Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ethiopian New Year! (Sept 11 in the International Calender)

In the Ethiopian calender, Wednesday was New Year. It also happened to be a fasting day and so celebrations were spread out over Wednesday and then Thrusday, because unlike the Greek Othrodox Church who said it was okay for American to eat meat on Thankgiving (which falls during the advent fast) because it was a holiday, the Ethiopian Church can't give thier people a break.

Or maybe the habasha don't want one because then they get two days off of work.

Regardless, I enjoyed both days and got to understand it a bit better compared to last year when I was a newly arrived Hurutalite.

Flowers are big for New Year, after all it falls at the end of rainy season. Children will draw flowers on paper with the words Happy New Year on them (melkam addis amat or inquan adasrashichu) and pass them out to people they know. The adults who receive them traditionally give the child money, a bir or so. Flowers are also the traditional gift of thanks from the small groups of children who go caroling.

(insert video)

It's usually the small children who come singing, and all our visitors this year were girls. They sing the local version of Auld Lang Syne, and not all are as well equipped with a drum as the one above. As with receiving a drawn flower, singers are gifted with change and maybe bread too if you have some on hand. Not everyone gives money, I know I didn't last year, but if you do the kids will give you a handful of flowers as well as the previous song.

Most of the ones I got still had the roots attached, but oh well. It was just fun watching their reaction when they say me. When the this group first came to the compound, they were singing to Dani who was on the porch and didn't see me in the living room. But then the girl in the pink dress stuck her head in the doorway and saw me. Her eyes went wide and her mouth mute.

On other holidays, I go house hopping for doro wat, but on actually New Years we just went to Dani's mom's house for coffee and then on Thursday went around town to feast. I feel really bad I couldn't even eat a half plate at our place for dinner.

I did make no bake peanut-butter chocolate cookies to share, except for the fact that I over estimated the amount of oatmeal I had left and so instead of staying in balls my cookie dough just filled up platters. But hey, people enjoyed it, and I have a huge amount left over for me to just spoon into my mouth. It gets me all the time, how they put three spoons of sugar into a tea cup but can't handle sweets.

Well, I guess they are small spoons.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I just got done with MSC, or mid service conference.  Only 11 months to go!

It was great seeing friends and going to restaurants that serve food I forgot existed. (The French place has pumpkin pie!)  And some of the sessions were enjoyable.

The Education sector is still pretty new here in Ethiopia, just two years, and so there was a lot of discussion about changing our framework and adjusting programs to fit with what the MoE already has in place.  I find such things fascinating, analyzing strengths and weaknesses of a program and working with a group to improve it.  Maybe it's because our ITELE program is important and the changes to it now will effect the future of edu volunteers in Ethiopia, of I can see the long term impact of the framework and not a similar view of my work at the school, or perhaps I just like being a part of something important.  Regardless, it's making me glad I'm getting a MBA.  I imagine similar round table discussions in my future career and am looking forward to them.

I did sign up for two huge projects in addition to my clubs and trainings at school.  One is to help with creating a teacher training manual, specifically creating lesson plans for future PCVs to use in conducting methodology trainings for their teachers.

The other is a personal writing one, well, editing. I want to put together a collection of stories from the current Ethiopian generation of PCVs and RPCVS, and publish it with all proceeds going to the country fund to help pay for PCPP grants volunteers have written for grants that aren't covered by VAST or PEPFAR aka HIV or Malaria projects.

But again, they are lasting things that make be feel like I'm actually doing something.

It's weird, because I've been here for a year already and know I've made a difference - I have the English grades of my club students to prove it - but I have nothing concrete. I guess it comes back to the whole 'leaving your mark' thing a lot of people have.  Having a say in the program and in the perception of how people see Peace Corps and Ethiopia as a country just makes me feel valuable. And who doesn't like that?

Regardless, the new school year is starting soon, next week in fact, and I'm quite excited to get things up and running.  I feel like I've learned a lot and nothing at all this past year, so we'll see how 2006 (remember, Ethiopia has a different calender) goes.