Saturday, November 27, 2010

Court Trip - Post 3 - Coffee, Churches, and Overwhelming Need

Once we discovered that Holt would not be picking us up until 2:00 pm, we made arrangements with the guest house staff for them to take us to do some sightseeing. After we ate breakfast, we gathered in the lobby for an authentic coffee ceremony that the guest house had prepared for us. In Ethiopia, women prepare coffee for their husbands anywhere from 1 - 3 times a day. As part of a traditional coffee ceremony, they take green coffee beans and roast them over a small fire.

Once the beans are roasted, they walk around and allow people to smell the freshly roasted beans.

Then, they grind the beans and add them to a pot of heating water. When the coffee is finished, each person is served a small cup of coffee to enjoy together. We only had one cup; however, some traditions call for a total of 3 cups to be served.

After we finished the delightful coffee ceremony and played soccer with the neighborhood boys, we all loaded into the van and set out through the streets of Addis. We passed the runners who were all participating in "The Great Ethiopian Run" - the largest 10 K held in Africa.

As we drove to the top of Mt. Entoto, the side of every street was lined with beggars and people living on the streets, with adolescent boys working as shoe shines, and piles of trash.

There were animals walking along the roads and shanty-like "houses" on every spare piece of land.

We wound higher and higher up to the top of the mountain. Our van seemed to barely make it higher and higher up the steep, winding road, and yet there were people walking the steep incline carrying their yellow water bottles to get water for their families.

At the top, we visited a museum which contained Emperor Menilik and Empress Tutu's royal clothes, Bibles, drums, and other historical items from when the capital of Addis Ababa was first organized as a city.

We also saw the very first church that was built on the site by the Emperor, as well as the current St. Mary's Church.

We toured the Emperor's Palace from 1883. It was amazing given the time when it was built. My favorite part was the horns protruding from the walls of the dining room that were meant for hanging meat!

Eric and I at the overlook area on the grounds
I was smiling on the outside, but my heart was breaking on the inside. You see, after we toured the museum, Kendra and I were walking up the hill to the church and 3 little girls had approached us. They kept begging, "pen", "pen", "please, pen". We weren't sure if they were asking for a pen or if that was Amharic for something else.

Without thinking, I opened my purse and pulled out my pen. Their faces lit up. "Pen!" "Pen!" they cheered as their little hands darted out for the pen. I handed the first girl my pen and the other 2 kept begging, "pen", "pen". Kendra handed one of the other girls her pen, but we had no other pens. The third girl looked devastated. "Pen", "Pen", she begged.

"We don't have anymore", we apologized. Devastation on her face. "Can you share?", Kendra asked. Heartbreak.

I failed to notice the growing crowd behind the 3 girls as we watched her sad little face. In an effort to give her something, I pulled a pack of crackers from my purse. Her face lit up. Then the other two girls' hands darted out. "Hungry", "food", "hungry". I handed them each something, then noticed hands shooting in from everywhere. Children, women with tiny babies, elderly women. "Food", "hungry", "food", "please", they all begged. I handed out the granola bars and crackers that I had as fast as I could, but I ran out long before the outstretched hands were gone. Our driver saw the commotion and came to our rescue.

But, as the crowd dispersed, I saw a little girl, about 7 or 8 years old. She was standing back from the crowd. She had her little brother on her back. He looked to be about 2 or 3 years old. Her eyes were sad and pleading. She was dirty and alone with her brother. Her little hand was held tentatively out a little at her side. "Please, food", she mouthed. Fighting the tears, I mouthed, "I'm so sorry. I don't have any more." "Please, food", she begged. "I can't," I said, "I'm so sorry." She followed us for a while. She hung back a few feet behind us, but when our eyes would meet, she would plead as she moved her hand out a little and mouthed, "please, food".

I walked up the hill with the others, and as I attempted to zip my purse back up, I noticed 2 nutri-grain bars in the bottom of my purse. It took every bit of strength that I had not to go back and give them to the little girl, but I couldn't. I had already disregarded the warning about giving out food or money to beggars in public, thereby causing a near riot. I felt guilty for involving our driver and didn't want to create any more problems, yet my insides were ripping apart. It was all I could do not to completely lose it and burst into tears. I literally hurt inside. That little girl, caring for her baby brother. She was starving and alone. A little girl who should have been playing and attending school. Instead, she was caring for her brother and begging for food for the two of them to survive. But the worst part was, I HAD SOME right there in my purse and couldn't give it to them. My small contribution couldn't begin to touch the overwhelming need. It was one of the saddest moments of the entire trip for me. Their little faces still haunt me. The desperate, pleading little girl and her brother. The girls faces lighting up over a pen. A cheap pen that I probably have hundreds of laying around my house. Not even a fancy pen. Just one of those free pens from the bank or the insurance agent, and their eyes lit up. Like we had given them a pony or something.

I know it sounds stupid, but the heaviness in my heart was lightened just a little bit later that night when I found out that one of the guys in our travel group had slipped the 3rd girl a pen during the chaos.

We are so blessed. There is so much need around the world. One person can't fix it, but together we all can help.


  1. Thank you for sharing this story Lori. I don't think that I will ever look at my pens the same way again.

  2. LORI-- You got me just crying over here...