First Day in Addis Ababa
We arrived at the Umma Hotel. Like many hotels in other countries, the main floor (where reception and the lobby is) is considered “0” (thus the phrase “Ground Zero”), and the floors above are numbered 1, 2, 3 and so on. What that means is that when we were assigned rooms starting with 3, and informed that the elevators weren’t working, eleven bags filled with compressed quilts had to go up to the fourth floor via the stairs – as did we! Addis is 8000 feet above sea level, so if the jet-lag wasn’t enough to knock us out, the altitude and the stairs were ready to deliver the coup de grace! By the time we reached our rooms we were ready to fall face down on our beds and not get up for a week! That said, I did muster enough to crawl to the window and take a few pictures of the view.
(Note: I’m putting all pictures up in thumbnail mode for the sake of space. Please click on them to see them close up. Those who have been to Ethiopia will recognize the mountains in the distance. The Umma Hotel is not far from the Old Airport and the Addis Ababa Golf Club.)
The next two pictures, taken with zoom, were really “Ethiopia” to me. Between the donkeys and the woman with the bundle on her head, I was feeling at home again!
We snoozed for an hour or two, showered, and as soon as we began to feel human again, Caroline and Haile were there, ready to take us back to Cherokee House to fluff up quilts for the afternoon delivery to the Kingdom Vision International (KVI) orphanage. We had lunch at a pizza place and then headed up Churchill Road on an unsuccessful attempt to allow me to see my first childhood home in Ethiopia. Most of the residences in Ethiopia are surrounded by tall walls, and while I was pretty sure I found the compound we weren’t able to talk ourselves past the guard to peek inside.
Then, still having some time to kill while waiting for the school day to be over, we headed to a place called “Topview” for an ice cream before heading out to KVI. This was actually rather momentous for me, as ice cream wasn’t a common treat in the Addis Ababa of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. In fact, as a child when I was asked “what Ethiopia is like” I could never really answer, because to any child their home isn’t single dimensional and can’t be encapsulated in a few words. But I do remember that once when I was asked “what America is like” I announced with great authority that America had “the best toilet paper and the best ice cream in the world!” So, going to Topview for an ice cream is a clear sign of progress in Addis!
We also used the restrooms at Topview, and discovered that they were differentiated by two carved masks wearing head-dresses. Unfortunately we couldn’t tell which head-dress was feminine and which was masculine, so we needed to ask someone so we’d go to the right room! The person who showed us had a bemused smile, indicating that this happens frequently with tourists!
Here are a few of the pictures I took along the way…
and at Topview. The gentleman in the second picture is our driver and guide, Haile.
Kingdom Vision International Orphanage
Finally, to Kingdom Vision International. When we arrived at the compound the older children were still in their lessons. We were brought in by a nurse who showed us around the infirmary and the nursery rooms. There were three rooms for the babies and toddlers, one for those under 1 year, one for children between 1 and 2, and a third larger room for the children 2-4 years.
When the older children completed their classes we were brought outside to present the quilts, first to the younger school-aged children, then to older ones, and then finally we’d go back in to provide quilts to the toddlers and babies. In all, we provided about 50 quilts to this group. I was the primary photographer, and Caroline, who speaks some Amharic and definitely relates to kids beautifully, led the giving of the quilts.
The Big Kids:
Babies, 1-2 years:
These little ones were adorable, and I think Linda wanted to take all of them home! Especially little Selamoet, the little girl in the green top.
The Tiny Ones:
There were four children under 1 year, 3 boys and a girl. All of them were abandoned early on by their parents, including one baby boy who was found in the toilet of a hospital.
The Toddlers and Tykes:
Sometimes I guess it’s a little tough to get away and find a quiet, private place to play!
“Mommie” is a term of respect and honor for a woman, particularly an older woman in a mentoring or care-giving role. The actual Amharic word for “mother” is “ehmaye”. These women were among the caregivers at KVI, and I heard several of the children refer to them as “Mommie”. I was really impressed with the care and love these “Mommies” showed to the children at KVI.
And a New Family:
One of the other nice things about visiting KVI was the presence of a young Canadian couple who was adopting a child from Ethiopia. They were so happy to be finally bringing their child “home to Canada.” We wish them great luck, love and happiness, and congratulate all three of them for this wonderful opportunity.