Our employee of the week is Dejene, who started working for us yesterday as our full-time driver. Now, I know how that sounds. But we couldn’t really figure out another way to handle the transportation situation. It takes quite a while to get an Ethiopian driver’s license, so I’m not even sure when I will get one. We can only afford one car, because the duty on cars here is 200 to 245% of the car’s value. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Getting Dan to work and Charlotte to preschool would mean a lot of driving time for me (as in, a few hours a day). Add grocery shopping, which can mean several stores and fruit stands over the course of a few hours, and it’s just much more economical to hire a full-time driver.
So, that’s the car situation. But I think we got lucky with drivers. Dejene drives very carefully, speaks excellent English, and knows how to get to all of the places I need to go. We bonded yesterday over our shared love of Michigan. As it turns out, his daughter went to Wayne State! A few years ago, he got a visa to go to her graduation, and then got another visa to attend her wedding. When he saw the Grand Rapids Toyota dealership sticker on the car, he was thrilled because he has been to GR and loved it. I mentioned I was born in Ann Arbor, and he gushed about how beautiful it is there. (He also adores Detroit, so I’m pretty sure any city in America would be his next favorite place.) His dream is to go to America and work for several years so that he can come back to Addis and retire.
This got me thinking about our summer in Michigan and how perfect it was. My parents’ house is in a small town called Douglas, right next to another small town called Saugatuck, which is right on Lake Michigan. Douglas has a small post office, a coffee shop with free wifi, a few excellent restaurants (especially the EPC), some boutiques and art galleries, a supermarket, and every day in the summer there’s even a local fruit & vegetable market. Every Thursday in the summer, there’s a town social with live music, burgers and brats, and fish tacos. The town library has story time for preschoolers (with a real librarian!) a few mornings a week. If you walk a mile to Saugatuck, there’s even more to see and do. I think the word I’m looking for is idyllic.
So why do we live in Ethiopia and not Michigan? Good question! Seriously though, our work is here. We wanted jobs that somehow felt more like vocations. I have a million criticisms of the international development community, but it can be rewarding work. And we’re doing it on behalf of the American people. So, thank you America, for letting us do what we want to do, and for helping us give our kids new experiences and a different perspective on the world.