Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Classroom

My friend Val was interested in seeing my Ethiopian classroom. I'm sure most thought I would be teaching in a room like this: I was prepared to teach under such adverse conditions but we were granted much better accomodations:
The first classroom you see belongs to the elementary school. Not that the secondary classrooms in the other buildings were all that much better. They were brick, but often had broken or missing windows. The classroom you see pictured above was one of the newer ones.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Globe Trekker Imitation


video


My best attempt to imitate globe-trekker. At first glance this film seems insignificant, until you listen carefully. The steepness of the hill was not captured on film. My batteries died once I passed the creek.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Message in a Bottle

In regards to my recent post, Asher at Team SIA wrote: "Didn't you love that slower pace of life? Didn't you say to yourself, "When I get back home, I'm going to live a little more like this?"... And the, BAM, you are home and off and running." A simple answer would be to say "Yes" and "Yes". But I'm not known for my simple answers (ask my poor students).
My response to the first part of your question is that after 21 days in the countryside I missed some of fast-paced nature of America. I missed the convenience of many of our services. I disliked having to negotiate over the price of a notebook or a shirt. I wish I could just walk in take it to the clerk and be done with it. I loved walking everywhere. I missed going out at night and being able to use the internet, which I consider like my own multimedia library . I missed my children, but not being attached to their busy schedules (just being honest here). I enjoyed having to go the phone office and have someone dial for you. I missed listening to music via radio, but enjoyed all the live singing. I missed the variety of experiences my country has to offer. like festivals in the park. A slower pace of life meant a lot of relaxing visits with people. It also meant that sometimes those visits were silent and simple, with very little to talk about (and this not just because of a lack of English) as illustrated by this photo.
Most of the time their stories involved details about family or their life experience. Which again, was nice, but every now and then I wanted to be able to talk films, or books, or news. But I could not share many of the details of my life because they were tied to culture that my visitors would not be able to understand (How do you discuss the Tour de France and all its pertinent details to someone who has seen two bikes their entire lifetime?). My response to the second part of your question is that I did say I was going to live a little more Ethiopian. In fact, by the time I was home I was living a lot like an Ethiopian. The whole American system is set-up for busyness (especially in California) and our nature is to keep distance from one another. I wish we spent more time trying to understand one another and were friendlier, not finding threat in a simple greeting. Communicating with friends is more difficult here as we are all so busy and there are very little public places which anchor our social life. In the U.S., one of my primary means of communication with my friends is the internet. In Ethiopia I just have to walk into town.

The only social custom I can export from Ethiopia is having people over for tea or coffee. Then again, how many Americans find it worthwhile to come to someone's home for coffee or tea when they could meet at Starbucks and consume five gallons of Mocha Frappucino together and not have to clean up any mess? How many Americans want to pack up the kids, drive across town, just for a few hours. In addition, visiting in America is always a planned event, rarely spontaneous. Children complicate visiting further, as they too are on such rigid schedules, and can turn a calm visit into a frenzied one (Ethiopian children are not at all like American children are today).

In short, "Living more like this" requires a community who is willing to "live a little more like this". Part of the problem is that many of our cities are designed around the car. This leads us to a tremendous amount of isolation, lack of a sense of place, and an easy mobility that makes long-lasting friendship difficult. Consider this image. I found it under the search "Pedestrian Friendly". If it is so friendly where are all the pedestrians? (the logic of a simpleton I know.) But this is how America defines a space that is friendly to pedestrians. Europeans and Ethiopians have spaces like this which lend themselves to more community and friendship:


James Howard Kuntsler (CAUTION: bad language) and I agree that the we are killing our own civilization. As far as bringing back some of the pace and culture, I can only stand behind those who have louder voices than I. In the meantime, I'm like John Mayer, "waiting on the world to change".

In the meantime, my choices are a bit limited. I have to roll with the American pace of life OR change my job and lifestyle dramatically. Being a married man with three kids, this is not so easy. Smaller changes are easier.

So, simply said, I enjoyed the slow pace of life to an extent, appreciate much of what the USA has to offer, find that I can't import what requires a community to do, and have to support those loud voices (and be one myself) who are calling for us to become more of a community and fight against the rush, rush, rush of American life.
Anybody up for shay or machiatto?















Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Did I Really Go?

There is a large wall map of the world hanging in a colleagues room at school. When I visit I can't help but stop for a moment and look at the map. I then inevitably ask, "Was I really there"?

Work has been incredibly fast paced. My whole life has been, in fact. I am devoting much of my time to work, with some leftover for home. Consider my morning: I sprint to work on my bike, boil water in a hot pot for coffee and oatmeal when I arrive, change as quickly as I can, rush to the bathroom to groom, come back and eat quickly, and then prepare for the day. I type as fast as I can, talk as fast as I can, and make photocopies at the speed of sound. I am using one minute prayer series, and sometimes cut it down a minute. But, sometimes, there are these moments.

Like the time that I was biking behind a school bus and was doused with deisel fumes, or watching the sun rise with a few clouds scattered in. Then there are just moments when I stop, and think, "I was I really there"?

I push away the pain connected with missing so many of the people I met. I wonder what they are doing and how they are doing, and if they are thinking of me. I conclude that they must be, because I/we was such a high interest item for them. Before you go off the deep end thinking I sound arrogant, consider the following. Life in Ethiopia is very communal and very slow (especially when compared with America). Nobody is really concerned with time, or that much structure. Relationships are what matter. I wonder often if they are waiting for a letter from me.

I feel horrible that I have three letters sitting on the shelf, ready to be mailed. I want to take them to the post office, but find time slips away with work. Maybe this Saturday.

Ironically, one of my substitute teachers was from Ethiopia. I recognized his accent immediatly at impressed him with a "Dena neh".

Out of all the films I made I keep coming back to this one. I think you'll understand why.
video

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Ethiopian Students













Since I have been back I am thinking often of my students in Ethiopia. I refer to them several times a week in my Sacramento classroom. I wonder how they are doing, and how they will do in the future with such limited opportunities. Enjoy the photos. Please ask my permission before you use them. From top to bottom: Marry, Frezer, Hamelmal, and Enyou

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sounds

Someone once said that silence is deafening. This could not have been any truer than in Masha, especially on an overcast night. Most notably absent in Masha was the sound of automobile traffic. Many nights were silent as were many days. But it was not always quiet.

Most of the sounds of Masha were natural; the sound of various animals and the elements. Birds and cattle were the most dominant. The bird noises frankly were annoying as they announced the wake up call (I slept deeply in Africa). The rain on the tin roof could only be matched by Stewart Copeland's drumming. Cows really won my heart, especially the one who was parked outside my classroom grazing and lowing to be milked. On two occasions the silence of the night was broken by the sound of howling dogs (and not just a couple, but pretty much the entire community's). We were certain something was being eaten that night. I'm sure it was music to someone's ears.

Three kinds of music were ever present. There was the really intolerable sound of bellies filled with lentils. But for the sake of my readers, I won't go to into that right now. The Orthodox Church broadcast almost daily its chants and sermons. This would go on for hours and, frankly, became offensive, especially because it started at 6 a.m. Opposite this grinding chanting was the harmonic, authentic, and iconic sound of the youth choir; the yearning, crying (and unamplified) sound of worship would grace us nearly every day. Even though it was rehearsed its sound was so human, so un-mechanical. This is very different from the usual, technical sound of American worship, which tends to remind me of the last sounds of Masha.

On market days, besides the hum of all the excited buyers and sellers, the constant chug-chug of the mill could be heard through the entire town. There was the occasional land cruiser, and the honking of the buses headed for Tepi or Jimma. Every now and then we would hear a 747, but I'm not sure that it was one. I was spending too much time looking down at the ground, trying not to trip over the many rocks which made up the road. Can you hear their laughter?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Smells

Ahh . . . the sweet smells of roses, the spicy smells of berbere, cinnamon, and cardamon, and, of course the earthy smell of grass after a light rain . . . wait, wait . . . that is not right.
Why you might ask? Because there are four dominant smells which I found constant, at first offensive, and then eventually comforting.
Those three smells would be diesel exhaust, kerosene, woodsmoke, and charcoal. The former belongs to Addis and the latter two to Masha, while charcoal belongs in both.
Diesel exhaust has a life of its own. It seems to settle on the ground and then get kicked up into the air as people walk and drive over it. Without meaning to insult my fine Ethiopian friends, the closest description I could come up with for describing Addis' exhaust is the Peanuts character, Pigpen. For me, the diesel dustiness of Addis quickly became part of its charm, just like Pigpen.





Sacramento is a smoggy place, known for its many asthma patients and spare the air days, but it differs from Addis in one respect - distance. Here the smog seems so off in the distant or so high up, whereas in Addis it seems to always be in your face, particularly while traveling on the road. But that is not the only smell which eventually became a smell of home for me.
Kerosene was used to cook our food and boil our water. It too had an incredibly strong smell which wafted through the house even when Almaz and Yenenesh were not cooking. Tasty meals were cooked using only the cooking stoves you see in this photo, using kerosene. Kerosene was also used to burn our toilet tissue, but that is another story altogether.

Woodsmoke is the third smell that I remember. Sometimes the whole valley behind the guest house would fill with smoke as it mixed with the moisture in the air. Houses smoked. If you did not know that someone was cooking inside you would be inclined to toss water on the house for fear it would burn down the neighborhood. Traditional houses do not have an exhaust or chimney for letting smoke out. Besides, I was told, a traditional house requires the smoke to chase out the bugs and the heat to dry it out after the rain. Living amongst smoke is a very common experience for many Ethiopians.
But the best smoke of all is the smoke of charcoal mixed with incense. Out of our four coffee ceremonies the one most pungent was at Alazar's house. His sister tossed copious amounts of incense on hot coals, filling the entire front room with smoke. I'm pretty sure most of us Westerners would never allow our whole house to be filled with the white smoke of incense and charcoal. But for our Ethiopian friends it was a joyous occasion.
I find myself snickering at our "spare the air" days. The next time I find myself cycling behind a Mercedes Diesel, I'll take a big sniff, and the next time I'm camping and some old timer brings out the kerosene, I'll tell him about lentils and cabbage, and the next time we light a fire or the bbq, I'll be tempted to thrown some incense on it.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy that I would find comfort in the billowing and wafting scent of pollutants which are helping to create "global warming", but I can't help but be reminded of my great, smoky experience in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Night

You are invited to attend Ethiopia Night on September 2 at 6:00 pm. Some Ethiopian food will be served, an Ethiopian youth choir will perform, and the team will share it's stories. We plan on giving the highlights in 5 minute snippets; with titles like "Barry Barry" and "Charismatic Lutheropalians" how could you resist? The grand entrance fee is all of 50 Birr, or 5 dollars.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Italians were in Ethiopia, you know.


So I've been a little busy, and a little down. I know you're thinking that guy does not look live Mike (well we did share the same brow and hairstyle, but . . .); no, it's not me but my now deceased friend Dino Scoppettone. I planned on blogging this weekend, but Dino passed away earlier this week. He died of Liposarcoma at the age of 38.
Dino was a boyhood friend from elementary to secondary, and he stood in my wedding as a groomsman. Although we lost contact, I thought of him often. We did make contact via email a few times and it was if we picked up where we left off. Suffice it to say, Dino was not a casual acquaintance, even as our lives took different paths.
His death has really hurt. There are so many memories. I'm not sure yet how to piece it together,or if I ever will. I just see his picture and think he should not be dead. I'm just glad I've had school to keep me busy (I have been working a lot getting ready for school and sleeping very little). Although, just the other day the colleague next to my classroom was playing some song from the Police (Dino's band) and I nearly asked him to kindly turn it down. His death comes as a real blow, not only to me, to my many High School classmates who loved him so dearly, and who never lost contact with him.
This Sunday I will travel to Santa Cruz for his funeral and memorial service. I will see many friends I have not spoken with in about 15-20 years, and I hope I will cry and mourn with them. I've got to get out all these emotions which are bottled up inside. It will of course be a bittersweet reunion as I say hello to so many and goodbye to one.
I wish I could have shared my Ethiopia experience with Dino. I would have listened with great joy as he made some smart-aleck remark about it, or about me.
In the meantime, please be patient. I will write about Ethiopia soon, I promise.

Monday, August 18, 2008

MuLuMart


I have not ordered anything from this website, but am coming close to ordering. This post is for those of you who are missing the material culture of Ethiopia. I stumbled across this site while searching for Addis Tea. I'll put them up as a permanent link. Can you believe they sell Kolo? Good stuff!!!
Can't vouch for the women's clothes - not very traditional and a bit racy - but if you want to buy an injera cooker . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


After many hours of half-awake thought on the plane home from Ethiopia, and in the early morning hours here in the U.S., the way to write about my experience finally dawned on me - themes.
I expected this blog to be chronological. I kept a journal of daily events while in Ethiopia. But after reading it a couple of times I found it too mundane for reading. There are some highlights of course, but they don't make up for the mundane nature of the trip. So the best course of action is to write periodically in themes or vignettes even; "Masha City Cruisers", "Food", " Gas- both mechanical and human", "Church", etc.
It is tempting to "firehose" it, that is give it to the readers all at once. But, I think the better course is to stretch out my posts a couple times a week. I'm hoping to include video as well as still imagery.
I thrive off of your feedback and comments, so please keep those coming. Thank you for all the comments you made while I was in country. I hope that you'll be able to maintain that level of momentum over the next few months.
The photo above was taken a few days before I left Masha. We were dining at the home of one of my students. We had Siga Wat, homemade made wheat coca, and lots of coffee. We left stuffed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Excuses, excuses!!!!!

I have been home a week, and have not had much to say about my trip. But as events unfold at home, I am running into some new experiences. No one seems to understand what I am experiencing, especially not my family, who frankly hoped I would come home much happier and "higher". Thankfully, John Lambert at Mission Minded understands. Sounds like an excuse, but it is real.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Culture Shock - Ethiopian Style

The secret to traveling on rough roads is to find a way to sleep, or at least cat nap. That is what we did on our return trip to Addis. We are now in Addis and it does not seem so foreign to us after spending three weeks in the countryside.

Addis will be fun. Tomorrow we go shopping and kick around a bit. The next day we are invited by our driver to his home for coffee ceremony and lunch.
Too much to update at this time; much of my experience has to be sorted out. One thing is clear - you are very much in the moment.

Today was my first contact with the outside world. I learned that there was an earthquake in L.A., Sastre won the Tour, Pres. Bill Clinton is in Addis, and that Christina Applegate has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

We will be making the long flight home this Tuesday at 7pm. I promised myself a really good book. I hope I can find something tomorrow. I know that when I land in D.C. I'm hitting the newsstands. Reading will keep at bay the antsy feeling of "I wanna go home".

There is another team here at the Addis Guest House. They are from L.A. and have had a very different experience than us. There was a bit of a "disconnect". It didn't help that we look and smell different from them (we are the bushy haired, muddy, and stinky ones). I actually experienced culture shock when they did not greet us in the Ethiopian way. I'll have to do a post on cultural assimilation at a later time.

I'm almost home and nervous about getting back into the swing of things. Can't wait to see my wife and children; I know they'll lovingly listen to every story and endure every photo (many of which I will post when I get home).

Ciao!

Monday, July 28, 2008

English for Ethiopia Update (from Art Pabst)

English for Ethiopia Update
July 27, 2008
We want to pass along to you that both last Sunday (July 20) and today we talked at length with our team in Maasha, Ethiopia. Both times we talked with each team member and Kes Tesfaye.
Here are some highlights:
The vehicle and driver that Hailu arranged has been working out well. The driver is originally from Maasha. Isn't that cool?!
The teaching is going well. Lynn moved from the support role to the teacher role. That means there are three classes with about fifty students in each. The teachers have been invited to 'home visits' which has been fun for them. Always they are served food of some sort and this past Friday the home visit included a full meal and coffee ceremony. Being in the homes of the people is a treat! Please pray for the teachers as they go into their final week with the students.
They have been doing quite well in the health arena. Lynn was down one day and Michael one day but both are doing fine now. Please continue to pray for this area too.
Bob and Dave and Kes Tesfaye traveled to Tepi Saturday.
The whole team worshipped at Gecha this morning in the new church there.
Kes Girma is done with his studies in Addis and is back in Maasha. He is getting his family settled and will be assuming the responsibility of President of the Maasha Presbytery. This will free Kes Tesfaye to focus more on the translation work and oversee the partnership relationship with those of us here in the US.
Bob and Dave cleaned out the gas stove and got it working. Lynn baked a cake today and said it looked good when she took it out of the oven. That will be a treat for the team.
With time drawing to a close there, the team members expressed mixed feelings. They are grateful for the devotional, the prayers and support they feel. Team devotions have been going well.
Please pray for their final week to be rich in many ways…….with the students, with the church leaders, within the team, with the people in the community in general. Pray for safe travel as they leave Maasha on Saturday (Aug 2) to travel back to Addis. Pray for the time they have in Addis to be used well. They are due to arrive in SFO on Aug 6.
Thank you for caring and praying.
With thanksgiving for an all-powerful, all-sufficient & everywhere present God,
Karen & Art

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Good news from Maasha!

Phone message left on Art's machine from Bob Schroeder:

Classes going well. Lynn is teaching (47 students). Had dinner at Tesfaye's. Yenenesh is cooking, two helpers. Shewaynesh doing laundry. Looking for Rotary water funding. Good vehicle and driver from Hailu

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Some short snippets

Metu does not exist! I kept saying this to myself over and over again on yesterday's journey. We drove for about 8 hrs. taking a short break for lunch in Bedelle. The drive from Jimma was mind-numbing (I hate driving in cars) and very bumpy. There was no way to sit completely upright in the backseat and be comfortable and you were bounced around the cab a lot. The bags kept spilling over. At times we were driving about 60 and other times about 20, and it made for a long and torturous journey.

Our two drivers, Alemu (from Jimma) and Alasar are very responsible young men, capable drivers, and good tour guides. We encountered Babboons, Hail, and lots of potholes yesterday.

The road is used in many different ways. There are no fences which act as a barrier. As you drive the animals lie in the middle of it and the people recline on the edge. Materials are dried on the side of the road, and it is a place for social gatherings and play.

The accomodations are comfortable, but you have to share them with a few small roaches and a lizard/gecko type animal. Dogs, cows, and mosquitoes provide the evening's musical entertainment ( along with my roomate Dave).

Almost all villages look kind of the same as you drive thru them.

The most dominant smell is acrid smoke.

The computer here at Metu is not very internet reliable. Modem speed is about 45 kpbs. At the moment of this typing, I'm not certain that I will actually get off an email.

It is off to Masha today. We leave behind the Metu teaching team. We had a nice meal of soup and bread with them last night. We also met Bekelle, and Malaku, and letters were delivered to Kes Mersha.

Lord willing, we only drive two more hours up another 1500 feet elevation.

Much more to say but have to keep it brief as others are waiting for the internet. I may be out of contact for a few weeks. We'll see?

Monday, July 7, 2008

To the Mercato on your First Day- Wow!

These were the remarks of Dorothy Hanson, no stranger to Ethiopia, after we told her of our busy day in Addis. Let me explain.

After a nice breakfast at the Motero Hotel, down the street from the BSCO compound, we were with our faithful friend, Alemu. We piled into the van and headed out for a full day's shopping, acquiring things we would need that may not be available in the countryside. The market stalls which were obscured by night, now became quiet visible. It was then that I realized just how much we would have to rely on Alemu to haggle prices. We stopped shortly at the Hilton to exchange. Again we piled into the van, but this time headed off to rent a vehicle and driver from Hailu Ibsa. The price was already agreed upon; we just had to fill out the necessary forms and pay the fee.

A Side Note: Ethiopia still works off a carbon copy receipt system. When buy or sell anything a carbon copy receipt is produced and you must pay cash. This is true of the Amharic tutorial I purchased for 23ETB and is true for the renting of the LandRover (I won't state the amount, but it is safe to say that most of us in the U.S. just don't handle that amount of cash on a regular basis). It is disconcerting dealing with all this paper. I have to admit my arithmetic is weak. I should have practiced before I left. Adding multiple figures in your head and then making sure the correct change is returned, again, is just not something this swipe-the-card shopper is used to. Likewise, I am not used to dealing with 5 by 11 sized receipts in my pocket. In short, when you shop in Ethiopia, your pockets are stuffed with paper.

As we drove past market stall after market stall filled with experienced, hard nosed proprietors, I was shocked to find ourselves in the upstairs parking lot of a very modern market. We grabbed a cart and walked in as if it was Raley's (Well, okay, the market is not that big). We filled up three carts and racked up a $4,000 bill. Now, the bill sounds like a lot of money, but remember that the exchange rate is 10/1 and that we were buying enough dry goods for about a month for five people, plus any guests (and their will be guests). But that was not the last of our trip. We had to eat.

Alemu took us the "The Carnivore" for lunch. This grill boasts succulent kabobs, cold cokes, and all the smoke you can inhale. For some reason, the ventilation system was not working as it should (or maybe that is the normal state of things - I'm not sure). The entire restaurant and lobby were filled with acrid smoke. Nonetheless, the food was good and spicy. I had lamb, which proved to be a chewy experience. The rice, though, was most excellent and very aromatic. Yes, we used forks and should have split dishes, as soup and lots of bread were served with the meal. With full bellies we headed off again.

A short stop at a book seller to buy an Amharic Lesson Book for me (Yes, the locals have been impressed), brought an interesting find - a guide on preparation for the Ethiopian Secondary English Exam. 27 less Birr in my pocket and we were on our way.

We piled back into the van and were driven to a shopping area where a stationary and grocery were located side by side. Before we got out of the car we were approached by an umbrella seller, and as it was looking very ominous in sky, and umbrella sounded like a good idea. Alemu haggled with the man through the passenger side window where I was seated. He negotiated a price of 35ETB to which we declined. At the same time this was going on, an older gentleman was trying to sell jewelry to MaryJane. We finally made it into another modern store filled with neatly lined groceries. We thought we could knock out two birds with one stone by buying school supplies and the rest of our food. Unfortunately, we only knocked out one. The next one would be knocked out at the Mercato.

The Mercato looks like a Wild West scene. Hardened looking men chewing and spitting chat, muddy and rocky streets, heavy loads being carried by men and mule. As much as I found the Mercato an exhilarating place to shoot some film, it was a much better idea to leave the camera on my belt. Parking was difficult enough as none of the ground there is level. Parked, Alemu ordered most of the team to stay in the car. I think he did this with much trepidation, as he feared the team being begged off of incessantly. But, he had no choice as we had to acquire supplies there in bulk. The neat thing about the many of the markets in Addis is that they represent perfect competition; in other words, dozens of auto parts stores will be lumped together. This was the case for school supplies too. If we did not like the price or the merchandise we moved on to the next miniaturized Office Depot. We were successful in acquiring our needed materials just in time for a horrendous thunder storm to unload.

In an instant the road became a flowing stream of dirty water and the temperature dropped a few degrees easily. We made our way back to BSCO very carefully, passing homeless lean-to filled with those trying to avoid the deluge. In fact, for the first time, the streets were free from people. Again, I thought about filming, but was needed to wipe the inside windshield instead. With the rain letting up a bit we made our way back.

We stormed in on the other guests sitting down to tea and pastry. We really disturbed the tranquil scene, but were invited to join in. I helped to unpack the car in the rain and was soaked through. I am starting to fear that my jacket will not be good enough for this rough weather. I warmed up after some tea and pastry, as Bob and Dave inspected our rental vehicle.

Shortly thereafter we were taken to dinner by Dorothy Hanson at a local restaurant tucked into a neighborhood near the compound. As her vehicle is too small some of us had to walk. With borrowed umbrellas I jumped at the chance, eager to take in the local vibe, and eat some diesel smoke for an appetizer. The restaurant was very homespun, with muted lighting, white walls, and simple furniture. We were the only ferenji in the place, but were comfortable. After washing our hands outside were seated and guided through the menu by Dorothy. She ordered everything in Amharic. I really enjoyed hearing her speak. She filled us in on her experiences in Addis and all of Ethiopia and we shared ours. It was then that she shared how impressed she was that we went to the Mercato on our first full day in Addis, which gave us pause to consider that we were in some really rough territory. My first traditional Ethiopia meal was shared and accompanied by a bottle of "Aqua Safe". After working out some kinks with the wait staff, we ate our fill for the third time that day. Contended, and feeling the effects of the day,we left the restaurant.

While walking to BSCO we were confronted by a "mungit"; a street boy of no more than 6, begging for money. He was very cute with a raspy little voice, but sadly, I kept telling him "no" (perhaps a post later about why giving even 1Birr is not a good idea). In any case he eventually left us as we negotiated the side of the road with taxis and trucks zipping past with only inches to spare and music blasting from stalls. I must admit I find it all exhilirating. Rapping on the iron door of the compound we were let in by the night security watchman, only to do a little more work.

We did some packing for the morning, counted our money again, and generally got organized. I attended to my camera; downloading images, changing batteries, typing this entry at nearly midnight western Ethio-time. I really need a shower, but the last thing I will do is email this entry at 40.0 kbps.

An incredibly busy day and tomorrow we hit the road at 8am.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Arrival in Addis

After a very long flight from Washington D.C. via Ethiopia Airlines, I finally arrived in Addis. We were picked up by Alemu and driven thru the streets of Addis, which I can safely say qualifies as my first culture shock. Lots of twists and turns and near misses of both peds and cars. Stimulus overload to say the least. More to say later.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bags Packed under Smokey Skies



I woke up this morning to see my dad off to his daily grind and the skies were actually blue. But by the time I made it to the Boot Barn, the skies were gray again. Perhaps flying out of Sacramento and living in Ethiopia will save my health this summer?

Today, both Angie and I were feeling better, and some significant preparations were had. I bought the Wolverine boots (and they were $20 off), some cushy wool socks, a small collapsible duffel, and a secret money pocket. My passport was returned with my entry visa. I was given my travel receipt from MTS. I was content to receive the nod of approval for the packing I did with my carry on. The team packed up our photocopied story booklets, pocket dictionaries, and other school supplies at our final meeting. I think all four of us are shocked that we are heading out this Saturday. It really hit me when Carol hugged me and said, "Have a good time." Yes, this Saturday!!!!

Part of this disbelief comes from the team's absence from prayer this Sunday. Four of the team members had travel plans with friends or family, and I was, of course, sick. In fact we have been a very quiet team and we haven't quite gelled; give us some time in a different environment and I know that will change.

So come this Saturday at 3:30 am, I will be heading out to SFO with two bags - one filled with school supplies and the other filled with a minimal amount of clothing, toiletries, etc. I will leave behind my smoke-filled city, my family, my church, and my friends.

I will enter another world; can't wait to tell you about it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sick with Support

One of the events I fear most is getting sick while in Ethiopia. Illness just hits me hard - fever, chills, aches - I rarely get the sniffles, usually it is more like a mudslide. So here I am with a week to go and I have been flat on my back with, you guessed it, fever, chills, etc. To top it off, my wife is also quite ill. Usually just one of us gets ill, but this time it is both of us, so I called in the reserves - my dad.

My mom will be taking care of her 80 year old father while he undergoes surgery, and my dad is taking care of his 38 year old son and daughter in law. He bought us Advil, Nyquil, and throat spray. Right now, he and my eldest daughter are finishing up the large pile of dishes which have accumulated over the weekend. Dad, will be sacrificing the opportunity to make sales commissions.

Carol Skinner, of the E4E team, brought pizza by and made sure the kids got fed.

I am already cheered by this support and am hoping that one more day of rest finds me fit again. After all, I've got to buy those boots.

Friday, June 27, 2008

One more

I am nearly done with my oral typhoid vaccine. But between the pills and the smoke which encapsulates the city I am not feeling well. I have a sore throat, which may be the result of the vaccination, but is more likely a cold I have picked up from both my daughters. My wife is complaining about a sore throat as well.

So June has seen too many days on the couch or in bed. For me, illness is a blow to my self-esteem, my sense of confidence in myself. But, I know that I often have an inflated sense of self, and so I also see illness as God's way of keeping me humble.

I am again "youtubing" Ethiopia and cam across this. I think this film demonstrates the type of students I will be dealing with in Masha. I'm getting excited about working with these intelligent young people.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

These Boots Were Made for Walking in Ethiopia?

A friend and supporter sent an email today asking how the short-term planning was going. A good question, which can be answered a multitude of ways.

I have been reading a lot and just finished The Garbage King and am working on The Hospital by the River. My brother also arranged a gift from Lonely Planet.

Materially, I'm doing just fine. There is very little that I have to bring with me. Most of which I have already purchased or had, and some of which I need to buy. I still need to pickup my malaria and anti-biotic pills, some kind of digital camera, (My wife won't let hers go as the kids have way too many plays,etc. this summer which are photoworthy)a few wool socks from REI, and a pair of boots (more on those later).

I plan on carrying all personal gear either on my person or in a carry-on bag and thought I had packing figured out, till my dad, after viewing my bag contents said that my deoderant was too big. This prompted an all too long web browse and phone call to the TSA. Turns out that the TSA is very concerned about what you pack and how you pack it.

Their rules state that one must carry, and is only allowed, a quart size bag for gels and liquids. Each container can be no more than three ounces. I also ran into a bit of a quandry when I realized that, although my sleeping tent is lightweight and small enough for my carry-on, I could not carry on the poles. As I did not want to pack my tent in the checked luggage for fear it would be taken, I came up with the solution of packing the poles in the checked luggage and the netting with me. This way I can sleep with netting draped if the poles are lost.

Boots - my wife could not stand my obsession with them the other day. I spent too many hours browsing the various kinds, stores, and prices on the internet. But, my feet being what they have become and the terrain of Ethiopia being what it is I think it worth the investment. I have taken enough short trips in the Sierra to realize that good boots are required, and this trip is really glorified camping and hiking (think zero sidewalks and the only flat surface exists in the guest house where I will be staying). I did manage to boil it down to two choices which are obtainable locally and fit my budget (put it this way - I'll be wearing these boots in the states). I have to choose between Georgia's and Wolverine's:



The Georgia's are made of a soft, supple leather, and are unlined. I tried them on and they feel like their broken in already. I read that leather molds itself to your foot, which for my feet is a good thing as my heels tear through the lining of most shoes. The Wolverines are decked out with gortex and a serious traction sole, which would be good for the muddy hillsides of Masha.

Other than the boots, I won't have to buy any new clothing as it will come from my wardrobe here at home. Cotton/Poly button up shirts, khakis, and wool are standard fare for men across the globe. I love the fact that I will be in a country where clothing is more utilitarian and less a fashion statement.

Travel arrangements are nearly complete. Our team coordinator has done an outstanding job arranging the trip; tickets are in hand for the flight (these were the greatest expense). Copies of the curriculum are being made and suitcases will be filled with it next week (these will be checked in). I have all my vaccinations nearly completed (I'm taking two more pills for Typhoid Fever). Ground transport has been arranged, and so has lodging. Passports and visas have yet to arrive from the consulate.

The area of planning that concerns me the most is, oddly enough, teaching. We have some idea of what too expect and want to plan stateside, but find that we can't get too specific. We have been told that we will likely overplan and will have to cut back dramatically. I can't seem to wrap my head around the idea of students who are interested and eager to learn and will respect your authority. This motivates me to develop really good lessons, but again, I can only plan in general (isn't that how it always is?). So the other teacher, and I, will meet next week to craft a simple school day and talk strategies. I have also been planning for my next year's
three preps which has taken quality time from the kids.

Despite my inclusion of my kids in the Ethiopia planning, they are starting to show signs of anxiety about daddy being gone for so long. They are used to my teacher's schedule which affords them a lot of time with dad, especially over summer. Knowing that I'm going to be gone for a month, I have been spending a lot of family time, and am easily distracted when they want to play or talk. The girls have outright told me that they don't want me to go, and my boy has been clinging to his mom as if she is going to leave. This only exacerbated my mixed feelings about going. Not that I was going to cancel the trip, but traveling to Africa was becoming less exciting with every whimper.

My wife, God bless her, came to the rescue, articulating my feelings to the girls and encouraging them that this is not easy for dad either. You can pray for my little guy; he just knows that daddy is going to "upeopia". I just hope that after it is all said and done, they come to appreciate the example of service (and adventure) I've set for them.

So things are going well, the summer is moving along too quickly, and I am still in disbelief that I am going on this trip.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Clipped for a Cause


Come support MaryJane Hernandez to go to Ethiopia and get your hair cut all at once!

When: Sunday, June 22nd 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where: 715 Merchant Drive

What: Haircuts for $20 and all proceeds go to MaryJane's trip to Ethiopia this summer!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Feeling Funky



I posted some time about all the shots I was going to have to take in order to travel. Yesterday I had two more: meningitis and yellow fever. For my second time in the last few weeks, I've basically lost a day. Today was not as bad as last week. I am a bit warm, but don't have aches and pains. However, my stomach has been upset and I'm not that interested in eating (a very uncommon experience).

Of course this is a small price to pay, and pales in comparison to the suffering that many Ethiopians experience daily.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My community for a month

Shekkacho
[moy] 54,894 (1998 census). 36,449 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 53,897 (1998 census). North Kafa Region, in and around Maasha. Alternate names: Mocha, Shakacho, Shekka. Dialects: Close to Kafa. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Omotic, North, Gonga-Gimojan, Gonga, South

I'm back!

Not really sure how but I'm back.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pancakes are Kinda like Injera



Fremont Presbyterian Church

FATHER'S DAY PANCAKE
BREAKFAST - JUNE 15TH
8:00 - 11:30 AM
Cost: $5 adult
$3 kids
$15 for a family of 2 adults with children

Tickets were sold pre-event, but I'm sure if you waved money at the door no one would turn you way.

Ooops.

Made a bit of a mistake with my blog. The new look is unintentional. I'll have it fixed by next week. Guess I should not have been posting on Friday the 13th.

Moved?

If you read/saw my previous post, "Hard Times", hopefully you were moved. Indeed Ethiopians are suffering again, as they have so in the past. Perhaps this film will shed some light on the issue, as well as give you a visual reference for the country:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hard Times

With inflation hitting 35% in Ethiopia and the BBC reporting on adult starvation, this song came to mind (Ignore the first part about the American Civil War). I really think of it as a prayer.



Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.
There's a song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.

There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more.

Thank You Lissan!

I just received word from Lissan Online (see my links) that I am linked on their page. Talk about globalization!!!! I am grateful for their consent to be linked on their site.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

450 Views

I started this blog and now have 450 hits!!! Pretty good.

A friend of mine tells me that I am the lead blog about Ethiopia. I have found others but they relate mostly to adoption or subversive politics.

Visa, Shots, Lessons, and Camcorder?

So the Visa has been ordered.

Only two more shots to go.

Lessons to plan.

Camcorder to buy? (Thanks Doug, I'll take you up on your offer) Any recommendations dear readers? Would like video and still image capacity.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Saddle Bags

I just recieved word that airplane tickets have been ordered, ground transportation is being arranged, and hotel reservations are being made for our stay in Jimma - Okay so now I am nervous. This trip is not just a dream, it will actually become reality.

On one level I think I am really crazy for going. I am leaving behind my wife and children for a whole month, my own bed, a full medicine cabinet, television, tap water, convenience stores, my books, and a summer vacation filled with whatever I want to do. I won't be moving up the salary scale as much as I could or should, because I won't be able to attend the many professional development opportunities which crop up in July. I won't be able to mow the lawn (YES!!!) I won't be taking a long sought after two day camping trip, where I camp by myself and drink coffee, and hike, and read, and write ( I did not tell my wife about these plans yet). I won't hug, kiss, or nag my children for a whole month. The wife and I won't . . . well you know. So am I crazy?

Of course not! My grandfather put it best when he said, "Mike if you don't go on this trip you'll regret it five years from now and maybe the rest of your life. Opportunities like this don't come up often". He's right. I have no idea what is in store for me. As much as I might read, or talk with others about going, I will have to experience Ethiopia myself.

I am hoping that what I am experiencing now, and will experience in a few months will shape me into a more decent, happier, easygoing, God-fearing/loving person. Perhaps a part of the anxiety I feel now is because I am anticipating too much? I know some will advise me to go into the experience open, without expectations. I can appreciate that, but I think it better to, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

So I do cast all my cares on Him; as Pastor Baird once said, "saddle Him up". Good thing He's got big saddle bags!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

EAVO Fundraiser Success!

EAVO raised over $5,000 for relief in East Africa and received many more monthly pledges. ənkwan däs aläsh (I hope that is right :)!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?


Whether your read it or watched it on film, we all remember the vivid scene when Oliver Twist asks for more mush, don't we?
Well, I am asking for more. Not for me, but for the other teacher. I want to thank all of those who gave; I can't thank you enough. I am close to having all I need to go.
But, in order to tutor 50 Ethiopian students we need to send another teacher. The plan is to tutor 100 Ethiopian students so they can pass their English exam and continue their education. The children of Masha have come to look forward to this tutorial and it would be a shame if we could only educate 50 kids, or even worse, cancel the trip all together.
So I am asking for more. The most expedient method is to donate through www.servealongside.org and be sure to select English for Ethiopia. You can contact me by email after that stating that you gave to the other teacher, MaryJane. I will make sure to inform the accountant that it is for her trip.
Amesegenalihu

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fellowship, Food, and Family

What a wonderful time had by all at today's fundraiser for EAVO. My wife, children, and several friends and team members from Fremont attended an all-Amharic church service.

I could not understand the language but it was nearly unnecessary as one could feel the Spirit of God and the spirit of the people. As one of the guests said, "It feels like home." I agree!

Bumped into Khalid, a former student of mine. She will be in Addis same time as the team.

I'm so grateful to be a part of this project and to be so welcomed in the Ethiopian community.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't Forget!!

Message from Seifu Ibssa

"Hello friends,

Just a quick reminder that our planned lunch fund-raiser lunch that we talked about during our last meeting will be held this coming Sunday May 25th at Ethiopian Christian Fellowship in Sacramento. The Amharic service will begin at 11 AM, followed by East African Village Outreach (EAVO) reports, inception in 2005 through current. Valet parking will be provided at no cost to you. Lunch for a delicious Ethiopian dish is only $10. The church located at 7201 Florin Road, Sacramento CA 95828 (between Stockton Blvd and Power Inn Road). Any questions, please let me know."

Ethiopian Christian Fellowship

New Ethiopia Partners

I finally shared with my peers at work and gathered much interest and even a new donation. One of my student's parents gave a nice donation as well.

One of my fellow teachers wants to go next year and the other in a couple of years.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pray for Rain

How sad to have to bring your attention to news like this. Sadly, Ethiopia is still one of the countries of the world that largely depends on the course of the seasons. Please pray for the people and for much rain this summer.

Hat tip: Douglas Kennedy

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shoe Shine Girl?

In a city loaded with dust or mud one would expect that people would not care about their shoes, after all they would just get dirty again. But Addis Abeba is pretty well know for it's shoe shine boys. I found a BBC story here about a shoe shine girl.

I think the choice quote from the essay is, "Meskerem uses some of the money she earns to pay her school fees - of 15 birr ($1.65) a month. 'I had to go to school because I want to get knowledge - knowledge is how you become somebody,' she says. She hopes to become a teacher one day."

I have been told that most of the students in Ethiopia possess the same kind of attitude as Meskerem.

Congratulation Karlo!!

Congratulation to faithful reader and donor, Karlo for naming the staple of Ethiopia. A lifetime supply will be delivered soon!!! Just kidding. I have eaten at Queen of Sheba and recommend it as well.

For those of you who are not fans of injera, remember the Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser on June 15th. For those of you who would like genuine Ethiopian food, please join me and my family on May 25th at Ethiopia Christian Fellowship (7201 Florin Road) from 12 - 3ish.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Comment Settings

I realized that many of you might want to leave a comment but could not. I love comments so now I have changed the settings so that you may leave one without having to be a member.

A Walk to Beautiful

I received this email from the leader of the Ethiopia Support Group:

" Friends of Ethiopia,

Just a note in case you have not heard about the PBS Nova Special about the Fistula Hospital In Addis Ababa. Several of us visited this amazing facility. Encourage others to see it too.

"A Walk to Beautiful"

In Sacramento, KVIE Channel 6 will re-broadcast it this Saturday, at 3:00 pm. Check your local paper for other times!"

Sounds like a powerful film.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A little game

Just wondering how many of you can accurately name the famous Ethiopian foodstuff I've pictured at the bottom of my links?

I'm pretty sure this is what will be keeping me alive.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

CDC Says!

Shots for:

1. Yellow Fever
2. Hepatitis A
3. Hepatitis B
4. Typhoid
5. Meningococall
6. Rabies
7. Polio

Friday, May 9, 2008

Just A Few

So I'm sitting at my computer trying to gather my thoughts about the trip. I just can't seem to put them in any logical or poetic order. I'll share them in the raw:

1. I wonder to what extent Haile Sellassie, Bob Marley, and Rastafarianism enter into the mind of the average Ethiopian.
2. The Rift Valley cuts through Ethiopia.
3. I've got to pray a lot more than I do.
4. In what way will I fast.
5. How much will I miss my conveniences?
6. Did you see those photos . . . we're talking wide open spaces . . . places to worship God.
7. Did you see that church . . . do I get the honor of worshipping there? Finally, a simple church building!!!
8. How am I going to stash all those Birr?
9. Walking, lots of walking . . . feet hold up please.
10. Living simple.
11. Who will become my friends?
12. What social mistakes will I make?
13. I really want to drive from Addis to Jima to Masha.
14. Should I really get that tent? (I just can't get used to the idea of sleeping in a tent on a bed. Malaria is not an issue but will those rats be?)
15. People everywhere, all the time. Comfortable with embracing. America is a lonely place.
16. Will the warmness of their smiles and happiness in their eyes rub off on me?
17. No hiding out at the base, get out amongst the people.
18. Will my stomach handle the different foods, the water, the smells?
19. Will my allergies act up?
20. How often will I be able to communicate with my family?
21. Will I get taken advantage of when buying goods?
22. Are the students really that motivated and focused?
23. To what extent will I become part of the community (I really want to be part of the community!) and close to people?
24. Is dressing like a local cool or will I look like poser?
25. How hard will it be psychologically to come home to the U.S.? Who will I miss?

A Preview

Skip Ohs, a member of Fremont's support team has created a gallery of photos taken by previous years teachers. The link is to your right at FPC Projects. Can't wait to see this beautiful country and meet my brothers and sisters.

Simply Humbled by Your Generosity

Thank you to everyone who is making this trip possible. I recieved your donations the other day. I just can't believe that this is really going to happen. Again many thanks.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Easy Part of Getting Ready






So I had this vibe that I should go to the thrift store tonight; I just had this feeling that I would find what I needed. Indeed I did. I came home with a nice Lands End Sportcoat (cost $6.00) and a sturdy carry-on bag (cost $4.00). Both are in very good condition. In fact, both look just like the pictures above but cost a lot less.
Now I know what you're thinking - a sportscoat? Yes, in fact a lightweight wool sportcoat will be appropriate for both the climate (50 degrees in July) and social occasions, especially going to church.
I'm planning on packing very light. Here is my first draft of a list:
3-5 pair of lightweight wool socks
3-5 pair of travel undergarments
1 long sleeve base layer
1 base layer long john
1 pair leather boots
2 pair of khakis
3 button up shirts
1 sport coat
small umbrella
1 t-shirt
1 light wool sweater
belt
light polyester coat
Clothing wise am I missing anything?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blogked?

I keep reading something like this: "Millions of blogs created with Google's Blogger are unavailable in Ethiopia . . ."

Can anyone confirm?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pain in the Back

So I made the mistake of trying to lift the lawnmower about three feet off the ground myself. The result: my back has been "out" since Wednesday. So I have been sleeping, laying on my back with heat and ice, sleeping, doing some reading and tv watching, a very little bit of prayer, sleeping, heating and icing. My kids say I look like an old man as I shuffle around the house.

So what do I take away from it - resting in the Lord. Sometimes things just happen to us that we can't control; our plans get set aside because of our limitations. As Americans we hate this. We are good at removing obstacles, whether they be a person, a system, or a piece of technology; that which does not serve our immediate need for efficiency or expediency gets removed.

Thankfully God is not like that. He is strong when we are weak. Which is exactly how I have been feeling.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Making a New Friend

At tonight's meeting I met Seifu Ibssa, a Sacramento man who sold one of his cars and other good stuff to raise money to help his home village in Ethiopia obtain clean drinking water. He is the head of East African Village Outreach. I would encourage you to look over his photo links. You will have a good idea of the how the region where I am going looks.

Servealongside received another donation today;I think I know who you are - ameseginalehu!

Monday, April 21, 2008

What I Learned Yesterday


We held our monthly teacher's meeting yesterday. This time it was led by a couple who have traveled many times to Masha. Here is what I gleaned from the meeting:

1.. Rats regularly visit the Masha guest house so it is advisable to purchase a mosquito netting tent like the one pictured above. It can be placed on top of the bed with the mattress and blankets inside the tent.
2. There will be three other people besides the teachers traveling as a support team. They are in their sixties. That puts me as the youngest member of the team.
3. No military looking clothing allowed.
4. That it is essential that I go on this mission primarily as a humble student. One of the major mistakes of short-term missionaries is failing to respect a people who have been at life as long, if not longer, than them.
5. Pack light ( I plan on bringing very little clothing as I can purchase any additions in the Masha market.)
6. When we attend church we will most likely be asked to share very briefly, in front of the entire congregation. We need to think carefully about what we will share. We should say something affirming of the local culture.
7. Pens are a status symbol amongst students. We supply each student with one pen.
8. We should not buy gifts for our students. We want to be very careful not to create an unhealthy dependence or set high expectations for whoever goes next year.
9. I will most likely have a class of 50 students.
10. I will have a wall painted with black paint as a board to teach with.
11. If I want to use the internet I will have to travel to a different town.
12. We will leave July 6 and return August 6.
13. The students' ability level is about 4th to 6th grade.
14. The students will think our class if fun compared to the national teachers.
15. The national teachers discipline their students by forcing them to kneel on the floor with straight backs for about an hour.
16. We may be teaching with national teachers or have only two teachers. If there are only two U.S. teachers we will have to limit the program to 100 students.
17. We need two more U.S. teachers.

Lord Willing

So I am learning and realizing that I might have some technology issues to work through. My ability to post will depend on several factos:The availability of telephones lines, the flexibility of the manager of the telephone office in a nearby town, the conditions of the roads, the version of Internet Explorer, etc.

I am currently writing from a computer that does not recognize any of Blogger.com's buttons (hyperlink, insert, etc.) and so I can't upload the map until I reach home.

Thanks to Chanman (www.buckhornroad.blogspot.com) for linking my site. Perhaps I'll have to have him blog for me in absentia (I have not checked with him yet about this, but can't imagine him saying no). So what I might be able to do is email him my posts, picture, and videos and have him post them on my blog. I think that would work - oh, the wonders of technology.

A first lesson learned - the resources just might not be there. It is why my favorite phrase has become, "Lord Willing".

Where in the world?

The town where I will be working is called Masha (or Maasha). It can be found on some maps of Ethiopia. The map connected to this post shows roughly where it is, located between Jima and Gore. I found out yesterday that there is no road directly from Addis Ababa. We will drive from Addis to Metu to Jima, stay the night, and then drive the next day to Masha. The roads are dirt or mud, depending on how much it rains.

Friday, April 18, 2008

From Ethiopia? Awo!




So the plan for this blog does not just cover stateside. I plan to update this blog from Ethiopia, embedding video and pictures. Even though the region is very poor, there is a computer at the school. I am really excited about using technology is this way, Lord willing.




In the meantime enjoy the photos. I did not take them, but found them in cyberspace. They are both allegedly of the region to which I will be traveling. One is of Maasha and the other of the countryside. Can't wait to see it for myself.

Am I Really Doing This?

Their suits were not tailored in the American style, and they were not men of impressive stature or appearance. But when they stood before a small group of interested people, what they shared moved me. They passed around their treasured Bible and spoke plainly about the hardships of the people in their region. There was no powerpoint slides or emotional music to move the soul. They just spoke simply, and it was enough.

Inside I knew I wanted to take action. I even held back tears. I nudged my wife, chiding her about me going this summer, and whispering, " I wonder if they need teachers this summer". To my surprise she gave a positive response. As a teacher, I have a substantial amount of time off, including those lovely summers; days of sleeping in, gardening, fixing up the house, attending conferences and workshops to climb up the pay scale, and taking care of things that the busy school year deprives me of. To give all of that up is a big sacrifice, but not so much on my part.

We have three children: A nine-year old girl, a six-year old girl, and a two-year old boy. My wife is homeschooling the children and relies on my support to run the household. Her saying "yes" to the trip meant that she will parent and run the household by herself for a whole month.

Being a woman of faith she understood immediately, and in fact, helped me to see that it was clear that I should go. At the time it was hard for me to commit to actually going to Ethiopia, even though my spirit, or the Spirit, was nudging me to go. To me there were some very real obstacles. I did not have the money, knew nothing about Ethiopian culture, and questioned my own physical, intellectual and emotional abilities.

When I first expressed interest, one of the elderly team members nearly broke down in tears. She told me I did not have to worry about money. She was right. At this point in time, fundraising has been the least of my problems. Several people in church have provided funds, a co-worker has made a sizable donation, and even one of my student's parents has promised a donation. Best of all my friend Asher Styrsky of Styrsky Insurance sent out a mass email to clients. The email promised to match funds for each donation received. At this writing my trip is nearly paid for because of Asher's generosity.

So now I am doing all I can amidst a busy school year to learn about Ethiopia. This experience will require a whole other post, as Ethiopian culture is very complex. I will share that I am writing this post while listening to Azmari Bet.com. I have no idea what they are singing about, but the music is very beautiful. Although learning about Ethiopia is a grand endeavor overcoming my own sense of inadequacy is monumental. But I am not alone in this work.

As a christian I take great confidence in gospel, and trust that " . . . he who began a good work in you will complete it." Even though I worry that my passport might take too long to arrive, or that the trip might get canceled, or that once in Ethiopia I might get seriously sick, or won't adjust well to the culture, or won't get along well with teammates, or blah, blah, blah . . . I go to Ethiopia, with this in mind: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Ameseginalehu