Sunday, August 9, 2009

AlemTsehaye and Her First Digital Pictures from Ethiopia

Meet AlemTsehaye. I've blogged about her before here. We met this lovely young woman in Lalibela. She invited our children for coffee, after they exchanged waves from balcony to her backyard. AlemTsehaye is 17. She's beautiful, smart, reserved, determined, and hopeful. AlemTsehaye's father was ill when we first met her family and were welcomed into her home. He died several weeks after we left Ethiopia. Although AlemTsehaye never asked our family for help, we knew that with 3 daughters (later we learned there is a college aged son) her mother, with no work and no fields to farm, would suffer trying to keep her daughters fed - and school would be impossible.
I am fortunate to have wonderful friends, one of whom heard AlemTsehaye's story and offered to help sponsor the daughters so they can finish school. Along the way, the big brother became a pen pal of Songbird - he's studying journalism at a university away from home (Dessie, I think) and has been enjoying writing to our biggest girl and exchanging college stories.
Today I received a lovely e-mail from AlemTsehaye along with a collection of digital photos she took. Let me track back a bit - AlemTsehaye's one request of our family was for a working digital camera. We were lucky to find travelers (hi V and R!) to deliver a camera to her - a camera with a great lens, but an older model. It turns out the camera's battery has a slow charge and a brief charge. I think the realities of limited local resources for power and batteries, and the limits of batteries, and the limits of my "perspective" (always a challenge in resource limited countries), have made learning to use the camera a slow process.
But, today there were photos! I e-mail with her regularly, but these photos were a first. First, I read her e-mail with delight and absolute glee when I scrolled down to her pictures. I then shared the pictures and e-mail content with the rest of the family and that is when the tears started. Oh, and they are starting again. I cried from that deep deep place of longing, of joy, of frustration.
Why cry? The special friendship my family has been able to share with a handful of people in Ethiopia is totally beyond any expectations I had when we all were in Ethiopia a year ago;one year ago exactly. And, it is no surprise that the conduits for these connections were our amazing teen aged children. They brought us into the fold, so to speak. They reached out and made friendships that continue to flourish and challenge us as a family. We are challenged to see our own global and local privilege, to see our own place as global and local neighbors, and to make choices about how we use our resources in order to share our family's bounty with others.
So, when AlemTsehaye's photos arrived, especially this one of a room full of school mates smiling for the "camera of AlemTsehaye"...I wept with gratitude for her self portraits and the lens she has revealed in Lalibela. I wept for beautiful Ethiopia. I wept for all of the needs still unmet. I wept for the goodness of my children. I wept for the unanticipated treasure that our Blueberry brought with him, even as he left his home country to become our son.
There is more to say, but the tears are clouding my vision.
I need to find a less "fussy" camera for dear AlemTsehaye. I'd like to make the battery operation simpler for her - so that I can enjoy her point of view.


Waiting for Zufan! said...

Wow. You, and your family, are really amazing. I am in awe. Really.

Themia said...

I agree completely w/ Waiting for Zufan...Meghan, you and your clan are an awesome group of people and you inspire me to be a better person. Thank you.

M and M said...

TY WFZ and Themia - but really, I am humbled by your kindness and don't feel deserving. Who among us wouldn't accept the delights of making connections for our children, and through our children. Kids helping kids....that's how it feels to me. Frankly, I feel like I don't do enough. It sort of has to "drop in my lap" and then I take it up - what if I really sought it out?