The girls adore Sosi. As soon as class ends, they are out the door together, Sosi with my camera, and I don’t see her ‘til supper time back at the guest house. I could go with them but I know they are running and playing and talking in Amharic and telling each other teen-age girl secrets. They need Sosi now, not me. Sosi has found a place and a purpose for herself here. She is the older sister, the worldly-wise one from the big city who gives advice: “Don’t go out with boys. Stay in school, graduate, go to university, have a career, have a life. Don’t marry and have children too soon.” She also shows them the latest hair styles and how to dress the way sophisticated Addis girls do, and tells them what to say to boys who flirt with them! If I did nothing else worth while on this trip, bringing Sosi and the REAL girls together is worth it all.
This evening, though, I’m as worried as any mother because it’s dark and Sosi isn’t back yet. It gets dark exactly at 6:30 so it’s not late, but she doesn’t have a flashlight and she’s never been this late before. The girls don’t have phones so there’s no one to call. I walked the long path to the main road and stood at the Synod gate looking anxious, hoping someone would come and ask me, “Are you looking for Sosi? I will get her for you.” But no one did so I came back, afraid to stay out alone in the dark because I know there are hyenas out there in the woods and I am as terrified of them as I was forty years ago. I tell myself she’s O.K.; she’s one of them, speaks the language, has relatives here, everyone knows who she is. Still I worry and pray. It’s 8:00 p.m. when she finally gets home. I hug her close while trying to be angry. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick!” She laughs but apologizes. “Berhane’s mother wanted me to stay and eat supper with them.” Sosi knew that to refuse would have been unpardonably rude so she had to stay – besides, she wanted to. She would have liked to stay over night but had no way to call and ask me. I realized how lonely she must be with only me in the house. She’s used to her big family, her friends and neighbors popping in at any time, the store across from her house where everyone shops and gossips. I know she loves me but, let’s face it, I’m not as much fun as another teen-age girl.