Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday morning, September 12, 2007
Happy New Millenium!

Today is Meskerem 1, the first day of the new year, and this year, the first day of the year 2000 in the Ethiopian calendar. Even with increasing Western influence, everyone follows the Ethiopian calendar and clock here. Yesterday was New Years’ Eve. There were rumours of a march in the town; the college had even prepared a bus, but nothing transpired of this. I went for a walk anyway, and found if nothing else, lots of honking buses and line taxis. There were also boys going house to house singing for money, a tradition along the lines of trick-or-treating. A couple of weeks ago, girls and women did a similar thing, surrounding people and singing and dancing.

I spent last night with Freweyni, my landlady’s, family, having coffee ceremony and, now that she has a fancy television, watching the Millennium celebrations in Addis Abeba. Today and tomorrow I have a few invitations for New Year’s lunch, and I’m particularly looking forward to it because today happens to be Wednesday, fasting day, so people will be cooking their best vegan food.

Usually, holidays seem to last only the one day and then people are back to work, but I guess because this is the Millennium, and because the whole country is involved - even those regions that are a little less thrilled about being part of Ethiopia are keenly celebrating the Millennium – and both Muslims and Christians are celebrating (although the date is rooted in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity), the government has declared a holiday for the rest of the week. They only did this on Monday though, so it is a bit of a frustration not to be able to do any of the purchasing and painting and preparations for the Inclusive Kindergarten that we had planned.

We did hire our two new assistants yesterday. The outdoor play area is coming along. And our teacher has been busy making materials. We have also got some funding from some people in Canada, as well as a local textile factory (which is great, because it also sends the message that Ethiopians can take care of each other locally without always looking to outside funders!) So we should be ready for the first day of school in a week and a half.

With my cluster colleagues, I’ve made up the plan for the cluster programme for this year and it’s been approved (and then revised and approved again when the budget came out much lower than expected). Once school gets under way, we’ll be busy visiting schools and conducting workshops at the school cluster level rather than at the college – which means lower cost and higher participation.

Meanwhile, VSO has provided some money to build toilets and rooms where girls can have access to menstrual pads etc. because the lack of facilities means that many girls just don’t come to school when they have their periods. When I visit schools, I don’t tend to pay enough attention to toilets (even when schools do have them, they’re the type that you don’t want to see or smell) so I’ve been carelessly assuming that all the schools in Adwa town had toilets, and was a little surprised the other day to find out that there are several that don’t. So deciding which schools should get toilets will be one of the projects for the new year.

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