Last Update Letter from Ethiopia

Hello everybody! This is my last update letter from Ethiopia. After this letter, if you want an update you will have to call me!!:)
So much has happened here in the last few days that i’m not quite sure how I can write it all!! I will just try to go in chronological order and see if I can remember everything that has been happening in such a whirlwind.
I will start with last thursday. After an excellent fathers workday (in which we finished leveling the soccer stadium, as well as began installing a drip irrigation system in the village fruit trees) I took a little vacation to a place called Wando-Ganet. This was an amazing place. It is a quiet little village outside of Shashemene that is surrounded by fields of sugar cane and banana plantations. I can hardly believe that a place this green could exist barely an hour (by car) from Haleku. On the edge of the town is a hotspring (much like crystal springs back home) that comes out of the mountain. Man it sure felt good so soak in some hot water. I never really felt like I missed hot water, as Ziway is so fetchin hot all the time, but when I got into that pool my body was like “ahhhhhhhh” for 30 minutes.

While we are on the subject of temperature, I should mention that Ethiopia as a country is completely obsessed with hot drinks. It really took me back the first time I ordered a coke at the restaurant, and the lady asked me if I wanted it hot or cold. Lots of ethiopians around my area will not touch anything that is cold, which is so odd because its usually so hot outside.


Friday morning there was a big celebration in Haleku. It was my “goodbye party” and it was really fun, despite the heavy rain that forced the whole village into the one room schoolhouse. There was a small ceremony, in which I was fed Dabo and Coke. Ethiopian culture holds that if a person feeds another person by their hand, then it is a sign of big respect. I almost choked myself to death, it is a little difficult to drink pop when the village elder is pouring it down your throat.
After the ceremony, the village elders and Kabele (village leadership, voted in by the village and usually around the age of 30-50) presented me with a traditional Oromo blanket/robe thing and a Horse quirt. It was really special to get gifts from this village, especially since I have seen their poverty firsthand. It is always amazing to me how much ethiopian people share with eachother, even when they have almost nothing themselves. I think they are a great example that the world should follow. They really do love their neighbor.
After I was given the gifts, the fathers lit a fire and warmed up a drink made from fermented honey and water. After everybody had drank their fill, I said goodbye and left Haleku for the last time. Leaving those guys was really hard, as i don’t know if I will ever get to see them again. They all cheered me on as I left the village. I will never forget those people. They are so special to me.


* In somewhat of a funny note, the gift that the fathers gave me is actually traditional wear for a young man who is going to get married. I later learned from Dureti that the original plan was that the clothes were to be accompanied by a wife, a daughter of one of the fathers!! Haha I’m still shaking my head over this one. I really felt like something off the “the other side of heaven”. The even funnier part is that Dureti told them I couldn’t have a wife, because I already had a girl in the U.S. Their hilarious response was that “2 is really no problem, especially if you have some money to feed both”:) hahahaha oh dear. The adventures of Ethiopia. I guess Dureti did manage to finally convince them that I was not in need of a wife quite yet, but I would still appreciate the clothes.

I spent friday night at Teddy’s in Shashemene. I had a fun time roasting corn on some coals in his backyard, but got really tired and fell asleep on his couch. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I saw the biggest rat I have ever seen in my whole life chewing on my corncob. I named him “rasta-rat” (because I was in Shashemene, the Jamaican rastafarian town). When he finished picking at my corn, he scampered away. I think if our cat at home had seen this rat, he would have ran away.




Saturday morning I departed for Addis Ababa with Teddy. On the way, we picked up Germa. I will give you all a little background on Germa.
Germa is an 7 or 8 year old boy who was born with club feet. Due to his location (a village called Dole) when he was born there was no doctor to fix his feet. He looks pretty cute as he wobbles around in his little plastic boots.
I have been in contact with Germa’s family for a few months now. A family in the U.S. who visited Dole earlier this year offered to pay for him to visit a hospital in Addis to have his feet fixed (apparently a very simple surgery). Over the past few months, I have been speaking with Germa’s family and the hospital, arranging everything so that he could go to the The hospital, and stay for the required 6-8 months recovery time. The last time I had passed Dole, (with a load of fruit trees from Negele) I had met with his mother and explained the whole situation. It was a very touching moment for me to watch her eyes fill with tears of gratitude and thanks as I explained that the doctor could make her son’s legs normal. To her, this was no less than a miracle like she had read about in the bible.
After experiencing this touching event, you can imagine my surprise when I pulled up to Dole on the previously selected day (September 8th). Teddy, who was driving, had barely stopped the car when Germa was handed to me, He had no papers, no immunization records, and to my most shock, no shirt. His mother just kindof murmered a thanks and goodbye and walked away. I can’t imagine handing my own child off to a complete stranger like that. I expected him to have at least some clothes and some food for the long journey…..All he had was a pair of the dirtiest shorts i have ever seen, and he was wide eyed and very scared.
Germa was absolutely thrilled to get to ride in the truck. He had never been in a car before (or at least thats what I could understand he was saying) and he loved it. I gave him a pack of cookies, which he promply threw up 30 minutes into the drive. I’m not sure if he was quite used to the sugar, and I also gave him some water that had been chilled in a shop’s refrigerator. Teddy said this makes kids from the villages sick sometimes. oops.
After a long drive, and several throw-ups later, we finally arrived in the Alemachen hospital. Much to our dismay, the guard greeted us and said that would not admit Germa until monday, because the office staff was not working now.


I do not think I have ever been more frusterated than at this point. I had warned the hospital months, weeks, and another reminder a couple days before that I was coming on a Saturday evening. Each time I was assured that there would be staff, and that it was no problem.
Oh well. I opted for plan B and took Germa to Jason’s house, where he spent the next two days playing with Jason’s boys and me around the Bring love in Compound. He had a lot of fun playing with the boys, who were so sweet and nice to him. I was especially moved by the way that they (boys that had spent their entire lives on the street with no parents or family) comforted little Germa when he cried for his mother. The only downside to the arrangement was there was no bed for Germa, so he slept on Jason’s floor with me. Unfortunately, being from a rural area, he had some of the nasty biting bugs on him that I have written about in my last letters. I really hate those things by the way. I had them get me for the next few days, but managed to kill all of them on a warm day with some permitherin spray.


When it was time to take Germa to the hospital on monday, I will have to admit I was pretty sad. Jason’s boys were disapointed that he had to leave too. He was really cute and had a really good attitude for a boy that small. I am still amazed a his mothers reaction, and the lack of …..well anything. I should mentioned that I asked his mother several times about his age. Each time she told me that she was not exactly sure how old he was. What a crazy difference from the U.S. world…….




Tuesday was the Ethiopian new year. Happy 2005 everybody!!:) I spent the day celebrating with Jason’s boys. We ate Duro Wot, Dabo, and drank “black juice” (grape coolaide). I also had fun taking them to a movie that night.
Jason’s boys really love the cinima theater, and although I was definately not impressed they all commented on how amazing movies looked on such a big screen, with such nice seats and sound. My favorite part of taking those boys to the movies is just to watch their faces. It was especially entertaining to me to see them watch the car chase scenes. They were bouncing up and down in their seats, yelling “Gobez!!” (good job) everytime the hero pulled off a tricky maneuver. What a fun experience.
Wendsday and Thursday were spent preparing to leave, and playing and having fun with Jason’s boys. This past week nights have been like a giant sleepover with a whole bunch of friends. The boys love to tell stories, laugh, and throw things at eachother. It really amazing to me that these boys were not too long ago sleeping on the streets and scrounging what food they could find from restaurants and other places. Jason truly does an amazing work with these boys. I am so sad to have to leave them, and I really regret not having more time to spend with them. Jason and I discussed several small buisness ideas for the older boys, who are facing a very scary world soon (the older ones are around 18-19 years old). I will be very interested to see what they all decide to do, and I really want to help all that I can. I see these boys, and I see myself a lot of the time. Just like me, I am so scared of my future. School, job, everything. I can only imagine being in these kids shoes. They have the same worries as me, but magnified so many times as they face a future that is so harsh and unforgiving. They are all so happy and very strong. I am confident that they will find something to become, but it will not be an easy road. They make my troubles and worries seem small and insignificant. 




Well, I guess that concludes it. I am writing this letter aboard the Ethiopian airlines bound for Washington D.C. Looking back on my time in Ethiopia leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of emotion. I can proudly say that I accomplished a lot. More than just the physical things, I learned the true benefits of service, in a place that is so desperate, but so full of a people who so willingly give it to one another. In this country, I was often overcome with feelings of helplessness. The suffering is so widespread, and it is so terribly awful. Some of the hardest days for me were the ones where I looked back on the day, and the things and people I saw. Sometimes, it felt like everything was crashing down on my shoulders, and it was way more than I could take. I had come here to help, but sometimes I wondered if I would ever make a difference. The problem was so huge and so widespread. How could I ever change anything, I’m just a kid from Utah. What could I do to help people that were quite literally in constant danger of starving to death if rain never fell?
When these feelings would catch me, something would always show me the good side of Ethiopia. I believe that it was Gods way of teaching me what is really important in life. To see the old lady that lives alone in her hut smile and her old eyes leak tears of gratitude as the fathers of the village planted her garden and fenced her crops from the animals showed me that happiness doesn’t come from things that we have. It is from the people around us, and our view of our own world. The quiet, strong faith that the people had in their heavenly father strengthened my testimony so much. To receive love from a boy who had never had anybody love him before is more precious to me than anybody could ever imagine.
To read the bible and book of mormon while living here was also simply amazing. So many new things were opened to me that previously I had had no idea were even in the scriptures. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for me personally has never been more clearly, terribly, and more gloriously manifested. In particular, the story where Jesus washes the feet of his desiples really touches me now. Walking around in the hot, dusty, dirty conditions that must have existed in Jerusalem has made me realize what a true act of friendship and love he performed that day. Not only was he washing away the dirt and filth of the street from the apostles feet, he was washing away the world’s incredible filth and mess from the apostles lives. He took it on himself to perform an act of incredible love to us all, and that is something that I will never be able to understand fully.


Thanks to everybody for writing me! Sometimes I just needed some english to be spoken to me, and hearing from home was so awesome. You are all great people, and have been so great to me! I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing family, friends, and neighbors.
Ati waqayoo wajiin yero hunduma. Waan Jabaadhu!!!

Braden Fuller




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