After the enormous events that had unfolded on Saturday, we felt kind of in a daze– ‘did that really happen?’– on Sunday. But Sunday was our last day in Soddo and it was packed with going-away activities for my sister Sophie, who has worked there as a missionary for 5 years.
The morning was spent making a birthday cake for little Elen, a toddler Sophie has cared for since she was born. We also prepped the fixings for fried rice, since later we were making dinner for a missionary family who had been in Addis for awhile and was just driving back to Soddo that day. The mom has been one of Sophie’s best friends in Soddo, and Sophie was very eager to have a little more time with before we left.
At noon it was time to head off to Amarech and Elen’s house for the birthday/ going away party. Our trusty driver Dawit dropped us off, and then on our request headed off to the town where Emily’s birth mom has lived in the past. Maybe, maybe he could find something about her while we went tot the birthday party.
Amarech’s house was full of people whom Sophie has loved and known for years, and it was really fun to be in on the celebration. As is typical in Ethiopia, we were urged over and over again to eat, eat, eat. They served us injera and wat for the meal, and then there was fruit and coffee and cake for dessert.
The girls and Sophie and I sang happy birthday to little almost-4 year old Elen American-style, which everyone found very funny. And then Sophie and Lidya sang it Ethiopian style too. Little children hung in the doorways watching the party, and periodically neighbors dropped in too, greeting Sophie, some of them staying and eating too. Goodbyes were hard that afternoon. So many people love Sophie and are sad that she is leaving.
One interesting side note. Amarech, adoptive momma to little Elen, has been a foster mom to many babies for many years. We learned after talking to Dr. Mary that Amarech was also Julianna’s foster mom during the month or so before she went to Kidane Mehret in Addis. When Amarech heard that Julianna was one of ‘her’ babies years ago, she gave Julianna extra kisses.
After the birthday party we headed back toward the Soddo Christian Hospital compound on foot, and were good and sweaty by the time Dawit caught up with us in the van. Unfortunately he hadn’t been able to track down Emily’s birth mom, but she was still so happy to have met her dad that she felt peaceful about not finding her.
In the evening we had a nice meal with Sophie’s friends, who have 6 children. In an interesting ‘it’s a small world’ set of circumstances, the family will be moving to Kenya soon where most likely the dad, who is a pediatrician, will be working alongside our daughter’s sister in law at Kijabe Hospital. As they are all such nice people, I am sure they will enjoy each other.
One interesting side note: The Soddo Christian Hospital compound is an absolutely lovely place with comfortable homes in which doctors and their families live all ringed around beautiful gardens and a big playground for children. Every effort has been made to help missionaries feel comfortable, right down to a huge generator that kicks in within 90 seconds after a power outage, which is a huge luxury in a place where the power disappears often.
We headed out of Soddo on Monday morning. Emily and Julianna were both wishing they could have somehow had more time with their families. But we’d done the best we could with the limited time we had, and were so grateful to have gotten to see them.
On the way out of town we paused at a roadside stand for Coke since my stomach was threatening revolt, and Coke usually helps on car rides. We had two extra people with us—an older missionary couple who was headed to Awassa for a little rest and relaxation.
Apparently Awassa is a bit of a tourist spot. Awassa is a 2 hour drive from Soddo, and we got there just in time to drop off the missionary couple and then eat lunch with Marcus and Esther, friends of Sophie’s. Marcus is the helicopter pilot with whom she’s been flying heli-missions for several years into remote parts of Ethiopia.
We ate at an interesting restaurant which is actually a culinary school. You pay a set fee for the meal and are served a 5 course dinner, something different every day, depending on what the students were being taught to cook that day. This day’s offering consisted of a very nice quiche, potato soup, a salad, crepes wrapped around a filling that reminded me of rich meaty spaghetti sauce and then cake for dessert. Most of the girls liked the potato soup the best—its taste was most familiar and least intimidating to them. I really liked the quiche.
After lunch we were treated to a tour of the helicopter place, and spent some time visiting the families who live on that compound. The kids there have a sweet spot to grow up—a big yard with swingset, slide, trampoline, and even a zip line—all looking out over Lake Awassa.
After visiting them we went next door to a rather posh looking hotel where Emily and Julianna swam, and the rest of us just chilled out. We had dinner there too—some very underwhelming hamburgers and fries—before heading over to the Norwegian Guesthouse which was just a little further down the same lake.
By then it was getting on toward dark. It has been a really nice place of quiet retreat for Sophie, and it is run by friends of hers.
Our elderly cabin was up a little hill and consisted of a living room, tiny kitchenette and a couple of little bedrooms where each bed was equipped with its own mosquito netting. It’s malaria country, you know. I found the mosquito netting both charming and concerning, and spent several minutes making sure the girls had been properly mosquito-sprayed.
The toilet was attached, but outside, and in desperate need of bleach and a scrub brush. I was less than impressed. But hey, we were only staying one night. It would be fine. Sophie went to visit with her friends for a few minutes, and a little later she came back with some bad news.
The couple we’d driven to Awassa, who was also staying here at the Norwegian guesthouse, had gone out to dinner nearby, and then decided to walk back to the guesthouse in the dark through a rather sketchy area of town. They ended up being assaulted and robbed. Sophie saw them right after it happened, and invited them to come sit in our house with us for awhile to settle down and catch their breath.
They have been missionaries in Africa for decades, and are obviously the sturdy sort. But they were shaken up emotionally and beaten up physically, and definitely were distressed from that terrible turn of events. Sophie decided to sleep next door in their cabin with them, just in case their injuries ended up being more serious than it seemed at the moment. (They ended up being ok, though quite bruised.)
We were all shaken up by this happening, Lidya and I especially, and wondered if we were safe with that crime happening so close by. But Sophie reminded us we were in a guarded, gated compound, not out walking on a dark road like they had been. Still it ended up being a restless night of sleep.
The next day we were up and away at 7, eager to get back to Addis at a reasonable time. Dawit, our wonderful driver, had been away from his wife and baby daughter for 4 nights by now, and I was thinking happily of our lovely guesthouse in Addis, which was sounding even better in my mind after the less posh digs down south.
We were in Addis a little after noon, and before heading to the guesthouse we stopped for lunch at one of the most popular ferengi (foreigner) restaurants in Addis, a hamburger place called Sishu.
It first opened in a lady’s house, but soon became so hugely popular that she moved it into a warehouse.
It is decorated less ornately than is typical in a fancy Ethiopian restaurant– it feels clean and modern and western– and has utterly fabulous hamburgers and fries– yum!! Heaven for foreigners who can sometimes feel tired of eating Ethiopian food or questionable imitations of American fare.
It also has the second-nicest bathrooms we’d seen the trip—the nicest being in our Addis guesthouse. Ours (we decided) were an Ethiopian 10—as nice as you were ever likely to see in Ethiopia. The ones at the Sishu were a good solid 9, and even had paper towels to dry your hands after washing. It’s the little things, people!
More on bathrooms later. After one more night in our posh Addis guesthouse, we were headed to Harar the next morning. And that’s when the bathrooms really got memorable.