Apologies for the delay
Saturday July 3 2010
Exhaustion doesn’t even begin to describe my current ability to function. Zombie might be a more accurate description of how I look and feel. As the Uruguay-Ghana game went into overtime and kick-offs the anxiety and excitement of Millennium hall was thick and tangible. Packed into a huge hall was several thousand Ethiopians, all hope hanging on their African counterparts playing in the quarter-finals. The dream of the first African team to go to the semi-finals and possibly play for the title piled on top of the first time Africa has hosted the World Cup. No less than ten big screens broadcasted the game in what can only be described as a stadium simulation. Then there was silence as we shuffled out of the hall, disappointment and sadness, but in true Ethiopian fashion no display of emotion.
As the city woke this morning, back to its typical Saturday morning bustle, no one wanted to talk about it. It’s just over. And World Cup excitement has almost completely diminished.
Out early, I met with one of Yemamu’s childhood friends, Mesfia, for breakfast and a trip up the mountain of Entoto. Although only about 20 minutes north of the city, the atmosphere feels like another world. The misty, cool forests are vaguely reminiscent of the jungles of Hawaii and the rolling green fields made me believe I had traveled back to pastoral Europe. Just as a reminder though, from the octagonal shaped Entoto Maryam Chuch is a beautiful view of Addis, provided the sun burns off the smog.
Past the small village and the makeshift soccer field is a small plot of land donated to Mesfia for his mission. He built a small wooden frame and a couple of benches and covered it in several tarps, establishing the village’s first school. About 50 children come daily (and more when he can afford to provide a meal) with their one notebook and pen to learn. There are no school supplies, blackboard, desks or books, just children huddled together taking in the oral lesson of the teacher and yet it is more than has ever before been offered.
An astounding 85% of the community is HIV positive and has therefore been left largely neglected. Living in even more astounding poverty than those in the city, the women carry back-breaking bundles of wood down the mountain every morning to sell in market only to return to care for their children, who never cease to amaze me with their ability to be children. After an epic game of soccer and lots of time spent touching my skin and hair, they filled me with questions about my favorite food, sport, animal, music, everything. And as I tried to come up with answers they could relate to (my favorite food is clearly shiro!) I realized how just how many worlds apart we grew up. It probably should be redundant to me at this point, obvious all the opportunities I had that they will never, but for some reason it became so much more apparent trying to answer these simple questions that all children everywhere ask, exactly the same. I think that is what baffled me the most. The questions where the same, much like children all over the world are filled with that sense of joy and wonder. Where we change, where our inherent qualities become cloudy is in our exposure and witness to nearly everything (or nothing).
Dinaw Mengestu reminisces about growing up in Ethiopia as he writes, “Our memories are like a river cut off from the ocean. With time they will slowly dry out in the sun, and so we drink and drink and drink and we can never have our fill.” The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears