Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Whenever I introduce myself as being from Canada, invariably someone will tell me that they have a brother or sister there, usually in Ottawa or Toronto. In the case of Furwaini’s sisters, and I think in many cases, they have lived in Canada for a long time and are Canadian citizens, having left Ethiopia as refugees during the time of the Derg.

I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies in this brief summary of recent Ethiopian history. The Derg was the communist government that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and held power until 1991. I believe the same Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, has been in power ever since then.

In general the Derg regime was not a pleasant time. In Tigray Region and Eritrea (which was then part of Ethiopia) there was unrest and agitation for independence, which the government responded to with military repression and, during the droughts of the early 1980s, with the withholding of food aid. The effect was the infamous Ethiopian famines of 1984.

The current government is relatively and generally stable (except for the 100 000 soldiers killed in the war with Eritrea, ongoing conflict in Beneshangul Gumuz and Gambella Regions, repression of Somalis in Somali Region and last year’s protests over election irregularities; still all these issues have remained isolated and contained and Ethiopia as a whole is enjoying relatively stability, compared to its history and compared to many African countries). However, it has taken people some time to adjust to the stability and freedom: for example, during the Derg Regime, people could not travel within the country, and it’s only in recent years that people are starting to feel comfortable enough to travel and visit historical sites within Ethiopia.

In Canada, U.S., Australia, England, and many Arab countries, there are significant populations of Ethiopians who left as refugees during the Derg Regime, and because Tigray was one of the areas most badly treated by the Derg, many of them are from the Tigray region. The positive (I think) effect that’s been felt in the past few years is that now that things are stable in Ethiopia, some of these people are returning to places like Adwa and Mekelle to invest their money and build high-end homes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Today I was invited to my colleague Tigistu’s house for lunch and coffee ceremony. I’m starting to get used to it, but it is still awkward and a bit unsettling: at least every time I’ve been invited to someone’s house so far, the wife serves the food and then prepares coffee while the husband and the guests eat, and she doesn’t eat until the guests have left. Men and women are always saying, as if it’s some kind of religious exhortation, that only women can prepare food.

People recognize that girls don’t do as well at school because they have so many responsibilities at home, and yet, even among those who recognize this, it doesn’t seem as if much is done to change it even within their own homes.

Our first training took place yesterday for school directors (principals) and woreda supervisors. Again, on the subject of gender, there were seven women out of about 80 directors and supervisors. Although low, this was more than I had expected based on my school visits; it seems that the women directors are all in the rural areas. Tomorrow we will meet to evaluate how the training went, which should be interesting as I am recognizing that my definition of active learning and the definition that Tigistu is following are quite different.

I’m finding that it’s a constant struggle between expressing my opinion and holding back in the recognition that this isn’t my country or my culture, I don’t understand everything and millions of successes have been achieved before me. This morning, I participated in a workshop on setting standards for primary teachers, and I was constantly struggling with this. I tried to just watch and let my group do their thing, but somehow my mouth just kept opening.

I’m afraid that sometimes people think I’m right and they’re wrong simply because I’m ferenji from a developed country, which I think does more harm than anything else, but sometimes I do feel like I’m right. In fact, the worst thing is that sometimes I think I’m right and they’re wrong.

Other times, I think people just pretend to agree with me to be polite to the ferenji, but then they go ahead and do what they want to do anyway.

There were two other workshops at the college yesterday in addition to the supervision training. This was the busiest the college has been since I’ve been here, and from the smell of things, it was a bit of a strain on the latrines. The college has not been too busy so far, because there are no students. What? you say. Yes, students are assigned to colleges centrally by the Regional Education Office in Mekelle, and for some reason, although the school year should have started about a month ago, students have not yet been assigned. At other colleges, the second and third year students have already started, but because Adwa TTC used to be a one-year certificate institution for First Cycle teachers it doesn’t have any second and third years. If the new students ever arrive, which I keep hearing will be “next week”, Adwa will be changing over to a three-year diploma programme for Second Cycle teachers. Fortunately for me, my job involves in-service teachers so I am not really affected by any of this.

Anyway I know this blog/journal has been a little bit scattered and rambly. So I will take it as a sign and put myself to bed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yesterday we visited Tsion Elementary School. I walked into the classroom and wondered if I had landed in the wrong country. There was a carpet on the floor and children were sitting on it. This was the first class I had seen with such a thing. We stayed to observe the lesson. With each student-centred moment, I was in a constant state of anxiety – would the teacher suddenly break into a lecture? But the entire lesson, albeit a rather simple Tigrinya alphabet identification and printing lesson, was student-centred active learning. (Words which I’ve heard more times here than ever at home, but this was the first time I’d seen them truly put into practice.) There was teacher modeling, group work, whole class practice, individual practice and ongoing assessment and correction. The teacher was patient and thorough, the children were engaged and talkative. And for us who complain about class sizes, it seems you can use a student-centred approach in a class of 45 grade ones!

The principal of this school had visited the town of Dessie last year, and brought back these great ideas and has begun to put them into practice. The cluster training programme at Dessie is about 6 years old, and it has been extremely successful, acting as a centre of excellence for primary education in Ethiopia. Would that we can be as successful here!

Many of you have asked about how the actual teacher training is going, and the disappointing answer is that it has not really started yet. … My actual title is Cluster Coordinator (not Trainer as I was told before I arrived), and while some training did take place last year, there were some difficulties with the organization and implementation. So myself and my co-coordinator, Tigistu, have been spending a fair bit of time visiting schools and conducting needs assessments and preparing and revising the annual plan. The first training, for school directors (principals) and woreda supervisors (woredas are like districts) will be this weekend, but Tigistu will be leading most of this training and my role is relatively minor. I will be doing Model Classroom trainings for teachers in a few weeks – how to set up your classroom for active learning, followed by trainings on Planning and Assessing and various subject-specific trainings. I will also be doing ELIP (English Language Improvement Programme) for teachers from Adwa Town schools every week starting in a couple of weeks. Right now, I’m keeping busy preparing for these things, and also providing ELIP for the academic staff at the TTC. It really seems like it takes a lot of time to do every little thing, and it’s also taken Tigistu and me a long time to get on the same page, which has been a bit trying for both of us.

In Ethiopia, the class size for First Cycle (grades 1 to 4) is meant to be under 50, and in most cases, especially in the urban/semi-urban places like Adwa, this seems to be respected. In rural areas, it’s a little bit more difficult. First Cycle teachers have had a Grade 10 education plus one year of teacher training. For Second Cycle (grades 5 to 8) teachers have Grade 10 plus 3 years and for secondary school, teachers have Grade 12 plus additional training. There is some flexibility here because there’s a shortage of teachers, so, for example, a teacher only trained for First Cycle may end up teaching Second Cycle. Teachers are generally not well-respected and of course, the First Cycle teachers are at the bottom of the barrel; most of them are teachers because they did not do well enough in the Grade 10 exams to go on to Grade 11; the best ones are trying to upgrade so they can move up and out of the First Cycle. When I tell people that I teach Grade One at home, I always feel like I have to add that primary school teachers are respected in Canada and that all teachers have a university degree.

One of the curious things about the education system here is that despite having a serious lack of respect for teachers, the expectations for them are, sometimes, unreasonably high. First Cycle teachers are expected to teach all the subjects, including Tigrinya (or the local language for the region), Amharic and English. This means that while many teachers can hardly speak English themselves, they are expected to teach it… well enough that by Grade 9 students are supposed to be so proficient in English that all subjects are taught in it. As if this wasn’t unreasonable enough (I’ve talked to Adwa teenagers and adults in English…it’s unreasonable!), the high schools have now been taken over by plasma.

What is plasma? Plasma underlines the fact that poverty in Ethiopia, and Africa in general, has far less to do with lack of money than with the way it is spent. In the past couple of years, millions of dollars have been spent equipping every high school classroom with a giant television screen (they call this plasma) and preparing video lessons for every single day of every class. Except for the screen the classrooms are practically bare. In theory, plasma might sound promising, high-tech, multi-media. In actual fact, teachers leave the classroom while the plasma is on, don’t use the teacher’s guide, don’t have the teacher’s guide, play three lessons at once, and provide no feedback or support for students.

And again, while in some ways the expectations are high for teachers, they’re so unreasonable that I think there is no real expectation that teachers will actually achieve them. A big example of this is that although all teachers are paid to teach a full day, they teach in shifts and only actually stay at school for their shift. It is very difficult to get teachers to work in any capacity or even engage in training outside of their shift, even though they are paid to be at work for the whole day. Granted, their working conditions are difficult and their pay is low, but it seems strange to have institutionalized a system where teachers are not doing what they are paid to do.

This is one of the difficulties that the cluster programme faces in providing training. Many teachers are resistant to coming to trainings unless they are paid a per diem, even if there are no real expenses for the per diem to cover, or if the training is taking place during their free shift, when they should be working. In Dessie, they have managed to overcome this but it has taken several years to create a culture where learning is recognized as a purpose in itself. In addition, for the rural schools, it is necessary to conduct trainings on the weekends as it is impossible for teachers to get to a training centre school and back to their school within a day because the schools are so isolated and far apart, and most teachers are traveling several hours by foot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I’m in a perpetual time and date fog, and it’s a very good thing the computer knows the date. The Ethiopian calendar is not the same as the calendar used in much of the western world. In the Ethiopian calendar it’s the 14th of Timkut, 1999. The system of telling time is also unique with 6:00 am being 12:00 in the morning, noon being 6:00, and the system starting again in the evening with 6:00 pm being 12:00 and 7:00 pm being 1:00. It’s relatively easy to get used to adding or subtracting 6 to tell the time. The trouble is in remembering to check whether it is Ethiopian time or European time, as some people, especially those who spend a lot of time with westerners like me, tend to switch between the two. It’s very easy to be invited for a meal at 6:00 and then wonder if you’re supposed to show up at lunchtime or dinnertime.

I went to Mekelle over the weekend. It was a holiday on Monday for Eid. It was strange to me that everyone took the day off even though hardly anyone here is Muslim; although the country as a whole is at least 30% Muslim. Ethiopians pride themselves of recognizing and honouring each others’ religious practices.

The bus ride to Mekelle takes about 7 hours, which is all about the condition of the roads and of the buses, as you could probably do it in less than four hours. I stayed with Jane and Geoff, a British VSO couple a bit younger than my parents. Mekelle is the regional capital of Tigray and it’s a very different place than Adwa. After beginning to think that Adwa is reasonably advanced, it was a shock to compare it to Mekelle. With only about double the population, it has all the amenities that Adwa doesn’t have: paved roads, bakeries, an incredible number of stores selling everything you’ll need – kitchen supplies, electronics, jewelry, that cheese wrapped in tinfoil – elegant hotels, cultural restaurants, sidewalks, and a bit of a European flavour; also a university (with 60 international professors), a hospital, and a school for the blind (apparently NOT a pleasant place).

There are 7 VSOs in Mekelle, as well as several volunteers through other organizations. We met an American family with four children. The husband is teaching Veterinary Science at the university and the wife is home-schooling the children, aged 5 to 11, one of whom is an Ethiopian boy they adopted. There’s a relatively large handful of expats that I’ve run into or heard about who have children with them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One of the many difficulties in accessing the internet
in Ethiopia is that dial-up here is way too slow for
the Blog programme I had planned to use, and for many
reasons it's taken me a long time to sort something
else out. At last, I'm halfway there! To see my
pictures, please go to

I'll try to send or upload my blogs in the next few
If you've emailed me and I haven't gotten back to you
yet, I'm sorry. I will try to do so soon. It's just
that it can take up to half an hour to access and
reply to one email, and that's when the internet is
working at all. But I'd still love to hear from you.

Thanks for your patience,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I don't know if it's accurate to say I'm adapting to life in Adwa. I think that really adapting takes a long time. But I am beginning to feel like this is my life, that my old life has been replaced at least for now, by this one. In very many ways, it's a nice life, not too different from the one back home. It underlines the fact that if you have money, Ethiopia is a nice place to live. And in Adwa Town, a town of about 60 000 people, there are most basic amenities - electricity (granted, it's out today, so this letter will end when my laptop battery runs out), running water, fairly modern buildings, supermarkets (okay, you would need about 40 "supermarkets" to fill one Loblaws, but my basic needs are met). My home, provided by the Teacher Training College is very nice and ridiculously big. I have running water, a hot water heater for the shower, a gas stove, a mini fridge, nice curtains, etc. My office at the TTC is similarly well-appointed, and I was thinking the other day that it would be easy to forget where I am.

Adwa is in Tigray Region, and is the home town of Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The President and many other government members also come from Tigray Region. So, it's probably not surprising that Tigray has received considerable amounts of government aid in recent years, leading to greater investment, construction projects, road-building, new schools, etc. I haven't been anywhere other than Addis yet, but from what I've heard, the standard of living here is likely a little higher than it is elsewhere.

This is not to say that life is easy in Adwa. It's easy for me, and for the little middle class. But there's still a large proportion of the population even in Adwa Town who are struggling. I would guess that most children's growth is stunted to some degree. There is HIV/AIDS. Some of the schools are in very bad shape construction wise. Most people walk everywhere they go.

The majority of the population of Ethiopia (85%) lives in the rural areas. I got a taste of this last week when we visited two of the over 50 schools that we are meant to service that are in rural areas. Even in Tigray, rural means poor. The schools in the rural areas are very hard to reach. The roads are not roads. Most children need to walk several hours to get to school, and often don't go to school because they're needed to help on the farm. The children are often small, although when I visited a Grade 3 class I was surprised by how big the children were, until I realized that most of them were well into the double digits, as a result of starting school late, and repeated failures.

My computer's beeping and wants to be recharged.

I went for a walk and came back to find that the power was back on. It's very hard, with my easy life, to get enough exercise. I live less than five minutes walk from the College, so I don't get exercise walking to work. I'm not sure if I'll ever feel comfortable going running here, with the dogs and everyone staring at me anyway. And of course, there's no gym or anything of the sort. So I'm trying to go for a walk everyday. Sometimes it's hard to make myself go out, knowing that I'm going to be faced with calls of "Ferenji", "Money, Money" and considerable broken English. But at least on my own street, this seems to be getting a bit better as the people get used to seeing me.

What I had wanted to say is that there are a lot of very good things about Ethiopia, some of which are unique and others of which are common to many developing countries. Fresh, unprocessed food; a slower pace of life; an active life; friendliness and neighbourliness and the security they bring so that it's safe for children to play in the street; children being considered responsible contributing members of the family; coffee ceremony; clean air; low traffic; pink mountains; fields of teff; religious harmony among Muslims and Orthodox Christians; almost no TV; everyday exercise; fasting days when everything is vegetarian.

How do you raise the standard of living and at the same time preserve the good qualities of Ethiopian life? I've been thinking, for example, of the roads to the rural areas. If they were improved and the rural areas opened up, which I know would take years, what will be the impact on traffic, air quality, farming, HIV/AIDS transmission rates, the slow pace of life? Would the faults of our Western lifestyle be replicated here? Or what is the ultimate impact of improvements to the education system, or of increasing access to electricity and communication technologies?

But more than 15% of children die before they reach their fifth birthday. Do the costs of poverty outweigh any costs of development? Can development happen without all its negative consequences?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Still writing at home.

I am working for the Adwa Teacher Training College as In-Service Cluster Coordinator. The Cluster programme is being established throughout Ethiopia and is basically a cascade model where schools are geographically grouped into clusters; training is provided to Key Teachers at these schools, and these teachers are meant to share their what they've learned with their colleagues. Adwa TTC is responsible for training First Cycle teachers (Primary - Grades 1 to 4) for 9 schools in the town of Adwa and over 50 schools in the surrounding rural areas.

Over the past few days, I've been meeting with my training colleagues/counterparts at the College to try and sort out our plans for training for this year. It has been a bit of a frustrating process for all of us, but I think finally we're converging towards a common understanding. Patience and willingness to change have been exercised on both sides.

Yesterday we visited two schools in and around Adwa. Cluster training started last year, and the results were quite impressive. In almost all the classes we visited, it was obvious that the teachers were trying to put the students into groups instead of rows, the walls were decorated with charts, and there was a hint of active learning. Ademalekah School in Adwa Town was particularly nice; Bete Yohanis School on the outskirts was admittedly quite rundown and the classrooms were very dark and small, but even so the teachers and students appeared keen, and all the classrooms we visited were striving to be model classrooms. (Model classroom is the name given to classrooms that are set up and decorated in a way that's meant to support active learning. I'll write more on this soon, but I'm beginning to suspect that many classes are adopting the trappings of model classrooms but are finding it harder to adopt the actual principles of active or student-centred learning.)

Today we decided to combine a visit to Axum, the historical centre of the Aksum/Axum Empire, with a visit to two rural schools that were meant to be on the way. Up until now, if I've been surprised it's been more because the level of development was greater than I expected. Today, that changed. I'm beginning to get a sense of what rural means, and the huge difference between life in rural and urban or even semi-urban communities. The two schools we visited today are not the most isolated and yet, after leaving the main road, it took us close to an hour to get to each school, navigating narrow, rocky trails through bush, mountain and even over a stream. We only made it because we had a four-wheel drive, and because our driver is amazing. The roads are probably easier to travel by foot than by car, and I'm not sure we could drive it at all during the rainy season. My head is still jiggling from the drive through those mountain roads. Now that I've had a glimpse of rural roads, I'm feeling a bit of dread about all those schools we have to reach.

At one school (I can’t remember the name right now), the teachers have to walk from Axum, at least a one and a half hour walk each way. At Maiwoney School, there's a teacher's residence on the school site which is good especially because many of the teachers are very young and are often not from the local area; and if they lived in Axum it would take hours to walk to school. I took a picture of the home shared by two of the male teachers. It's a single room the size of a small bedroom, with two stone beds built into the wall, and it serves as storage, dining room and bedroom for two. I don't think there was electricity in the rooms, at any rate it was very dim. Even by the standards of my Ethiopian colleagues, this home was quite small; I'm not sure if the picture I took accurately reflects its size and misery. The teachers were friendly and kind anyway.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday evening, I'm writing on my offline laptop at home, in the hope that someday, somehow, I will be able to make an internet connection that is fast enough to set up my blog. This internet situation, along with the phone situation (I don't have one) is more frustrating than I had expected. Adwa has had internet access for about two months (it's very slow dial-up - there are only a handful of places in the country that have anything other than dial-up). If I haven't responded to your emails yet, it's because it takes about 10 minutes to get into my email, another ten to open one message, another ten to get the reply screen and another ten to send the reply. This may sound like an exaggeration, but in fact, it's more likely an underestimate. But please do keep the emails coming. I am quite desperate to stay connected to the rest of the world, and will manage it somehow.

I arrived in Adwa on Wednesday and was picked up at the airport by Fiseha, the dean of Adwa Teacher Training College (TTC). The drive through the mountainous countryside from Axum to Adwa was very beautiful, and I can't wait to do it again soon. My landlady greeted us with the traditional coffee ceremony. This was a celebratory ceremony with flowers strewn on the floor, but the regular coffee ceremony with incense and often popcorn is a part of the day for most people. Over about ten minutes, the raw coffee beans are roasted and then ground and filtered. At coffee shops you can have coffee with milk, which is heaven, but at coffee ceremony it's just a tiny cup of very strong coffee with lots of sugar, which is starting to grow on me. Ethiopia is the place where coffee originated, and it really is the best coffee and I've been sucked in - from being a very irregular coffee drinker to one or two (tiny but strong) cups a day.

My accommodations are very nice. My landlady has provided housing for many of the international volunteers (VSO and other) at the college. It's less than a five minute walk to the TTC. Extremely large, the top two floors of a three floor building, my landlady, her son and her cousin living on the first floor, it's typical African meets Western (spacious, sparse and secure). It's quite luxurious with a shower with electric water heater, a full gas cooker (of which I have a rather irrational fear), and typical lacy flowery bed covers, and, so I'm not lonely, cockroaches - a small cockroach population is to my mind unavoidable and more a sign of life than of dirt, and fortunately due to the slight altitude, they're the medium-sized variety. It's very noisy with dogs barking and mysterious doors shutting all night; probably not worse than the streetcars on Kingston Road, I just need to get used to it. My landlady, Furwaini, is very nice and has been very helpful. Her brothers and sisters are all Canadian citizens living in Ottawa. Her English is pretty good, which doesn't help my Tigrinya but probably does help my sanity. She's helped me hire a maid, which is kind of expected, and also rather necessary for things like laundry which is of course more time-consuming than throwing it in the machine. I also have a guard, more for employment-generating than security purposes, as the broken glass-topped stone fence and gate are quite effective, and Adwa really is a safe place.

In contrast to Addis, where the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict almost seemed like a non-issue, here there are signs of it everywhere. Furwaini's husband is Eritrean and he was taken away by force about six years ago, I think before her son was born, and she hasn't heard from him since. (Her siblings in Canada contacted his family in Eritrea and they haven't heard from him either. No one knows if he is in prison or what). One of the College drivers was living in Eritrea until the war and then was forcibly repatriated along with his Eritrean wife. Last night we went to dinner at the Holiday Hotel and met men from the UNMEE (UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea) whose task it is to demine the border areas. They were working on Mount Soleda, the small mountain that overlooks Adwa, for the past couple of days. They travel around the border areas on both sides, spending a few days demining in each place. They were saying that conditions in Eritrea are not good, worse than here. The roads in Eritrea are worse than here (!) and so there are still a lot of landmines left over from the war. Here, most of the old landmines have been collected, but for some mysterious reason, new ones are still appearing, so they need to continue to revisit old places. The UNMEE men were all African, two or three white men from South Africa, one man from Mozambique and another from I'm not sure, maybe Kenya.

Adwa is a biggish town, bigger than I had expected after everyone (Ethiopians and volunteers) had warned me of how remote and isolate it is. The road from Axum is gravel, but once you get to Adwa there's one main paved road and the rest of the roads are gravel, some not very good. (I don't know if it's for job security or what but Ethiopian drivers seem to need to demonstrate that they can negotiate the most challenging, questionable feats of driving, driving through narrow alleyways, negotiating potholes, and swerving around construction sites, in order to drop a person off directly in front of their door instead of letting them walk ten extra steps.) There are not too many cars, and most are four-wheel drives belonging to institutions or businesses or the UN, rather than to individuals. Instead of cars, there are quite a few horse-drawn carts, and of course donkeys for carrying smaller loads. Most animals - cows, goats and sheep - look reasonably healthy, but the horses, at least those I've seen so far, are very miserable looking.

Like Addis, there are small huts next to great compounds like mine. There is poverty, but what I'e seen so far doesn't seem too severe. Most of the children look reasonably healthy, even if their clothing might leave something to be desired. And the children are really nice. In Addis, the children on the street, those who needed money, those who didn't, and even children who were barely old enough to walk, always had their hands out for money. Here, there was some of that in the central area yesterday, but today I met a lot of children on my way to and from work who just wanted to meet the ferenji (foreigner) and were very friendly and sweet, shaking and holding my hand and practicing their English. I haven't had time to walk around very much yet, and I really have been feeling a bit anxious about this because, as irrational as it may be, I hate being stared at and called ferenji and asked for money, but people, both children and adults have been very friendly, and I have gotten a little braver about saying Selaam (Hello) and Dehan deha/dehee (How are you?) so I'm feeling a little more comfortable, although I know the staring will always happen. Tomorrow is Market Day and Furwaini is going to go with me as it's my first time, so that will help.

It's a lot hotter here than Addis, and it can be quite tiring during the midday. Also, there are sometimes a lot of flies. Honestly, when Westerners see pictures of African children with flies crawling on them, it's true that there's severe poverty and disease, but the fact of the matter is, if you swish one fly away, another one's just going to take its place.

If you've made it this far, thanks so much for putting up with my rambling. I really do want to hear from you, especially if you have any questions, things you want to know more about, or things I've poorly explained, or if you have words of wisdom that will help me be a little more patient. Also, one thing I'm starting to discover is that what I think one minute, or one day, in a new culture and especially a developing country, will change the next minute, or the next day. With love from Ethiopia, Rebecca

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm nearing the end of my time in Addis and I wanted to show you some pictures of Addis and write a bit more about it before I head off to Adwa. In Addis for the in-country training, I’m a bit of a tourist and I find it hard to take pictures I’m happy with. Taking pictures of people I don’t know is not always safe or respectful, especially when I’m ultimately using the picture to show how poor their country is. And also, because I don’t know them there may be a context to the picture that’s getting lost. At any rate there are a few pictures here that I hope will show you a bit about Addis; and for what it’s worth, the children gave their permission to have their pictures taken.
Last weekend we took a little hike up Mount Entoto, the small mountain peak overlooking Addis Ababa. You can see a picture that shows a part of Addis. It's a huge city of about 4 million people. Because most buildings are relatively low - not more than six or seven stories - it's very spread out. Addis is not very high - only about 2000 metres, but the altitude has still been felt by many of us, and we took the climb pretty slowly. It was a good chance to get out of the city and breathe some fresh air. Because diesel is cheap, almost all vehicles in Addis run on it, and there’s constant fumes and haze. As we’re ferenji (foreigners), a little group of boys excitedly accompanied us up the mountain; once up there another cluster of children watched us with curiosity. I took pictures of both groups, and I’m sure you can see a difference between the two - the one group hamming it up for the camera and the other group possibly not knowing what a camera was. The real extremes of poverty and luxury in Addis are actually much greater.
I'm also including pictures of the Meskel Celebration, and bonfire lighting at our hotel, on September 26. My birthday was celebrated twice, flowing into the Meskel Celebration. Meskel is one of those unique Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrations; it's supposed to honour the finding of the true cross, and that's about all I know. We went to a huge gathering at Meskel Square, and the performances were amazing.
You'll also see pictures of the view from the British Council office in the centre of Addis. I didn't get any pictures of the goats, sheep, donkeys and cows that are pastured in empty lots and highway medians and herded throughout the city, but they are numerous. You will see a picture of an aluminum crate. These are found throughout the city and are slept in by one or two people or even whole families. They are a step up from sleeping under a tarp.