is
stuffy. I feel like I’m allergic to Ethiopia because this same thing
happened last time. My stomach is fine and I don’t feel like I picked
anything up here; more like I picked something up in NOLA or on the
airplane and it’s finally manifesting. Here’s hoping it won’t last

We’re waiting at RoPack for Tom to head over and pick us up for the
second distribution. I’m thinking about taking a nap and hoping I can
sleep some of this sickness off.

Back from distribution number two. Today was another school of younger
children. Everything was set up by the time we arrived because Tom
needed to make two trips; the first with Hayley and shoes and the
second with the four of us. We started with four fitters, one “runner”
(the person who gets the shoe sizes we think we need, which happened
to be Brian), Hayley was writing registration numbers in shoes, and
five Ethiopians helping with registration. Two and a half hours later
and 200 shoes later, all the children in the school and one from the
community who didn’t have shoes were showing off their new kicks. We
were much more efficient and have worked out some of the kinks from
the first distribution which will make creating the plans for future
distributions much easier.

We finished up with some late lunch and headed to the local market. It
was a nice change of pace to check out some different things and Ang
and I both picked up a scarf. We exchanged a little more money and
once we got home (back to RoPack), we took a walk and grabbed a
macchiato. We’re finishing up a few things around the house before we
head to bed and do it all again tomorrow! We’re set for a third
distribution of 400 kids and we’re pretty excited. I realize that I
really haven’t explained very thoroughly the shoe distribution process
and all that goes along with it, so that’s definitely my agenda for
tomorrow (or soon).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No distribution today because it’s a holiday. Monday night the Muslims
read the moon to determine if Tuesday would be a holiday or not. I’m
not sure what they needed to see (or not see) in order for them to
declare it a holiday, but it was. Tom picked us up from RoPac and we
headed to their house closer to the city. Our main objective for the
day was to sort and organize the shoes we needed for the distributions
Wednesday and Thursday. We will be doubling the size of school and
community outreach each day, so the number of shoes gets larger and
larger. We had a pretty efficient system and it took less than a few
hours to sort and pull out another 800 pairs of shoes from the
original delivery. Our school on Wednesday is mainly younger children
again, so we learned the first time around that we will need very few
larger sizes. Thursday’s school, however, goes up to eighth grade
which we learned will include people up to their 20’s.

We headed into the city to pick up a phone and a SIM card. Once we’re
in the city we’ll need a phone to coordinate meetings and times and we
figured it would be beneficial to have it now because as I’ve learned
from my first trip, things are never as easy as you think they’ll be.
We found a phone (used, but a phone) that they were willing to sell me
for 400 birr (my limit on how much I’m willing to spend) and tried to
get our SIM card. They wouldn’t sell it to us without two Ethiopian
picture IDs. We don’t even have one. We though perhaps Tom would be
able to purchase it with his Ethiopian driver’s license, but no dice.
I called Yemamu and asked him to pick us up a phone and SIM card. No
problem, he says. He’ll get it in the merkato and bring it to us on
Saturday. We also stopped by our guest house to see if we could check
in a day early. Also no problem. The guest house is on the street I
lived off of last time. I chose the area because I know how to get
from everything from there and it would be much easier for me. It took
me a few minutes to recognize, though. Things have changed SO much
since I was here only a year and a half ago. The area where the
government was trying to take back their land, where the wood shop
disappeared from our first trip, has been successfully wiped out from
the once-thriving business area. What used to be a big open space is
how surrounded by high corrugated tin walls. A few things were
familiar and I smiled at the memories I have from my first trip. It
was good to be in familiar territory.

We walked to a pizza shop close to Tom and Sally’s and snagged some
pizza for dinner. We just had the marghireta pizza but Ang ordered
French fries. Literally, we watched the woman peel the potatoes and
cut them into fries. Everything was fresh and delicious, particularly
because hadn’t eaten since breakfast which was just multi-grain
Cherrios in soy milk. Meals are kind of funny that way here. You just
are never on a schedule and you eat when you can eat and are pretty
ready for the next meal.

We spent the evening in Sally’s living room talking about all sorts of
things. Ethiopia, adoption, life, climbing. It was fun to connect with
someone who I met just briefly my first time here and whose journey I
have followed throughout the year. We got home late and I was
exhausted, so all plans were out the window and I headed to bed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day! Tom picked us up from RoPac and we headed over
to the first school. We set up in a small school room and prepared for
the children. They came in about four at a time and we each sat on the
ground in front of a chair. When we were working most efficiently, we
called out a size and whoever was standing would grab it. It, of
course, was a trial and error with sizing. The language barrier was
interesting and what made it even more difficult to get the correct
fit sometimes was that some of the children wouldn’t even look at us.
They have obviously had very little interaction with foreigners and it
was, I imagine, pretty scary to have us there in this overwhelming
situation. We did our best; “telickino?” for “too big” and “tenishno?”
for too small. Of course, “ishy?” for “okay.” We put the shoes on each
child and once we found a good fit, we took them over to registration.
We had three people who were giving children their registration
information which included a number and taking some basic intake
information (where they live, information about their parents, etc).
When TOMS shoes has a giving partner, they don’t just provide shoes
once. They provide shoes for these children three times per year. This
time around, our main goal is to have each child return for the second
distribution in June. Once they return , Tom and Sally will be
providing some health education to each child. How amazing is it that
not only children that didn’t have shoes before will have a pair, but
that they will receive a pair three times per year?! It is such a cool
thing to think that this project we are helping to initiate and
organize will be ongoing and continue to grow. I love that we are here
for this initial distribution. It really allows us to have a lot of
input into what this looks like in the future. We will be continuing
to improve on the way we run things this week and hammer out a manual
for distributions later that will make it extremely easy for
Ethiopian’s to continue once we’re gone.

After we fitted each child in the school, we opened up the
distribution to some of the children in the community. I fitted kids
with no pants, dirty babies whose families obviously did not have the
resources to buy them shoes and children who were probably not in
school because in order to be in school in Ethiopia, you have to buy a
uniform and have shoes. Not only are we providing shoes to children in
order to improve health and sanitary conditions, but we are also
giving them a way to access education by having this new pair of
shoes. I know how long it took Sally to get everything together for
paperwork and how hard the process was to be approved as a giving
partner, so this initial distribution was an emotionally overwhelming
experience. It’s hard to really grasp the impact you were able to have
in just a few hours. As I’ve said many times, Nick and I are SO
blessed to have the opportunity to be here, doing what we are doing,
because of the hard work of many other people. THANK you for your

We grabbed some lunch and walked over to the grain mill. Sally needed
some corn for corn bread, so we went and got two kilos of corn. We
sifted it first to get some of the finer dirt out, then sorted through
each kernel by hand on a grass weave platter looking for bigger debris
like rocks. Once we’re finished, we wait in line and the corn goes
through a grinder than makes it into a very fine, almost flour-like,
looking substance that Sally can use to make corn bread.

Tom took us over to Dahley so we could see the community they work in.
We met some of the children enrolled in their afterschool program, had
a tea ceremony at one of their friend’s mud huts who had a baby one
week ago, saw the library and health center they built and the land
they work. This was such a neat time to meet some people in a more
rural Ethiopian setting where people live without running water or
electricity. They have little food and have to walk a long ways to
retrieve water. Nick and Brian helped some Ethiopians move a
horse-pulled cart full of Eucalyptus trees (it was a VERY funny sight-
perhaps he’ll add a little of his own experience here, but I’ll
definitely include some pictures when we’re home). Sally and Tom feed
the children in their afterschool program three times per week. It has
been amazing for them to see the transformation in these kids, who
went from skinny, dull children to those with personality and a
brightness in their eyes.  Would you believe that for children who do
not have food to eat that three meals per week would make their lives
completely different? That it would allow them to develop their
personality and grow and experience the world with a excitement they
had never experienced? I don’t know any parents in American who would
find it acceptable to feed their children three times per week, but
here, it is a blessing and literally means these children will
SURVIVE. It’s really hard to understand what that looks like as a
parent to be unable to provide the basic necessities for your child to
live for a year, five years, then eight years. There is a staggering
statistic I heard and I’m sure I’m going to be off by a few, but
something like one in five children in Ethiopia will die by the age of
five. These children are dying from things that would never be
life-threatening in the US, yet we complain about how much hospital
visits cost when really, we’re fortunate to have a hospital to go to.
Despite these dire circumstances, these kids are happy and thrive with
interaction and attention. They are just like children born in the
United States but with less resources, less opportunity and a greater
chance at failing. How can we not intervene and provide basic needs to
give them the chance to live? I’m so glad I am able to be a part of

Monday night was an early night, too. We needed the sleep and needed
to process all that being in Ethiopia means. Nick surprised me just
before bed with a Valentine’s Day card. Although he doesn’t love the
Hallmark holidays, he was so thoughtful to have brought a card from
home to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Once we deplaned in Addis Ababa we took a bus over to the terminal.
Fortunately we already had our visas and although we accidently stood
in that line for a few minutes, it definitely would have made our
airport time a whole lot longer. We made it through customs and our
bags arrived without difficulty which I think is helped by the fact
that we had a direct flight. Last time, they lost one of my bags for a
week or so. Ang and I attempted to exchange some money at the airport
and by the time we got to the front of the line, she told us she was
out of money. This was our first true Ethiopian experience. She
exchanged a little money for each of us and we are definitely grateful
that the American dollar is so strong here so the exchange rate is
good (1 USD: 16.2 Ethiopian birr). We had enough to make it through
our first week, though, which was really the important thing.

Nick and Brian got our bags loaded on carts and we headed to the next
line: sending ALL bags through x-ray prior to leaving the airport. The
line was LONG. This was partially because there was a second line
feeding into ours that was full of people cutting in front of the rest
of us. I knew we would literally never get through because the people
cutting in line were putting all their bags right on the conveyer belt
so people in our line never had a chance to make it. I went up to one
side of the belt and started pushing bags from the bottom up to the
belt and through the x-ray machine. There were a few fairly verbal
Ethiopians talking to the line who were clearing trying to cut in
front of everyone else, but I just kept quiet and pushed bags through.
After 5-10 minutes our bags were on and we headed through the line.
They pulled the stander off the belt and had a lot of questions about
it. I tried to explain that I was a physical therapist and that it was
a piece of equipment to help children. The gentleman wanted to open it
to inspect which was fine with me. He started cutting the tape off and
I asked if he would please reseal it when he was done. He looked at me
and said, “I don’t know.” Ha, this obviously equates to no. I’m not
sure he ever decided that he was really comfortable with it, but he
let me take it, unsealed and all, out towards the exit.

Nick and I came out of the secured area and I heard someone yell my
name. I looked over and Bisrat was standing right next to Tom. Bisrat
is the one that assisted with interpreting our caregiver education
program when Keely and I were here last time. Although he was there to
pick a few other people up, it was great to see him. We all connected
with Tom and were on our way. The Land  Rover that Sally and Tom own
barely fit our belongings with a little pushing and shoving and it
meant that Nick and I sat in the backseat and Ang and Brian sat in the
one front seat together. We only made it about 5 minutes before a
police officer chased us down. He spoke very little English but enough
to tell us that we had “three mistakes.” Two people in the front seat,
too much stuff in the car (um, seriously? I have seen Ethiopians pile
by the tens in cars filled to the brim with different items and even
live animals), and Tom did not have his driver’s license in the car.
He had just picked it up from the shop the day before and had
forgotten to put it back in. The police officer hopped a ride in
someone else’s car that he flagged down on the side of the road and
had us follow him. We made it to a corner and at this point there were
three police officers. Their final decision was to take Tom’s license
plates and have him come back to pay a fine after he dropped us off.
We were then on our way- still with two people in the front seat and
all of our belongings stuffed into the car. We made it to Sally and
Tom’s with no other commotion, but that is definitely a way to be
broken into Ethiopia quickly!

We are in charge of the shoe distribution with one other girl this
week, Hayley. She is one of the founders of the Davis Moon Project, a
non-profit organization that provides books and school supplies to
schools and communities here in Ethiopia. Together we sorted and
pulled the shoes we needed for our first distribution, a school of 120
young children. Of course we approximate sizes and bring extras
knowing we can’t be exactly sure of size needs.

Brian, Ang, Nick and I are staying out in an area called Tafo, 20 or
so minutes outside the city. We’re staying at Tom and Sally’s old
house in the two rooms in the servant’s quarters. We have twin size
bunkbeds in each. We are SO grateful, and surprised, really, by the
fact that we have had fairly consistent electricity (it has only
turned off once that we know of that lasted just a short time) AND hot
water! We feel very spoiled from what we expected to be living in. Our
neighborhood is called RoPac and everyone has seemed really nice.
We’re about 20 minutes or so from Dahley, the rural community where
Sally and Tom work. Once we arrived at RoPac, we crashed REALLY early
and slept for quite awhile. We are on a 10 hour time difference from
home, so we feel like we’re living almost opposite schedules as our
bodies are used to, so we were hoping by sleeping early and getting up
in the morning we would have kicked the jet lag quickly.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We woke up and had some hot breakfast and snagged a few extra bagels
for the trip. The hotel shuttle was late by about 20 minutes and we
were already cutting it a little close. Needless to say, it was a bad
idea. When we arrived at Dulles with all our luggage and got in line,
Ang and Brian were told after they had already sent their underweight
checked luggage that carry-ons could only weight 15 pounds. Nick and I
knew we were in serious trouble. All of our checked bags (except the
stander in the cardboard box) were close to exactly 50 pounds, if not
a bit over. Our carry-ons were probably 30 pounds each and the overage
fee was $150, not something we were going to be able to pay. When we
were called up to the counter, I tried to be as friendly as possible.
He checked our bags and had Nick take two of them (not sure why only
two) over to the x-ray checked bag area. I tried to keep our carry-ons
far enough around the counter that they wouldn’t catch his eye, but he
did see one. Fortunately it was our small rolling suitcase my dad gave
me awhile back to use as a carry on. He said they may have me check it
at the gate because of the size. We really didn’t care at that point
because that meant they wouldn’t charge us for checking an additional
bag. What we were concerned about was the fact that we were supposed
to be sitting in seats 12 K and 12 L together, the second row of the
coach section. We were assigned seats in rows 26 and 27, not together.
He said we were some of the last people to check in and that we’d have
to follow up with the people at the gate to see if they could sit us
together. We hurried through security, ran to the train and gate and
were able to have seats assigned together. Unfortunately, they ended
up being the second to the last row on the plane and when you are in a
plane of over 300 people, it took quite awhile for us to board and we
knew getting off would be even worse.

The plane ride was fine, although filled with the worst turbulence I
have ever experienced. Possibly in part because we were the second to
last row on the airplane, but it was intense. Nick and I of course had
our seat belts on but had multiple times where we would get some air
out of our seat and the seatbelts had to hold us back. We continued to
go up in altitude to find a more gentle spot to cruise so by 37,000
feet (when we initially were going to be flying at 33,000 feet),
things were a bit more quiet. All I said to Nick was that as long as
we were going up and not down in altitude, I was okay.

We watched a lot of movies, did fairly little sleeping, some reading
and some game playing. The flight overall went pretty quickly and we
landed in Addis Ababa.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I had it planned so Nick and I would meet up on our layover in Chicago
and arrive at Dulles together. I was thinking ahead because there was
no way I wanted to try and carry all my luggage alone. At that point,
I had my two carry-ons, my big duffle and the cardboard box with a
stander. Nick’s flight was late leaving Columbus but so he made it
with just a few minutes to spare. We arrived in Dulles around 8:30 and
we’re on the shuttle to the hotel at 10 or so. We were glad to be
staying at a hotel with internet, hot showers and comfortable beds
because it is pretty easy to say that we would be missing some of
those conveniences once we arrived in Ethiopia.

the question

The question I have been getting asked as Kelly and I prepare for our
time in Ethiopia is, “Are you going on a mission trip?”  So I have
been wondering what that phrase even means anymore.  Is it just a knee
jerk reflex to ask that when someone hears about a trip to Africa?  To
be honest, I don’t think I have ever been on a “mission trip”.  The
first time the Army put me in charge of people I went on a power
trip…I go on a weekly grocery trip to make sure we have all the good
stuff in the house (like cinnamon toast crunch!), but I don’t think I
have ever been traveling somewhere and thought, “I’m on a mission trip
right now!” so I guess when people ask me that I just say no.

But I may just be on a mission.  I am lucky to have Kelly as my bride,
because she often opens my eyes to so many new and exciting things I
never would have experienced without her influence (not to mention
organization).  Part of her huge heart is anchored in Ethiopia as a
result of a trip in 2009 where her “mission” was to provide physical
therapy and training to the government run orphanages.  As a result,
we are back and one of my missions is going to be to immerse myself in
the Ethiopian culture as much as I can.  I want to see where people
live, what they live with and without, understand their customs, and
eat what they eat; with the exception, of course, of raw meat and I
don’t care if it is a delicacy…no thanks.  The people Kelly met seemed
so polite and welcoming that I can’t wait to be around them and share
her experiences.  So mission 1: Get culture without getting worms.

Safety has also been a big question from our friends and family.  They
wonder about more than the raw meat and the sketchy water and turn
their attention to an obvious concern about being American in Eastern
Africa.  Of course we will stick out quite a bit and of course we will
attract attention.  Luckily for us, Kelly has us working with
Ethiopians and Americans that she has worked with before and who have
lived in this country for a long time so that helps to put me at ease
when answering those types of questions.  I am also sure that I will
have my time spent in the infantry in foreign countries in the
forefront of my mind.  As we walk down the street I will be sure to
have my eyes open for anything threatening.  That being said I don’t
want fear to run my mind ragged while I try to enjoy being half way
around the world!  Mission 2: Keep safety in mind with reckless

Another question I want to tackle is the obvious, “will you come back
with a kid?”  The answer is no.  Not unless we can smuggle one out,
which would definitely not help the already strained international
adoption community.  This trip is unrelated to our adoption and
strictly to get some work done.  We will be doing a few shoe
distributions and will be working in the same orphanages Kelly worked
in in 2009.  While we are there we will be checking in on some
projects she started and getting some new things rolling.  We will
likely meet hundreds of kids we want to take home with us and I’m sure
we will fall in love with more than one, but we will have to be tough
and resist the temptation to pack one in our luggage!  While here,
however, I would like to learn as much as I can about where our child
will be coming from so we can let them know when they grow up.  So
while the trip isn’t to take a kid home it will have a lot to do with
learning about the home they are coming from.  Mission 3: Learn about
kiddos without taking one home.

All things considered, I may have to revise my answer a bit when
people ask me if I’m going on a mission trip.  Now I guess I can say,
“Yes. I’m going on several missions during this trip!”  All joking
aside, I feel very blessed to be able to see this part of the world
and from what I hear, there is no better place to see the Gospels
lived out on a day to day basis. Mission 4: Seek God in everything we
do and see in Ethiopia. (Unless God is in the raw meat, in which case
I will hope He finds me in the bottled water/heavily cooked food

Friday, February 11, 2011

NOLA and Ethiopia

I just arrived in DC tonight from spending a few days in New Orleans at the American Physical Therapy Association's annual Combined Sections Meeting. Oh, what a fun time. I absolutely LOVE this conference. This is my third year to attend and I can't even pick my favorite part. I practice in multiple settings and see a LOT of different types of diagnoses: orthopedic, neurologic, pediatrics, geriatrics and everything in between. This conference allows me to attend 2-4 hour courses on completely different subjects. Up this year: balance and falls, pilates for building bone strength and posture and locomotor training (specifically in the spinal cord injured population, but arguably many of the same principles apply to different diagnoses). Let's get to the real important NOLA happenings, though:

  • Reunion with most of my favorite Duke friends (seriously, amazing. I really love these people and wish we could get together more often. Too bad we're spread across Boston, DC, Chicago, Little Rock, Colorado and all along in between. The only thing that could have made it better is if Nick could have joined me)
  • Watching the Duke versus UNC basketball game with 30 other Duke alumni and fans. The fact that we won sure helps, too!
  • NOLA food, wow! Love it. I'm pretty picky about my food but I really wanted to have a full New Orleans experience, food and all. Let's just say my favorite of the visit? A debris sandwich from Mother's. A close second was pretty much everything else- beignets at Cafe Du Monde, grilled shrimp and enough Starbucks to keep my lids open!
  • Karaoke at Cats Meow. Yes, I sang. No, I will not tell you what I sang. Fun.
  • Snagging up all the goodies in the exhibit hall, including free pens, frisbees, hand sanitizers, goniometers...everything I took I will be taking with me to Ethiopia. That was my criteria- I'll pick it up if I can use it in ET!
  • Of course I was initially a little put off by having beads thrown down from a balcony, but as soon as I was reminded how perfect these would be for PT interventions in the orphanages and foster care, I snagged some up!

I had such an amazing time this week, although it went by too quickly. I am hoping Nick and I can plan a long weekend getaway to really soak in the city. Now the time has come for us to leave for Ethiopia tomorrow! We are tying up loose ends, finishing up e-mails and confirmations, taking our last hot shower for who knows how long! and sleeping in a comfortable bed. 

We'll be off the grid for our first week in Ethiopia. Hoping to still be typing up some posts during that time and will upload them to the blog around February 20 when we're back in Addis. I CANNOT wait to see what this trip has in store for us. With the amount of spiritual warfare I have felt around it, I can't help but think something BIG is going to happen. The leader of the Visiting Orphans team, Kari Gibson, that will be in Ethiopia with a team of 30 at the same time we'll be there posted this on her facebook recently. It could not have hit closer to home for me.

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet...prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each others spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Eph 6

We ask that you pray not necessarily for our safety but more that we are able to live out God's word, shine the light of Jesus to the people of Ethiopia and answer His call for our lives, whatever that may look like. Thanks again for all the support. We appreciate you all more than you could ever know.

Signing off for a week or so! Love you all!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Long distance blues

Nick and I know how to make long distance work. We just recently passed the milestone of being together longer than we have spent apart during our relationship. From deployments in the military to Las Vegas internships and my first trip to Ethiopia, time together and time apart were running neck and neck. Just because we are "good" at long distance does not make it our preference. Nick and I learned early on the importance of communication and continuing to allow our relationship to grow despite not being together in person. I learned how important the little things were. To this day, Nick's favorite present I ever gave him was a wooden box filled with 365 bible verses, sayings, quotes, messages and inside jokes to get him through a year of deployment (ha, wouldn't just one year have been nice? Let's be real, the Army time line is always changing). I do think, however, the only reason that is still his favorite present is because I haven't taken him skydiving yet!

I drove Nick to the airport early this morning. He is packed for a week in Ohio with friends and family and three weeks in Ethiopia (try fitting all that into two checked bags!). We will be reuniting in Washington, D.C. next Friday, February 11 for our flight out to Ethiopia on February 12. Because we've spent months and even YEARS apart (yes, we did see each other for a few days-a week every 3-6 months), I recognize this is a very short time. I suppose I didn't realize how comfortable we have become spending time together. I love this about us. There really is nobody else I love hanging out with more, although we do appreciate great company together with our friends! It is weird being home without him. I swear the dog notices. And even though I have plenty to do, I still seem to be wondering what the heck to do with myself! I think the feeling is mutual- he mentioned today that when there is a lull in the conversation, he looks around and wishes I was there. I wish I was there, too. I miss our friends and family in Ohio. And of course all of our favorite foods are in Ohio! MMM, Mio's pizza, Montgomery Inn, Graeter's...the list goes on (and on and on and on). 

Although I won't be seeing Nick for a week, I actually only have a few more days here in Colorado myself. I'm off to New Orleans for an annual physical therapy conference. I'm not sure which I love more- the conference and awesome courses offered or seeing all of my Duke classmates for a reunion (come on, you know it's the reunion, right?!). I have a lot to wrap up, but it does feel nice to have 1/2 the bags packed and off with Nick. Up next (i.e. what I should be doing now)- cleaning and getting the house ready for a month of guests while we're gone!

I have many airport memories from our first few years together!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I'm really not an angry person. In fact, I typically think that being angry longer than a minute is a waste of energy. I have a hard time recalling when I was last REALLY angry at someone or about something. 

I was in the car today driving home from work listening to the radio. I heard something that was SO relevant to some things going on in my life right now. It was almost spooky and I couldn't help but think it could only be a God thing. I started processing through what it all meant and how it was affecting my life right now. And I got ANGRY. I was so angry at Satan for attempting, and sometimes being successful, to pull a cover over my eyes and take me into his darkness. Angry for the cloudiness that Satan infiltrates in our decision making trying to pull us from the path God has laid for us. My prayer was simple: God, I TRUST you. Bring me into your light. I TRUST YOU.

I continue this prayer and hope it's one that will remain in the forefront of my mind, through not only the hard seasons of life, but with the good ones, too.