July 27, 2012
Emily Holsopple - Rifle
After getting back into our morning routine of French toast and scrambled eggs, the group set out on our last day of service. We would be spending some time at the Compassion International Drop-In Center, a combination community center/school/church/playground, with kids. We would spend the rest of the day exploring new restaurants and shopping locations.
Upon arriving at the facility we were greeted by some of the women who helped run the place. They all welcomed us with their warm hearts and gave us big hugs. As soon as I finished greeting the last woman, I could hear a faint chanting in the distance. The girls and I hurried down the long dark hallways following the noise. Once we got to the basement we found the room it was coming from and entered to see over a hundred children all jumping up and down and singing. The energy in that room was so overwhelming and powerful. The children had such huge smiles and all wanted to shake our hands as if we were celebrities. We made our way around greeting the kids and giving hugs until their teacher and our leaders entered the room. Their teacher explained to us that one of their football (soccer) teams had just won their respected scholastic league and asked if we would help in handing out the awards. I felt honored as we shook the hand of each player after they received their medal. That was my first time on the other side of the hand shake and even though I had never seen these kids before or knew what they won, I still felt proud of each one of them. Then, when the team's coach was called up the whole place went crazy! It was as if he was receiving an Olympic medal; the respect and admiration the kids had for him echoed throughout the whole room. A gold cup trophy was then given to the team and the captain kissed it and held it up as if they had won the World Cup.
To celebrate with the soccer team we went outside and brought out the supplies to play soccer, tennis and basketball. Even though it was raining we still managed to get in plenty of games. While trying to help Grace organize a game of tennis I was met by one of the first girls I greeted in the classroom, Trigras. When I first sat down next to her she was very shy and tried to hide from me. Even though she didn't speak a word of English and seemed scared of me, I still tried everything to make her open up. I thought I had failed at this until I was on our "tennis court" and felt a tugging on my hand. When I looked down and saw Trigras' smiling face I knew my effort had been well worth it. She guided me to a group of her friends that seemed to be uninterested in the sports going on. Instead, they wanted to play hand games similar to American "Miss Mary Mack." It took a while but I was able to learn some of their games, it wasn't until they added their feet into the mix that I got lost. Because they took the time to teach me their games I felt obligated to teach them games. Since it had been a long time since I had played any games of the sort, I racked my brain and came up with my own clapping game. By that time we had drawn a crowd of more than ten girls and they all lined up eagerly waiting to learn this new game. I could have played with them all day, but it was time to participate in an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Ethiopia is the home of coffee and its coffee ceremony is a significant part of Ethiopians' heritage. Just to be invited to a traditional ceremony is in itself an honor. The ceremony is always performed by a woman, usually the youngest woman in the family. It always starts with the popping of popcorn over an open heat source. The popcorn is then served to the guests while the coffee is roasted, ground and served. Our hosts for the coffee ceremony were very welcoming to us and wanted to share in the preparing of the coffee. Each of us took turns stirring the beans while they roasted over the coals, and then helped in the grinding of the beans. After the grinds were prepared, the woman leading the ceremony finished preparing the coffee and served it to each one us in a little three-ounce coffee cup. The coffee was extremely rich and most certainly the strongest I have ever tasted. We slowly sipped our coffee, said our "thank yous" and made our way back to the bus for a trip to do some souvenir shopping.
Our shopping trip didn't turn out to be what I had expected. For starters, there were no stores like we have here in the States. The shopping center was simply little shacks lined up side by side along the road. The shopping area was large and a little rough so we had to divide up into smaller groups before setting out to find gifts. Each shop was maybe a 10 by 20 foot space filled floor to ceiling with different knick-knacks and trinkets. Every shop had the same things for the most part so it was just a matter of finding a shop with the best price for what you wanted. Finding a good price took some work though since prices were determined through bartering. With some help from our leaders and Ethiopian friends we were able to negotiate with the store owners and get some good deals. After a few hours everyone filled their gift lists with paints, scarves, key chains, figurines, blankets and other unique Ethiopian charms.
It's weird to think that our time here in Africa is almost over. In some ways, it feels like we just got here yesterday and in others it seems like we have been here for months. This week has been jam-packed full of learning for me. I got to learn about the culture and people here, the people I came with and about myself. In my twenty short years on earth, I have been blessed enough to do a lot of traveling and see some many different places, but I can't compare the experience Ethiopia has given me to any other trip. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve here and the knowledge it has brought me. I feel as though I can't say thank you enough to all the people who made this trip what it has been. My only hope is that I can carry with me all of the things I learned this week, share them with the people back home and use them to make myself a better person.