Blog Entry Week 9- Monday 11/3 to Saturday 11/8
As everyone is aware the election was last Tuesday but what you may not have known was that Wednesday was unofficially 'Obama Day' in Ethiopia! The other volunteers (Mark, Alan and Anna) and I went to the Hilton after work to watch CNN's election coverage. Since it was still morning in the States, there wasn't a whole lot going on. After we had to see a horrible piece called Back Story about how CNN reports the election we decided to let some lovely gentlemen from Ireland watch a Championship League soccer game. At midnight (after the first half and one goal) we switched it back to the election coverage and since there was still nothing being reported we decided to go home and try to stay up as late as possible checking the Internet for news. After pulling up a few news websites (who were still reporting nothing) and falling asleep trying to watch Step Brothers (awful movie- I wouldn't suggest it) we decided to go to sleep and check the Internet early the next morning. At 7AM Anna, Alan and I got up and checked NPR which was reporting encouraging statistics but what really assured us of Obama's win was that my mom called me to tell me that McCain was giving his concession speech! After I got off the phone we were all jumping up and down and screaming that Obama had won! After we had gotten a little more sleep we went to lunch and were able to watch BBC news and watch Obama's victory speech. While we didn't get a lot of sleep, we had a great time and it was very interesting to see the US election through a slightly different lense.
Adoptive families started arriving this week to pick up their kids after months of waiting! Every adoptive family has to pass court before AAI can work on getting birth certificates, passports and visas for the kids. For some reason the Ethiopian government closes court the entire month of October so no families have been able to pick up their kids almost the whole time I have been volunteering. While it's hard for the kids that are waiting, since there isn't a lot of turnover it's been great for myself and the other volunteers because we have gotten to know the kids at Layla really well. The kids that are waiting have started to get excited because they know that once families start coming they can send letters to their American families. I have been very busy writing dub dubees (letters) to families after school. While it can be pretty chaotic to hand out crayons and paper after school, I love hearing what the kids want to tell their families. They love to talk about their favorite food (it's almost always a toss-up between rice and injera), favorite color, favorite movie, favorite class and favorite teacher. They also are always very interested in what kind of pets they might have in America. The kids also almost always ask if they can go swimming in America which I think is the most adorable request! I wrote letters the other day for 2 siblings and one's favorite animal was a hyena and the other was most scared of hyenas. They also always tell their parents that they love them even though they have never met them before! Adoptive parents must love these letters because they are the sweetest, most adorable professions of love. Each kid's excitement also shines through his or her letter and it must make their parents so excited to write them back and inform them about what their life will be like in America.
Before I got to Layla, the older kids decided that they wanted to donate their old shoes and clothes to street kids in Addis. Ivy (my supervisor) had read about a NGO in Addis called Hope Enterprises that accepted clothing donations and ran a soup kitchen downtown. After working with one of the employees at Hope, I arranged for the first group of the older kids to volunteer at the soup kitchen during the lunch shift and drop off their donations. The kids loved it! Ivy and I were so impressed that they all got right to work stacking plates with injera, passing out the plates and ladling soup. Hope sells meal tickets that are bought by citizens and businesses and then the tickets are distributed to street people around Addis. Through the meal tickets they feed around 750 people injera and a hearty soup in 4 shifts Monday through Saturday. One thing that I started to notice while the first shift was filtering in was that some people were dropping their plate of injera in to a plastic shopping bag and having the soup ladled in to the bag. It took me a minute to realize that this was either the only meal those people would have all day and they wanted to make it last or that they wanted to be able to share it with their family who didn't have a meal ticket that day. I see street people every day and I constantly have people asking me for money or food but I realized that after being in Addis for just 8 weeks, I have started to become desensitized to how much poverty there is in the city. These people have nothing and they are willing to eat their meal out of a plastic shopping bag.
When the first shift starting finishing their meal, the kids picked up their plates and were told to drop any scraps in to a bucket and send the plates to be washed for the next shift. After a few minutes, they started asking why the scarps were dropped in the bucket. One of the employees explained that nothing at Hope is wasted and after everyone had eaten, anyone that wanted could have a second helping from the scrap bucket. Some of the oldest children commented on how when kids at Layla don't eat their whole meal the scraps go in the garbage. This seemed to really affect them and they all talked about how when they got back they were going to tell all the other kids about how important it is not to waste food. It was an amazing experience to see them contemplating how close they could have come to living on the street and how appreciative they are to have an excess of clothes and food. For many of them it's the first time they have been able to eat as much as they want and until they are truly full. They are safe and allowed to be carefree within the walls of Layla and I think the older kids wanted to remind everyone that there are a lot of kids in Addis and around Ethiopia that aren't as lucky as they are.
Since we take all the groups on field trips we decided that it would be fun to take a volunteer field trip and stay the night at Layla on Friday night. The kids were really excited to have us sleep over although there weren't enough of us to sleep in each of the bedrooms (there are 4 of us and 10 bedrooms). Which bedroom we slept in caused some tears and quite a commotion but once they accepted our bedroom choices we had fun watching Ethiopian TV, singing songs and talking with the older kids. Once we were all in our bedrooms for the night, the girls I was sleeping with asked me questions about my family, my state, what life is like in America and what school is like. It was fun to let them ask me questions and see them be more open and ask more questions than they do in class. The next morning we ate breakfast (homemade bread and jam- delicious) with the kids and came back to the volunteer house to get some more rest. Since we worked some strange hours this week, Anna and I relaxed around the volunteer house all weekend. We did a little shopping and I got all of my gifts for everyone at home purchased. I only have 2 weeks left and while I am getting excited to come home I have gotten comfortable here so it will also be strange to leave!