Shaking Off The Shackles

by Troy C. Thomas

July 22, 2015


Been up for hours. As usual. Had some interesting dreams and fantasies pop into my head. But this time it felt like work, my imagination would take me for rides in the past. Now I have to direct the action per se.


The morning call to prayer from the local mosque in Lebu always makes me feel comfortable. It start at 5am. And today it made me feel some type of way. As soon as it started I felt like grabbing Taylor’s iPad and jotting down my feelings. The picture that popped in my head during the caressing of my ear drums dealt with genuine people. To be specific it was about appreciating the genuine people I have in my life. There are quite a few. And actually it would take a few days to list all of them and why I truly value their presence in my life. My list of people today started with my mother and sister Courtney. I could just picture unwinding with them once I return back to the states. Of course there would be food involved. The next person Is my next door neighbor Reign. Our friendship grew out of a very tragic situation. He did something for me that I could never repay him for. The first week of 2015 my house flooded. And if Reign didn’t turn off the water from the meter my house would of had way more damage. I thank the Universe that I had just paid the insurance premium a week before the incident. Prior to the incident we spoke from time to time, even discussed biking together. And once I discovered the damages to the house we exchanged numbers and continued to get closer. And when we had our family days at the house, I would invite him over. And he fit right in with the tribe. And its been like that ever since. He borrows my tools, he shares his firewood. We are just good neighbors to each other. So the day I left for Ethiopia I had to let my good neighbor know that I would be out of the country. So he could keep an eye on the house for me. Which I know he would do for me And I would do the exact same for him. Real recognize real. So I sat there reflecting on my blessings due to listening the mosque. I have no clue what was said in the prayer blasted across the region. But it gave me a feeling of appreciation. We have to remember that we are not promised to have good people in our lives. And with being said, we must acknowledge and tell those people how much they matter.

This morning we drove from Lebu thru the countryside. It was pretty eye opening. I have read over the years that the Chinese are investing heavy in Afrika. But I actually saw it with my own two eyes. They even had banners and billboards advertising the construction projects they had their hands in. Back to the drive though. Ethiopia’s countryside is wonderful. I don’t really know how to put it into words. The mountains, farmland, wildlife, and even the new housing construction keeps your eyes scrolling to both sides of the highway. Even the traditional mud huts that have straw roofs are still being used. The first leg of our field trip was to Sodere to see the monkeys and get into the hot springs. We drove on the new highway for about an hour. Then we drove thru the city of Nazareth. Then we took   a very narrow two lane highway until we reached the Sodere Resort Hotel. As soon we drove thru the gates we started to see monkeys throughout the resort. And once we parked we were surrounded by monkeys, they were lounging on the red soil or in the trees. As soon as we exited the van we were ordered by the heavily armed security guards that we couldn’t take our bags with us. We didn’t get it. It didn’t make any sense to us to come to the water and not be able to have our stuff with us. Then once we brought out the things we needed from the van we had the men had to go in one direction and the women to another. Which further confused Gabe and I. We stroll down the path that was designated for the males to the main attraction. And in complete shock is what we were. We saw a bunch of men and boys in what looked like a waiting pool rinsing their bodies from four large horizontal pipes. This was definitely not my type of party. We both turned around and walked to figure out what was suppose to happen. They had a locker room, but it was an open air one. So there was no place to change into our shorts at. We spotted Getu and he advised us to get in. And he was right. We went to the locker room and changed into our shorts, then stored our clothing at the entrance of the springs. We stroll in the pool with all eyes on us. Our feet were scorched upon contact. It felt like my skin was going to peel off my foot. But we kept pushing our way to one of the four pipes continuously shooting out the extremely hot water. We were being blocked from the pipes. Each time we would almost get in front of the pipes, a person or group would shield us from getting to it. It was almost like playing Double Dutch, it was all about time and eye coordination to get in. Gabe was the first in our group to reach a spout. I moved towards the end of the enclosure where there was less people and the majority of them were older. Once you acknowledged one another and gave eye contact then you could proceed with your rinse. I finally got my turn, and when the water hit my skin it felt like fresh boiled water off the stove being poured all over me. It wasn’t so bad once my body got used to the heat. I did it two more times, so I would hit lucky number 3. And then I tried to get the kids to get under the spouts. I was successful getting Aman to go under the spouts. Gabe ended up splashing it on himself, and I ended up getting him under it once. I had to take Ezu back to the entrance of the pool, he told me that the water was so hot that it was burning his feet. Afterwards, Gabe and I were very happy we didn’t sit out this experience. Not only was it a once in a lifetime thing, it was also a therapeutic situation. We vacated the pool and waited for the ladies. Meanwhile we watched all the monkeys horse around and take bread from the resort visitors. I decided to go dig up some soil to take back home. I had requests from Shelly Sims and Baba Fasegun for the red fertile soil. As I was digging it up, Banchi came by and seemed worried that I would cause I a problem. I assured it was fine and I had already asked the armed guard if it was okay. A groundskeeper came and sat by me as I was breaking up the soil. He then started to dig up soil for me and put it in the bag. I asked him to stay where he was(with hand gestures). I wanted to show my appreciation for his help. I ran over to our van and realized I only had large denominations of cash. So I had to borrow 10 Birr from Gabe. I handed the helpful man the money and went back to hanging with our family.

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After a long drive and rinsing our bodies in some of the hottest water we’ve ever felt, we were starving. Once the ladies came from their side of the hot springs, we all went to the café. Beers, burgers and cutlets were our choices after the springs. While we waited we fed the monkeys bread. Eventually more and more monkeys realized this and began to get more aggressive. Some even would sneak into the café and snatch the bread. It was pretty funny. At one point a tourist pulls up and leaves his driver’s side door open. All bad. A monkey jumped in the car while he wasn’t paying attention and rummaged through the drivers belongings. Ultimately finding a bag of a fruit, which it took and hopped back into the trees with. We all laughed at this. I ended up going back into the spring water. I submerged myself in the hot water an additional five times. There was one thing that I kept noticing after I returned. The men were all sharing the bars of soap with one another. I don’t like to share my soap with more than one or two people at home. Let alone almost 40 other persons of the same gender. It was just something observed though. You never know what someone had been doing or where they have been. While I was in the springs, Gabe ventured off. After I finished, Mr. Getu and I went to look for him. After asking some of the groundskeepers did they say see a guy with dreadlocks they pointed in the direction they last saw him. Gabe was chilling at the river. Mr. Getu told it was called the Awash River and gave us the background on it. We then took the children to the other side of the resort where the pool is. Turns out it’s the same water pumped out of the springs. I sat out on going swimming. The water was too hot to swim in. Banchi and Adei got in with the kids. Almost immediately getting in, Banchi saves this child from drowning. The trip part happened next. So the lifeguard comes over afterwards and tells her she has to get out the pool because she didn’t have a bathing suit on. The kids swam for about an hour as Gabe, Mr. Getu and myself sat under the pool cabanas watching. After the kids swam, we packed into the van. We had one more destination: Debreziet. The goal was to see some of the beautiful lakes of the region. And make an attempt to see a new training facility being built in that city. A good man I’ve known for years named Solomon Meuz wanted me to check out his new project. He is currently in construction for building a place to train people to learn a trade. I met him while trying to get a smog check. He saw that I was reading the Husia. Which is excerpts from the dynastic period of the Egyptians. It is their equivalent of the bible. He was pretty shocked that I was reading a book such as that one. And we began to have discussion about religion, the origins of religion in Afrika and Afrika itself. This went one for a few hours. As I sat and waited for him to complete my smog check, he said to me “If you ever go to Ethiopia, I’ll take care of you”. I was very surprised, we were total strangers. But you could by his tone and how he looked that he was sincere. He was offering his hand of friendship after knowing me for a few hours. So anytime that there would need to be some type of work on cars I would always go back to him. Probably more so to have our conversations. He is an electrical engineer so he knows a lot about the world. And I have no shame in soaking up whatever gems of information he shared. I felt the need to visit him before I left. I waned to tell him that I was going to visit his homeland. And see if he had any wisdom to share with me. He was ecstatic when I told him I was going to be in Addis Ababa in a few days. Turns out he knows Adei, her father Getu and Uncle BF. He then sits me down and shows me pictures of his compound being built. And explains his goals for the project. Following that he starts to jot down all the people I need to contact once I arrive in Ethiopia, so I can get a full tour of the facility. Solomon then starts questioning me about all the vaccinations. He keeps bringing it up throughout our conversation. I made it very clear to him I did all the required ones. But he continued to beat me over the head about the importance of certain ones. He did this up until the time I left hid car shop. Now back to our trip to Debreziet. I reached out to Solomon’s son the week before to arrange a day to see his father’s new project. But he seemed very unsure of when he would be able to take me there. So once I reached Debreziet, I contacted the alternate person. But they didn’t answer the phone. We decided to go to Lake Babogaya. There was a hotel that was built right on the shore of the lake. And they had a restaurant right on the water. So that’s where we ended up hanging. We lounged around the lake for a couple of hours. We sat there and admired the beauty. Then we packed back in the van and were headed back to Lebu. As soon as we reach the house and unload the van, the phone rings. Adei speaks for a second then passes it to me. It’s Solomon’s project manager. Returning my calls after three hours. I explained to him that I was just in Debreziet and that tried to reach him the day before as well. He wanted to know if I could back the following day. Which I had to refuse. I still had more places to check out and errands to complete for my stay in Addis was over. I know Solomon wanted me to really see his vision. And I truly intended on honoring the love he showed me. But I did get to see some of the things we spoke about in that region. IM sure he will be a bit disappointed when I return home. But I did put the effort into seeing his dream for his people.

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Troy C. Thomas

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