POST BY DAN ZEMPER
Wednesday January 26, 2011
Everywhere, people. Smiles, always smiles. A beautiful people, with a warm and welcoming charisma. It took me no time at all to come to admire the Ethiopian people in so many ways. I wouldn’t care to live their lives, and I don’t want to romanticize that they have a good life.
Look up the facts and you’ll learn otherwise. Still through all of this, these are wonderful people and I can’t remember ever feeling so welcome no matter where I was. I would have liked to have been able to visit a national park and seen the animals that we associate with Africa. They are there, but I saw little of them on this trip. What I take away from this is the experience of the people. It is just what I needed, and at just the right time. My faith renewed in the potential of man. We all felt it, the others on the trip made a wonderful crew and I feel fortunate to have been able to spend this time with them. I did not know any of my compatriots on this trip beforehand. Now I have a whole new set of friends, and I am glad for them. I hope to have contact with them in the future.
The people of Ethiopia have made the true, and lasting impression on me. I and the others felt absolutely overwhelmed at the out-pouring for us during the first big celebration. People by the thousands, most having trekked for two to three hours. All coming over the paths from their own villages to celebrate and thank us with such joy and fervor. This was an experience of being dropped into the middle of a 3D National Geographic documentary, feeling the heat, excitement, and intense joy that they gave so freely. I felt small, crushed by the enormity bearing down on me. I felt reborn as we then celebrated it together. All of us were overwhelmed, none of us felt worthy of their outpouring. I had regularly enjoyed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee prior to this trip. I’m glad that I had bought it in fair-trade form and often it was from Higher Grounds Coffee. Now though, it will never be the same. Every time I have a cup, I will see the growers, the smiles, the wonderment in the eyes, feel the handshakes and embraces. I’ll remember the dancing with the choir while in the center of a huge crowd, and I’ll never forget Mamoosh in his ecstasy.
Each of us takes away a different experience. For me the personal growth came from the healing that I experienced. I left home with a void, I have returned with a renewed hope. I have never before experienced the caring that these people demonstrate for each other. I regularly profess it in my method of coaching, now I have experienced it, felt the caring and love… for me. Beyond what I have known before, and coming from these people whom only new me for a matter of days. I have never felt so embraced. The intensity of it in the end was difficult to endure as we had to say our goodbyes and thank yous, knowing that we likely would never see each other again. I promised never to forget them and they were truly sad to see us go.
I felt a sense of urgency in leaving. I was conflicted, still not fully recovered from the illness and ten pounds lighter. I wanted to get on that plane and be gone. I had loved the experience. I cannot thank Chris Treter enough for allowing me the experience, as well as following through on his dream. Few people will accomplish this sort of thing in their lifetime. I count myself as fortunate to have been able to play a part in it and to help it to its completion in any way that I was able. I thank Timothy Young for his patience and guidance, and both he and Bill Palladino for bringing me on board. I thank Hans Voss for lighting a fire. I thank Kristin for reassuring, and inspiring me, without which I may have missed this opportunity. To all of the rest on this trip; I thank you for being friends, I’ve valued this time with all of you. I wish that there had been more time to spend saying our goodbyes at the airport.
After finally finding the ticket numbers that seemed to be lost in the computer, (and watching the rest of you who were flying KLM zip through, as I stood in the long line for Ethiopian Airlines) I had a ticket. Special thanks go out to Norm Plumstead for being so gracious and agreeable as to trade places with me in the customs line. Norm was in the front as I was in the back, and the line was a 30 to 40 minute wait at least. So Norm did the wait, twice; and I made my flight- with five minutes to spare.
So glad to be going home, and almost feeling guilty about it. Feeling like I had just finished a marathon, knowing that I might change my http://www.runacrossethiopia.org about ever returning to this country; once I recover. I had a very good talk with the originator of the Tesfa foundation on the last day. I learned what his dreams are for the “team Tesfa”. This is the team that provided the runners who accompanied us all along the way. The runners who by the second day began to call me “coach.” It is them that I find that I have the greatest interest in, and it is because of my interest and efforts as a coach and athlete myself, that I understand their struggle. The dream is attainable, and as I continued to run it through my mind in the countless hours of travel home, I began a plan. I have the seed for putting together an effort that may well help that dream become a reality. In the process; helping these runners that have made such an impression upon my soul, to have a greater opportunity in life. More hope, better education, greater potential. I now have a new mission in attempting to help fulfill another’s efforts. On the journey home and before I landed in Detroit, I already knew that this may not be the last time that I would visit Ethiopia, and once again I may be able to see my friends.