Friday, March 27, 2009
Safia's Post March 26th
It is now day 13 of living here in Adigrat, Ethiopia and I am absolutely in love with the countryside, I have never seen mountains such as these, they seem to stretch into forever. The high altitude and the weather have not bothered me much at all. The only thing that undoubtedly is getting to my aunt and I are the things we are witnessing with our own eyes, the changes happening within us as we are living amidst the conditions of the poverty stricken villages. From the parentless children, the old and young, sick beggars falling apart on the streets. It is one thing to see it from the comfort of your own home on your plasma screen TV.
It’s entirely different when you are living in it. There are no televisions, no fancy i-phones, no flashy cars, no skyscrapers just mountains and rural landscape. You are surrounded in it, you smell it, taste it, and touch it. Its everywhere you look. Even the rich live simply. What they consider rich here is poor college student status in the states. Rich families have things like TV’s, phones, CD players and stereos and perfume. We had dinner a couple nights ago with one of these “rich” families. They were very hospitable and excited we were in their home and doused us in perfume. (which is a privilege here) The house is divided into sections: the living quarters is one building, the bedroom and kitchen in another. In the middle of the house is an open space between the rooms where there are stray cats and dogs running across the metal rooftops. They have running water and toilets that flush. The majority of the towns do not have plumbing. We here have running water but we have to get our drinking water at a place called Gola and bring it back. Luckily that’s not too far of a drive for us but that’s not the case for neighboring villages.
Remote, destitute and beautiful villages like Zalambessa and Saasi have NO electricity and have to drive for hours to get their water, or walk by foot to the nearest well which can be half a days walk just to get there, then they must walk back carrying as much water as they can, some people have donkeys to help with the load but there are a lot of villagers (a good majority children) that must hand carry it or strap it onto their backs for the long journey back home; all with little or NO food in their gut. This is not an over-exaggeration of circumstances this is their reality. School children and teachers will walk on empty stomachs for miles over mountains climbing through the vast war torn terrain in the heat to get to school. It’s astonishing to see how little they can live on but it does take a toll on their little bodies, I have witnessed students collapsing and fainting in classrooms because they are so weak and have gotten heat stroke.
Some of these kids have diabetes and are BARELY surviving. Meds aren’t delivered all the time the doctors are far away, people don’t know how to take care of kids when they go into shock. While sustaining a happy, healthy and prosperous life is a struggle for most Americans, staying alive is a struggle for these people. On top of the rough conditions and scarce resources there is the AIDS epidemic. The girls I am helping teach English and photography to have lost their parents to AIDS. Especially problematic places where AIDS spreads like wildfire is near the military camps, the soldiers will go and get drunk and party. In places like these were religion and heavy rooted cultural beliefs get in the way of strait to the fact sexual education, people don’t even know what condoms are… So we have an abundance of children and dead or dying parents and not enough resources to go around which shouldn’t be the case.
Yet there is happiness and beauty in all of it still. The children are still smiling, laughing, playing and loving. They are full of life thanks to the dedication of the women who take care of them and help raise them; they have a sense of community here with the nuns and the other children. My aunt and I are trying to expose them to different, new and exciting things before we go so they have a better understanding of outside culture, English language, help them develop skills for their future and broaden their horizons. Its going both ways, we are learning about this beautiful culture and history of the country as well as learning to be more self sustaining. I jokingly tell my aunt that we are going to be prepared for life after the fall of the American empire when we have lost all modern conveniences’ then regress to a more primitive way of living. We hand wash our clothes and hang them on a line to dry, we don’t use cell phones to communicate, we have no GPS devices. We eat only from a garden or get fruits at the local market which comes from local gardens, we have our own flock of sheep and chickens, rabbits and sometimes our electricity goes out and we are without power for the day so everything at night is candle lit. Life is drastically different and at a slower pace. While the technology aspect of it can be very frustrating I am constantly in awe with everything I come across whether I am in disturbance of why problems aren’t being solved, watching myself change from the inside while physically I remain the same, or how I am witnessing landscapes you only hear about in fairytales. Life is very interesting right now.