Notes from the Field: Coming “Home”
Slowly the faded green gate opened. Our car moved though the entrance and into the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association compound. Ayelech stood beside the gate waiting to close it once we were inside. Her eyes twinkled as a smile spread across her face, accentuating the high cheekbones that make her features so striking. She nodded recognition as the car pulled further into the compound to park. I was excited, filled with a joyous anticipation at the prospect of spending time once again with the women I’d come to love. We climbed out of the car and walked toward Ayelech and the other women gathered at the edge of the covered cooking area.
As I reach forward to greet Ayelech I realized how small and stooped she was, things I hadn’t remembered from the time spent with her earlier this year. Large, bright pink flowers and smaller orange flowers almost completely filled the black background of her skirt and three layers of wraps covered her black shirt. As on our earlier meetings, her head was wrapped, this time in a brown, white and camel scarf. It always amazes me how by twisting, wrapping and tucking they are able to completely encircle their heads creating something beautiful and useful. Ayelech took my arm in hers, kissing my left cheek, then my right cheek and then my left cheek again in the traditional Ethiopian greeting. Then we embraced. Once again I felt as though I was coming home.