Oct 7, 2011

Ethiopia trip recap: Day 3

My journal on day three of our Ethiopian trip says this:

"September 11, 2011.

Today will forever go down as one of my favorites.

My birthday has been redeemed."

For a decade now, there has been a dark cloud over my birthday. Just telling people the date elicits people's memories of where they were on September 11th. I've never wanted a big party or a lot of fancy gifts and now that I'm getting older, I'd rather just the day pass without much more than a handmade card from my kids.

When we were researching Ethiopian adoptions, The Hero and I learned that Ethiopians celebrate New Years on Septebmer 11th. I thought that was symbolic; The Hero and I were getting a fresh start to our family through Ethiopia but it would provide a good reason for jubilation on a day that needs some redemption.

But nothing prepared me for being IN Ethiopia ON New Years.

Our team was up early and we headed to church. I've heard for a long time that Africans as a continent can do them some church, but I know now why Moses married an Ethiopian woman...she could ROCK some praise music.

The services was three hours and we were all exhausted and filled with joyful noises to our Maker. We headed to a cafe for lunch and our daily necessity of macchiatos. During the meal, Sisay and Yemamu disappeared and returned with a white, double layered birthday cake.

I couldn't hold back the tears.

The looks on their faces were pure delight. I had never seen anyone else who could get more fun out of giving than these two men.

I adore the fact there was not enough room to put the 'y' on Lindsey.

As the team sang 'Happy birthday' and we finished cake, I asked a stupid question. I had wanted to ask Yemamu if he had ever had a birthday cake of his own. What I asked was "did you ever have birthday cake as a child?" Yemamu's face was all teeth and grin as he nodded and said "Oh yes Lindsey. The Sheraton trash truck."
My dear friend, my brother in Christ who had grown up in Korah and dug through the trash dump for his necessities had also found some sweet memories there as well. The fact that he and many, many like him could distinguish delicacies from which trash truck they were in broke my heart. And these two sweet men had bought me a birthday cake. I am sure they had never bought one for themselves or even one another. It truly was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

Since our paperwork had not yet cleared the Ethiopian government, Hands for the Needy was still unable to feed the kids in our program. Yemamu and Sisay explained that even though tomorrow was Monday, it would be a holiday and everyone would be with their families. Except the boys at the dump. We asked if we could prepare a meal and take it to them to celebrate the holiday and buy the meal out of the funds that our team had brought. Yemamu and Sisay were delighted and we jumped into the van to buy a sheep.

A sheep?

We headed to the sheep market (I didn't know there was such a thing) where hundreds of people and sheep milled around, haggling and tying up animals which would soon be a holiday feast. Yemamu and Sisay engaged in aggressive negotiations over a particular animal and this proved to be quite the lengthy process. Sisay was giving me the play by play as to what you look for in a good sheep.
-Check his nose to make sure he isn't sick.
-Check the backbone towards his rump, if it's fatty, he's healthy.
-Open his mouth and look at his teeth to make sure he isn't too old.

As we finalized negotiations, we paid 700 birr (roughly $41.00) for what the boys determined to be a fine specimen and Yemamu estimated he would feed at least 60 people.
As the sheep followed along behind us, one thought kept flashing through my head.
How are we getting Mr. Sheep to Sisay's mom (who would be butchering him and making the meal)?

Mr. Sheep riding in our van.

After we delivered Mr. Sheep to his final resting place, Yemamu and Sisay asked if we wanted to attend a New Year's Eve party.
Well, yes!
Yemamu explained that it is customary on Ethiopian New Year to attend an all night church service thanking God for what He did in the previous year and praying for what He would do in the upcoming year.
We picked up K and off we went.
The service was packed. Elbow to elbow these people stood, dancing and praising and jumping. It was incredible to watch. The entire service was in Amharic and while I wanted very much to be reverent, K was extremely bored by hour two and I pulled out a bouncy ball that my mother-in-law had packed for him (I love that woman. While I was packing him undies and clothes, she packed candy and toys).
We played and goofed off for the better part of an hour. Until he started to fall asleep. Since I didn't have any where for him to lay down, Yemamu called us a cab and our team headed home, while Yemamu and Sisay stayed behind to finish their prayer vigil.

As we said good night, K hugged my neck and kissed my cheek and asked again:

"Mama. I see you tomorrow?"

"Absolutely my son."

If you would have told me ten years ago that my favorite birthday yet was in a dirt floor church, making booger jokes with an eleven year old, I'd have thought you were drinking.

But I would have not understood how funny boogers can actually be.


Amy said...

Oh my gosh...this made me laugh and remember that awesome day. You're right - I even liked your birthday better than any of my own!! Maybe we can make a resolution to celebrate every year of your birthday (and Ethiopian New Year) in Ethiopia together?? I'll never forget that sheep riding at my feet. Thankfully, he was taking an Ethiopian taxi ride to his death and not us (somewhat miraculous!). :) Love you!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! This was a great post. We brought our son home from Ethiopia a year ago. My husband went alone to bring him home. It makes me sad I wasn't there, and seeing other people's pictures are highly theraputic ;-)