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Ethiopia by E-mail

Subject: Hi from Addis Ababa
Date: Sun, 17 Apr 2005 11:01:11 +0300
From: Pat Rollin

I had a sinus problem this week so I did not go to Gemini on Wednesday. So on Thursday when I got back I had a lot of questions from students as to what was wrong and if I went to the hospital. I told them I just stayed home and rested.

I went to Gemini Trust and everything there is in a mess. They have been kicked off the main site where the store and Ruth's office was. The government is going to lease the land to some one to build apartments. As Mickie said they would be for rich and or foreigners not regular Ethiopians. They are moving temporarily all offices to either Gem TV or the Youth Center. Except the T-shirt which is being moved to the site where they are putting the shipping containers and all the corrugated steel which they are now using on the main site. They are renting two cranes and trucks to move them. Ruth is on her way back to England on Sunday because of eye problems to have health tests starting Tuesday and Dr. Carmella is in Baltimore so it has been a real mess. They found out that they have been squatting on the land for 20 + years because the only file they could find in the government office was for a 6 month lease to Dr. Carmella for Gemini Trust. The government does not have to help them because of this but the people at the government offices are being very helpful so they will have a site to store stuff until they figure out what to do. I guess from Ruth they had about a 3 day notice to get off. They did get a letter in January but the last time they were told something about a site change on another place it took over a year for anything to happen so I guess they were not too worried until the last notice. They are going to rent a hall for now to house the dance stuff but they are having to stop a few things they were doing until they can figure things out. So yesterday at class every time a truck pulled in all the students were out helping unload. They had dug up a place of land in front of the medical office for a garden which they had not planted yet. So all the male students were out moving big rocks back on where they dug up so they could get to a little storage place in the back. That means no garden for now. The only good thing is I was going to go over to the store and now it will be at the Youth Center. I need to get a few things for gifts.

I was talking to 5 boys after class. They were asking questions and writing the questions on the blackboard. The questions were about how I live here. They asked who did my laundry. When I told them that I did it, they were surprised. Foreigners don't do their own laundry here. They asked if I had a washer machine & they were surprised when I told them no, I do it by hand. They asked if I took it to the river to wash. Many homes are in compounds where there is a central spigot and everyone in the compound shares the outhouses and water supply and they pay for water. They assumed I did not have running water in my home because most of them don't. They go to the river or other place where there is running water to do their laundry. There are fresh water springs all over the place here, some of them are hot springs.

They were asking me about the calendar and the difference between their calendar and the European one. They were telling me that they are always 7 days behind our date. I said no that it changed because of the months in our calendar where not always the same. So I was figuring out which months had 30 days and which had 31 days when they finally understood we have the same amount of days just in a different set of months. So I am going to get Jim to bring home a calendar so next week we can all look at it. One of the boys asked me after I had explained the months to make sure he got it written down right so I had to look at his notebook to see if he had the right months with the right amount of days. I know the students are learning something because when one of the boys asks me how old I was two of the other boys told them before I said anything. They had asked in a class the first day how many children I had and how old they were and I told them then they wanted to know how old I was and I told them. So some of them remembered. When you exchange information you have to be willing to tell them the answer to any question you ask because they turn the questions back to you. I have not wanted to ask any questions that would be improper in Ethiopia so I tell them if it is not a question I should ask to please tell me. But the students are very open and want to learn about America and they want me to understand about their lives.

I talked to Thomas about Abrico closing and he told me that they can rent the space that Abrico was using for 90 thousand birr a month so he thinks that is why Abrico moved out. He thought it was very expensive and was not sure that it was worth that much. I have not found out where Thomas our contract cab driver lives but I am sure he is probably staying in the type of housing my students live in. A room they use for everything for about 100 birr a month with the kitchen, water and other things shared with the others in the compound. Although being a contract cab driver is a pretty good job in Addis. So he may have a very small apartment with his wife and daughter.

This week they have closed the main entrance to the compound and opened one on the other end of the compound. We have not found out why. We think maybe it has to do with the building at the end of the drive they have been working on since we arrived. We have been very careful when we leave the compound because they sometimes drop stuff off the side of the building. They do not barricade off construction sites so if you are going that way, you walk through. Maybe someone got hurt or they are going to start taking the fence down around the constructions we will have to see.

We went to the Mercato with Yonas this morning. It was in a different area then Jim and I have been before. It was the part where the local people shop. The Mercato is a very busy place and the workers move a lot of items and products on their heads and in their arms. Some of the areas we where in they can not take a car or truck too. Unlike the built up parts of the Mercato where the buildings are finished and the roads are wide. Here the alleys are narrow, and unpaved with rock and mud. The stalls are sheet metal, corrugated metal, and tarps. We saw some beautiful baskets and other things and we bought a lot of yarn at one stall. I am still making shawls and trying to make a couple of bedspreads for the spare room. Then we took Yonas to lunch and came home. Jim is now taking a nap.

For those who would like to see it on the web, Gary Grzebienik has been doing a good job of editing and posting the newsletters on the web on the SWEEP site at: http://www.aboutsweep.org/etjournal.html. You can pass that site along to friends as well.

If you would prefer to get the newsletter on the web & not receive e-mail, let me know & I will take you off the newsletter list.

We talked to Shannon and my mother yesterday. They are both doing well. I guess I will close for now.

Pat and Jim


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