Ethiopia Team One hit the ground running (though only figuratively) after a relatively uneventful prior day of travel in which there were no missed shuttles, delays or canceled flights. Feeling only as rested as one could expect after a 12 hour flight, we were blessed with the smoothest transition through Ethiopian Customs for a Global Partners team to date. Met by Solomon and a friendly pair of drivers, we were whisked through the buzzing streets of Addis and then energized by a filling and delectable breakfast buffet at the very hospitable Jupiter International Hotel. Shortly thereafter, with our belongings accounted for and safely stowed in our rooms, we departed for a tour of the Capitol. We all started together at Entoto, where we had the opportunity to watch as a room teeming with Ethiopian women produced beautiful pieces of jewelry from recycled bullet casings and other recovered metallic products from a landscape once plagued by civil war. Perhaps more remarkable than the masterful skill of these women is the story of how they acquired it. These woman were all rescued from a life of ridicule and exile from their prior communities due to their affliction with AIDS. They were taught a new skill which afforded them dignity and a higher sense of self worth as they could now support themselves and their children, and they now live in a community of women who can relate and accept one another. After making personal purchases of choice necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more, we all then experienced yet another heart warming story at Ellilta where we met women who were rescued from lives of prostitution and taught how to weave scarves. Kelly even had the opportunity to work on a scarf already in progress on the loom under the direct supervision of the scarf’s maker. While she likely fared better than most of us would have, it was hard to match the graceful skill and efficiency of these women. We were then treated to a coffee ceremony complete with kettle corn while we all cycled through the store to make more purchases for ourselves and loved ones at home. Don’t worry, for the rest of the readers, there will be items we bring back to sell through Global Partners to help fund more mission trips like this, so everyone wins! From there, despite obvious signs of fatigue, we pressed on in two directions: the first timers and the veterans. Those who are here for the first time visited the historic Emperor Menelik II’s castle and nearby churches, a very well done Ethiopian National Museum complete with the skeletal remains of Lucy and the sobering Red Terror Museum. The rest of us also saw Lucy and other exhibits at the Museum, and then we took to the streets to barter with local vendors. We came away with a spoil of handmade baskets and almost found ourselves in a predicament when we were soon surrounded by other salesmen who took note of the presence of foreign shoppers. We pressed on and explored a large outdoor amphitheater before meeting up with the rest of the team. We were all exhausted, but had to fill our bellies before turning in for the night. A popular choice with the team veterans was dinner at Mama’s Kitchen, as we had eaten there last year, and it did not disappoint! Delicious Ethiopian meals, both traditional and local adaptations of European inspired cuisine, were devoured by hungry travelers and it was here where we furthered our team bonding significantly over good food, wine and conversation. Turning in for the night, thoughts and excitement over the unknown would entertain the sleepy thoughts of some, while others felt the growing anticipation of returning to a treasured memory of a home away from home: Project Mercy.
For those who are so inclined, cue “Hands & Feet” by Audio Adrenaline.