"The world is a 9" is a popular saying in Ethiopia and after my time on the "roof of Africa" I would have to agree. Before leaving I might have given this world, on a scale from 1-10, a 6, however, today, after leaving Ethiopia I, too, say " the world is a 9". Whether it a bus leaving 4 hours late, the electricity not working, or it pouring rain so hard that you have to take cover next to a family of baboons under a tree, I found the positivity of Ethiopia refreshing.
As a child when I didn't finish the food on my plate I thought about the starving kids in Somalia and Ethiopia (or anywhere in Africa for that matter) and felt bad. Today, though, I do not feel sadness for Ethiopia. In fact, my heart aches for those in my homeland that cannot be happy with simple things. Being from the US I have opportunities that are beyond the average Ethiopians imagination and yet, they are not sitting idle, feeling sorry for themselves. They look at the world with optimism and more importantly as place that cannot be conquered alone. The community is essential and so when you give a kid a pen or a sambosa (lentil filled pastry), you know that it will be shared. This mindset is something that is lacking in societies that have it all--and I feel ashamed to be apart of it.
A traveler I met on the road in Ethiopia said to me, "The world is like a PAC man game; we are all trying to move towards the end and while some places on this globe set us back or only move us from side to side, other places give us that extra boost to launch us forward in the game." Ethiopia in many ways provided me that boost. I leave today carrying with me the openness of Ethiopians hearts and the kindness that radiates from their eyes. Even the pesky street children that harass you until you finally give in had a determination that is something to be marveled at.
In the cold rains of Simein NP, these kids shared their music and dancing with us. On a day when we collectively felt like we wasted our precious time (and money) because we couldn't see all that the park had to offer, these 2 kids came in and taught us to appreciate the world, even when it's absolutely miserable out.