Way FAST Runner, Great FRIEND

(July 29, 2012)

Hey Everybody!!! How is everybody’s summer going? I haven’t written for a while because I have been so busy the past couple weeks I really haven’t had time. I have been dashing around southern Ethiopia finding items ranging from Mango trees to computer modems. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, but I got quite a bit done.

Weather in Ethiopia the past little bit has been very wet. It rains (I think a better description is water is hurled at the ground with an almost violent force) almost every day. Two days ago there was a huge storm in Haleku, the project village. The villagers straw roofs were inadequate to hold back the huge amountss of rain, and many fled to the school (metal roof) and nearest town of Adami Tullu, approx. 4 km away. The rain caused a minor disaster for some of the people in the village. Because the houses are made from mud/straw/cowpies with straw thatching, if the thatching is inadequate to holding the water back, the walls just kind of “melt”. They are easily repaired but you can only imagine the poor kids inside during the storms.

Even though this rain was such a disaster for these families, you will never hear them complain about it. The result of the rain is absolutely beautiful. The sandy, desert wasteland that Haleku Village was 2 weeks ago is now looking more like a tropical jungle now. I can hardly believe that it is the same place.  I will admit I had some serious doubts as I watched the Haleku farmers plant their corn seeds into what looked like a Saint George sand dune. The corn has grown over a foot this week, so I guess something is working. Maybe it was the goats that were sacrificed? The village mood has also changed this week. A few weeks ago, walking into the village you would see men sitting around, and children playing games in the sand. You see none of that now. Each and every person in the village is in the fields keeping the weeds from killing their precious crops. The fathers of the village, whom which our program focuses on are especially impressing me with their care for their families.  Their concern for the future of their children is a bond that is shown so clearly and deeply only if you are looking for it. For the first bit I was in Ethiopia, it was easy for me to see the fathers of the village as semi-selfish and lazy. It seemed to me that they held more care for their cows than their own children’s future. However, as I watch the fathers struggle day in and day out plowing the land, I have begun to see something different. The hard looks the fathers have on their faces are full of concern for their family’s future…all dependent on this year’s crop. The reason they care about their cows so much is because their cows are their children’s future. It’s so humbling being among men of such caliber of caring, so easily mistaken by me for a roughness and indifference to their families desperate situation. What a wrong assumption to make. I recently had the opportunity to sit down in the house of one of these fathers, and speak with him. His frame, so skinny but so strong, arms covered in veins bursting from his sun-blackened skin from plowing all day. The concern was evident in his eyes as he spoke about his children and wife. I can only hope to care for my future family with the strength that he cares for his. What a great example and great person to meet.

Ethiopia HouseholdDuring my travels this week, I had the opportunity to spend a little time in a town called Shashemene. Haha it is now by far my most favorite town in Ethiopia. The first time I visited Sheshamene, it scared me a little bit. The town is a little…..noisy and rugged. A little background on Shashemene for you guys who want a little history lesson (if not skip this paragraph). For those who know all this stuff, excuse my incorrect facts. I picked up what I couldJ A long while ago, there was a big drought in Jamaica. The people in Jamaica were desperately praying for rain to end the drought. The king of Ethiopia during this time decided to visit Jamaica. Just as he landed his plane, rain came and ended the drought. Lots of Jamaicans then decided Haile Salase, King of Ethiopia was some kind of god because he had brought the rain. Those who believed this began worshiping him, and called themselves Rastafarians. Bob Marley is probably the most famous Rastafarian in the world. Lots of Rastafarians ended up moving to Ethiopia and most live in the town of Shashemene. Who would’ve thought there is a huge group of Jamaicans living in the Horn of Africa?

So, due to the large number of Rastafarians in Shashemene, it is abundant in three things….Marijuana, the best Reagea I have ever heard, and very happy, don’t you worry people. Add that to the fact that I was there on Haile Salase’s birthday and you can understand why it was so fun to see. I passed on all the smokes offered to the “White brother” but I did buy a Regea CD from a dude with dreads hanging all the way down his back. Even though I was only there for a few hours, it was definitely an experience for the kid from Northern Utah.

With all the rain, I had a new member move into my house!! Haha it’s small enough that it can get through your mosquito net, you can’t quite see it to smack it.  It’s clear colored, and likes to bite the crap out of your feet!! I can honestly say I have never had a worse roommate. That includes Trae who likes to sing and talk in his sleep. I have never directed so much hate at any living creature on earth than this little gnat thing. In Oromo, the name is “Bimbii”. Sometimes at home we wonder why Noah kept the Mosquitos. I would take 500 mosquitos to one of these little dudes. I have recently been soaking my feet in Deet before bed and that seems to keep them off me for a few hours. Why they only go for my feet is a mystery…

All the bimbiis in the world couldn’t make me hate living here though. The kids in my “neighborhood” have learned my sleeping and working habits. Every time I step out of my house there is an excited shout of “Forenji!! Forenjii!!” All the kids come running and give me a hug. A couple of the oldest boys of the group and I have special handshake greetings. These kids are so great. They love eachother and me and they hardly know me. I haven’t ever given any of them money or candy…I learned the hard way a long time ago that that is not the way to go. Their spirits are so sweet, so precious. It’s no wonder that the Savior called the children up to be nearest to him. The innocence and purity of kids is never manifested as greatly as it is on the nasty, dirty, slime covered streets of Ziway, Ethiopia. Haha I spent like 3 hours the other day blowing bubbles for about 100 kids to chase as they floated up and down the street. I got so lightheaded I was sure I was going to pass out but seeing their smiles and squeals of joy as they chased the bubbles made me keep going and going.BradenKidsEthiopia7-12

Today I had an especially cool experience. I spent the day with a kid named Kababa. I have known Kababa for a while now, and we have been good friends since my first visit to Kersa. A little history on Kababa. Kababa is a 19 year old aspiring distance runner who has been trying since age 16 to make it big. He has been very very close. He runs a consistent 14 minute 5k and recently placed 15th in an all of Ethiopia 5k race. He runs 30 km every day, (15 morning 15 at night) and runs up a local mountain on the weekends. Everything about his body speaks distance running. Today, at his house I got a little more of his personal story, something I have not had the opportunity of hearing before. He shared this story with me, and several other people in Tariku’s house in Kersa.

Braden Kababa

Braden, Eth. runner, Dr. Rob, and Kababa (on the right) after a 14 minute 5k

At age 17, Kababa knew he was good enough to win races and become a professional distance runner. He ran some local races and made a big enough impact to be invited to some bigger ones. His extremely poor family sacrificed a lot to get him to one of these races, where he blew away the competition and won a gold medal. After his win, he was approached by a “scout” who told him he was good enough to go international. This person told him that he would take Kababa to Japan and train him to be an international runner. The man told him that he would have to pay 5,000 birr to get him to Japan, where he would be part of a running club and have the chance to go big. Kababa discussed the matter with his family, who quickly sold their cow and ox to pay the man for a plane ticket and get Kababa a passport. While Kababa was full of dreams of lifting his whole village out of poverty through his race winnings (a common practice for extremely good Ethiopian runners), the man whom Kababa trusted took his gold medal, his passport, and his family’s 5,000 birr and disappeared. Kababa, who felt like he could not face his family with the news that he had lost their livelihood, ran away from his home and ended up living with Tariku, who works with Village of Hope in Kersa. One of the girls with me asked Kababa “Are you going to go see your family ever?” I think time froze. I’ll never forget this scene as long as I live. Tears dripped from Kababa’s eyes as he whispered “Hin danda’uu” the Oromo expression for I can’t.  Kababa feels that he cannot face his family until he at least can prove that he is capable of running fast enough to win money to buy his families oxen back. He says that this is Gods plan for him to become a great runner. His determination is fueled by his want to take care of his village. He says every time he is running and he begins to feel pain, he sees the man’s face that took his money. He says it makes him run faster. He has faith that he will make it. He says he knows that this is God’s plan for him. His loss of his family’s cattle was a setback that was supposed to happen to fuel him along.

Wow, what an amazing story and testimony builder to hear from one of my friends. I look back on events in my life that sometimes made me wonder about Gods plan for me. Why did some things happen for some people, and not others? I often catch myself wondering “why me?” why can’t I catch a break and win that scholarship like that kid did? I know it sounds stupid, but finishing my high school year of football was the hardest thing in the world for me to do. My Junior year we lost in the state championship by 1 point in double overtime. I had an outstanding game that day, and after that game and through my senior year I thought that I would be playing college football this coming fall. However, through my senior year a series of events which included injury, frustration, and a final loss in the first round of the playoffs proved that I would not be getting the scholarship I had hoped for. After that loss, ill admit my faith was shaken a little bit. I had always been a good kid, I didn’t smoke, drink or swear like some of the other kids did on the team. I often avoided the after game parties even though they would have been really fun.  Why did the bad things have to happen to me? I had the talent, and I had worked hard enough. So why did these things not happen like they were supposed to?

I found my answer halfway across the world, in Ethiopia. How can I even think about what I didn’t get when there are people like Kababa in this world? Kababa’s thoughts were not on himself, they were for the good of his family and village.  Why do bad things happen to good people? I think the answer is, to try their faith. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. That is for sure the case here in Ethiopia. I can only hope to become as strong as Kababa in believing in my Gods plan for me.

Sorry this letter turned out a little long. Hope everybody is doing well!!
Braden Fuller

(p.s. interjection from Braden’s mom: we are trying to round up enough money to feed Kababa for a few months and send him to school where he will be close enough to run daily.  If you’d like to help, please contact me:  Kababa placed 3rd academically in his class for 7th grade and would like to enter 8th in a few weeks.  I sent new running shoes and a running outfit to him last week.  He loved them.  Hopefully he can run even faster now.)

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