Friday, March 11, 2011

A Heritage worth Cultivating

On February 09, while we were in Addis, I blogged this about the firewood carrier women and girls that have been rescued from the horrors of carrying wood down Entoto mountain (and who are apparently often sex slaves as well).  I edited this post just slightly to correct a couple of errors and add a few words:

The highlight of my day, by far, was our visit to a gated, compound-like place, where hunched-over, firewood-carrying women have been rescued from the incredibly difficult job of hauling firewood down Entoto mountain.  These women have developed a business of hand-weaving scarves to support themselves.  While the women work, their children are cared for by other women, and they attend school in an on-site one-room school house...even the little wee ones.  When I was given the ok to peek inside the partially-open door of the schoolroom, I was immediately mobbed by a group of about 20-25 tiny children, all of whom appeared delighted to see me.  They rushed over to me, and fought to grab my hand, which they then bowed over and kissed.  I made sure to shake hands with every single child, some of them more than 2-3 times, even though about half of them were snotty-nosed!  Even that wasn't enough contact for them!  When I bent down so that Marcos (our driver) could take a picture of me with the kids, they milled around me to hug me.  I ended up sitting on the dirty concrete floor with these smiling and laughing children.  It was absolutely delightful.

When I was finally forced by manners to leave the children to their school work, we learned that the scarf shop was closed for another 30-40 minutes.  We were invited to sit in the yard, just as a a group of the women weavers sat down to their coffee break: a traditional coffee ceremony.  We were invited to have the sweetened coffee as well, and so I enjoyed my third tiny cup of the day.  Incidentally, I know that I said that the cups are tiny, and they are, but they are wicked strong cups of coffee.  The coffee is pitch black and you could pretty much stand a spoon up in it, but they add a couple of tiny scoops of sugar to each cup, and wow - it is delicious!!  Of note, this was my third such cup of potent coffee today, and I can tell you that when I held up my hand in front of me, it was extremely jittery!  How fun.  Eventually we got into the small shop where the women showcase their wares, and I was glad to be able to purchase a few scarves at incredibly reasonable prices (65 birr/scarf = $3-4).

What I was not able to do from Ethiopia was post pictures about this highlight.  So I thought I'd include some now.

(below - two pictures)
We were invited to look around the small factory, where people sat at their looms weaving beautiful fabrics that would become the scarves they sold in their shop.  I gotta tell was stinking hot in that room where they worked.

You'll note that only one of the children in this picture is smiling.  It was the most bizarre thing:  the moment the camera came out, their smiles stopped and they looked sober-faced at the camera; once the shutter snapped, they resumed their laughter and their faces beamed like that one little fellow you can see  on the left. It made me wonder about the referral pictures that we waiting, prospective adoptive parents are given when we receive a referral...the children are invariably sober and sad looking.  Indeed, they have reason to be sober and sad...but seeing how these children reacted to the camera did make me wonder if there's some kind of cultural thing that goes on for kids when a camera gets pulled out.

The children truly were so very beautiful and cheerful and friendly; I was so happy to be in their midst.  You can see Geoff smiling broadly in this picture, as those little hands on his shoulders were pulling down on him...moments after this picture was taken, they managed to get him all the way to the ground!

The women (who, to me, look so aged relative to their likely number of years) participate in their afternoon coffee ceremony, eating the little pancake-like food that seems to be as common as popcorn for eating with coffee.

Notice the tiny cups ready for coffee; the coffee is being brewed over a tiny charcoal fire, on the far left of the picture.  They added two extra cups to the pile, so that we could join lovely.

Adding a little (or a lot!) of sweetness to the deliciously strong brew!

The woman on the left is hand-finishing a scarf that I kept eyeing for my sister - it's just her colour.  When, later, I scanned through all of the scarves in the shop, I indicated that I wanted the one that this woman had been working on.  Fortunately, she had just finished hand-tying the fringes, and so I was able to bring this one home...and I was right, it looks great on my sister.

The inside of the little shop.  The beautiful woman in white is the sales person, and she is standing next to Marcos, our driver.

As one leaves the rescue association compound, one sees this elevated shack, where apparently at least several of the women sleep with their children.

I enjoyed such a lovely afternoon in this compound, thanks to the welcoming joy of the children and the gracious hospitality of the women who worked there.  Seeing the resilience of these women impacted me deeply, and contributed hugely to the feeling I took with me from Ethiopia: that this is a culture of strong, determined people who carry themselves with more dignity than one might think possible in the circumstances of their lives.  Everything they have, they have worked tirelessly for, so that their children might have a better life.  My hope is that one special boy and one special girl, who will soon (I hope) be coming to Canada to live with these adoptive parents, will carry and cultivate within them the tributes that these women offer to the next generation:  dignity; purpose; resilience; grace.

1 comment:

  1. Ruth thanks for this post. Would you mind e-mailing me at I would like to ask you something.

    Thank-you so much,