When Haleigh and Sonja were planning the mission trip, they wanted us to have the opportunity to experience some of the lush countryside away from the big city of Addis Ababa.
The city of Awassa, located in the Great Rift Valley, is between a 3 and 5-hour drive south from Addis Ababa, depending on the traffic. (Traffic is a term I use loosely here since that may entail any number of lanes of donkey-pulled carts, auto rickshaw taxis, pedestrians, cattle herds, goat crossings and, of course, other busses, trucks, SUVs, passenger vans, etc. Hats off to Tsuri, our driver, who was not fazed by any of the heart-attack moments us Americans were experiencing as back-seat drivers. WE LOVE YOU TSURI!)
Awassa is often referred to by Ethiopians as “very clean”, but our hotel was decidedly NOT. A couple of lucky team members scored the rooms appearing in the photos on the hotel’s website and Nora was thrilled to learn upon check-in that the shower in her room actually worked properly since she’d been without water pressure for 4 days in Addis.
Wide Horizons for Children, the orphanage we visited our first full-day on the ground, facilitated meetings with a couple of the families that were participating in the Empowerment Program, a humanitarian effort they sponsor in addition to adoption services. We piled back into the bus after a quick lunch (NOTE: Ask Portia to reminisce on her fried pigeon) and headed to the outskirts of the city. Fifteen minutes down the road we stopped to pick up Eshetu, our first Empowerment member, so that he could navigate the route for Tsuri. Ten more minutes and we turned onto a pitted pot-hole mess of a dirt road, then left onto a path, then right onto another “path” — I looked at Sonja wide-eyed along the lines of “Can you say ‘remote’?”
Yes, we were in the bush. As we arrived at our first stop we were greeted by about 15 of Eshetu’s neighbors, employees and family members. He showed us all of the entrepreneurial efforts he managed, including crafting furniture; farming coffee and false banana trees, cabbage and corn; serving as village photographer; and catering with optional party supply rental. WOW! By the time we departed, Eshetu was grinning ear to ear and there were at least 50 of his closest friends gathered in the front yard, so we exchanged hand shakes, hugs and smiles and headed off to our next stop.
Tuk-Tuk and her 3 children now live at the back of the building (designed and built by Eshetu, by the way) that serves as the local store. As a result of her acceptance into the Empowerment Program, she sends all of her children to school (they walk one hour each way for the privilege of attending school!) and still has enough money to keep her store stocked, raise chickens and tend her two mules. Soon, she plans to farm the land around her home. There is no doubt that these motivated, hard-working beneficiaries have made the most of the opportunities and support Wide Horizons has presented them. Amazing folks, really. And the welcoming nature of the other villagers was pretty overwhelming as well. Have you ever driven down a road where people run out of their homes just to give you a big smile and wave good-bye?
On our second day in Awassa, we visited the public library. I’ll let you determine for yourselves from the photo below on what is missing from the library:
Our final stop in Awassa allowed us to enjoy the stunningly beautiful lake area with its huge acacia trees and abundant interesting wildlife (see photos below). We spent a couple of hours checking out flora and fauna and then hopped back on the bus for the long drive back to Addis.