Saturday, February 12, 2011

From Ethiopia - Post 5 - Sweet Children and Baboons

When we left Debre Libanos, our drive took us along the Jemma Gorge.  We snapped photo after photo out the window of the moving van, but could not successfully capture the beauty.  Think Grand Canyon in Africa.  A few times, the driver would slow down when there was a clearing along the road where he thought we could get a good view.  Beggars lined the sides of the road, as is common in Ethiopia.  But, at one particular area, several children started yelling to the van and waving their arms, attempting to point something out to us.  At first, it scared me because I thought they were trying to get us to stop and help them.  'What could have happened that would make these children flag down a van to get help?', I thought.  Isaias and Workineh seemed alarmed at first, but then they quickly understood what the children were saying and pointing it out to us -- baboons!


goats and baboons

Along the side of the road, in a big open field-like area, stood a bunch of baboons.  Isaias stopped and we all climbed out of the van with cameras in tow.  The children immediately began to "work it".  They separated into small groups of 1 to 3 kids per ferengi (you know, us white people).  They very intelligently (and cutely) acted as guides.  The older two boys went to Eric and Mike - one each.  The younger children seemed to know to back off and let them work.  A young girl started telling me everything she knew about the baboons.  She took my hand and led me down through the area to get closer to them.  Two small boys tagged along with us, but she was definitely in charge.  She told me her name and proudly declared, "I go school. I learn English."  I asked her questions.  She was in grade 2.  She lived close by, up over the hill.  I complimented her on the beautiful view she must have from her home.  I complimented her on her English.  She proudly smiled big, beautiful smiles.  She held my hand as we walked.  She tried to comfort me that it was ok, that it was ok to get close to the baboons.

My sweet guide

My guide's brother and friend

Another friend

Her knowledge was good - mostly about the baboons though.  She pointed out the "daddy".  She explained that there was only one "daddy" per group.  She told me where they slept, and that there were 3 groups that lived around there.  She showed me the baby on it's Momma's back.  She picked a flower and handed it to me.  "Flower", she said.  I talked to her about the flower.  I said, "In America, we call these dandelions.  What do you call them here?"  She replied, "a flower".  I laughed.  A large (and I mean, LARGE) bird swooped by and she pointed him out, too.  "Bird", she told me.  I asked if she knew what kind of bird it was.    "A BIG bird", she replied.  Again, I laughed.  OK, so her knowledge base was a little shallow, but she was trying hard (and was very cute!).  She picked another plant.  "Aloe" she said as she broke open a leaf and rubbed it on my hand.  She seemed impressed that I knew of aloe and that you put it on burns.  I told her that in America, our aloe is a little different.  It isn't yellow - especially when you rub it on your skin!  (I think that when all 4 of us piled back into the van, we had yellow smears on our hands or arms as we all got the aloe lesson.)

The older boys walked Eric and Mike and Workineh way down to the edge of the cliff to see the view.  It was spectacular.  I will ashamedly admit that there were a few times when I thought that they were all trying to lure us away from the van and that we were going to turn around and find it gone or something.  Isaias stayed closest to the road and he frequently looked back to check on the van (somewhat further fueling my paranoia).

Workineh, Eric, and Eric's "guide" walking to get a better view

The view WAS truly amazing.  The children were darling.  They weren't crooks trying to lure us away.  They were simply trying to make a living.  Truly.  They had found something that they knew and that they were good at.  A schtick if you will.  And, they were using it to get whatever they could.  Who can blame them?  And, really, is it so much different from what we all do?  No requests for money came, no offers to sell us anything, no begging for food....until we began to walk back to the van.  Then, they pulled their hand-carved marble crosses out.  They reminded us that they were students and begged for pens.  (again, with the pens!  Oh, how I could have kicked myself that I didn't bring a big bag of pens again this time!)  I had no money, but I did have a few lollipops in my jacket pocket.  I slyly handed my 3 guides lollipops because I didn't have enough for all the kids.  I think Eric might have bought another necklace or two.  I think Mike did too.  But, we all piled into the van with Workineh and Isaias beginning to scold the children and tell them that was enough.  Mike had snacks, so once he was in the van, he pulled out a pack of crackers and went to hand them out to the children, but the problem was that another group of children who hadn't "worked us" showed up and tried to get some of the food, too.  It was the first time that things got a little crazy, desperate, scary when we were handing things out.  Hands were grabbing in the window, kids were pushing, almost clawing over each other.  Mike ended up just sort of tossing the whole thing out the window and telling them to share.  It's hard to see such desperation over a pack of peanut butter crackers.  Over any food, for that matter.

Mike, Stephanie, Eric and I with our "guides"

Eric and I at the Jemma Gorge

Looking down over the edge

We are very blessed.  Oh how guilty I feel that I need to lose a few pounds.  Fat, rich Americans.  Poor, starving Africans.  This world just isn't right.  Praying that I will at least do my little part in setting things a little more right whenever I am able.

1 comment:

  1. This was soo sweet, Lori. And it makes me wish there would have been more "stress-free time while we were there to do some of the things I was longing for. There's always more time, right? Thanks for being so stink'n organized and posting about your trip. I wonder when I will begin???