OCT '11 - Ethiopia Contrasts

An African and Arab lineage makes for handsome boys and beautiful girls, as my eastern African friends have been happy to explain to me. 

Children in Addis Ababa greet and entertain the stranger in their neighborhood.  As is often the case, the poor are gracious and welcoming, the rich, not so much unless you're part of their rich world.

Children gather to greet me; one cheerful fellow invited me home to meet his family.

The boy's family, tolerant of their son (left) bringing home a tourist, tells me about the plants and trees nearby. They wont let me pay for the privilege of taking pictures.  The walls of their house are made from mud and straw; seems to work well. The boy is a natural leader/organizer. Wonder who he'll be in a decade.  Hope he gets a chance.

In the center of the city, slum areas are under pressure by the government.  Construction projects compete for space as the city grows. 

I'm told that virtually all the construction projects in the city are owned by 30 wealthy families.  The gap between rich and poor is huge.

Squatters living in traditional areas are systematically being forced to relocate to similar slum areas on the edge of the city.  If they can raise the money, they can move into government housing projects, but few do.

I have friends here, a precious family who welcomed me a couple of years ago.  We do our best to lend a hand, but it is difficult to do anything that makes a long-term difference.

I've been offered many children for adoption by parents who are struggling to give their kids a better future than the one they see.

Breakfast at my luxury hotel gives a startling contrast to the home I visited just a few minutes prior.  A day's stay here costs almost a year's income for the folks just across the street.  Conversations in the room are about business initiatives, international politics, and lavish living.

Just across the street from my hotel, a grandmother invites me home to meet her family.  Toddler holds on to my leg as we walk together.  She put her little foot on top of mine for a moment, perhaps to compare sandals and toes.  She pulled one of my toes experimentally and laughed.

At grandma's simple hut, and with the help of a university student who translated for me, she explains that she has seven children in her home.  Daughters have died, fathers have deserted, leaving her with the burden of caring for the children, one of whom is completely disabled.  She runs a little kiosk selling candy and some vegetables in order to survive.  We chip in to help things along.

Perhaps the high point for my few days in Addis Ababa (the city name means 'new flower'), was time with kids, just playing a little soccer, telling stories, meeting mom and dad.  Every smile in a difficult world is a treasure.

Kids here pose for one of many pictures they took with my camera.  I have multiple versions of this one as each one wanted a turn with the camera. 

A child's needs are simple.  Family, safety, health, food, shelter, clothes, and perhaps most importantly, an education that provides basic skills and equips them for decision making.  If we could find a way to do so, we'd love to help all these families to pursue just that.  My evangelical friends would include preaching the gospel.  They're right that the broken world can't be fixed without fixing our relationships with our Father and each other. 

Many of the folks here are serious Christians with whom I've been honored to pray.  They pray for me, they tell me.  Some are Muslim too, and have received me graciously.  Their needs are equally great, their parents equally appreciative of a helpful friend.

On a Skype call home, my wife asks me if it was worth it to make the not inexpensive side-trip here.  I don't know the answer yet; perhaps something will develop.

HA!!  This is the collection the kids took with my camera.  A momentary diversion from street soccer, I suppose.  Lots of laughing and jostling for position and posing involved.  Everybody wanted a turn.  Click on the photo to see the original size.

A one day layover in Addis gave me a chance to return to this neighborhood and say hello.

It's Sunday and everybody is in their Sunday best.  I delivered prints of all the photos from October, got to chat with kids and parents.  Nice folks; treated me like an old friend.

These kids are the fortunate ones.  They live in a pretty safe village, they get to eat and to go to school.  They're blessed.