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Hikes, Churches and Lots of New Friends

The Imagine Ethiopia 2010 participants hit their stride in their first few days in Ethiopia – and they’re just getting started!

The participants atop the beautiful Entoto Mountain in Addis Ababa.

On day one of our journey in Ethiopia, the team adjusted to the massive jet lag by attempting to sleep a few hours before we woke up early to go for a hike up Entoto Mountain, which overlooks the city of Addis Ababa.

“The first day was totally confronting,” Lacey recalls. “The poverty that exists within the country instantly became very real for me as the lack of resources, education and proper health care was completely apparent every direction in which I looked. Hiking a mountain and learning that 3,000 of the 5,000 inhabitants on the mountain are infected with AIDS and lived there so the holy water would heal them made it very clear that not even the most basic of needs are being met for these people.”

A stroll through Addis with new friends.

After the hike, we had the honour of having dinner at the home of Dr. Rick Hodes. Dr. Hodes is an American doctor who has lived and worked in Ethiopia for over 20 years. He is the Medical Director of Ethiopia for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a 95-year old NGO. Over the years, he has been in charge of the health of Ethiopians immigrating to Israel. Currently, he is the senior consultant at a Catholic mission helping sick destitute with heart disease (rheumatic and congenital), spine disease (TB and scoliosis), and cancer. He has also worked with refugees in Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania, Somalia, and Albania.

“Our visit to Dr. Hodes’ house was the group’s first experience interacting with Ethiopians,” explains Chloe. “The group was at first tentative, but as the evening went on, crazy hats were donned, songs were sung and we got to know each other over beer and food. The kids and Rick spoke openly about the medical challenges they had to overcome and I was inspired by their courage and humour in the face of adversity. We had an amazing time. It was a great first night!”

The next day we had a very early morning start as we left Addis Ababa at 4:30am to catch a one hour flight to the historic and beautiful Lalibella in Northern Ethiopia. Lalibella is one of the country’s most sacred cities. Its 11 rock-hewn churches, which date back to the 13th century, are each carved out of a single block of granite with their roofs at ground level. These churches are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After exploring the rock-hewn churches near the Lalibella town, the team hiked up to the Ashetenmariyan Church, which is nestled in the mountains at about 9,000 feet above sea level. Along the way, we were joined by hordes of children from nearby villages. Our group grew from 24 to over 50 as the children acted as ‘mini’ tour guides up to the remote mountain church.

Jonathan conqueres the hike in Lalibella.

“I was sick when we did this hike, but it didn’t stop me and I challenged myself to go on,” says Jonathan of the Lalibella hike. “It was a pretty treacherous hike. The kids from the village joined us on the hike and I asked one of them to race with me up the mountain. The villagers and the children climb this mountain two times a day just to go to the town or to school. It amazed me that many do this every day with no shoes and I could even barely do it once. I got to the top and the hike was so intense and the elevation was so high that it was hard to even breathe.”

But when Jonathan eventually caught his breath he and the team borded a plane the next morning and headed for Axum.  The better part of the day was spent driving from Axum to Hawzien in the Gheralta Mountains of Tigray, where we will call home for the rest of the trip!

The participants had their first visit to an imagine1day school community, Laelay Wukro (the school their fundraising money is building) today so check back soon to our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/imagine1day)for an update on what they did and what they thought of it!

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