Reveille was officially at 6:30 a.m., but many of us were awakened much earlier by an Orthodox Christian man using a megaphone to chant the call to prayer somewhere outside our hotel. After a delicious buffet breakfast of injera, boiled and scrambled eggs, bread, rolls, diced lamb, watermelon and pineapple slices, not to mention the first taste for most of us of the famed Ethiopian coffee (yummy!), we took a head count (all 17 present and accounted for), boarded our bus, and headed out of Addis Ababa for our ten-hour ride to Dessie.

Our senses were on overload by the time we reached the outskirts of Addis. We saw many business establishments made out of corrugated tin, bananas hanging in profusion from roadside shops, blue and white taxis, donkeys loaded down with bundles of hay, mud puddles from recent rains, open-air thatched roof huts on wooden poles, goats, chickens, dogs, cows and a few horses. Once outside the city, the beauty of God’s creation was evident in the green fields of lentils, blue and purple mountains, and a vast expanse of sky with cottony cumulus clouds. We were saddened, though, by haunting scenes: a man with only one leg scuttling down the road using his hands and his one leg to navigate clumsily along, and a child of six or seven rooting through piles of roadside garbage in search of food.

The road was hilly and full of hairpin curves, and the terrain was rocky. At 10:30 we stopped for a bathroom break (up the hill and into the bushes), and were soon surrounded by boys appearing out of nowhere to try to sell us hats made out of monkey hair. The vehicle of transportation is definitely the Isuzu truck, which spews black diesel exhaust fumes into the air. We passed many of them on the road.

Once we were out of the mountains, the landscape became barren and it was quite warm. We saw a caravan of five or six camels being led by a herdsman with a stick, and our driver slowed down so we could take pictures. We traveled through several villages scattered along the road, people waving at us and us waving back. Most of the men and boys waved, but not many of the women. We saw few elderly people, an indication of the devastation of AIDS upon the population, which has reduced the life expectancy from a young 47 to an even younger 45.

We reached Dessie, a city of teeming humanity, in the early evening. We thankfully unloaded our luggage and team supplies, then sat down to a supper of spaghetti, potato pieces, salad, and cucumber slices prepared by our cook Alu, along with the scrumptious coffee. After dinner Susan led the team devotionals, and we told how we saw God at work today. We sorted out our team supplies (where is the construction paper? The scissors? The glue?), cut out multi-colored Joseph’s coats, rolled tee shirts, and taped our craft schedule to the dining room wall. We took showers and then hit the sack, full of anticipation for our time tomorrow with the kids.