Written on 10/17/2007
Wow! It’s been way to long since I’ve posted. Almost two weeks! I apologize and I’ll try not to let it happen again. My goal is to be diligent with my postings so that not only are you as up to date as possible on my life, but also so that I make sure to continually process through my experiences here so that when I get home, my memories aren’t just a scattered mess.
The last few weeks have been pretty crazy and it has been weird because we have actually had a ton to do since we started teaching. My schedule each week is pretty interesting and jumps all over the place, so I thought I’d give you a driver’s seat look at what a normal week looks like for me, now that I actually have a schedule. Then, I will go back to the typical blog style. So… put on your seatbelt, place yourself in my shoes, and enjoy.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Click. ‘Is it really six in the morning already,’ you wonder? The weekend went by pretty fast and you are struggling to find where it went. This doesn’t matter any longer, for it is the start of another week. Your desire is to get a good start. Set the tone. Get in a good rhythm.
Out of bed you hop and make your way to the bathroom. You make sure not to slam any doors and tread lightly, the girls are still sleeping. In the shower, you take time to wake up, contemplate your next move and to just enjoy the fact that you have hot water in this country where most don’t. Burr! Tibibu is washing the car outside as is his usual sunrise routine, and because of it, the water not only loses half of its pressure, but it also turns to water straight from the coast of Antarctica. When he’s done with the hose, you hop back under the water and regain your senses. You’re more awake now and seems like you’re more ready for the day. Thanks Tibibu. You shut the water off being careful not to turn too hard, or else the handle will break off. Just like the last two. Then the water won’t stop and you will have to go outside to shut of the source. After drying off with your REI Packlite towel, you return to your room. Bethany is in the living room reading, but you don’t worry about bothering her. It’s time to get dressed and get some breakfast. Unlike in the States, as you peer into the closet, you really don’t care what it is you wear. Most likely it’s dirty. Most likely you wore it yesterday or the day before. But that doesn’t matter here. Some people don’t choose what they wear in the morning. The only have one option. You count your blessings and waltz into the kitchen, now wide awake.
The usual is one of two meal options: eggs and toast, or oatmeal. More likely than not, you take the eggs and toast. Oatmeal just doesn’t fill you up. And since it’s fresh bread every day, how can you pass it up? After sitting and enjoying your meal, you pop your daily vitamin and chug a few glasses of water. Bethany is always sure to have four waiting on the table in the morning for each person in the house. After you are good and supplemented, you trade the table and chair for the couch and begin your reading. Exodus, chapter 15. You wonder if you’ll actually make it through the whole thing by July. You know you can, but what if you just sleep in one morning. Nope. Not an option. It’s your fuel. You’d be a different person without it. So you read on. After the five chapters on the schedule, you see if the dishes need washing. By this time, the other two girls are awake and probably in the kitchen, so there really isn’t the room for you to be washing at the sink. Plus, they are dirtying more dishes, so it just doesn’t make sense. Back to the bathroom you go, this time to brush your teeth, apply some Old Spice. Stopping by your room to grab anything you need for the day, you end up in the living room and you pack your bag. ‘Should’ve brought my backpack,’ you think as you strategically plan how you will fit everything into your “man-purse.” Half past seven. Time to head out the door. It’s about a twenty minute walk up the hill to school and it’s good to have some prep time before class. First hour is fourth grade and sometimes they’re a handful. After a little doddling and going back to your room to grab some things you’ve forgotten in your room, you and the girls are ready to go.
Now that it’s a quarter to eight, you’ll probably have to catch a mini-bus. This is okay though. It’s only .65 Birr for a ride to school. You do the quick math as you take your seat on the crowded but reliable public transportation. That’s only seven cents in US dollars. Then you realize how easy it is to justify purchases in Ethiopia. The whole ride, you are curious as to whether or not the mini-bus is going to just fall apart in the middle of the road, but it doesn’t. You make it there fine, just like always and walk down the sidewalk and around the corner to the gate at HOPE Enterprises’ compound. You receive the same greeting you get every day, a two handed wave and a bow from the guards in blue.
You head to your office saying hi and shaking hands with everyone you pass along the way. You love this about the Ethiopian culture, but sometimes you get annoyed and just want to go somewhere without having to engage with everyone that you see. You realize how American you are. You realize that you have the ability to ignore other human beings all too well. You spend a second being mildly disgusted with yourself, but shake it off quickly. There is another person to which you must say hello. After “seulam (hello), endemen achu (good morning), deunanachu (how are you?), deunanen (I am fine), chow (goodbye)!” You are ready to go to your office. As you walk into the main office building you laugh at the fact that in Ethiopia, it is sort of a taboo to say anything other than “I’m fine” when someone asks how you are doing. Everyone is always fine.
Your office is great. One desk, one table, seven chairs, a wall of windows. It is a safe place while at school. No matter what happens in a class or what is going on anywhere else, your office is quiet, pleasantly quiet. You unpack your bag and get ready for class. Looking over your lesson, you think of how you are going to push your class today to really take hold of their education. After you are ready, you say bye to the girls and travel the 100 yards to the grade four classroom. They are rowdy, loud, fighting, and you prepare yourself mentally for what is about to take place.
Upon entering the classroom, all the children stand up at attention (usually) and wait for your instruction. ‘Good morning class,’ you say to all the faces staring straight at you. ‘Good morning,’ they reply in unison. ‘How are you?’ you ask. ‘We are fine, thank you,’ again in unison. “You may be seated.” Sitting down, the class responds, ‘Thank you.’ It’s an odd way to begin class and it usually takes a few minutes to get the process over with, but you realize that it is the school’s way of instilling discipline within the children. You wonder if it really works. Then the drilling begins.
Mondays are like the dentist’s office for a white teacher in Ethiopia. All the groundwork of understanding that was laid the week before seems to have been lost and it becomes a process all over again to gain the respect of your students. You understand that this is as new for the students as it is for you and you don’t let it bother you. Too much. You begin class (every class) by writing the date on the board and then the subject at hand. English. The students say ever letter and number before you write it and they find great joy in knowing exactly what the answer is going to be. Everyday, they start out with a small victory. You make sure to affirm them as a class and then you move into your lesson. You’ll give them a list of ten words that they have been using and learning with their Ethiopian English teachers. However, since their teachers aren’t native speakers, you are there to help with the spelling, handwriting, and pronunciation of these important words. Your lesson consists of speaking exercises, students taking turns writing on the board, students asking other students questions using the words. This is all very difficult. There are 55 students per class and you only ever have the attention of two thirds of them. Group work is non-existent here, as it has never been instituted in the classroom. Basically, you are incredibly aware of how teacher-centered the classroom environment is and that if you aren’t teaching or guiding the students, nothing will take place but chaos. You make it through your lesson, hoping that you did something good within the last 45 minutes, but you question it all the way back to the office.
At ten, you meet in the cafeteria for coffee and tea with Bethany, Sarah, and Maren. Other teachers are there and it is a great time to just sit and be with people. After the tea break is over, you walk back to the office. There may be some preparation that could be done for your next class, but if not, you can catch up on the reading that you’ve been neglecting. You have two class periods free so you can get a good hour and a half of reading in before you are with the 6th graders.
The same lesson plan fits with them as well, but the words are different and the way they learn is a little different, but the general feel is the same in all your classes. After fourth period with the 6th graders, it’s lunchtime. Usually you bring your lunch, but if you forget to pack it, you just munch on peanuts. Second drawer down in your desk. Either way, you try to eat in the cafeteria, even though you can’t stomach the injera there. If not, people will think that you don’t want to be with them. The culture is a little different here, but you realize that and make the trek over to the cafeteria.
Grade five is right after lunch, so you leave early to get your stuff from your office and head to the classroom. As you walk to the room, you notice and appreciate that all three of your classes are right next to each other. Actually, they’re in a row. Four, five, and six. You enter the class and you feel a sense of comfort and ownership. Grade five is your favorite class. They are by far the smartest, quietest, and most appreciative of the fact that you’re there. You get through your lesson quite easily and head back to the office. Monday is over and you can head home. Bethany and Maren left a while ago since their classes were in the morning, so you and Sarah walk the fifteen minutes back to your house. Once there, you are excited. You have been looking forward to the evening all day. Monday is date night. You and Bethany get to hang out just the two of you while Sarah and Maren go to choir at church. The options are virtually endless and you go through them in your head. Go out to eat? Stay in? What to eat? Games? Talking? Near? Far? Movie on the laptop? Okay. You realize that they aren’t endless and you talk with Bethany to see what she is up for. Date night is always great, but you have to get to bed early because you have to be up at 5:45am to meet Mattewos at the taxi stop.
Wednesday and Friday look roughly the same. Classes just happen at different times and on Wednesdays, it’s Ethics at the vocational school instead of the elementary. I hope you enjoyed seeing a day through my eyes. Of course it wasn’t exhaustive, but I tried to err on the side of too much detail as opposed to not enough. Well, that’s all for now. Tuesday and Thursday will be coming soon. Probably tomorrow. I miss you all incredibly and have enjoyed hearing from you periodically.
Oh, and just so I don’t forget, here are some events of note that have occurred in the last couple weeks.
1) Bethany and I celebrated our two-year anniversary. I’ll give you a dollar if you saw that coming two years ago?
2) Training at the school. Weird, British, hippie, philosophical and moral elitist. It’s been ridiculous. I’ll tell you later.
Well, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day and know that I’m thinking of all of you!