Saturday, July 11, 2009

Going to Hosanna

Beth had to return to Minneapolis to get her fall school schedule set up and find a job to pay the tuition, but Sosi came with me to Hosanna for the next two weeks. Her father was born here and she has aunts and cousins living here. Hosanna is 100 kilometers from the village of Emdeber, where I taught as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1966.

Soso’s father was one of the boys who walked from Hosanna to Emdeber to continue in school because Hosanna had no secondary school at that time. The Hosanna boys needed a place to live in Emdeber so each Peace Corps volunteer hired three of them to do chores for us and in return we gave them room and board and 10 birr per month. My three students, including Sosi’s future father who was sixteen years old then, shopped in the local outdoor market, cooked my food, washed dishes, made coffee, even brought me an orphan puppy so I would have a dog as the other volunteers had. After I left Ethiopia, Sosi’s father had gone on to university and became an English teacher in an Addis Ababa secondary school, married and had five children. I had visited his family in 1993, a month after Sosi was born and so they called her y,Katy lege (Kathy’s child). But when Sosi was nine years old, her father died and the family has never recovered from their loss. I’m hoping that by connecting with her father’s birth place, his relatives and the beauty and friendliness of Hosanna will give her happy thoughts of the father she still mourns.

We went by bus,of course, even though I had vowed never to travel on one again. I had no choice. I’d promised the REAL girls in Hosanna that I’d start teaching tomorrow and we couldn’t find any one driving that way in a comfortable vehicle. This bus had only one mishap but it was a big one. The right front tire went bad and we had to stop and get a new one put on. After waiting hours in a small town, I began negotiating with a mini-van driver to take us the rest of the way to Hosanna but our fellow bus passengers pleaded with me to wait. The vans were dangerous, they said, easily stopped by thieves who wouldn’t hesitate to rob even a fereng so we waited with the others and finally got to Hosanna in the evening.

The REAL mentor, Workenesh, was anxiously waiting for us. She speaks English very well, introduced us to everyone at the Synod, and hurried us to the guest house to settle in. What a beautiful house with its blooming flower gardens on all sides and tiny blue birds flitting from blossom to blossom. The house is huge: five bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen with all functioning appliances, a dining room and living room with a TV! We hardly had time to take it all in before we were whisked away to supper with all the Synod elders. Six men, Workenesh, Sosi and I sat around the table introducing ourselves, trying to get acquainted. Obvious to all of us, the youngest “elder,” Abel, head of the church’s youth program, was smitten with beautiful Sosi and I wondereded what these next two weeks will bring.

They asked what we wanted to eat and I said I could eat whatever they were having. After all, I proudly said, showing off, I’d been here before and was accustomed to spicy Ethiopian food. It turned out this restaurant had only one dish – kitfo - raw meat with spiced butter. Oops, I had forgotten that is Ethiopians’ favorite food. Surely they had something else for me? Oh, yes, cooked meat, tibs. Assuming that was the kind of fried beef with peppers I was used to in Minneapolis’ Ethiopian restaurants, I was reassured. It wasn’t. This tibs was the same raw ground beef as kitfo only lightly cooked to a pale gray color. Having no choice, I ate small bits in large pieces of enjera (bread) so as to fill up with the least amount of meat.

Without Beth, Sosi and I shared one bedroom. She still doesn’t talk to me much except to answer my questions. Now she has put in the earphones to the MP3 player I brought her and holds tightly to the cell phone, waiting for a call, probably from Abel.