Keith and I continue to have many adventures. Even buying tomatoes can be a little
adventure here! Today was a very good day for me in terms of feeling at home here.
On my way to the post office I saw many people who recognized me and were very friendly;
on my way back I met a colleague from the Teacherís College, Haille Jesus, and we
went for tea. Later, when I was buying potatoes, I met a woman who works at the coffee
shop on campus. And then, buying tomatoes, I was able to carry on a tiny conversation with our
neighborhood shop lady. We are on our way to becoming part of the community, albeit a
strange, stare-inducing part!
I visited an Ethiopian elementary school for the first time last week. We (the four new volunteers)
have an Amharic teacher, Cassa, who teaches Grade Seven English during the day. Cassa invited me
to go see his classes. It was fascinating. He works at a private school, grades 1-8, over
2000 students. Apparently it is not the most expensive school in Awassa, sort of middle
of the road. To give you an example, some of my colleagues at the Teacher Training College
have children who go there.
The grounds themselves are extensive, many short buildings surrounded by grass and
of course a fence with a guard (all buildings here have fences and guards!). What I was
struck by was the complete absence of playground equipment. There wasnít even a field of
cut grass on which to play soccer.
The children wear uniforms, bright purple pants or skirts, and bright yellow tops. I
met the Principal, who was very welcoming and proudly informed me that half the
students were girls. This is unusual in Ethiopia.
The school works in two shifts. In the morning from 8-12:30 and then a whole new
bunch of students and teachers come for the afternoon from 12:30 to 5:00. The public
schools also work this way. It is quite an efficient use of infrastructure.
There are five grade seven classes. Each class stays in its own classroom; it is the
teachers who move. Cassa and I walked into the first class and 65 students stood up. He
told me to say good afternoon, so I did. Then he told me to tell them to sit down, so I did! And
The classroom was bare concrete, walls, floor; one wall had windows. At the front of the
classroom was a large blackboard. The students were sitting on benches with narrow tables. There
were about four students to a bench, three sections of benches across the room. Itís
hard to believe that this is a private school!
Cassa introduced me and then the students were told to ask me questions. After a few
moments of hesitation, they did. They asked all the questions one would expect from
people with limited vocabulary - what is your favourite sport? Are you married? How
old are you? Do you like Ethiopia? Do you like injera (the national bread) etc., etc.
One question that was interesting was ĎWhat is your fatherís name?í. In Ethiopia, people
use their fatherís first name as a second name. So I would be Lori Allen. I tried to
explain that my name was Lori Prodan, but Iím not sure that this got through! They wanted
to know all about my family, so now Mom and Dad, 65 x 3 Ethiopians know your names and that
you were teachers. Cassa taught them the word "retired"! And that many Ethiopians know
that Tasha is nursing in Sri Lanka. They must think that Canadians really like to travel! Or else
that we donít want to be in Canada!
They were very interested and attentive. Of course I was so happy to be teaching again, I
had a ball. I was amazed at how normal it all seemed. Cassa left the room for a long period of
time and I was just there, teaching, just as though I was a guest speaker in a classroom in Canada.
Word spreads quickly of course in a town like Awassa, about the goings-ons of the strange
"Ferenj" (foreigner). When I went to the Teacherís College the next day, a man at the
coffee shop I hadnít met yet said, "You were at a primary school yesterday." And now when
I walk down the street, in addition to hearing "you, you", "Ferenj, Ferenj",
I hear "Lori, Lori"!
This weekend Keith and I went to the graduation ceremony for the summer students at the
Teacherís College. What was most remarkable about it all was how familiar and "normal"
it all seemed. The ceremony was very similar to those in Canada, complete with a boring
speech by a government guest speaker (it was in Amharic of course). I got to wear a cap and
gown and was part of the photographs with the different departmentsí students. It was fun!
Yesterday Keith and I went to a neighboring town called Wondo Genet, with our Dutch friends,
Lidy and Fred. Fred is a VSO volunteer at my college. After a great walk through a
eucalyptus forest (which smells wonderful!), various farms of banana trees, inset (called false
banana - a staple here), sugar cane and chat (the local drug which is chewed legally), we
arrived at a hot springs. We changed into our bathing suits and had our first hot shower in weeks! The
hot springs is beautiful - lots of flowers and a big pool to swim in. After our dip we went for a
hike up the hill where we had beautiful views of the farmland below.
I hope all is well in Canada. Please let me know how you are doing. I have some free
e-mail time at the college now and so can respond to any and all news from Canada!
Dehna Walu! (good bye)