Final post

Firstly, I’m going to pre warn you that this post is probably going to have a lot of rambling in it. I’ve been back for 2 days now and thought I should take some time to sit back and reflect on the experience. Me being me, I’ve decided to not draft write anything and to just let it all flow out now. So apologises in advance if some things don’t make sense.

Being home is a very strange experience. I have settled in and am enjoying the creature comforts I once missed. But weirdly this doesn’t feel like home anymore. I feel like this is a stop over for some new journey I’m about to start. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with my family and friends but I realise now how much I loved my time in Africa and am pining for another similar experience already.

Granted, Africa was an emotional rollercoaster. Full of mood ups and downs. I learnt a great deal about myself and how I cope with things. I haven’t really taken the time to realise what actually happened out there, the things I saw and the things I did. I’m focusing too much on getting settled back in and panicking about what’s next.

But in all honesty, although the programme was quite disorganised and at times we thought why we were there as there was absolutely no work, we made of it what we could. I was among a great group of people that helped make the experience. I have made both uk and Ethiopian friends for life. Built relationships with people that in normal day to day life I wouldn’t have been able to make. I’ve seen a part of the world that not many people get the opportunity to see and experienced another culture. A culture that is so welcoming and sharing, bringing you in as one of their own. Although the attention we got some times was very frustrating and angering, the people meant well.

Life in Africa is so different to here, and trying to talk about my experience to others is proving very difficult. It’s hard talking to people who weren’t there with me and trying to explain moments and places is strange. It’s almost as if I’m making it up, like it never happened because they can’t see what I saw. It’s very much my own memories that I can only really keep for myself if that makes any sense at all?

I’m already missing my life there so much. The independence, the constant company, the sunshine (although at times it was too hot), the teaching, the volunteer and even the cafes and bars which I would always complain we were spending too much time in.

I fell in love with the children I taught and the feeling I got when you know they’ve learnt something. The freedom to teach them whatever I wanted and the challenge of planning lessons and new ideas. The children were amazing, they don’t have much in their lives yet were the happiest most energetic people I’ve met. I loved it.

Africa acted as a security blanket for me. A bubble that protected me of thinking about the future. Now that I’m home and this blanket has been removed it’s scary. I will keep this memory very close to my heart, I feel very lucky to have been able to be part of such an incredible experience and to have shared it with some amazing characters.

An average day in Dire Dawa

I wake up about 720 each day
get changed and wait for breakfast. this always consists of shai,(tea), its flavoured with spices and sweetened with a lot of sugar. To eat its always a white bread finger roll and some sort of spicy accompiant. After eating, I set off.

I used to get bajajs everywhere, small blue and white 3 wheeled vehicles that are individually pimped out inside. coloured fur may hang from the ceiling and the wind screens are nearly always covered in religious or football stickers. the drivers are nearly always friendly and keen to chat, the odd few still try to over charge because we’re white.
But now, I mostly walk everywhere. Within a day I walk anywhere between an hour to two. I prefer to walk. fresh (kind of) air, sunlight, and I see more. I love watching the eagles circle the sky, the market stalls, the scenery. The only thing I don’t enjoy is the common sights of dead animals encased in flies, the sometimes hideous smells, and the constant attention and shouting voices I receive.

Days have become very routine for me now. I don’t teach until 2pm so I use the mornings to walk to the office, catch up with the employees and plan my lessons. We have now been asked to conduct a sanitation campaign at the school so we have also been preparing flip charts and information for this. 2,200 children are dying every day due to diarrheal diseases!!

Once finished, I’ll ether go chill in a cafe or go home for lunch. Then I’ll walk to the school. We conducted an alphabet test and we have chosen the ‘best’ 30 students. This felt discrimantive but it had to be done, the class was just too big. Some children don’t turn up to the lessons so we have gone from one extreme to another, but its definitely a lot easier to teach now. Whether or not we are getting anywhere is another question, but its definitely less stressful.

At 4 we finish teaching. The rest of the evening is for us to spend how we like. We often spend it in bars or at hotels getting wifi. The curfew is 8.30pm, so I get home for then. Sit and watch tv, there are a few English channels and the rest are Arabic or Amharic. It’s nice to wind down, and I sleep early. I cannot wait to get home and decide when I eat and what I eat. Its getting a tad frustrating waiting for food!

Over half way now. I am excited but so nervous to come home- I didn’t realise I was a nervous flyer until now.

It’s nice to have a routine but hopefully a few more things will start happening. We litter picked and planted trees last week which was good- watching the community learn from us was refreshing.

I have adapted to life here. it doesn’t exactly feel like my home, but there’s something homely about it. The group is lovely and I’d like to hope I have made some genuine, lasting friendships here. However, I am definitely happy that I am on the homeward bound!

Food

Food here is interesting to say the least. At first I wasn’t a fan, but the more I get used to living here the more I get used to the food. My favourite thing my host mother makes is a potato, lemon, onion and beetroot salad. Its sometimes served with macaroni in a tomato, spicy sauce. We also have that sauce with spaghetti. Another thing I love is the same sauce, with rice and carrot.

My host mother knows I am not a fan of a meat so luckily its rarely served, but when it is I don’t give the food the same reviews. There is a thing called ‘doro wot’ which is chicken in a spicy sauce and sometimes boiled eggs. It seems like literally the whole chicken, bar the breast is used. I’ve come across many bones. Ox meat is also cooked, fried with potato and onions and a thin tomato sauce. I eat around the ox as its the chewiest meat I’ve tasted! These two are served with injera. I am also not much of a fan of injera. It deceivingly looks like a pancake,but no. Its sour and acts like a sponge for the stews. I normally ask for finger rolls instead!

Other days I have lentil stews, chickpea and cabbage. Every meal is served with bread or injera.

I also spend time in restaurants where I buy western food. Chips, pizza and burgers. If they were to be served in England, and if the service were the same, I would not be happy. But here, its a treat and I love it.(sometimes)!

No one needs to worry about my eating here, in fact the majority of my time seems to be spent eating! Street food is my favourite, for 1 birr you can buy freshly fried lentil/ potato samosas and doughnut type things. They are sooooo good!! I also buy biscuits and chocolate when I can!

Although I enjoy the food here, I am looking forward to getting back to England and choosing what I eat and when I eat!

Sabian no 2

I’ve now been given a permanent work placement at a school. ‘ sabian no2’ Im feeling very relieved to have a ‘real’ job here, but from starting today the reality of how difficult teaching is set in.

Myself, an Ethiopian volunteer and another English have been given a grade one class to teach every morning 8am till 12pm. This means me getting up at 6.30am, luckily I am used to the early mornings now. 

On arriving to our class, i realised just how lucky we are in England with education. The walls of the class room are bare, with just a chalk board to teach with. Old school desks and benches fill the room along with 56 students. Trying to control and teach that many children who speak little to no English is a stress in itself; letting alone teaching them!

We must plan and teach the lessons alone, without guidance or a curriculum. This is proving very stressful but also quite exciting. The knowledge that the children turn up each day expecting to learn something, and that what we choose to teach them will set the stones for the future of their minds is quite a daunting aspect to accept. We have started trying to teach the alphabet but with so many students it proves very difficult to gage their abilities and make sure they are understanding. We really don’t have a clue where to start, and with only one Amharic volunteer and one other English, controlling a class of over 50 is very tiring and frustrating!

I now respect every teacher in the world, I give them so much more credit than I did before. To create and deliver a lesson, and to keep the children engaged is very difficult! With little resources and unreliable internet, along with the complete freedom to teach whatever we want, the last few months of my experience here are going to be very challenging. A challenge which I am greatly looking forward to.

I am also missing England, a lot. More than I imagined. I miss food, cleanliness, my home, friends, family, shops. Everything! But I’ve also become very used to living here, knowing my way around, gaining independence and confidence in travelling alone, its weird to think I live in Africa….

I also miss breakfast! Breakfast here is a meal; curry, potato, scrambled spicy eggs, and always served with a finger bread roll. Definitely no loosing weight here! I also saw some baboons in the hills last weekend!!

Progress

Today was almost exactly what I’ve been wanting to do for the last 3 weeks. Because jeccdo still don’t have any work for me, I went over and helped some of the volunteers who are working at pad. We went over to a youth club, where many children were from the streets. It struck me how all the students were boys, I don’t think education is as important for girls here.

There was no lesson plan, or any guidance of what was expected of us. We got up and asked the boys what they wanted to do today. They responded with equal shouts; ‘English!’ So we left them watching a film, and went into the library to find inspiration of what to teach. Finding a puzzle book, we decided to create word search with only nouns and verbs in it.

Then we presented it to the class. Gave them a brief description of what a verb and a noun was, asked them to give their own examples, and then got them to do the word search. They each took it ibn turns to go up and complete it, saying which was a noun and which was a verb. After this, we asked them to take it in turns saying a verb/ noun so that we were sure they were clear. To wrap up, we tried to teach them ‘wink murder’ which failed miserably! A final game of splat, and we’d finished for the morning. Although it was a short and sweet, I finally felt like i’d achieved something. The fist time in 3 weeks! When the schools open next week, I will be back at JECCDO hopefully doing similar things!

New Years

Happy 2007!
New years day was on the 1/9/14. It is now 2007! It is a big celebration in Ethiopia. Houses are tidied and decorated they day before with flowers, lights,tinsel and grass on the floor. I was woken by the sounds of drums and children singing. Much like Christmas carols, here the children go from house to house singing new years songs dressed in pretty white dresses. There efforts returned with money.

All the family come over and food is prepared. Some families sacrifice goats,luckily my family didn’t do this, or if they did I didn’t see. They all eat together, watch tv, and celebrate the new years.

Its a big family celebration, a lot like Christmas in England. Families seem much closer here, it was nice to see everyone together enjoying good food and company ūüôā

Ferenji!!

Children and strangers love white people! I’ve been called ‘ ferenji’- foreigner, China, Russia, American, ching chow chong ! I now either shout back England, which is responded with giggles or English words, or ‘habasha’ which means ethiopian’. This also is left with fits of giggles. People nearly always mean it in a friendly way. The hug you, shake your hand, talk to you.

The only problem I’ve met so far is a woman who decided to throw rocks and chase me and 2 other English volunteers. Apparently, according to locals, her husband left her to work for the Chinese. So she doesn’t like Chinese people, and takes it upon herself to make sure they don’t enter her life again!

Beggars

Street beggars are everywhere over Dire Dawa. The adults aren’t too bad, they sit at the side of roads and beg patiently. It’s sad to see, and I wish I could help but its just like homeless people in England, unfortunately there’s not a lot we can do.

Child beggars were what hit me the worst. They are so persistent, following you down the street. They dont give up!! At first it upset me, but now I’ve learnt that some are actually working for adults and aren’t homeless at all!

There are 2 near the hotel I go to to use wifi. One little boy followed me and a friend for about 10 minutes! I didn’t give him anything, but the next time I saw him I gave him chips. This was a mistake, 2 more children came and expected chips too! And they then chose to follow me and some others, trying to take our bags, bracelets, sell us chewing gum, touch us. Its all a game to them! They have now taken it upon themselves to try abduction copy what we say, laugh when we tell them to go, and shout at us. However annoying it may be, they find fun in it, as do we!

Coffee

Coffee is my new favourite thing. In England I NEVER drink it, here it would be weird for me not to drink it. Its so delicious!!!

I was first introduced to it when arriving in Dire. To welcome friends and guests, Ethiopians hold ‘coffee ceremonies’ this consists of getting coffee beans, slowly roasting them over a heat, and allowing the smell to fill the room. Once roasted, they are finely hand ground in a pecilin mortem type thing. Then, they are mixed into boiling water. Then its ready to drink! Small mugs are poured, with at least 3 teaspoons of sugar. Its your choice whether to stir it and dissolve all the sugar, or leave it at the bottom. I always stir! Its the freshest, most satisfying coffee I’ve ever tasted. And strong to say the least!

On the subject of drinks, they also make ‘chai’ which is tea, again mixed with a whole lot of sugar, (they even ask if you want more sugar added), I love chai!! Its boiling water with mixed spices, cinnamon, cardamon; its my favourite!!!

Fanta, sprite and coke are also sold at almost every shop. On average these cost 10birr, which is equivalent to about 32p. They are served in glass bottles which you give back, and they are the cleaned, refilled and reused!

Alcohol is also vertically cheap. You can get a beer called ‘st George’- very patriotic. For the equivalent of about 80p. Spirits are also cheap, malibu and coke sets you back about ¬£1.20. I only drink these on rare occasions though!

Arriving in Dire Dawa

So i’ve been in Dire Dawa for a week now, but it feels like so much longer. This post is gonna be a mash up of the past few days as access to internet isn’t readily available and I dont have much time.

Rather than bore you with the details of each and every day, I’m going to tell you a brief synopsis of my time so far.

This week has been about getting used to life here, I am adapting well but it is a whole other world. Every day is scorching hot, and a few evenings its rained. When I say rain, I mean torrential storms. Lightening bolts warm the sky, water rushes down the streets and in some places it reaches your ankles. Come the next afternoon the water has almost completely dried out!

Ive spent my time chilling in my home, at church and at a hotel abusing wifi. Ive been assigned work at a charity called JECCDO. I want to tell you more about it, but I havent actually properly started there yet. Because this week is New years (2007), there isnt much work to do. I start on Monday and hopefully I can start working!!

My host home is lovely. Its unlike any houses in England. All the volunteers are living in very different places. I live in a very rural area, to get there I must walk through a flat sandy/muddy field filled with trees without street lights. The house consits of 3 rooms in a line withforward facing doors. An outside kitchen, squat toilet and a bucket shower. My father is a priest, my mother a friendly shop owner and I have a beautiful 6 year old sister. They dont speak english but they smile and serve me food.

The food can vary. The traditional meal is injera, just like a crepe but with a very strong sour flavour. This is paired with spicy stews. They are good but I’m not too keen on the meat used. Thankfully ive only had this a few times. Other days ive had salads, rice and spaghetti.I dont eat much but because of the heat I dont get too hungry. I miss chocolate and sweet things so whenever I get a chance, Ill buy biscuits from shops. Chocolate doesnt seem to exist here!

life here is quite slow paced. Urgency is unknown here. Travelling around is difficult, bajaj dribers charge you what they want and choose whether they want to take you where you want to go. Im getting used to it now and have started travelling without an ethiopian volunteer to help.

Ive seen camels, beautiful birds, dogs, cats , lizards, monkeys, goats, chickens and horses. Animals are  treated very differently here. Cats and dogs are mostly stray so a

re treated like a vermin. Goats roam freely and horses are treated as a form of transport.

The landscape is stunning, we are literally surrounded by a mountain! Shops are small huts on the side of roads, selling drinks, biscuits, shampoo, and phone charge. There are lots of markets and side stalls selling fabric, shoes and thats about it!

¬†Churches are circular, brightly painted ¬†buildings and prayers are read out over a speaker. Women wear white scarves and shelter from the sun under trees. Its a case of copying for me, I bow when they do, kneel when they do and clap when they do. I have no idea what is said, ¬†the bible is read in ge’eez and only certain people and preists understand!

 The readings start from 4am and end about 9am and you can hear it everywhere. Sleeping is hard, with that noise and the noises of chickens and goats!

My battery is low now so I will update when I can!