Archive for the ‘Ethiopia’ Category

Broke the 50% Mark

Earlier this week I wrote a post explaining that half of us on this project had been violently ill during out stay in Ethiopia. This morning i joined the ranks and was feeling so sorry for myself because today is the day I fly home. I was so sick at one point I was worried that I would be stuck here by myself as all of my colleagues left tonight. I think I’ve turned a corner now and plan to get on the plane later tonight. Whew.

This city is really clean considering everything. There is serious poverty and no emissions control of any kind. So, people drive cars in clouds of black smoke. But, because of the geography, there is always a breeze so the air is not a choking as it ought to be. Culturally, Ethiopians are almost obsessive hand washers. Because the natural air is warm and dry and always moving, your hands dry fast and you always see someone walking around with limp wrists because they have just washed. Think of the lives that habit saves.


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It feels like I have been here a year. We have worked so hard and accomplished so much and things have not always gone smoothly. Tom and I were talking tonight and realized we have had a 50% failure rate with the people we have brought in to do sessions in the training. No one has failed in their work. Everyone has been fantastic, but half of them have had food poisoning, flu or injuries that kept us scrambling to get the work done while they were out of commission. Today, we actually had to take one of our facilitators to the hospital because she had such violent food poisoning. So, I spent the day trying to help our remaining colleague cover the whole day of training. Here is a picture of his exhausted remains at the end of the day along with Hailemichael, one of our students.

I hope to keep everyone in one piece from now until we finish on Saturday (myself included!). So far so good.

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Nature All Around

I am staying at the Ghion Hotel in the heart of Addis. Although this is a big city, the natural world is still very present. The palace is right behind us and they keep a famous troup of lions there. My colleagues who have rooms on the palace side of the building claim that they can hear the lions “talking” all night. Sadly, I can’t hear from where I am.

The hotel is on about 10 acres of land, much of it cultivated in beautiful gardens. It has been a serene pleasure to walk among the flowers and trees to unwind when I’m not working. Best of all, the gardens are a haven for countless birds. Ethiopia if famous for birds and most of them seem to be here at the Ghion. My father connected me with the birds of Ethiopia listing in Wikipedia and I’ve been having big fun trying to identify some of them ever since. One is more beautiful than the next.

In the evening and early morning the sky is filled with Harpie Eagles, hawks, vultures and ravens floating on thermals. With all of the human drama and turmoil taking place on the ground, watching these birds gets you thinking of the air currents rising from the rift valley like the land breathing for millions of years – like something eternal and more important than whatever I did today at work.

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Beautiful Buna

Buna is the Ethiopian word for coffee which is a native plant to this place. It still grows wild in some parts. Coffee is named for the Ethiopian province of Kaffa and the habit originated here. Coffee has been a real pleasure for me here because it is of such excellent quality and everyone knows how to prepare it expertly. Every day during our training we have two coffee breaks and the two ladies in this picture whip out every imaginable coffee configuration from pure frothy espresso to beautiful layered machiattos. There are nearly 40 of us having coffee twice a day and if they took your order once, they will remember exactly what you like forever. They could walk into any Starbucks and put the staff to shame. I love to watch them work every day.

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Visit to Entoto

On Saturday afternoon we managed to get out a little to see some of beautiful Addis. There is a very steep hill right in town – I suppose in flatter parts of the world it would be called a mountain. Entoto is the historic site of an ancient royal residence and a very old church.

It has a strategic and panoramic view of the entire valley. Some of the royal residences remain and it was extra fun to see the receiving hall for the king and queen complete with separate entrances for visitors depending on rank and little niches for the royals to sit in as they held court. Today’s Ethiopeans are unabashed carnivores, which kind of surprised me actually. The tradition seems to go way back because the palace was filled with cow horn hooks for hanging meat.

The ride up the steep hill was amazing because it was crowded with women carrying heavy bundles of eucalyptus bundles on their backs – walking down the steep hill to sell the wood in Addis. We stopped and talked to a few and they were amazingly cheerful, but looked to be a grim and grueling life.

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Today we wrapped up the first week of our intense training program. We have two weeks to go. I am looking forward to the colleagues who will be coming and going throughout the rest of the time and to seeing how the students react to all of the new ideas.

Here is a quick picture of me with some of our students on the steps of CTIT, looking pretty tired. I also got in trouble for taking this picture. A guard scolded me. Later my colleague Mariye explained that they had trouble with visiting faculty from China photographing the building and then photoshopping their own logo on the sign. So, I’ll have to get a photography “license” before I can take any more pictures of our students.

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Thinking About Travel

There is much of the world that I have not seen yet, so I am not an expert. But, I have been many places and the thing that sticks with me is the ordinariness of everywhere. As I’m out commuting to the college in Addis, I’m joined by thousands of others who got up, got dressed for work and are off to the same everyday concerns anyone faces – questions about what’s going on with the people we work with, worries about our children, small triumphs to be proud of, organizing time and space to share dinner with loved ones at the end of it all.

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