Three Typical Days in Ethiopia August 5, 2013Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.
On the ride home from Ambo tonight, I was thinking about how the last couple days have felt pretty uneventful (other than the 2 MAJOR things that happened to me today… I’ll get to that later). But then I started going through my days and realized what uneventful” meant.
MONDAY: Make a decision to go on a 1 km hike to a waterfall and leave 10 minutes later. Carry Isabelle up a mountain, and then have Brooklyn fall asleep on my back on the way down. See baboons and “lemurs” (they look like lemurs but apparently lemurs are only in Madagascar… the country, not the movie) in their natural habitat. Have GREAT conversations with Katie as she champions her way down the mountain (she broke her pelvis in March, and it was her idea to go hiking. She’s a CHAMPION). Eat a “biscuit” for lunch that is so big that it makes me never want to eat bread again. Hike for about 3 km and then turn around, deciding that the “1 km hike” to the waterfall was a lie. Get back to the car and talk to people who tell us the waterfall is actually 5 km away (But really, it was AMAZING to be in the woods and walk around for a while. The kids might have a 2nd opinion).
TUESDAY: Teach English at Burayu and then hang out until 2:30 with the kids. Learn Ethiopian card games (and have kids steal cards out of my lap when I’m not looking… looks like Americans aren’t the only ones who know how to cheat), master counting to 10 in Amheric and Afonoromo (and then wake up Weds. morning and forget everything), and play hand games with the girls. Gratefully accept the bread and tea we are offered because it’s the best tea ever, and we’re craving bread (remember how on Monday we decided we were never eating bread again? Never say never). Get to lunch at 3:05 and have the restaurant re-open (lunch hour ends at 3:00) so that the 4 starving forengies can eat.
WEDS: MAJOR LIFE EVENT #1 – RUN OUT OF GUMMY VITAMINS. Go to Ambo (HALLELULIAH. It felt so good to be back). Get my first “run and jump into my arms yelling ‘Marrrrrrnie’” hug. Get to have a REAL conversation with Brandie over Google chat. Teach women how to use a ruler and how to cut straight. Help varnish 8 necklaces that one of the guardians made BY HERSELF last week (I was a proud momma). Play soccer with a bunch of hooligans that I LOVE (Kumsa, Amasisa, Teressa, Hundaol and Yadissa) – they’ve become my “Ambo Crew” ( their Sunday School teacher was the one who called them hooligans. I just adopted the name because it fit VERY well). Attempt to teach English and collect “All About Me” forms from the SVO kids… “Utter chaos” is an understatement. Eat shiro at the Ambo hotel and be relieved because it’s what I’ve been craving for 2 weeks. Get to talk to Kes Cimidii for the 2 hour ride back to Burayu. MAJOR LIFE EVENT #2 – HAVE MY FIRST HOT SHOWER IN 3 WEEKS.
After I really thought about it, I realized “uneventful” might not be the best description of the last 3 days. They’ve been 3 days filled with love, surprises, challenges, frustrations, prayer, friendships, amazing conversations, pure joy, and tears that threaten to come out at the thought of leaving. They’ve just been 3 typical days in Ethiopia.
p.s. sorry if I got your hopes up about major life events. Eating the last gummy vitamin was a really big deal though.
Below are some pictures, because I actually have enough internet to upload them!
Day 40(ish) July 5, 2013Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.
Saturday was our first official adventure day with a local!
To start the day off, we took our FIRST TAXI!!! At first I thought Brittany and I would be able to figure out the taxi system to get places by ourselves…. Most definitely not. To catch the taxi, you stand on the side of the road and wait for one to pull up. You have to push past all the other people who are standing next to you in order to get INTO the taxi, and then you crawl in the van that seats 12 but holds 20. There’s a guy who “operates” the door, and the taxi starts moving as he hops in, and you’re usually up to a decent speed before he closes the door. Then he starts collecting $$ from everyone as they tell him where they want to go. We definitely would have gotten ripped off if Meti weren’t with us, so she was the “forengie protector” of the day. Most people were REALLY nice, and they laughed at me when I tried to speak Amheric. One guy even gave me lessons during one of our taxi rides! We ended up taking about 10 taxi’s that day – because they’re “group taxi’s”, each one only goes between a couple locations. So it’s kind of like a mini-bus system, but you get to tell the driver where to stop in between the locations. Apparently a “private” taxi is 300 birr/ride: we made a maximum of 6 birr/person. P.s. “Sost sou” means “we are 3” (that’s what you tell the $$ collector when you pay in order to pay for 3 people).
Stop #2 was at the lion zoo! Meti asked last weekend what my expectations of Africa were, and I told her I didn’t have any. Except when I picture Africa I don’t picture cities, I picture safari land and lions. Somehow we got across that I’d never seen a lion (I forgot about the ones at the Atlanta zoo), but she got really excited and said she would take me the Lion Zoo! It’s exactly what it sounds like – a zoo with the main attractions of lions. And then about 10 monkeys, and this old man bird (his hair was graying and everything). I told him he was ugly and I think he got offended because he squaked at me, so I took his picture to make him feel better. The zoo here was a LOT different than the Atlanta zoo (go figure). We walked around this one in 20 minutes max, and there was zero effort to even make it look like the animals were in their natural habitats. The lions just sat in cages all day with a little room to pace – some of the monkeys had a tree to climb on, but that’s about it. If I were an animal, I would DEFINITELY rather be American.
Stop #3: Addis Ababa University! We couldn’t go in because we didn’t have student badges, but we took a picture in front of the “Addis Ababa Institute of Technology”. Other than not having the CRC, a dining hall that looks like Hogwarts, and a whistle that blows every hour, I’m pretty sure it’s just like Georgia Tech.
Stop #4: LUNCH!!! We stopped at a restaurant across from the university, and it might have been my favorite part of the day. Mainly because I felt like a local because it’s where a lot of the college students eat! And we got to eat lunch traditional style (aka with our hands and all off the same plate). It was a lot of fun. Weirdest thing ever happened to me – I was CRAVING Shiro (mashed up beans). Like, that’s all I wanted to eat. I think Ethiopianization is happening faster than I thought.
Stop #5: Mt. Entoto! Some Americans I met at the international school told me a lot of people go running/walking on Mt. Entoto, and Meti had never been before, so we decided to give it a try. It was kind of a bust. I don’t know what she was expecting, but she’s definitely not a hiker. It took us 4 taxi’s just to get up the mountain, and then when we got to the top it was just a little country town in the mountains. I LOVED it, and I hope I’ll get some time to come back and bring a book and just walk around/sit on top of the mountain and read. The view must have been beautiful, but I think I was the only one who wanted to hike to find it, so we kind of just walked around for a bit and then went back down the mountain. It was really cool to see the rural community that was just functioning by itself. There was a beautiful Orthodox church on top of the hill, so Brittany and I might try to go back one day and explore a bit.
Stop #5.5 Sugar cane! On the way home we passed somebody selling sugar cane, so we decided to try it. I’ve seen a lot of kids eating it, but it’s WAY harder than they make it look! You have to rip off the skin with your teeth, and I couldn’t even bite into it! We got lots of funny stares and chuckles when people saw forengies trying it in the middle of the street… whoops.
Stop #6: Waiting for our ride home. We waited for Katie to come pick us up at a café, and Brittany and I decided we would try to be different. I ordered the “peanut tea” and she got the “pineapple tea”. We thought it would be tea flavored with peanut/pineapple. Turns out it’s just hot water with flavored powder in it. Mine tasted exactly like hot, thinned out peanut butter. It was really good at the time, but I don’t think it’ll happen again.
Random Ethiopian moment: We went to a traditional restaurant for lunch yesterday, and I was walking down the stairs and this ram stuck his head out at me. I thought it was really funny that they would be keeping a lamb inside a seemingly abandoned building. When I was taking a picture, Kes Cimdii walked up, laughed, and said “Tibs!!” (Tibs is their traditional food). All of the sudden, the lamb in the building wasn’t so funny anymore :[
Overall it was an AMAZING day. I loved getting to know Meti better and was so thankful for the way she just laid aside her day so that she could show us around the city. It was really good to get out and feel like we were taking advantage of Ethiopia, and I loved getting to see things from a local’s perspective.
Day 37 (okay, so I’ve gotten a little off track) June 27, 2013Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.
The past 17 days have been FLOWN by – my days are filled with guardian self-help groups, home visits, teaching English to the school children, and praying over what the next step is going to be. We divided the team a little so that we could better invest in each site (Burayu and Ambo). Rudy and I are committed to Ambo, while Katie and Brittany are sticking with Burayu. The only thing this really changed in my schedule is that now, every Weds. and Friday, Rudy and I make the 2 hour drive to Ambo. It’s a long commute, but I LOVE Ambo, and since it’s not really safe for me to stay there by myself all week, it’s the best option. It’s also nice because I feel like I have more of a responsibility. When it’s the 4 of us working together on the same thing, it’s hard to take ownership over what we’re doing. When it’s just Rudy and I, however, I have a lot more responsibility. I’ve gotten to teach English by myself a couple times (a few without a translator… that’s always fun). We’re having all the kids complete “All About Me” sheets (like the ones that most people do in kindergarten). We’re teaching them how to say professions, what they love to do, their favorite foods and colors, and how to say how old they are. A lot of them know how to say “I am ___ years old”, but when it comes to bringing it up in a conversation (i.e. if you say “How old are you?”) most of them will say “I am fine, how are you?” So it’s been cool walking through conversations with them and teaching them to understand the question as well as ask it themselves. It’s also a good opportunity for the teachers to see a different style of teaching: when we’re teaching, we try to do different things (bring kids up front, have them write words on the board, do fun games that relate to the activities, etc.) so that the teachers can learn different ways to teach material. It’s funny teaching English to the kids because you see the teachers writing down the phrases we’re teaching on their own hands so they can remember them. One thing I’ve noticed is how important it is that people know English. I used to HATE forcing people to speak English because I felt like I was making them conform to who I was instead of bringing myself to their “level”. While I’m still trying to show as much effort in Amheric as I can, I’ve also seen how important it is that people know English. Most of the working-class people can speak decent English. Amheric (and Afon Oromo, the local language) are ONLY spoken in Ethiopia, which means that if a person doesn’t know English (or another language), they can only do business in Ethiopia. University is also taught in English, so in order for a person to get the most out of her education, English is pretty important. By not knowing basic English, it also limits the professional opportunities a person has. So, I’ve made it my goal to teach as much as I can while I’m here.
Guardian self-help groups have also been really cool to be a part of. The goal of the program is to empower the women instead of just give them things. It is a 5 year program, and the point is to help the guardians become self-sufficient and provide for their families at the end of the 5 years. It’s brought up some conflict lately, because there are a LOT of aid programs in Ethiopia that just give to their participants. Some of the guardians have questioned why they aren’t receiving the same benefits as the people in these programs. The coolest thing I’ve seen so far is watching other guardians speak on behalf of the program. Instead of us answering these questions, other guardians will stand up and defend the program. They talk about how it’s investing in the FAMILY and it’s about showing the guardians that they CAN be successful and they HAVE worth, instead of simply accepting their social status in life. It’s teaching them to be independent instead of dependent on outside aid programs. It’s a powerful vision, but there’s also a lot more room for failure. We’re bringing a group of people together who have worked basic jobs all their lives in order to scrape by and teaching them what it means to have self-worth. We’re walking them through coming together to form a vision and a business plan, and to THINK about every step of the process. We’re leading them to realize what they’re capable of through their implementation of a business plan, but it’s hard because there’s always the chance that the business can fail. And when their “self-confidence training” is so closely tied to that business, it’s CRUSHING when things go wrong. A couple groups are at that stage right now, but it’s cool because this is the most important part. To show the guardians that failure is not the end and that “speed bumps aren’t stop signs”. Especially in Burayu where 3 out of 9 groups have started business, there is a lot of tension between groups because things aren’t coming together perfectly. BUT it’s cool to see them start to overcome these obstacles and see the importance in relying on others instead of trying to do everything themselves. It’s challenging and it’s frustrating and there’s no such thing as “solving for x” when it comes to changing people’s lives, but it’s possible.
What I’ve learned: I don’t know everything. Actually, I don’t know very much at all.
What I’ve learned about myself: I’m terrified of failure (I figured that out a long time ago, but I’m still realizing it now). We’re feeding these guardians hope and helping them start these businesses and building their self-esteem, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking “what happens when all of this fails”? I’m meeting new people every day and I have to force myself to pursue friendships with them because I KNOW that I would rather form a friendship than avoid it because I was scared of being rejected. So it’s been a fun fight figuring out how to combat that fear of failure by focusing on the hope of something greater.
Skills I’m acquiring: I’m now an expert “punch buggy” spotter. My hand-eye coordination has significantly increased since I became a mass-murder of mosquitos. AND I can now successfully eat with no silverware without making a mess.
Day 20 June 11, 2013Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.
The Sanctuary team just left after an awesome 4 days in Ambo (another city outside of Addis)! The team was great – when they first got here, Brittany and I had no idea what our role would be for the week. The team was made up of 2 high schoolers, 4 college students, and 3 adults. They were all from the same church and had gone through some pre-trip training together, so we wanted to be careful not to interfere with team chemistry. Everyone turned out to be INCREDIBLY welcoming, and they did an amazing job at taking us in as their own (We got team t-shirts and everything). It was really fun getting to know a group of people in Ethiopia who I can still maintain a relationship with when I go home. It was also cool to see the impact that short term mission teams can have. Lately, I’ve developed the opinion that short term mission trips do more harm on the country than good. I made a point to talk to some Ethiopians (students, teachers, and pastors) about what they thought of Americans coming in for a short time, and I was surprised to hear that they LOVED it. The teachers learn a new style of teaching, the pastors learn a new style of preaching, the kids get to be loved like CRAZY for a week, and everyone gets to experience what it actually means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m interested to see how the after-math plays out, but I was really surprised (in a good way) with the impact that one group could have in a week.
Anywho… here’s a summary of the past couple days!
Thursday/Friday: No one was excited to be in Ambo. Burayu is “home” for a lot of the team (most of the people on the team had come at least once, and each of them had some connection to a sponsored family in Burayu). Because Ambo was started a year after Burayu, we haven’t had as much time to invest there. So naturally, the team wanted to stay with Burayu for the week because that’s where they were most connected. So Thursday was tough for them.
BUT the guardian meetings on both Thursday and Friday were INCREDIBLE. In both meetings, when we asked for feedback, at least 4 guardians stood up and shared their stories of victories and frustrations with the program. The coolest part was on Friday – one of the women stood up and expressed concern that the program wasn’t providing a valuable education for the kids (there’s been some trouble with the government getting the school workbooks). Before Rudy (Dr. Gleason) could respond, another woman stood up and said that her daughter had been to a different government school. She switched schools so that she could participate in the program and her daughter was very challenged in the new school. A year later, her daughter was at the top of her class, and it was because her mom had supported her and played a part in her education outside the classroom. It was just really cool to hear the women encouraging each other with their success stories – it was incredible evidence of the transformation that the program is having on entire families. One of our biggest challenges has been getting the guardians to open up, so the sheer fact that they would stand up and voice their opinion, let alone encourage each other, was awesome to see.
We also got to go on a couple home visits. For the most part, the houses in Ambo are smaller and more crowded than the ones in Burayu. One lady who we visited paid 100 burr/month for rent… that’s a little more than $5/month for a 1 room house made of mud. She started crying when she told us what a struggle it was to pay rent – she sells injera (traditional “bread”) and weaves baskets, but she still struggles to pay each month. When we asked her what she thought about the program, her attitude changed from desperation to hope. She talked about what an incredible community she had gained, the skills she was learning from the training, and how hopeful she was that she would be able to transform her life through the business she would start with the other guardians. It was REALLY neat to see.
Favorite Story: On Thursday when we took out the toys to play with (soccer balls, beach balls, and jump ropes) the kids BOMBARDED us. I’m talking kids pushing each other down to get balls and practically strangling one another to try to get their hands on a jump rope. On Friday we decided we were going to organize the kids into groups before we passed out toys in an effort to preserve some lives. We had done a decent job, but we started passing out jump ropes we realized they were all tangled. The kids were getting anxious, and as we got the ropes untangled one by one, it was impossible to hand them out in an organized fashion. Case Chimdil came over (the Youth Pastor) and offered to help. He shooed all the kids away into a big circle and just chucked the jump rope into the middle of the mob. So much for trying to preserve lives. BUT he was having the time of his and HE was the pastor, so I just kept untangling.
Saturday morning we had Saturday School with the kids, and then it was a tourist day! It was really nice to get to know the team better and to take a break for a bit. Even though for the 5 hour trip we were probably only out of the bus for 45 minutes, I loved getting to see more of the country. We drove up to Lake Wenchie – apparently it’s a popular tourist location: it’s about a 30 km drive from Ambo, 27 of which are on dirt roads going about 20 miles per hour. Not what I expected from a popular tourist site, but hey… it’s Africa. The drive was amazing – we got to see the typical grass huts, the lion king trees, and people pre-technologically farming (they were using plows pulled by mules). AND one of the girls on the team let me listen to her music with her, which was nice because I forgot to load my iPod before I came. I never thought I’d be so excited to hear Katy Perry’s “Firework”, but I guess your music taste changes when you haven’t been able to sing along to songs for 3 weeks. I felt bad for the rest of the bus.
We went to another Ethiopian church in the morning, but the highlight of the day was getting to eat the 12th meal at the hotel we’d been staying at. Apparently Ambo’s food is slightly sketchy, so it’s the only restaurant we eat at when we come. Normally, I would take advantage of eating at the same restaurant 12 times in a row. But since there are a limited number of foods to trust here, I decided to stick to the staple diet of Corn Flakes, Omelets, stealing people’s fries, and the occasional Chicken Hawaiian (which was slightly different every time you ordered it).
All in all, it was a solid week with the team. I loved getting to spend time with other Americans and figure out what a connection you could establish with people you’ve never met in a week. It was sad when they left (especially when they all talked about what they were excited to do when they got home… i.e. eat Chik fil A), but it also signaled the start of what we’ve been preparing for for the last 4 months. The next 6 weeks will now be completely devoted to guardian training, teaching English, getting involved in the Youth program, figuring out what college ministry looks like, getting to know the SVO staff, getting to know each other, and whatever else gets thrown in our path. Les go.
It’s Time for Africa!!! June 5, 2013Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.
Hello from Ethiopia! We just passed our 10 day mark of being here yesterday, but it feels like we’ve been here forever. I’m living in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. It’s a lot more built up than I expected but a lot less developed at the same time (I know that’s kind of contradictory). The other day Brittany (the girl I’m with) and I were walking – we almost got hit by a van because we were moving out of the way of a donkey crossing the street. It was pretty funny.
I’m here with Because of Kennedy (BOK) – a non-profit started by Dr. Rudy Gleason (a BME professor at Tech) and his wife after they lost a child, Kennedy, in the adoption process. It’s been REALLY cool getting to learn the ins and outs of the organization by working with both the Gleason’s and the in-country staff. One of my favorite parts of the organization is that BOK works with SVO (Stand for the Vulnerable Organization), so it truly is a partnership between Ethiopians and Americans to improve lives here. The main program that we’re focusing on this summer is the Family Sponsorship Program – the SVO staff chose 100 of the “poorest of the poor” from 2 cities, Burayu (the 1st city) and Ambo to be a part of the program. BOK then finds sponsors in the States for the families. Being sponsored pays for micro-finance and life skills training for the guardians, one child’s school tuition and fees (per Ethiopian law, only 1 child in each family can be a part of a program), and some $$ for immediate necessities (some food, a pair of shoes, etc.) It’s been amazing to see how hard both the Gleason’s and the SVO staff work to maintain transparency with their finances (they want the sponsors to know EXACTLY where the $$ is going) and how they revolve big decisions around the 4 pillars the organization was founded on.
The first week we were here was a lot of housekeeping stuff (finding a house, getting internet, figuring out a driver, etc.), but yesterday we finally got to meet the guardians we’ll be working with this summer. I didn’t know this before today, but there are 5 sponsored groups in Burayu (sponsored groups = groups that are sponsored), and 4 unsponsored groups. The 4 unsponsored groups don’t receive any of the financial benefits of the program, but they are made up of guardians who found out about the program and wanted to receive training anyways. That’s the biggest evidence to me that what we’re doing actually matters – people who have no obligation to the program and are receiving no financial benefits are still coming and participating because they believe that it will improve their lives. Pretty cool.
Biggest thing I’ve learned: I have no idea what the heck I’m doing. But there’s a lot of freedom in that, because it drives me to rely on God. And this is gonna be summer of figuring out what patience means.
Biggest frustration: Not being able to communicate. Amheric is the national language, while the people in Burayu speak Afonaromo. Amheric is kind of like Arabic so it has completely different sounds and characters – I’ve never been in a place where I had NO idea what was going on, except for in Chinatown in San Francisco, and that doesn’t really count. I keep resorting to speaking Spanish, and the blank stares I get back remind me that Spanish can no longer be my default foreign language.
What I’m looking forward to: Connecting with college students. We’re trying to get plugged into some college ministries – there is a university in Addis Ababa (where we’re living) and in Ambo (one of the cities we work with), so I’m hoping to get to know a couple students in order to better understand what college life is like in Ethiopia.
Coolest moment so far: Sitting with the guardians today and learning the days of the week in Amheric. I’m trying to establish trust relationships before I jump into teaching them, because I think I will be received a lot better if I can better understand them, and they see that I’m learning with them instead of just trying to impose my opinion on them.
What I didn’t realize before I came: That I have a comfort zone. And that comfort zone is where I can at least somewhat communicate with people and blend in. I HATE sticking out, but it’s kind of hard to blend in (I didn’t tan enough before I came). We walk into the schools and the kids just reach out their hands to touch me – I want to tell them that I have zero healing power, but that’s Level 4 of Amheric, and I’m still on Level 0. I’m really excited for this summer to teach me different ways to communicate, how to form relationships with people I can’t talk to, and how to serve people without using words of affirmation. This is gonna be cool.
p.s. I’m keeping a personal blog at http://www.marnieisaworldtraveler.blogspot.com that I’ll update with more details if you’re interested!
Schlagermove – Hamburg, Germany July 2, 2011Posted by Marnie Williams in Travel Log.
Tags: Cadiz, Hamburg, Schlagermove
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Bienvenidos a Alemania!
After the Cadiz program finished in Madrid, I traveled to Germany to visit a girl who studied abroad at my high school my senior year. I had messaged her when I found out I was going to Cadiz and asked if I could come visit her for a couple days, and it turned into me being in Hamburg for a week (and Berlin with her aunt for 3 days!) It’s crazy how we have the ability to make connections with people halfway across the world. It’s been absolutely incredible seeing the city from a native’s perspective, especially since she’s my age. I had the opportunity to go to 2 different birthday parties and I got to spend the day touring the city with Nina (my friend) and her two friends. It was awesome because one of them had spent a year studying in England and the other one was fluent in Spanish because she had studied in Costa Rica, so together we could all communicate pretty well.
Today we went to Schlagermove – a huge festival in Hamburg that celebrates German music from the 70s. Everyone dresses up super crazy hippy style and goes into the streets and dances and drinks and it’s pretty much just one huge day party. The coolest part was that it was raining and cold (at the beginning of summer? Lame) but thousands of people still came out to celebrate. Shlagermove is kind of like a parade in that people crowd the streets, but instead of floats there are these big trucks that BLAST music. The trucks have trailers that people pay to ride around the city and the rest of the people just walk all around the streets and follow them through.
Even though the only words I understood from the music were “Viva Espana” and “Let’s Dance”, the language barrier couldn’t keep me from jumping up and down with the crowds and pretending like I knew what was going on. It’s weird being in a country where you literally can’t understand ANYTHING but it’s also really humbling and something I think everyone needs to do. My advice: pick Germany, because have yet to meet a German that doesn’t understand basic English.