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Derina’s new leg

Members of the Fekat Circus check out Derina Mekonnen's new leg at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

Members of the Fekat Circus check out Derina Mekonnen’s new leg at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

BY MORGAN SPIEHS

Dereje falls to the ground. A smile fills his face and he starts screaming and clapping his hands. Everyone at the Fekat Circus is stunned. They’ve never seen this before. Derina is walking on two legs.

Derina never thought he could afford a prosthetic leg. At age 14 he was in a car accident and lost one leg. About 15 years ago, Derina started working as a guard at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Derina was adopted by the circus, circus coordinator Giorgia Giunta said.

“He is more than just a guard. He’s like a father,” Giunta said.

The circus has a troupe that does social work around Ethiopia. One Fekat project entertains the pediatric ward at Black Lion Hospital. Derina has only recently started clowning at the hospital.

With access to hospital workers, Derina asked how much a prosthetic leg would cost. The cost was not nearly as high as he thought.

Derina Mekonnen practices using a prosthetic leg in a hospital for the disabled in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

Derina Mekonnen practices using a prosthetic leg in a hospital for the disabled in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

Hebtamu Wendeson, Mickey Yaregal and Dereje Dange pretend that Derina's new prothetic leg is a guitar at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

Hebtamu Wendeson, Mickey Yaregal and Dereje Dange pretend that Derina’s new prothetic leg is a guitar at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

Derina trained to use the prosthetic until finally he was able to walk out of the hospital and into the Fekat Circus.

The men all reached down and touched the new limb. Derina took it off and handed it to the circus performers.

Their eyes were huge as they explored the foreign object. They pretended it was a guitar. They pretended it was a third leg on themselves.

Derina showed the men how he attaches the leg to himself and walked away. He has more people to show.

Dereje Dange reacts to seeing his friend walk on two legs for the first time after knowing him for many years at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

Dereje Dange reacts to seeing his friend walk on two legs for the first time after knowing him for many years at the Fekat Circus in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 14, 2013.

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An afternoon in the merkato

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By Allison Hess

On the third day, the group met for our daily morning meeting at the Bus Cafe. This cafe, where far too many croissants and coffees were consumed throughout the trip, was where we all met with our reporting partners each day.

I was talking with my fixer, Haimanot, telling him that I wanted to photograph coffee merchants in the Merkato that afternoon. The Merkato, Italian for market, is not only the largest open-air market in Ethiopia, but in Africa as well. It consists of seven square miles of closet-sized vendors, carrying everything from coffee and spices to clothing and gifts.

His eyes became shifty after I expressed interest in visiting this area of Addis Ababa.

“Oh you want to go to Merkato…” he said. “That is a very popular part of the city, but also a very dangerous area.”

I put the precaution in the back of my mind and met him and Professor Bruce Thorson at the Addis Ababa University front gate a few hours later.

We hopped into a two-toned, blue-and-white taxi and set off for the Merkato. With the hum of the engine and the smell of exhaust seeping through the back window, I sat and attempted to prepare myself. Our taxi screeched to a halt. I realized that nothing could have prepared me for what I was thrown into once my foot exited the taxi and stepped onto the gravel road. The incessant sound of car horns amidst the fast-paced language of Amharic entranced me.

The shutter of Bruce’s camera quickly broke my daze as he began to photograph a small boy posing with a ball on top of his head. I smiled at the child and he returned the greeting, but the moment was cut short when a woman swiftly wagged her index finger at me and my camera and then pointed toward the ground. I am still unsure what she meant by that.

Haimanot then grabbed my forearm and motioned for us to move on.

“Do you know where the coffee area is?” I asked him, still mesmerized with my surroundings.

He assured me that he did, but we wandered around for what seemed to be an hour, denying countless outstretched arms of merchants wanting us to buy any and everything that they were selling.

“Remember, your camera,” Haimanot reiterated at one point, warning me again of the danger of the Merkato. “The children can sometimes be the worst.”

Bruce began to smile at a small group of children that became fearful of his hook. He teased them for a minute, but Haimanot again gestured us to follow him down an alley off of one of the main roads.

It is then that I saw what I had traveled almost 8,000 miles to find. We traversed through a narrow path, lined with enormous bags of coffee beans. As I walked, I was bombarded with children. I thought of Haimanot’s warning, that children thieves were prominent in Ethiopia. However, as they swarmed me, they stopped and smiled. I realized that they had no intention of stealing from me, but simply wanted me to take their picture.

We meandered until we reached the end of the alleyway. As I turned my head right, another row of merchants emerged. The sun broke through the cracks in the tin roofs and onto women of all ages, blocking the path, sorting coffee beans.

The women continued to pick through an unfathomable number of smooth, brown coffee beans. Men standing above them implied that we should pay them for pictures, but the women, using bags of coffee to lean on, objected to the idea and simply laughed, as if to put me at ease. While photographing them,  the women occasionally buried their faces in their ornate scarves. Ultimately, they continued their work, selecting and sifting through each individual coffee bean. However, because the area was crowded, we had began to effect their business. After a sufficient amount of time, we exited the walkway and made our way back to the university.

It was on the taxi ride back when what I had witnessed that afternoon began to sink in. These people were the backbone of Addis Ababa. The merchants, women and children work in this back alley day in and day out, doing most likely the same thing everyday. Yet they were the happiest people I had seen in the months before the trip. They could have quickly dismissed me, but they did not.

For me, that afternoon symbolized the city Addis Ababa. Sure, the Merkato, like the city, was packed full of people that are constantly moving every which way, but this alley of coffee merchants, hidden off the beaten path, served as a refuge of silence, occupied with hospitable people.

Foosball

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BY SHELBY WOLFE

A few of us went out to make some feature photos early in the day in May before heading to our sites. As we were weaving our way through the crowds, we came across three rusty, lop-sided foosball tables that stood to the side of the chaotic street of Arat Kilo Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In the midst of car horns, vendors on the street, people yelling in Amharic, and masses of people trying to catch the next bus or taxi, more than a dozen street kids came together to play this game.

We talked to the kids and asked them if we could take some photos. They laughed and kept playing. The way these children were sharing and enjoying this game together represents Ethiopia’s collectivist culture in which people share ideas, values, and common interests.

They look out for their neighbors, and become stronger in unison rather than as individuals. They make time to do things together, and welcome anyone who wants to join.

Helping Hands

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BY CARA WILWERDING

Tekle Gebriel is cloaked in white.

He drapes himself in a crisp shawl with colorful diamonds lining the edge, eases on shiny white dress shoes and pulls a cream-colored stocking cap over his head. He carries a tall staff inscribed with Stars of David. It’s 7 a.m. Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Walking up a dusty cobblestone road, Gebriel begins his weekly trek to Eguzuabguer Ab Orthodox Christian Church. Homeless men, women and children line the roadside. Unlike many churchgoers who walk the same path, Gebriel engages these people. He stops and gives each person one Ethiopian birr, about a nickle.

“Half of them are blind, so they can’t see,” said Gebriel, a traditional healer. “Second, those whose hands or legs are paralyzed can’t work. … Giving to them is the ultimate justification after death, and it is a must to help or give.”

This is a story about the generosity of one Ethiopian. His kindness extends not only to his patients with skin infections, diabetes, HIV and cancer, but to all Ethiopians in need.

The Big Moment

Brides-and-Groomsmen

BY BRIANNA SOUKUP

The brides sat on the dark green tarp in the middle of the village and waited. They waited for four days.

On the fourth day they were finally carried out from underneath the makeshift tent. The groomsmen put the girls on their backs and hooded them with black shawls.

Yemikir is 9 and Tigiste is 12, or at least that is what they think. Neither of the brides know exactly how old they are.

The village men chanted and danced around them as they were carried to their grooms’ house. Yemikir and Tigiste kept their heads down and never said a word.

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School Girls

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BY SHELBY WOLFE

The directors, teachers, and children at Rahel’s school, the Sew Tsega Academy for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, were more welcoming to me than I ever would have thought.

On my first day there they gave me the opportunity to address the children through a microphone by introducing myself and telling them why I was there. They all clapped and smiled and told me they were happy to have me there.

For the next few hours, my camera and I was the main attraction.

I was sitting in a chair that the principal had provided for me in the corner of the recreation area. A group of little girls were whispering together in a huddle.

They kept on glancing over at me, so I waved to them and smiled. They turned to each other and giggled like I was the strangest creature they had ever seen.

I began to notice a line of twenty-plus girls forming towards me, and one-by-one, each little girl introduced themselves to me. I shook every one of their hands and told them it was nice to meet them.

They all became giddy again after talking to me.

Soon after the first line ended, another one started to form- this time with flowers.
Each little girl picked pink, orange, and white flowers from the ground outside the gate to their school and brought them to me, one-by-one, with endless smiles on their faces.

As one of the girls approached with a flower she looked up to me and said with her limited English, “Miss, I love you.” I gave her a hug and she ran back to her friends.

I could hardly contain my laughter from being treated like royalty as I told each of the girls how thankful I was for the beautiful flowers and to have met them.

For the rest of the day the children begged me to take their photos.They were all very excited when they saw pictures of themselves on the small, LCD screen of my camera.

I remember this day as a day of pure love and acceptance of different cultures and the people around you.

When the people of Ethiopia do things, they do them together. They look out for their neighbors, and become stronger in unison rather than as individuals.

It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your purpose is, they’re just happy you are there sharing what you can with them.

Motivations matter

By ADAM PRIBIL

“I’ve never had a bad day in my life” is what I thought when I watched this woman in the Korah dump in Ethiopia.  I would like to say that it was a weird strange trip to get there, but my arrival in this dump was only the result of a source cancelling and a translator/ guide willing to take me.

Stories are everywhere, with the right writer anything that moves and some things that don’t move can become a story.  I worship this storytelling ability but unfortunately I lack that touch.   So when my source fell through, I fell on my backup idea which was to convince whoever was guiding me to  “take me to the worst.”  I felt that if I covered a story that was bad enough its awfulness would tell itself and wouldn’t require my weak story telling skills.

So I went there, I tried so hard, I went to the worst.  And you know what happened, I couldn’t come up with a story.  I was there, I saw these amazingly strong women sort thru garbage, literally scraping a living out of nothing.  I might of been able to tell their story but there is always an outside factor.  In this case the outside factor was violent gangs not wanting me to photograph in certain parts of the dump and a NGO’s worried about their PR not wanting me to shoot in others20130509_Pribil_Ethiopia_Feature039.

Anyway this blog post is entitled “Motivations Matter” because the motivation of this photo haunt me.  I knew when taking this photo that it would never be part of any story that might possibly help this woman.  I took it selfishly because in this day I ran up a 1000 birr taxi expense and I felt that I better come back with something.  The motivations of this woman are clean mine are tainted.