A report about an extraordinary journey.

Our arrival and first few days in Ethiopia

We landed in Addis Abeba at 3 in the morning, but our connecting flight to Jinka wasn’t until 1 o’clock in the afternoon. In our search for a comfortable place to sleep we realized that it can get quite cold at night even in Africa. Finally we found a few chairs and benches where we sat down and managed to doze off for a while. We were all a bit nervous about what awaited us in Jinka. Will we be picked up at the airport? Did we make ourselves understood about the arrival times?

Around 7 o’clock in the morning the airport sprang to life again and more and more people arrived. We all enjoyed an excellent breakfast with eggs and coffee and then left for Terminal 1, where we checked in for our domestic flight. While waiting for our plane we talked to some locals, who were all friendly and were happy to ask and answer questions.

The flight went very fast – not least because all three of us spent the short hour in deep sleep. Arriving in Jinka, we waited for our luggage, which was brought to us personally by a jeep from the plane. Then came the decisive moment. Were they here now? We hadn’t seen them yet. But then as we left the building we saw Ayko and Beech, both with 2 signs with “Omo-Child” on them, waiting for us. We greeted each other and then everything went very fast. Suitcase in the Bajaj, everybody get in and off we go. We had a bumpy but unforgettable ride with the first impressions of Jinka to the Omo-Child home. Now we were finally able to meet the children. But how do you imagine getting to know 50 children at the same time? Not at all, actually. A bit shy but still smiling and very excited, they all approached us and greeted each of us with handshakes. We also got to know the Mamas, Argore – and the housekeeper or “man for everything” and Oyta. They showed us our room and then everything became a little calmer as we settled in. The kids had to go back to school after their lunch break and we drank coffee, ate popcorn and chatted about this and that. There was a lot to take in. We rested and when the children came back, it was time for us to introduce ourselves properly, assisted by a little Austrian chocolate. Ayko put together a great program for us for the next 2 days, until Lale came back from his visit to the tribes.

After an excellent dinner, prepared for us by the mamas, we went to bed. But not until we had put up the mosquito nets with the help of Argore. We talked through everything again, our first impressions, the new people we had met, etc. Everything was still completely new for us but everyone was so extremely helpful and friendly. I thought a little bit about the whole situation. I somehow still couldn’t believe we were actually here. It all started with a presentation by Lale Labuko and Robert Ebner in our school, followed by long period of planning, but now we were in Ethiopia, in Jinka, in the Omo-Child home.

The next day we were awakened at 6 o’clock in the morning by the sound of children playing outside. When everyone was back at school, the Mamas prepared breakfast for us. This consisted quite simply of bread and tea, but it was not as simple as it sounds. The combination was simply perfect and we were looking forward to this incredibly good breakfast every morning for the whole week. Shortly afterwards Ayko joined us and we discussed the program for today. A short English lesson, buying SIM cards and playing football. While the children were still in school, we prepared our English lesson for the 6th grade. To help us prepare, Ayko gave us some textbooks, from which we selected a few examples and combined them with our own ideas.

The children had school until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, so in the meantime we drove with Ayko to Ethiopian Telecom, the only telecommunications company in Ethiopia, so it has a monopoly. This didn’t have a very positive effect on the SIM card prices, but to be able to check-in at home again, we needed some internet time. We were inspected from head to toe, as if we were going through the airport security check and then questioned a bit at the counter. After all three of us had our sim cards, we went back to the home, where the children were waiting impatiently for a soccer match. Playing soccer became almost a daily ritual during the whole week, which was really a lot of fun. Shortly afterwards we also held our English lessons, where we got to know some of the children like Kulo and Abi a bit better and hopefully were able to teach them something. As the day came to an end, it was time for dinner and a delicious “injera” again. “Injera” is like a pancake with sour dough, accompanied by various sauces. Afterwards we strolled back to our room and read a bit in our books before we finally fell asleep.

On the morning of the third day we were awakened again by the excited cries of the children. It didn’t bother us either, because we could always sleep quite well, and most of the time we lay in bed for a while. Just until we couldn’t wait for breakfast any longer. After we had eaten breakfast, we prepared a little geography lesson, which we wanted to hold in the afternoon.

After lunch Ayko showed us the big market in Jinka, which is held once a week. We drove the Bajaj again and meandered through the streets where we really saw all kinds of things. Along with huge potholes, grazing cows between the roads and heavily laden trucks, a ride along the main road was both an adventure and a race. We arrived at the market, where there were a lot of locals and we were a bit out of place. Not least because we were the only foreigners and we were stared at all the time. Even though the people didn’t mean any harm at all, it was still a rather discomforting feeling to walk through the market square. In the end we only bought 3 oranges (and I hurt myself due to clumsiness when I cut them open) and then drove back home again. When we got back there was then a short rest again. Afterwards there was a tour through the kitchen where the mamas showed us how to prepare the “injera”. Like with pancakes, the dough is poured onto a hot plate or into a pan. But not turned over! The dough must rise at the top so that it is much spongier. Following the extensive cooking demonstration, we spent the rest of the day playing with the children. In between there was a small break for our lesson. But it didn’t take long until we wanted to get out and play football again, which we did until the evening. After a much needed shower and dinner, we went back to our room and discussed the forthcoming days. Above all we were looking forward to tomorrow, because then Lale would finally come back from visiting his tribe.

When we woke up the next morning and just wanted to go to breakfast, Lale came to greet us. While we had breakfast with bread and tea, Lale spent his time back in the study to clarify the organizational issues. After he got back from the Tribes he had a lot to do. Nevertheless, he took time for us. So we planned for the next few days (where we could visit one of the tribes at the end of the week) while we all sipped coffee again. A visit to the Jinka Museum and the bank was scheduled for today. That was at least planned for the afternoon. For the morning we let Lale do his job and played with Leka and Kacha, the two youngest Omo-Child children who are therefore not yet in school. The two were always curious, full of energy and also asked us for a bit of chocolate. Especially with these two sweet girls, it was hard for us to imagine that they had been killed because of teeth or an unaccepted pregnancy (Mingi superstition). Of course this also affects to all the Omo children.

In the afternoon we made our way to the Jinka Museum, where there was a collection of artifacts of all tribes in Ethiopia. We were taken by Tamasgen (short Tame), the driver of Omo-Child, who did the daily shopping and brought to the Omo Child home by car. Tame was an extremely funny man, who spoke English pretty well and made us laugh again and again. On the way to the museum, we made a short stop in the bank of Jinka. A rather rundown building, but even with a cash machine. A short time later we arrived at the Jinka Museum, where we met some tourists. After a little guide we went back home.

In the evening we played with Lale and the kids a few more rounds of basketball, which was really funny. Because basketball was definitely his sport. His enthusiasm had no limits and so the whole match was marked by his motivation calls. You could not defeat him, because he is just too big! After a quick shower and delicious dinner we went back to the room, where we all slept soon.

We started our 5th day at OMO-Child Ethiopia, it was a Tuesday, comfortably with a simple but delicious breakfast with tea and bread. Afterwards we talked to Lale about the program of the day. He had planned to show us the building site of the new OMO-Child home. As Lale was very busy that day, we scheduled the trip for the afternoon. This was also perfect for us as we wanted to draw paintings and letters with the happy godchildren from OMO-Child Austria. After we had picked up all children, we tried to explain to them that the paints would be for their godparents and that we would take them to Austria. As most of the children were very young, it was a little challenge. Anyway, it was quite a lot of fun for them to draw and they made several paintings for their godparents. Of course, they were all signed – naturally we had to support them a little. The older children were already able – with a little support from us – to write nice letters in English language.

After lunch we went by car to the nearby building site of the new home. After 6 years fight with bureaucracy, the government agreed Lale’s request to build the new home and provided a building plot for free. At the time we visited the building site, the foundations as well as the walls were already existing. The two houses should provide space for approx. 100 children. Lale had made a detailed plan how everything should look like. “The classroom needs to have large windows in order to keep one’s head clear […]” – Lale. There also already exists a large water tank, in order not to be dependent on the daily water supplies. Furthermore, they were just building the new kitchen for the moms as well as a large dining room. In addition, Lale already plans an own school for the OMO children, which will be the next project. Lale told us, that the schools in Jinka are all overcrowded and the teachers on one hand are not well-educated and on the other hand overtaxed. After I had heard Lale’s great vision, I had to think a lot about the writing on the current home, such motivating and cheerful statements like “The OMO-children will be the future leaders of southwest-Ethiopia”.

When we returned that day, we played some football and then enjoyed the evening meal. We were excited about the upcoming day, as Lale had organized a visit to the tribes.

Today was the day! We would drive a little further into the savannah and visit the tribes (one of the main reasons for many tourists to come to Ethiopia). Even though we were here for Omo-Child of course, we were happy to be able to arrange this little trip with it. We planned to stay there overnight and return the next day in time for a final dinner together with the whole Omo-Child family. After we packed our backpacks, Max had all the camera equipment together and Luki briefly did his English intensive course with Kulo (one of the older kids) – he had a small examination the same day – we made ourselves comfortable in the car. It was a pretty long and bumpy ride as the roads got worse and worse as we got further away from the city. When we arrived in the afternoon and immediately left our luggage in the hotel, we drove with a friend Lale`s to the tribe of their own family. They all welcomed us and were pretty curious about our cameras. The mother even offered us a kind of tea-coffee mixture, which she served in small wooden bowls.  We watched the hut, the goats and the humble lives of the tribesmen and in the meanwhile Tame, the driver, showed the kids funny music videos.

After sunset, we got back in the car and made our way back to the hotel where Lale was already waiting for us, doing his work. We all ate dinner together, talked about today’s experiences and then retreated to the rooms. In our room a small plague of insects awaited us, which was to be expected in the heart of Africa. Somehow, we managed to ignore them and after the electricity failed, nothing kept us from sleeping.

To be continued…


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