After a day that started at 5 a.m. and ended at midnight, I didn’t care what kind of bed I had, as long as I had a bed. My 12 Birr — $1.50 — bed wasn’t exactly what I would prefer in the small town of Agaro, but I was exhausted.
I took the extra shirt in my bag and laid it over the pillow where I would rest my head. I didn’t trust the bed enough to crawl under the covers, so I crashed on top and used my jacket as a blanket. Just as I was about to fall asleep I felt something crawling on my skin where my shirt had an opening. Too tired to care, I swept my hand over the area, tucked my shirt back in and fell asleep hoping what ever it was, that it would just go away.
Too soon, I hear a knock, knock, knock on my door at 4 a.m., “Mr. Dean, it’s time to go.”
My dream of a long warm shower was wakened to the reality of another 10-hour bus ride.
As the day worn on, so did the seat of my pants. Often I would stand in an attempt to move blood to certain locations in my body that seemed cut off from its normal supply. My knees stiffened as the pain from arthritis kept me awake for the last three hours of the trip.
After passing through a couple of police check points where they were checking for guns, we finally pulled into the bus station of Gambella. I use this word loosely, because the station is actually just a roadside location where the buses congregate.
“Mr. Dean, welcome to Gambella,” says police commander Dawit. I had met Dawit earlier in Addis Abba, where he offered to help me once I arrived to his town.
“Now we must find you a room. The hotel I prefer is full, so for one night we will have you stay in the tourist hotel, the cost is 15 Birr a night.” Here we go again, I say to myself, but too tired to care, I agreed.
“Tomorrow we will move you to a better location, one with a shower,” says Dawit. “Then we will help you find the Sudanese refugees who have connections to Nebraska.”
“Sounds good,” I say, especially the shower part.
As the day ended I thought back to the student, Subow Abdi, who helped me purchase my bus ticket for the journey.
I had asked him, what do you think about the United States?
Subow replied: “I love the people of the United States because they are always willing to help people. They are always one of the first to offer support in disasters or with the large problems in the world.”
“It appears to me that Ethiopia shares the same willingness to help people,” I said in return.