Making our way from the city of Addis Ababa landed us in traffic which resembles chaos. Vehicles of all kinds weaving in and out cutting one another off makes for a hair-raising ride. It is easier to trust the driver and look away. Gazing out the window gives more understanding of this place anyway. There is growth here. Buildings with scaffolding made of wooden poles are rising from the ground throughout the city. The roads intertwine with the buildings, which sprawl for miles and miles.
Moving on the outskirts, buildings transform into small individual shops that sell every manner of thing. They are made of mud, or metal, or wood. Their doors are open, revealing the goods inside. Fruit at some. Water at others. Mirrors. Chairs. Bikes. Toys. Each block has different merchandise. The meat shops are marked with a cross or a crescent which tells passersby how the meat was killed, in accordance with Muslim or Orthodox Christian traditions. They stand side by side and their patrons co-mingle on the streets without incident. There are miles and miles of shops until the road turns towards the country.
Huts appear. Donkeys, horses, and goats dot the landscape. People are walking, riding in carts pulled by horses, or sitting along the roadside. Family compounds have multiple buildings and are surrounded by fences made with sticks. They start off close together and spread further and further apart as we travel towards our destination. The smooth road changes to bumpy, and from bumpy to dirt, and from dirt to mud. We weave to dodge potholes and slide through the muddiest places praying not to get stuck.
The landscape is most beautiful. The sky is a brilliant blue gray with white puff clouds which are illuminated by the fading sun. It is the golden hour and the light is perfect over the green fields causing the grasses to glow in every possible shade. The unique foreign trees dot the landscape and create the sensation of being in a far-off land. It is the reason people fall in love with Africa. That, and the people who wave at us. The clothes differ here from those in the city. Traditional styles are more prevalent than western ones. Cars are replaced by horse drawn carts. Children run with the cows or goats, or are in the fields. Their clothes are muddy. It would be impossible for them not to be, it is rainy season after all. Most are barefooted, wading in the mucky pathways beside the road. They call out and wave as we pass.
Three hours on the bumpy road is enough. We finally see why we came. Racers waiting with welcome signs for their parents. They are surrounded by the local children from the Children’s Village we will be working at this week. The smiles on their faces convey their excitement at being included in the celebration happening around them. Parents and Racers are jumping, hugging, and crying as the reunion takes place just as the sun disappears. It has been a long, good day. Welcome to Africa.