Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Monday June 14, 2010

Ethiopia is all in a tizzy. It feels like a light has turned on. There is this tangible atmosphere of excitement and energy radiating from the World Cup. I have been walking the streets in the evenings just to pick up on the liveliness all around. The shouts of support or disappointment shooting out of the bars overlaid by the screams of the announcer and crowd on the television, or the groups huddled around a handheld radio talking turns pushing it to their ears to get the play-by-play over the roar of traffic and the static.

This past week has been incredible. And change seems to be the theme. Everything has been turning around, starting fresh. Several volunteers are here now, and combined with the extensive training the caregivers just underwent, Foster is buzzing with energy. My job has become slightly more challenging because the kids are all “riled up” from their previous activity. But I would prefer them making transitions between different kinds of play rather than arriving to them already sitting still and quiet.

The other day, a kind of rainy indoor day, I walked into the foster care house for the oldest kids and the entire floor was covered in ripped paper that they were rolling in, sliding around, and throwing in a snow-ball fight fashion. They didn’t even notice my arrival they were so absorbed and having just this amazingly pure fun. Once they were given the tools, the caregivers have impressed me with their skills and creativity involving activities for the kids.

Today also marks the one month mark of reading! And while the changes are specific and unique toeachroom, each child and sometimes so slight that no one would really take note, I guarantee every child has made some new connection. They have gone from not recognizing animals, to knowing what all the barnyard animals say, from not differentiating colors to matching illustrations to the color of their clothes! And most importantly, they are still not board with me as I worried they might become! I am so impressed by their interest, attention, participation and absorption of information. I had another volunteer do some video of reading time, and as I was reviewing the tapes, I realized how much I miss when I am absorbed in reading and maintaining attention. The children who are strong participants I know, of course, but the camera picked up on lots of subtle moments I never would have noticed. Toddlers “trying out” animal noises’, experimenting with sounds and words very quietly, and the older kids pointing and discussing some illustration in whispered voices, they are all finding some way to involve themselves further in what I only initiate.

To completely (and oh so subtly) change topics, the Kechene Women at the shop finished a different kind of project. They made 65 braided bracelets with button clasps and many chose to weave the buttons into their braiding as well. They are all unique and rather cute; however the quality and imagination really depended on the crafter. I let them go on this one, gave them the supplies and the basic outline of what I wanted and told them to be creative. I really wanted to see their capabilities and creativity and I was not disappointed.

There is this book of opposites that I have been reading with the kids (Oh My Oh My Dinosaurs! by Sandra Boynton) and they way everything has flipped reminds me of that now. Truly Ethiopia reminds me every day of opposing forces. Things that shouldn’t go together anywhere else, here they do. It is a blending of old world and modernity, cultural and international, change and stagnant stubbornness. The same is true for my life here, I feel as though the opposing (and much more positive) side has come out in the past month bringing energy and enthusiasm, not only for me, but for the kids and the Kechene women, as well. Just like the World Cup has changed the climate of Ethiopia, I feel the changing atmosphere all around me.

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