We meet up with Mahalet, one of the girls sponsored by the project on Monday afternoon. About a week ago I asked if she would write a poem in Amharic about how the project has affected her and her friends lives. On Monday we see her at 2pm and she has gone one better. Not only has she written her poem in English, but she's set it out to the tune of the song that I have been writing for the kids. She hopes to be a poet one day and I have no doubt that she will succeed. She is just one of the many successful stories of the Hand in Hand project.
At first I don't realise that she has set it to my music and I come up with something different and play it to her to see what she thinks...
'No. I write like you write.' she says quietly sitting next to me and singing how it should go.
I have certainly been put in my place by this extraordinary girl. Together we fix it so I know how it goes. It will change before I'm finished with it, but her words are beautiful and heartfelt and it is clear that this project just means everything to her.
That evening, Amanda has to tell me repeatedly not to talk about the next couple of days when I will be going home. I am going to miss her enormously. We have invented a whole new world for ourselves here and I know that I shall return again.
Then... it's off to the cultural restaurant. We get in a taxi for the very first time and I suddenly realise that all the taxis are 'Lada's'. For those of you who don't know what a Lada is, please follow the instructions below:
1. Imagine the heaviest, crappest car you can think of.
2. Give it the steering capacity of a tortoise stuck under a huge rock.
There you have it. The Lada. There used to be jokes about how awful it was in New Zealand. I always found it odd because despite the jokes I'd never actually seen one. Now I realise why...
They sent them all to Ethiopia.
Anyway, we arrive at the cultural restaurant with Tes and Sha and we are immediately supplied with small vials of Tej, a local drink.
I have been told about Tej. Or rather warned about Tej. It is a potent drink that tastes wonderfully like alcoholic honey. It's almost as if a hive of bees decided to get wasted one night and start a brewery. It's very smooth. Almost too smooth. So smooth in fact that you don't really notice that you're drinking it until you've finished it and your glass has been replenished magically. There are other things in it other than pissed bees. The other ingredients escape me (not literally - at least not yet).
We eat Enjera and tibs. The local speciality. It's kind of like a slightly sour dough pancake with various wonderful curries poured all over it. We eat with our hands. It's brilliant. The pancake is a little difficult to get used to but who knows, perhaps next time I will be more used to it.
As we are eating, a show is performed. Traditional dances abound, with each dance comes a change of costume for the seemingly tireless dancers. At the end of the evening I can only imagine that the changing room floor would be coloured with slightly sweaty brightly coloured clothes. The dancing is amazing. Lots of bouncing around and sharp jerky movements, the isolation of their bodies is incredible and the way they move looks like they are being given a pleasant kind of electric shock. To my terror one of them comes up to me and everybody at the table makes me try the traditional dance.
I think I do quite well. After all, I'm quite good at bouncing around. I am told afterwards that I didn't actually do very well. However, I did far better than Manda who, despite having forced me to get up, refused to get up when it was her turn. She shall never live this down. If you're reading this Manda you know what I'm talking about...
The evening ends with some drunken Ferenge's getting up on stage and dancing their hearts out. Bless them. And bless the fact that it wasn't us.
Anyway we have a brilliant time and eventually get back to our house lat, having managed to escape without going to a 'Naughty Bar' as Manda calls them. We are full of Tej, having stumbled in the pitch dark up our steep driveway, and we are full of tired. We go to bed to wake up to my last day in Addis Ababa...