Travel, Day OneBrett and I were joined on this trip by my parents and Matt’s friends Joel, Tracy, and Siobhan. We all left out of Detroit for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through Frankfurt, Germany and Jetta, Saudi Arabia. In Germany we met up with Stephanie, Will, and Jen of GoDesign, as well as Jen’s fiancé Jeff, all whom were joining us on this trip, and later met up with Scott at the airport when we arrived in Addis late Friday evening. The trip proved challenging for us at the start. When we first set our sights on taking this trip, I was newly pregnant with Wyatt. We didn’t know what that meant for the trip, if he would come with us, or if I would be able to leave him at home, but we were pretty confident that having a 6 month old in the equation was not going to be a deterrent from taking this trip one way or another. The second challenge came later…about 7 days before we were scheduled to leave for Ethiopia. The US Embassy in Addis put out a warning that there was a possible terrorist threat to Americans traveling in Addis from a group outside of Ethiopia. This came as disturbing news for many reasons, and in the 3 years that Scott had been traveling to Ethiopia, he had never come up against this before. After some deliberation between myself and Brett, and amongst our group, it was decided that we would all continue with our plan to go to Ethiopia. On our flight to Addis, Brett and Joel were sporting some Stone Brewing memorabilia which sparked a conversation with a guy sitting near us on the plane. He and his family live in Addis, and he works at the US Embassy in Ethiopia. Apparently Stone beer is one of the very few beers available in the Embassy, but it is one of his favorites. We asked him about the terrorist threat and he confirmed that while the eminent threat was real, he felt more threatened or fearful walking in certain areas of DC or various other places in the States. And, as we had come to understand from him, as well as our friends Joe and Ashley who took this trip in May 2014, the people and the country had a very friendly and peaceful feeling. That, coupled with our very limited stay in Addis, and the low profile travelers with GoDesign always keep in the city, we continued to feel at ease which further solidified the decision we had made to continue the trip. And, our experience in the country definitely exceed the expectation of friendliness and safety that we had. So, we arrived in Addis late Friday evening and were greeted by Scott. We all arrived safe and sound, and with all of our luggage, which was a plus! We got checked into our hotel, and quickly went to sleep, since all other sleep in the previous 24 hours was on a plane.
Trip to Dilla, Day TwoThe next morning we met 2 other ladies that would be an important part of our trip, our translators and fast friends, Kal and Yordi. During breakfast that morning we experienced another first: a traditional coffee ceremony, before heading south out of Addis for Dilla. Coffee is an event in Ethiopia, something treasured and shared among friends. During the ceremony beans are roasted, ground, and coffee is brewed, often served with a light snack like popcorn. The coffee is strong and delicious, served in appropriately small cups. We ended up traveling all day to Dilla, nearly 10 hours on the road. We stopped along the way at Haile Resort on Lake Awassa for a traditional Ethiopian lunch buffet. We were hesitant at first, but the food was delicious. Brett and I enjoyed the food throughout the trip, as you will see in some of the photos.
Dilla, Day ThreeSunday morning in Dilla we woke up to the the sound of worship being “broadcast” on loud speakers throughout the town. There was a slight haze in the air, and the smell of incense. It really was quite amazing! We enjoyed another Ethiopian meal and our new favorite beverage, the macchiato, before heading out to the job site in Dilla. Dilla was was the sole location that Matt and his friends visited and worked at during their trip to Ethiopia in 2013. It was a late add to our itinerary, as a means of more quickly getting out of Addis due to the possible danger in the city. While we travelled long to get there and were only there for one day, it was so worth the trip and we were all grateful that we were able to go there.
Dilla from the hotel
People of Dilla
Back to Addis, Day Four On to Shewa Robit, Day Five
Matt’s School, Day SixWednesday morning we made our first trip from Shewa Robit to the village in Afar where Matt’s school is located. It is a 90 minute drive, one way, on a rugged dirt road from the hotel to the village. That first morning, one of the cars in our caravan broke down which caused a delay, and not much later our car got a flat. So, the excitement was really building by the time we arrived in the village, a little late. We knew there was going to be a ceremony at the school with the local government officials and some of the local people, but I certainly did not expect what we arrived to. There was a banner welcoming us, a crowd of people, and a very heart felt ceremony. I wish I had been prepared to record the speech that Hussein, the local leader, had to share. It was of extreme gratitude and thanks, explaining the impact the school would make, and the promise that because of the school Matthew would always be remembered. It was pretty intense! The Ceremony moved from outside on the school’s front steps to inside one of the classrooms. This is where each member of our group was presented with a gift of the traditional fabric/wraps that are worn in that area. In addition, my parents and Scott and Stephanie, the Directors of GoDesign, were each gifted a goat. The goats were then slaughtered, prepared, and served to us for lunch.
Afar, Days Seven, Eight, and Nine
We spent the next few days in the village, commuting back and forth everyday. Since Matt’s school was complete, with the exception of a few minor details, we were beginning a new project with Beletew’s organization VWDO, building a dining hall. In addition to the construction, we were able to spend a little time in the classroom with the children. Here are some photos from the rest of our week there.
Invitation into Hussein’s homeOn our last day we had the special honor and invitation to join Hussein for a tour of his home, something that no other group, or even Beletew himself, had ever experienced previously. For as special of an occasion as this was, I have a serious lack of photos. We hiked from the edge of the the village up and over a few hills where it began to be very remote, and the views kept getting better and better. You can start to see his home in the photo on the left, just past Tracy in the light blue shirt, nestled near a tree.
Women’s DormitoryAcross the road from the high school is a woman’s dormitory. This visit was interesting to me as well. There was a small group of young women living here, attending school in the village. They were sent from their villages where there is no opportunity for them to receive an education, to this village dormitory to attend school. They can be sent at a young age and receive all of their schooling here as there are now elementary through high school classrooms. Before we left the village, I was able to go back one more time to meet the woman, and was honored that they let me photograph them.
People of Afar
Return to Addis, Day 10 Final Day in Addis, Day 11On Sunday we made our return to Addis, but not before having one more flat tire, and seeing a few more sights along the way. We passed through a beautiful view point at a high elevation that makes you feel like you are in the Alps. No photo could do this place justice, it was incredible. Monday was our final day in Addis. We began the day with some shopping. I was too busy haggling over scarves, knives, and soccer jerseys to have gotten any photos of the shops, with the exception of the all important stop to load up on coffee to bring home. We had one final meal of Tibs in a restaurant in Addis, and spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel, awaiting our late night flight home, again through Jetta and Frankfurt.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
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