Praying in the Classroom (Chris)
During a maths lesson there was a knock on my classroom door. I opened it to reveal two very smiley gardeners handing me a leafy twig with a praying mantis standing sedately on it. I have a reputation for encouraging the children’s interest in small creatures.
I took the twig gently to the carpet area and invited the children to gather round. We watched as it walked slowly over the leaves. I was explaining that a praying mantis was not like a locust that has strong legs to jump. What I didn’t know was that in some species the males can fly. I found this out when it took off and landed on my head. I glanced at my teaching assistant who was cowering in the corner with her hands above her own head. Now I have to cope with a class of15 excited small children with a praying mantis sitting on my head.
I knew that there was a suitable container to pop him into on top of a high cupboard, so I moved slowly towards it and stood on a chair. By this time the creature had walked down to the centre of my back. Having returned to my eager audience I wondered how to get the mantis from my back into its new home for the day. I looked at my teaching assistant – still cowering in the corner, still no help! Fortunately, as I held out my arm towards the container it obligingly walked along underneath my arm allowing me to shake it into the receptacle.
The children were suitably impressed and returned frequently to the container to watch the lively creature, even fetching its plastic counterpart from their box of plastic insects to keep it company.
The Giant’s Wanted Poster (Chris)
Many things make me smile during my working day. Here’s an example. The children had been doing some independent writing to describe the giant in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. This five-year-old had been concentrating hard. However, when the work was collected I was surprised by his seemingly muddled writing, as this young author could usually write in sentences that made sense (click the picture). We read his ‘wanted poster’ together. “I just wanted to fill in the white bits,” he told me earnestly.
Having reached the end of the document, he had noticed a space at the end of each line above, so his final four words were written vertically. So, the text reads (I’ve corrected the spelling): “His hair is green his face is purple and he was cross”. The logic of children!
The Gym and the Cat (Phil)
This morning our last trip to the gym before we head to the UK in a couple of weeks turned into one of the most interesting. Whilst puffing away on the stepper and listening to an audio book of C.S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory”, I spotted something grey moving in the undergrowth through the bars just outside the window. A little while later this beautiful African Civet, Over a metre long, paraded in front of us. The only other person in the gym, an Ethiopian, couldn’t have cared less. “Some kind of cat” he mused, as he kept on running on his machine. Chris and I were mesmerised – we rarely see wild animals in Addis.
An Elder’s Water Bottle (Phil)
Most people who come into an ex-pat missionary community find themselves drawn into doing things they never imagined they would (or could) do. Such is my role on the board of elders at the International Evangelical Church (IEC), where I have been voted in as “secretary” and once a month I have to produce minutes of some pretty long and convoluted meetings. It’s a real privilege to work in such a role with a team of dedicated, talented and spiritual people. I usually leave just over 30 minutes to do the journey from Bingham to IEC on the Monday evenings of the meetings. This went horribly wrong a couple of meetings ago when I picked up a Bingham guard who needed a lift home on the eve of a public holiday when it felt like most of the city decided to go somewhere at the same time as me. The traffic was as bad as I have experienced. I delivered the guard safely to a place from which he would easily be able to find a minibus taxi home, and I was only 45 minutes late for the meeting. No-one minded – as one wise old Ethiopian said to me once, “foreigners have watches; Ethiopians have the time”.
Pizza and bottles of water are provided at the start of each meeting. For hydration during last Monday’s meeting we were provided with 600 ml bottles of “Eden Organic Spring Water”, strap line “Pure Taste of Originality”. Never before have I drunk water described as “organic” – most of the time we try to make sure there is absolutely nothing organic (and certainly not alive) in the water we drink. It tasted fine – there was no hint of anything organic (and I’ve been well ever since), but I’m not sure if I could taste any “Originality”. Here are two photos – one of the label, and one of the description on the side which is worth a read - this water has soaked up the “edenic splendour of Moria hills” after which it “turns into natural spring water that is organically preserved”. Not only is the “Pure Taste of Originality” to be “cherished”, but if you look carefully they are suggesting that by planting trees (for 2 cents each bottle – that’s £0.0005) we can “…together turn Ethiopia into Garden of Eden”. A bold ambition that’ll take a lot of bottles. As long as they leave out that pesky tree of the knowledge of good and evil and dispose of the bottles properly, I hope they succeed.