When we arrived in Sodo I was excited as it is perched on a mountainside overlooking more lakes, but it is a city and I was sort of hoping for a town. It turns out that Sodo is the perfect sized place – and if I can make it back there for any duration, I will surely do so. Though the 8 hours it takes there is a bit of a deterrent. The fog was drifting on the mountains surrounding the town and we arrived at the sanctuary of the Friary, a well maintained compound with large blossoming tree in the center, and Italian style design one level monk space. The place was simple and lovely. The resident head Father welcomed me and immediately offered to cook me an egg. This was the first egg I had had in weeks and I was so overjoyed! I immediately took a great liking to this fatherly man with totally peaceful vibe.
The Father had called for a coffee ceremony. My first. The coffee ceremony is central to much socializing in Ethiopia, especially in the rural areas. They offer an ear of corn, usually grilled, but undercooked, and coffee – the special coffee has butter in it. I was tempted to dip my corn in the coffee. And though I thought I could not finish it, I did out of respect. It reminded me of a time I had mistakenly put salt in my coffee rather than sugar – it was sadly the last bit of coffee in the apartment – and as soon as it touched my tongue I did a spit take. Not this time, luckily. The doctor invited me back to his place on Sunday to meet his wife and after we took a tour of the schools on the premises, he headed home. F. Ayele brought me to an adjoining “slum” neighborhood. He said that this was one of the poorest neighborhoods in Sodo, but there were some people he wanted me to meet. We found a modest home with several unrelated people residing there. A young girl was trying on her graduation uniform, with motorboard. She was graduating in two days. A woman and her young son greeted us. Another woman who appeared to be tough as nails and who works as a mechanic. A boy was called for, he arrived and gave the Father a huge hug. All of these people live together because F. Ayele got them together and then paid the rent for the place. The two teenagers are orphans, the mechanic was also an orphan, and the woman was a cook at the Friary, got pregnant and the guy split. It was touching grouping and everyone was happy and chatting. F. Ayele had worked in this Parish for 6 years, but had been gone the last 2 years working on the Somali border with refugees and orphans, and the US military. The entire time we were in Sodo, it was difficult for us to move far on the road without someone coming to hug him or greet him with smiles and happy tones. F. Ayele also wanted me to see how simply people live – he said yes, you see the green all around, it looks like a rick lush land, but inside there is nothing – the people have nothing. And indeed, this I did see.