Ethiopia, November 2016

Executive Director Susanne Wilson and Outreach and Communications Coordinator Jazzy Schwolert are visiting water projects and meeting with in-country partners this month.

November 4 | November 7 | November 8 | November 9 | November 11 | November 12 | November 13 | November 16 | November 17

November 4

image-3

Hello from Africa! Susanne and I have had a wonderful time so far, and the trip has just begun. Yesterday morning we arrived in Addis Ababa, and met Alem and Yohannes from Diversity Tours at our hotel. It was exciting for me to finally meet them, after hearing so much about how fun they are and how well they treat us. But after our 13-hour flight from Washington, D.C. and the eight-hour time change, we were exhausted, so we took a few hours to sleep before meeting back with Yohannes again. He took us to lunch, then to the National Museum of Ethiopia. We learned more about the history and culture of the country, including Lucy, believed to be the oldest remains of the genus “hominid”, the earliest ancestors of modern man (and you bet we sang “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” while we were there!).

After the museum, we stopped at the Trinity Cathedral, one of the beautiful Eastern Orthodox Christian churches in the area. There are statues in the front commemorating Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John of the New Testament. After taking off my shoes at the doorstep and wrapping an extra shirt over my head, I entered the Cathedral with Yohannes as he told me more about the history. Inside, all along the walls, are immaculate stained glass windows, each depicting different stories in the Bible. There was a service going on in the main sanctuary, with a few people scattered about in prayer. After I got to see the areas of the church and the high painted ceilings, I stopped to pray in a pew towards the back. Although I didn’t know any of these people, or even speak their language, it was pretty cool to stand among other brothers and sisters in Christ who were also lifting up silent prayers, knowing that our faith unites us in a way nothing else can.

image-2

Susanne and I returned to our hotel afterwards, got dinner, and went to bed by 8:00pm! It was a long day of travel and sight-seeing, and both of us were near delirious by the end of the night. We also knew we would be waking up early today for our flight to Axum. We woke up this morning at 5:00am, still a bit groggy (Susanne put saline solution on her toothbrush instead of toothpaste, if that tells you anything), grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed for the Addis airport where we met Gashaw. This was so exciting – I’ve wanted to meet Gashaw ever since I started working at Water to Thrive! We have already bonded over our deep love of coffee, which is always a great place to start a friendship, in my opinion.

Gashaw, Susanne and I took our short flight to Axum and got here by 9:30am. Today was another day planned for sight-seeing and shopping. But when we got to the Sabean Hotel, our first task was, of course, to sit outside in the beautiful weather and drink cappuccinos! I’m telling you, the coffee in this country is out of this world. I’m temped to open my own coffee shop in the U.S. devoted solely to serving authentic Ethiopian coffee drinks. Except I probably won’t because I wouldn’t do it justice, and plus I know nothing about owning a business. But anyways, the coffee (or “bunda”) is just that good.

image-1image

Next we walked around the small town to do a little shopping. The Ethiopian jewelry, baskets, crosses, etc. are beautiful, and there is definitely not a shortage of them here. It was fun walking to different shops and seeing different styles of handmade goods. We got to take a Tuk Tuk ride, which featured a roof with lime green fur glued to the top. It felt a lot like how a clown car would look – the three of us scrunching into the tiny back seat of the three-wheeled bright blue vehicle. Susanne decided she wants to start her own Tuk Tuk franchise here, but all of hers will be bright pink. Just to add a little flair, you know? So stay tuned for that.

After shopping for a while, we joined a few members of REST who took us to see the Archeological Museum, filled with history of their rulers, religion, and findings of pottery and jewelry from hundreds of years ago. There is so much rich history here, it’s hard to soak it all in. But I am so happy to be learning more about this culture and the country that I’ll be serving in for the next few weeks. We came back to the hotel, had more coffee (seriously, these are my kind of people), then got dinner with Gashaw at the hotel restaurant. There was great conversation and lots of laughs. Tomorrow, we wake up bright and early to leave Axum and visit a few wells on our way to Hawzien. Finally about to visit some projects! I am ecstatic and anxious to go to the villages and meet the beneficiaries of the now clean water. The internet here has been especially spotty thus far, but we will try to update everyone when we can. I expect we will have some incredible experiences in the next few days, and I’m sure I’ll want to share them with you! Hang tight and be on the lookout for more to come.

For now, it’s time for sleep. Need to be prepared and rested for the first day of well sites tomorrow! The adventure continues.

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 7

Twelve Things You Need To Know Before Traveling To Ethiopia

20161104_060720

1. Ethiopians drive with reckless abandon. No lines on the road, no system, just gas pedal and honking. LOTS of honking.

2. You will get called “ferengi” a lot, especially by kids. It means “foreigner”, so the best response we can give is to yell back “habesha!” which means Ethiopian. The kids think it’s hilarious.

3. When taking a bush stop in the middle of the wilderness to take a potty break, make sure you do indeed make a bush stop. As in, don’t settle for a cactus. It will be painful.

4. Bring your own toilet paper wherever you go. Places in the towns usually have bathrooms, but there’s no telling what state those bathrooms will be in. Toilet paper is a hit or miss. So please, bring toilet paper. (We call this an RCE – rich cultural experience.)

5. Bring a camera with lots of storage. The mountains, the sunsets, and the people are all so beautiful.

20161106_214525

6. Bring a journal. Write in it everyday. You will do and see things you swear you won’t forget, but that you might need help with remembering one day. It’ll help you process throughout your trip, too.

7. You must, at least once, listen to “Africa” by Toto while there. It’s too perfect of a chance to miss out on.

8. Camels! You’ll see lots of camels!

9. It’s best not to rely too much on technology. Sometimes things have to be handwritten, like your boarding pass. Notice that means no seat assignments. A bit of a mad dash for the plane will ensue.

10. Roads are not for cars. They are also used by donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, goats, you name it. No amount of honking can make them move, either. You just kind of have to maneuver around the livestock… They own the road.

20150613_085835

11. If you go to Ethiopia, one must like coffee. Lots of coffee. Wherever you go, a coffee ceremony is available. Even the airports smell of hot coals for the ceremonies. They use portable, traditional stoves and tiny cups, and serve three “pours” of the richest, most delicious coffee you’ve ever tasted.

12. Go with an open mind and open heart, and prepare to meet people and have experiences that will change your life.

20161105_093002

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 8

For the last three days, we have been traveling with our largest partner, the Relief Society of Tigray, or REST. We visited many wells, and the stories at each are similar. They show us their old sources of water that were shared by humans and animals alike.

At one of the villages, one of the beneficiaries explained, “We have many challenges in our lives, one of those was water. But now we are happy to have clean water because water is life.” Another beneficiary told us, “It’s not just health and clean water you have provided, but it has created peace, because before, people would fight over the water especially during the dry season.”

img_6865

The communities that are served in the Tigray region, or the northern part of Ethiopia, are extremely marginalized people. We experienced firsthand the isolation of their villages – getting to many of these well sites required long drives on bumpy roads, and then proceeding on foot. Some of the sites were located on the sides of mountains, meaning we had to hike down and back up again to see the communities. We were sweaty, out of breath, and so exhausted we felt like we could fall over. But imagine doing this every single day, carrying heavy water on your back. It was an eye-opener, for sure.

At the last well we saw with REST, we were extremely impressed with the leadership provided by the water committee chair, who is a woman. Her name is Deliynu Gitmay, age 34, and she has seven children. She informed us that she had mobilized the community to support the water project, and has made sure they are all trained in WASH (water sanitation and hygiene). In addition, the community is managing their bank account well, which has contributions and monthly fees from each household in the community so that they have money saved for repairs in the future.

img_7381-comp-copy

This particular scheme was a spring protection project, and Deliynu informed us that, “the unprotected spring where we collected water before was full of leaches and worms that are visible to the naked eye.” And the nearest health clinic is 40 kilometers away from their village. It was evident on the faces of the children we met at this site that they are healthy and happy, and that the community is thriving because of this clean water.

img_7343-copy

We ended our day exhausted after a three hour drive back to our hotel, but so filled with conviction and reassurance that what we do matters. We are seeing the immense impact of these projects and are excited to continue witnessing this joy over the next weeks!

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 9: The Dorze Tribe

photo-1

Today we left Paradise Lodge in Arbaminch and headed to Hawassa, about a five-hour drive north. On our way, we took a detour to visit the Dorze tribe, which is one of the many traditional tribes that occupy the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia. Their tribe currently numbers 7,800 people, and they are most well-known for their weaving. Their skills in weaving are used in many aspects of their lives, such as fences, houses, and the beautiful textiles which they sell along the road and in the village. The women traditionally spin the cotton, and the men weave it into the various colored textiles. Susanne and I got to try spinning cotton, and needless to say, we were not great at it. I think we’ll leave it to the experts of the Dorze tribe.

photo-2

The houses resemble bee hives in shape, and look a little like elephants from the front. They can be up to two stories in height. They are made from woven bamboo, enset (false banana trees) and other materials. As time goes on, termites attack the house from the bottom, so over the years, the house gets shorter and shorter. But these huts are well-built and last hundreds of years. The huts, although appearing small from the outside, house their kitchen, bedroom, living room, and oftentimes the family’s animals. The house we visited had space for five cows and a goat. They told us that the animals are particularly helpful in the winter months when it gets cold, because their breath warms the hut. Pretty clever, right?

We also got to witness how “kancho” is made, which is the bread they make and eat multiple times a day. The pulps of the enset leaves are scraped and put in the ground to ferment for at least three months, which results in a pungent cheese-smelling dough. This is then kneaded with water into a thin pizza-like crust, which is then put in between two enset leaves and is baked over a fire for approximately ten minutes. We then ate the kancho with local honey and what the guide told us was mild tomato sauce, which was actually just a pile of fire ants (or so it seemed to us Americans).

photo-5

They are also known for their traditional dancing, which we were lucky enough to witness some of the villagers perform for us. In northern parts of Ethiopia, most people dance primarily using movements of their heads and necks. In central parts of the country, the shoulders are mainly used. But for the Dorze people, they dance using their hips. They played their drums and sang while our guide and a few of the tribe members dressed in traditional garb and danced. It was fun to watch, and was hard not to start shaking our hips along with them!

photo-6

This evening we finally got to Hawassa to meet with our partner Mekane Yesus Central Gibe Synod, one of our partners in southern Africa. The drive here was pretty, lined with Acacia trees, but it was also quite harrowing. Let me reiterate – Ethiopians are crazy drivers. Most of the drive felt like a continuous game of chicken. While our driver would try to pass slow cars in front of us, drivers on the other side of the road would try to do the same. It came down to who could maneuver faster through the tiny gaps. Not to mention the many goats and tuk tuks we swerved around. With white knuckles and a bit of nausea, we arrived to Haile Resort in Hawassa for the night. Tomorrow, we continue the work at hand as we travel to more well sites in the area. We are excited to meet more people whose lives have been changed by clean water.

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 11

As we continue to share the mission of Water to Thrive, many people have suggestions for us in how we can help improve the water crisis. In our experiences, we have seen that there is no simple solution. Each of the following are possible options for addressing water, but we feel that a simple water design with local community oversight and maintenance leads to the best long-term results.

Why don’t they just boil the water?

photo-1

It sounds like a logical and simple solution for disinfecting the water. However, Ethiopia is heavily deforested. Over the years, between the logging industry and the increasing reliance on wood products for fuel, only approximately 4 percent of the total land mass of Ethiopia is forested. So the logical solution of collecting fire wood to boil all the water is not actually feasible.

One approach to deforestation is the import of eucalyptus trees which are not native to Ethiopia. Eucalyptus trees are used often as electrical poles and for housing construction because of their tall, straight trunks. As we’ve traveled across Ethiopia, we have witnessed the heavy amounts of wood that the people collect, but they have to walk long distances to their homes with the wood on their backs and it is bought at a premium price. In addition to spending many hours collecting water, constantly using fire wood to boil the water would require numerous hours collecting the wood. This would just add to their physical and psychological burden.

Why don’t they just use water off the gutters?

photo-2

The typical housing structures, especially in the rural areas where Water to Thrive works, are built of natural materials including mud, thatch, and whatever they can find. Water catchment and rain harvesting systems work on traditional structures, but on these primitive huts, there is no guttering and often no opportunity for water catchment. In addition, in areas such as Tigray in northern Ethiopia, there is a rainy and dry season. And during the dry season, water fall is so minimal that it would provide little or no opportunity for water collection.

Why don’t they just use filtered straws?

photo-3
Filtered straws are a great solution for emergency and relief situations. However, by placing the wells in the villages, not only do they provide clean water leading to better health, but the wells also give women and children more time and opportunity. It is not uncommon to hear stories of children who have to walk two hours one way each day to a water source that is filthy, meaning they cannot attend school. The filtering straws do not eliminate the time it takes to collect the water. Providing close access to clean water is not just about health, but is also about education and women empowerment.

Why don’t they just use hydro rollers?

photo-4
Many of you may have seen the YouTube or Facebook videos on hydro rollers, which look something like a circular jerry can that can be pushed or pulled rather than carried. The terrain on which hydro rollers are used is not typical for the areas where Water to Thrive implements wells. We work with marginalized communities, often on the top of mountains or in the valley on rocky paths, barely traversable by humans. Again, the hydro rollers do not eliminate the issue of time in these cases. And regardless, the water they would be fetching with the rollers still is not clean. The wells that Water to Thrive implements are within one kilometer of each beneficiary’s home village, creating a shorter trip for a much more sustainable water source.

Why don’t they just move?

photo-5
At least 85 percent of people in Ethiopia are subsistence farmers. This means that whatever they produce is used for their own families’ consumption. Around 50 percent of the population is illiterate. Generations of families in these rural areas, adults and kids alike, are working all day long. Children have specific duties to contribute to their households, and don’t have the time to go to school. This then creates a vicious cycle of families who are ill-equipped for most types of jobs closer to town. In addition, the land that they live on has often been in their families for many generations. They are as tied to the land as the land is tied to them.
There is never one solution for a problem, and the same is true for the water issue. But with sustainability in mind, the projected goal is that each of Water to Thrive’s wells will last at least 20 years. When we better understand other people, their culture, and their realities, we can more effectively make positive change for good.

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 12: Mekane Yesus

pic-2

Mekane Yesus is a Lutheran denomination of Christianity in Ethiopia and is the largest sector of Lutherans in the world, numbering 7.9 million members and growing. The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, or EECMY, was developed in the 1970s and their motto is “serving the whole person.”

One of our most trusted partners is EECMY-DASSC, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – Development and Social Services Commission. Today we visited with our partner in the South Central Ethiopian Synod (SCEC). Their synod area is in the southern part of Ethiopia, which has been a sharp contrast to the northern areas we have been in previously this trip.

Today we traveled throughout the Sidama zone of Ethiopia in the South Nations Nationalities People’s Regional State, or SNNPRS. The topography of this region is extremely green, hilly, and lush because of so much moisture in the air here. If we didn’t know any better, we’d think we were in a different country compared to the Tigray region! The groundwater is very plentiful here, as we have seen many rivers and streams since being in the south. Although this water often looks clear, it is extremely contaminated with diseases and parasites causing serious infections for many people.

Our journey today took us to five different project sites. At each site, immediately there were children gathered around, curious about these “ferengis” who arrive in four-wheel drive vehicles in such rural areas. We snapped many photos of them, and they loved it – they giggle when we show them the pictures! Many of these sites are near completion and not yet being utilized by the beneficiaries.

At the Gogoame site, a member of the water committee named Lomi Ware explained the current water challenges facing her village, including the two-hour round trip walk that they currently must endure to gather unprotected, dirty water. Lomi, age 40, also told us that she gave birth to seven children, but that she lost her two and a half year old son to waterborne diseases. This was one of the most heart-wrenching stories we’ve heard during our trip, and one that gives us purpose for continuing to build these clean water wells. We don’t want to think of more children dying from these waterborne illnesses. It was an emotional moment, but so beautiful to see so many people come together, knowing that the clean water will soon make a positive change for many years to come.

pic-5

The SCES has again reassured our confidence in working with local NGOs, as each project we visited met our standards. The wells were functioning, the concrete platforms were constructed correctly, fences were strong, and the community members at each well are paying their part to use the wells. These people graciously welcomed us today and they are all so grateful for this new source of life. Tomorrow, we travel to Ambo where we will stay for two nights and visit many projects with a few more of our partners.

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 13

photo-1

For Water to Thrive to be able to do what we do, collaboration is key. We have many partnerships in America as well as in Africa with people and organizations that help us bring clean water to people in need. It truly takes a village – we couldn’t do it without our partners. And the past few days in Ambo, we’ve been able to witness firsthand the good we can do when we work together.

Yesterday, we visited four projects in the Ambo area. One of these projects was particularly special, because it was funded by partnering with a Rotary club in Austin as well as a club here in Ethiopia.

Two representatives from the club in Addis Ababa were able to come with us to not only see the completed spring protection, but to officially inaugurate the project for the community. As we drove up to the site, the community was clapping and singing to welcome us. The completed spring protection was beautiful. Very well-constructed with sturdy concrete slabs, a strong fence and door to protect it, and even cement steps leading down to the door.

Susanne and one of the Rotarians, Henoch, got to officially inaugurate the well by cutting a big shiny red ribbon that was tied across the door. Women and children were singing and cheering, and it was such a happy moment to be able to all celebrate together.

Our partner in Ethiopia who managed construction of this well is the Mekane Yesus Central Gibe Synod. We have been working with them on projects for the past  several  years, and they have continually impressed us with their dedication and commitment to their work. The Rotary project would not be possible without their support and hard work.

After celebrating the new project, the community had prepared us food, drink, and even gifts for Gashaw and the Rotarians. It really was a happy day, and the help of Mekane Yesus and the Austin and Ethiopia Rotary clubs made it possible.

photo-4

photo-5

Today was another exciting day, where yet again we saw proof of the impact that can be made when people come together. Also in Ambo, we visited the Gosu Kora Primary School, which has been a huge project focus the last few years and will be inaugurated officially in January.

4others, an organization based in California, contacted us last year and told us about a project they were working on in Ethiopia to help orphans and school children. They found that the Gosu Kora school in Ambo had no water and no latrines for the students to use. So we decided to partner with them to make that dream a reality. In addition, we worked with Stand for Vulnerable Organization (SVO) and the Municipal Water Bureau of Ambo.

After many hours of work for Gashaw and these partners, a pipeline project was completed for the school and its surrounding community. This is not usually in our wheelhouse, but the Water Bureau generously gave their time and resources to help. The latrines were also completed, with separate areas for girls and boys, each with its own sink, and another reservoir with water faucets as a backup access point for the main pipeline.

It took ALL of these people – SVO, 4others, the Water Bureau, and Water to Thrive – to make this project possible. It took hard work and a lot of faith, but now these kids and their families have clean water! When we arrived today, they were clapping and following us around as we looked at the project, so excited that we were there. The small kids absolutely love being in front of the camera, and couldn’t stop giggling and fighting for the spotlight. These children have so much joy because they are healthy and getting an education without worrying about disease from dirty water.

photo-6

The past few days have been incredible. It is amazing to see how many people it takes to make a dream happen, and that all of these people believed and worked for that dream. So many people have clean water now, and it is because of strong partnerships with organizations who want to see positive, long-lasting change in Africa. We absolutely could not do what we do without our many partners, and those named above are just a few.

It is a beautiful thing when the Lord puts the same passion in the hearts of people, and when those people can unite to do something great. The Rotary project and the Gosu Kora project are just a few examples that prove to us that we really are better when we work together.

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 16: Mityana

photo-1

Hello from Uganda! The last few days of our trip were spent in the city of Mityana with one of our newer partners, Mityana Charity. They were established in 2008, and focus on education, poverty relief, health, and human rights for the Ugandan people, especially women and children. They are currently working in five different regions of the country, with varying projects that partner with local government, police, and human rights clubs. One of these projects is a 79-acre coffee farm, which supports the school on the land that they own, and it serves as an agricultural model for area farmers. Mityana is working hard to bring a holistic approach to charity work, to give the people of Uganda their best chance at self-sufficiency and an improved way of life.

photo-2

That’s where Water to Thrive comes in. Not long ago, they contacted us about helping them with a water project for their school. After conversations between the Mityana director and Susanne, we were able to help them with five pilot projects as one of our partners. We have been impressed with the work Mityana has been doing. They are committed to learning and growing so that they can provide the best systems possible for the communities where they work. We got to see one of the five pilot projects, as well as most of the new ten sites we have planned with them, and we liked what we saw. Mityana Charity is a rather small nonprofit, just like us, and it has been a joy partnering with them and getting to know them better this trip.

photo-3

photo-4

One of the projects we saw was a borehole well for the school, and was also the last site we visited to wrap up our journey in Africa. This project was yet another example of people coming together to make a positive impact. A nonprofit organization called Bridge a Life, based in Sarasota, Florida, had the vision for this project, and shared with us their dream to bring clean water to the village of Mpongo. Mityana Charity and Water to Thrive have been able to partner with Ayinza, which is the global missions project of Bridge a Life, to help make their vision come true.

There were dozens of children at the school while we visited, and we had so much fun playing and singing with them. The joy that they have is incredible, though they have so little. They played tag and soccer, using wads of cloth they tied up to create a ball. And that was all they needed for entertainment and laughter! It was so much fun to witness, and to photograph such pure, simple joy. One of the little girls event taught me a hand clapping game, and she honestly could have kept on for hours if I didn’t get so tired (yes, I got tired from moving my hands back and forth… It’s been a long few weeks). But what a fun way to finish off this trip, to be in a community of such happy faces and grateful people!

Next we start the long journey home. Pray for health, safety, and sanity for Susanne and I as we are sure to experience sleep deprivation and (airplane) cabin fever over the course of the next 24 hours.

– Jazzy

Back to top

November 17

img_7592

Here we sit, two tired travelers in the Addis airport for our seven hour layover before the long stretch to Washington, D.C., then finally back to Austin. It is hard to believe that this trip is coming to an end already! It seems to have gone by so fast, yet I’ve seen and experienced so much in the past 18 days. As I sit here and reflect, I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learned, and experiences that have made this trip unforgettable.

1. The people I’ve met are inspiring, diverse, and beautiful. From the people we partner with to the people in those rural villages, each has their own story and their own struggles that have made them who they are. From village to village, though vastly different in many ways, the people there know how important water is to their communities. At many of the wells, water committee members told us to keep going – to keep helping more people in other villages, because they know that the struggle is constant for so many. This sense of compassion for people they don’t know, but who share in their hardships, was incredible to witness. Not to mention that they are all so, so grateful for the life-giving water they now have, and that they give the glory to God.

2. We absolutely work better and do better when we are united. We could not build wells without our partners, and meeting and working with them over the past weeks has proved that for me. It takes many passionate people coming together for a common cause to make a true impact.

3. Y’all, the women here are incredible. They are so strong, both in body and mind. In these rural areas, they carry the daily burdens of walking to fetch water, looking after their kids, harvesting and selling crops to provide for their family, etc. I am only 23, supposed to be strong and lively because of my youth, but these women could run circles around me… with 50lb. jerry cans on their backs. Their hands alone are proof of how hard they work. We would enter the villages and greet the communities, and shaking their hands was like touching sand paper. And so many of them, especially in Ethiopia, are humble, soft-spoken, and even sometimes afraid to speak in fear of men’s ridicule. It was at times heartbreaking, but I have so much respect for these women, and it is my prayer that our water projects could help improve their quality of life in a big way.

4. I got a lot of African massages. Let me assure you, this is not as exotic as it sounds. When we say we work in rural villages, we ain’t kidding. Riding in vans on rocky gravel roads often brings beautiful scenery, but wow, do we get bumped around! But if you think of it as an hour-long massage each time you ride in the car, it makes the whole process a little bit better.

5. Children here find joy in the smallest, simplest things. Taking their photographs was so much fun for me the last few weeks. Some are extremely shy, and hide behind their mothers when I smile and point the camera at them. Others can’t get enough of the spotlight. They would gather around me, sometimes so close that the camera couldn’t focus, and then beg to see the picture on the small camera screen after it was taken. They point at themselves and at each other, and they laugh and laugh and laugh. Those were often moments where I paused for a second, looked around at all those smiling kids, and remembered that this is my job. I get to do this, and I feel so blessed.

6. Being a white Caucasian person in Africa is a weird feeling, and sometimes comical. Many of the villages rarely see foreigners, and some had never even seen a white person before. Some of the kids in one of the villages would even walk by me, and discretely brush their fingers across my arm, in absolute awe of how light my skin was. Sometimes when we were in the car on our way to a site, we would stop in a small town nearby for coffee or water. I kid you not, during multiple of these stops, we would sit in the car and children of all ages would gather around the van and just stare at us through the windows. We felt like little fishies in a fishbowl! They were just amazed, and probably confused, that white people were in their town. However funny it was sometimes when kids would yell “ferengi” or “mizungu”, it was sad to think that some of these kids had never seen anything like us, or even known we existed. That’s how marginalized and secluded some of these villages are, and how little contact they get with anyone outside their own communities.

7. If you ever go to Ethiopia, expect to attempt at learning a minimum of three different languages. And then expect to fail, over and over. Sometimes, you’ll even try to ask a waitress for butter, but accidentally ask her for poop instead. It happens. It’s okay. Just laugh it off.

8. The culture is so rich here. So much history! And the people are proud of their heritage and who they are. I learned so much about the people, music, politics, etc. of east Africa while here, and I barely scratched the surface. Seriously, don’t quiz me on it… Susanne is the history buff, not me.

9. I am in awe of everything I’ve seen in the past two weeks. I need more time to process. But overall, I am so grateful for what I have back home, for the experiences I’ve had here in Africa, and for the goodness of Jesus in all of this. The relationships I’ve built and the places I’ve been are so amazing, and I’m so grateful.

10. I am convinced now more than ever that what we do at Water to Thrive matters.

– Jazzy

Back to top

Advertisements