One Stormy Night
Elsewhere in a different part of campus three teachers retired to bed and were lulled to sleep by the heavy rain on the metal roof. During the night they were awoken by a night guard who had noticed the large branch that had sheared off from the nearby tree and landed on the roof. A 3 a.m. relocation to another apartment was wise and they awoke bleary-eyed to begin work the following day.
On occasions of extraordinary rain events such as this, I always spare a thought for the many local people who cope with leaks and flooding as a matter of course. However, what I was not aware of was an event taking place a few miles away.
The afternoon after the storm I was walking between my classroom and home when I passed my colleague and a few others, loading a van. Recently she had held a ‘Blanket Drive’ and folk had donated a collection of of adult and baby sizes. I offered to help and ended up joining the van which would be taking us to the community of fire victims.
Before we began distribution, we walked inside the room that we knew our Y’tesfa girls inhabited. To my surprise there was Emebet, wearing the same clothes and stirring the same small pot as she was during last week’s visit. Why are you not at school? we wanted to know.
During the previous night’s storm, it transpired, Emebet’s mum gave birth, right there behind a curtain that had been hung up using string, across a corner of the room. Habtum’s Mum had helped her. The other side of the curtain presumably, many of her previous neighbours lay on mattresses with their husbands and children.
The new little girl and her Mum had gone to get injections following the birth before, no doubt, beginning the traditional 80 days in the dark. This now makes six children in Emebet’s family.
We found a good thick blanket for Mum for her return and a small soft one for the new baby. Then the general distribution began. An Ethiopian colleague had a list of the occupants of the two large rooms which housed most of the families who were now familiar with us. He asked each mother to sign as they collected a blanket. Meanwhile, once the back of the van was open a small gang of excited toddlers climbed in almost immediately and sat there smiling at us.
Finally, once the reluctant toddlers were lifted down, we could return to Bingham, encouraged that more warmth would be generally available when the next storm arrived.