Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 2 - Ethiopian Airlines - Wheels Up

This morning we all headed to the airport bright and early to get checked in and through security with all of our luggage. All 48 pieces of luggage I might add. If you are doing the math, that is 2 carry-on's and 2 checked bags each. Shockingly enough, everything went smoothly and we were all at the gate with time to spare. Glory! So we boarded the big 777 Dreamliner at 10:15, were wheels up at 11:30 and arrived in Addis Ababa at 7:30 AM local time...which would be 11:30 pm central time.

Just mine and David's luggage. Imagine this times 12. 

The flight was smooth and there was some shut-eye to be had by most everyone I think. At least I have proof of it from these awesome team members and my other half. Haha!

pre-flight nap

Team Photo right inside the Addis airport

After arriving in Addis, getting our Visas, going through Immigration, grabbing our luggage and getting through the bag check area we were met by the Ordinary Hero staff - our very favorite people Bissy and Gecho! Bissy is the GuestHouse manager and Gecho is the best driver in Addis. I could not run up to them fast enough for my hugs. Seeing them both there was the best way to end a long flight and start a mission experience! They helped get our bags to the vans and got everything loaded for us and we were off.

I took in a deep breath as we drove the streets of Addis. The sights (and even the smells) that I have missed were so very present as was the instantaneous smack in the face of poverty. We didn't have to look far for it though as our team was first met by it at the airport when a lady came up carrying her infant asking for money while telling us that her husband had died. Whether the story was true or not, and it most likely was not, doesn't matter. What matters is that this woman was desperate enough to go face to face with us begging for money, not taking no for an answer. We told her no as we had talked about the fact that this would happen and we couldn't give "just because we could." But after we did that, I wondered if this was a woman now who would join the many other women on the streets tonight because she didn't make enough money begging today. My heart sank.

After settling in at the Ordinary Hero Guest House for a couple of hours, we got right to work...jet lag and all. We went to an orphanage that is run by a group of catholic nuns. Sister Camila met us at the front before we went in to share with us the history of the place and the way it is run now. Currently they are at their lowest capacity ever - 58 children. I could hardly believe how "unoccupied" it seemed compared to just a year ago! There were several children there that I recognized from last year which was bittersweet to say the least.

I was so proud of my team for jumping right in and connecting with the kids immediately. It was awesome. The gals begin painting nails, combing hair, cuddling babies and chasing toddlers. The men started playing soccer, tossing the kids in the air and catching them, holding babies, and talking with the older boys.

There were two children though in particular that I want to touch on. One named Elsa and one named Marta.
Elsa is a child who has been at the orphanage since birth. She has severe hydrocephalus, is blind and has cerebral palsy. She is 12 years old which is completely unbelievable and a total miracle because to look at the circumference of her head makes you gasp and your heart stand still for a beat. It is that severe. But then to look at her and realize that she is still alive is to look into the face of a sweet sweet miracle. God is written all over the face of this sweet child. I immediately went over the Elsa and began talking to her and she responded somewhat by blinking her eyes rapidly. I told her that I was thrilled that I was back to see her again and that I could not believe that she was already 12 years old...almost a teenager! Next we talked all about Princess Elsa and the movie Frozen. Ha! I told her all about how they named a Princess after her, and then I ended our conversation by rattling a small toy by her ear. That was by far the most interesting and favorite thing I did. Haha!!!
Marta was a baby that I couldn't pass up so I scooped her up and we played for a bit. Talk about a cutie! I asked the nannies how old she was and they quickly responded that they didn't know. I knew better than to ask this silly question. I mean, birthdays in Ethiopia are not important at all, but I was just hoping that since she was still so young that would know it. My heart sank as I sat there telling her that it didn't matter that no one knew her birthday because God did, He gave it to her, and that was all that really mattered anyways. And then of course, I started getting teary eyed so I stopped that conversation and moved on to more fun things like peek-a-boo and tickling her belly. Ha!

We stayed at the orphanage for several hours and then came back to the guest house for dinner, a short team meeting and finally we are all hitting the sack. I have personally been awake now for almost 28 hours so I am exhausted. I know my team is and they have all been troopers. Today has been the adjustment day and tomorrow we will hit the ground running.

The popular thing to do - paint the nails

Is she not the cutest thing ever?

Inside the infant room

Little Marta - precious little Marta

The older kids and our guys playing soccer on the courtyard

I learned how to play marbles

Beauty queen painting my nails

Christine with a super handsome little fella who hammed it up for everyone!

David, Cheyenne and Megan with the infants - there was definitely no shortages of babies to be held

Connie found this precious little one and scooped her up for some love

Alison couldn't contain the smiles while holding this fella.

Andy holding our little ham again.

Mr. Kenny with this little guy "D". He was super desperate for attention and found it with Kenny. What a great role model for him!

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