My Greatest Adventure
The summer after my junior year of high school was spent in Ethiopia. It was an amazing time – being completely soaked in Ethiopian culture, bonding with my new brothers and sister as I helped at their orphanage, and truly learning so much about myself. The last week I was there, I was finally joined by my parents. They had flown over to pick up my brothers and sister in the capital city just a few days after I had left that city, heading about seven hours south to help out at a hospital. We missed each other by a few days but I wasn’t going to put off the work I was doing in order to see my parents. Finally, though, they had to come down south for my mom’s work and it was wonderful to reconnect with them after so long apart. The southern region, the region of the hospital I worked in, was the region my brother Andrew was from. The thing was, though, that he was a village kid. His birth village was somewhere out in the African wilderness and we didn’t think there was any way we’d have the opportunity to find it. That didn’t stop us from trying. All we knew was that Andrew had brought his baby sister to a medical clinic and the medical missionary, on discovering that he was an orphan, had him take the paperwork back to his village elders for them to sign, confirming that he and his baby sisters were orphans. She then had taken them to the capital and placed them in the orphanage. Since the medical missionary and my parents were in contact with one another, my parents asked her if we could at least be taken to where her medical clinic had been so we could learn at least a little more about Andrew’s life before joining our family. The day we were going to drive out there was full of excitement! The missionary, my parents, an Ethiopian man, a nine year old Ethiopian boy, and I all loaded into the truck. We drove and drove – a few hours out of the little town we had been in – across unpaved roads. It was a beautiful drive through the African landscape and I was full of excitement over what I was seeing and full of hope that we would have pictures to bring back to Andrew that would remind him of his home. Finally, we got there. The missionary showed us where she met Andrew and pointed out the direction from which he had come. We all decided to drive that way and see what we could find. Back into the truck we piled. Every little while we’d come across individuals walking by the side of the road. We would stop, our interpreter would show them Andrew’s picture and ask if they had known that boy, they would say “no”, and we would drive on. Finally, we met a man who didn’t say no! He had known my brother! He told us he knew the village my brother had grown up in and happily jumped into the truck to show us the way. Now, of course, a few of us *cough my dad and I cough* were skeptical. How did we know this man didn’t just think that we were a way of getting some money. He could take us to any village that he could claim was my brother’s! We hoped he was being honest but we didn’t know for sure. We welcomed him into the truck with us and again we drove and drove, finally coming to a creek we couldn’t drive over. It matched up perfectly with Andrew’s story. He had told us that to get to the medical clinic he had to cross a creek on a log. Here was a creek and there was a log. What to do about the truck, though? It definitely couldn’t be driven over the log. It wasn’t safe to leave the truck alone so the missionary said she would stay with the truck. It wasn’t safe to leave the elderly female missionary alone so we had to leave the adult Ethiopian man (OUR INTERPRETER!) with her. Who did that leave to go hiking through the bush? My parents, me, an elderly Ethiopian man who supposedly knew my brother’s village, and a little nine year old Ethiopian boy who spoke a little English and a little Wolayttan (the regional language). He wasn’t fluent in either language that he was now supposed to translate for! There was no other choice, off we went, not knowing what would happen. We hiked over the creek and into the bush. We had been told it was a fifteen minute walk and yet forty minutes later we were still walking. My dad was starting to break branches of trees so we would be able to find our back if this “guide” had set us up for an ambush and we had to escape. He may or may not have also been humming the theme song of Roots. Still, we walked with the hope of finding my brother’s past. Finally, we came into a clearing with many huts and a “town square” of sorts. A woman was walking in the square, holding an umbrella to shield herself from the sun. We went over to her, holding out Andrew’s picture. The moment she saw the picture and before we could say anything, she had thrown the umbrella, thrown her arms into the air, and began screaming “Hallelujah Yesuah!” Out of nowhere people came running – wondering what was going on. She passed the picture around and everyone screamed in delight! Their lost boy had been found. This truly was his village. Years ago, when Andrew had left the village, they thought they would never see him or hear about him again. And here were three white people carrying a picture of their boy. In time – and with a lot of sign language and attempted translation – we found out that the woman we originally met was his aunt. We met uncles, cousins, friends, and other extended family. We received hugs, kisses, embraces, and smiles. It was as if we witnessed the joy that would come of someone rising from the dead. And yet, in all the joy, there was something that hadn’t been spoken. The people of Andrew’s village were rejoicing in the news of him until finally, one woman brought out an old, ratty picture of Andrew and his baby sister. The group quieted down as they all realized that we hadn’t said anything about little Tshynesh. What did that mean? We had to explain to them the best we could about her death. It was heartbreaking to see these friends and relatives realize what we were saying to them and understand that their little one had passed away. Their joy turned to heartbreak before our eyes. Their was wailing and tears. It broke my heart about baby Leah’s death all over again. As the grieving subsided, the people told us that they wanted to show us around. It’s had to explain, but the mood was both somber and yet full of joy. They showed us Andrew’s former tent. They took us to the village coffee field he used to help work. We found the mango tree he told us he used to hide in to get out of working. We got to experience pieces of his life in an amazing way. Since then, Andrew’s had the opportunity to visit his village twice. He has been able to reconnect with family members and friends and truly has a heart for going back to Ethiopia someday and using the nursing degree he’s working toward to help his family. It’s been a blessing for him, knowing that our family supports him 100% in his desire to help his birth family. We feel as though we’re all one now. And that, my friends, was my greatest adventure.
Check out my blogging “Little Sister”: