Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Laundry in Ethiopia

Every Sunday we sit outside on the front porch and do our laundry by hand. Usually we wash for about an hour before my wrists start to ache and we stop. Rarely do we wash all the dirty clothes we have. To me, it's a lot of hard to work to wash all my clothes by hand, but when I ask my students they all say it's easy work.  Ha! They've never used a washing machine, so they don't know just how easy doing laundry could be.

We wash one piece at a time in the shallow green tubs, then rinse it in two larger buckets, and hang it up to dry on the line. We use bar soap to cover the whole piece of clothing on the outside and inside and then squeeze and rub and wash all the dirt and grime out.

the water faucet in our compound

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Market

Saturday is market day. Everyone in town knows it and everyone goes. It's crowded, exciting, and this time of year, dusty.

At the market, there are all kinds of fruit, vegetables, grains, clothes, shoes, and basic supplies. There are men, women, children, donkeys, goats, sheep, chickens, and lots and lots of sunshine. The market is in the afternoon and there are no trees to offer shade. Some vendors have made awnings and others, like myself, use umbrellas.

When we first arrived in Durame and went the market, I was really overwhelmed. Everyone was very interested in us. They wanted to know what we were buying, what we were saying, and of course, what we were doing at their market. We had crowds of people surrounding us at all times. We talked to them in Amharic and explained we lived in Durame and would be here for two years. We spoke as much Amharic as we could and even bargained using it to make sure we wouldn't get a higher price than everyone else. “We are volunteers. We are English teachers.” we would say.

As the weeks have gone by, the crowds around us are less. People are getting more used to us and the vendors help us chase any annoying kids away. I've learned some Kambatissa (the local language, spoken only in our zone) and people love it when I speak to them using it. If I want to make anyone laugh, I can just say hello in Kambatissa! :)

There are boys who troll the market selling plastic bags and they always follow us around. They were very interested in my camera so I took a picture of them so they could see it. They loved seeing themselves on the little screen. I've gotten really annoyed with them in the past and told them to go away in both Amharic and Kambatissa. Sometimes, a little kindness goes farther than a lot of anger. This picture was the kindness. Maybe next week we'll be allies.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hidasse Secondary School

As my first semester of teaching high school in Ethiopia comes to a close, I'd like to introduce you to my school, Hidasse Secondary School. Hidasse means renaissance in Amharic and the school is only two years old. We have two grades, 9th and 10th. The students are divided into 20 sections, 11 9th grade sections and 9 10th grade sections. The sections are then divided into two shifts. One group of students come in the morning from 8am-12:30pm and then the other group comes in the afternoon from 12:30pm-5:00pm. Every two weeks, the shifts swap, so the students and teachers go to school in the morning for two weeks, then the afternoon for two weeks, then back to the morning for two weeks, and so on. Spencer and I teach different shifts, so when one of us teaches in the morning, the other teaches in the afternoon. We never teach at the same time.

I teach two 9th grade sections, 9A and 9B. In Ethiopia, the students don't change classes like in the US. The students stay in their classrooms and the teachers move from class to class to teach. As a teacher, it's not that great. It would be nice to have my own classroom to decorate and put English posters up on the wall. As of now, none of the classrooms are decorated at all. They all have blank walls. Most schools here have murals painted on the outside of the buildings but because Hidasse is new, there are none yet. The Director (what they call the principle) has asked me to help paint some, which I'm looking forward to helping out with.

My classes are pretty large, with 59 students in one class and 55 in the other. They are put into groups by their homeroom teacher and the classrooms are big enough to accommodate all of them. Because the students don't move from class to class, there is no opportunity for students to be in honors classes in subjects they excel in. Therefore, each class is a mix of levels, from those who can hold an entire conversation in English to those who answer “My name is ____” when I ask, “How old are you?” It's one of the biggest challenges we face as direct teachers, teaching a single lesson for a wide range of English proficiency.

I'm really enjoying teaching and my classes are going well. At first the students were very shy and didn't want to speak, but slowly more and more students are raising their hands to answer questions. There are still some who are silent and have a hard time understanding, but I think with continued encouragement and practice, they will improve. I have hope!

the bell, very low tech
My coworkers at school are very nice and supportive. Almost all of them speak English well and I am happy to be working at such a great school. It's nice to have a supportive and hard working staff, such as the Director and Vice Directors. They have all been so helpful in getting me set up and helping me in any way. Some of the teachers have even asked me if I would start a Teachers' English Club to help with communicative English. I'm so happy to hear their enthusiasm and willingness to work with me. I hope together we can help the students learn well and improve their exam scores, as well as help the school become the best learning environment it can be.

skit about AIDs

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Trip to Hailu's House

Now that we've been here a while, our coworkers are starting to invite us to their houses for coffee and snacks. It's really awesome because I feel like the community is really welcoming us to Durame and accepting us into their lives and culture. Yay, for integration! :)

A few weeks ago, we went with my coworker, Hailu, to the place where he grew up out in the country. After walking about 45 minutes out of town, we turned down a narrow road lined with plants and shaded by towering eucalyptus trees. It was beautiful already.

We met his brother and his family and his mother at the house where he grew up. His mother is very old and missing quite a few teeth, but very friendly and kind. She was very impressed with my limited Kambatissa (local language) skills and laughed deeply as I greeted her, showing all of the few teeth she has left.

Hailu was eager to show us around the whole place and we were happy to see how an Ethiopian farm works. First, we saw the barn, where the cows, goats, sheep, chickens, and his mother sleeps. See the picture below to see her bed, tucked into a back room of the barn. The corn hanging from the ceiling are seeds for next year. The cows are just to the right of the frame. Under where the corn is, is the pen for the goats and sheep to sleep at night.

As we toured the farm, we saw all kinds of fruit, vegetables, and grains. There were big avocado trees and swooping gishta trees, clumps of banana trees and single incet (false banana), small, sprightly coffee trees and thick mango trees, alight with blooms. We saw cabbage, sugar cane, bush beans and fields of golden tef, the grain they use to make the national dish, injera. It was absolutely amazing how many foods they were growing and how healthy everything looked, including the plump babies running around the house. :)

After the tour, we tried some sugar cane. It was our first time eating it and I must say, that stuff it tough!! First you have to whack a piece off with a knife. Then you have to take off the outsides with your teeth and spit it on the ground, you don't eat the purple part. Then finally, you have to gnaw a piece of the inside off, chew it a bit, suck the sweet juice out and spit it out. You don't actually swallow any of it but the juice. It is seriously hard work. My teeth were getting a work out! As you can see from the picture below, the kids were highly amused at my suffering.

Of course, no trip to an Ethiopian's house would be complete without having coffee and some snacks. We had bread, some delicious red beans, too many bananas to count, avocados and tiny cups of deliciously strong coffee. It's amazing that every single thing we had was probably grown within a mile (or closer!) of where we were sitting enjoying it.
On the walk home, in the afternoon sun, we caught a great view of Ambericho Mountain (the same one we can see from our living room window!).

Then we met up with a group of boys going to the market to sell matches. They were very friendly and wanted to speak with us. We used all the Amharic we could and then some. We asked them some simple English questions and a few could answer. They were a lot of fun!

It was a really great day. Ethiopian hospitality never ceases to amaze me. The kindness and love shown to us does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Durame and its people have found a place in my heart.

Buna Blossoms

I spotted these coffee blossoms in my compound a couple weeks ago. Aren't they lovely?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On IST and Heading Home

Last week we traveled to Addis for a week long training, called IST (In Service Training) or Reconnect. It was a chance for our training group to get back together and talk about how everything is going at site. We shared experiences, specifically about what is working and not working at school, and we all left with some good ideas of things we can implement at our own sites. We also got to learn some more things from Peace Corps staff and learn about how we will report our work to them throughout our service.

At night, we explored Addis and it was so much fun! I can not even express how much we enjoyed it. We ate as much food as we possibly could and drank fancy cocktails and cold beers to our hearts' content. It was magical and such a great time to hang out with our fellow G11s, who are some of the coolest, best people I know. We are all going through this service together and that instantly bonds us. We received the same training, are all teaching English to high school students at our sites, and we are all trying to improve our students' abilities so that they can receive a higher education and make their country and this world a better place. I felt like I was with family and there is nothing one misses most this time of year than family.

And then the week ended, leaving all of us hungover, dehydrated, and extremely sad to be leaving it all behind. We won't have another whole group get together like this until October—10 months away. Leaving was very difficult. I didn't want to go back to my site away from all the friends and food I had enjoyed over the past week. As I hugged everyone goodbye, I never wanted to let go.

On the morning we were headed back to Durame, Spencer and I were eating breakfast and talking about what kinds of things we want to do at our school, beyond our primary project of direct teaching. We were making plans and bouncing ideas off each other. It was exciting to think about what kinds of activities we could do, but I was still sad. I told Spencer this and he agreed. Then he started talking about how lucky we were just have the training at all and how lucky we are to have such amazing people sharing this experience with us all over Ethiopia. Leave it to Spencer to think of the bright side.  He was right and it helped me some, but I was still a bit down.

We left breakfast and headed to the bus station. When we found our bus to Durame and boarded a guy at the front asked me, “Kambatgnyayichallal?” Which is Amharic for “Can you speak Kambatissa?” (the local language in our town). I replied by greeting him in Kambatissa, and the whole bus erupted in whoops and cheers. In that moment, I felt love. I felt all the welcoming handshakes and invites to coffee we get in town. I felt the pride that the Kambatissa people have concerning their language and culture. I felt all the kindness coworkers, students, and neighbors have shown to me and Spencer over the past three months. All the negativity vanished. We were going home.

Sunrise on the Road

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ambericho Mountain During Harvest

Ambericho Mountain during harvest time, all the golden squares are fields. This is the view from our house. How lucky are we??! :)