dinsdag 23 december 2014

No Dr. Denker for Patricia this year

December 23, 2014

Science Project
The title of this blog will only be recognized by my Dutch friends and family and then also probably those who live in the northern part of the country. Traditionally we sit around at Christmas to do the puzzle in the 'Dagblad van het Noorden' called Dr. Denker. Not this year though, as I will be working during Christmas as the Ethiopians do not celebrate Christmas in December, but in January. Besides Afar is predominantly Muslim and as far as I know they do not celebrate the birth of Christ at all.
Meeting with teachers
Currently I am in zone 3 of Afar on the biannual supervision of the Educational bureau. A selection of schools; primary, secondary, High Schools and ABECs (alternative basic education centres) are visited and supervised about their performance. It a very interesting process and I learn a lot of how things are organised and about things that are still need improvement and also where I maybe can help. After the visit they are meetings with the local governments. Till now we did three Woredas. As I will be leaving for the rural areas tomorrow, I do not expect any internet connection any more, so this is my last chance to write this blog before it is 2015.
Very Smart Girl

ICT classroom

Okay, that is now, but almost a month has gone since my last blog and lots of things happened. I even became a year older (but I like the estimate the Ethiopian give of my age which is around 30-35J)
In my last blog I talked about getting a haircut, I did and I showed the pictures on Facebook and am not going to humiliate myself again in this blog (sorry for you Facebook haters).
My work is also progressing, as I told before, the project manager from VSOE visited Semera and finally I got my Annual Work Plan approved and also got a change to talk and meet the Bureau head (took just 2 months!). In Dutch we say: Better late than never, but I doubt if that’s an English expression :-)

Just after the visit of Tatek, I went to Mekelle for International Volunteer Day and to visit Erna another Dutch volunteer from VSO who works for ACSOT. The visit and Mekelle were very nice. On December 5 around 200 students from Mekelle University were attending a program about volunteering and also the University opened a Volunteer Centre for the students. The day began with the students brushing shoes and ended with a visit to the hospital were we gave bananas and oranges to patients and cleaning materials to clean the hospital. If the students are going to play a part in this cleaning I am not sure, but I hope and expect they will do.
The rest of the visit I stayed with Erna and it was really good to talk about Ethiopia and the Ethiopians with someone in your own language. Telling your friends and family who arenot experiencing the same is quite different. I went to visit the Derg Monument and museum and bought really good cheese (for Ethiopian standards). Erna and I had lovely meals and drinks and I felt sorry to have to leave on Sunday.

Volunteer Office Mekelle University

Detail of the Derg Monument

Halima: director of Girls Boarding School
On Monday I flew back from Addis to Semera and went straight from the airport to the Girls Boarding School. I was invited by Halima to the Nations Nationality celebrations. That was a big happening and I hoped my manager did not mind that I did not come into office. When I arrived though, it turned out that he and a lot of other managers from government offices and NGO’s were also there. On this celebration there was a lot of (traditional) dancing and I danced too. That was a nice change. On Wednesday, I taught my first English classes. That was a wonderful and amusing experience. You should expect the Ethiopians to speak good English as all their textbooks are in English and they have the national exam also in English, but the contrary is true. So it takes some effort to get the girls to speak at all, but I will be here for 2 years and will persevere. The girls are shy but motivated enormously, so my first 10 lessons are just to get their trust and let them become confident to speak.
Girl boarding school reading poem
On December 16, I became a year older as it goes on birthdays. I invited around 12-15 friends and more than half showed up. I even made some women friends and they also came by with the most lovely birthday card and chocolate. It is special that people turn up, because the Ethiopian do not celebrate birthdays after the age of 5. The day before my birthday, I ordered a cake (see picture) and some drinks in Ozzies (Oasis), a bar not far from my house. Also I got a lot of mail and congratulations through Facebook which was hearth warming. At the party I danced (again) and I really enjoyed throwing the party, it was really good fun.  And the next morning (a bit hung over) I went on the supervision where I started my blog with. So the circle is round and the blog almost finished.

Elsa, Tmnit & Patricia
But I will end with some things I still find remarkable here or am startled by:
* Driving: lots of Ethiopians drive like madmen (wrong side of the road, overtaking when it is impossible just beeping the horn if a pedestrian is in the way, zebra crossing with absolutely no status), but they also have a really relaxed going about the driving; a policy of live and let live. No aggression at all.
* All the teachers wear a white kind of lab coat. I am (sometimes) happy with that, cause I can distinguish the teachers from the students. Lots of the teachers are still so young :-)
*Are you sure or really? That is what the Ethiopians constantly ask, when you make a remark. I now have learned in Amharic to say ‘Are you sure?’ so I ask them or before they ask me I already say that I am sure.
* Another word which is also used al lot is ‘ishee’ (meaning: okay). Last week I was even using it while I was speaking English. I did not notice, but the girls I was with, pointed it out to me :-) . So I integrate nicely.
* The third word I use a lot is ‘chekerilem’ (means: No problem). That always gives a few laughs. My Afar is not so good yet, but a colleague promised to write down a list with Afar words. Unfortunately, he has not done his homework yet :-(
* During this supervision I see a lot of wild life, like Aardvarks, baboons, birds. I am excited about is, but  my team members do not seem to notice the wild life and when I asked them about the names of the animals, they do not know most of the times. For them it is probably so normal, that they do not even pay attention to it.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a Merry New year.
Patricia Koops (in Amharic)