While we were in Addis we went to the museum, we walked through some of the shanty town areas, we visited the old orphanage, we drove through the Mercado, and we rode up to the top of Mount Entoto. None of it was particularly beautiful. Bustling and fascinating and crazy in many ways, and the food is unique and the people are beautiful and friendly, but Addis isn’t a lovely city in my opinion.
The drive up the mountain offered some different scenes, and I felt the living situations and villages along the way seemed happier, more open and clean, and without the crush of the urban environment.
But it wasn’t until we drove away from the city, South toward Sodo, that I got a true glimpse of the beauty of Ethiopia. Our drive was along the edge of the Great Rift Valley, and it has a distinctly African vibe. More agriculture, beautiful trees, a hilly landscape. The villages were much smaller, but seemed to be thriving, and the built hardscapes had a craftsmanship about them that wasn’t evident in the scrap-metal dwellings in the city. I couldn’t get enough of the scenery and the view, it was so beautiful and vast. There were pastoral towns with traditional huts, really so beautiful.
When we passed through small villages, lots of people walking and moving things from one place to another. Sheep, goats, donkeys employed carrying various burdens. Hand-built donkey carts and ‘wheelbarrows,’ lots of clever ways to move things.
Transportation is a major issue here. In fact, our costs for transportation are some of the highest expenses of our visit to Ethiopia. Vehicles are precious, gas is not so plentiful, roads are poor, distances are far. Our drive to Sodo was about 4.5 hours, plus an hour break for lunch. You cannot imagine the size of potholes our driver, Alazar, had a to avoid or creep through, not to mention the constant risk of hitting a person, an animal, or a “bajaj” which is a small three-wheeled motorized transport mechanism that serves as a taxi. It was a pretty exciting ride!
Sodo is larger than I expected. They have major water and power issues, but about 250,000 people. Check out motorcycles lined up for gas at the local station!
Sometimes we drive by this station and there is not a single vehicle anywhere…because they are out of gas!
Here’s a video of the drive through Sodo to our hotel, Lewi Resort:
I have to be honest, one of the greatest challenges of this part of our trip is that we don’t have a clear agenda. We are here to help at Uriyadi’s Village, but nothing is concrete except the grain feed on Christmas morning. We are also here to just expose our children to their home country and culture, which involves just being here. Walking around, taking it in, doing small tasks, spending time with friends, etc. For two type-A personalities, it’s actually a little unnerving and takes a lot of intentional focus on being present and supportive.
The best intro to the UV project is here.
We got to tour Uriyadi’s Village, and it is so very impressive what has been done here. The craftspeople who have carved this permaculture landscape out of the property, and those who have built the locally-appropriate houses and buildings here, I just commend them all. It’s lovely, it’s clean and healthy, they have a place for all of the important functions of home and childcare. Can you imagine achieving something like this in Africa? I’m honored to call Jennifer Crooks a friend, and I think what she and her family and her team are doing here is really exactly what it is intended to be: The best case scenario for orphaned and at-risk children when adoption is no longer an option. It’s rare to see a project come together to achieve its intended goals, but especially rare when the deck is stacked against you politically, culturally, financially, physically, and geographically. And somehow, they have done it. The Crooks’ tenacity, perseverance, and unwavering dedication are truly admirable.