4 November 2007
Greetings again! My apologies for taking so long to write this blog; I have been meaning to write for quite some time, but finding the motivation to write has been hard. I am not sure why it has been so hard, but I think it has to do with the magnitude of experiences, thoughts and emotions I want to share, but yet finding the words to explain seems at times overwhelming. So I will now continue with what has happened in the last four weeks, with my thoughts and emotions intermixed in the experiences.
Maren ended the last blog sharing that that evening we were going to be experiencing cultural dancing and music with our brother Befekadu. Wow- it was incredible. We traveled by car about 25 minutes to a restaurant called “Yod Abyssina”. The restaurant was crowded with both Ethiopians and foreigners. We found a table in the back and sat down quickly, but to our surprise we could not see the stage. So after about ten minutes of sitting we moved and swiftly sat down where a group of people had just left. We then could see the stage and we were able to enjoy the dancing and singing. Some of our favorite dances included: Ethiopian “head banging”, shoulder shaking, and jumping. It is hard to explain the movements in words, but we have multiple videos to show when we return. Since seeing the traditional dancing, we have tried to learn the dancing on our own. Recently, we decided to film our “eskista” dances (which is the rapid shaking of the shoulders) and we should it to our Ethiopian friends. They laughed hard at their foreign friends and then again tried to teach us the dance. We will work on having our traditional dance moves perfect by the time we return.
Besides delving deeper into the Ethiopian culture, we have had the opportunity to meet two more Americans as well as see a friend from home. Both Lauren and Nolan are our two new friends from America. We met Lauren through a friend of Sarah’s from Minnesota. She came over for dinner a few weeks ago. For Sarah, it was good to have a Minnesotan connection and for the rest of us it was good to discuss our experiences together. As for Nolan, we meet him through a connection with Sarah and Maren’s mom. Nolan has hung out with us a number of times. He came to Ethiopia alone and will be here on and off through June, so we will probably hang out with him on a regular basis. It has been fun getting to know him and as for Josh, it has been great having an American guy around that understands his maleness as well as his love for sports. Lastly, we got to see Josh, Maren and my friend Sinead. Sinead is here with the Peace Corps. She was in Addis Ababa for a few days- so we hung out with her during all of her free time. She is now training in a small town about three hours away so we don’t get to see her as often, but we are planning a trip to go be with her. These connections from home have been uplifting to all of us and we appreciate the familiarity that these relationships bring.
As for our job here, it has been going well. There have been days for all of us where our students don’t behave and therefore our teaching on those days seems useless, but we continue to push forward. As we continue moving forward, it always seems that we have some type of reassurance from our students that they are learning and they are grateful for our teaching. As for me, here is one of the experiences I had in my first day of teaching the 1st grade class. I came into the classroom of 50 students and tried to get their attention. As I finally got their attention, I began the class by telling them where I had come from and what I was doing in Ethiopia. After the ten-minute introduction, I began to teach from my lesson plan. That is when everything went down the drain. Students stopped listening and began talking. Then about 8 students started fist fighting, 10 students began hiding under their desks and crawling on the floor, 6 students were crying, probably 8 were running in and out of the classroom and the rest of the students were just sitting there starring at me, probably thinking… she has no clue what she is doing! Well with only a few seconds left of the class period after I had tried everything I had ever seen in the States to get a hold of the class, my guardian angel came in the form of an Ethiopian teacher. He yelled at the students in Amharic and suddenly the students were silent. I finally had their full attention. I finished the class quickly by explaining the importance of listening and learning English. With nothing left to say I walked out of the room praying that they understood what I had said. Before I could get further into my thoughts and further out of the door of the classroom, all fifty of the children bombarded me with huge hugs and snotty kisses on my face, hands and arms. At that point, I was grateful for this act of what I hoped was apologetic and I was also grateful for the love that children are able to show. So although some days are trying and hard, we will continue to push forward to see the impact of teaching and the goodness of the children.
“It is an unfailing wonder and delight, this tranquility of human relationships in Africa. Whether it be child or adult makes no difference; one can enjoy the other’s presence without fuss or pressure, in conversation or in silence as the mood dictates. Whether the task in hand may be continued or must be left depends upon a score of fine distinctions which the stranger must slowly learn; but one thing is certain- a visitor is never an interruption.” (The Primal Vision by John V. Taylor) This quote describes many of our experiences and relationships in Ethiopia, but a good example of this Ethiopian hospitality came about two weeks ago. We were attending the Full Gospel Church with Pastor Mattewos, as he was the guest preacher that Sunday morning. The church was a small building with a dirt covered cement floor and tarp walls, but it was full of passion. As foreigners, we were considered “special guests” and therefore asked to introduce ourselves and explain where we had come from. The congregation’s interest in our lives was encouraging and we felt honored to be present. Shortly after the sermon ended, we left the church and went to visit an old friend of Mattewos’s who lived nearby. As the gate of the house was opened we introduced ourselves to his friend, Steve. Steve then asked us to come in and meet his family. Upon entering his house, we were asked to sit down. We sat on couches in his living room and then we were served lunch. Lunch was concluded with coffee and tea. The meal was good, but the hospitality was astonishing. It was quite remarkable to me how openly we as strangers were asked to come into his home. It was even more remarkable how we were treated as if we were part of the family. This type of hospitality is shown frequently and we are all constantly in awe of this part of Ethiopian culture.
Halloween was this past week and as a part of our “cultural tradition” we decided that it was necessary to carve a pumpkin. So we bought a pumpkin at the fruit stand for about $1.30 and we brought it home to carve. The pumpkin here is a little different, but similar enough for us to make a Jack-o-Lantern. My job was to gut the pumpkin, while Sarah gathered all of the seeds to bake. Maren drew the face and Josh, of course, carved the pumpkin. We then put a candle inside and set it on our front steps. We then knocked on Mambera and Worku’s door to show them our surprise. They were astonished. I am not quite sure yet if they thought- these Americans are crazy, or wow what a neat tradition. They said they were so grateful that we could share each other’s cultures and learn from one another and we agreed. We stood outside for probably thirty minutes looking at the Jack-o-Lantern and explaining Halloween. Our Halloween was quite different here, but it was fun nonetheless carving a pumpkin and sharing our culture with our new family.
Josh’s birthday was the following day. We had told Josh earlier in the week that we weren’t going to celebrate until Friday, so instead he celebrated by going to a Sport’s Bar with Nolan and another guy from America. He enjoyed his time there and he also loved opening so many cards from friends and family. He reread all of his birthday cards at least three times and continued to talk about them for days. The next day (Friday) to Josh’s surprise we had organized a surprise party in his honor with all of our friends. Sarah did most of the organizing and the plans turned out flawless. Eleven of our Ethiopian friends came to our house around 5:00pm. Maren and I returned home from school at 5:15pm with Josh, who was surprised as ever to find out what we were doing. We then went out to dinner at the Golf Coarse and enjoyed a night full of laughter! As I look back on that night, I believe that it is probably one of my favorite memories thus far. Our friends here have truly taken us in as part of their family and it was apparent that night how close our friendships have grown. So it was a great celebration for Josh and it was a wonderful memory for the rest of us.
Since then, the last big occasion was the English Premier (soccer) League showdown… Arsenal vs. Manchester United! Last Sunday Befakadu took Josh to watch the Arsenal vs. Liverpool game. I was slightly jealous that Josh got to go, but I did not want to impose on this “guy time”… but yesterday we all got to go! We went to the Hawi Hotel to watch the game. We had to get there an hour and half early to get a seat in the overcrowded room. The room was the size of 2/3rds of a basketball court and was jam packed with probably 750 people (definitely over the fire code!). The room was hot and I was glistening with sweat. The crowd consisted of about 60 percent Arsenal fans and 40 percent Manchester United fans, as well as 90 percent men and 10 percent women. It often times seemed as if we were actually in the stadium with all of the excitement that filled the room. When favorite players, coaches, or goals occurred the room would erupt with screaming and cheering- it was often times so contagious that we all would erupt with them in the same fashion. The game was great and the 45-minute halves flew by quickly, but it ended in a tie 2-2. The game was also another experience showing all of us another part of the Ethiopian culture. I loved getting to watch the game and I look forward to future games!
Now it is Sunday again and we are about to start another week of school. Our lives are becoming more routine, but we are continuing to be pulled out of comfort zones. We are enjoying it here, but it is different…
We are learning.
We are constantly being challenged.
We are growing.
We are facing our fears.
We are experiencing a different culture.
We are learning how important the role family is.
We are looking at lifestyles differently.
We are missing home.
We are learning how to love better.
We are learning how to serve more wholeheartedly.
We will continue to move forward in our time here, but not with memories or lessons forgotten. We will hope to continue to share these lessons with you, as well as bring them home as a new part of ourselves.
I hope that you enjoyed these shared experiences, thoughts and emotions and I hope you feel caught up on the lives of the four Americans in Ethiopia. You all are in our thoughts and conversations daily- know you are missed and loved.
Still processing and thinking in Africa,
Bethany (And the rest of the gang!)
Pray for us: Health (once again- I got pretty sick for about five days last week and Josh for a about two days- but we are better now!), passion for teaching on the hard days, vision for our time here, guidance in our work, again homesickness. (Oh… and pray for no more bed bugs!)
Praise the Lord: Close friendships, new outlooks on life and culture, growth in all areas of life, deepening friendships within our group and futbol games.