This week has been full of ups and downs. In addition to Layla House, AAI has 3 other agencies in Addis which include Opportunity House (for special needs children), Big A-HOPE (for kids over the age of 7 that are HIV positive) and Little A-HOPE (for children under the age of 7 that are HIV positive). Last Saturday after we went to the silk factory, the other volunteers and I coordinated a visit between the kids at Layla who have siblings at both A-HOPE houses. The visit we coordinated last Saturday was the first time the kids had been able to see their siblings in over a month! Anna (another IE3 intern) was the one that found out it had been so long in between visits and she was really the driving force behind getting everything coordinated. The kids had a really great time seeing each other and playing even though it was only for an hour. We haven't been provided a reason for why the positive kids are separated from the negative kids and it is something that is very upsetting to Anna and I. If I had been through the trauma of losing my parents, I could not imagine being separated from my brother simply because one of us was HIV positive. I'm sure the organization has a good reason for making the choices they do, but it's hard to wrap my mind around a policy that separates kids from their only remaining family members. One of the English teachers was out this week so I substituted for his 1A class and Anna substituted for 1B English. At first, I was really nervous to teach because I have never been trained to teach kids (especially kids whose primary language isn't English). However, after getting over my initial trepidation everything was fine! The hardest part is that some kids are leaps and bounds ahead in English. Even thought the class only has 10 kids in it, they are all over the map on where they are in their comprehension English. Most of them understand spoken English well enough. But when it comes to the English alphabet and thinking of words that start with a certain letter, some of them get it and some of them don't. We also started tutoring Math and English this week which is greatly needed. The kids that are struggling really benefit from one-on-one interaction. While tutoring math with one boy, he had a break through on how to do lending addition (basically, when you carry numbers from one column to the next). It was great to see how proud he was of himself! One thing I have struggled with this week is switching gears from teaching and tutoring to supervising activities and video class. To go from working with kids on school subjects to making sure they don't hit each other over Barbie dolls is quite the adjustment! When it comes to teaching, the expectations of me are quite high and ultimately I appreciate the opportunity to show that I can be trusted with something more than child supervision. One thing I have really enjoyed this week is having tea and bread with the teachers during the morning break between classes. The kids get to play and have a snack while the teachers have a chance to connect and socialize with one another. It has been great to get to know some of the teachers and see how they interact with one another. I have come to greatly respect the head teacher (Berhanu) because of his relationship with the kids at Layla and with the other teachers. When he sees me in the morning, he shakes my hand and we spend a few minutes chatting. He seems to make time to do this with everyone he meets in the morning which amazes me! Shaking hands is the normal greeting between the teachers and staff at Layla whether you are meeting for the first time or for the umpteenth time. Now that I have been at Layla for two weeks, I have been trying to connect with some of the quieter kids and build relationships with them. It's easy to build relationships with the more outgoing kids because they are in your face and vying for your attention all the time! I had a breakthrough with one little girl who has a very bubbly attitude with other kids but is shy with adults. I told her that I liked her shirt one day (it was a Valentine's Day shirt with hearts on it) and the next day she came up to me to show me the new shirt she was wearing. It was a different shirt but it had a rhinestone heart in the center. She has worn one or the other of those shirts all week and she comes up to me every day to show me which one she is wearing! It has been very sweet. Also, one of the older boys taught me how to play dominoes this week. The game itself isn't very hard but he had a much better strategy than I did (probably because I lacked a strategy) and he was much better than me! A sibling set was also dropped off at Layla this week with an older sister and a younger brother (the girl is probably 10 or 11 and the boy is probably 5 or 6) and I have tried to help them get adjusted to Layla. The girl is having a much easier time because she finally has girls her age to play with. It seems as though she has been mothering her brother for quite some time. The little boy has a hard time staying in class and he often wanders out to try and find his sister. If I see him wandering around I try to give him some one-on-one time and then take him back to class. One thing that has continued to amaze me in Ethiopia is how relatively inexpensive almost everything is here. A kilo of bananas is about $0.75 USD, 5 loaves of bread are about $0.50 USD and when dining out meals are only around $5 USD. Part of the reason why prices are so low here is that everything is local- there is hardly anything on the menu that doesn't come form within Ethiopia. What troubles me is that there are so many people who are still starving. Most of the literature defines extreme poverty as living on $1 USD a day and that is the reality for many people on Addis. $30 USD (around $300 Birr) per month is enough money to give you food every day and protection from the elements. People here are content if they can make that much Birr a month. It has been hard to justify my Western definition of extreme poverty and what I have actually been seeing here in Ethiopia. It's not that I think $30 USD is a sufficient monthly wage, it just looks a lot different than I thought it would. Medicine and medical care is also extremely inexpensive (compared to the United States) but since most people live in such extreme poverty they still can't afford proper care. CAT scans are only $100 USD at the local hospital here! Granted, there is only one hospital with the machine in all of Ethiopia but it made me realize how much insurance companies jack up the prices of medical care for a profit. Since there are no insurance companies in Ethiopia, prices stay at cost. Monja went home this last week, but before she left we were talking about it would be more cost effective for some people in the States to fly to Ethiopia, have their CAT scan done in Addis and then bill their insurance company for the trip! Living here makes you realize how over-inflated prices are in the States. Yesterday was a holiday called Meuskeul (pronounced Mes-kal) and on Meuskeul Eve, there was a bonfire at Layla. The kids sang and danced around the bonfire and it was a lot of fun! All the kids wanted their picture taken and I must have spent an hour with kids jumping all over me and wanting to take pictures with me. I was really tired and not in the best mood but once I got there, I couldn't help but be in a great mood when the kids were so excited! One part of the bonfire was slaughtering sheep for a traditional Ethiopian dish called tibbs. AAI actually buys 3 or 4 live sheep and the older boys are allowed to slaughter and prepare them at Layla. Most of the older boys are more quite and they don't open up as easily as the younger kids or even the older girls. However, they seemed to come out of their shells a little bit when all of us interns were willing to not only watch them slaughter sheep but took pictures of the whole thing and didn't freak out. While it's not something I would really want to see again, I am glad that I was able to share in the cultural experience. The boys were so proud of themselves and it's something I was very thankful to be a part of. When the bonfire and picture taking was dying down, the little boy that was dropped off this week found me and crawled in to my lap. After I zipped him up in my jacket, he cuddled up and fell asleep in my lap. It was a great night at Layla!