Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Selam, Ahmesugenalew" Ethiopia Days 1 and 2

Spring Break 2016. Ethiopia. Addis Ababa. 
I've been waiting for this trip for months-- so ready to have this adventure with KCraig. One of my dearest friends, she's been to Addis many times and I've always wanted to come along with her. Now it's finally happening. 

We've got quite the crew-- KCraig and her daughter Alex, one of my best friends Smooney, Julia and Janelle Dewolf, Rachel Phillips, Kaitlyn Ray and Kayden from Summer Staff (who joined us in DC via Oklahoma). 

We left Indy at 5am Friday morning and saw half of Fishers in the terminal. Our first miracle of the trip didn't take long to happen. Our tickets said "See Attendant for seat assignment" but when we got to the desk we were told that three members didn't have seats because they'd oversold the flight.

We had made these reservations months ago, did pre-check 24 hours ago, arrived to the airport two hours early and somehow still didn't have seats. The attendant offered $150 to anyone willing to get bumped to a later flight. He changed it to $400 and still  no one made a move. Finally he offered $600 a seat-- they were getting desperate.

KCraig said a prayer an miraculously the attendant printed out three more boarding passes with seat assignments. No one had come over to give up their seat and he offered no explanation of where these seats had suddenly appeared from. God multiplies fish, loaves and airplane seats.

We got out on the tarmac in DC-- that brisk wind felt like an adventure.

We found our gate and got seat assignments for the 13 hour flight to Ethiopia.

We unanimously agreed on Chipotle for our final meal. Our stomachs and palettes were in for quite the adventure in the next 10 days. Happily stuffed with guacamole, chicken, chips and pico de gallo we were ready for the next leg of the trip. 

Feeling a little tired, Alex Craig took a nap on the floor of Chipotle, the first of many floor naps on this trip. "Alex Craig clap, clap, clap-clap-clap."

Kayden joined us and now all 9 of us were ready for the longer flight. Lucky for us, the plane wasn't full so we had an empty seat in each row so we had a little bit more room to stretch out.

The first plane meal was probably the best of the whole trip-- meat in rice, cheese and cracker, roll, quinoa and chocolate cake (Samone Malone we wish you were here for that).

With the 7 hour time change, it was Saturday morning when we arrived at the Addis Ababa Airport. After waiting in line for customs, visa and luggage, we went to find Moges, the man in charge of Ethiopia YL. We thought he would be inside the airport, but he couldn't be found.

KCraig and Kayden went outside to look for him after messages wouldn't go through. Still no luck. Then the Ethiopian guards wouldn't let KCraig and Kayden back through the door to be with us and all of our luggage. Eventually they spotted Moges yelling and waving to them from the parking lot.

We loaded up all of our bags into the back of the van and climbed aboard.

There are so many things to notice as you drive through Addis-- giant round-a-bouts each uniquely decorated, billboards in English and Amharic, livestock in the middle of the road, have completed construction projects, stands and carts selling produce and trinkets everywhere, kids wandering by themselves, spicy smells, scaffolding made of sticks.

We made it to the YL House-- our home for the next few days. That's Moges in the black YL tshirt-- the man who oversees all of YL in Ethiopia. He immediately made all of us feel welcome and at home. The other man is one of the guards of the compound. He and Mohammad alternated 24-hour shifts. They'd open the gate when we arrived/left and kept watch all day and all night.

"Alex Craig clap, clap, clap-clap-clap."

Different YL staff members started showing up at the house to greet us and make us feel welcome. Little did we know that we would get to know about 10 of these people extremely well over the course of the trip. They wouldn't just be our tour guides and hosts, but they would become great friends of ours. KCraig is sitting with Wonde (Wendy) and Abenezer (Ebe).

We love Fre and Hanna-- best friends on YL staff in Addis.

Moges is such a gem. It didn't take Smoon and I long to figure out that he had a couple Tecumseh look-a-likes.

Do you think Moges is more of a Chris Franke...

or a Vince?

Smoon and I were so ready to explore the city. At this point we'd been traveling for over 24-hours and definitely felt like it. But we were all determined to have a full day in Addis to adjust to the time change. We started learning words like selam (hello) and ahmesugenalew (thank you).

Ebe and Wonde took us on a walk to a nearby mall that had a bowling alley in the basement and a pool outside.

On the top floor of the mall was an art gallery-- this was my favorite piece.

We walked the block-- these dirt roads filled with construction work were the norm in Addis. This is KCraig and Alex's second trip to Ethiopia together.

Watakay, the cook at the YL house, made food for us every day. She was extra careful about cooking everything so that we would be able to eat it. The water isn't safe for us to drink so we always had to have bottled water and only eat food that had been cooked in boiling water. We ate a ton of rice, potatoes and then miscellaneous sauces.

The first day was so exciting and new-- we still weren't quite sure what to expect. We had anticipated going to a YL camp right away but then found out upon arrival that YL camp had been moved to the end of the week.

Buna, aka coffee, is a huge part of the Ethiopian culture. We had a coffee ceremony to see the whole process the first day. They use coals on the far right of the picture to actually roast coffee beans. The beans are then ground and put into the coffee pot to cook with water. They served the buna in the tiny tea cups and we loaded it with sugar and powdered creamer.

It didn't take long to realize that the Ethiopian pace of life is a lot different than how quickly things move in America. The buna ceremony is time consuming and that's perfect because there is plenty of time to just be with friends. Rachel got out her guitar and played a few songs. Fre and Hanna were our next two friends-- sitting between Kaitlyn and Janelle. These two would become two of our very best friends over the course of our trip.

KCraig freaking loves buna... and all things Ethiopian.

A whole crew of YL staff took us to the museum at the Addis Ababa University. They were so excited to show us all of the exhibits and teach us more about their culture and history. Rach and I loved the printed paper faces that were attached to the mannequins.

Oh holy these folk tales-- all kinds of confusing, awkward, hilarious and strange. "See, it was my ox that gave birth. If you don't believe me, here is the placenta."

Miniature weaving loom (just wait to read about Sabahar on day 5!)

The view from the top of the museum looked out over Addis-- such a beautiful place. It was so much more tropical than we had anticipated.

We stopped for a Merinda on the way back to the YL house-- kind of like a Fanta but more delicious.

Watakay made us soup and toast for dinner-- noodles, carrots, potatoes and onions. Delicious. We came to love eating dinner together out on the porch.

House tour:

This indoor kitchen had the trash, sink, fridge (full of bottled water) and microwave. Watakay had another smaller kitchen in a room outside that had her stove and pantry where she cooked.

Girls room 1-- Janelle, Julia, Kaitlyn and Rachel shared this room of bunk beds.

From girls room 1 you could see the larger bathroom. The shower didn't have a shower curtain so we got used to water getting on the floor and bubbling up out of the drains and flooding the floor. This shower had a hot water heater attached. We were lucky to have two toilets in the house and got used to throwing away our toilet paper in the trash instead of flushing it.

Bathroom 2 had a toilet and cold water shower. In the hallway Watakay would put out the food for each meal. 

The alley on the left side of the house connect the kitchens. Then in the back of the house was the secondary building which had Girls Room 2-- Smoon, Sar, KCraig and Alex. There was just room for two of our suitcases so the rest had to go in the main house.

There was an outdoor toilet and shower that we didn't use to the left of our room. To the right was the office where Escadar, in charge of YL finances, worked with Mogus.

I loved the end of the day roomie chats with Smooney, KCraig and Alex while Kathy was on ambien. So many funny stories were exchanged in that little bunk room. 

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