Thanks to the advice of Morgan, a fellow adoptive mom who, along with her mother, stayed at Layla last year as a volunteer and then shared reams of wonderful insight with the rest of us, Charles and I hired Befakadu to guide us through the Mercado today. I’m so glad we did.
The Mercado covers approximately four kilometers square of streets, alleyways and indoor pavilions. There are sections for everything from souvenirs and antiques to fabric and clothing, to car parts, to spices and dried goods, you name it.
Befakadu helped us look for specific gifts, even bartering on our behalf for good prices.
Then he took us through the recycling area, which is so fascinating. Narrow cobbled alleyways with people all around us bending rebar into shapes, cutting pipes, hammering sheet metal, welding, etc. It is an unbelievable amount of activity and one gets the impression that nothing goes to waste. Charles pointed out that in one area men were pounding pieces of mangled rebar into 16-foot straight bars for resale.
In one doorway in the recycling area, this kitten was tied by a leather cord.
We saw a recycling truck arrive while we were there, it’s payload walls bulging at unlikely angles with scrap metal and discarded pieces and parts. The driver did about a five-point turn in the middle of a crowd of people…some carrying heavy loads on their heads, others carrying six comatose chickens in each hand, still others just trying to maneuver out of the way. Total sensory overload. Lots of diesel exhaust, smells of spices, donkey dung, sour cheese, and sewer water, all mingled together. A couple of people beseeched me to take their photo…all young-ish men. Here’s one:
Others yelled at me and waved me away with a scowel for pointing the camera in their direction.
Over and over we heard funny versions of “How you doin?” or “You, You!” or the most charming: “Welcome!” In places where they had indoor spaces with goods they wanted us to consider: “Get inside!”
It was beautiful, exhausting, filthy, and inspiring, and it was definitely something we needed to experience. We followed it up with a breezy, fresh lunch at Blue Top where Befakadu joined us. One quick stop back at Kebre Gidan, a favorite shop in the Churchill area, and we were on our way back to the hotel to re-pack the stored bags one last time.
I’m writing this over a machiato at our hotel’s restaurant before we head over to Layla to drop off some donations and see if the lawyer there has any other timing information for us on the next step of our adoption. We’ll stick to the office, as we already said goodbye to the children yesterday and we’ve been feeling like our extended stay has just crossed over to the point where it might be doing more harm than good. We might not be able to resist having someone bring Eliana out for us for one last snuggle…she’s not going to remember this anyway!
We are so happy to be going home, and at the same time so sad to not be bringing Alex, Melkam and Eliana home with us. Many of the other children at Layla have touched our hearts deeply; this has been by far the most emotionally exhausting travel experience we’ve ever had! We look forward to everything we take for granted in the US, to seeing our friends and family and our dog, to playing in the snow and eating our favorite foods and brushing our teeth with tap water. We have our work cut out for us, preparing for this life-changing event when we return to Ethiopia in a few months and bring three kids home with us. For now, a very fond farewell to Ethiopia!