When Vivian and I returned here about five years ago after living mostly overseas for the past couple decades, I did not care if I ever got on an airplane again. But for the past year or more, Levi has been living and working in Ethiopia. He will be there for at least another year.
Levi lives in a remote part of the country where he has no phone, no internet, and not even any dependable mail service. For Vivian and I, after about a year of this forced estrangement from our son, we miss him so much that we felt that we had to go and see him.
But this would be no pre-packaged holiday travel vacation. As I said, Levi lives in a very remote part of Ethiopia. The last leg of the journey to his home village requires a five-hour trek over mountain paths. Actually, Levi told me once that it was three hours, but I am thinking three hours of walking for Levi should equal about five hours of walking for me – if I’m lucky.
But I am even confused about that aspect of the trip. Once, when he was in the capital of Addis Ababa and we were able to talk with him on the telephone, I tried to get him to clarify it for me.
“Levi,” I asked him, “Just to help me understand – from that point where the last bus drops you off, from that point to your village, about how many miles is it?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Levi answered, “Maybe about fifty.”
“Fifty! ...I thought you said it was a three hour walk.”
“Well it is – sort of. You don’t quite understand, Dad.” he answered me again, “There are sometimes four-wheel drive trucks that will give you a lift.”
I’m not comforted. “I will have to start getting in shape,” I told him next.
I don’t care how many rides we get (or don’t get), I have walked many mountain paths in the past and I know how demanding it is on one’s stamina. And now after about five years living on our little farm, I have lost my mountain legs. Hills are all that we have, and I am even winded when I get to the top of one of those.
“Yeah,” Levi commented when he heard me talk about getting in shape, “I should get in better shape too.”
“No Levi,” I responded. “You shouldn’t get in shape. In fact, you should start putting on a little belly so that I can at least make an attempt at keeping up to you.”
Vivian will not be going with me. She wanted to, of course, but I said that she couldn’t. I did not know how I was going handle the trip, and I did not want to have to worry about her as well.
She demurred. “But I miss Levi, too!” she told me.
“Of course you do honey, but I just can’t have you along. I do not know how it will be.”
I thought the matter was settled and she was content to stay home, but on that same telephone conversation with Levi, she asked him – “Levi, what if I would come too?”
“Well mom,” Levi started slowly, “for one thing, you will not get any sleep. Every place you sleep there are bed bugs, even in the hotels.”
Levi went on to describe a few other things that his mom might find difficult, but I think that he could have stopped at the bed bugs. Vivian is a light sleeper anyway, and this was enough to deter her.
I must say, despite all of the places that I have slept, and many of them in quite primitive or dirty conditions, I cannot remember ever putting up with bed bugs. Luckily, I am a good sleeper. It is the one thing in my life that I feel that I can do well. In fact, I tell my grandsons it is kind of like my super-power. Hopefully it will be enough.
But in the end, neither am I sure how I will handle the bed bugs, plus all of the other things that Levi talked about. Nevertheless, in three days I will leave to go to see him.
However, there are some things about the trip that are becoming a little complicated – and all that I wanted to do was to go and see Levi.
(More tomorrow or the next day)