Dispatch from Ethiopia by Emily Long

They say pictures are worth a thousand words. But there is no way to accurately describe what we've seen and experienced within a thousand word restriction. I'm not sure there is even a way to verbalize it period. The good news is we've taken thousands of pictures to share upon our arrival home. But my fear is that they won't capture what we've seen and experienced because emotions and perspective get lost in translation, even between my own eyes and mouth. Pictures and stories can't express how every single human sense has been intrigued and challenged here in Dembi Dollo. The invigorating aroma of the spicy wat and injera being cooked inside the homes that line the dirt streets coupled with the stench of goats, stray dogs and donkeys that share the same dirt streets. That stench is again erased by the coffee ceremony taking place amongst family.

Family here takes on a whole new meaning. If you know each other, you are family. They don't keep up with titles like aunt, uncle, second cousin. Everyone is family. We were the only white people in the village. Literally. A wave and a smile from me, a white girl, walking down the street triggered a two handed wave followed by two thumbs up from an Ethiopian child while the elders looked at us with a cautious look as if to say "what are you doing here and what do you want?" White people don't make it to these parts often. Most children have never seen a "foreigner" before. They just stared at us. And we stared back, trying to get our head around what it was we were seeing. Children's voices and laughter echoing through the town have never sounded so harmonious. Maybe it's because we can't understand a word they are saying, but it seems happy and carefree. It is enough to drown out the cows and donkeys and goats who live outside the windows of the huts. And enough to make you forget about the extreme level of poverty these natives live in.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, this has been a life changing experience. We were talking about what we will look forward to the most upon our arrival to the states: warm showers, fresh water, indoor plumbing, toilet paper, and friends and family - not necessarily in that order. I can't say that I won't be concerned with getting the latest iPhone and iPad when I return. But the images I've seen and the sounds heard and the emotions felt will never fade. That is my prayer anyway.