Yesterday (5 Feb 2013), we were driving northwest out of Lalibela, Ethiopia. We were headed toward an ancient monastic church located in a large mountain cavern.
We were about 50 gravel-road kilometers out of Lalibela, the last few k’s on a rough road. We pulled up to a small village elementary school (grades 1-4). My guide suggested that this might be a good place to construct a small swing set. As we pulled up, the head schoolmaster came out to see what the hell was going on, in a pleasant way of course. We explained that we wanted to give the school a swing set. Before he could answer, we had to explain what we meant by a swing set. After the explanation, I showed him a picture of one we had constructed in Uganda. The schoolmaster then readily agreed and showed us where to construct it.
It was interesting trying to get the swing parts to Ethiopia. My friends and I have constructed 15 in Uganda, but I wasn’t sure which parts I could get in Lalibela (a small mountain community). So I brought almost everything but the metal pipe with me from Uganda. It was fun trying to get all those metal parts through all the airport security checks. But once I explained how I was going to use the metal parts, I was always greeted with a smile and a wave-through.
Once in Lalibela, my guide knew a fabricator who could find or made my missing parts. At the rural school, he took charge of the swing set installation while I visited the nearby ancient monastic church, located just a few rough miles further up the valley. On our return, the swing set looked great. The fabricator had done an excellent job on the installation.
After exchanging pleasantries, we were hosted at a nearby house to coffee and homemade beer. Does life get any better than this?
I wonder what the very small, rural community thought about an American dropping in out of the blue and helping to construct a swing set at their school? I hope the reaction was positive.