by Justin Reeves

Hello Homeland 10x10ers!

Often times after a long journey to a faraway place, when the door of the plane opens, that first breath serves as the first impression of a place, and leaves a lasting sensory impact that will forever remind one of what it meant to be there.

Some things hit me immediately: diesel-infused air, instant coffee and dry bread (which tastes smoked) with jam, laundry hanging from lines, aggressive flies, street vendors, cars and donkeys and goats all dodging each other.

_After nearly 36 hours of travel by airplane, taxi, and mini-bus, we finally arrived late Sunday afternoon to Haramaya University, in the mountains just before the lowlands of the Somalian-Ethiopian border.<!–more–> _

There are no showers and no internet. Buckets serve as receptacles for water when it is available, sometimes once a day for one hour, sometimes not for a week. Ironically, when the water does run, most likely you can’t turn it off. Most faucets do not shut off, so water just pours until the entire community is shut off at once. Electricity is the most consistent commodity, usually only going out once or twice a day for 3-4 hours.

Student housing consists of single-story dorms of sheet metal with out-houses. Up to 12 men sleep in the same room, on yellowed mattresses sometimes separated by sheets to lend a bit of privacy. Girls are in a similar unit, far from the boys.

The resilience and dedication of these students are incredible. Despite all odds, they are the future leaders of Ethiopia, the ones who had the opportunity to go to school and have received scores high enough to get into University. These are students happy to just be studying. The lack of water, privacy, bathrooms, electricity or internet doesn’t matter. Studying is the focus, and these students know that they have a role to fulfill to their country. The students smile and are proud.

More to come!