Wednesday, November 28, 2012

good evening, addis

In a remarkably short journey, I landed in Addis last night. It usually takes a few days to realize I'm here, even with the hit-the-ground-running requirements, but I felt here pretty much as soon as I stepped out of the plane, defended the contents of my bag (which seemed questionable to the Customs agents), and stepped into the cool Addis night. For one, my ride was late (which I didn't find out until I called them after wandering around for 30 minutes, loaded down with luggage and stared at each loop I made). And the smells - maybe it was the dry, dusty air, or more likely the musty, spice-laced aroma of a mother with years of cooking behind her. I managed to get just 3.5 hours of sleep before I bolted awake at 3am to a few loud folks banging up the hotel stairs. After rolling around for another 3 hours, I finally gave up and started the day.

We visited the three official government orphanages in Addis today (the rest are private orphanages). This is where the police directly brings babies and kids they find abandoned on the streets, given up in the hospital, or left on their doorstep. Sometimes they stay in one of these three orphanages, but many times they are sent to smaller private orphanages. The first orphanage had about 240 kids from 0-8 years old. We were mostly there to check out their water situation, so there wasn't much face time with the children. We then went to the girls orphanage, which had girls from 8-18. Most of the 260 girls attend school in the surrounding community. The orphanage also provides life skills and vocational training (such as hairdressing and tour guide). The third site was for the boy 8-18. Similar to the girls, the boys home provide vocational training (welding, barbering, woodworking) and life skills.

All three were huge compounds with many, many kids (the orphanage with the youngest kids sees about 450 kids a year, which get moved to other orphanages, reunified with distant family, or adopted). And all three were government: lack of funds left dilapidated toilets, dark rooms, and insecure infrastructure. I wasn't allowed to take pictures other than a toilet or water tower (and sometimes not even that), but I did manage a shot of some chile peppers sunbathing in the afternoon heat.


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