Students who went
Day 1 – Made it to Addis!
Everyone is very tired but we are all doing very well. When we first arrived it was a huge culture shock but we are slowly getting used to our surroundings. Everyone finds us and our attempts of the language very amusing. Everyone has been very friendly but its heart breaking to see all the beggers and the people on the streets, especially the street children. However, we took a trip to the local shops where we found several home comforts such as washing powder, pens, matches and paper (which all seem like a luxury). The hotel is really nice and comfortable with a fully functional bathroom and all the staff are very friendly. We ate at the hotel restaurant but tonight we are going for some traditional Ethiopian food. We also stopped at a little bar which there are several of and sampled some delicious smoothies which only worked out at about 30 pence each!
Everyone is missing the people at home, but we are all still excited and having a good time. We are all pulling together as a team and so far there havn’t been any tears.
Katie Searles, Jenn Harper, Sara Hitchenes.
Day 2 – Day in the City
Today we made an attempt at starting seemingly very early, but failed due to everyone being so tired from the travelling. It already seems like we’ve been here for ages! We’re starting to adapt to Ethiopian culture and customs; everyone is very interested in us and are very friendly. This morning we went to the Mercato, the biggest open market in Africa, which was a great experience and helped to build our confidence in using Amharic and the currency, birr.
After spending a few hours there, we visited the British Embassy via one of the trademark blue and white minibuses (which was pulled over for having too many people inside – slightly awkward). There we met Deborah Fisher, a British ambassador, who explained the history of the embassy and its duties, and the current political and educational situation in Ethiopia. This allowed us to have a much wider understanding of the culture of the country.
After seeing the grounds, which were so big that they contain a golf course, stables and tennis courts, and seeing some of the wildlife, including giant tortoises and various species of birds, we registered at the Visa office and took a walk to a small cafe. On the way we sampled some maize, which is cooked by the roadside, which tasted distinctly of Sugar Puffs (very nice). We had a few drinks at the cafe, which we’re meeting at tonight to have a local meal. Everybody is growing more comfortable to the surroundings and having a great time.
James and Richard
Day 3 Arrival In Bahir Dar
Very early morning for us all today, we had to meet at 5:00am in reception at the Yonas Hotel, ready for our flight to Bahir Dar. At the airport there was a bit of a wait to check in our luggage etc but it soon passed and we managed to relax for a few mins in the departure lounge. We finally set off at 7:20am ish, everyone excited and eager to get to Bahir Dar.
Actually arriving in Bahir Dar was amazing, it’s so different to Addis. You could immediately see the difference in them both even just flying seeing the views from the plane. As we left the airport after collecting our bags, you could instantly tell that the atmosphere of Bahir Dar was completely different, the sites were fantastic and this was more like the Ethiopia we had all imagined. We finally arrived at our hotel (Hotel Ghion), and the we were all amazed by the beauty of the view across the lake (Lake Tana). LUSSSHHHH!!
After getting settled into our rooms etc we headed in the direction of the market. The market was absolutely massive (lots to see and buy.) As we were walking through the market (in immense heat) the locals took a liking to us all (even Richard Gordon :-p) who, may we add, had Two lady friends after him!!! The majority followed us back to the hotel as we went back to relax and get some drinks in. A few of the local men (young men) showed alot of the girls quite a bit of attention and have been standing outside the gates of the hotel for hours.
But despite this we all got ready for the most exciting part of our day, our first visit to our house :-D!! We arrived there full of excitement and hesitation desperate to find out what it was like and what we could do. We walked around the rooms, all coming up with great ideas of how to decorate an furnish it to make it a great space for the children and staff. After that it was back to the Ghion for dinner, Overall we have had the most fantastic day, everyone is having fun, and we are working great as a team.
Lisa P and Kate J xx
Day 4 Second Day In Bahir Dar
We are all having a fab time here in Bahir Dar. We woke up to the sound of the local mosque calling for prayer at 6 in the morning!We had breakfast and then got a boat trip to a monastery. It was really hot and the view was beautiful. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the monastery but was worth it in the end. There were huge paintings of extracts from the bible, on cotton, on the wall and drums which were used
for chanting. As we were leaving a priest was singing and carrying incense to signify that a ceremony was about to start.We walked back down to the boat and spotted monkeys in the trees and butterflies by the lake. We were all taken aback by the beauty of the peninsula on which the monastery was situated and were flattered by the friendliness of the locals. After another long journey back we had lunch at the hotel before relaxing for an hour or so.
In the afternoon we caught a line taxi to the day centre with the intention of getting to work straight away on the garden. Unfortunately we were delayed by a fight in the street between two large bulls. To Kate`s dismay she had decided to wear red, so was a little worried that the bulls would come after her next. It was great to finally get stuck in after many months of planning and preparation. We all mucked in and started to clear the garden of weeds and over grown trees. Luckily we had a helper called Fikroo who managed to lend us some tools that were particularly useful in chopping down the large treewhere we will build the guard`s hut. The children were curious as to what we were doing and were keen to talk to us. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming and looking forward to the completion of the renovation of the house.
As night closed in, we (Graeme, Katie W, Mr Griffiths and Mr McGrah) climbed into a taxi back to the hotel. Graeme shouted `Warage!` meaning `stop!`. The whole taxi erupted into laughter because they find it so strange that we were attempting to speak amharic.
Dinner was LUSH! We ate loads but are all pretty tired from the early morning and hard days graft. It felt great today to work as team to finally begin the project and get such a lot of work done in such a short time. Our task seems much less daunting now after todays work.
Hopefully we can have a lie in tomorrow. Hope everyone is ok back home, we are all fine here.
KATIE WILSON AND GRAEME BUTCHER
Day 5 Work on the house
Today we started with a group meeting after brekfast- there is so much to do, but it’s hard to know where to start! We split up into groups and went to the market and shops to buy supplies, then caught a line taxi to the centre.
The garden was really overgrown when we arrived, so we started cutting down the grass, weeding, pruning and digging. We also started to take measurements and draw sketches for the classroom. For lunch we went along to ‘Sara’s’, a cafe nearby and had some lush shiro takebino- a thick, spicy chickpea paste eaten with bread.
Everyone worked really hard, by the state of us at the end of the afternoon. We were completely mud and rain soaked, but feeling good- we made a big difference in one day.
Day 6 More Work on the house
Super early start today to start painting the classrooms, which looks really good now. We have painted a giraffe, tortoise and two lizards on the wall. We also painted numbers and letters on the wall as well as other English words. We have made a great start to the garden (despite all of the boys ripping out tomato plants as well as weeds in their enthusiasm) which is almost finished. Everyone is fine although there have been a few upset stomachs, but don’t worry parents everyone has been drinking lots of water and the nurse has arrived!
Tonight we will be going to a party with all of the VSO’s in the Bahar Dar hotel with everyone dressing up for the occasion – A chance to change out of our paint covered clothes.
Missing you all lots of love
The Ethiopia group
Sara, Jenny and Katie.
Day 7 – Saturday in Bahir Dar
As it was market day, we all went out into the market with lists of specific things to buy for the house, items such as tables, chairs and cement. Although a relatively simple task, it took a long time due to much bartering and negotiation. We then went to the house where we are working and began preparing the area for the building of the guard house and tukkel (a wooden gazebo). A gari (mule and cart) was used to carry a large amount of furniture, (a table, 4 chairs, a bed, cushions and a various other items) from the market to the house, but when it didnt show up for over an hour we began to get worried that all our stuff had been half inched. Eventually the gari did show up carrying all our stuff intact, and we proceeded to offload it.
That night there was a party at Sarah Joys house, a local VSO who is leaving Ethiopia next week. A traditional music group came by and everyone started doing the shoulder shaking dancing. Two goats were slaughtered for the event and the meat was cooked outside in a massive pan over a fire. When we had left the party many surprise photos were taken, and a lot of mug shots were captured.
Richard and James
Day 8 – Hippos in Lake Tana
Early start this morning. we had to be up at 5.30am and be at the lake by 6am! we watched the sun rise over the lake and sailed off to see the hippos. It was a longish journey but when we got there we saw a group of about eight hippos. It was amzing to be able to watch and it may have been the quietest the group has ever been since we arrived.
After the hippos we set off back to the hotel, when we got back we were able to get an hours rest before we had to set off once again to continue the work on the house. Today was mostly finishing off the classroom, and tidying the garden. Everyone is now starting to see the difference and the effect of what we have done. As we were all really tierd we finished early and went back to the hotel for a relaxing evening, after we had finished cleaning, mopping floors and sweeping the garden. Once we got back, everyone just got cleaned up and ready for dinner on the terrace while it was tipping down with rain. Everyone then went for an early night ready for the next days events.
The group are all excited about what will happen next.
Lisa P and Kate J
Day 9 Richard`s Birthday
We got up early at 6 o’clock to visit the Blue Nile Falls, a beautiful and quiet area that wasn’t at all touristy. The falls were pretty impressive yet only a quarter of the water was falling over them, as the other 75% was being used for hydro electric power. We raced each other to the bottom and then were soaked by the mist coming off the water, we all looked like drowned rats and were covered in mud. We walked back to the bus for the forty minute journey back to the hotel and gave t-shirts out of the window to the kids on the street. One ran after the bus for ages in bare feet wanting a pen. When we gave him one he had a massive grin on his face and stuck his thumb up at both of our buses.
We went back to the house for a big Ethiopian feast for Richard’s birthday. Ruth and Kate H had made a banner and put up balloons making the place look fantastic. Unfortunately the gas for the cooker ran out so we went to the Catholic school to teach the kids English. We split up and taught little groups how to say their age, name and how to count. We also tried our hand at some Amharic, it was a very rewarding experience as the kids were very keen to learn and were appreciative of the help that we gave them. They sang Richard `happy birthday` in Amharic then were thanked in English by one of the children.
We went to play football and volleyball outside with the kids, which was one of the best bits of the day, we had a great laugh and didn’t want to leave. The feast at the house was cooked by Turooya, the now permanent chef at the centre and tasted amazing. She made a massive dish of bread (dabbo) called `water bread` that wouldn’t fit in the oven, fried fish and spicy chicken. Just as we finished the coffee ceremony that she had also prepared, the electricity went off and the whole house was plunged into darkness. To make things worse, we had no candles and it was raining so hard outside that it made a tropical rainstorm look like a drizzle. The lightening was magnificent and made the whole day that little more memorable.
Unfortunately (or luckily depending on how you look at it) there was also a slap up feast prepared at the hotel, so when were returned, we got straight back to eating. By the end we were so full we could hardly walk.
Richard had a fantastic birthday and one which he`ll never forget!
Graeme and Katie W
Day 10 Final Prep
This morning Kate, Ruth and Katy went to the Fistula Clinic within the Hospital to observe a ward round. It was really interesting. Some of the cases were very sad though. We then went back to the house to meet the rest of the group to make it ready for the opening of the Centre tomorrow. There’s still quite a lot to do tomorrow befor ethe children arrive but we got through a lot today. Everyone worked very hard today, and hopefully tomorrow will be a success.
Kate H and Ruth G.
Day 11 The Big Day (July 26th – 2006)
Today was very exciting as we were all wondering how the kids would react to the house.
We got evreything in the centre ready and added the finishing touches for the opening. We had organised a bag for each child with a few sweets, lollies, exercise books, soap, football tops and toys in each. When the kids finally came in they all seemed quite overwhelmed and happy with what we had done.
The cook prepared a nice lunch and we all sat and ate it together before starting on their work with them, helping improve their English and maths etc. We also played games with them including skipping which they really enjoyed and gave them time to relax and have fun. We taught them helpful songs too such as ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’. As well as all the fun they understood and wrote down the rules for the centre and were all very helpful in preparing dinner. While they ate the teachers and students all played with a ball outside which everyone really enjoyed and even got a lot of the locals attention as they gathered to watch. Finally we had a group photo and went back to the hotel to reflect on the day and ways to improve things tommorrow. We all ate and went to bed with very high spirits and no-one really feels like they are looking forward to leaving it behind because it has been so much fun!
All our love, The Ethiopia massive!
Katie, Jen and Sara xxx
Day 12 Last day in Bahir Dar
Hey guys back at home, hope you are all ok? We`re all great over here and having a fab time, everyone is doing great and getting on well.
We got our first lyin today and were able to sleep until 9 as we didn`t have to leave the hotel until 10. The morning was taken up with buying the food for the trip in the mountains, most of us seem to have over compromised how much we needed and bought too much. At least we wont go hungry!
The three lads went to a suit shop in the town to buy a present for Fikroo, the most helpful lad to know in Bahr Dar. He had aided us in getting around town, interacting with the locals and most of all, stopping us from getting ripped off at the market buy buying goods at forigners prices! We decided to buy him a new shirt and I`ll have to tell you all tomorrow what he thought of it as he hasn`t received it yet.
After a hard morning`s shop, we all went to the house to meet the kids and to help them with their studies. It was great fun, they were taught how to have a simple conversation with someone in English by asking them questions like `how old are you` and `where do you live`. When we had finished the lesson we all played a game of `On the Sea, On the Shore`, a really simple game where the person at the front shouts on the sea or on the shore and the rest of the people have to jump over a line to the other side (the sea or the shore) and if you make a mistake, you lose the game, the last person left in wins, simple.
After the game we all went for a walk to lake Tana, it was beautiful. The views were breath taking and the tranquillity allowed us all to relax. It also gave us the opportunity to bond with the kids from Ethiopia and get to know them better. When we got back to the house we had to say goodbye to them, this was particularly emotional as we had bonded with them over the last few days and it suddenly dawned on some of us that we were changing the lives of these select few people for ever.
After we all said goodbye, we were invited back to Fikroo`s house where his mother had prepared a coffee ceremony. It was amazing and the general consensus was that it was the nicest coffee we had ever tasted.
It was then off to the hotel and packing for tomorrows travelling.
Day 13 Up to the mountains
We had to get up and be ready for 6:00 today, as we were traveling to the Simien Mountains by minibus. The bus however was an hour late and didn’t arrive until 7:00. We were all sad to leave Bahir Dar and the children at the day centre, as we felt we had only just got to know them. The bus journey was long but we stopped in Gondar on the way for a break. We visited the hospital where the project of building the playground took place, last year. It was still in good condition and was being used by the children. It was nice to know that the efforts of last year’s group had not gone to waste. We then got back on the bus and traveled to Debark, where we stopped for some food and another toilet break. There was a massive queue for the toilet with a seat, as no-one wanted to squat over the hole in the ground. The last leg of our journey took us to the campsite at Sankobar. We drove upwards for what seemed like ages and saw three trucks over-turned at the side of the road. The views were fantastic with trees and spectacular mountains. There were also massive birds flying overhead. It was like the Lake District but on a bigger scale and without any tourism.
At the campsite we put up our tents just as it started to rain. We all got soaked and when we’d finished went inside the tuckle where there was a fire. The smoke stung our eyes and made everything smell but it was better than getting wet. We had spaghetti and tomato sauce for tea then went to bed.
Love from the Ethiopia explorers.
Day 14 A Day at Sankobar
After deciding not to set off for Geech due to poor weather condition, the group went off on a short walk in the goom (heavy fog) to visit a huge waterfall (300m drop) a short distance away. The fog only cleared briefly for a few minutes to reveal spectacular scenery but unfortunately we did not get to see the waterfall. We then headed back for camp and on the way found out that a sheep was to be slaughtered for both our and the scouts dinner.
The teachers and two students Graeme and Richard both watched as the sheep was killed by having its throat cut, and watched as it died. The scouts then proceded to skin it in one complete piece and remove the stomach and small intestines. To clear the large intestine they took a kettle and poured water down its hind end. all the organs were taken, bar the lungs, for the scouts dinner, and the rest of the meat was given to the group. The meat from the sheep is some of the finest that we have ever had and was certainly the healthiest. After that everybody retired to bed in the rain and had an uncomfortable nights sleep.
By Richard Gordon
Day 15 – Day 2 in the Simiens
Walk to Geech
Today a group walked from Sankeber to Gich. It was quite a difficult walk, and a river crossing, but everyone managed really well. It was quite foggy in the morning, but thew sun soon came out and we saw some fantastic views and loads of Baboons. The campsite Gich was really cold but some hot soup made us all feel better. Overall it was a good day and I think everyone felt proud of themselves for arriving at Gich.
For one group another day at Sankobar
A group of us stayed in Sankobar camp to explore the area. The mist cleared up, giving us gorgeous views from the camp, so after seeing the others off we walked to see the waterfall, which we haven’t seen before because of the cloud. On the way we saw klipspringers (like deer) and mole rats, which was cool. The waterfall was covered in mist when we got to the cliff facing onto it, but after ten minutes it suddenly cleared, giving us an amazing view of the falls.
The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing at the camp, playing 6-square word game and other such delights created by Mr Griffiths. The scout joined in, AK in hand, and drew us some lovely pictures of a hen, gun, etc… We also experimented with making dabbo firfir (scrambled bread with shiro powder) which was lush.
The day ended with an early night, after looking at the stars – which are beautiful and clear up in the mountains.
Day 16 – Day 3 in the Simiens
The climb to Imet Gogo!!!!
After a cold night we set off from Geech for Imet gogo. The weather was very foggy and the trip up was harsh as we approached 4000m. Everyone was tired but tried their best and we managed to reach the top on schedual. However the fog still hadn’t cleared and we couldn’t see the amazing view in front of us – lots of pictures of everyone cold in the fog were taken on the peak! We then walked back through the village of Geech and the weather began to clear, with everyone looking forward to lunch. The walk back to the original camp was long and slow but the odd baboon kept us going (with his chants of encouragement). Once we reached the camp the tents were already up and dinner was on the go – thanks to group 1! Most people were too tired and wet to stay up late so there were early nights all round with everyone looking forward to watery porridge in the morning again…
lots of love to home from the Ethiopia posse
Sara, Katie S and Jenn xxx
A morning with the Baboons
The small group of us that stayed in Sankobar had an amazing day. We had an early start getting ready to be picked up at 8:00 to spend a day with the Geladas. We were showed where they all were by two guys who have been studying groups of them for 3 months. It was amazing to be able get so close to them and sit amongst them, it was an incredible experience which none of us will forget. We also got to see the most fantastic view thanks to the clear skies we had that morning.
We returned to camp in the afternoon, and prepared a great dinner for the return of the rest of the group, after their long journey. The rest of the group arrived back a lot earlier than expected, but it was good to have them back and have some noise in the camp again (even though Mr Griffiths’s games were fantastic). Again we had an early night (in a huge rain storm, and scouts singing odd songs) ready for our return to reality to Gondar.
Day 17 – Off the mountains!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Today we travelled to Gonda in the minibus. The journey was long but we were all looking forward to a shower and a bed. On the way down we stopped to sit with a large group of baboons. The scenery on the way down to Gonda was beautiful. When we arrived in Gonda everyone relaxed and enjoyed a fresh pair of clothing. Later that night we all went out for a small celebration meal as Katie (the nurse) was leaving the next day. Everyone enjoyed the local food and the restaurant had a very pleasant atmosphere which was also home to a giant duck. After our meal we all went out clubbing (Ethiopia style) with plenty of shoulder shaking. Jenn and Katie were the first ones asked up to dance and they were even given money to carry on dancing. James Mcgragh also joined in with the locals. Everyone went to bed after an enjoyable night but were not looking forward to a very early flight to Axim the next morning.
All our love
the Ethiopia crew
Jenn and Katie S xxx
P.S On behalf of the group we would like to give a big thankyou to Katie for all of her help on the trip.
Day 18 Arrival in Axum
Today Katie (the nurse) left for home, and we departed the hotel in Gonder for the airport at 7:30am. After checking in we went for a coffee ceremony at the airport restaurant. Halfway through the ceremony we were told that the plane was ready to depart, but that it would wait for us to finish our coffee (the ceremony is that important). The flight to Axum took little under hour and went via Lalibela, which the last group visited in 2005. We arrived at Axum and were taken by a luxurious bus to our hotel, which was very comfortable and picturesque.
When everyone had sorted out their bags and rooms we set off to visit the famous Axum stelae, giant stone obelisks which were built thousands of years ago from one complete block of granite. One has recently been returned from Italy after Italian forces stole it due to being beaten by Ethiopian soldiers at Adwa, a town not far from Axum. An english archaeologist took us around a tomb there (not yet open to the public) where kings were buried.
We then went to the Queen of Sheba’s Bath, a small reservoir built around the same time as the obelisks, and proceeded up to the Yeha hotel (very posh) for drinks of freshly made pineapple and banana juice. We then returned to our hotel for a meal and a well deserved rest.
Richard and James
Day 19 – A Day in Axum
Today a group of us stayed in Axum, having a much needed lie in! After brekfast we went for a wander round Axum. It is very different to the other towns we have visited, it feels quite mediteranian and sleepy, with a noticable Italian influence. The weather was gorgeous, hot and dry, and there are camels carrying loads along the street- they look so weird up close, they are huge and gangly with very long skinny legs and big flat feet.
After a bit of souvenier shopping, and lush pizzas for lunch, we decided to visit the church Haile Selassie built to comemorate his coronation in Axum. The minibus we had booked had no steering at the time, but we were assured it was fine and chugged along to the church, stopping to avoid running off the (thankfully quite straight) road. Funnier.
Our guide showed us the outside of the building where the Ark of the Covanent is believed to be kept (being women we weren’t allowed inside), a single monk guards the covanent. No one but this monk, after 40 years training, can see it, and no one but the deacons can see the monk.
After this we were shown into the church itself, which is a huge white dome shape with coulourful stained glass. It was massive, with a loud echoe even though we were the only ones there.
Our guide wasn’t particularly careful with the priceless artifacts he showed us:
“This” (bangs hard on painting) “is 600 years old”
“This” (Leaning on leather paged book) “is over a century old, these paintings” (drags finger down flaking paint) are the originals and very delicate. That’s why we have stapled bits of cloth to the tops of the pages. Soon they will be put behind glass, so please feel free to touch them and take pictures, flash is fine”
Bless him, it was interesting to see anyway.
We went for a bit of a walk round the church compound, then went back to the hotel to meet the others.
Day 19 Back to Addis
Arrrrgggghhhh, another early morning! We all had to be ready and packed up, bags in the court yard ready for the mini bus to the airport. We were all relaxing having breakfast etc when Mr G came rushing in telling us 2 get in the mini bus, as he had just recieved a phone call from the airport saying that the plane was waiting on the runway for us and we had 10 mins to get there. We chucked the bags on the top and inside the mini bus and we all squeezed in and raced to the airport!! As we got there, extreamly late as we were we got stopped for a passport check we all got them out and flashed them (the passports that is.) However they demanded we ALL got out the bus and form a line so they could check them properly!! As you can imagine we were not best pleased. After that we got 2 the airport 2 check in! we walked through the doors and the then insisted on searching ALL of our bags TWICE!!!! Yet again we were extremely Narked. then we got to the departure lounge and found out the plane hadn’t even landed! Lets just say the airport experience from Axum was abit of a farse. We finally arrived back at Addis and had our lunch at the hotel before we set off into town to the national museum to see the bones of Lucy (one of the oldest humans ever found, she was found in Ethiopia.) Her approx height was 3ft. we all got back to the hotel and went out for a surprise meal which turned out to be Pizza WITH CHEESE!! Yay! Everyone thought they were extremely tasty. After the meal the majority of us went back to the hotel either to go to bed or watch a film!
Day 20 – The last day!
After a lie in (8:00!) everyone had breakfast and we travelled to ‘The black lion hospital’ – the biggest hospital in Ethiopia. We went to talk to a man who helped raise AIDS/HIV awareness. The talk was very interesting and lots of questions were asked about the level of HIV and if the schemes he helped set up were working. We then went souvenir shopping and everyones bartering skills were put to good use as we were charged ‘ferenje waka’ – foreigners prices.
After a quick move of bags out the hotel rooms we grabbed lunch and then went to an orphange near the british embassy. We got to visit the babies who had been abandoned- one just two weeks ago had been left out in the rain. Many were AIDS orphanges or had been born with HIV themselves and it was moving to be able to play with them and pick them up. We also had a chat with one of the amazing women who worked there. She was very informative and told us of the struggle to get older children adopted and how the country had stopped free clothes coming in for the children. We then went back to the hotel to freshen up and get dressed up for the final meal we will be having in a couple of hours. Our bags are packed and everyone is excited to see friends and family but gutted to leave as it’s been an incredible experience, with everyone making the most of what Ethiopia has had to offer.
See you all soon, all our love
Day 21 Back Home
Getting back home was not as easy as I would have hoped. A delayed flight from Addis meant that we were late arriving in London. We sprinted across the airport to try and make check-in for our London to Newcastle flight but we were late by a few minutes. Spirits were not to be damped however and once we had some more tickets for the next flight back to Newcastle we were all looking forward to seeing family and friends to tell them about the last three weeks – and it has been an amazing three weeks. We have had a very busy time in Ethiopia and since landing in Addis back in the middle of July we have hardly stopped.
Before leaving England we are often asked what are looking forward to most about the trip. There are many things that I look forward to but what I find most exciting is seeing the look on the faces of those who are seeing a different world for the first time. And this year I was not disappointed. In Addis and Bahir Dar, at the Blue Nile Falls and on Lake Tana. With the birds at the Ghion and while we played games with the children at the local school. Buying anything and everything from the market. Travelling to Gondar and the Simiens and sitting in the goom with the baboons. And in Axum and at Debra Damo where we stepped back in time. However I am not sure that anyone got a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant.
Now that we have returned it is the look on some other faces that I will remember more than anything. On the day that our group went to the Blue Nile Falls Kate, Ruth and I went to the local catholic school where we were to meet the Ethiopian students who had been chosen for our day centre. In turn they told us their stories. Each of the children had lost their parents long ago and consequently their lives had been really tough. They were on their own. Food was always hard to come by although sometimes they would get lucky being given the left overs from a local hotel or cafe. Finding the money to pay the rent for a small room that they might share with a couple of others was always difficult even though it was generally only around £3 a month. Their clothes were old and tired.
Two days earlier when I had first met Karelm she wore a bright green blouse, a tissue thin skirt and had no shoes. We were talking in the shade of a tree with two other girls who wanted to attend the day centre. She told us how after her parents had died her auntie had taken her, her brother and 4 sisters in. In Ethiopia some people make local beer and gin – tella and arakki – to sell from their home and this is what Karelm’s aunt did making the equivalent of around 30 pence a day. Karelm told us how each day her auntie made her fetch water, clean, wash clothes and do all the chores. She started at 6 in the morning and did not finish until midnight, very rarely got out to play and she was often beaten. Karelm and her siblings all share one small room where Karelm gets to sleep on the floor. She said that she was not happy at home. The stories of the other two girls Tinsae and Genet were very similar. As I explained to this group what we hoped to do for them by offering them a place at the day centre I expected them to look excited and happy but they did not. Maybe they did not understand what I was going on about or perhaps they did not believe me.
Later that week on the day that the Addis K’egn Day Centre had its official opening each of the new students were given a bag. Karelm was given hers and inside she found a new skirt and a new pair of shoes. She took them out looked at them and then put them back in the bag and put the bag down on the ground. She didn’t smile particularly. A short time later someone took Karelm to get changed. With her new clothes on and the old ones in her bag she offered us a shy grin. A little later still and she was skipping in the garden, beaming from ear to ear.
I am sure that we all have so many memories from our trip but the one that sticks in my mind is the smile on the faces of the children of the day centre. The students from Ryton, their parents and all those involved in this project should be exceptionally proud what they have achieved and what they have helped make happen.
With all my thanks,