Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ethiopia Trip #8

March 30, 2007
Today I left Ethiopia. The streets were once again dark, and the city was quiet. No blaring horns. No children begging at my window. A few hours later I sat on a plane and bumped down the runway, my face pressed against the window. The same streetlights flickered, and cars had begun to fill the streets below. I left Ethiopia in a cloud of dust as our plane lifted into the air.

Now, a long day of travel is finally behind me. A little while ago, our plane descended on New York, and we were herded through customs. I was surprised at the reverse culture shock. I had taken for granted the kindness of the people of Ethiopia. The humble spirits. The kindness to strangers. In New York, I felt none of that. My thank you’s were met with glares instead of quiet nods and whispered you’re welcome’s.

I already miss the musical sound of Amharic voices. The English tongue sounds too loud to me, almost crude. I miss holding the warm hand of a child who has been rescued from poverty. I miss sipping hot bitter coffee as a display of friendship. I miss glass bottles of coke drank together in a cool office. I miss awakening to the sound of birds chirping and dogs barking and the morning prayers of the Orthodox church down the street. I miss the people of Ethiopia. How do you miss something you barely knew?

In a few minutes, I will shower and the last bit of Ethiopian dust will swirl down the drain. When I wash my face, the last Ethiopian kiss will disappear from my cheeks. It saddens me to know that the hibiscus tea that I spilled on my jacket will only be a faint stain after I do my laundry. That when I clean off my shoes, the dried Ethiopian mud will be swept away. I will only be left with a few framed photos, my stories, and a different heart. May it never be the same again.

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