For our only full day in Dube Bute, we got a much earlier start knowing all that can (will!) go wrong in a day. We usually start out with a typical full breakfast in the hotel, a group meeting and prayer and then board the buses and head out. I have to say, one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip was the ride to and from the village. It's a little more than an hour. While part of it is in the city of Awassa, which has lots of interesting things to look at, the better part for me was when we got off the main road and started on the dirt road half of our journey. All along the way you see huts - some are round with grass roofs and others are square with corrugated tin roofs. Our drivers told us that they are all built the same way - long sticks covered with dirt, mud, dung, grass, but once you have "arrived" and have been able to save a little more money, you usually upgrade to a tin roof. Honestly, the round grass huts were so much more pretty to me, but the tin must really provide more protection, especially during the rainy season. Usually these homes were in a yard and they all lined the road. Some yards were immaculate with shrubs lining the perimeter in perfectly straight lines and animals in specific parts of the yards. Others were less so, but all served their purpose.
As we slowly drove up the road, kids and adults alike came running out of their houses, waving furiously, yelling "ferengi, ferengi" (foreigner), with HUGE smiles on their faces. That is ALL they wanted. No hands out to ask for anything - they simply wanted a wave and a smile back. It was impossible not to want to wave to every single person along the road. Some kids ran alongside the bus and other people stayed safely inside their yard. If you made eye contact and kept it while waving you could literally see the stoic faces on the adults melt away and get replaced with huge smiles. You could almost hear their voices say "she's waving to ME!" It was so heartwarming to see especially since in the city it is really hard to see the women with little tiny babies wrapped up and loaded onto their backs begging in the middle of the streets right up into the van. Even the babies know to stick their hands out in case it helps and there are no smiles, just soul crushing sadness staring back at you.
Because we arrived in Dube Bute much earlier today, we were able to ease into the village without as much fanfare. Of course, those who were there were still very happy to see us, but some others were probably still making their long journey to the village center. This morning gave us a better chance to look around and see the absolute beauty that surrounded us. Dube Bute is on a high hill surrounded by other incredibly lush hills with immaculate planting fields lining the hillsides. The views are spectacular and more than one person noted that the location could easily rival any 5-star resort that anyone has ever seen.
The villagers slowly made their way to the center and came to visit us in our various posts. Again we had a dental, medical and veterinary clinic. The vets were mostly doing some routine vaccinations, etc, but they were able to lance a HUGE wound on a donkey's back that had been caused by some sort of "big cat" attack. Pretty incredible. The dental day went pretty smoothly. Because we had 2 or 3 pressure cookers on the front porch of the dental clinic that made lots of steam and even more noise as they sterilized the equipment, the crowds tended to stay back a bit and wait their turn. For the most part, they all waited patiently to be brought into the small room where most were taken for a tooth extraction and follow-up dental hygiene lesson. Most of the little kids were spared the extractions since many of them still had baby teeth. At one point, I had a father/daughter patient duo. They were both so brave during their numbing and extractions. The father pointed to his daughter's ear which was oozing and clearly infected. Since they had waited so patiently up to this point, I was told to bring them directly to the medical area and bring them right inside to get the daughter some antibiotics for her ear. That was much easier said than done. Apparently the word had gotten out that the doctor had lots of medicine and skin creams and the crowds were growing and were getting restless. There was no porch, no scary-looking medical equipment and no real guards, so the crowds were pushing further and further towards the door. When they saw me, the parted the seas a bit to let me through, but they didn't realize I was practically dragging this little girl with me and tried to separate us. I tried to communicate to no avail so basically just grabbed her and prayed that her dad would eventually be let in. Once through the door, there was a lot more space, but the banging on the door was getting louder and more frantic. I set her up with some antibiotics and allowed her to choose a new shirt and a pair of shoes. Apparently, lack of shoes is one of the biggest problems in this area because of things like scabies and general dirt, etc. She was beaming and had the sweetest little face. Her dad eventually got in with us and was so very thankful. Getting out was another battle because even opening the door allowed enough leverage for too many people to sneak into the clinic at once. Eventually, the medical clinic had to be shut down for a short time to allow everyone to regroup and calm down the crowds. We knew we had plenty of supplies for all, but our time in Dube Bute was limited. Some of the elders were monitoring the clouds and told us exactly what time we had to leave in order to avoid the big rains that were headed our way. If we didn't leave before they came, we could never get back up or down the dirt roads out to the main city and we'd all have to sleep in the grass! As beautiful as it was, I don't think anyone was up for that!
Another highlight of the day was connecting with a friend's daughter's birth family. We thought the chance of finding them was very slim, but I'm now convinced that in Ethiopia, if they want to be found, they will. This was one of three meetings with birth families and it is so heartwarming to see the reaction when they see pictures of their beloved child. There's no question in my mind that God was orchestrating all of these meetings and loves seeing these families all come together. We were able to get lots of pictures, a little more information and give lots of hugs and assurance that their children were being well taken care of, extremely loved and hadn't forgotten about them for a minute. Truly a gift for all.
After a long day of serving and loving the people of Dube Bute, we returned to the hotel in Awassa to a "BBQ" and spectacular sunset over the lake. There's no question that we've seen God's hand all along the way here - in some small gestures and other huge vistas.
Patiently awaiting dental work.