As we made our way through the visa line and then through customs, I began to wonder if I had any idea of what Ethiopia was like. This building was big, soaring ceilings, glass and beams, very modern-industrial architecture. The women were all dressed beautifully; makeup, high heels, jewelry, big fancy bags . . . There were many kids running around. It was hard to tell who their parents were because everyone was so friendly to one another. . . like they were all family.
Once we got through customs we headed to find our contact person from CHSFS. As we headed through a doorway packed with people, I got a little nervous. I asked Jud how in the world we were ever going to find our ride. . . . than a man looked up at us and held up a CHSFS sign. He found us out of the crowd with no problem. I guess we stuck out a little.
There was another family in our travel group that was on our flight, so we waited for them and then walked out to the van. Outside of this large airport there were many more people, talking and laughing. We made our way through a big gravel parking lot. . . cars were parked anywhere they fit, including up on the median and right in front of other parked cars.
We got to the back of the parking lot, loaded our bags in one van and then climbed into the CHSFS bus. Our driver told us that the other flight with the rest of the travel group was going to be arriving in a few minutes so we could wait in the bus while he went in to get them.
We waited in the bus for about an hour and a half. . . a little small talk with the other family, but mostly waiting in silence. Just listening to the barking of the stray dogs who were roaming the parking lot.
Once the other families were on the bus, we headed to the CHSFS guest house.
The drive was haunting.
It was dark.
There were many little makeshift shacks on the side of the road. . . tarps, plastic bags, wood, metal sheets. .. peoples homes.
We saw many people just sitting on the side of the road. . .some huddled together. some alone. some very young. some very old.
Many, many dogs walking around through the streets.
As we approached the guest house, there were gates, cinder block walls. Barbed wire on top of the fences.
It was surreal.
The bus backed into the guest house, through the solid metal gate, and past the guard.
We unloaded our bags, found our rooms and collapsed.