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Ethiopia by E-mail

Date: Sun, 21 Nov 2004 11:33:48 -0600
From: "James E. Rollin, Ph.D." <rollin@uic.edu>

Things are going well, Nathan arrived & his Social Problems and Community Health class is going well. He had problems with his luggage. Two out of three checked bags did not show up for five days & when they arrived, a bag of electronic gadgets was missing. Nathan is staying at my place for the month he is teaching.

I am finishing correcting the final papers for my class and will start to work on field placements. I have also been asked to work with the administration on a review of the campus police force (a division of the Federal Police).

This weekend, we did chores early, some cleaning, sweeping up, and picked up laundry. Then Mogus & Yonas arrived, we went on our outing. First we went to the Gamo weaver's community along Entoto Rd. north of the U.S. Embassy. We took a lot of pictures. Mogus had been there before & some of the people there knew him. They took us into huge metal sheds that housed the weaving looms. The weavers were proud of their work & showed us many beautiful pieces of cloth. We took pictures and they wanted us to take pictures of all of them. Nathan bought some cloth & later arranged to have a shirt made from it at a local tailor shop.

The weavers are mostly men. We saw one woman weaving and we saw two children (boys) weaving. Mogus was part of a group of students that did a community assessment project for Alice's class and reported that in this community, weaving is men's work. The women go up the mountain to collect firewood to sell & use in the home. He said the women support & take care of the family and the men spend most of the money on themselves.

On the way up the mountain toward the churches, we saw the women carrying huge loads of fresh cut wood on their backs. They are small women who look smaller because they are bent over under heavy loads. The loads they carry are bundles about 2.5-3 feet in diameter & 6 feet long. I would estimate at least a hundred pounds.

We continued and went up to Entoto Kiddus Raguel church named for one of the messenger angels. There is a painting inside the church that depicts the angel coming down to bless the church with Emperor Menelik II. The church is Ethiopian Orthodox. The "sanctuary" was on the second floor and is an 8 sided structure. We were asked to take our shoes off to enter the church. We went in and there is a corridor around that forms a circle around the central place for the "holy of holies" the representation of the arc of the covenant and tablets of the 10 commandments. Only the priests are allowed in there and the arc is brought out, carried by the priests on holy festival days.

The inner walls of this corridor are canvas that has been painted with pictures depicting the history of Christianity and the Ethiopian church.

The church building is about 120 years old and is built on a ledge carved out of the mountain. After touring the church, we were taken to the original older church, a small cave carved into the limestone. The churches are not large enough for the whole congregation to gather inside so many people stand outside. Services are conducted in Geez, the ancient language of Ethiopia and precursor to Amharic and Tigrinya. All participants except the infirm stand during the whole 2-3 hour service. They have prayer staffs that they lean against, the staffs have a cross at the top. The inside of the church is divided in two with curtains separating the halves and the women go in one door while the men go in another door and they do not share the same room.

After touring the church, we went out to a private park about halfway between the Entoto Kiddus Raguel church and the Entoto Maryam (St. Mary's) church. This area had a beautiful look over Addis Ababa and the north side of the mountain as well. The owner said it was the military outlook built during Menelik IIs time when Menelik's palace was built next to Entoto Maryam. It is clearly a strategic point that controls both sides of the mountain. There was a tower that may still be in use. We took a lot of pictures there. We ate a picnic lunch, Mogus & Yonas had brought firfir (injera mixed with wat sauce).

The man (Daniel? Asnake) that owned the place said he would like to build a restaurant there. He was also an artist and has a small art gallery featuring the work of several artists. His art had strong religious interfaith symbolism.

Then we went on to Entoto Maryam. The museum was crowded and very expensive so we did not go in. We just went up on the patio of the church. It is another 8 sided church like most of the Ethiopian Orthodox churches. The church sits above and looks out over the original palace of Menelik II the founder of Addis Ababa. There I met Daniel Gebremichael. He had graduated from Sociology and Social Anthropology at Addis Ababa University & had had Andergachew and Seyume (two people working with us on this project) as professors. He told me a hard luck story of hurting his back and being unable to work. He had several letters showing he had worked as a social worker for several agencies and NGOs. He apologized for asking for money & I told him I gave my money to the new school. He was happy to hear about the school and very encouraging. Nathan invited him to come to visit the class and he said he would like to come so he may come to class Wednesday when Seyume teaches Nathan's class.



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