This is a day filled with many emotions. The good-byes which started yesterday with church leaders, Compassion staff and our sponsor child will continue today with hotel staff and later this evening with Yosef, the Compassion country director that has been with us throughout the whole trip and our amazing bus driver, Eyob, who has safely navigated us through unbelievable traffic conditions everywhere we’ve gone. It has been a joy to meet so many of these dedicated, servant hearted leaders, gracious, hospitable people and precious, lovable children. It is sad to know that we won’t see them again for quite some time. But how thankful we are that relationships have been formed and developed, and the inexplicable bond that we have in Christ that unifies us and will forever keep these people in our hearts and minds cannot be broken.
We have experienced so much in such a short time that it is overwhelming and it will take time to process it all. Be patient with us as we try to acclimate back into life in America ☺ It is very different than what we’ve experienced and we are changed, prayerfully forever. We are also looking forward to reuniting with family and friends at home and sharing stories with whoever might want to hear them.
This day has also filled our senses. The sights and sounds and smells we experience on the bus ride from our hotel to Addis Ababa continue throughout the day as we try to take in all the contrasts that this city displays before us. People are everywhere you look. We enter a Hilton hotel that could easily be found in America to exchange our money for birr so that we can use it for shopping. Within close proximity there are makeshift shops that you can’t help but wonder how they stand. The roads are filled with cars, trucks, buses, little blue and white 3 wheel taxis and yes even donkeys with carts. They are all driving on roads with no marked lanes, no speed limit signs and no traffic signals or stop signs. (I think we may have seen 2 the whole time we were in the city.) There could be pages written about the diversity found in this developing city.
Today is also our shopping day and a very interesting cultural experience. Before we start we have one last cup of the best coffee in the world—where coffee originated. Quite a few little shops dot the two blocks we stroll up and down looking for gifts and things to remind us of this amazing country. An accepted practice, once you find something you like, is to negotiate the price—rarely do you end up paying the initial asking price of the shopkeeper. After lunch we head for a market to buy spices. It is difficult to describe that adventure of walking down narrow little passageways on ground with not one inch of flat surface in sight. There had to be hundreds of little shops selling everything imaginable in a square block area – this is their Walmart, where you find food, tupperware, clothing, fabric, fresh veggies, fruits, grains…
It is time to head to the airport. We pack our purchased items in the dark on a flat surface outside the airport, pray as a team one last time and say our final good-byes. Pastor Ed and Pastor Mike have taken off for Kenya that morning, Jay and Kimberly are now heading for Uganda and the rest of us will settle in for the 16 hour flight to Washington D.C. As we enter the airport, it seems like we were here just yesterday at the same time it seems like we were here an eternity ago.