Monday, March 10, 2008

To Sodo and Back

CrazyMom, Anna, and I made an overnight trip south to Sodo.  This is the town that all three of our Ethiopian kids are from.  It was quite the adventure that can't be contained in the 400+ pictures that we took.  There were many aspects to the trip, but in this post I will focus primarily on the overarching impressions of rural Ethiopia.


When one travels out of Addis, there are several dominate things that you see.  The first is the people.  You get to see a lot of people because the road is a corridor of life.  People meet on the road, hang out on the road, carry critical supplies like water, food, and fuel on the road, sell their goods on the road, and use the road to drive their livestock to water.   You see men and boys as young as six bearing sticks and driving cattle or goats to water. You see donkeys in various states of health carrying loads of all kinds.  You see women and girls carrying wood or other supplies too heavy for their bodies.  You see children on the way to or from their 1/2 day of school.  You see babies wrapped tightly on the backs of their mothers or sisters.  You see many, many, many people looking for a ride. 


It is hard not to reflect on how much effort these people expend getting unsafe drinking water to their homes and how little effort it takes for me to turn on a faucet.  Imagine walking miles to a creek carrying a child on your back just to dip water into your dirty yellow jug while others are bathing and doing laundry nearby. 


The houses the people live in also stand out.  You see a lot of the traditional round thatch-covered huts called gojobets.  The sides are made of sticks put into the ground close together.  The nicer ones have been covered with a mud/straw mixture to keep out the elements.  The nicest ones have been painted on the outside with warm earth tones or some even had paintings of animals.  Most of these homes have established their compound by setting up some sort of boarder of rocks or sticks in the ground.  I have seen many picturesque photos of these huts nestled in the hills overlooking a valley.  While they may be picturesque, the reality of living in one without running water anywhere nearby is much different.  In addition to the traditional round homes, some of the homes had the same building materials but were in the more modern rectangle shape.  The nicer homes had tin roofs.


Every so often you pass through a rural town that in some ways reminds one of America - a main drag through a small town with a cluster of shops and stores.  Every once in awhile there is an eye popping nice building that is multi story with glass windows that seemed a little out of place.


The road was pretty good most of the way.  They are working hard at paving it and there are only a few miles left to be paved.  A trip that we heard takes seven to eight hours only took us six on the way down (due to a lack of signs on a poor detour) and 5.5 hours on the way back.  When the road is done the trip could be done in five hours or less.


Another overarching impression is that of dust.  It is currently the dry season here and there is a fine, ever present and always penetrating dust in the air.  It gets into your nose, your eyes, your mouth, your hair, and your camera.  It floats around the inside of the vehicle and settles on everything.  One of the first things CrazyMom and I did when we returned was to take a long, hot shower.  While we were able to get a room in Sodo's nicest hotel ($11 a night), there was no water available.


Finally, I was impressed with the beauty of the country - the rolling hills, the mountains, the Acacia trees, and all of the farmland.  It was truly gorgeous.  And despite the tough life of many of the people, I witnessed far more smiles than any other expression.  This journey will certainly be one of the highlights of our trip to Ethiopia.


Sophie said...

I have been a lurker on your blog for awhile and am fascinated by your Soddo trip. I will be spending 2 1/2 months there this summer working at Soddo Christian Hospital. Did you go there at all? I would love to hear anything you have to say about the town, the people, the safety, etc... sen18 at hotmail dot com

Lisa W. said...

Wow! Wonderfully written account of your trip. The contrast of beauty of the land and the poverty is hard to file,isn't it? And how the smiles are ever present. All the best, your whole family is just precious and little Anna, oh my goodness. I just want to squeeze her.
Hugs and blessings,

Sherry said...

What a wonderful visual that was, thank you! I would also like to plan a trip down to our new children's former home. I am not sure yet which village or town they are from, but it is something of their heritage and past that I would treasure forever. I will decide more about this as the time to pick them up approaches.

Susan said...

I just wanted to say thank you for this detail!
My sister and I are leaving for Ethiopia in less than three weeks, and while there is a wealth of info online on Addis, we are traveling to the southern region (including Sodo) and have found no info!
(She is a social worker at an agency and we are visiting various NGOs in the southern region in addition to orphanages in Addis Ababa)

Thanks again!