It is customary in Ethiopia to hire a groundskeeper or guard with your home. They keep watch over the place and help the garden in order. It is totally a foreign concept to us from America, but we quickly learned after moving here that this is something very common over here and that we had to go with it. Plus we are providing a job for someone who does not have one.
With our new house we asked around to see if there was anyone in the neighborhood who might want to work with us. Everyone recommended Alamayho, an elderly man who currently works a backbreaking job at a construction site down the street from here. We sent for him and he quickly showed up ready to get started.
Alemayho looks like he is somewhere around 55 years old and every one of those years has worn his body thin. The construction job he was working was paying only $1.20 per day, but it is all he could find so he was doing his best to keep up with the younger workers. He was more than excited to get started at our place.
Last night I gathered up the cash for his salary and went outside to pay him. Normally you would pay at the end of a month worked, but I wanted to make sure that he had enough to eat and, most of all we want to take care of the people around us, so we decided to pay early.
I went out and said in Amharic.
“Alemayho, here is your salary, we like having you here very much.”
He stood up and walked over to me where he then bent down to my feet and kissed both of my shoes. I smiled and bent down to help him back up again, this was a custom I had seen before. Then he continued on with something I had never seen before and started to grab my hand and took my thumb and put it in his mouth! This was not anything I had ever seen! I tried to pull away, just from reflexes but he grasped tight for a few more moments. He then stood in front of me and hugged me tight and kissed both sides of my cheeks.
Alemayho is from the countryside in Ethiopia. It seems the longer we are here the more odd things we see that we have never seen before.
I’m not sharing this to toot my own horn. I’m sharing because this man made me appreciate what we often take for granted– basic income to feed our families. We are blessed.
If you are just joining us today, be sure to check out the book that I wrote about our time here. And if you missed it you should see the article that the Huffington Post did today about the work we are doing here.
Thanks! We are excited to have you here!