When we arrived at the orphanage Wednesday morning, we brought with us two suitcases filled to the brim with donations...clothes, crocs, cloth diapers, blankets, socks, sweaters and more. After meeting our daughter and basking in the wonders of our first coffee ceremony, we told the orphanage director that friends and family had donated financially and we wanted to be able to purchase items in which the orphanage was in need. I told her the amount and she smiled.
We made plans to meet at a frequented (by her) market/grocery store.
The plans played out yesterday and we experienced yet another perspective-changing, touching, emotionally raw, humbling afternoon.
Just before 3pm we were picked up by G, our Rep on the ground in Ethiopia. He took us to the pre-chosen purchasing area and we met up with the orphanage director, E. (I realize most of you may know their names but I feel it's important to maintain privacy, so I will leave them as is.)
I wish I had been able to take photos inside the store but it wasn't really seemingly appropriate so I held off. The store was tiny...maybe 14x14 but it felt significantly smaller and was jam-packed (in a well organized way) with everything you could want from formula and diapers to Tide and Vaseline. Milk and oats lined the shelves and others were stacked full of Coco Puffs and peanut butter, berber (spices) and tuna. It was amazing.
E began selecting food items she felt were of greatest need and the process of pulling them off the shelves (the owners did this). The process included selecting, picking out, compiling and boxing the items, hand writing items on the receipt (there's no cash register...and not enough space for a shopping basket even...heck, with the four of us in there plus the two owners/employees, it would have been a nightmare for a claustrophobic).
When all was said and done, the employee turned to E and gave her the total. She passed the receipt along to me, I pulled out the two lump sums and we began to count. E was taken aback when she realized that one of the lumps of paper was held together by a paper band...indicating it was 10,000 birr. She hadn't spent half of the donations (you!) made. We piled the purchases into the 15 psgr van and drove up a few stores.
The process was repeated at the new store however the quantity of goods was significantly more. (Items were also less costly at this establishment.) Included in all this was two 50kg bags of flour, dozens of cans of formula, 25kg of macaroni, at least a dozen jars of jam, dozens of boxes of tea, peanut butter, eggs, vaseline, tuna, and the list continues.
What got me was the 100 boxes of matches. I'm not sure why it took a second for the ball to drop. The matches were for the stove. The stove would be lit and used for every meal. Without matches, the stove would not light...without a hot stove...well, you do the math from here. It's too hard to think about something as basic as matches being such a commodity.
After all was said and done, we were handed 5 birr in change (17 birr is equivalent to $1 CAD).
The. Van. Was. Loaded.
So off we went to the orphanage. E was still surprised. She was overwhelmed. Upon entering the orphanage she turned and remarked that no one family had donated such a significant amount of food. (This is the part where we say thank You.)
Initially as the gate was opened upon our arrival back at the orphanage, colour caught my eye that I had not noticed a few days prior. Since our initial visit, an american (adoptive?) woman had come and painted murals on many of the walls. Oh!! The colour. It lights the place up.
And then as we drove in, I looked over and saw the children enjoying their TV time for the day. I smiled noting again, so many parallels between two such distinct cultures. They all turned to watch as we drove in and stood to observe what was about to unfold. They could sense something out of the ordinary and the look of anticipation on some of their faces was worth the trip alone.
After we pulled in and the van was turned off, she turned to us and remarked upon the fact that she will now sleep for a month because she won't have the worry of how to feed the children.
Did you get that?
The orphanage has no need for food for an entire month.
It wasn't a dire situation yesterday but food is always, always a concern. How could feeding 32 children (plus staff) not be a concern?
The children came towards us laughing, chattering, helping. They wanted to put the food away. They wanted to see their food storage room full. It's a concept which our children likely never contemplate.
After unloading the van we had the surreal opportunity to visit with our daughter again. Those minutes were some we will never forget. More formative in our minds than perhaps several days earlier, we savoured every moment.
As we left her room and said good-bye for the next who-knows-how-many-months, we anticipated heading to the van to be returned to our guest house.
Oh, how wrong we were. We were guided into the room in which we had enjoyed our first traditional coffee ceremony after our first visit. But we weren't about to experience a coffee ceremony. We were about to be served a traditional supper. Injera, wat, drinks, and a coffee (ceremony) at the end of it all.
Amazing. Delicious. Perfect.
Every moment was savoured. It was an evening highlighting that of many we have had here so far.
And, when we thought we were ending the evening we were wrong again.
About a dozen or more of the children (likely all those two years and older) entered the room. And each one had drawn a picture for us. Birds, planes, helicopters, the words "I love you" and "I love you ____" (our daughter's name written in Amharic) covered the pages. Each picture carefully sketched out. Each child had a piece of art for us. What a gift for our daughter's life book.
Tears rolled down my cheeks.
They just kept saying "thank you" and "I love you".
And all I wanted to do were reciprocate the words.
We left soon after. It was time. Nearly 8pm. We had had the true privilege of spending the better part of an afternoon and evening with two people (and many many children) who care more deeply for the orphan than I could ever put words to.