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What I Love About Ethiopia

…and what sometimes annoys me to no end here.

Today I was faced with things I love about Ethiopia and things that I can’t stand – all on my way home. Let me start with a bit of explanation. I went to Sendafa (a village about 40km outside of Addis) today with a group from York, PA. Some of them I knew before and some I just met today. They were all very nice and we had a great day in Sendafa. The weather was perfect and I always like getting out of the city. The weather and the countryside of Ethiopia are things that I love about Ethiopia.

After that we came back to Addis sometime in the afternoon and I proceeded to take the public taxis on the way home. I was also carrying a rather large bag of things that my parents sent with the group (thanks guys!). If you have ever ridden in one of the public taxis here, you know that carrying anything can be a problem because they crowd people in so much. The mini-bus taxis are meant to seat about 12 people, but they often cram in nearly 20.

Anyway, I wasn’t too worried, it wasn’t rush hour yet. The first taxi that I got was no problem, took me to my destination just fine. Got out and walked to the next taxi stop and got in that one and we started driving. All seemed fine until they started to stop along the way and keep adding people. They had fit as many people as was possible and were trying to add one more. It was at this point that some guy said (in Amharic) “We could fit one more, if it weren’t for this foreigner”. Some people in the taxi laughed. I just shook my head. He said it because he expected that I wouldn’t understand and wouldn’t do anything about it. Well, I did understand. But, I didn’t do anything about, not worth creating a problem where there doesn’t have to be one.

This whole situation made me a bit frustrated/annoyed. I’ve grown used to standing out here, people making jokes about me, people staring at me and all of the other things that go along with being a foreigner in Ethiopia. But it still bugs me most of the time. This is something that I don’t like about Ethiopia.

Luckily, this story has a good ending. As I got down from that taxi and started walking towards my house, there were some kids who were also walking home since school had just let out. The kids here are great and can always cheer you up. They were all smiling at me. Especially these two little girls called out “hi!” and I looked over and they started laughing. A minute later a young boy came up with a big smile on his face and shook my hand. Right after that, someone tried to sell me a lottery ticket by saying “try it!”. And, as I turned the corner, there was this teenage guy listening and singing along to a Taylor Swift song (I walked by him and heard him sing “you be the prince and I’ll be the princess”. I had no idea who the artist was, so I came home and Google’d it. Ha). That was enough for me to break out into a full on smile. These are all things that I love about Ethiopia.

All of these situations may seem small and inconsequential, but it really made me realize something: no matter how frustrating it can be to live in Ethiopia sometimes, I love it here. I love it because most of the people are really nice and smile a lot. I love it because the weather is great and the countryside is absolutely breathtaking. I love it because the food is awesome. I love it because I think that I was made to live here.

By | October 5th, 2011|General, Stories|Comments Off on What I Love About Ethiopia

Another Day, Another Holiday

Ethiopia sure does have a lot of holidays. About 15 or so major holidays per year. Not a bad deal. In just the last few weeks we have had the Ethiopian New Year, Eid ul-Fitr (Muslim holiday, marking the end of Ramadan) and Meskel (Orthodox holiday, celebrating when St. Helena allegedly found the true cross of Jesus).

My wife Ruth and I have been especially grateful for all of these holidays because it allows us some time to be together and to relax at home. As in most of the world – if not all – holidays are also a wonderful excuse to eat too much food. For the new year, we had some pretty wonderful Ethiopian feasts. Both in Ruth’s family’s house and my family’s house. (You must be saying: “Dan, you’re family is in the US, how did you have an Ethiopian feast at their house?” Well, I guess I should clarify. The feast was in my Ethiopian family’s house, Frew and Frehiwot. I’m pretty lucky to have two families!). The food that stands out in the Ethiopian New Year feast is definitely Doro Wot. This is the famous Ethiopian chicken dish loved by almost everyone who has ever tried it. It is a spicy onion sauce that has chicken pieces and spiced butter in it as well. It is cooked for the better part of the day and you can’t stop at one serving of this.

Meskel, which was just on Monday, is another reason to feast if you know anyone from the Gurage tripe in Ethiopia. They are famous for another Ethiopian dish called Kitfo, which is ground beef mixed with different spices and spiced butter and served along side of some different kinds of cheese and greens. It is traditionally eaten raw, but can also be served partially cooked or fully cooked. My favorite is raw, but this year I didn’t want to risk it, as I was already a bit sick. So, I went for the next step, called leb leb. It’s very lightly cooked, flash fried basically. Dr. Frew gives it the stamp of approval, so I figure it’s safe enough. Anyway, we had some of that at my Ethiopian mom’s family’s house. We ate till we couldn’t take another bite, it was delicious. I brought a bit of an American flavor in the form of chocolate chip cookies. But the kitfo definitely won the show.

Aside from all the holidays, things are going well. We are still doing research as to what kinds of businesses would be best for us to open and hire the women with. But we have a few ideas and are confident that something will work out within the next few months. For now we will continue to support the women and children that we have already helped. About two weeks ago we handed out some basic supplies to some of the women. This included wheat, cooking oil, soap, toilet paper, etc.

Please stay tuned for new developments. And feel free to leave some comments on here.

By | September 29th, 2011|General, News|Comments Off on Another Day, Another Holiday

Bright Futures

Today was an awesome day. We got together with some of the children (and their moms) who we are helping get into school. Today we gave them backpacks filled with exercise books, pencils, erasers, etc. They had already received their school uniforms some days before and came today wearing them. I’ve been trying to come up with words that I could write here to explain the feeling in the air as we were giving them these things. It was incredible. The smiles on their faces (both the children and the moms) were amazing.

All of their moms work in one of our existing projects – collecting trash, little shops, serving tea and snacks at one of the local government offices, or other various small jobs. Most of them live in very small, crammed houses (usually only a room or two and maybe as many as twelve people living there). They may even make less money as they did when they were working as a prostitute. But they were all so happy. Even though they have so little, they find something to be happy about. Today, that happiness was because of their children. I was watching one of the moms help her daughter (maybe 6 or 7 years old) put on her uniform. They were both smiling. I kept wondering what they were thinking or saying to each other. I wondered if the mom was so happy and relieved because she knew that her daughter wouldn’t be forced into a life of prostitution, because now she has a way out. It was a beautiful site.

I feel so blessed and humbled to have been a part of this little ceremony today. To see these children so excited about their new backpacks and school supplies. To see the look of anticipation on their faces and they prepare to go to school. It was incredibly beautiful. I wish you could have experienced it too. I kept thinking to myself how amazing it is that with just a little bit of our help these children’s future will change drastically. I was especially noticing the young girls and felt so relieved that they won’t have to work as a prostitute in a few years. What a difference was made today!

Take a look at the pictures I’ve attached. Especially the first one. Her name is Hannah. She had nothing but smiles on her face the whole time. You can see in the second picture that Hannah couldn’t even contain her smile when she was receiving her backpack. That was the girl who’s mom was helping her get her uniform on. Hannah has a bright future in her life.

Hannah
Calling Students
Boy and Backpack
Ermias
Cutie
Playing With Backpacks
Smiles
Group Shot
The Mothers
Happy with Backpack
Hannah

By | September 13th, 2011|Images, Stories|Comments Off on Bright Futures

First Day of School

The school year is about to start in Ethiopia. As everywhere else in the world, some children are excited and some are dreading the end of summer. But, in Ethiopia, most children look forward to school. They see it as an opportunity to make their life better. It is a privilege to attend school here, not something that everyone is able to do. Some children may have to stay home and help around the house. Or on the farm. Others may not live close enough to a school. And some families are not able to afford the basic supplies that the children need to attend school. So, next week, the children who are lucky enough will likely be quite excited to get back to their studies.

There is a group of children who are especially interested in starting up school. These are the children of some of the women who we are helping to escape a life of prostitution. We are buying the children their school uniforms, exercise books, pens, pencils, erasers and backpacks. We are also paying their registration fees. We are very excited and honored to be able to help these children in this way.

It will especially help to break the cycle of prostitution that is going on in the part of Addis Ababa that we are working. What often happens is that the children of these women will get involved one way or another in prostitution. Especially if the child is a girl. If a woman working as a prostitute has a daughter, chances are that the girl will start working as a prostitute herself before too long. The reason is that there is no other choice given to them. The mother will often die quite young from HIV or other diseases and the young girl is either kicked out onto the street or has to start working as a prostitute to feed herself and any siblings that she may have. This may even start as young as 7 years old and it is very common to find young teenage girls working as prostitutes here. The situation is heartbreaking. But by offering these children an education they will be equipped with the tools that they need to break the cycle. They will be able to continue their education and start another line of work. It is very exciting and I cannot wait to see what these children will do with their lives, they each have so much potential and I am sure that great things will happen.

I will be taking pictures of these children next week and will post them on this website, so please come back and take a look.

By | September 6th, 2011|Stories|Comments Off on First Day of School

Maybe the Rain Will Come

If you’ve ever heard me talk about Ethiopia, you’ve probably heard me talk about the amazing weather that we have here. Which is true, the weather is more often than not just about perfect. But, these last few weeks the sun has been shining just a little too much for my comfort. It’s a crazy thing to complain about, because it’s barely gotten into the mid 80′s lately. So, as soon as you step into the shade you feel much better (thank God for nearly no humidity in Addis Ababa!). With that said, the sun shines a bit brighter in Ethiopia than it does elsewhere – we are pretty close to the equator after all. Not to mention Ethiopia being coined as the land of 13 months of sunshine (their calendar actually has 13 months here).

However, the current problem in Ethiopia goes beyond my discomfort (surprising, huh?). We are facing a drought. I’ve read reports that blame it on El Nino. Whatever the cause, Ethiopia is not getting enough rain. The seasons here are pretty simple: rainy and dry. But one of the most crucial aspects of the seasons is a short rainy season that happens in March or April. This is after months and months of no rain at all. It helps to loosen the soil, which allows the farmers to plow it and plant their crops. There is then a bit more dry and hot weather before the full on rainy season starts in June. Unfortunately, this year we didn’t have nearly enough rain in March and April. In fact, we had hardly any at all. Just a few days here and there.

Beyond that, some meteorologists are saying that there won’t be enough rain during krumpt (Amharic for rainy season). This could have a very serious impact on Ethiopia’s food security and economy. In a country where starvation has been an issue for a long time now, this isn’t good news to hear. The majority of the food in Ethiopia is produced locally. If the crops can’t grow and the animals don’t have enough grass to eat, this could be a really serious problem. Inflation has just about hit 30% already. Food prices have been rising continually for months now. Prices of nearly everything else has risen too. These are tough times.

But maybe, just maybe, the rains will come. Maybe there will be enough rain here to water all the land. Maybe the crops will grow beautifully this year. Maybe there will be more than enough grass for all the animals to eat. Maybe the rainy season will be as beautiful as it always is. Maybe there will be more mud than we know what to do with. Maybe. But if not, we are in some trouble. And this speaks to a greater issue in Ethiopia. People are always waiting for things to get better here. For poverty to be reduced. For food to be plentiful. If only the rains come. I guess we should question what the rains really are.

Rain is water that falls from the sky. It nourishes the land. It allows things to grow. Therefore, rain is something that brings life, that brings hope and that brings change. When the rainy season comes in Ethiopia, things change drastically. The weather gets colder. The dust turns into mud. Dry fields turn into bountiful crops. Streams turn into rivers. Ponds turn into lakes.

My hope is that those of us who are committed to helping Ethiopia, committed to bringing about change here, will be able to bring “rain” upon Ethiopia. My hope is that poverty turns into wealth. Starvation turns into fullness. Problems turn into solutions. Despair turns into hope.

It is our goal at Fields of Hope to really be able to bring hope to those living in the worst of conditions, to bring change where it is desperately needed. This is impossible without the help of people like you. We need your encouragement, prayers (or good thoughts, good vibes, or whatever else you’re comfortable with) and support. Oh, and donations would really help too!

By | May 18th, 2011|General, News|Comments Off on Maybe the Rain Will Come