At the start of each Tuesday Amharic lesson I am always asked the same question “What did you do over the weekend?”
There’s an Ethiopian game that consists of hanging up some clay pots full of various things (water, sugar, flour etc.) and getting blind-folded people to hit the pot with a stick until it breaks and they get covered in a surprise something. A bit like an Ethiopian version of a Piñata. Back in 2007 when I worked a the Myungsung Christian Medical Center (MCM, or popularly known as “the Korean Hospital”) the hospital’s third birthday was celebrated and (largely thanks to Gary and Peggy who were working there at the time) such a game was played. Mr Henry Moon, the South Korean hospital administrator was inveigled into playing and here’s a short video of the outcome:
“They’re fries, Phil, but not as we know it.”
Chris’s birthday is 5th May, always close to a bank holiday weekend and not infrequently close to a general election. It’s often been an opportunity to get away for a few days and happily the situation continues here, as her birthday is always a public holiday.
When was your last light bulb moment? When did the penny drop for you? One of the most exciting times for me as a Christian youth worker is seeing a young person “get it”. You know the face: you can see the cogs turning and then it’s replaced by a huge smile. Before heading away to Ethiopia I was working out why Mum and Dad have done what they have done (so far!) but it took me going out and seeing the life to understand how. The penny dropped for me after one sentence from Mum, “I just like that every day is not the same out here!” That was it; that was how she was doing it. Let me explain.
Around twice a week Chris and I head off to the gym. We joined last summer and bought a six month membership. the promised membership cards never turned up (despite our photo being taken and several promises) so I had no real idea when we needed to renew. Our gym in Hatfield would remind us by email – Chris and I had smiled at the thought that we might get a reminder here.
- When passing a yellow crayon to a child who was drawing a beach the child said “No Mrs Griffin, sand is grey I need this one.” (Ethiopian sand is grey).
- When using fruit and vegetables for printing this week a child asked “Did you bleach them?”
- When going to see what a group of children were doing in the corner of the grass they said “We’re building a trap for termites.”
- When asking a child if I would see their Mum or Dad at the end of the morning they reply “No my driver’s picking me up.”
- When going to look at children engrossed in the sand pit I find small sand cakes with a fruit from the overhanging trees carefully placed on each one, “Would you like peach or avocado?” they enquired.
- When doing a traffic survey “Who has been on a bus?” no one. “Who has been on a train?” one child. “Who has been on a boat?” two children. “Who has been on a plane?” everyone!
It’s Easter again, for the second time in two weeks. Today (the second Easter Saturday) we wanted to do some shopping. As we emerged from Bingham into the mayhem that is the local area of Kolfe there was substantial evidence of live meat trading. From energetic young boys to wizened old men, skills were being honed in driving reluctant sheep along and across the road. Probably the most effective and comical method, which gains the greatest degree of compliance, is when they hold onto a front leg and the poor sheep has to follow along on the other three in a rather lop-sided manner.
Resigning/retiring from our respective professions in the UK and moving to Ethiopia took Chris and me away from the increasingly burdensome bureaucracy in the education and medical systems. Chris doesn’t miss “Ofsted”, and I don’t miss the CQC (the Care Quality Commission). We both think these august bodies do a great deal of good but under rather oppressive political pressure and sometimes go perhaps a little further in their relentless pursuit of ever tightening “standards” than is absolutely necessary.