Snapshots of the Setting
I arrived in Addis Ababa before sunrise on the morning of September 27, which happens to be a national holiday called Meskel. It’s a celebration of the finding of the true cross and it is tradition to do a bonfire in honor of it. My family started burning the fire in the middle of the night right after I arrived.
I’m staying at the home of my wonderful aunt and uncle, and their youngest son. When I was little, I lived with my aunt and uncle for 3 years as my mom, brother and sister immigrated to America and got settled, so my aunt and uncle have many stories and pictures of my early childhood.
My aunt, Asru, and I, then and now
My uncle, Tadu, and I, then and now
My cousin, Yohannes, and I, then and us now:
Of the few people I remember from when I was 5, many have moved away. But I’m lucky to have a friend from childhood, Ruth, still in Addis Ababa. She studied accounting at Addis Ababa University, and is now getting her masters in accounting at Adama University, which is 100 km from Addis. The Ethiopian government has a program that pays for students’ education if they commit to teaching at a public university for 6 years after completing their masters, so Ruth is graduating in May and will be assigned to be an instructor at a public University for the next 6 years.
Ruth and I, then and now
There is an Italian bakery in Addis called Enrico's, and they make the best tasting layered cakes I’ve ever eaten. My brother and I are such huge fans of their cakes that we’ve even had my aunt freeze cakes and pack them in suitcases so we could bring them back to Philadelphia with us. So, it was no surprise, it was my welcome cake.
Coffee is a central part of Ethiopian culture. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and the largest coffee producer in Africa, and we’re very proud of it, even Ethiopians like me, who don’t drink caffeine very often! On the weekends, we usually have a coffee ceremony once a day, but I believe in rural areas, they perform coffee ceremonies three times a day, every day, if they can. There are three servings of coffee, abol, tona, baraka, with each becoming progressively weaker.
This is Asru’s friend, Litai, making coffee at our house.
I’m studying how to read and write Amharic. Each character, or fidel, is a distinct sound so when you read Amharic each fidel is almost like its own syllable. Unlike English, where letters can make different sounds in different contexts, Amharic fidels always make the same sounds. So once you know the sound each Amharic fidel makes you can pretty much read and spell anything. My name is written with 6 fidels “B – RU – K– TA – WE – T” and this is how it ’s written in Amharic: ብሩክታዊት
On October 14th, the Ethiopian soccer team beat the Sudanese soccer team, qualifying them for the African Cup, which will be held in South Africa. It’s the first time the Ethiopian soccer team has qualified for the African Cup in 31 years so everyone is happy and proud, even those of us who don’t follow soccer. When the game was being played, I was at a movie theater, which was showing the game on its outdoor screen. People gathered in the streets to watch the game on the outdoor screen, so I caught this picture of some of the excitement right as the game was about to end.
I’m working for an organization call Agazh, which Asru started 5 years ago. Agazh provides assistance to the elderly and rehabilitates the environments they live in. Many elderly are isolated, impoverished, and lack access to health care and other basic needs both in urban settings like, Addis Ababa, and in rural settings like, Dodola, where my mom and aunt grew up.
Asru and her Agazh team have implemented small tree planting programs, and vegetable garden programs, and have donated food and clothing in Dodola. Now Agazh is trying to bring some supports and awareness about the issues facing the elderly in her community in Addis Ababa.
Agazh worked with the woreda (local government) to host a reception and lunch to commemorate International Day of Older Persons. The event was held on October 13th, and at the r eception, people shared ideas and concerns, and we collected clothing donations.
My primary focus is woreda relations so we can do an assess ment of the population’s needs, health conditions, etc. so we have information to better serve and collaborate with outside organizations. I’m reaching out to local and international organizations in Addis and Dodola who work with the same population and in the same issue areas in the hopes of building partnerships, learning from others, and streamlining aid.
Earlier this week, Agazh headed to Dodola, with clothing donations and held a lunch reception in honor of International Day of Older Persons there as well.