Monday, August 2, 2010

Eyasu, the Watchguards and the Shoe Shine Boys

Matthew 25:40
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

We had a lot of time on the bus the day we went to Wolisso(day 8),so we had a lot of time to talk. We talked a lot as a group with our guides, Bizrat and Maste. They were our lifeline to anything and everything getting accomplished here on our trip. They were our translators, our tour guides, our mapquest sources, and best of all--our friends! There were 4 Ethiopian men that were with us on our bus each day-- the bus driver, our 2 guides and one guy that stayed on the bus to watch our belongings while we were at our stops. I had noticed, along with many others, that the young guy who watched over our things had worn the same clothes each day. He was really tall, young and extremely thin. You kind of get used to seeing that Ethiopians are thin; alot of them seem to be under weight due to not having much. The young man's name is Eyasu. Eyasu is quiet and keeps to himslf, but there are times on our trip that I catch him dancing when the driver turns on the music, when he thinks no one is looking! He LOVES to dance and this is all I really knew about him up until this 8th day. We began to ask him to dance some more and by this long ride to Wolisso, he was coming a little more out of his shell. He spoke hardly any English, so I guess this is why we hadn't gotten to know him better until now.

We asked our guides to translate his "story" for us if he was willing to share. EVERYONE here has a story of hardship that is unbelieveable and of course his was so sad as well. Eyasu told us that he was from the countryside, 4 or 5 hours away from Addis. His mother and father were both dead and he had a younger brother who lived with his uncle. He had come to the city to find work and had found this job watching our belongings on the bus. This job was to last a month or so, then he would return home. He had gone to school for a while, but had not finished. His younger brother is currently in school. I am guessing this young man to be about 17-20 years of age. It is VERY hard here to guestimate an Ethiopians age. Because of the malnourishment here, they all look a lot younger than they really are. At the same time they look older because they have all lived such a hard life. Anyways, our guide told us that the bus driver pays him very little. We asked our guide to find out where he was living, since he lived so far away. He replied that he lived on the bus. This is where he slept after we went home to dinner and a good nights sleep at our Guest Home. It had been so cold and wet and I think we were all in shock. These are examples of how we just assumed he had a bed to sleep. Life is much harder for here for everyone. I am sure he didn't even have a blanket. I am not sure what he ate, or if he ate dinner. We fed him lunch everyday on the bus, so we at least knew he ate that meal. There were a few days that I offered him my leftovers, and he gladly accepted it. All of this is just so hard to imagine. He NEVER complained! He really seemed to light up that we were taking an interest in his story. I felt bad that we didnt get to know him better earlier in our trip. He seemed so happy and I am pretty sure he felt like he was becoming part of our group.

We invited Eyasu to dinner (with the bus drivers permission), along with our guides. We also asked him WHAT he would like to do with his life. He told us he would like to be a mechanic. He really enjoyed his dinner with us and he ate 2 bowls of soup and a peanut butter sandwich.( Robby had packed a jar of peanut butter on the trip and I can tell you that our tripmates were often glad to see that American peanut butter!) After dinner we asked him if he would like to shower? When we asked him this, he wept. Our guides told us that he had NEVER seen a house as nice as the one we were staying in. Kelly, one of my tripmates from Clarksville, took him upstairs to show him how to work the shower. I can not begin to descibe how much dirt and sand was in the bottom of our shower afterwards. He didn't get in with his shoes, but a 1/2 inch of dirt and sand had washed off of his body. Nick, my new rapper from Arizona, gave him some of his clothes to wear. We scrambled to find shoes and a toothbrush! Eyasu looked so great after our Ordinary Hero makeover!!!

Eyasu loved his new clothes and he smelled so good! He was beyond happy and he just kept hugging us, saying thank you and I love you! It was hard to not just bawl right there. It was very emotional for him and for us. We gave him a rather large collection that I am sure he will take home to his family. I hope he uses some of it for his dream to become a mechanic. He is such a lovely boy. I am so glad we got to know him and I pray for him! We had to give him his gift in secrecy. Remember the other day when I told you about the gift that we gave Nathan's mom? She also had to hide it from her employer so that she would be able to continue work there. Same thing applies here. If the driver knew that he received this gift, then he may unemploy the boy or refuse to pay him. It sounds harsh, but this is just the way it is here. We were happy to make this child of God smile, to know that he is loved and to know that he is special! I hope somehow today, we changed the life for one!

After all this happend, I started to wonder who were those in need that I had possibly overlooked on this trip? I made a note to pay close to those on my own that were maybe overlooked on this trip.

We stayed in 2 houses and there were nightguards that stayed outside of our homes all night, every night. We realized by the end of the trip that they slept on the front porch watching over our home as we slept comfortably. They also wore the same clothes everyday and didn't really have anything that looked very warm or weatherproof on their bodies. It was cold and rained all the time. We gave a large tip to the guesthome as a group that would be divided among the help when we left. I couldn't help but think these men would get the smallest cut, if any of the cash tip we had left. The last day I was there, I handed them some birr and said thank youfor watching our home. They were so grateful and enveloped me in a large bear hug! There is so much love here in this place. They have so little and they but they are some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. They are so gracious and so thankful for the tiniest acts of love. I am so grateful to have been on this trip and experienced God's love like this.

With all this mud that we wallowed in day in and day out, our shoes were beyond a disaster. The second day of our trip, the men with our group ventured out one early morning to take in the sites and smells of Addis. They found shoe shine boys that charged 3 birr for a shoe shine. When we met them for breakfast that morning, we were all in shock. It looked as if someone had given them NEW shoes!There all the girls were standing there in their mud caked tennis shoes and the guys were prancing around with their new clean shoes!!! From that point on we were hooked on the shoe shine! We gave the boys 10 birr instead of 3 ( 80 cents approximatley),some new shoes, a new shirt, some crackers and/or a small toy. Now let me tell you what happens when you do this. The next morning as you leave the guesthome to go to breakfast you walk out of the gate to find 5 or 6 shoe shine boys WAITING on you!!! :) We were always in need of their services and they were in need of the birr so it was a win/win for all of us!!

These boys were (again guessing an age?) maybe 5-7 years of age. They didn't complain, just went right to work and were so appreciative of our tips! The day of our last shoe shine these boys got 100 birr from me and Robby! I am sure they made more money this week than they were accustomed too and I was glad to be a part of their smiles!

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