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Ethiopia service trip daily blog: Phipps on a stirring example of strength

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Tiara Phipps bonded with Ethiopia natives playing soccer on Saturday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Tiara Phipps bonded with Ethiopia natives playing soccer on Saturday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
This week, eight Wildcats are taking part in a service trip in Ethiopia. Throughout the week, the student-athletes will take turns describing their experience. Please note that these posts are the personal reactions of the student-athletes and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics. Tiara Phillips writes about Saturday's activities.

Tiara Phipps (gymnastics)

Day four was like nothing I've ever experienced, which seems to be a common theme for this entire trip.  

9 a.m.: We left the Addis Guest House to head for the soccer fields for what we thought would be our forte: sports. The weather was unfavorable, but not one thing stops the Ethiopians from experiencing life.

9:27 a.m.: One of our translators, an incredibly intelligent mind who has never set foot in a school, told us his story. It's incredible that a young man who learned English in an orphanage, who was thrown into the wild at age 7, and experienced so many things we couldn't even imagine, is as receptive, generous and protective as anyone could ever hope to be. This is one of the huge examples for me of what it takes to be Ethiopian. STRENGTH. The people of this country grow more beautiful to me each day, but it's not an expected beauty, it's unintentional, unorthodox and a beauty that's truly a blessing to witness. We reach the fields after a walk through livestock, and immediately see the kids. They are already passing the ball, and getting dirty and into the game that's king in their nation. Our family is such a mixture of athletes from different sports that we had no idea what to expect from each other when playing soccer, but nevertheless it was fun. We started passing with the children and it's incredible how universal sport is. We speak two completely different languages, yet I was never uncomfortable hitting the ball with my head to a complete foreigner and the same for them with me.

12:45 p.m.: "They're better (at soccer) with their shoes off than we are with cleats on." A hilarious statement by Stephanie Fox at first, but an analogy at second glance. They experience more permanent happiness than I have ever seen with less than I have ever seen. After being made to look foolish by the Ethiopians, we took a little hike to the top of the mountain to find an incredible view and a perfect spot for a mini photo shoot session. The boys took a couple bro pics, and the girls smiled big, then we made fools of ourselves and loved every second of it. Later, after some slight misunderstandings and stop and goes to find a restaurant, we decided on a cultural place with great food and even better entertainment.

7:58 p.m.: This dancing is so athletic, it hurt my shoulders just watching them have the time of their lives with absolutely no breaks. Finally, Jarrod Polson got his shot at being the hero as one of the dancers approached our table, a chant broke out and I'll just say that video is one to watch.

This culture and the lessons it has taught me will stay with me forever, just like I hope the people I've met on this trip will never fade in my memory. I just want to say that I'm blessed beyond belief to be on this trip with this amazing team of people I'm sad I have to leave soon. This little group has become like a little family, and I appreciate every single one of them.

Every single thought on an Ethiopian's mind no matter the situation this entire trip has been on God blessing us, but we are simply His hands and feet. In spite of everything they absolutely need, they need us to be blessed. It's unfathomable the amount of love I'm developing for this country, this team and this culture. With that being said, I thank everyone for their prayers and pray that God blesses every single one of you.

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