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Rob en Dafne de Jong

The Shoeshine boy of Gondar

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Date: November 1999

Tenastelin (Amharic=Ethiopian)

Ethiopia is a very poor but magic country in East Africa. Okay, we know that they are having this stupid and unnecessary war with Eritrea, but it's not a people's war. It's two presidents not liking each other, for which the people pay with their lives.

Although very poor, the Ethiopians are a proud and hardworking people. Maybe that's why so many die every time drought strikes an area. They are too proud to ask for help. Or maybe it's because originally the Ethiopians are warrior-tribes and it's not part of their culture to go and help enemy tribes that are dying of hunger. Also with an infrastructure next to non-existing, it's very hard to transport any help from non-tribal capital Addis Ababa to the areas in need.

During the whole of our world tour we've met many peoples in need. Especially in the poor African countries they start talking to you as soon as you stop for petrol, a cup of coffee or just to drink some water. They mostly were sitting under a tree in the shade, waiting for you to come and tell you that now that you are here their problems will be over.

In Gondar, Ethiopia we met Endalew, who needed help more badly than anybody else we'd met before.

But Endalew never asked. He worked instead. And that's exactly why we decided that he deserved all the help we could give him. We started writing this article about him, which generated so much help that Dafne went back to Ethiopia from Bombay, India only two months after the article was published. Please read our newsletters about India and Australia to find out more.

This article is like a real Christmas carol. Please print it out and read it under your Christmas tree, in front of a cosy fireplace or curled up on a warm couch. It's specially written for children so you may read it out aloud and share it with others. You may also want to help Endalew and others like him. Please contact us through e-mail: rideon96@yahoo.com

The Shoe-shine boy of Gondar

The new day will soon start when Peter Endalew (13) finally closes his eyes and sleeps for a moment. It's not safe to sleep in the street, but Peter does not have a home. Now that the rainy season has started it is also not easy to find a dry spot to spend the night, but to sleep in the poorman's hostel, one needs 3 birr (US$ 0,30) and Peter is not often so rich.

In half an hours time the streets of Gondar Ethiopia will be busy again and will it be time to visit the local grocery shop. Maybe shopkeeper Mr. Tadesse will be going out to get new products and Peter hopes he may help to load and unload the boxes from the truck. As he gets up his stomach feels terribly empty. Mr. Tadessy has given him food and hot tea before.

We ride our sidecar into the streets of Gondar and Peter is the first one to spot us. "Hurry up Johannes, there are tourists and look what a great bike they have!" Peter is crying out happily upon his friend. Often they can do little jobs for tourists, like buying groceries. Or they accompany them to the market and make sure that they don't pay too much, because the vendors at the market always try to get twice or even three times the normal price from tourists. The more money the tourists save the more they will give Peter and his friend Johannes (11) afterwards.

"Hello, how are you?" The boys greet us as soon as we stop. It's long since we heard somebody speak English that good and we return their greetings. "You know a cheap hotel that has a safe place to park our sidecar?" Rob asks them and the boys agree on where to take us.

As Peter, who adopted this name especially for the tourists (so that his name is not forgotten), trots on in front of us we see that he strangely walks on a twisted left foot. A foot like this is called a logfoot. Peter is bothered a lot by his handicap, and everyday people tease him because of it, which hurts him even more. Being handicapped in Ethiopia means not getting any chances.

"They think I am stupid, but there is nothing wrong with my head!" Peter protests one time. It's not at all fair.

We buy tomatoes at the market and sit down at a terrace to have a glass of fresh mango juice.

"Mmmmm," Peter thinks, "I had never expected this this morning." We ask him where he learned to speak English so well and Peter tells us proudly that he goes to school. After having made his homework at the school library, he brings his books and his school uniform to Mr. Tadesse and turns to the street to find some work and something to eat.

Peter likes to talk and when we meet again next day after school, Peter tells us how his mother left him shortly after his father died. "Maybe she is in Addis Ababa, (the capital of Ethiopia)" thinks Peter aloud. Peter was 9 years old and has lived on the street ever since. He saves money to buy his schoolbooks and one time a tourist gave him a new school uniform. He receives free education. "A good boy," Mr. Tadesse tells us about Peter when we buy eggs and bread and off course we agree.

Both Rob and I think the same: If only we could help him. This foot is a great pain to him and makes him so unhappy. Yet Peter is full of life and despite his foot refuses to sit down in despair. He dreams of being a doctor, wants to help all handicapped street-kids and is determined to study hard and make it happen. For now Peter is busy to earn enough money to buy a shoeshine box and shoe polish, a piece of soap to wash muddy shoes and brushes. He already has half of the 50 birr (US 6,-) needed and Rob and I decide to send Peter out on a job while Johannes helps us buying him the present. "Now I have a real job!" Peter cries out happily and insists on polishing our shoes.

 

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de Jong's Home

Travel Stories, English:

January 2002,
Ride on 2002...
October 2001,
Ride on Home
July 2001,
Russia and
Siberia
April 2001,
Japan
Jan 2001,
Arizona
Dec 2000,
California
Oct 2000, L.A
to Fresno via
Inuvik
Sep 2000,
New Zealand
July 2000,
Australia part 2
April 2000 India
and Australia,
part 1
Dec 1999,
Istanbul
to Kathmandu
Nov 1999,
Shoeshine boy
of Gondar

Sept 1999,
Uganda to
Turkey
May 1999,
Zimbabwe to
Uganda
Dec 1998,
South Africa
and Namibia
Sept 1998,
Swaziland &
Lesotho

June 1998,
S. Africa 1
April 1998,
W.Africa 2
March 1998,
W. Africa 1

Travel Stories, In het Nederlands:

July 2001,
Rusland en
Siberie
April 2001,
Japan
Jan 2001,
Arizona

 

Story and photos copyright © Rob and Dafne de Jong 1998-2002.
All Rights Reserved.

 

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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All text and photographs are copyright © Grant and Susan Johnson, 1987-, or their respective authors. All Rights Reserved.