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Some History, English Lessons, Tortilla Chips, and 23 Other Things October 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — teachinghope @ 7:38 am

Written October 6, 2007

Josh has decided to forego the team’s blog rotation since he keeps a pretty extensive blog of his own—I don’t want you to miss out on hearing about the experience from his perspective, plus he’s quite the writer and is able to post more frequent, more detailed entries (including a pretty detailed list of the names and descriptions of most of our new friends). Please check out his blog at http://www.joshuatuggle.wordpress.com. To entice you there and to tell you about last weekend’s events, I’m copying part of his latest blog entry describing the Meskel celebration and our fun-filled day at the National Museum and the Lion Zoo. If you’re interested in the alleged finding of Jesus’s cross or if you wonder what it’s like to be peed on by the king of the jungle, read on: (If you’ve already read Josh’s entry, mine starts down by the asterisk.)

“Thursday was a national Christian holiday called Meskel. The Ethiopians celebrate this holiday in memory of the finding of the True Cross. They believe that some number of years ago, an empress conducted a search, based on a vision she had while burning bundles of sticks called cheubu, to find the cross on which Jesus himself was crucified. The search was fruitful apparently and they believe they have it in a church in the north. Whether they do or not, the holiday is nationally celebrated and a huge gathering of upwards of 75,000 people congregate in what is called Meskel Square where there is a huge parade, speeches by both the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the Pope of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. We stood amongst the crowd as almost the only white people and held candles to symbolize the millions of lights of the people of the country. The parading and the poor speaker system screaming scattered bits of Amharic speech and song lasted for about three hours until the culmination of the celebration took place. The pope came down from where he was speaking and lit a thirty-foot tall pyramid of cheubu sticks. The crowd roared and broke into songs in unison. It was an incredible experience and it brought together the city and the country in loving celebration. As the singing continued the crowds started to move down the terraces we were standing on. This decision to leave soon became involuntary as the crowd pulsed together and at times lifted me off my feet. Keeping my footing and holding tightly to Bethany’s hand so as not to lose her in the sea of people, we made our way down to flat ground where we reconvened as a group and headed to the car. As we marched through the crowds, Befekadu turned to us and said, “Watch your pockets.” I reached to mine to make sure I heeded his advice only to find out that I had already been robbed. For the first time in my life I had been robbed. Someone had pick pocketed over 120Birr from a zippered pocket which also happened to contain my new Swiss Army knife (thanks Katie!), my house key, the gate key, and the key to my room (locked). Thankfully these were still there and 120 Birr is only about $13 in the US. I did learn my lesson though and Worku made fun of me when we got home. This wasn’t until we went to Bole Road (the cool part of town) to have Italian for dinner. Italian is huge in Ethiopia since it was occupied by the Communist Italian regime for a number of years. The influence has remained in certain ways, food being one of them. After dinner we came home and stood in the driveway with the whole family as we stoked a fire of cheubu as a part of a rich tradition. Friday would be our day of rest and relaxation until today, which was full of surprises…

“…We were going to the museum, the National Museum to be exact. We had arranged for Befekadu to drive us to the museum at 11:30 this morning, so we hopped in the car and putted our way to the north side of Addis called Piazza. This area of town is heavily influenced by the former Italian occupation and boasts a great number of Italian restaurants and small cafés. …we began with a tour of the archeological history of Ethiopia—fossils, bones, paintings of what prehistoric and more recent animals looked like, and best of all, a room completely devoted to Lucy. At 3’5”, she is miniscule in stature, but represents the oldest finding of a creature close to our body shape and appearance. It was quite intriguing to see the vast amount of archeological history and evidence held within the borders of Ethiopia. I had no idea. [On the main level] there was an array of recovered clothing, armor, thrones, crowns, and weaponry of Ethiopia’s past emperors. The most eye catching, in my opinion, was a sixteen-foot tall throne belonging to emperor Haile Selassie. It was about six feet wide and seemed like it would have been quite difficult to get into the seat. I sort of wanted to hop the rope and take a seat. I don’t know that I would make a great emperor, but it would have at least been fun to pretend. The next level contained artwork, both sculptures and paintings, from many Ethiopian artists depicting the lifestyle, history, and religion of their homeland. From Orthodox impressions of the Trinity to reenactments of wars long ago, we got a taste of the creativity, passion, and focus of the Ethiopian people. The top floor was a ring of display cases that held artifacts from different tribes and peoples. There were cases on jewelry, religious pieces, clothes, and cookware. My four favorite ones though, were the farming equipment, the hunting implements, the armor and weaponry, and the musical instruments…

“…After a late afternoon lunch, we headed to what Befekadu called the ‘Lion Zoo’. We had no idea what to expect so when we got there and were standing just inches away from these incredible beasts, the kings of the jungle and their mates, we were blown away. With only a thin fence between us and them, we were about as close as one could get without being dinner. One was being riled up by a zookeeper (if you could call him that) and was roaring and jumping on the fence. Then it turned to walk away. Or so we thought. What takes place next is mildly disturbing. It lifted its tail and sprayed through the fence and onto Bethany and I a shower of urine! Now some of you may know Bethany’s history with birds and poop, but I had no idea that her bad fortune extended to lion pee! I got it on my waterproof jacket and Bethany got it in the face, so I guess I made out a little better than she did, but it was pee nonetheless.” (-Joshua Tuggle)

*I write today with my mind and heart back in Washington where two of my wonderful friends are marrying each other. This is the second of 2 much-anticipated weddings during my year in Ethiopia, and while I know the ceremony is only a single day in the life of their marriages, it is difficult not to be sharing in the days of these momentous occasions. So to those in attendance at Brian and Liz’s wedding, take a lot of pictures and give them plenty of hugs from me!

After the eventful Meskel (even Josh’s lengthy description can’t fully capture the experience so we’ll look forward to sharing pictures and video with you when we return!), National Museum, and Lion Zoo adventures, we went back to IEC last Sunday for church. After church, we stopped by the guesthouse we stayed in during our first 2 weeks here in Addis to say hello to Hannah and Tigest. We hadn’t seen them for 3 weeks so it was wonderful to visit and it was fun to reminisce about our first experiences in Ethiopia. As time passes and we realize we have friends worth visiting, we have come to feel more at home…Our time with Befekadu this weekend is another testimony to our growing relationships—The love I feel for and from these new and dear friends is truly remarkable and I am so grateful for their sweet presence in our lives. We look forward to Bef’s frequent visits (usually announced by the sputtering of his car’s engine) and cherish our new family here.

The short school week leading up to Meskel allowed us some opportunity to observe the English teachers and get a better idea of the teaching style and classroom dynamic. Still, this past school week we were supposed to continue observing, talking with the teachers, and coordinating/collaborating lesson plans with them. Woubeshet, one of the English teachers, however, was out all week due to bronchitis, so he asked us to fill in for him. Despite the last-minute’s notice and the lack of proper preparation, we began teaching grades 5, 6, and 7! Thanks to God the experience was not only enjoyable but also fruitful as the students seemed to respond and to engage in the classroom (and we seemed to hold our own as teachers of English). You will hear more about each of our personal teaching experiences in the months to come, but I have had such fun spending time with the 7th-graders in and out of the classroom. They have taken it upon themselves to teach me Amharic and I treasure all that I have to learn from them. We laugh together at my mistakes and mispronunciation—but hopefully my attempts to speak Amharic and risking mistakes will encourage them to continue to speak and to practice English, because many of them are afraid of speaking the language for fear of being laughed at.

So school has been a wonderful adventure this week, with a bit of team-teaching, some nerve-wracking first-time-teaching jitters, meaningful connections with the students, and the beautiful sense of accomplishment with making it through our first week. We also had the pleasure of 2 dinner engagements—1 with our family, where we enjoyed traditional Ethiopian fare (I’ve had to take it easy with the Ethiopian food since it made me so sick) and 1 with our friend, the branch manager at school, Gineti. We invited Gineti to our house for “American” food—fried rice and fruit salad. It’s funny how much pleasure we get from making and enjoying familiar foods with each other.

Earlier this week we happened to find tortilla chips! For those who know me and Bethany, you know that tortilla chips are one of our favorite snacks (and/or meal options). Josh and Sarah were excited about the find as well, so we whipped up some guacamole and savored the bag this week. What a treat! Other than a bag of tortilla chips, we also acquired some much-needed furniture. As some of you know, Josh has been building shelves for our rooms, and after much anticipation, the shelves came home on Thursday. No more living out of suitcases!! We are quite proud of his work (as is he) and are thrilled at how much more our house is becoming to feel like a home now that we can fully unpack. Strange how small things make such a big difference and bring us such pleasure!

Tonight Befekadu is coming over for dinner and then he is taking us to a concert of traditional Ethiopian music and dance—I can’t wait!! Most who know me know I love dancing—whether watching dance or dancing myself (not that I’m any good). So I have been looking forward to this. Some of the students have shown me Ethiopian dancing then have asked me to demonstrate “American” dancing. Oh goodness, I wouldn’t even know where to start…Ha! You can look forward to stories about tonight!

For the rest of today’s entry, I thought it would be fun to include a list of interesting facts about life here in Addis Ababa. The following may or may not surprise you, may or may not be interesting, but I hope it helps paint a better picture of what this place is like! In no particular order:

1. Foosball Tables: In the US we usually find these in homes or at arcades, but here in Addis, foosball tables often line the streets, where you can find anywhere from 5-35 men playing or watching an intense game.

2. Avocadoes: In the US, these rare treats are usually purchased for special occasions due to their price. Here in Addis, Avocadoes are 3 birr/kilo (roughly 35 cents/kilo), so we eat them like it’s our job. I’m hoping we get sick of them by the time we return; otherwise it will be a sad day when we have to pay $1 US for a single avocado…

3. Plastic/Foam Shoes: I’m pretty sure Crocs (the US shoe co.) got its idea from the ever-popular plastic shoes everyone wears here in Addis. We have yet to find out if the style changes during the dry season, but right now you can purchase assorted plastic sandals, clogs, shoes, short boots, tall boots…We have yet to see plastic pumps but I really wouldn’t be surprised.

4. US Musicians: If you ever want to remember what Britney was like pre-shaved head, come here to Addis. Posters of pre-teen Britney, 50-cent, and Eminem are plastered and sold everywhere.

5. Milk: Cow milk does not exist here in liquid form, so we have resorted to the popular-among-foreigners powdered milk, Nido. Made by Nestle, Bethany and I have gotten used to eating it with our bran flakes (easing up from a few tablespoons at a time to ¼ cup in our bowls) but haven’t ventured to drinking it by itself.

6. Animals: We’ve mentioned this, but the animals here are crazy! Herds (and the feces) of goats, sheep, oxen, and donkeys take over the streets and sidewalk. Just last week Bethany and Josh had to hop up on a railing to avoid being trampled by a bull and Sarah and I had to jump over a ditch to avoid 5 charging donkeys (which were delivering sand to a local construction site). Also, it is not uncommon to come across a tarp of sheep, goat, or chicken parts. A few days ago Alem came home with a sheep’s head in a plastic bag—for the dogs, she said. I told her she should slip it onto Befekadu’s plate.

7. Children: The children follow us wherever we go. They greet us in traditional Ethiopian fashion, shaking and kissing our hands and kissing our cheeks multiple times. And the kisses from the children are not your typical kisses—they press their often snotty faces quite hard into your cheek so that you feel the imprint for minutes afterwards. Then they often continue walking with us, hand-in-hand, before sending us off with many more hand-shakes and kisses. They are quite precious but can be overwhelming when you have 15 of them trying to kiss and touch you all at once!

8. Hand-Holding: Another Ethiopian custom is to be very affectionate with your close friends (male/male, female/female). You will often see women with their arms around each other or holding hands—or men with their arms around each other or holding hands. Josh has made a few friends whose relationship has escalated to hand-holding—even interlocking fingers. A new experience for him (and for Bethany to see!) this custom is tribute to the love the Ethiopian people have for each other and their desire to show it.

9. Hand-Shaking: Everyone here shakes everyone’s hand in greeting or in departing. If your hand is dirty or if you are sick, however, you should offer your wrist to be shaken. Ingenious!

10. Chat: While it’s not quite at the same level, the only thing I can compare “chat” to is marijuana. It’s a trance-inducing stimulant sold in many of the street shops. The other day a man asked me and Sarah if we’d like to enjoy some chat with him and we graciously declined. Popular among the Muslim population, most of the Christians here frown upon the use of chat.

11. Starbucks and 711?: We had to look twice when we first passed Kaldi’s Coffee. With a green circular design much like Starbucks’, similar menus, colors/atmosphere/uniforms, Kaldi’s has had pressure from Starbucks who has tried to press suit on the knockoff. We have yet to try the coffee (I’m hoping they have chai latte but am not counting on it…!) but we’ll let you know how it compares. In the meantime, Ethiopian coffee has been more than sufficient for the other 3 coffee drinkers. Also, the grocery store we frequent is named 711 with the same logo of the popular US convenience store/gas station. While the Ethiopian version offers a wide selection of products, it does not have slurpies.

12. Umbrellas: Umbrellas are used for protection against the heavy rain—and the sun! We’ve also noticed umbrella repair services…

13. Plastic Bags: If people don’t own umbrellas, to protect themselves from rain, they will use plastic bags to put on their heads. This is an extremely common practice, especially among women.

14. Shoe Shiners: Many boys and young men provide shoe-shining services which seem to take in a lot of business. Josh has taken advantage of this service (especially during the muddy rainy season) and was thrilled to find that they use the same kind of polish he uses in the States.

15. Favorite Food: In the US, pizza, pasta, ice cream are all common favorite foods. Here in Ethiopia, Doro Wat is the popular favorite—Chicken Wat (sauce). Chicken is more expensive than beef here so the people don’t get to eat chicken as often.

16. Toothbrushes: Many Ethiopians have bad teeth. We’ve seen toothbrushes sold, but many people cannot afford them. As a substitute, people often take a small stick, pick apart one end, and use it to “brush” their teeth and gums. Our beloved Mattewos chews on his stick every morning on his way to school.

17. Street Cleaners: Ethiopian style street cleaning consists of groups of 4-5 women wearing orange jumpsuits and broad-brimmed hats, armed with brooms/rakes and a wheelbarrow.

18. Hauling: Since most Ethiopians don’t own vehicles and can’t afford to rent a U-Haul (or the Ethiopian equivalent), we often see people carrying insane loads on their heads. A couple days ago we saw a man carrying two metal beds on his head—or another carrying about 5 mattresses. Josh saw a man carrying a box about 4 feet by 3 feet by 2 ft full of tomatoes. The man crossed the Ring Road (the busiest road) and climbed over the 3-ft tall median while balancing this thing on his head…Truck beds will be loaded 20-30 feet high with mattresses and/or boxes!

19. Police: The police dress in blue army fatigues and carry AK-47s at all times. Enough said.

20. Foreigners: Known as “firenjes,” we are called this countless times a day. “You! You! Firenje!” Some add, “How are you?” or “How do you find Ethiopia?” We have been told that most people don’t mean this as derogatory name-calling, but that they usually just want to talk with us.

21. Bathrooms: There is a sort of “natural toilet” here. Meaning, we rarely go a day without witnessing some unashamed man/men using this said natural toilet, which is conveniently located anywhere.

22. The Dump: Thank the Lord for the waste services in the US. The city dump is in the middle of Addis—the stench is horrid (especially on sunny days) and the scene kind of reminds me of the “elephant grave yard” on the Lion King, except with MOUNTAINS of bones. In place of hyenas, vultures. Hundreds and hundreds of vultures.

23. Scaffolding: There is a lot of construction going on in Addis; however, many are trying to pass a law against the form of scaffolding used. Currently, workers use sticks (perhaps not sticks, but definitely not logs or boards) bound together by rope to build elaborate scaffolding that miraculously holds up many people—most of the time. The city has had quite a number of accidents…Hopefully, the law will pass without cutting too many jobs (a large number of people are employed to make, distribute, and assemble these sticks).

There you have it. 23 interesting facts for you. I’m sure we’ll have more to come, but those are some of the most obvious and most common. I’ll sign off since this is a small-ish novel…So much to tell you all! We miss you and think of you often—and look forward to any and every update from home so keep them coming!

Becoming Ethiopian,

M (in association with J, S & B)

Pray for us: Health!! We continue to keep passing around sickness/cold (but at least it’s not the stomach thing…), energy, communication/collaboration with the teachers/administration, creativity, vision for our time here, for developing sustainable, purposeful programs.

Praise the Lord: We look forward to connecting with our friends from the States, Sinaid (serving in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps), and Lauren (also teaching English here in Addis)! For our new Ethiopian friends, a wonderful first week of teaching, our shelves, and simple pleasures.


The Headlines (part 2 of 2) October 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — teachinghope @ 11:32 am

Written 9.25.07

 When we agreed to come to work with HOPE Enterprises several months ago, we knew that it was the right fit for the four of us, because they expressed interest in allowing us to utilize all of our talents and educational backgrounds.  This has since proved to be true, and we are all overjoyed to be able to put our specific gifts to use.  Because we are all native English speakers, we will all be in charge of teaching our mother tongue, which we knew would be the case.  Bethany is taking the youngest students, working with 1st-3rd grades; Josh will have students in 4th-6th grade; Maren is working with grades 7 and 8; and I will have the 9th and 10th graders.  On top of sharing our knowledge of English, we also have our own specific duties at the school and within the HOPE organization.  Bethany and Maren will be applying their business experience and knowledge as teachers in the vocational school, which is for students who are unable to pass the standardized test after 10th grade.  HOPE provides the opportunity to learn about 10 different trades and skills, so that the students can continue to learn a practical profession and in turn be able to succeed “in the real world.”  Josh will be joining the vocational school as an Ethics teacher, working alongside Pastor Mattewos; he will also be joining the pastor on Tuesdays and Thursdays at HOPE headquarters to preach love and hope to the people of Addis who come seeking food and shelter.  I will be using my teaching background to help with the English program for the vocational school students, to assist Dr. Minas (the President of HOPE) in writing and editing proposals, grant requests, and letters to send out to donors around the world, and to help a couple from The Netherlands create the English curriculum for the University that HOPE will be opening in the fall of 2009.  As you can see, God knew what he was doing when he placed Ethiopia on our hearts and minds this past spring.  We are humbled and honored to be able to use these talents to glorify his kingdom, knowing full well that we are working in the context of his will. And now on to some of the significant events we have experienced this past week… We met a couple from Canada last Sunday who have been and will continue to be a great connection and an excellent resource in the city, since they have lived here for the past couple of years.  They informed us about a supermarket near the city center, called Bambi’s, which boasted goods from around the world, with literally almost anything we could need in Ethiopia.  We decided we would check it out, and were not disappointed with our finds:  fresh, quality, pre-packaged meat (rather than having to buy a live animal and slaughter it on a weekly basis); granola mix that reminds us of the cereals we love in the United States; Coca-cola light, which isn’t quite the same as Diet Coke, but is the best substitute we can find; and deli meat for sandwiches, although at the price per kilo (about $30 for 2 pounds), we will most likely save that treat for a mock Thanksgiving celebration, as turkeys (and even chicken) are hard to come by in this country.  Since we can buy almost everything that we need on a daily basis right around our house from the small markets and outdoor fruit stands, we won’t need to make many trips to our newly favorite Disney character—we’ll reserve those adventures for holidays and when we find that we just need a taste from home. Last Saturday we found out that the church that we’ve been attending (the International Evangelical Church of Addis Ababa) was hosting a large bazaar, at which NGOs sent delegates from their organizations to sell their crafts, hand-made items, cultural paraphernalia, and traditional Ethiopian clothing.  Most of the organizations support the impoverished, the disabled, or the homeless, and so we felt that it would be a good opportunity to in turn support these people and to begin to make purchases for our loved ones back home and ourselves as reminders of this already incredible experience.  And again, we were not disappointed, as we were overwhelmed by the talent, creativity, and beauty of the items that were being sold.  We spent a little bit of time and a little bit of money, before realizing that we had another appointment to get to, but we were relieved by the fact that the church hosts the bazaar once a month for the next several months.  We will be sure to return at the next chance we get. After the bazaar, we made our way back to our compound, via mini-bus, and arrived just in time before the skies opened up and literally dumped water on Addis.  Pastor Mattewos had asked us to be his guests at a wedding he was residing at, and so we trudged through the rain across the city, and sat through our first traditional Ethiopian wedding, which started two hours late due to the torrential rains.  It was an honor to be guests in the ceremony, and it was really not all that different than American weddings, in that there was music, a sermon, a bridal party, the exchange of vows and rings, and the introduction of the couple.  It was only in the manner in which the events happened that differed.  The music was led by a small choir who set the tone of the wedding as truly being a worship service, rather than a simple ceremony.  The sheer joy on their faces and in their bodies gave clear evidence of whom they worshipped, and we were sad that we could not join in with their songs, other than through clapping and dancing.  Since everything was in Amharic, we understood very little of the sermon, with the exception of the only English words spoken: “Marriage is a covenant, not a contract.”  Then we watched Pastor Mattewos lead the vows, after which the couple immediately signed the marriage license before the ceremony ended with joyful song and many smiles. On Sunday, we joined Pastor Mattewos at his church (of which he is no longer the pastor, but an active member as a lay leader on many different committees), which is just down the street from our house, and about halfway to his house.  The 2½ hour service was solely in Amharic, as well as the music, but it was clearly evident that God was present and that people were overjoyed to come into his presence.  It was a wonderful experience to be a part of this worship service, regardless of its incomprehensibility to us—we understood clearly that God is the same God in all cultures and in all languages. And the last major thing that we experienced this week was just yesterday morning—the opening ceremonies at HOPE school.  We gathered in front of the 800 students along with teachers, administrators and parents and watched as the school year began with celebration and organization.  We were in awe of the discipline of the students, as they listened to guidelines and expected behavior for about an hour; we were blessed by the clear and beautiful voices of the children’s choir; we were honored when the school director introduced us as being distinguished teachers from very far away, and all 800 pairs of eyes turned to look at us.  As a final celebratory gesture, the school’s music director asked all of the new students to come forward, and when they were gathered in two lines (a boy line and a girl line), the first two were handed the Ethiopian version of a tiki-torch, and the rest of the school whooped and clapped and whistled while the new students marched around the rest of the school body, commemorating the new year, the knowledge to be gained, the friendships to be created, the experiences to be had.  Now that we have seen the way in which both the teachers and students alike value education, we are both excited and anxious to begin fulfilling our purpose in coming here. So there you have it: an overview of a typical day and some of the important events that are shaping our experience here in Ethiopia.  We continue to be daily blessed by God’s presence in our lives, and although we miss friends, family and familiarity, we are learning to embrace Ethiopia as our temporary home, and it is good. With love, Sarah and the other folks Praise the Lord:  further direction in our responsibilities and role at HOPE; the ability to worship God no matter what the language; true Ethiopian friends and surrogate family members; continued protection and provision; growth and learning Pray for us: continued health; peace and confidence as we begin teaching (for real this time) early next week; the ability to grow deeply as a team, relying on each other’s strengths and supporting each other’s weaknesses; continued vision


The Daily News (part 1 of 2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — teachinghope @ 11:32 am

Written 9.24.2007


Life in Ethiopia continues to surprise us on a daily basis, while it simultaneously continues to become more and more familiar and routine.  I won’t use the word normal just yet, because nothing about this place is normal in the sense that we know it in America.  With that said, however, we are rapidly getting used to the modes of transportation, the Ethiopian concept of time and accomplishment, and the constant stares we receive every time we step foot out of our compound.


Life is good here.


Just to highlight a bit of our daily life, let me paint you a picture of an average day with average events for us in Addis Ababa before delving into some of the more major events that have happened in the past week.  Our day starts with a brisk walk to school, which is a 20-minute jaunt along the side streets and major roadways.  Most often, we are surrounded by groups of children who wish to greet us, or smile shyly behind their hands, or grasp our own hands tightly as we walk along, often with little or no communication, as they are not old enough to have learned English beyond simple greetings and our Amharic is progressing very slowly.  No matter how many times we walk this route, there are always new people and new sights, and since we continue to be a novelty for the curious eyes, we provide entertainment and wonder for almost every person we come across. 

 Once we get to school, we usually head straight for our very own office, which is truly a wonderful space for us to have as a home-base at school.  But we don’t stay in our office for long, because we have made many new friends among the teachers and faculty, and so we drop our belongings in the office and then make the rounds around the campus to connect with these dear people here and to continue to familiarize ourselves with the campus.  Most often, at least in this past week, we created a list for ourselves that we needed to accomplish by the end of the day, and then we usually would complete the list in just a couple of hours.  This would bring us to lunchtime, and so we would join whomever we happened to be with at the time for a lunch of traditional Ethiopian food—injera and wot.  Imagine a large pancake about the size of a serving platter that tastes like sourdough bread with an extremely spicy stew made of lentils or ground beef, and that’s what Ethiopians eat every day, almost three meals a day.  And then imagine that you have no utensils or even a plate of your own—injera and wot are served family style on a large platter, and everyone simply digs in.  The best part about eating in Ethiopia is the tradition called gursha in which you are able to show your friendship and love for your fellow eaters by creating a wrap of spicy food in your fingers and then feeding it to them—all without the use of napkins or silverware.  Our dear friend Pastor Mattewos likes to tell us that he shows us how much he cares for us by the size of the food he presents to our mouths, and even though we appreciate the gesture, we have had to explain to him many times that our stomachs just aren’t as sturdy as his own.  We probably won’t get to the point where we can eat this exotic food every day, but it is wonderful to be a part of the culture in this way.

Most often after lunch we would spend a little time looking over some of the curriculum books that we tracked down through many different sources and attempt to create some sort of plan from these materials.  This wouldn’t take very long, because we were still pretty unsure of what the Ethiopian teachers were expecting from us.  Since our academic responsibilities during the day were left mainly up to us, then, we would change our tactics to a more personal level and invite Pastor Mattewos out for a coffee break, which is one of the most-often practiced customs here in Ethiopia.  Coffee is known to have originated here, and it is one of the most prized possessions and passions of the people.  And Ethiopians know how to do coffee.  Ethiopian coffee, or bunna in Amharic, is probably as far unlike American coffee as anything you could think of.  Although there are many variations, the basic is straight-up coffee, which is actually very similar to espresso shots.  And the size of the drink is very important—each bunna is approximately 3 oz., and although this seems small, it is the perfect amount every single time.  Besides bunna, then, the other two main staples are macchiatos, which are coffee with a little bit of steamed milk, or wettet ba bunna, which is steamed milk with a little bit of coffee.  And for those who aren’t such a fan of coffee, there is always shai, or Addis black tea.  Every drink is served with a healthy (or extreme) dose of sugar, and every drink is satisfying due to the quality of both the beverage and the company we keep.  Although we dearly love the café-style coffee and tea, we continue to look forward to being able to experience a traditional coffee ceremony, of which you’ll hear about once we have been indoctrinated into this custom.


After this wonderful afternoon break, we would take an excursion to the local 7/11, which is where we bought most everything to set up our house (it’s more like a miniscule Walgreen’s than a slurpee dive).  We have still been in the process of creating a home here, and continue to find items that living in our own house necessitate (mop, extra dish towels, rugs, etc.).  Since the store isn’t incredibly close, we have learned to take the public transportation system, which is in the form of 15 passenger mini-buses.  In order to catch the right taxi, you have to pay attention to the caller hanging out of the side window who shouts the bus’ destination as the driver pulls up to the curb.  When you hear the place to which you are going, you squeeze into the bus which is filled with Ethiopians (we have yet to see another farenji, or foreigner, ride in this Ethiopian fashion), and pay anywhere from 65 cents to 1 birr 20 cents (USD $0.07-$0.14) to get to your destination.  We have learned how to tell them where we want to get off (woraj alleu) if we don’t want to go to the end of the prescribed route.  All in all, it is an exhilarating experience every single time.


Once we return from said excursion, we wind down by working out, making dinner (as similar to American meals as we can create here), and entertaining ourselves through games and the occasional dvd.  We have all become experts at several versions of cards, (even to the point of creating an entire notebook dedicated to keeping our scores) and our competitive nature stays healthfully active.


So, that’s been a typical day for us, but as of this week, that will change to a more routine schedule, and it will start to focus less on us and more on the people whom we’ve come to serve.  But before I explain that, let me tell you about what we understand of our responsibilities at the school. 

(cont. in part 2)