Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"The caterpillars are so fat they're turning blue!" Ethiopia Day 5

Tuesday morning we headed to Wyld Life Training. The Ethiopian YL staff met us there and they brought along many of their volunteer leaders. Ebe played guitar as everyone came in-- more of Good, Good Father of course. By now, the YL staff were friends of ours and we were so excited to recognize them as they came in the door.

While Young Life is flourishing in Ethiopia, few areas have attempted to start Wyld Life. Some of them even have to turn kids away at the door to YL Club who want to come in but are too young. We're by no means experts, but we have spent the last few years building our Wyld Life program, trying different things and figuring out how to serve our kids well.

We ran the morning like a Wyld Life Club, pausing to play Airport Waiting Game and Robot Master because sometimes you just need to laugh and get moving around. It was such a wild experience to spend a whole morning translating back and forth-- I've never done that for such a length of time. We passed on little nuggets like, "Wyld Life kids experience God best through how we treat them and one another. They also have lots of questions."

We ate lunch with our friends downstairs where we were served traditional foods like injera and all sorts of sauces and soups and meats. Becky decided to adopt Kayden. Smoon figured out that Mule is actually the Ethiopian twin of Adam Ayres. They have the same mannerisms, voice inflection, humor, facial expressions. I wish they could meet in real life.


Next we visited Sabahar-- home to handmade Ethiopian textiles. I knew we were going to buy scarves but I couldn't have anticipated how cool this place would be. If I ever move to Ethiopia, this is where I want to work.

When you walk into this compound the energy totally changes-- you forget the crazy, bustling, loud city on the other side of the gate and feel like you've found a remote crafting paradise. Clotheslines hold dozens of bundles of dyed silk.

We walked into the store area where not only scarves, but dish towels, table clothes, blankets, purses and table runners were on display. 

Everything is beautiful. It was hard figuring out what we wanted to buy with our birr for ourselves and for gifts that we would take back home. 

We met a women working in the store named Sophia. She had been living in Ethiopia for 14 years (sidenote: it took her 5 years of being sick to get used to the water here). Sophia heard about Sabahar and wanted to help the cause and start working with them. She volunteered to take us on a tour and tell us about their mission.

Sabahar was started in 2002 by a woman named Kathy Marshall. She had four main goals when she first started out.

1. Provide sustainable, consistent income for workers. Artisans work usually comes and goes so they can't depend on their work to provide for their families. Kathy wanted to change that.

2. Promote Ethiopia abroad positively. The products from Sabahar are not just sold locally. They sell their textiles in 17 different countries and are carried by 60 different high end stores like Anthropologie.

3. Preserve the art of the Ethiopian craft. They want to show the world that Ethiopia is not just poor and needy-- they are a talented and creative people who produce beautiful things.

4. Promoting Ethiopian silk. We got to see the process of how the silk is made on site-- this is SO COOL-- with eri caterpillars which produce eri silk.

After caterpillar eggs hatch, Sabahar keeps baskets and bins of silk worms. These worms grow for 45 days-- continually eating, pooping and growing.

After the silk worms are giant and fat they are put into their own little folded paper home. In just two weeks, these caterpillars will spin a silk trail 2,000 times around themselves.

The caterpillars turn into butterflies who will live for just two more weeks. They leave behind their silk cube cocoons. Sabahar then boils those silk cubes and passes them along to the next stage of the process.

Next the silk is pulled and spun on spinning wheels. 

Watching this room of women work was amazing. I would have no idea how to even begin doing this. 

Some of the silk is dyed to later be used in different patterns and products. 

Another group of women re-spin the dyed silk so it's ready to be passed on to the weaving stage.

Some of the weavers work on site, but there are several more have looms in their homes. The weavers are all men and are mainly from Southern Ethiopia. There are two kinds of looms-- traditional (the big metal looms) and Swedish (the small wooden ones).  It can take nearly two days to string one of these looms but then an artisan could make up to three scarves in a single day.

There was one smaller room with two women working at sewing machines who finished some of the products. "Finishing" tasks would include sewing on labels, cutting edges of scarves, sewing some products, ironing, making the twisted fringe.

Sabahar employees over 200 people-- giving them sustainable, consistent income. Every product has been touched by dozens of workers along the way.

Next we traveled back through Addis to Young Life Club. When we pulled over on the side of the street we thought we were waiting for someone, but we had actually arrived. We walked through a store in an alley, turned a corner through some construction and then found ourselves in a basement room where Club is held.

The people who own this house have made it available to Young Life for years. They say that having Young Life downstairs has been a blessing to their family.  The staff had already set up the sound system and was starting to play music. Stools were set out for kids but they hadn't arrived from school yet.

Have you noticed how we're always wearing pants? It does get quite hot in Addis in the afternoon, but it's a modest culture and all women wear pants or long skirts. We wanted to be respectful of their culture so we wore pants all week as well.

Almost all kids in Addis wear uniforms to school. They were surprised to see the empt firenjes (crazy white people) when they walked in and quickly found seats in the back row so they could watch all of us.

Even though we live on different sides of the globe, our YL Clubs still look very similar. Leaders greeted their kids as they walked into the room. G got up front and led singing for the whole room. Kids were pulled up to play games and you could tell they were a little bit nervous about what might happen next.

We played the donut-hanging-game. A guy and girl were both blindfolded before they had to eat the donut from the string.

Another group of kids was pulled up and each given a toothpick. Then they passed a ring down the line using only the toothpicks between their teeth.

The kids were all zoned in on the Club Talk-- the best part of Club.

Now this is really interesting-- Ethiopia has freedom of religion and most people identify as either Christian, Orthodox Christian or Muslim. The Muslim girls have scarves wrapped around their heads and all the Orthodox Christians wear crosses on black cords and participate in things like extended prayer (like what woke us up in the middle of the night) and fasting (no animal products) for up to 40 days. Both Muslim and Orthodox Christian kids come to Young Life but if they convert to Christianity it's a very big deal. If their parents find out they would most likely be thrown out of their homes and possibly beaten. Because of the severe consequences, YL leaders often encourage kids to keep their faith a secret from their families to protect them.

When we got back to the YL house Rachel, Smoon, Kayden and I ran down the street to the grocery store. Food shopping is an experience in itself. Check out how their fruit in packaged in the same styrofoam containers and saran wrap that we would use to package meat in America.

We found spreadable and squeeze cheddar cheese from Kraft, tiny pineapples and Spongebob toilet paper (Ellyn maybe you can order this online).

So many different kinds of chip flavors that we'd never seen before. We filled up our cart with Diet Pepsi (we couldn't find Coke Lite), chocolate dipped cookies, Ambo, toilet paper and a new toothbrush for Kayden.

Dinner tonight was quite the experience. We went to a special cutural dinner with all of the Young Life staff so we had a huge crew.

I wasn't feeling too well after so much food out of my stomach's comfort zone and being carsick so I stuck to a pretty bland plate.

Smoon was more adventurous with her injera, tibs and other kinds of meet. Injera (the long spongey bread) is addictive for most Ethiopians. They use injera to pick up all of their food instead of using utensils.

Rachel always wanted to try all of the food so she got a little bit of everything. Mule told her it looked like she had a plate of baby poop. 

If you were just a tourist in Addis this is definitely a place you would hit up.

A group of dancers performed several routines on stage. There was a whole hair whipping portion that would have put Willow Smith's "I Whip My Hair Back and Forth" to shame.

One song they used umbrellas in their choreography because rain in Ethiopia is a blessing. We brought along rain with us almost every single day and they called us a blessing.

Kah-tee got the bus to pull over at a gelato shop on the way home.

Roomies crew-- Alex perked up enough to try some ice-cream too.

Fre had her second gelato of the night with us. This crew knows how important dessert is. We had our own little party in that ice-cream shop. Empt firenjes for sure. 

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