Reflections on Ethiopia

Friday, March 27, 2009

Posted by Phillip Garrott

I'd like to share with you all a portion of an email that I sent the day before I left Ethiopia, on December 6th, 2008.

"There have been many times that I have been extremely lonely, but it has been an excellent lesson in patience and understanding. Loneliness is inner emptiness, and understanding that lets you gain a perspective on what to fill yourself with. It has been a lesson learned over a long time, and I admit that I have been broken in order to reach the position that I am in now. But I am thankful for it. We really must learn how to be alone if we are to be with people in a safe and meaningful.

Companionship and fellowship with people my own age has been severely lacking – even amongst some of my Ethiopian friends. Amharic is a very tough language to learn, and most people don’t speak but a little bit of English. Please, please, please…cherish the friendships that you have surrounding you, and the friends that are always there for you. There may come a time when you have to branch out on your own away from everything that you know, and live without those around you. They may not understand you always, and you may disagree on who should be President or where to go to dinner – but relish that! It hurts really badly when they are gone. Now may be the only time in your life that you live in such close proximity with so many people. Even though it can be tough, be strong and know that you will look back on these days with smiling faces.

Now, I know that for me, all of this is exacerbated by the fact that I am living in a foreign country. I also want to emphasize that I am not completely alone over here. Just over the fence (less of a fence actually…more just concrete) is an American Family working for the same Adoption Agency. They are two parents (Ryan and Abby) in their late 20’s early 30’s which three kids, two adopted Ethiopian children, Marta (12) and Enoch (2), and Baby Ezra (7 months). I have essentially played the part of the elder brother to them in the time here, and younger brother to the parents. This experience has taught me much about the importance of family, some lessons which I should have learned a long time ago.

I’ll just say this too - for the most part I've worked with infants aged 0-2 years old. I’ve been doing developmental charts with them 2-3 times a week, essentially writing down things that they can and cannot do, taking their picture, and sending it to soon-to-be-parents. Babies are smelly and dirty, cry a lot, never cooperate, can’t tell you anything about what they want or don’t want, and generally are just unpleasant to be around…but those few shining moments when they flash you a smile, and you see that they aren’t just blobs but are the most perfect form of innocence and beauty that have ever seen, all that other stuff goes away. They are also a gift. To give a child to a parent who has never had children before, and was told time and again by doctors and lawyers that they would never, ever have children…I can’t describe that moment in words.

Life runs at a different pace over here, one that I hope to emulate and show you all when we get back. If I have realized one thing, it is that the United States forces us to “move, move, move” until we can’t move any longer. That, in Ethiopia, is simply not the case. One is never too busy to take time for a coffee break with friends, or a walk outside. It’s those things that keep us sane. To be constantly moving means to neglect the opportunity to sit and relax. I DARE you to plan a Saturday with nothing, or take a walk once a day. Be human! There is more to life than books and studying, and the relationships that you have with each other are mere vapor in the air, a mist in the morning. Soon, it will be gone. Learn from each other, we have so much to teach each other.

Ethiopia has taught me much, but it is nothing that can't be comprehended and examined back in the states. It may be easier to draw your mind away from the commonplace and routines that frequently suck our time away, but it is possible - dare I say necessary. Just take a trip to the coffee shop with a good friend and discuss. Read a book that makes you think. Stay away from things that tell you how you should think, and what to believe. I came to the realization the other day about the question we used to ask in high school and before: “Why do we have to know this?” It’s not so much the material, but teaching yourself to develop the skills associated with that certain discipline. If you just start to consider things on a different plane, from a different perspective, then your true interests will emerge, your real passions will become exposed, and you will be far more excited and driven towards your goal. "


Frank said...

Can I comment on my own blog to my guest contributor, who happens to be my oldest son ?
Phillip, I remember when you were smelly, cried and didn't cooperate. No, I mean when you were a baby. Ha !
In the most demanding times of parenthood, from infants to teens, parents dream of what their children will become.
We didn't know what you'd become, but we knew early on that it would be the road less traveled.
It took guts to go to Ethiopia and work in the orphanages there for 3 months. Faith is all about taking risks and you took a big one.
I've never looked back and said "gosh, I wish I hadn't taken that risk". We've gone down kind of a similar path, only you figured it (risk and passion) out about 30 years sooner than I did.

Can I say on my blog how proud I am of you ?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Phillip, for communicating your insightful thoughts and honest emotions about your life experience in Ethiopa. Your words spoke to my heart deeply, especially, because our family has been praying for a baby girl in an Ethiopian orphanage for over a year now. We also have walked with and prayed for our friends through the long and challenging process of adoption. It was such an exciting day when they received their referral and picture! Then, they "passed court" and scheduled their trip to go meet their little baby girl. I'm so excited and thankful to report that the two-week stay in Ethiopia getting to know their daughter was a wonderous and joyfilled experince. Even now, as I write this post, the new forever family of 3 (Dad, Mom, Baby) is traveling back to the states to be embraced by excited and loving family and friends! One less orphan in the world and one couple's prayer and dream to become parents answered... a win-win no matter how you look at it!

Cathy Moore said...

Oh... I got carried away in my previous comment with my enthusiasm about my friends returning from Ethiopia with their adopted baby, that I ended my post before saying, "Thank you for your sacrificial service to the those babies in the orphanage in Ethiopia! It inspires me to know that young men, like yourself, care about making this world a better place for everyone and actually do something about it!"

Anonymous said...


May God bless you for what you have done to the little ones in Ethiopia, my birth country. I have left Ethiopia some 17 years a go. With God's grace I have been back few times in the past 4 years. Yes, I have received good education in the States but the most important treasure I was blessed with in States was the opportunit to be born again. I thank God for that. Now my visit to Ethiopia has had a different meaning.

I ache for the little ones who have no family and home. I want to establish a home where they will be fed and educated. This is my sister’s dream too. We will contribute in kind a seed in the amount of about $ 30, 000 but the project no doubt require much more. Please pray for us.