Asela

I am rudely awakened by the obnoxious beeping tones of my alarm, its 5:30 am. Groaning, I role over. It’s still beeping; I hate that sound. Still very groggy I stumble out of bed and grope through the darkness to the shower, grabbing my towel from its place on a chair on the way.

Soon I am finding things that I think I will need and throwing them on my bed; headlamp, mosquito spray, camera, some books, flip-flops, etc. Somewhere in the midst I find myself attempting to figure out how I’m going to get the milk out of the stupid bag and into my cereal, when there is a lot more milk than I need. I’m really not a fan of this whole milk in a bag thing. Eventually, with a packed bag that is unnecessarily over packed, I’m ready to head for the door.

Walking quickly I make the familiar trek across the open soccer field, jumping over a freshly dug ditch, past the taxi stand, and down the dusty road. Ahead of me a layer of thick brownish grey smog hangs over the city threatening to suffocate it, illuminated against the bright blue sky. I continue to walk. Breathing the heavy air I pass along the top of a stone retaining wall, narrowly squeezing past oncoming foot traffic. After several hundred meters I step down and continue walking along the top of a large concrete culvert, finally stepping off to scramble up a loose bank to Bole road. Walking down a little, I stand waiting for a bus to take me up the road where I can jump the highway and head for the school.

Three minutes pass and I am getting impatient, I need to be there in 4 minutes. Finally a bus roles up and I squeeze on, 2 minutes later I am climb off and begin the trek across multiple lanes of traffic, over two steel girders and one concrete divider. Kicking my legs up I soar over the barrier and into opposing traffic, a blue taxi is barreling down on me through the smog. I continue to walk across the two lanes, and pass through a break in the metal girder, across one more lane. I guess there was a reason for all that high jump practice in elementary school; jumping highway barriers in Africa.

An hour later I am leaving the city limits in Zelalem’s car accompanied by Gavin (a WHO doctor), and Efram, the school librarian.

Even on the other side of the world, some things always feel the same. Leaving the city and watching as things slowly begin the spread and thin out, is one of those things. After another half hour I am dozing off.

An hour or two later the scenery is has changed dramatically, and a beautiful panoramic view roles out before my eyes. Mud huts, fields of wheat, nomads, camels, mountains, donkeys, Indian cows, horse drawn carts, African trees, cacti, and overturned cars, all flitting past my eyes. Our elevation is constantly changing, and as we drop several thousand feet into one town and then climb back up to another, the temperature also rises and falls in synch. The scenery is simply breathtaking.
Three and a half hours later we arrive in Asela, a small mountain town a few hundred kilometers south of Addis Ababa.

Vignettes.

The wife of one of the local Baha’is had just given birth, so we were invited to his house to congratulate her. Unfortunately, being foreigners does not exempt us of cultural customs. I don’t mean to imply I have anything at all against participating in the customs, I love it, its just my digestive system simply protests at times. It is tradition to serve guests pure barley dough that has been warmed up and smeared in a thick inch layer on the inside of a bowl, and then filled with melted butter and bourbon. You receive a spoon, and have to take spoonfuls of the barley dough and then dip it in the liquid in the middle, and then put it in your mouth, and then the best part; swallow. Oh and if you try to stop, or eat slowly, you get hounded with “please, please, eat, it is very good.” It wasn’t all that bad, I mean I love eating cookie dough, but of course that has salt, egg, and chocolate chips in it. So although I still shudder at the thought of it, it wasn’t really that bad I suppose. Shudder.

Walking alone through the streets I received an incredible amount of attention, everybody wanted to talk to me, giggling children followed me, a girl asked for my number, a guy offered to buy me tea, and I had several very interesting conversations in an equally short period of time. I found that the best way to satisfy the giggling children is to take a picture of them and then show them. Sometimes they’ll harass you with things like ‘give me money’ but these kids weren’t that bad. I’ve learned how to say ‘may God provide for all of us’ in Amharic, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I had lots of fun playing with some of the kids, one followed me for a ways and we played pass with his ball as I walked. Later a group of about 10 junior youth were waiting outside for us to get ready and I went outside and took some rock hard fruits with me for balls, we juggled and passed them around, none of them spoke a word of English.

We met with about 15 adults and 15 youth who had come to the small room that has recently been rented as a Baha’i center. They came for various reasons, some for the moral education, some to learn about the Faith, some to learn English, and some improve their power of expression. They will be receiving a cocktail of all of the above. We basically spoke with them and introduced the programs etc.

Asela is a very a small mountain roadside town. Absolutely beautiful fields that can be seen on the surrounding hills surround it. It was really good to get out of Addis, I’ve never enjoyed being in cities for very long, I’m a country boy, and Ethiopia is an incredibly beautiful country, especially outside of the city.

I didn’t get any really spectacular pictures as they were mostly taken from a moving vehicle, but some are interesting, and perhaps spectacular. I’m full of contradictions today. Don’t be worried by all the overturned vehicles mom, there were lots more than I took pictures off, and last years volunteers survived in a 12 passenger van rolling four times, with no seatbelts. No big deal.

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