We would like to introduce the latest family member to join the Gray’s in Ethiopia. Last week, we finalized the purchase of a used Mitsubishi pick-up truck in Addis Ababa. It’s a studly, turbo diesel four-wheel drive. After getting everything checked out, it was time to put my new driver’s license to work and we made the inaugural drive down to Soddo. (OK, maybe it’s not that studly and, though it’s really nothing to write home about, we’re going to write home about it.)

Ah, so many things to communicate… Where do I start?

Let’s start with thanksgiving. God has provided this vehicle through the generosity of our supporters and we are extremely grateful to Him and to you. This is a huge answer to prayer. Though we have been thankful the available transportation via the hospital van, this is a much better option due to the flexibility and reliability it offers. It can often be difficult to work around the scheduling of the van and, especially with a family, it is nice to be able to get away every now and then. We have never felt in any danger here and have been thankful for the peaceful politics and culture of Ethiopia, but it is also nice to have reliable 4-wheel drive transportation should the need ever arise to leave Soddo. Thank you all so much.

Buying a vehicle in Addis

Sometimes you have to cast yourself completely on the mercy of another. Buying a used vehicle as a ferangi (foreigner) in Addis Ababa is one of those times. I was extremely blessed to have a knowledgeable guide for this amazing process. First of all, you need to forget the notion you may be used to, especially if you live in the US. When we sold Becca’s car in Texas, we met a guy beside the car. We signed the back of the deed and wrote the buyer’s name, who also signed the back of the deed. He gave us a money order… bam… done. We mailed in a form to make sure the authorities knew we had sold the car.

Not so here. There a countless unwritten rules and procedures. If you’re thinking, “Hey, what’s the big deal, just look it up online,” the Millennium Generation has a phrase for that: ROFL (stands for ‘roll on floor laughing’). To give just one example, it seems that you need black ink for filling in bank forms and blue ink for government forms.

After agreeing on the price, our mission agency wired the funds to our bank in Soddo. I got a certified check and we left for Addis. In Addis, our guide led us around like a blind man through a mine field. We visited around fifteen desks in three or four buildings, all in the perfect order. He would give commands and I complied. “Sign here.” I smiled, nodded my head and signed. “I need 100 birr.” I smiled, nodded my head and paid. “Give me your driver’s license and resident permit.” I smiled, nodded my head and handed over the documents. “Remember the document from three desks ago? I need that.” I smiled, nodded my head and complied. I was a helpless babe, but I was in good hands. I’m still amazed at how complicated the process was and how smoothly it actually went. The guy was fantastic. I can’t imagine how painful it would have been without him.

The whole process took about six hours but it was finally completed. The most surreal part involved the actual transfer of funds. Coming from the land of electronic money, I realize it’s difficult to imagine a place that functions so heavily on cash. But even after being here a year, I assumed that the sale of a vehicle couldn’t possibly involve any actual cash. Guess again. It seems that the certified check I had obtained could not be used to deposit directly into the seller’s account. Therefore about thirty pounds worth of bills that completely filled my backpack were delivered at the bank and were eventually transferred to, I kid you not, shopping bags for delivery to the seller’s bank. Amazing. Part of me wished it would have involved an aluminum brief case handcuffed to my wrist. Oh, well, maybe next time.

As we drove home, I kept imagining what it would be like for my family back in the States to be sitting in the car with me. The rules and norms here are definitely different. Basically, it doesn’t matter the circumstances, if you hit it, it’s your fault as the driver. Therefore, while driving, if you hit a cart, person, cow, donkey, goat, sheep, chicken or dog, it’s your fault. The upside is that drivers are generally fairly careful. The downside is that pedestrians are fearless. I’ve had to just chuck my usual American notion of what driving is like and get along with the local system. For the most part, as a motorized vehicle, I’m a guest on the road and I might as well relax and just wait on the twelve donkeys trotting down the center of the road. That’s how it is here. Thankfully everything went smoothly and we had an uneventful trip!

Well, should any of you come to visit us, you may be spending a little time in Ol’ Blue. I look forward to it!