Sunday, August 29, 2010


This afternoon I received a missed call from my good friend Habtie. My Ethiopian friends often do this- call and then hang up quickly to avoid being charged exorbitant international rates. At first it's a gentle reminder that I have become absent, but if I don't call back in a timely manner the calls become more insistent. For some curious reason, they enjoy "miss calling" me in the middle of the night here, which is fun.

However, today Habtie called while I was doing some homework and provided a much needed distraction. When I called back, I learned that Habtie was visiting his family in the rural area and they wanted to say hello as well. I visited Habtie's family just before leaving Ethiopia and it was by far the most rural place I had ever been in my life. There is no electricity, no running water, no transportation, no iced coffee... just rolling hills of crops as far as you can see. I was shocked to discover that there was cell phone reception... if you climbed a hill that was a 15- minute walk away from where Habtie's parents lived. I can't describe how bizarre it was: sitting at a crowded Starbucks in the middle of Dupont Circle at 2 in the afternoon and picturing Habtie, his dad, mom, and brother all standing on a hill, at dusk, in the middle-of-nowhere- Ethiopia.

It was especially befitting that Habtie called when he did, as I was reading an article discussing "Quality of Life." The author discusses different efforts to quantify quality of life, to establish a standard, or even to simply define "quality of life." The attempts fall short because, though we all know quality when we see it, the factors that combine and result in a life of quality are different from person to person, community to community. The author goes on to discuss this topic in terms of "progress" "growth" and "development," which was actually pretty interesting. The conclusion of all these articles I'm reading seems to be that "development" is not a word that can be easily defined and, if we are not careful, it can be used for personal gain rather than for the good of the community.

In reading, it's striking how often the different authors return to the concepts of development arising out of a "foundation of ethics." One even went as far to say that a spiritually barren community would not be able to appreciate the fruits of development. The topic of faith is often broached, but never fully discussed. In our discussions in class, faith has yet to be mentioned, which I also find interesting. This is my first time since the 7th grade to be at a school where faith in Christ is not the common denominator. At Shiloh and at Samford, it was pretty clearly stated that our purpose was to reflect Christ and that purpose was to be the foundation of our vocation. I now find myself at a school where 'service' is the common denominator. Our discussions circle around the 'whys' and 'hows' of service, but there isn't a conclusive answer. I feel like saying, "we're serving because Christ is compelling us to demonstrate His love for people. Now can we move on?"

I am really enjoying school, though I am up to my neck in reading assignments which I am clearly procrastinating from. It has been fun getting to know my new classmates, though they are intimidating in their focus and experience. I think my favorite professor will be the slightly disorganized South African... largely because he can speak Xhosa, a click language. That's just amazing. I think it may have been a little ambitious to start a new job the same week as school, but things can only get better...

In conclusion: my favorite moment of my conversation with Habtie? When he delivered this message from his grandmother: I want to see the white person one more time before I die. I'm now wondering if she realizes that there is more than one white person out here...

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Is this still supposed to be private? It definately isn't. And shouldn't.

Post more inciteful thoughts about school, and I'll try to read them in a more timely fashion.

Please forgive. I've been busy.