Saturday May 22, 2010
The past two days have been both wildly successful and more of an experience than I can accurately describe. So please excuse my attempt at explanation.
Due to election rallies and a heard of unruly bulls blocking the highway, I got to Foster seriously late. Once the bulls got the goats involved and the goats rallied the donkeys it totally redefined grid-lock. In the end, I made it and read through an abridged version of my book pile in two of the rooms. When I went to the third, however, they were playing with play-dough! But it was so much more than just play. Three of the girls had made an entire coffee ceremony set out of the play-dough and were performing the ceremony with the help of one of the caregivers. This is comparable to having a tea party, but the coffee ceremony is not simple by any means. The others were making animals or cars and just generally using their imagination. Two of the boys had made a tiny ball and were kicking it around.
I didn’t have the heart to interrupt this productive play, and I especially wanted to encourage the caregivers to initiate these types of activities more often, so I skipped reading and instead played! It was so adorable, the kids were beside themselves. They were showing me their play-dough like it was Christmas morning.
Finally, making it back to the office, I met Yemamu and we went to Merkato to scout supplies for the next “On Their Own” project. Merkato is huge and such a maze of loud streets and foreboding alleyways that people rarely come out where they entered. Massive and incoherent might be the best way to describe it. Even the most seasoned Ethiopian can get completely turned around. And this is not one of those picturesque markets either, with neatly lined stalls displaying wares. Depending on your perspective it can be anything from exotic to downright slummy. You can literally purchase anything from spices to your very own camel, which is precisely how it smells; a combination of spice, baking bread, incense, animal and their accompanying by-products.
I did however get a good idea of what I could find, and the next project is in the brain-storming phase.
Yesterday I FOUND THE BOOKS! When I walked into the Foster home for the oldest kids, they had a cabinet in the kitchen full of books, good ones too. Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, Dr. Seuss, all the children’s classics. Then the caregivers were taking them all out to show me what I should read. Why they don’t have them available to the kids is one of those cultural things. They are concerned that they will get destroyed (which is probably true) so they keep them “put away” to monitor use. This was the same situation I came across in Guatemala. Needless to say, there are a lot more options now, and after the kids get familiar with the pile I brought I will be able to integrate more into the pattern. I found “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and decided to try that one out on the older kids. (It contains one of my favorite quotes too: “These things are fun, and fun is good.”) There was a group of 5 boys at my feet gasping and giggling every time I turned the page, then pointing and discussing what they saw. They LOVE Dr. Seuss illustrations and I love seeing them be so imaginative.
What I am thrilled about, however, is the fact that the caregivers shared this with me, means that they are beginning to trust and open up with me. In the beginning they were rightfully wary of my presence, because they think of the children as their own. Like any parent, they are protective until you prove that you are equally loving of their child. They also invited me to their coffee ceremony yesterday an invitation to a coffee ceremony is a showing of respect, thanks and friendship. Besides the kids love it because they get popcorn as their snack, a fact that I can appreciate.
I read this quote the other day, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” I believe this is so true everywhere, but so much more so in Ethiopia. Compared to what I am used to there is just so little here. There is more poverty, more struggle than I have experienced anywhere else. Yet, everywhere you look there is a little celebration a moment of joy, which conveys hope across the faces of its people. The pinnacle of this celebration being the coffee ceremony, which is why I think it was so endearing that the girls were learning this testament to their culture in play. The third cup of coffee is called “berekha” (the blessing). It just goes to show how even with nothing, Ethiopians are aware that there are blessings all around, there is celebration in life, and that is enough to be grateful for.