Friday, December 15, 2006

Greetings from Addis Ababa

It's Friday, 1:50 p.m. We've just had lunch at the volunteer house after spending the morning at the orphanage.

I haven't yet said anything about the place, or what we've seen and done. So now is the time. But first, the walk to the orphanage.

It's about a five minute walk from where we are staying; the street is in a constant state of slow-paced frenetic activity... small, blue, beat-up Lada taxis ply the street, honking at white people and asking if they need a lift; donkeys with burdens trot by. Roosters crow. Trucks and vans piled high with towering stacks of -- of everything from building materials to giant rolls of foam, like carpet padding. This morning we saw a man in a suit carrying a log over his shoulder. Old people, children in school uniforms, women in head scarves, women in fashionable Western clothes. The street is under construction, although how long it has been in that state is hard to tell. Metal shops are next to embassies, next to groceries, next to tin huts. The sun is powerful and bright. Everything is dusty. Diesel fumes in clouds waft by. Jacaranda trees covered in purple blooms, acacia trees, evergreen trees --- these provide color. Beyond embassy gates we can see glimpses of green, watered lawns.

When we arrive at the oprhanage gate, this all changes. The place is a compound, made up of many buildings -- the upper house, where the babies and toddlers are has a sunny courtyard where laundry is always hanging to dry. In the mornings the baby caretakers bring out a big mattress, and the babies are undressed and laid in the sun, and rubbed with lotion, and tickled. Older children come and play with the babies, and the rat-catching cats blink in the bright sunshine. The toddlers are inside, in their high chairs, having breakfast.

The doctor's office is down a short flight of steps. The doctor starts giving physical exams in the morning, aided by a nurse. A bell is ringing in another part of the compound, calling the older children to class. There is a garden, and swings, and a soccer/basketball courtyard; these some of these courtyards are surrounded by the children's bedrooms. Down more steps to another level and you reach the classrooms, where brightly colored pictures on the wall are labeled in English and Amharic and the kids are learning math, and reading, and music, and crafts. There is a playground with a giant pirate ship to climb. Beyond the orphange wall at this end of the compound looms a multi-story cinder block buidling half-built and never to be finished. There is more washing going on here, and more clotheslines covered with socks, and children's jeans, and sheets and t-shirts.

Wherever we walk in the compound kids stop and say hi, or hello, or wave, or just smile. They are used to seeing volunteers here, and also used to seeing American families coming to get their kids, and so the older children and the workers will say "Mom?" "Volunteer?" to place us. They are fascinated by Emma, who is very tall, and who takes photos constantly. They smile at her and say "my picture!" and wrap their arms around each other for good poses. They are beautiful kids. Really beautiful.

Jane and I have spent a lot of time in the baby room -- there are a lot of babies, and although there are a lot of caretakers there are always babies who are not being held when they want to be held, or played with, because someone else is being fed, or changed, or played with.

Today we delivered to a little girl of perhaps six or seven a letter from her new family in the U.S., who are coming soon to get her. The accountant from the office translated the letter for her, and explained what a snowman is (there was a snowman drawn on the envelope) and showed her the photographs. The men from the gate house helped us unload library books and put them in the store room prior to cataloging. Later, when we go back, we will attend a going-away party. This is a place where there is something to break your heart every five minutes and something to repair it immediately follows. Best Blogger Tips
  • Share On Facebook
  • Digg This Post
  • Stumble This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Bookmark On Technorati
Blog Bookmark Gadgets

No comments: