What started off as a faraway dream in a matter of hours suddenly became reality. If you wish for them hard enough dreams come true. I went from reading other people’s whatsapp, preparing to go out to Walmara to being the one who was writing them. I was going to Walmara although it was still some months away and it seemed like the day would never arrive.
Those months were spent working hard, meeting up and getting to know each other. There were seven of us and we made a great team, not to mention those who wouldn’t be travelling but who were working flat out. We needed to get to know each other, to mould all our ideas into one that of setting up a school.
Would the classrooms be finished when we arrived? What would they be like? Would new children be able to go? What would the teachers be like? Would they be happy to have us there or would they think we were crazy? We even designed the benches for the dining room, the dresser for the kitchen storeroom, the children´s desks, coa thooks , things that we´d always taken for granted, or at worst had chosen from thousands of options in a catalogue. Here no, everything is hand crafted, it is ordered from some carpenters who belong to an association for disabled people in Addis Adeba.
Then getting them there is another adventure. The great dresser is still awaiting the dry season, halfway there in the house of a kindly farmer. Something that we found incredible once we were there was that the rest of the furniture got there at all. You try to fit together the pieces of the jigsaw, you imagine faces, jobs, names that you´ve heard a thousand times, descriptions that you´ve been told time and time again, but you aren´t able to put it all together in your head.With our suitcases fit to burst for the ´kanguritos´ and with our excess baggage of excitement the longawaited day finally arrived.
We got to Addis Adeba at 3am. and having got through customs with our 24 suitcases untouched and unopened (though we could hardly believe it) the adventure begins. Despite not having slept at all during the journey there were many things to do and we had to get going, a whirlwind of shopping with ´merkato´ included, arguing with the 4×4 drivers so that without really understanding the motives they would take us where we wanted to go, we passed through the finance department where after two attempts and a power cut they finally stamped our sponsorship and sports projects, negotiations, bartering …and finally we were on our way, late but on our way.
One group had already gone ahead and were advising us, you need to ring the garis. The first piece of the jigsaw, which until you are actually on it you can´t conceive. It´s night time and here we are the three of us with Eshetu (what would we do without Eshetu)… waiting for Adugna with the garis. Adugna is an essential part of Abay. Adugna is the centre manager, whenever you need anything you ring Adugna… you hear his name repeated time and time again like a song.
There´s no water Adugna, someone´s at the door Adugna, you need to contact a family. Adugna the names don´t correspond to the photos. Adugna the generator needs turning on, Adugna… and he always answers with a smile and a ´no problem´, then later like a good Ethiopian we´ll see if he´s understood or done it. But it´s just that life there isn´t like life here, there, there´s time for everything. Then like a hero with his barely 25 years of age he gets us out of there in the darkness, we load up the ´garis´and we set off.
We arrive and meet the welcoming committee. Abonesh, Motuma, Dejene.. Although our tiredness means that the jigsaw pieces are still not fitting together. However the following day everything starts to fit together smoothly.
Abonesh is always there wherever she´s needed, on occasions you talk to her in Spanish and without realizing it she´s so perceptive that she´s understood first go. She always knows what you want, what you need, what you are trying to say, and the poor thing is always putting up with our constant calls, to train the teachers, to light the kerosene, even for things like the salt and the sugar which are never where we left them, hahaha.
With a large dose of caffeine you begin to weigh up the centre. Now everything makes sense, the thousands of images that you had in your head of the classrooms, the dining room or the playground… everything is in place in your head. You still can´t believe that you´re here.
You have set foot in Gaba Kemisa. And that´s another thing… Walmara is the area which comprises Gaba Kemisa (where the centre and Bacho school are) , Dilu and Hidy. Paco has explained it to me many times but until you´re actually there you don´t get it into perspective in your head. These are things, details that you don´t give priority to from the comfort of your home but that when you´re there they become fundamental to an understanding of many things. And so standing there in the centre you turn around 360º.
The volunteers room, the storeroom to be a future textile workshop, the dining room and kitchen, one classroom, another, the third and the fourth classroom which from now on will be the link classroom (where the 7 of us have slept, Big Brother style), the library and social centre, where we eat, chat, dance..The front door and then back to the starting point. In the middle a big indoor playground and a smaller one. Great work by Eyob the builder who has also become part of Abay with his enthusiasm and perseverance, someone we also met.
The 7 teachers, who through language problems it is more difficult to get to know, gradually got their way into our hearts. All of them form a great team and give lots of affection to the children. At first it was difficult for them to take in everything that we had brought with us, the new timetable, new material and specific work for children with special educational needs ( above all this because out there these children are hidden by their own families), but finally it was these women who were the ones to teach us many things.
Dinnertime comes and things liven up. Motuma the nurse arrives with his cheeky smile, as the days went by he surprised us with his songs.
Alemayu, who is so discreet that you don´t even notice him until there´s a dance going on. Dejene, a future computer science teacher for the Abay staff. The vet, the Mayor and a multitude of people who appear day after day in the centre with their Ethiopian smiles.
All of them and we hope that many more make up the family of Abay, a great family to which I am very proud to belong.
Thank you Abay for giving me this opportunity