Teaching Hope

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Langano and Then Some December 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — teachinghope @ 7:18 am

Food and Friends

T’ibs are our favorite Ethiopian food—Small pieces of meat, usually served with onions and jalapenos over injera and “dabo” (bread), T’ibs are probably the easiest on our stomachs. All of the teachers know this, and so they made a “program” with us after school one day (Ethiopians make “programs,” not “plans”), and Biniam, Tariku, and Meron took us to a restaurant famous for its T’ibs. (Now, to properly speak this word, you must understand that there are 6 explosive sounds in the Fidel/Amharic alphabet.  The “T” in T’ibs is explosive, which is only appropriate for such a dynamite food. Ha!)


Anyhow, the teachers were right. This place was GOOD. Not only was the food good, but the company was wonderful. These 3 teachers are very close to us in age and while we love our dear father and older friends here, the camaraderie we hold with these 3 is reminiscent of that with our friends and roommates back home. Meron is a newer teacher at HOPE (she has been here for about 1.5 months now) and she is the dearest girl. Meron is outgoing, engaging, thoughtful, funny—she is very strong and independent. Her character is somewhat different than most Ethiopian women who tend to be rather quiet and reserved—especially around Farenje (foreigners). I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a close female friend here—Don’t get me wrong, we love the boys, but we cherish our friendship with Meron. She will be getting married sometime before we leave (although she’s threatening to postpone the wedding to entice us to stay…) and rumor has it that the girls might be asked to participate in the wedding—as bridesmaids! Her fiancée is amazing, too, so we look forward to that celebration! I think we’ve told you about Biniam and Tariku—Biniam is the kindest, most gentle man, and Tariku is the handsome goofball who teaches English. We have a great time with these friends of ours and can’t imagine leaving them in July…


The Countryside and Lake Langano

After our outing, we had planned a weekend trip with Dr. Minas to visit 2 of the other HOPE schools south of Addis, as well as an overnight at Lake Langano. A day before leaving, we learned that we wouldn’t be teaching the next week due to midterms, so rather than a weekend trip, we extended our stay, leaving on Friday morning and returning Wednesday afternoon. I’m not quite sure where to begin or how even to describe this delightful adventure. Langano is roughly 2 hours south of Addis, so why, you might ask, did it take us over 8 hours to get there? Well, perhaps because we took the scenic route. Dr. Minas first drove through a thriving, newer city called Nazaret, then onto the road less traveled. Far less traveled. At times, a road did not exist at all (thank God we were driving in the ever-capable Land Cruiser)—although we did manage to get stuck at one point and it took us about 20 minutes to get going again…


Anyhow, picture yourself driving slowly through a land of slight hills and plateaus with subtle valleys cutting through. Perhaps what distinguishes this land from any other are the acacia trees that dot the landscape (those majestic African-looking trees whose foliage is rather flat on the top and instead spreads to either side like there is an invisible ceiling)…Every few kilometers you see small living communities consisting of 1-5 huts. The huts are made of the traditional dung-and-straw, and since it is harvest time, the people are busy gathering, grinding, and preparing the grain. But don’t picture machinery, you see oxen led in circles over the grain to grind it, the women throwing the grain in the air to separate the chaff…What a beautiful, simplicity. And I don’t mean that it is an easy life by any means—but it is a life without the buzz of modernity. Children run full-throttle across the fields (abandoning their flocks or their chores) simply to wave at you and shout, “Farenje! Farenji!” Everything is covered with dust.


HOPE School Hirara is on a plateau overlooking Lake Ziway; HOPE School Roggie is on a plateau overlooking Lake Shala. The school in Roggie is brand-new, the buildings are very nice (set against the huts, modern-type buildings look somewhat out-of-place). A church from the Bay Area just finished a water project a couple months ago that now supplies the area with much-needed clean water. The school in Hirara is less developed—fashioned out of corrugated metal siding, the single building marks the location of future construction. For now, the 2-room structure is buzzing with the energy of 100 students practicing their English: “One star and two stars is three stars.” Except, the pronunciation is more like: “Wahn estat ahnduh tooh estats eez zree estats.” We were excited to be able to visit these two other HOPE schools and look forward to visiting the others throughout the year (we’ve been to 4 already—there are 6 total). 


The rest of our trip was spent at Lake Langano. Although the water looked rather brown and unappealing, we ventured in for a rather enjoyable swim or two, and just enjoyed being away from the harsh sounds, smells, and sights of the city. We had beautiful weather—sunny and breezy—in a beautiful setting (the lake has hills in the background; the compound is full of trees, bright flowers, crazy-looking (and sounding) birds, etc). It was quite refreshing to revel in the beauty of God’s natural creation for a few days. And the stars! We’ve located a few familiar constellations, including Orion, Cassiopeia, and Pleiades—No Dippers around here…Since only 10% of the people in Ethiopia have power, you can imagine how bright the stars are in the countryside.


We spent the days exploring the compound, reading on the beach, playing cards and resting. It was a great time to reflect (not that reflection is ever hard to do here), reenergize and refocus.

Vivaldi and Gerald

Sarah and I have been rehearsing with a 70-voice Christmas choir consisting of people from over 15 different countries. Our favorite musician whom we named Gerald before learning his real name is Brian, speaks 5 different languages including Portuguese and plays the contrabass. We met a number of wonderful, eccentric people (including the French ambassador) and are thankful for the experience! We are singing some great music, including Vivaldi’s Magnificat, as well as a piece by Mendelssohn and another by Ralph V. Williams—15 pieces in all. Accustomed to singing in choral groups and coming from a rather musical family, Sarah and I were delighted to sing some technically hard and lovely music and to hear the sound come together. We sang with an orchestra and wind ensemble, which made it even more wonderful. We performed 5 times, 3 at churches, 1 at an NGO, and 1 at a local women’s prison. The conditions at the prison were relatively good, although we learned a few interesting things:

  1. No food is provided at any prison in Ethiopia. If you want to eat, your relatives have to prepare and bring food to you.
  2. If you have a young child, the child must stay in prison with you until he/she comes of age (or until you complete your sentence).
  3. Most of the women are in prison for murdering their husbands—usually out of self defense.

Overall, our experience at the prison was eye-opening. The women are beautiful—of all ages. Despite their circumstances we were able to laugh together and I sensed their hope.


Birthdays and Husbands

Well, I’m getting old. I celebrated my 24th birthday on December 6th and I just can’t express my gratefulness for all those who sent cards and well wishes—Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness! You made me feel special and loved in this place that is still so fresh. Josh and I happened to be at the feeding center that day (who ever gets to feed over 700 people on their birthday?!) and Sarah and I had a concert that evening, so it was a remarkable day. We returned from the concert to find Josh and Bethany with a CAKE and familiar decorations!! (Including noisemakers, a Scooby Doo candle, and one of those multicolored “Happy Birthday” hanging signs—Thank you, BPYG!!) The next day, the teachers organized a small surprise celebration for me in the staff room and presented me with a huge birthday card that they all had signed. Mattewos’s note was probably my favorite. He writes: “I wish you good luck to marry a good husband!” Yes, apparently I am ancient and need to get my rear in gear to locate the man I am to marry. Even my students gawk at my singleness—I try to explain to them that in America it is very common to marry later in life (if ever) but they don’t get it. “You don’t even to have a boyfriend in America?” they say. It makes me laugh every time. 


Challenges and Beyonce

As we get into the year, our role as teachers is becoming more challenging, especially for those of us without formal training. Heck! We didn’t even have informal training! For me, I have come to the conclusion that I am not made to be a teacher. If I had my way, I’d just spend time with the students and get to know them on a heart level—BUT I have this responsibility to teach them English, and I have told some people already that it is requiring all that I have (and much that I don’t have) to do this teaching thing. The Lord is equipping me to step up to the task at hand, so in that I am learning to depend on his provision; however, it still remains difficult to focus our teaching with such little guidance and structure.


I am extremely aware and thankful for the love I have for my students. I enjoy being with them and have even had some of them to our home (usually involving popcorn and nail polish). At times, though, the attention can be somewhat overwhelming (imagine 30+ students surrounding you before and after class, all wanting to shake hands, kiss, high-five, fist pound, hold hands, play with your hair—the hair on your head and on your arms, etc. All trying to speak louder than the person next to them with a version of English-Amharic our team affectionately calls Amharish. Then imagine they persist in asking you to demonstrate “American” dancing or to sing Beyonce or Shakira until you can’t help but try…) Yes, I love them. Even when they put a dead rat in the front of the classroom. (It was pretty funny.)


Bethany and I started teaching business courses a couple weeks ago—the course is focused around the creation of a business plan—Bethany and I will help teach this portion, as well as supplement the course with information about Lean Management and the 7 Habits for Highly Effective People. A team of evaluators from the Netherlands will be coming to check on the progress of the business courses in January so we’ll keep you posted on that. She and I have also started going over some of HOPE’s reports regarding its extensive operations and have already made some notes for possible recommendations we can leave at the end of the year.


Miscellaneous and Random

-We had the pleasure of dining with Mattewos’s family for dinner the other night. Atefero (his wife) prepared great food for farenji stomachs. Sarah and I had made strawberry shortcake (made with berries we found at a small stand on our way back from Langano) and they thought it was marvelous. It’s quite fun to introduce the Ethiopians to different kinds of food!

-We’re looking forward to celebrating Christmas here in Ethiopia—twice. Ethiopian Christmas isn’t until the 2nd week in January…We are already planning a Christmas party at our home and look forward to introducing some of our traditions to our new friends—as well as sharing in their Christmas traditions!

-Sarah’s church in Minnesota just sent us 25 copies of The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe to use in our classes. What a treat! Thank you so much!! We’ve received various letters and packages from loved ones and we are so grateful for your generosity! Something that is always precious to us and is easy to send: PICTURES! We miss seeing your faces, so any new pictures are really fun for us.

-We’ve gotten a system down for using the internet, so if you aren’t writing because you think we can’t access email, don’t let that stop you anymore. We’re able to consistently get online about once a week and we love hearing from you!

-We purchased our return tickets—we will return to Seattle on the afternoon of July 30th. I know some of you may want to start a countdown. Heh. Kidding. Finalizing our return travel definitely puts perspective on our time here—We have been here for 4 months and have a little more than 7 to go…


Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. We hope you have a rich and joyful Holiday!


Merry Christmas!


Mar (Eyasu, Bet-ty, and Sarichew—our given Ethiopian nicknames)


*We continue to acknowledge the Lord’s provision and protection! We are ever so grateful for your support and encouragement!

*We continue to seek energy, vision, and creativity to teach. We have encountered some potential glitches in the organization (such as poor delegation, employee dissatisfaction, ineffective use of donations, etc.) While HOPE is doing incredible things for the people of Ethiopia, it seems that those within the organization and other internal processes may be overlooked at times. So, please pray with us for their future sustainability and growth. Pray for boldness and clarity as we bring some of these things before the administration, and openness and positive reception. Thank you!!