This week, Wildcat student-athletes are one the second of two UK Athletics service trips to Ethiopia. Over the coming days, they will take turns sharing their experiences in a series of Cat Scratches blog entries. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes’ personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics. Today, Morgan Bergren writes about a day in Debre Zeyit.
Morgan Bergren (volleyball)
This morning, breakfast was at 7:30. I didn’t get a great night sleep, so it was hard to wake up. At around 9, we took the bus to Debre Zeyit, where we met up with Samy and his two daughters, Abby and Becky. We played with them for a little bit at their house, then loaded the bus to do some work.
When we got to the first house, we were asked to split into two groups. The group that stayed was going to be repairing/building a house and painting. The other group, the one I was in, was going to deliver food and supplies to widows. But first we made a quick stop to get some coffee. It was delicious, but so strong. It made me super jittery. The first two women we visited were amazing. Mark, one of our hosts, had leftover money from buying them food supplies, so there was enough money to pay two guys to repair the mud walls that had cracked and fallen off their home. Seeing that was unbelievable. One guy mixed the mud with straw, and stomped on it with his feet, then took handfuls to the guy on the ladder, and he patched it onto the house.
I really only saw and talked to one of the ladies who lived there. She was the sweetest woman. She was older, and her daughter had died, so she was taking care of her grandson. She was so grateful for us and for God, and cried and blessed us and invited us into her home. Mark had an amazing talk with her. When we got back on the bus, I had forgotten to leave shirts with her, so I had Ale (Walker) run them to her. She bowed at her feet and was so grateful. It was an amazing sight.
From there we went to a community center where we met at least 30 shoe-shining boys. Samy works very closely and has built a connection with these boys and men and we presented them with new shoe-shining supplies. But of course, before we could even present them with their gifts, we had to do introductions of everyone, have a prayer in both English and their Ethiopian language, and explain the importance of these relationships. Ethiopian people care more about relationships than they do time. If you are an hour late to something, it doesn’t matter, because it meant you got to have a meaningful conversation with someone. So there is always a lot of talking before we get down to the meat of things.
After we gave them all their bag of goodies, we shared a typical Ethiopian meal with them, although our group did not eat it. When we were finished there, we made our way back to Samy’s house and waited for pizza to arrive. While we waited we played soccer, volleyball, played with the girls, sat and talked, ate some fresh mango and banana, and had a great time. The pizza was enough to give us energy for our upcoming soccer game. We drove to the stadium, and played a friendly game of soccer with an actual Addis team. I was given the opportunity to be our team’s goalie, since as a volleyball player I’m better with my hands than I am my feet. The last time I played soccer was when I was 5, and I never played goalie.
Needless to say I was a little lost at first, but eventually got the hang of it. Our team was a mix of us Americans and some of the Ethiopian people that were joining us on our trip. Sadly, we lost due to my lack of skill as a goalie. I had two pretty big saves in the beginning, and it was pretty much downhill from there. They scored three straight on me, and I subbed myself out.
After the game, however, I made my way into the volleyball match that was being played. I was able to play a game that I actually knew, but was still very foreign to me. They did not play positions, did not rotate and did not speak my language. I definitely did my best, but I’m sure they thought I was terrible. I still had a blast though.
At the very end of all of the sporting events, we went back out to the soccer field to present the other two teams with the soccer balls we brought and some t-shirts. Of course, however, it was not short and sweet. A lot of speaking from Samy, many more introductions of all of the American people and a few prayers. We finally got to present them with the gifts, and left the great city of Debre Zeyit.
We had made it most of the way back, when something a little unnerving happened… Thanks to President Obama visiting the country in just a few days, the security detail of Ethiopia is on high alert. All of the military personal line the streets and corners, and most are armed with AK-47s. So on our way back the entire street was backed up with traffic and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. Finally the military approached our bus and asked us to get out so they could search us. They patted us down one by one as we came off of the bus. They were super nice and friendly, and we had nothing to be afraid of, but it still got my adrenaline going a little bit. We ended the night with a nice group meal after our showers. The end of day two!