By Tiffany Abera
I have arrived in Ethiopia! The plane ride of 13 hours wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be. It seemed to pass fairly quickly probably because I was in and out of sleep and trying to keep myself as occupied as possible with videos and games. I’m not sure if anyone else has experienced this on a plane, but when we touched down in Addis everyone started clapping. I wasn’t sure if I should have been worried before we took off or after we landed if people were actually clapping because of the safe landing.
Right out of the plane I had a plan to head straight to the visa desk, then through immigration, gathering my luggage and exchanging money. So off I was following the masses to the visa desks and upon arrival I was faced with a terrifying line with only two visa officials and at least a 45 minute wait. Great. Patiently I awaited my turn because well I didn’t have any other choice! After a $20 visa I was on to immigration to wait in yet another exceeding long line. Let’s just say that the Miami International Airport which I hate wasn’t looking too bad right about then. Finally I get through and headed towards baggage claim. And again I was waiting. And waited and waited for my luggage. It never arrived. I was then taken to the lost baggage claim to fill out the necessary paperwork and was promised that it would be at the airport the next day around noon.
I also forgot to mention that I had no idea what the person from the organization I was working with, Eyob my now supervisor, looked like. I just knew that my husband’s sister, Hareg, would also be looking for me. Sure enough Hareg found me at the baggage claim desk. Thank God for a familiar face was what I was thinking! Did I mention that the line to get out of the airport and through the exit security was even longer than the visa line? Hareg and I ended up cutting the line as I only had my carry-on bag. We found a table in the café in the lobby to wait for Eyob. He eventually found us and Hareg then departed us. I was so grateful that she came or I might have been utterly lost and equally frustrated. After picking up some other mission volunteers we headed outside to our transportation.
The wind and dust swirled in my eyes as we stepped out in to the sunlight. The parking lot was filled with people, cars and taxis. There were no police or security patrolling the outside perimeter and even the military police inside seemed bored as they slouched in their chairs looking on as people scrambled for their belongings. We soon departed from the airport and the other volunteers went to another town about 20 minutes away from where I’d be staying. I went with Eyob in his massive humv-ish Toyota. That truck/suv was huge almost like we were on a safari in the city or something!
While on our way to our destination we exchanged the usual greetings and questions about the trip, a little bit about myself, and my project for the summer. Have you ever thought you were going to be doing a set project and then later you find out that it was going to be different?? Yes, my friends, that is what happened to me. I thought and was told that I was going to be working with a NGO called Art in Ethiopia doing social media/journalism tasks. You know working on their facebook/twitter feeds, writing articles about the organization or Ethiopia to encourage tourism, and increasing their leather good sales. Sounded good to me.
What I was not told was that Art in Ethiopia (AiE) actually partners with KVI, Kingdom’s Vision International, whom Eyob is the director for and also provides guidance to AiE. Eyob also manages the placement of the interns/volunteers that arrive. Even Eyob seemed interested that I wasn’t communicated to that I’d be working with KVI instead of AiE, but that’s how things work when there is a lack of communication. Things are not relayed and information is often times skewed. Needless to say I was a bit thrown off by this new information, but instead of beginning to think things that anybody would begin to think upon hearing that information I was forced to pause.
“Wait! Is that a deer in the road?!” I said to Eyob as we continued to drive straight towards it. It was not a deer, but a fairly tall sheep in the middle of the road picking at the ground. In fact there was a whole field filled with sheep, goats, and even cows wandering in the streets. In that moment it hit me, this is so not the USA. Things are sometimes unplanned; go with the flow and try to be as patient as possible.
As for my assignment I was asked to be a researcher! Couldn’t be more up my alley! In a nutshell I was asked to create a questionnaire to determine perceptions of a community based adoption system with families who currently are using the system, staff members of the organization, government officials, clergymen, and other community members. From there I hope to determine whether a community based option for foster care will be sustainable and desirable. I will spend my first two weeks in Bole (a section of the city in Addis) gathering preliminary research, developing the questionnaire, and teaching Eyob the wonderful and sometimes torturing ways of research methods! After that time I will then move to Nazret to interview 30 foster care families and other important members to the organization. Dr. Kim’s Research Methods is definitely helping in this whole process! Thanks Dr. Kim!! I guess I did learn something after all. It feels good to know that it is leaving the classroom and educating others.
I should also mention that KVI is a holistic orphanage with several locations all across Ethiopia. They define themselves as being holistic as faith based orphanages aren’t technically allowed, but they are a Christian based organization. I got to see the place for just a bit today and Lord the children are so precious! I can’t wait to spend more time with them if I can.