After we left the Simien mountains, we traveled to meet up with our partner, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). We visited many villages and we were often greeted with groups of villagers singing, clapping, popcorn being thrown about, dancing and the happy sound of the “lalalala” that the women use while celebrating.
The words of thanks were heartfelt and touched us all. More than once we found ourselves in tears moved by the change that the simple gift of clean water brings to rural villages.
The days have been long, hot and difficult as we traveled over dirt roads that provided what the drivers like to call the African massage.
However it is worth it when we see the faces of the children and the smiles of the people. They remind us that water is life. It touches everything. The women are relieved of the back-breaking work of walking 2, 3 and even 4 hours to collect one jug of dirty water. The children can spend their time going to school. It reduces illnesses and even death. It also provides peace, as usually neighbor fights neighbor over water.
Most of the celebrations include the tradtional coffee ceremony where women and men sit in separate groups. The women first roast the beans and pass the smoke among the group. Then the women pound the roasted coffee beans and the grounds are poured into a jug and cooked over a portable stove. The grounds provide three pours. The coffee is served in tiny cups. The coffee is dark black and very strong. Along with the coffee, we enjoy injera, bread, shiro, more popcorn and roasted barley. They have so little but want to share and for us to enjoy.
Today we encountered something that can best be described as Ethiopian fondue. A mound of barley dough was formed into balls that were stabbed by a stick and then dipped into the berbere. This delicate palate had one small bite and I’m pretty certain the spiciness burned off a few taste buds.
We are sad to leave each time as we depart from a village. The people line up, waving, smiling and now are happy to have clean water.