The chicken on the chair
During our regular Thursday 'Y’tesfye Birhan' local girls meeting this week we talked in groups about good things and difficulties that we had experienced during day. One girl shared that her friend had cut herself badly and had been sent home from school; another that her parents fight and that worries her. The youngest one (who not so long ago was on the street begging with her mum) had not been to school. The oldest girl in the group (aged 11 - we’ll call her M) was thankful that she had done well on a school test. She is in a grade well below her age. I then incorporated into our prayers each of the girl’s needs and praises.
Following the meeting we had a need to speak to three of the girl’s parents. As it was getting dark we drove them home in a minibus. The girls indicated that they had not been in a vehicle before. They all walk to Bingham each week, but we soon discovered that their idea of a ‘short’ distance was different from ours. We arrived at the first destination. As two of the girls were neighbours I remained with M in the minibus whilst the two other teachers and our Ethiopian teaching assistant/ interpreter went to meet the girls' mothers . They met one holding a very young baby with a five year old in tow, who was selling candles beside the road. After some negotiation they went to the home. They described it as one of the poorest they had seen. Plastic sheeting divided the two dwellings. Meanwhile I was experiencing the attention outside the minibus of about a dozen children who clearly would have loved to climb inside. They were banging on the sides and trying to open doors and windows in a non-aggressive manner, eventually they were shooed away by a passer-by.
We next went to M’s home. In a single room with one light bulb was M’s Grandma and her Grandma’s sister. Both her parents died when she was one. Chairs were arranged around the uneven floor, and Grandma’s sister was sitting on the double bed. To her left was a raised platform with a makeshift ladder attached to the wall - presumably M sleeps up there. Grandma was stirring a small pot of bubbling shiro (thick brown spicy liquid) on a charcoal stove at the foot of the bed. After greetings were exchanged they indicated that we should sit down, I did so, failing to notice the live chicken perched on the chair back. It didn’t appreciate this close proximity, so I moved forward to the chair edge and it tolerated my presence. The two ladies agreed to our requests and seemed happy to meet us.
We then drove our teaching assistant home. She takes two taxis to work each day. Her home is in the middle of an expanse of mud and rock. The electricity was off so it was very dark. The minibus made it over the terrain which closely resembled a lunar landscape. We paused briefly to greet her family, father and mother (who is recovering from an illness). She has two children - a two year old boy who had given in to tiredness and was asleep on the sofa, and a four year old little girl.
When I got up Thursday morning, I could never have predicted that any of these experiences would become part of my day.