Blog Entry Week 6- Monday 10/13 to Saturday 10/18
The halfway point of my internship came this last Thursday! The time has gone by incredibly fast and while I'm starting to miss things at home more the thought of leaving Layla is not something I am looking forward to. Next week Alan, Anna and I are taking a short trip and travelling south to Lake Langano, Wondo Genet hot springs and Bale Mountains National Park. We are going to be gone Wednesday to Sunday so my next blog might be a little late getting posted but it should be a good one!
All the little girls at Layla play these games were they sing songs and clap their hands. Some of the games involve moving your feet and I am trying to learn all of them. It's harder than it sounds because the songs are (obviously) in Amharic and the girls don't enunciate their words as well as the older kids. Hopefully, by the time I get back I will be an expert! I taught another religion class this week and talked more about the Methodist religion. I explained church camp, Sunday school, youth group and then went on to talk about Lent and Advent. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (which most of the kids have grown up in), there are a lot of fasting days and there are strict fasting periods before Easter and Christmas. I think the kids thought that Methodists were wimps because I had to explain that no one I knew had ever fasted! And when I tried to explain giving something up for Lent they were appalled that Methodists didn't fast during Lent in addition to abstaining from something.
Also this week there were 2 teachers out so on Friday myself and the other volunteers ended up having to substitute for Amharic class. Since none of us know Amharic, we decided it would be fun to have the kids teach us the Amharic alphabet. Turns out, were we right! The kids were laughing at how hard it was for us to pronounce some of the letters and we were laughing at ourselves. We also kept laughing because the kids kept telling us that what they were teaching us was "KG". On girl wrote our names on the board (in Amharic) and told us that if we talked anymore in class she was going to put X's by our names and if we got too many X's we would have to stay after class to clean the classroom! We all had a lot of fun and thankfully (based on our grades given at the end of class) we graduated from KG to 1B!
One of the tasks we try to do daily (depending on our class load) is toddler time. We take a few of the toddlers from Wanna House in to a grassy courtyard and play with them. A lot of times we let them play with different toys than they are used to and this week we blew bubbles for them. While all of the toddlers thoroughly enjoyed bubbles (they laughed and chased the bubbles around the courtyard), one of the boy toddlers particularly enjoyed them! This little boy we had started to call Grumpy McGrumperson because none of us could get him to smile. He has a very sweet personality but we had never seen him smile before. However, bubbles make him smile! Anna, Megan and I were blowing bubbles like crazy so we could each get pictures of him smiling. It really made our day and I'm sure it made his too! We will be doing bubbles a lot more often during toddler time. On Thursday, Anna and I took Group 2A on a fieldtrip horseback riding. There is a great facility in Addis and the kids each got to have 2 turns on the horses. One of the teachers came with us and both he, Anna and myself got to ride at the end. The teacher had never been on a horse before and Anna had only ridden one other time so they were both a little freaked out but they had fun. A few of the kids that we took came from the Oromo region of Ethiopia and the Oromo are often horseman. All of those kids seemed to have a natural ability for riding. It was a lot of fun for me to ride although it did make me miss my horse (Buster) at home!
While there were a lot of fun things going on at Layla this week, there was also a situation that was heart wrenching. A biological father whose daughters had been adopted last year came to Layla and picked up pictures that their adoptive family had sent for him. Anna, Alan, Megan, our supervisor Ivy and myself were there when he picked up the pictures and saw them with their new family. He started crying and kissing the pictures. In Ethiopia, children can be adopted if they only have 1 living parent and the living parent is willing to relinquish their parental rights. In the absence of any sort of social service system (welfare, foster care, food stamps, etc.) and in extreme poverty adoption is Ethiopia's solution to the problem. Parents often give up their children because they believe they will have a better life in America. While this may often be the case, it's hard to know that such loving parents (like the father we met) have to make that sacrifice. It's my view that allowing children to be adopted out to America is only a patch on the larger problems of abject poverty and endemic HIV/AIDS. Adoption is not a permanent solution. While AAI has a sponsorship program that supports children in poverty by giving them (and their families) money for school, widespread support for families and children is needed not from outside agencies but from within the country. By no means do I think that the work AAI is doing in Ethiopia isn't needed but I wish I could see more evidence of systemic change in the country. A few organizations can't fix the country's obstacles alone.