We Can’t Make This Up

We Can’t Make This Up

I could not make this stuff up. Thank GOD He’s in control, because it’s become glaringly apparent that I/we have NONE.

7:00 AM – Beginning yesterday (Jan 12) we get up early-ish (skip breakfast and buna) so we can meet Sami in Mexico (a part of Addis). We get a spot on a big bus and we’re excited. It’s hard to get to Mexico via taxi in the morning because it’s so busy. This bus takes like 45 minutes to go 2 miles and we are late. We can’t find Sami, he still doesn’t have a phone, the number he had yesterday he didn’t have now, and he doesn’t have my phone. We walk all over looking and decide to get some donuts and coffee at a place I’ve wanted to try for the last few years. It was a very tasty sugar load.

9:30 AM – Sami gets ahold of us and gives us directions to where they are. They have a copy of the rental agreement for their office (a missing piece to shoes stuck in customs), but a original was required. Murad had to bring it from across the city. Also, they were charged 250 birr (instead of 25 birr) for the signing of one document so they wait to log a formal complaint.

10:30 AM – There is one more signature required, but because the organization that Great Hope Church RENTS from is missing the ORIGINAL memo that established them as an NGO (FORTY years ago) the government official refuses to sign. The men try and try to convince this man that this is not necessary.

In the meantime, we go to get a new SIM card for my phone. The one I bought last May will let me text and receive calls, but it won’t let me make a phone call. We really have no idea what we’re doing and I was hoping someone in the government office (yes, phones are also run by the government) will speak a little English. They do, and I sit down to get a new card (with my same number), but my card isn’t registered with them. WHY?? He asks if I have the receipt from purchasing this card 9 months ago, which I do (randomly), but it’s at home in MT. So I have to get a new SIM (new number), which requires us to go get two passport photos taken and a copy of my passport. We find a place to take the pictures, the guy takes a good picture, goes to print the picture and…the power goes out. Membrat yelem.

11:30 AM – The photo shop decides to pull out their generator so we get our pictures printed, I get my new SIM card and we head back to the government offices where everyone (Sami, Murad, Tenow, Commander and one other man) are still waiting. I cut the SIM into a mini SIM and now my phone works great! Exabir yemesken (thank God!).

12:00 PM – We go to lunch bc gov. offices are closed for lunch.

1:00 – 3:00 PM – We wait. I bought a pair of black stretchy pants in here for a reasonable price. Not Hybesha (Ethiopian) price, but close enough 😉

3:00 PM – We ask the head of the department for help. We plead with him, we beg. He won’t make the decision without his colleagues. But first, he must conduct four interviews for an internal position.

3:15 – 4:30 PM – We wait.

4:30 PM – We beg, we plead, we beg, we plead.

4:55 PM – They give us the signature.

We buy over-priced supplies to make home-made pizza back at the guest house and retreat to our home for a fun evening with friends. For a whole lot of nothing, it was exhausting.


7:00 AM – Aki and I left to take care of my visa before our 10 AM meeting with Tefera (Bright Hope/CHI). The immigration office actually opened at 8:30, so we had time for a piece of bread and tea before we started the shenanigans. By the time we got there at 8:00 AM (Taxis are full in the AM), there were THOUSANDS of people in line all around the immigration offices. It was crazy. I was thinking that if we had to stand in line, we wouldn’t even get close to the door before 5:00 PM, but the foreign office was different and we didn’t have to wait in line – I was first!

8:30 AM – I’m very hopeful because the woman I saw first just gave me a sheet of paper to fill out like it was no big deal to extend my visa. I fill it out and then go to room 77 to wait in line, then to room 80, where they’re in a meeting for 30 mins. The man there does NOT like that I’ve been in and out of Ethiopia so many times over the last two years, he doesn’t think I’ve left since MAY (despite the stamp that says I left MAY 31), and skeptically asks me if I’m SURE I’m not making any money in Ethiopia. SERIOUSLY??? MONEY IS FLOWING OUT MY EARS TO EVERY STINKING GOVERNMENT OFFICE IN ADDIS ABABA!! He says he’ll only extend my visa TEN days. I’m here for 13 more. He tells me to change my ticket (I refrained from telling him that the ticket cost more than he makes in 6 months). I BEG him, plead with him, argue with him and basically, finally, tell him he’s being outrageous to not give me THREE extra days and really throw a fit. He sends me to room 12. On our way to room 12, a man standing around asks me what I’m looking for, we tell him and he turns out to be the next level up the ladder. He basically agrees with the man before and says I should only have 10 days. He asks why I’m here and I tell him to report back on some projects we’ve supported the last two years. To take some pictures. He says I need a different visa for that. I asked, “To take pictures?? So, if I go to Lalibella (huge tourist attraction) and take pictures, should I also get a work visa for that)?” He says it’s different, I say it’s not and go back to begging. I’m in tears at this point. I’ve never asked for something like this. He gives me FIFTEEN days. I think he just wanted to see me cry. He sends me back to office 80, where I enjoy telling the jerk official there that I got 15 days despite his efforts. He sends me to room 77, they scribble something, send me to room 79 to pay, but room 77 missed something, so I go back. Room 77 fixes their mistake and sends me back to room 79, where I find out that I must pay in USD. THANK GOD I had a stray 20 (I rarely have extra cash in my wallet) or I would have been back at square one. Finding an ATM that works in Addis is time consuming and difficult. Anyway, it’s all wrapped up and I go back to the office to pick up my passport (with enclosed visa) on Monday. For now it’s just me and my copy.

11:00 AM – I’m an hour late for my meeting with Tefera, but he’s sweet and understands the government shenanigans of Ethiopia. We visit a school near Bright Hope that is GREAT. I will tell more about that in the next blog. In a lot of ways, it’s what I envision Bright Hope becoming over the next few years. Clearly they have a great administration and some good ideas. They don’t have KG (kindergarden) and they want to build 5 buildings, which is why we were invited to come and see. The BEST part is that they have already raised 85,000 birr from their own students/community. They are very serious and that’s fun to see.

After Baslios (that school), we go to Biruh Tesfa (Bright Hope) so Sandy can see the project and so I can see Mezgabu. It was hard for Tefera, but he really wanted to go. Mezgabu was also very sad about Tefera’s change of employment with CHI but it was good to see him. They have completely finished the wall and there is an area for the tinish sooks (little stores) that will ideally sell the veggies, water and chickens/eggs. They have not dug the 2nd well and I’m not 100% sure about the status on that, but I’ll check with Corey from the States. They just sold all their chickens (326) for the Christmas festivities. Chickens are about 85 birr and new chicks are the same, so they’re getting 325 new baby chicks soon! Apparently a chicken’s egg-laying capacity goes down as they age, so they don’t really want chickens more than a year and a half old. I think it was fun for Sandy to see the project we talk about so much at church…even though it was a quick visit.

2:00 PM – We need to get to the airport to meet Sami and the gang to get the shoes. They have completed the TIN# process and have a new certificate. YAY!

2:30 PM – Our taxi breaks down in the middle of the road going to Mexico. We get out and walk the rest of the way.

2:45 PM – It occurs to me that I need my passport to get into the airport (weird rules). My passport is in immigration. UG. I have to go ALL THE WAY back to the guest house to get a copy of my passport and PRAY that’s enough. We end up hiring a small taxi to drive us directly to Bole (the airport) for 170 birr, which isn’t a great deal but was totally worth it.

3:30 PM – We get to the airport and we’re all excited! Sami et al. have been waiting for over an hour in the parking lot, but they understand Hybesha time and don’t mind too much (so thankful for all those boys).

3:40 PM – We find out we need ANOTHER LETTER from myself, telling them that I’m coming. Freakin ridiculous. So, we type up a letter on the little laptop the boys happened to have (super lucky) and Sami convinced a random airport official to let us print two copies off in her office. Thank GOD. I sign the two letters and take them to customs.

4:00 PM – The guy looks through every form ten times and then asks Sami to go make copies of half of them. I have no idea where he went to do that but then he comes back, the official tries to staple them all together, but there are too many. HA. THEN, he decides he wants to know if the shoes are leather or synthetic. We tell him they’re just like Sandy’s plain athletic shoes and that is not good enough. We have to got get all the bags out of storage and tell him. We are led to a random 30’x30′ room that is dark (no lights) with bags just stacked all over the place. To find the ones underneath, they just toss others aside.

Interjection: I pretty much beat it into our teams’ heads that they should not be bothered by inefficiencies and weird processes because that’s just the way it is and it’s not going to change for you/us, the Americans. Let me tell you, this place is the MODEL of inefficiency. I just about lost it today and had to remember my own advice, although I’ve NEVER experienced something like this. Thank GOD there aren’t bribes.

4:25 PM – Just like we said, the sweet girl tells the official that they are all mixed. Just normal athletic shoes.

4:30 PM – We go to pay for the shoes and the TIN number for the NGO that is Great Hope Church is NOT yet in their system. We have to go to the customs headquarters where they will enter the TIN into the system. Just like that, our weekend plans change and we will TRY AGAIN on Tuesday when Sandy and I get back from Ziway. I am becoming a libertarian.

We’ve had a LOT of fun in the midst of the shenanigans and I’m SO thankful for Sandy the super prayer, Joe the steady and our many Hybesha friends who help us all day every day. God is good and He knows when/if we will get the shoes next week. I’m thankful for the ride and I’m thankful to be loved!

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