Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ethiopia return trip Part 3 (Burji)

Day 6

We all met for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. After breakfast, I asked A's people about the Burji clan system. Every Burji person I talked to in the U.S. asked me what clan our boys are in, so this seemed like important information. Working together, A's people came up with a list of twenty-two Burji clans. Our kids are Gooda. That means that their ancestors were from the Gooda "house." Every other Gooda, no matter where they live, is considered their "brother" or "sister" and they have a mutual obligation of assistance. The clan is passed down patrilinearly, a woman retains her clan upon marriage, and a member of a clan cannot marry another member of the same clan.

After I'd written down the information about clans, it was time to set off for Burji. Dawitt asked me to drive again. The road was newly-graded gravel and was much better than the main highway. It took a little over an hour to get to Burji. It was a really beautiful drive.

We went straight to the village and drove directly to the new school to deliver our donation of school bags. Here's some of the video Dawitt shot of the drive. The voices you hear are those of Dawitt and the kebele chief:

Unfortunately, when we got to the school the students had already gone home for the day. So we got back in the van and drove over to the house of one of the village leaders. That's when the real excitement began. Up until then, the only people who knew A was returning for a visit were the people who came to Hagere Mariam - a couple of relatives and a couple of village leaders. They had not told anyone else we were coming because, until they saw A with their own eyes, they hadn't completely believed that it was true. The morning before, they had made up some excuse for going to Hagere Mariam, and had gone off without telling anyone else their real purpose. So now, when A hopped out of the van, people reacted as if they were witnessing a miracle.

A handled everything incredibly well, but the first hour or so of our visit was COMPLETELY OVERWHELMING for him. I will keep the details of these reunions private, but I will describe a few things that made them easier. First, I insisted very firmly that we go somewhere more private and limit the number of people who could interact with us at one time. Dawitt made this happen right away. Second, I used my camera to show people videos of D, taking the attention off of A. Third, we got out the soccer balls and got a couple of games going. Finally, I took videos of some of the kids and showed them the videos of themselves, which proved to be almost as exciting as staring at us (some children even tried out English phrases).

We spent most of the day at the village. There was a coffee ceremony and many speeches. I gave the gifts we had brought with us. I delivered photos and news to two other families who have children in the U.S. and I took photos and videos.

Around 4PM we went back to Dawitt's family's house in Soyema, the main town in Burji. Two of the village leaders came with us. We met some more of Dawitt's many siblings  and had a very late lunch. Then Dawitt and his stepmother graciously invited A and me to stay the night there.

In the evening we went for a walk around Soyema. Then we sat in the courtyard of the house, I delivered some messages from Dawitt's brother in Colorado, and his siblings in turn gave me messages to deliver. It was all quite formal and very different from how this kind of conversation would go in the U.S. It was more like speeches again (by the time we left Burji I had given a lot of speeches).

Finally before turning in I went to use the toilet. It was a typical squat toilet and while I was peeing a mouse ran out of the hole and I peed on the mouse. Of course I screamed and ran out too. From then on, Dawitt, A and I referred to going to the bathroom as "visiting the mouse."


  1. Wow. You know the family is going to be thrilled beyond words to see their child again, but to hear that the entire village was in ecstasy -- that's something. Makes a profound statement that we all need to bring our kids back. They are very much missed by many.

    1. In part it's because of the expanded definition of "family" - by the time you include second cousins, grandmother's cousin's stepchild, clan members, etc. you are already talking about half the village.

  2. I am catching up on all your Ethiopia posts at once, and I am loving all the information and detail and photos that you are sharing. However, what I really needed tonight was a good chuckle, and "visiting the mouse," did the trick. Thank you for that.

    1. If you ever need a pick-me-up, I recommend peeing on a mouse. Its look of surprise is just priceless. :)

  3. Ha - "visiting the mouse!" That's hilarious (since I wasn't the one that was scared like that)! I love hearing how excited everyone was to see A. And I love the things you did to try to make it all more manageable for him. I can see why it would be so overwhelming, with that many people.