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Ethiopia by E-mail

Subject: Hi everyone from Addis
Date: Sat, 5 Mar 2005 17:41:01 +0300
From: "James E. Rollin, Ph.D." <rollin@uic.edu>

We have had a pretty good week to end with. I was eating a piece of butterscotch candy on Saturday night and one of my crowns fell out. So I worried as to what we were going to do the rest of the weekend. We talked to Chris at Church (she is a VSO [Volunteer Service Organization] from England, equivalent to our Peace Corps.) who has had some dental work done here. So she gave us the name and number of her dentist. Then Jim called Ato Mamo at IFESH on Monday morning. He called Jim back and had the IFESH car with Getnet and Nigussie take us to the dentist at 2:30 PM. We got there and they charged us 30 birr just to see the dentist and after he successfully glued the crown back on it was another 100 birr so for about $15 US we got my crown back on. The dentist did say I should have it checked when I get home. So we wrote Shannon to asks her to make doctor, dentist and travel clinic appointments so we were set if we decide to come back in September. We have to finish the series of shots we both started at the travel clinic.

As I told you in the last note this was the week I was suppose to start volunteering at Gemini Trust. I am not a teacher but they wanted some one to talk to the students in English. So Tuesday afternoon Ruth called and said that Wednesday was a holiday so I was not to come. It was Victory at Adwa Day. The Ethiopians fought a battle at Adwa in the last 1800's against the Italians and won. So Jim checked and he did not have class either because of the holiday. So we stayed at home together. We did take a walk to a traditional cloth shop. They have beautiful material which, depending on the design, runs from 500 to 800 birr. It is enough to make a dress. They charge 100 birr to tailor the dress. Jim picked out some material that cost 700 birr and it would have been 800 birr for the dress to fit me that is with a matching shawl. So we are thinking about it. I am not sure I want to spend that much money for a dress that I am not sure I will wear very often. But then I think about it and it is only about $92 US so I guess that is not too bad. I was surprised at how little the tailor cost was. It is only $12 to have them make the dress. So I am not sure about a dress.

On Thursday I went to Gemini not knowing if any one would show up for my class in Conversional English. I had 9 students at 8:30 and 6 students at 9:30 and then in the afternoon 2 students and the librarian came to see if we could talk so she can practice her English. I told her anytime I did not have students and she was free we could talk. The day was really interesting for me. I had trouble understanding because they speak mostly Amharic and they had trouble understanding my English because in part they hear a lot of English from England. So we are learning together how to understand each other. They want more grammar than Ruth, Meron and I discussed and I told them I will try to work it out. They read English quite well but really don't know what the words mean. Their was a poster on the wall that said stop dumping waste in the river. I asked them if they knew what it meant. They said they were not sure what waste was. So we discussed that. I did not have a lesson plan because Ruth said just to talk about what they wanted to talk about. So we discussed families and I asks them what they did on the holiday the day before. I thought maybe there was something special that happened. But they told me they just did not have school and they did nothing special. They have told me a little about Ethiopia which I did not know and I am sure as the weeks go by I will learn more. They are very open and friendly. I asked what I should see in Ethiopia and Addis Ababa. They told me Lucy, Entoto Mountain and some of the other museums. If I am going outside of Addis they want me to go to Gonder, Axum and Lalibela. This is the northern historical area where the Amhara, the dominant group in Ethiopia is originally from. Although from what they said they have not been there. The students attend class and have 6 classes 45 minutes each. So they have a 4.5 hour day. The students who came in the morning go to school in the afternoon. They come to Gemini city bus and then have to take the bus back to their neighborhoods to go to school. They told me not to take that bus because it was too crowded and there were thieves on the bus. The 9th graders are getting ready to take there exams to see if they get to go to college. The 10th graders have already taken their exams and told me if you get above a 2.5 on the exam you go to college, if you get a 2.0 to 2.4 you go to technical school and if you get below that you are not going to school anymore. You only get to take the test once and whatever your score is that it your life. All exams are in English. They are taught in English except for Amharic class. But there are as many as 200 students in a class room. So I am learning a little Amharic and then I am going to have to figure out and stay ahead of the students and try to teach them some English. When talking to the libraian she loaned me a couple of English books one 9th grade and one 10th grade books titled English for Ethiopia. So I am studying this weekend. One of the students told me that he would bring his text book so I can see what they are studying. So we will see what happens and I will keep you informed. I am not a teacher but I guess any one can teach if they try hard enough.

Friday I did the laundry while Jim attended a conference about Children in Prisons in Ethiopia. The conference was suppose to be in English but everyone but Jim talked Amharic so Jim had a translator and the conference was in Amharic. They fed him lunch and he said it was informative and he is teaching Criminal Justice this month so it was useful to him.

Jim and Pat's Apartment I have attached a photo of our living room. I insisted that we do something about the Spartan living arrangements that Jim had. It is more of a home now. We bought the round mat at Gemini Trust. We bought the leather basket on the right and the fly swatter on the left on our trip to Bahar Dar and the Blue Nile Falls. Jim bought the rug at Sheromeda, the home of the Gamo weavers in Addis Ababa and the coffee pot at the open air market in an alley near the apartment.

Today, we went to Hope Enterprise to buy some ceramics. We took the minibus line taxi to the posta biet (post office) to mail a letter. Then we walked to the Ceramic shop of Hope Enterprises. Hope Enterprises is an NGO that works with street people and homeless people. They have several micro-enterprise operations to earn money for their clients. We got lost, we made a wrong turn and then an orthodox priest blessed us as we walked by and a young man named Daniel showed us how to get to the right place. He wanted to talk to us in English about going to the U.S.

Bye for now, Pat


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