A friend noticed the barbed wire around our compound in photos and asked me to talk a bit more about our guard, the gate I keep mentioning and our compound. I started off today thinking I would kind of photo journal a walk with the boys so that I could just post more about our daily life and what “home” now looks like. My post ended up taking a bit of a different turn than what I expected–just on some of the realities of life here–but it’s all good information still.
As we headed out of our gate and down the muddy, dirt road the boys noticed a skull in the road. There were quite a few other cow parts, too. It appears that someone butchered a cow and scattered the parts around. The hoofs still had the fur on them and a little puppy was chewing on some part. I don’t know how they get the skull so clean–probably don’t want to know. I also don’t know why this cow died. Most of the families around us are Orthodox and they are in fasting right now until their Easter (which is mid-May). Fasting pretty much means a vegan diet, so no beef for sure. Honestly, we see animal parts on the road and sidewalk all the time here. This wasn’t a shocking thing to find, but the boys felt it was photo worthy. I guess it is not “normal” by US standards in a city of millions of people.
As we got a little further down the road, we noticed two donkeys laden with hay. Yep, there’s a donkey under there.
There is a little row of suks (shops) not too far from us and Chris and I had some passport photos taken there so that we can submit our work permit papers tomorrow (YES, that is FINALLY happening). The boys and I walked along the new cobblestone sidewalk–HUGE luxury–to see if the photos were ready. We had the pictures taken Saturday. They were not ready yet, but that’s a different story for another day. The cobblestone sidewalk is new and it is nicer than the dirt path that was along the side of the road before. In fact, most people used to just walk on the road as it is nice and paved right by our house–though it’s not long before you hit dirt again. A few weeks ago, there were crews of people putting in the stones, piece by piece, by hand. They’re in a lovely curved pattern and then the cracks were filled with sand and smaller rocks. A block could be done in a day and it was very labor intensive. I could not imagine Americans doing anything like this, but if they did, they’d probably make good money. I’ll bet the workers here made a few cents for their hard work each day in the hot sun. Men and women alike worked on the sidewalks.
On our way home, I attempted to take pictures of our gate from the outside as it’s kind of pretty and decorative from that view, but the camera died and I’m not going out there to do it now because there are workers on our street and they’d think this ferenge had lost her mind! I knocked on the gate to have the guard let me in. He came to the gate and immediately started explaining something to me in Amharic. He looked like he was nervous or something. I finally realized that there was a child (not one of mine) inside of our compound with him. Typically, this is a big no-no, to let someone in. He was trying to tell me why. I kind of got it. I assured him it was fine, with my three Amharic words and he seemed relieved. I said hello to the child, we have seen her many times on our street and I believe it is his granddaughter, just so she would know we were fine with her being there. Honestly, I wish kids would come to play, but I’ll get to that later. I went upstairs and grabbed my other camera and discovered I had understood his yammering and pointing. This child was holding our hose for our guard so that he could wash his head. He had taken off his shirt–very rare here as people are very decently dressed and he wears a suite to work EVERY day–and was soaping up with a bar of soap and rinsing with the cold hose water. Did he really think I wouldn’t be okay with that? I could not care less. We complain about not having water for a few days partially because we like to shower daily. This man just wanted to wash off his head in my hose and thought it might not be okay with me. The owner of our home built in a bathroom for the house helper/guards to use. I thought he knew that he could use it, but maybe not. There is a shower, a toilet and a sink in there. Does he even know what a shower is? I don’t think he uses the toilet. Ethiopians traditionally use squatty potties (holes in the ground) and are very unfamiliar with actual toilets. I know he uses the sink sometimes. I think our other guard uses the shower, but maybe not. Oh, how I wish I could communicate simple things to this man. He can use that shower. It is not warm water, but neither is the hose! Most of all, I want him to know it’s okay to use the hose. If I could communicate effectively, I’d tell him to bring his whole family one day a week and they could just take turns. One day…I will figure this language out if it kills me.
My heart just broke for Mr. Baacha as I snapped this photo. Water, or lack there of, is one very harsh reality in Ethiopia. The water that is here is not clean. When we say we’re out of water, we still have enough to drink or we can go buy jugs of it if needed. My neighbors don’t have any filtered water. They can’t afford to just go and buy jugs of clean water when they run out. I don’t like this reality.
Across the street, there is a watering hole. When the city fills our tanks, their tank is also filled. Their tank is the same size as ours and it is for the entire community. I don’t know how many people exactly, but I’ve seen at least 5 people there at at time whenever it’s open, probably at least 25 in one hour, but it’s not open all that often–may 2 hours a day. Supposing they all have families of at least 4 (probably more like 10), it’s likely for 100-200 people. We have 5 people…6 if you include the tiny bit of water the guard uses throughout the day…on the same size tank. We run out after 3 days. Obviously, they run out even more quickly, but they are also using WAY less than we are–even here where we try to conserve as much as we can. This watering hole is gated off, though barely, and people abide by that. There are certain times of the day when it is open and people have to pay a small amount to get it. They fill their jug with water–usually around 25 liters–toss it on their back and head home. They’re heavy and it is almost always women, most smaller than me, carrying these jugs on their backs. Sometimes, it is even small children. I like that they have water and that it is cleaner than what you can find in a ditch, but the reality of carrying these heavy jugs and running out as frequently as we do and having to pay for something life sustaining is another reality I just don’t like.
So, back to the original purpose of the post…we have a guard, two actually. Ethiopia is an extremely safe country–at least violence wise. People just are not violent here. I could go into the whys of all that, but I know it would just lead to a gun control/political debate and that is not what this blog is for so I’ll just leave that be. Even though there is little violence, there is quite a bit of theft. When walking, you don’t have your cell phone out for texting and you keep your purse guarded. Wallets are kept in the front pocket. At home, we have concrete walls on three sides of our compound. One side is tin because the property on the other side of it is disputed. Apparently, it used to be a walkway through the middle of the block. Don’t tell the houses behind us because they blocked it with concrete walls, but for whatever reason the city has prevented our home owner from putting up the last concrete wall…T.I.E. All four walls are topped with barbed wire. This is meant to keep the criminals out and it does the trick. There is a gate that opens in the middle and slides left and right so we can get a car in and out. There is also a small door in the gate so that we don’t have to always slide it. The guard’s main job is to keep us safe, especially through the night. He sleeps outside, sitting on a chair. It is not warm at night here. I do not like this reality much either. Their second job is to open the gate for us as we come and go. That’s about it. Needing the gate and the barbed wire is a reality that I’m not really sure how I feel about. On the one hand, it is nice to have privacy. It is also nice to be able to let the kids go outside to play and not have to worry about someone nabbing them (not that anyone here would) or them wandering off at all. It is also nice to feel safe, especially at night with so many strange noises all the time. It is not nice, however, to feel so isolated. It is not nice to not even be able to recognize my neighbors. It is not nice that my kids don’t get to interact with the local children at all because we’re locked away behind this gate. All in all, I’d rather have it than not have it, but some days I wish we could just leave the gate open and let the neighbor kids wander in. Our guards would NEVER allow it, I laugh just thinking about them trying to shut it constantly if we tried.
The older guard came with the house. He has been guarding the property since the owner started building. He lives just down the street and the owner trusted him a great deal. This counts for just about everything. He is very old–hard to guess ages here because the sun and manual labor takes a toll on people–but definitely past retirement age. He can’t do much, even struggles to open the gate, but he sure tries. He waters our gardens religiously. He greets us emphatically and refuses to even let me open the door myself. He is a kind man with a very gentle spirit and he is trustworthy. Our younger guard, maybe 30ish, was recommended by another family from the US who moved and no longer needed his services. He has some English and quite a bit more energy. He likes to play football/soccer with the boys and Kayla just adores him. She’s always calling…”Tayu, tayu, are you?”. His name is Sintayu and he is often just outside of our gate with another guard friend from down the street, so that’s why she’s looking for him. He is a GOOD cook. One day, he was making some vegetable wat (stew) and he offered me some. Talk about humbling! He has next to nothing and he’s offering me food. Of course I took it, you don’t say no. It was delicious! We do feed our guards occasionally, but it is tough to know when they’re fasting due to religion and almost everything I make has some animal product (butter, milk, eggs) in it so it wouldn’t be good to offer it, but once in a while we do try. We pay them on time. If they do odd jobs (washing the car, pulling weeds), we tip them a little extra. Unfortunately, guards don’t make much here. I won’t tell you how much because you’ll think we’re awful people. This is another reality I just don’t like. We can go out to eat and spend almost our guard’s entire monthly salary on one meal. It’s sad and a bit shameful. I mean, we have never quite spent that much, but close and very rarely. We have asked about paying them more and everyone cautions against it, wisely. If we pay them more, they will never get that wage again when we leave and then they’re sunk. It is best if we just stick to the going rate and tip them when we can. Honestly, we feel like we hit the jackpot with our guards. They’re both great guys. They look out for us, they care about our kids and they don’t really bother us at all. Having them is one reality I don’t mind all that much.
I just went and paid Mr. Baacha his monthly salary, it was his pay day. He hugged me and kissed me (on the cheek) and was so very grateful. I wish I could do more. He earned this. It’s not enough to be grateful for. And yet it is. So grateful. He then immediately ran home with the money (he lives in one of the tin roof homes pictured below–near the man with the red shirt–it’s about 1/2 a block from our gate). I imagine he give sit to his wife and that makes me smile, but it’s just in my imagination. Who knows what he does with it. I just know he smiled all the way home. I want this man to know Jesus. Desperately. I intend to buy a Bible and place it in the guard house once it’s finished–work in progress you can see in the photo of him “showering” so that they don’t have to stay outside in rainy season or all night if they don’t want to. I don’t know if he can read, but I sure hope he can. The reality of my life here is that people I’m surrounded by should wonder what is different about me because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. If we can’t even impact our guards who, pretty much, live with us 24/7 then we are NOT good witnesses.
Our two guards each work 24 hours on and then 24 hours off and they just rotate. If they need a day off, they can work it out amongst themselves. They do a lot of sitting. I honestly feel kind of badly for them. But, I know they need the job and I know that we’ll be gone during the daytime hours soon and we’ll want them here then, especially. So, they’re here…always here. It’s weird and it’s a little awkward sometimes, but we do love them and we hope that they like working here enough to stay and that we are able to teach them about Jesus and the reality of how much He loves them just as they are.