Bittersweet: My Last Day

by Troy C. Thomas

July 26, 2015

Today we didn’t even get into to the house until well after 5am. We lived last night. That’s the simplest way of describing it. We closed out the end of my trip on a bang bang bang. Smiles, jokes, dancing, drinks and sharing that moment with good people. I woke up in a cloudy daze. I wasn’t intoxicated. But I definitely was exhausted from the festivities. Voice extremely hoarse from signing and busting jokes. And a feeling anxiousness, I knew I had to leave but I didn’t really want to. But at the same time I was itching to see the Southern California landscape. These two weeks have been a ride like no other. I was welcomed into a family. A stranger in a foreign land, that wasn’t so foreign. They held my hand and walked me through what it is to be an Ethiopian. To be a proud Afrikan. They opened their arms to me without question. We exchanged thoughts. Shared our pasts. And created memorable present. I cant thank the family enough. There is no equivalent to what they’ve done for me. Like I said before, I woke up anxious. But it was good to know I was going back to Los Angeles. That city has played a huge part of who I am today and why I wanted to explore the continent of Afrika.

There was no agenda today. It was unlike most of my days in Addis. We sat around the house all day and just lounged. We laid under our agabes and watched television or maybe the television was watching us. But we were all together. Eventually I had to do one last thing, which was go for a hike. It’s one of the spiritual things that I’ve made apart of my life. And I almost didn’t make it happen. Banchirga had spoken about doing it earlier in the day but we ended up resting. The partying had taken a toll. Banchi ended up asking did I want to go and I jumped up faster than a rabbit. I put on my hiking shoes and I was ready to go. We took Banchi’s son Gabe with us. She wanted him to understand and appreciate the blessings in his life. And I was more than happy to assist in her goal. It takes a village right? We left Uncle BF’s home and took a familiar side street. We cut through different streets to reach the farmland directly behind the new homes and neighborhoods within Lebu. Once we reached the farms, we mixed critical thinking with simplicity to make a few points about life to Gabe. We strolled thru recently plowed soil. Passed by donkeys, horses, oxen, tadpoles and chickens. Followed paths through people’s mud huts to find our way to a driveway that took us to an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The view from the church was ridiculous, it had a gran panoramic view of Addis Ababa. We had to take pics. And as soon as we got there, it seemed like we were already on our way back down. But not before doing a little exploring and teaching. It’s a pretty large hill and due to all the new building, there are entities that are carving out pieces of the hillside for construction purposes. But as sad it was to see such a beautiful mountain be reduced to an excavation location, it made for a great history and science lesson. You could see the different levels of soil and rock deposits that could of took anywhere from thousands of years to millions. It was fascinating. And another point that didn’t realize until Banchirga pointed it out, was there are volcanic rocks large and small from the bottom of the mountain to the church. Which means that this particular mountain was most likely a volcano. I scooped up a few rocks to bring home. I thought it was pretty rad, yes I sad rad. I grew up in the 80s. It was a lesson on so many different levels.

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The walk back to the house reminds you of how valuable and privileged we are to the live the lives we do in America. Even our poor make some of these Ethiopians want to swap places. These images all ran across my mind as I walked back to Uncle BF’s house. In no way am I trying to insult the Ethiopian people. I’m just making a point that things aren’t so bad in the U.S. We have poverty. Ours just looks different. And the priorities and values are much different. As soon as I got back to Uncle BF’s, I called our drive Dade to give him the time to come grab for the airport. Once that was handled we ate lunch. Then we all sat around in the TV room and we all got tunnel vision watching a Discovery Channel show that was covering the sun and its possible explosion. It was shocking to know how close we could come to being annihilated by gas clouds or plasma that explodes off of the surface of the sun. It was so interesting that even the smaller kids got into it. At some point during the day the chill’rens were promised a trip to Kaldis for ice cream. So we had to get everyone dressed for the last mission of the day. Right before we leave, Uncle BF asks me what time am I suppose to get picked up to get taken to the airport. I give him the time and he said it would be smarter if I left at least 30 minutes later. He had just got the word Barack Obama just took off from Nairobi, Kenya and he was heading to Addis. He said the city would be crazy. And boy was he right. I called Dade to move up the time. But I got no answer. We all thought for sure that we would get a return call immediately. So we continued to call and still no answer. So by this time I had only a two hour window before I needed to be heading to the airport in Bole. We go outside to catch pajaj. Banchi felt like I needed to take one before I left Addis. So we tried to flag some down. But they were few and far between. Or they were already occupied with passengers. Then we noticed that there wasn’t much traffic on the street, which normally has constant traffic. So we waited for a while and tried to flag one down. Eventually we see Uncle BF across the street walking back towards the house. We tell him the dilemma. Eventually we choose to walk. And we did that just in time. There was a complete traffic jam a few blocks up. Even if we had gotten a pajaj, we wouldn’t have gotten very far before having to get out. And once we got into to an intersection we saw why there was a traffic jam. The police were halting traffic at all the intersections in the region. As we get halfway to Kaldis we notice a plane in the air. It was not a big deal to me though. I grew up in a part of LA where all we did was hear or see planes, I also lived in Inglewood right under the flight path and my current home has a full view of the flight path and the Los Angeles International Airport. So I see planes around the clock, matter of fact it feels like I always have. It was pretty funny once we realized it was Air Force One. I snapped a few shots of the plane, while the kids, Banchirga and Adei were cheering. Basically the Ethiopian government shut down each part of town that President Obama flew over until he passed by safely. Ive never seen or heard of anything of this magnitude happening. I was not tripping too much about the POTUS being in Addis Ababa. I was more surprised at how they stopped everything in the city for him while he descended into Addis. After Obama passed by , we continued our trek to Kaldis. We order our ice cream and Tigi receives a call from her fathe Uncle BF. I knew it was pertaining to me and my airport situation. He tells her that he is on his way to pick us all up and return to his home. Then as we wait for him, Getu and his good friend pop up. They also came to pick us up. As we prepared to leave the power goes out in all of Lebu. The only people that had power had a back up generator. Which most people do not have. We return to the house and its pitch black inside and out. I get my luggage and put it by the door. We call Dade a few more times. And still no answer. Everybody is anxious now and I’m just plain worried. It’s not that I wanted to leave that badly. I just missed being in my home so much. Eventually BF and Getu go outside to the front of the house to wait on Dade. It gets way too close to the time that I should have been leaving to drive to the airport. Uncle BF tells me he would take me. Getu and I rush to load his truck with my luggage. I rushed back in the house to say goodbye to everyone. Was a very sad situation. I had spent fourteen days with these people. Before I left there were hugs, hugs and more hugs. I darted out of the house with the kids voices echoing right behind me.

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We pulled out his driveway and were on our way to the Bole region. We drove sometimes in silence, with a few words here and there. But I was comfortable. At the same time I was a little worried. I became used to the daily rituals of living under Uncle BF’s roof and seeing the family everyday. And we all know humans are creatures of habit. So I was about to break my new found level of comfort. Now the two men that met and picked us up on day one are the same men that are dropping me off. We eventually got to the airport and boy was it crazy. Getu hops out of the truck to get a luggage cart for me. BF advises me to get out and unload. BF pulls off once I am finished. We load up the cart and push it towards the airport security check point. I see BF sitting by the check point, so I walk over and pay my respects. I saluted him and shook his hand. Getu walks me to the point of no return. And I had this weird feeling like I was being sent off to school. He gives me a huge grin and I wave as I pushed toward the entrance of the airport. Honestly, I felt like I was leaving two father figures. They shared so much of themselves, their intellect and their family with me. It was a big deal. A very big deal. They both made sure that I had the best experience while I was there. Which is an honor that I’ll forever hold dear to my heart. Afrika treated me well. Ethiopia showed me so much love and I learned so much. This was one of the greatest moment of my life. And them and their family played a huge part of it. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Afrika, I love you. Ethiopia, I love you. Addis Ababa, I love you. Until we meet again…

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Troy C. Thomas

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