Happy Easter from Ethiopia!!!
Hello Everyone, I hope that you all are having a wonderful Easter. I arrived safely in Addis Ababa last week. It is an amazing country with a culture that is much different from our-own. The homes here have very basic facilities but I'm happy to report that most places do have toilet paper- although you can't toss it in the toilet it is here and I'm very pleased when I use it that it has found its way here.
Access to the internet is fairly limited and although there are many many places that offer it- time away from people to use it and the skills I need to get to the locations to use it are fairly limited at this time. Most of the places offer dial up and I have tried unsuccessfully to update you all 3 times now. The emails take longer to send via the dial up than I seem to have time to wait and the internet is not a part of people's daily lives it is a luxury really.
There is always an appointment or somebody waiting on me to go someplace. In Ethiopia they do not do things alone. I am spending the day alone today at the Sheraton and I think the family I am living with is a little "freaked" out that I wanted to be alone. But seriously- learning another language, being immersed in another culture- no matter how prepared you are is really really difficult.
My students are amazing. The English skills they have are impressive. I am teaching conversational English to 1st, 3rd and 5th graders at a private school by the French Embassy that specializes in making education available to the poor. There are amazing teachers there and everyone is so kind. Then in the evenings I am teaching adult education again English- to advanced English students. At work teachers in Ethiopia wear white lab coats- it's very funny actually. It is an incredibly respected profession here. The only thing that seems to be held above education by middle income Ethiopians (and higher) is God himself. I am excited and humbled by the brilliant minds that are surrounding me daily.
There are the day to day struggles Ethiopians face that I am extremely unfamiliar with- day to day life activities are much more demanding (ie: laundry, bathing, food preparation -etc). There are many many poor people sleeping and begging in the streets. You see families, groups of children, groups of older folks, women alone with their children, or people alone. Seeing people alone is the saddest because it is not common for this culture for a person to be alone.
It's only been a week and I've already got a handle on how to get on and off the bus (Stop=Warrage), what to say to the poor (may god provide you with your needs- in Amharic of course)and learned bits and pieces of what might offend people here (hard for a left handed person to eat with their right and even though your hands get messy- if you can't handle it bring some soft to the table with you for your lap). I've also purchased a couple of things (Amharic learning books), got my cell phone working (different sim card) and participated in a couple of cultural activities (attended a traditional dinner/dancing and church). The traditional dancers are fabulous and church is a must. I dressed in traditional attire and went to church that my host family gave me when I arrived (which is an amazing story all on its own) . There are so many people at church I don't think I've ever seen so many people in one place. The women on one side, the men on another. You take your shoes off. The expression the Ethiopians show when you put on traditional clothing is one I think every person should experience. Some are delighted, some are surprised. They are the most delightful people I have ever met- really.
Although there is much infrastructure- the water and power do go out quite regularly (making showing a bit of a challenge). I've already been quite sick and visited a beautiful and modern hospital-but I'm only going to say that I'm fine and you definitely need to bring antibiotics with you if you are coming here. And if you need- there are clean "frengi" hospitals you can visit and don't be afraid to do so. Other than that I'm going to leave it to I'm in really good hands with the family I am staying with. They are amazing people and have been very caring for me. I am well now. Have finished my round of anti-biotics and am looking forward to my body adjusting to this higher climate (and the smells) so I can start running again.
It is with this thought that I leave you:
3 children just came by me with faces painted like mice asking me about all of the ports on the laptop and what they do- it was most interesting. In just one week I have learned that the children in Ethiopia are a treasure and those of us who have them in our lives are most blessed by the opportunity to raise them. The country has provided you with their gold- hoping that their closeness to you will improve their chances in life because although their pride in their country is great- as they share their desire and dreams for their children- you feel warmth in your heart, your belly feels full and more often then not- as a ferengi- the children fill your arms.
Well- it's the end of my first week and I have to go and make some phone calls. As I gain independence I will be able to write more often but for now- I love and am missing you all very much.