|Yeah, I did feed a hyena.|
I did not have very much time to write a blog post.
First, I'll talk about the adventure of scoping out the well in the village of Harar, and second, I'll talk about the adventure of getting back to the US.
|The road out to Qerensa Dereba.|
|The long walk to the well through chat and sorghum fields.|
|The well as it is today: deep inside a field, and far |
from the main road where everyone lives.
But, by God, they were going to get the best education they could.
|Qerensa Dereba, the school where we're building the well.|
|A classroom in Qerensa Dereba.|
And so now we should get to the second half of this post, which is how I got out of jail and back across the country to make my flight home with a mere five hours to spare. The driver from the tour company that the University of Cincinnati had hired agreed to drive only me back to Addis Ababa in the large van that had taken everyone to Harar. So in a van made for 10 people, it was just me and the driver named Aragawi, who was about the sweetest old man you'd ever meet. We left Harar at the crack of dawn, and I fell asleep in the back of the van.
I woke up two hours later to screeching tires and a body in the middle of the street.
Aragawi, who was also a fairly cautious driver, had struck a man of about 25 while driving through a village. (Since I was asleep, I have no idea whose fault it was.) A crowd quickly gathered around the car, yanked open the sliding door, dumped the guy on the seat, and demanded that we go to the nearest medical clinic. The man was spitting out blood, had a gash on his forehead, and was fading in and out of consciousness. I did my best to dress his wounds with my Johnson & Johnson first aid kit, donning blue rubber gloves, putting gauze and Neosporin on his forehead wound, and wiping the blood off his face. We got him to a clinic, a nurse put a shot of what was presumably morphine into his butt, and he passed out. Aragawi, a usually cheery and quiet man, was on the verge of tears, and I did my best to comfort him.
As we were driving out to go fetch the man's father, the police commander, who looked something like an Ethiopian version of one of the cops in The Godfather, stopped our car and hopped in the front seat. A few minutes later, I was sitting with Aragawi under arrest outside of a communal jail cell made of fenceposts and barbed wire in a town called Kobo. Nobody spoke a word of English, not even a little, and I'd given the police commander 25 of my 40 dollars to help cover "medical expenses." I'm not sure that's what it went toward, but I have no proof otherwise.
Shitaye, the woman who owns the guest house I was staying at in Addis Ababa, was my first phone call. I quickly explained the situation to her - that I'd been sort of blanket-arrested with my driver and that I had a plane to catch in 27 hours in an airport that was a day's drive away. When I passed the phone to the guard, she spoke what little Oromo she knew to tell a man with an AK-47 that if I was held in that barbed wire jail cell, that Ethiopia would never, ever see tourists again. "Think of the consequences of what you're doing," she said. That of course probably isn't quite true, but I owe Shitaye one hell of a favor for inflating my personal importance to the point of being released by a guy with the power to kill me if I'd tried to leave on my own.
So a short bajaj (tuk-tuk, rickshaw, three-wheeled go-kart, call it what you want) ride later, and I was at the bus station in Kobo, which was a shack-booth on the street that sold tea, and also apparently bus tickets. A bus pulled up, I paid extra to sit backwards on the gearbox since there were no extra seats. At this point, I'd slowly migrated my passport and other important documents to my winter coat for security's sake, and was wearing said coat in hot desert weather. But, the bus was here and I was free!
|This is where the second bus broke down. The|
view in the other direction was approximately
After ninety minutes of waiting around in the waning afternoon sun, my dam of desperation broke and I got out of the clunked bus, stood on the side of the road with my luggage, and waved my arms at passing cars. The first man who stopped was named Mengistu (not to be confused at all with the genocidal dictator of the 1970s and 80s). I explained my situation as quickly and as clearly as I could (I believe I said, "This bus is broken and my first driver is in jail") and without further questions, he told me to get into the car with him and his two friends. I piled my luggage in the back, and we were on our way.
This is the moral of the story. Every morning, I'd wake up and recite an old Jesuit prayer that I'd learned at my Catholic high school. It goes like this:
Lord, teach me to be generous
Teach me to serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for any reward
Save that of knowing that I am doing your will.
The generosity of Ethiopians, despite how much less they have than Americans on average, is unparalleled, and even on my last day, Mengistu taught me a lesson about the power of giving. It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life, and certainly as I work with Claire, Peter, Patrick, and Matt from Concordia Humana as we try to raise the money it takes to complete the well in Harar.
And finally, many thanks to all of you for following me through my journey through Ethiopia - there will be many more updates from our fundraisers here in America, and certainly when I return to Harar to begin the process of building the well we've set out to raise money for. Happy Holidays, and check back here in the coming weeks!