David, Coral and Sarah Nicholson, visiting us from Spicer Street Church in St Albans, had never experienced anything like this. We were in Haile’s home on Ethiopian Easter Sunday for lunch. The TV was on, and the food was being laid out. Ethiopian food is eaten with your right (and only your right) hand, so handwashing before a meal is not only necessary, but is part of the whole cultural dining experience.
Like the rest of you, we have followed Phil and Chris's blogs with interest and with them nearing the end of their time in Ethiopia, we wanted to come and experience for ourselves some of all that they have blogged about over the last 5½ years.
My classroom faces an outside wall of the Bingham compound, the other side of which stands a government school. Birhan Bir school as it is called is attended by four of our Y’tesfa Birhan girls (the ones who recently experienced a fire at their homes). The Kindergarten building, which they probably attended when they were younger, is located further along the main road on the opposite side.
Time and planning – two things that are managed very differently in different cultures. When asked to serve and pray during the communion service at our church in St Albans, I would be on a rota organised six months in advance, I would know where I would sit and which part of the congregation I would serve. And everything would run like clockwork. It’s done a little differently here, as I was to discover for the first time, a few years ago.
Last Saturday a fire ravaged a community north of Bingham Academy in a place called Wingate. Many make-shift houses had become established over time, typically constructed of corrugated metal and tarpaulin. Five of the girls who are part of our “Y’tesfa Birhan” programme as well as a young boy from the equivalent “Horizon” boys project lived there. Fire trucks were called. The first arrived with no water but was followed by a second. Once the blaze was tackled it was clear that there was nothing left.
I well remember one of my anatomy lecturers at University College London Medical School describing the anatomy of the neck, especially around the spine, as “lion country”. It is easy, he said, when operating around the spine in the neck to do huge damage very easily (he was a surgeon). “if you cut something you shouldn’t”, he explained with a wry smile, “hand your instruments to your assistant, say to them ‘you carry on – you’ve always wanted to do one of these!’ and then get on the next plane to Mexico.”
This year Bingham Academy held three ‘Admissions Events’. At this time of year parents begin to enroll their children for places throughout the school. Bingham is a popular school and I met one parent who had applied seven times to have members of her family admitted - she was hoping that this year she would finally be successful. Each event began with our director giving a general introduction to the school. The parents were then divided according to their child’s age. My task was to give a presentation about the two Kindergarten classes followed by a tour of the school. Around twenty parents attended each of the three admissions events. Here are a few of the questions I was asked: