Day 93 in Ethiopia

Haleku Boy tending cows

Neighboring Village Boy tending to cows

How is Utah? Sounds like football is in full swing now. Man I miss those Friday night lights.

Ethiopia is good. The weather has been quite extreme this week, a few rainstorms and some burning hot days. It’s so amazing how fast the weather can change. One day will be pouring rain the whole day, and the next will be so hot that all the puddles evaporate within a few hours.

The plants sure love the rain and sun combination. Ethiopia is as green as I have ever seen it. Our home gardens came up in the village this week!! Tomatoes, onions and cabbage are all around an inch tall today!!  I don’t know what happened to the carrots and beets. Maybe they just take longer?? Haha I feel like an old gardener lady, worrying and babying our plants. But then again, food is pretty scarce here.  These plants are going to make a big difference this dry season.  I am seriously so excited about the gardens. The fathers were so amazed at the idea that they could be planted and watered by hand, to give them fresh food when there is none in the area. I guess things like this just don’t get done here because of the lack of money to experiment with seeds. That is my conclusion to the poverty problem here. Nobody tries new ideas, because if they fail it could mean starvation for their families. There is no extra money to just try a new idea, so nobody ever does. They have lived this way for hundreds of years.  Lack of land and resources has pushed the already desperate problem of poverty and hunger into a much greater scale as more people are born into an already crowded country. I really hope that if anything, my time here has shown the villagers that experimenting, even small scale can lead to a solution that allows them to live better than they currently do. If anything, at least showing the fathers that they have the power to try something new will change the future of Haleku village.

I can’t say enough about the fathers of Haleku. I have honestly never met a group of guys that could equal their hardworkingness. They do things I tell them so fast; I have a hard time keeping up with them. I’ll tell you, it was quite a shock the first time I went to work and ordered 68 men into 3 groups and sent them on various projects around the village. I am only 18, and these guys listen to me and follow directions like I am an army captain. It is odd to be the youngest one there, yet in charge of so much and getting so much respect from men easily 3 times my age. I am simply amazed every day at work. Every Monday and Thursday, I get to the village (via my bike) around 6:50. What a cool thing to watch the fathers coming from the fields in the early grayish light,  tools over their shoulders, walking and sometimes singing traditional songs as they come to work. By 7:15 everybody is there (amazing seeing as none of them have watches or any way to tell time) and work starts.

This week’s projects have included repairing widow’s fences and finishing planting home gardens. How the system works is that during work time, the fathers break up into groups and are assigned a widow in the village to help. They fence (ensure that the families goats don’t eat our precious garden plants) and plant the home garden consisting of Tomatoes, carrots, beets, spinach, and cabbage. They then fill up the widow’s water container (usually a barrel of a couple 20 liter jerry cans) and move on to the next house. I had an especially special experience this week as I watched as the fathers planted a widows garden. She just stood there with her hands over her mouth, shaking her head back and forth in amazement at her good fortune.  The fathers smile and laugh as they work. Never before have I seen the scripture “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” so thoroughly manifested. I guess things take an extreme here in Ethiopia. Seeing service, when it could literally save children’s lives means so much. But in all senses, it is exactly the same as our elder’s chorum at home fencing the stake property, or raking leaves of Ella Maughn, the older grandma around the corner from my house.  One of the biggest lessons Ethiopia has taught me is that service, no matter where you are in the world, is an act of Christ. Even though they are Muslim or Traditional Oromo and do not believe in Jesus Christ, his light shines through their eyes as they work for their families and village. What a great lesson for me to learn.

road to haleku

I walk/run/bike this dusty road to Haleku

Oromo culture is also very interesting when they are remembering their dead. After work on Monday, I was checking the check in sheets, and saw that the deceased father had checked in for work. I asked the fathers group leader “How could this father be here, I know he is dead”. The leader replied “His son came instead of him, so I marked him here”.  Huh. It was very interesting. Even though he died only a few days ago, it is like he has been gone forever, or never existed. The son accepted his role as the family’s leader and life moved on without pause. To explain the difference is very difficult to me, but death and remembering the dead in this culture is definitely not the same as my own culture. Very interesting to witness though.

Last Thursday I had a pretty funny experience after the funeral.  I have recently bought a bike (mostly because I got a foot infection and could not walk very far for a while) and decided to do some exploring with the schoolteacher of the village. Our program intends to move to Boqee village in a few years, which is a few miles past Haleku. I rode my bike with the schoolteacher a few miles, and then came to a small village centered around a pond. The village was very much like Haleku except for one thing…..nobody was wearing any clothes!! All the little kids were terrified of me. They probably thought I had some kind of disease that turned my skin white. I’m guessing that day was wash day or something….Oromo culture is normally very conservative. It was fun to ride the bike into different areas. The schoolteacher says one day when we have more time that we can go even further, towards the mountain and close to Gurage ( a different tribe’s region).

As you may have seen on the news at home, this Sunday was a very big Muslim celebration day. I got the chance to spend it in a place called Jido Cumbulcha, with several of Milkessa’s relitives. It was very interesting. We got there the night before, and walked around the house a little bit, catching up with the lives of all Milkessa’s cousins. That night had to be one of the worst nights as far as sleep goes in my whole life. I slept with Milkessa and the families 9 kids (all boys) on one king size mattress on the floor.  I am used to this kind of thing by now, so it was not a big deal to be all cramped while sleeping. The worst part came about 1 in the morning. All the sudden I got totally attacked by some kind of invisible bug that was biting the heck out of my waistline, armpits, and creases  in my legs. I was trying not to wiggle too much, but it was hurting like crazy. I absolutely hate African bugs by the way. All of them want to eat the forenji’s soft white skin. I finally jumped up, stripped off all my clothes, and soaked them and myself in Deet spray, which at least held them at bay so I could sleep for a couple hours. At around 4 in the morning, I woke up again, to find a rooster standing on my leg. The other boys didn’t notice anything, until it crowed, around 4:30. One of the boys sleepily got up and threw It out the window, then went back to sleep.  Looking back now, I can just laugh and laugh at that experience. At the time, I sure wanted to make that rooster into Duro wot (food made from chicken meat).

The actual Muslim celebration was a bit of a disappointment for me. As they did a lot of praying (muslim style) I opted to watch from a nearby tree. They just prayed a whole bunch, and then came home and ate a big dinner. I guess I expected more of a celebration. It was still really cool to see, and the food was excellent after.  Getting home proved to be tricky though. We had taken a public transport bus to the place, but could not find one that would take us back home. It got desperate enough that we had to bribe a cattle truck driver to let us ride in the back to Bulbulla and the main road, where we hooked up with a different taxi to get back to Ziway. After work on Monday, I did a lot of sleeping to make up for my sleepless, bugfull night in Jido.

Well everybody, thanks for the letters and updates from Utah this week!! I love hearing about what happens at home.

We are still looking for water solutions to the village’s problems. If anybody has any ideas, please let me know. We need to get that problem fixed before the dry season (starting mid-November). I am doing absolutely everything I can think of, and it really helps to have other people giving ideas. That goes for anything in our program. If you have ideas that you would be willing to share with me that would possibly help, I would absolutely love to hear them. Every idea helps.

Thank you again, and may God be with you always.

Bay’ee issiin jallaldha. Guuyaa garii qabu!!


Braden Fuller

One Response to “Day 93 in Ethiopia”

  1. trace skeen says:

    I enjoy hearing about your work with the fathers of Haleku. I’ve found a few young people in YSA 5th that know you and have good things to say. My wife and I look forward to meeting you when we come to Ethiopia in November in coordination with ARISE. Keep up the good work!

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