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Day 83 in Africa

Hello everybody!! How is Utah? I hope everything hasn’t burned down by the time I get back. I get on KSL once and a while and there is always a big story about some fire that is burning somewhere. Hopefully some rain will slow that down soon. Today is day 83 for me in Ethiopia. Time has flown so fast. It seems like I just got here a couple weeks ago, and now I am already starting to think about how I am going to wrap up my responsibilities here and pass them to the Habesha people (Ethiopians).  I still have around a month or so left, but it will take at least that long to be able to get the programs running smoothly enough to allow me to leave. This week has been an incredible one. Accomplishments include: planting over 500 fruit trees, 85 hand irrigation gardens, and fencing an entire school compound by cutting and planting an extremely poisonous bush by the name of Anano. This bush, when cut secretes a milky fluid that burns your skin and eyes if you touch it. The Ethiopian solution is to wrap your hands in plastic sacks and try not to let it get in your eyes. If it does get in your eyes, the villagers cure is to soak your eyes in 5 day old goat’s milk. Needless to say I was very careful around the bush. At the beginning of last week, we hired 70 fathers in the village for the projects work. Their wages are 4 birr per hour (an equivalent of 22 u.s. cents) and they work 8 hours per week for a total of 1.76$ per week. Their jobs include helping out widows in the village, and community projects such as fixing roads and fencing school ground from animals. For tiny pay, I have never seen a more joyous reaction from a group of people who recently got a job. After they signed the agreement contracts, there was singing, clapping, and traditional Oromo prayers led by the village elders praising Waqayo (the Oromo word for God) for this wonderful opportunity. It made me feel extremely lucky to know that I can relatively easy find a job that pays 8-9 dollars per hour at home. That’s an amount these people cannot even dream about. During times like this meeting here, I often feel overwhelmingly blessed to have been born where I was.  These fathers have continued to impress me more and more each day. The first day of work was supposed to start at 8 o’clock.  I got there around 7:50 and the fathers had been working on the fence for over an hour already. They wanted to impress the forenji with their hardworking attitudes and show me their willingness to work hard for change for their village and a better future for their children.  What a great group of guys!! Working with them often reminds me of the yearly fencing project the elders quorum does up on the church farm. Poison Bushes in Haleku

During work on Monday, we needed several poles to make handles for some tools that I had bought. I ended up racing several of the boys and a couple older guys from Haleku to the nearby town of Adami Tullu around 3 miles or so away. (5k I think). I’m proud to say that I held my own the whole way.  Ethiopians are born runners. One of the guys had to be around 45. He still ran with me and the other younger kids the whole way, and we were running really fast. I think it’s also fun to mention that all of us were barefoot (I was wearing flip-flops that day so I left them in the village).  Running across the sand reminded me of playing on the beach at Bear Lake. It was really fun, but those guys were fast!! By the time we got there I was pretty tired. 
Being in Ethiopia this long has taught me so much. Ethiopian people are so great, so spiritual and loving to everybody. Being here for this amount of time, I have to be really careful to not close my heart to those around me. It’s so easy to shut everything out when there is poverty everywhere. This week has especially been hard for me in this aspect.  I have been a little sick, and it’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself when you are sick. Having a fever when the temps are already in the 100’s is not my favorite experience. However, the fact that I have medicine (paired with my “where there is no doctor” book)  and money to go to the doctor if I need to puts me miles above the rest of the people here. When I start to think only about myself, I try to flip through the pictures on my camera. Seeing the pictures for a second time helps me realize how much I have compared to the people I am living with. It’s so crazy how you see things for the first time, and don’t really see them.  I often take pictures while working in the village, and then at night take a second look at the expressions on the people’s faces. It’s quite the experience to know the person, their family, their situation, their kids, and see the pictures that show their happiness, despite the awful circumstances they live in. The kids here are especially so happy. They never cry, and they love playing any kind of game imaginable. They are also fearless. It’s not uncommon to see a 7 year old boy herding several full grown bulls to the river 5 or so miles away.  
 This week, I met one of the greatest examples of the Haleku people’s great attitude.  Adabo is an old widow, who lives in a tiny hut in the far corner of Haleku village. Her husband is dead or gone somewhere, and she takes care of 7 kids (only three are her own) all around the age of 10 (they are so small I can’t really tell how old they are). She also cares for a mentally disabled child who was turned out by his parents. The first time I visited her hut, I almost left crying. She is trying so hard to help, but unfortunately most of the kids she is caring for have swollen stomachs and their arms and legs are like sticks. A few of her kids had bad sores on their faces and feet.  The program I am helping put in the village tries to focus on helping the community care for widows like Adabe, but does not require that they work like the rest of the villagers. When work time came on Monday, Adabe was there planting her neighbors garden with the men, saying that she was taking the place of her husband.  I tried to explain to her that there was no need for her to work, but again she came the next day for work.  People like Adabe teach me so much. She is easily one of the poorest persons in one of the poorest countries on earth. Yet she laughs and jokes just like everybody else.  Before I came to Africa, I thought I was going to bring so many new ideas teach the people so much. It has turned out that I am learning much much more than I am able to teach. The people of Ethiopia have so much to teach me about happiness and what really matters in life. This week has definitely been a week of adventures. I had a couple run-ins with the local animals, a hyena and a sheep. Turns out, sheep are more dangerous!! Haha I was walking out of our compound and a runaway ram was coming at me, being chased by a kid holding a really big knife. I’m guessing the ram was for tonight’s dinner, and he knew that he was running for his life. I tried to help out by cutting the sheep off, but instead of turning back around toward the kid, it jumped up and hit me right in the chest with its horns knocking me right on my butt. As I sat there trying to get my breath back, the kid just laughed his head off. 
The other animal encounter for the week happened after we (me, Milkessa, and Teddy) bought a load of fruit trees from the local plant store (nursery kind of idea). We had parked the truck on a side alley, and loaded up all the trees and seedlings into the back. It was a really dark night, so we were using our phones for flashlights. When we were finished loading the trees, Teddy was going to take the truck to his house to park for the night. After had finished discussing a time for departure to Haleku the next morning, Teddy started the truck and turned on the lights. A Hyena was sitting right in front of the truck, uncomfortably close to where we had just been. If you have never seen a hyena, they are lots bigger than they look in pictures and in the Lion king. They remind me more of a bear than anything else. The Hyena just looked at us, then wandered off into the darkness. I wonder how many I have walked past and never known……they scare the beejeebers out of me.  I continue to marvel at the faith of the Ethiopian people. This week, as we planted the seeds for the garden, I had some serious doubts as I looked at the dry dry sand. To reassure myself I kept humming to myself “faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow” but the whole time we were planting, I wondered if they would indeed ever grow. After we were finished, I told one of the guys “Man, I hope those seeds grow”. The guy answered; “Why wouldnt they?” “We planted them right?” “God will help us because we are helping eachother”. I can only hope to gain the faith that these guys have. They truly believe without ever seeing. plant garden halekuWell, I hope everybody is having a great week!! If anybody has any good advice on gardening or planting tropical trees (mango, papaya, guava, avocado, spritz, etc.) let me know!! I am mostly going of my grandma’s advice and Google, which has been excellent so far. We are currently running 6 experimental gardens and 45 experimental tree varieties so any suggestions cannot hurt to try in one of them.
Also, I’m not sure who gets these emails, but if you are a water expert and want to help out, we are looking for options to put in a new well in Haleku. The current one is not providing enough water, especially during the dry season. I don’t know much of anything about water systems, so if you do and would like to volunteer information, it would be gladly appreciated.  Any other ideas and suggestions are great as well!! I love hearing everybody’s ideas. 
Galatoma! Ati Waqayo wajiin yero hunduma. 
Braden Fuller
p.s. I had to get a new email because something really strange has happened to my other one… so I’ll use both.  Try me at: fullerbraden@gmail.com

2 Responses to “Day 83 in Africa”

  1. Ashley Hulme says:

    Braden its great to hear your doing good. i bet your having an amazing time(: keep up the hard work

  2. Cindy Henderson says:

    Hey Braden!
    I’m trying to make the connections to get you solar panels to run the pump for your water system. Let’s pray! I will also introduce you to a mechanical/electrical engineer – Jonathan Meikle who is my son-in-law’s brother. I think he may have some great ideas for you!
    God Bless You and all your wonderful efforts. I admire your amazing courage and positive energy. “Good on ya, boy!”
    Love,
    Cindy

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