this past weekend (sept 24) we had the privilege of going to addis (the capital)! we left friday afternoon and arrived back in yetebon monday afternoon. there was no school on monday because of the Orthodox holiday called meskel (the finding of the true cross). allow me to share with you some highlights of our weekend getaway:
- first off, we (2 other american volunteers and a staff member from PM named ato adane) took public transportation, which basically means see how many people you can fit in a 12 passenger van. i think there were about 17-18 people in the van both ways—‘pack it full’ is definitely their motto. the drive from yetebon to addis is absolutely beautiful—vast mountains, lush, green vegetation (due to the rainy season), bustling little towns—great photo ops.
- alright now on to the driving conditions. yes, the road is paved (for the most part), and yes, other cars share the road. but it’s not just other vehicles we share the road with; cows, donkeys, goats, dogs, and people all believe that they have the right of way. this results in rather crazy driving conditions, conditions that i would never feel confident driving in.
- rest stops do not exist. if you have the urge to go to the bathroom there are two options—you either go or don’t go. if you decide that you must go, you pull over to the side of the road and do your business there (or go find a tree or bush to hide yourself if you want more privacy). despite the fact that it’s a 2 ½ hr drive to and from addis, i never had the urge of going to the bathroom and hope i never will haha.
- honking is by far the most frequent sound one will hear when riding in a vehicle here in ethiopia. often when i think of honking, it has a negative connotation—anger towards other drivers, impatience, etc. this is not the case here. honking simply alerts other vehicles, people, or animals that you are coming and ought to get out of the way. interesting.
- we had wireless internet. daily. major privilege.
- i was able to enjoy many tastes of home, such as: pizza, french fries, ice cream, and cereal (with COLD milk!!!). many of you know that cereal is like my favorite thing to eat (i’ve been missing my honey bunches of oats), so you can imagine my excitement that first morning when there was granola and cold milk. yummmm.
- we attended the international evangelical church and the service was in english! this was extremely refreshing and wonderful to worship in my native tongue. i thoroughly enjoyed the service, and was yet again reminded that when believers gather He is there! it was incredible worshipping with people from literally all over the world—australia, great britain, canada, china, ethiopia, korea, norway, the united states. God’s love and grandeur never ceases to amaze me.
yes, it was a wonderful weekend, but i was definitely ready to come back home to the people of yetebon. there’s a peace and sense of serenity here that stems from the work that God is doing in this community and i never want to forget how blessed i am to share in that.
now for some school stories from the week:
- a couple times i found myself whistling while writing on chalkboard. to me, this wasn’t super strange, but immediately many students began laughing. who would have thought that i could totally distract my students (as they smile and laugh at me) as i whistle? it’s definitely possible.
- in both of my grade 4 classes i decided to wander around the room and check their progress as they were answering questions from a short passage that we read. i began making my way down the rows to each cluster of students when i quickly realized how daunting the task was that I had just gotten myself into. let’s just say it takes quite some time to look at all 80 or so students’ work (although i find it very important to note their progress and see how well they are understanding what they have read). not only was i merely looking at their answers, but i decided to put a smiley face on their paper when i was finished checking. again, more smiles and giggles emerged. i am so grateful for the cheerful students that i teach ☺
- kindergarten selection took place on thursday. students who are admitted as KG students here at the medhane alem school (name of this school that’s affiliated with project mercy) are done so based on a lottery system that is long-standing in this community. not only do the students here receive a wonderful education, but they are also provided with breakfast and lunch, blessings that they would not receive at the schools in the surrounding areas. i will do my best to depict this process, although it’s hard putting words with what i saw.
o flyers had been put up announcing that the selection would be thursday, september 30. usually it isn’t announced until the day of, so i’m not entirely sure why it was communicated beforehand this time.
o a few men from project mercy (PM), along with staff from the school and the community elders (representing the three surrounding communities) gathered with parents outside the PM gate and essentially ‘weeded out’ children who appeared to be above the age of 8 or were already enrolled in one of the government schools nearby.
o the gate then opened and these young children began flooding into the compound, walking in neat, orderly rows and not a sound coming out of their mouths.
o elders and teachers alike then separated the children into three sections based on what community they live in.
o more “weeding out” took place, sending students back home who looked too young (they wanted students ranging from ages 6 to 8). very interesting that they kinda guess the ages of these children (majority of the people here don’t have records of the day of their birth).
o the remaining children were then taken into the dining hall and the lottery began. the elders all sat together in the front. the children were still separated into the 3 community regions. men went through and counted the number of children in each region.
o a few men from the school then began putting enough little rolled up squares of paper for each child into a bowl. the size of the region determines how many students will be accepted.
o every child had the opportunity to pick a piece of paper from the bowl. in order to be a selected KG student, the piece of paper had to have the PM stamp on it. if it didn’t have the stamp, it was blank, and that child cannot attend KG here.
o if the paper had the PM stamp, the child then received a blue bracelet (much like a bracelet given at the hospital or the county fair). i had the opportunity to put bracelets on these newly accepted KG students.
o after they had received their bracelet, they then gave their name to one of the ladies who was recording the new students.
o there were about 800 students (smaller turnout this year) at the start, and at the conclusion of the lottery, there were 250 new KG students.
o it was definitely hard watching as their slips of paper were unrolled, revealing whether or not they were going to be a new KG student. yes, the system is fair, but it doesn’t help the hurt i felt for those precious children and the families they represent who were turned away.
o as i reflect on that day, i find comfort knowing that God is in total control of this entire selection process. He knew before the day began who would and would not receive that desired paper with the PM stamp. He has plans for each of the children that stepped into the compound, and plans for those who didn’t.
o His ways are higher than ours. i can cling to that truth.
- for the newly accepted KG students and their families, as well as those who were turned away
- as I am challenged yet encouraged by Philippians 4:11-13 which reads, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
- as I continue to learn more about the body of Christ and what that looks like amongst believers of all nations
something to think about...
in Him we are one. “...let all the peoples praise you!” -Psalm 67:3