Humanitarian Trip 2019

This year’s trip consisted of only three of the Pangaea’s Team; Lense, Lalise and Jan Eshete.  Because of this, we kept the trip short and sweet (only 5 days in the country), just taking care of business for the Hundee Ibsaa school and our non-profit organization.  Besides the jet lag that seemed harder to recover from once we returned, we were successful complete all of our agenda, thanks to the good weather, our trusted driver and guide, and the help of family that attended to our agenda.

Daily Journal Entries by Jan Eshete

October 13, 2019 Day 1

After 26 hours or so we made it to Ethiopia! At the airport, I panicked a bit when at customs they were going to make us go through every piece of luggage and count all the items (I just didn’t want to have to repack them all as they were in their perspective bags all nice and tight). Luckily, I quickly made a list of the contents of the luggage and when they started to go through a couple of the bags and saw that they were a repeat of uniforms and backpacks, the custom workers just decided to give up worrying about it and told us we could go.  I was so relieved as I did not want to have some of our supplies held up at the airport since the very next morning we were scheduled to go out to Ambo.

Outside in the airport parking, a group of University students that are Rundassa’s fan club (one is Jigsa’s—who lives with us’s—brother), came to greet us with flowers and painting of both Rundassa and me! They were so helpful and welcoming to us.  They helped us get 2 taxis and then get settled in our hotel.  Even though we were staying in the same hotel as we did last year, I was still disappointed that they did not supply towels or toilet paper ( I should have remembered this)—but hey, we are here and looking forward to this week!

Oct 14th-day 2

Today wasn’t too productive. We just got some money exchanged, ate out at a “Shiro” restaurant—that has no menu because that’s all it serves, walked around a bit, waiting for our ride to arrive and then made the journey out to Ambo. The traffic was pretty bad so the usual 2-hour trip took 4. As much as it is interesting to people-watch in the city, I automatically breathed a sigh of relief when we made it outside the crowded city and on to some open areas. The drive is quite nice and I enjoyed seeing the many fields of different grains and legumes see farmers plowing their land and going through the foresty area most.  Once we arrived in Ambo, our hotel greeted us with a huge spider with gigantic legs! It got a little scream out of me when it jumped off the wall when I tried to kill it!

10/15/19 Day 3

Today was the day we have been waiting for all year!! We got to handout the school supplies that so many people back home helped contribute and meet all the children!  But the adventure was in getting all 9-50 lbs bags of supplies to the school.

We headed out to Bojjii in our rented van and although Tadela (Our nephew who is our guide, translator and driver) is an expert driver, we reached a point that the road was impassable—if we had access to four-wheelers, that would have worked great. Instead, local farmers shortly arrived to give us aid in the form of their donkey. They strapped on 150 lbs to that poor donkey and 2 other men place 50-pound suitcases on their shoulders to haul them the rest of the distance to our school. We set on foot ourselves and made it to the school maybe 30 min later.

While the farmers set out for one more trip to fetch the remaining luggage, we took that time to visit my mother-in-law (grandma). She is now around 95 years old and is literally skin and bones and doesn’t have much energy to get out of bed but her mind is sharp as ever, remembering to ask about everyone.

Then it was time to give out the backpack and uniforms and take photos of the children! They are just as cute as ever and I’d like to think they look bigger than last year, but again, I just realized how small they all are! We are so grateful for our teachers and their efforts to walk the distance to the school every day and teach these children!

We ended our day with eating 3 meals within 3 hours with different family members and then returning to our hotel dead tired and our stomachs and hearts full to the brim!

10/16/19 Day 4
Today was another adventure making our way to the school. Since we ran into problems yesterday, our awesome driver, Tadela, decided to venture a road coming from a different direction. I thoroughly enjoyed it as It helped me get a better grip on the location of Bojjii from both the nearby towns. But most of all it gave me more views of the beautiful countryside. I honestly can’t soak it in enough.

At the school, our day was about getting more photos of the children along with having a teachers’ meeting and then a meeting with our construction contractor Teressa who is going to build our lunchroom pavilion, 2nd classroom and a new outhouse since the existing one is starting to cave in. I’m excited to get these projects finally going, as our teachers have had to turn away more than 20 students due to not enough room.

Our only delay now is for the roads to be fixed enough that we can get all the supplies transported to the school. It’s only been 3 weeks since the rains have stopped so it will be a few more weeks before the government gets around to plowing the roads, repairing what damage the rain did. Even today, coming from the other direction we still couldn’t quite reach the school with our van and had to walk the extra distance.

I also enjoyed visiting more with family and friends that live in Bojjii. There is just such a calm peaceful feeling being out there.  The local families live such a peaceful, slow-paced life that nothing seems to bother them.

10/17/19 Day 5
Today started out with us doing a little shopping: textbooks for the school, treats (bananas) for the students and a mattress for the orphan kids, that we have families sponsoring, in addition for cooking supplies for Akko (grandma) and traditional chairs to bring home for our restaurant.

Once we finally checked off our list, we headed back out to the school where we handed out the bananas while we set up the slide show for the students featuring all the photos we took. All 90+ students crammed in the 13’x 22’ classroom to watch the show. Afterward, we took some class photos and said our goodbyes to the students.

Once all the children were on their way home, we then made a 3+ km little hike over to the two orphan kids’ home with a mattress and bedding in tow. It was quite the sight to watch the guy hauling the mattress on his shoulder and jumping from rock to rock to cross the river.

Once we made it to their home, we saw their humble living conditions. It was so dark inside that I had to use my flashlight to even see anything. Despite the conditions, to them, they have pretty much everything they need, although now that the kids won’t have to sleep on the hardwood frame bed with a type of tarp for a blanket. I’m sure they will realize how much they were missing out now that they have the luxury of a mattress.  I’ve come to realize that in their situation-and most others’ life in Bojjii,-their home serves not much more than a place to sleep and cover for them if it rains, otherwise life is spent outdoors.

We returned back to Akko’s place to have our last meal at her home, said goodbye (which will probably be the last time since Akko is barely hanging on to life.  Then we returned back to Ambo where we spent the evening with Tadela’s family & friends eating and then eating again.  We helped his kids learn how to play the video games we brought them from America.  They caught on quickly but it was definitely a bit of a challenge since it’s all in English.

It’s a relief to accomplish all that we set out to do but also a let down that we won’t be back out to Bojjii for another year. I really enjoyed my time out there but was happy to return to a hotel that has electricity, showers, and a decent bed for the night.

One more post—before the trip is over—

10/18/19 Day 6
Another day is over—but not really as we are just starting our voyage home with a delayed flight leaving Ethiopia and now we are stuck in Germany trying to rebook😞. The day began with more goodbyes to family and then traveling back to the capital city from Ambo. We were delayed a few times on the only road back, but one of those delays was worth it as we saw an entourage of men on horses coming from a wedding ceremony.

Once in Addis Ababa, we went to visit our Pangaea Foundation Branch Office (Yay! We’ve been waiting to get to this point for so long!). It’s in the home of an associate of Rundassa’s, and I think it will work out great! I’d like to thank our family who helped us make this whirlwind of a trip productive and possible. Besides this fight coming home, we really didn’t run into any snags!  The trip has been successful and I am already ready to start making plans for next time.