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Three years ago  when I was new to Ethiopia I hesitated, somewhat fearful of the options before me – a line of blue and white taxis heading up the hill on Togo Street from the Haya Hulet (22) intersection on one side and a line of donkeys in tandem as I made my way to the VSO office. Should I risk getting kicked (I had read that donkeys can kick really hard) or brushed aside by a moving vehicle? In truth, there was nothing to worry about. Over the past two years I have come to enjoy these neighbourhood donkeys as they peacefully and stoically go about their work of carrying heavy loads – they are for hire and people order x number of “donkeys” of sand, wood, etc. When they have free time they lounge about, frolic in the open spaces or peacefully graze along the ditches.

donkeys in laneAfrican proverb: “If a donkey kicks you and you kick it back, you are both donkeys!”

My Addis Ababa neighbourhood has transformed drastically since I moved here two years ago; currently it has become a massive construction site along the main road and intersection due to construction of a light rail system for Addis. A reminder that nothing stays the same. Still, Haya Hulet has retained a sense of community for me as my small daily/weekly routines reassuringly continue. As I bid farewell to my volunteer life in Ethiopia, I want to appreciate the ways I have been nurtured by my neighbourhood in Haya Hulet (22) over the past two years by providing some glimpses of my routines and the people who enriched my life.

Amasha bread bakeryThis bakery sells tasty pita-like breads called ambesha, that toast up nicely for breakfast or sandwiches

flower shopBread and roses! This year I decided I would treat myself to fresh Ethiopia grown roses all the time – why not when they cost 10 cents each and are so fresh they can last for up to ten days?

black and white hair studioThe Black and White Hair Salon near St Gabriel’s Hospital of Djibouti Street where Dereije took good care of my hair

hairdressersBlack and White is a hive of activity on a Saturday afternoon!

breakfast with AnkeThe Mesti Cafe is a good quiet spot for breakfast in the sunny courtyard

Here I enjoy scrambled eggs in tomato sauce with a new friend Anke, who came to visit from Mombassa during the recent Kenyan election. She opened a nursery school there but lives most of the time in Vancouver so the next time we meet will be back home for a buna on Commercial Drive I expect! Anke and I met online in a discussion group last September while taking a UBC course on Culture, Communication and Development that is part of the International Development Certificate we are both completing.

construction at getfamThe Getfam Supermarket, my “go to” place for whole wheat pasta and other products not available in the smaller shops, is having a massive new building attached to the side

getfam constructionEucalyptus scaffolding is a common sight with so many buildings under construction 

The main drag near my place at the Haya Hulet intersection is Haile Gebre Selassie Street (after the Olympic runner). Over the past few months all the shops have had to move back about 10 meters to make way for the road construction. It is amazing how quickly they de-construct and re-establish themselves in a couple of weeks. All this moving makes walking even more hazardous, and really, really mucky now that the rainy season has arrived!

ditch at 22 It began a few months ago with roads being dug up and new pipes laid; some people say that also accounted for power and water cuts and internet cable problems…

Fruit and veg shopUp Togo Street and along the “middle road” closer to my place things are a bit more tame. This small shop has become my favourite shop for  fruits and vegetables – the sunny smiles of the helpful friendly staff  could brighten even the most overcast rainy season day. They will tell you not to buy the papaya if they are “not good” and are expert at selecting the best pineapple or avocado

inside fruit and veg shopThere is a lot packed inside this tiny shop!

fruit shopColourful produce brightens up many corners of the neighbourhood

golugul tower and donkeysThis building, the Gollugul Tower, was unwrapped about a year or so ago – when I first arrived  it was swathed in blue plastic and we used it as a landmark to find the VSO office, which has since re-located about a 20 minute walk away, down off the Getfam RoadBasket weaving manBy the park along Togo Street is this man who weaves baskets – I got my laundry basket and tiny side table from him and he has never given up trying to sell me more

veronica hotelThe Veronica Hotel is another landmark on the way up the hill to my place, right next door to the Pride Bar that was a gathering place before the VSO office moved out of the neighbourhood. Togo Street has become even more crowded and hazardous since the construction began

hole in the wall sewing centerLiterally operating a “hole in the wall” shop, this guy magically appears and then puts the fence back up when he closes;no one would guess he has his sewing machine inside!

haya hulet intersectionThis is what Haya Hulet intersection looked like a few months ago before the start of construction…on the right are the contract taxis that make Haya Hulet their base

daniel taxi driver and daughterHere is Daniel, an excellent taxi driver based at the intersection, taking his daughter to school!

The past few months I have gotten very expert at negotiating reasonable taxi fares due to my painful knee ligament flare-ups. I am hoping that my knee will heal up nicely once I am home on solid and even pavement.

new years day at haya huletAll these shops had to move back about 10 meters and many disappeared altogether – this is what it looked like in January

haya hulet from gollugulAnd now, in the midst of the construction, people dodge heavy equipment and shield their eyes from the dust

haya hulet under constructionThis is what Haya Hulet looked like this week!

haya hulet juztapositionA sign showing more construction to come as the vendors “carry on regardless” amidst the construction dust and noise   mitiku phone card manAto Mitiku is always cheerful, efficient and fun to visit – his shop is where I always bought my phone cards to top up the phone and the laptop

When the shop disappeared a couple of months back we were worried but my nearby neighbour and sister volunteer Judy found out from the guy selling newspapers on the sidewalk that Mitiku had relocated kitty corner and down a bit under the Chicago Pizza place. We were delighted to find him again and to learn that his 3 Birr discount on a hundred Birr card was still in effect!

judy and Lamaz at Ato Negash shopAcross from the Mesti Cafe is Ato Negash’s shop where we go for local gin or wine, Ambo mineral water and sometimes candles, eggs and laundry soap.

Here Judy is trading in some bottles and Ato Negash’s grand-daughter Almaz is in charge. Ato Negash has a perplexing system of noting down the bottles you have taken in a large notebook and then leafing though pages and pages to locate your name to see if you owe him or he owes you. He scolds me because he cannot find my name for the gin bottle because it was two  months ago – why not drink faster, he suggests!

mpo and brrom guyI will miss the distinctive and loud cry of the mop and broom guy who plies the laneways and never gives up trying to sell me his wares

mrs and Mr Hope electricThis has to be the nicest couple in the world

We call them “Mr and Mrs Hope Electric” with their side-by-side shops. She sells pajamas and clothes while his electric shop is jam packed with everything you need – and he can fix anything! Often they give you a cup of traditional coffee when you come by. He rigged up a creative three piece extension cord system so I could have a bedside lamp;for this I am eternally grateful. Then when the front of my iron fell off, he screwed it back together – no charge. Same thing when the dial fell off!

Nahuta MarketNahuta Market became a favourite soon after it opened this past year – it’s where I go for candles, olives, soft (toilet paper), coffee and imported wine, local cheese, eggs, yoghurt and butter- they also sell party hats!

outsdie NahutaAnd gas canisters

ditch at 22Walking around the neighbourhood has become more challenging each day, especially with daily rains that create thick, goopy mud

snesible shoes (not!)So when I saw these platform shoes for sale on Djibouti Street I had to laugh out loud. Imagine wearing them in the muck!

wini in cafeHere is Wini at her Gourmet Cafe about a block from my house

This amazingly popular place, open now for eight years, serves very tasty high quality “ferenji” food. Wini’s friend Mimi creates fabulous cakes, including carrot cake, and her strawberry tart is the best ever! Wini also has build a school near her home town and over a bowl of her chicken soup yesterday she told me she plans to be back in the US soon to raise funds to support it.

me and wini at gourmet cafeThe cafe patio is a great place to meet friends on a sunny day

Yesterday Wini inherited the remains of my truffle oil and vanilla beans since she is the only person I know who would actually appreciate and use them! A few months back she came over to my place to learn how I make biscotti.

marian and henok last ful mealHenok and I met for a final lunch at Tedy’s Snack off Djibouti Street near the Awaris Hotel- one final bowl of Ful. Amazing how different the Ful is in every cafe!

road runner jamboThe Road Runner Cafe, scene of my last jambo (draft beer) last night with this gang of volunteers, come to bid me adieau.

I was happy to hand over my leopard housecoat to Brian and the non-stick frying pan with glass lid to Sun and Howie. It has been a busy few weeks of giving away most of the worldly goods I’ve accumulated over the past three years.

Immediately after, I had a final feast of Almaz’s famous tibs (she knows they are my favourite and surprised me with some – how sweet). Soon after, we had a round of tearful hugs, I scratched Titi and Rocky behind the ears but Pico was uncharacteristically elusive and refused to say good-bye; I think he was punishing me for leaving. Earlier in the day he snuck into my packing madness and peed on the floor! Ato Kifle and Sami took me to the airport and after hours of check-in, two security checks and immigration fingerprinting I finally flew off about 1:30 am on one of Ethiopian Airlines other (not grounded) Dreamliners to London – I must say that despite the troubles Boeing is having with these planes, they are lovely, spacious aircraft.

Almaz and coffeeAlmaz served one last cup of traditional Ethiopian coffee just before I left for the airport

I hope to be back in a few years for a visit. Shelagh and I have talked of coming to see Henok graduate from medical school and I will want to see how Sami, Meron and Eyob have grown up as well as  connect with old friends from Woldia and in Addis. It would be fun to see the transformation of this city; by then there should be a functioning light rail system to ease the traffic problems and many more completed buildings. In the meantime, thanks to email and Facebook we can stay connected, as they like to say here, “from time to time”!

rocky and pico sleeping in sunSon and father sleeping in the sun – yes, I will be missing these guys!

But for now it is ciao to Ethiopia and my good neighbourhood as I head home with a pit stop in London to see VSO friends and relatives before the big wedding in Nelson, BC of my niece Lea and a chance to reunite with the whole family at a joyous celebration at the August long weekend.

Thank you Ethiopia – you have taught me a lot! Over the next few months, as I transition to  life back in Vancouver, I’ll be reflecting on how I have been changed by this experience before I close this blog following the Cuso International RV (returned volunteer) weekend in Ottawa next November.

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The preparations began weeks ahead with the setting of the date (Saturday, June 15th) and invitations issued. This past week involved a flurry of provisioning and baking. Meron and Eyob offered to decorate and Sami appointed himself the music man. Peter kindly agreed to let us transform his larger salon into the indoor party place since the rainy season is early this year and the forecast was metfo (bad) with thunder and rain predicted.

meron and etob decoratingMeron and Eyob get into decorating mode

kifle eyob and almazCooking up chocolate cake, pumpkin pie and lentil curry in my kitchen! Even Ato Kifle came in to watch – he is the expert sheep selector!

decorations

The decorating started early and continued all afternoon, using up all the balloons, ribbons, candy wrappers and tape I had squirreled away for the occasion of my last hurrah!

eyob and meron at work on watermelonSaturday morning we get down to serious preparations. Here are Eyob and Meron – the watermelon team!

meron and I with our art!Meron and I show off our creations!

a touch of canada olives and cheddarCanadian content – olives and cheddar on flag toothpicks.

night sheepWhen I got home from having a pint at the Pride after my last (yipee!) Volunteer Committee meeting on Friday evening Sami immediately introduced me to our sheep!

very attractive sheepNext morning I thanked the sheep and assured it that it would be memorialized on the internet  for its contribution to the party

dogs wait from a distanceMeanwhile these three waited from a safe distance in hungry anticipation! I am happy to say that they behaved very well at the party, no one was nipped or even threatened – I think they were too full! Rocky the pup seems to have had a positive effect on his parents!

sheep and butcherThe butcher arrived late morning

slaughtered sheep hangingBloody business…but close to the bone;after all, if you eat meat, this is as close to the source as it gets

cutting up sheepAlem, who is staying with us now and has been working in the middle east off and on for the past 8 years, assisted with the meat cutting. She is an awesome cook and helped out a lot this week! I think she should open her own cafe..

amazon and alem with lots of meat!Amazon and Alem have plenty of chopping and cutting on their hands!

adding more meatAlmaz, Amazon and Etenu ( and Alem) all got involved in the tibs preparation

goodbye signPeter’s walls made a good backdrop for goodbye messages in both official languages

table and decorations in  peters place with me and eyobSami decided it was time for a photo when we began setting out food

sami the music manMusic by Sami. Peter decided he has a future s a DJ!

sami's pumpkin pieSami proudly shows off pumpkin pies squares he has decorated with Canadian maple syrup cream and walnuts and then says to me “I think it is time for you to change”…

me in woldia dressSo I put on my Woldia party dress!

sizzling tibsMeantime the tibs continued to simmer and scent the air wonderfully

cooking the tibsI recently found out that Almaz had a cafe before Sami was born – no wonder she is such a great chef!

sandwiched between 2 peters!Peter K was first to arrive so we decided it was time for a glass of wine with me sandwiched between the “two Peters” in Peter’s salon (he is on the left). Peter K told Sami that all British men named Peter come with beards and glasses!

peter and endashaw - my neighboursThis past year Peter Cheer and Endashaw have been my friendly compound neighbours

anjeli mike and endashawCanadian doctors Anjeli and Mike along with Endashaw, also Canadian, are all heading home soon

suzie and judySuzie and Judy share a moment!

tucking in to appetizers and conversationThe crowd grows and the skies threaten but hold off so we can enjoy the open space

food is served by almazTibs, gomen and lentil curry are served with injera!

howie abiy and samiHowie, Abiy Eshete (artist) and Sami share ideas

henok and meronHenok and his sister Meron arrive!

lovely smiles - merson and edanWonderful support staff from VSO Meron and Eden enjoy the scene. Missing Selamwit in this picture – she is a true gem and was off elsewhere enjoying the party – so glad they all could come!

Selamawit receptionHere’s a picture of Selamawit!

These three young bright talented women deserve gold stars for all the hard work they do for volunteers!

liz and biruk reunion!More arrive and greet old friends – lots of out-of-towners came too!

kate barbara helen and danKate, Barbara, Helen and “Big Dan” enjoy the  buffet

eating tibs!

howie and shvetaFriend Shveta who works at MoE as a consultant arrives to join the fun!

me and difo dabbo!I must pose with the special Difo Dabbo Almaz made for the occasion

judy with lit cakeSurprise – a birthday cake because on Sunday I turn silsa arat. Thanks to Judy!

trick candles again!Oh no  – its those same candles from last year that keep re-igniting no matter how hard you blow them!

sami and sun light fireworksYes Sami, it is finally time for the fireworks! Sun from China (where fireworks were invented)  helps him get them started

difo dabo on fire!Good show! There were small sparklers too handed around by Eyob, just for fun

dr brian meets henokCanadian Dr Brian finally gets to meet Henok who is a student at Black Lion Hospital medical school where Brian is working to set up a family medicine specialization program

edith and danielEdith and Daniel, Kenyan volunteers sharing a laugh!

eyob me kifle shveta and almazTime to pose with Eyob, Kifle, Shveta and Almaz

mary may move into my houseMary is from the Philippines and also works at MoE; she hopes to end up with my tiny cozy house when I go in a month!

meeting the artistThe rain held off till quite late and then we were indoors. Abiy had brought some of his small paintings to show people and they were much admired and some were sold!

crowd sceneThe rains ended quickly and we were again able to enjoy the compound atmosphere. Many others leave Ethiopia very soon; about 30% of all the current volunteers are finishing up so this moment was a time of farewells for many of us

eyob's tributeEyob decided to do a tribute to me -so sweet!

I feel blessed – thanks to all who came and others far away who sent good wishes.  Good memories of my time in Addis center on the sense of shared community; the VSO/Cuso volunteer community and the amazing support in our compound community of Kifle, Almaz, Sami, Meron, Eyob, Amazon, Etenu, Alem and Peter to pull this off! Not many 64 year old Canadians can say they’ve celebrated their birthday two years in a row with a sheep feast in Ethiopia but, thanks to Cuso International and VSO, I am one who can!

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“What is this?” I asked Kamira, owner of the small shop below my Vancouver apartment about 3 1/2 years ago. A 500 ml plastic container with some orange powder had caught my attention. “Oh that’s berbere from my country, Ethiopia”, she said. And so I learned that Berbere, pronounced Burrburray, is the spice of life in Ethiopian cuisine. Little did I imagine that day that I would become so immersed in all things berbere.

From the highland countryside of Woldia to the urban landscape of Addis, with its population estimated at 3,5 million. and everyplace in between, one is never far from the  sight is chillis drying in the Ethiopian sun.

drying chilisImmersed in berbere production with masses of chilis sun drying in front of my door!

chili close upChilis are the major ingredient of berbere. They give a medium level heat to spice up many Ethiopian wots (stews). It is also used as a condiment

sacks of berebere ingredientsPurchased at the market in giant sacks

berbere chili wholesalersWeigh scales in a wholesalers shopberbere loading Loading up chillis to be weighed

preparing chilisMeticulously cleaned and sorted

sorting dried chilsThis. like much of Ethiopian food preparation, is a time consuming enterprise

red onionRed onions peeled and ready for sun bathing

peeling garlic and onionGarlic by the kilo patiently peeled and dried. Almaz, Etenu and Amazon = women’s teamwork in action!

berbere ingredients garlic,herb mix and gingerGinger, garlic and herbs all chopped up

besobilaBesobila (basil) ready to pluck from the pot in the yard

tenadamTenadem (rue) with its unique flavour goes in the mix. The Amharic  translates as rib of Adam

berbere herbs blendedAlmaz spreads out ground up herbs ready for their time in the sun

the prepared bowls of ingredientsEverything set out ready to be pounded into a paste. There are various recipes for berbere in cookbooks and online but in fact  every woman has her own special mix that may be a well guarded family secret!

pounding the mixture for berbereAmazon lives up to her name with a massive effort of pounding with a giant wooden mortar and pestle

pounded chilisReady to sun dry for 3 days now that it is pounded

berbere paste ready to dryAlmaz admires her special blend!

grinding millA grinding mill where berbere, shiro and other special blends are ground to fine powder. The fumes when the chillis are being ground are overwhelming!

berbere closeupBack from the grinding mill and ready to use!

amazon and berber bacl from millAn Ethiopian family will use many kilos of berbere each year. Many recipes call for a cup or more of berbere!

berbere by the kiloBerbere can be purchased in the markets by the cupful…

berbere for sale in shopOr you can buy berbere by the kilo is small shops in every neighbourhood. I am lucky enough to get mine from Almaz – made in our own compound!

pepper berbere and salt dishI have added berbere to my salt and pepper tray. However for me, a few hundred grams a year is plenty!

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“Oh” said Shelagh “I think he is holding that air filter hostage!” We were enjoying a return visit to Woldia and Lailibela and the usual bizarre and at times hilarious adventures along the way reminded me of our ten months sharing a volunteer life at Woldia College of Teacher Education in 2010-2011.

steve and shelagh at selam busSteve and Shelagh ready to board the Selam Bus at 5:30 AM to go to Dessie. They had come from Nottingham for a visit and I joined them for the Woldia-Lalibela part of their trip since it was my last chance to see the folks I know in Woldia and Lalibela before I leave in July

My companion at the window seat turned out to be an interesting fellow. A Protestant, he explained his work as a religious educator and I got some insights into his world view that helped me better understand the rising trend toward Protestantism in Ethiopia. I also felt refreshingly able to share my own perspectives with this obviously intelligent and committed man. We talked about the work they are doing to help the poorest members of their congregation and those infected with HIV, using the government 1:5 model that also is used in workplaces. In this model people are organized into small groups of 5 with one being the leader. In his context he felt this  model helped them not only teach religion but also identify those in need. He seemed appreciative of my suggestions on how to infuse some critical thinking into their work..quite an stimulating 6-8 AM conversation indeed!

debre sina vendorsDebre Sina! When Shelagh and I were en route back and forth we usually texted each other when we reached this half way point to Dessie, that is the usual 30 minute stop. Persistent sellers offer a wide range of specialties including kollo (roasted barley with a few peanuts), dried oregano, sugar cane, fruits in season – this time small plums, oranges and mangoes.

We had our traditional makeeato and looked forward to the second leg of the journey, thinking we were making such good time we might get to Woldia by 4 and could certainly make it to Dessie with having to visit the infamous Debre Sina toilets. But we were in for a surprise…

collecting luggae from selam busThe bus had broken down and they started unloading luggage off the disabled beast – and we had paid extra for this relatively luxurious and safer vehicle!

Amidst the chaos we eventually got onto a minibus arranged by the bus company but our tickets were taken from us and not returned and, as is the tradition, no one explained anything. Certainly no chance of a refund. Taking a bus in Ethiopia is never simple.

camel and manHowever we headed down the mountain into the lowlands, passing plenty of camels

donkey road hazardDrivers must watch out for donkeys and lorries – all part of the journey

road cattleMore typical road hazards

shop along the road near kombolchaDropping off a Peace Corps couple near Kombolcha I snapped this colourful vignette

winding road to DessieThen we headed up the long winding road to Dessie

dessie bus stationAt last we reached the Dessie bus station, stopping at a cafe first to use the “almost as awful as Debre Sina” loo…

arab and weyela on minibusNegotiating our final minibus ride of the day

Me “Is this driver going to chew khat”

Man  “Of course not, he is fine”

Me : “Are you telling me the truth?”

Man “Yes of course, I am taking this bus myself'”

crowded bus in gashenaLets see how many we can squish in…

dessie main streetOn the way out of Dessie – the main street

khat stopFirst stop out of Dessie near Hyak the same passenger who had assured me about the khat insisted we stop and proceeded to purchase a large bouquet of khat which I later watched him sharing with the driver

My experience is that it is not possible to travel from Dessie to Woldia without going in a minibus driven by a driver who is chewing khat, despite the fact it is illegal for drivers to chew. Like so many things here, the law has been written but the enforcement steps have yet to be taken…though there are a lot of traffic police checking for overcrowding these days…

sunrise at lalibela from top 12 I foolishly chose the worst seat and spent the next 2.5 hours bracing myself so I would not be tossed out as we careened up the mountain curves, while several of my fellow passenger proceeded to discreetly vomit into plastic bags and toss them out the windows. As Lonely Planet accurately states travel on Ethiopian buses can be “Butt-clenching”!

past dessie up highBest to focus in the scenery and visualize a safe arrival – in times like these it IS the destination, not the journey that keeps me going!

a small river..The final hurdle – a small river to charge through where the road had washed out

animals heading home at duskAnimals heading home at dusk, a lovely pastoral scene

freshly ploughed fieldsWoldia at last! Total time from 4 AM wake up to arrival = 15 hours to travel 520 km!

shekla tibsWe met the Woldia volunteers and headed out for beer and skekla tibs with injera, about all that’s on the menu right now with all other items being “not available” as usual. Luckily no vegetarians in the group or they would have been out of luck

cow outside aisling's bedroomAisling the new volunteer had kindly invited me to stay with her. We awoke to discover a cow had arrived overnight and settled in under the bedroom window.Well these things happen…it’s owner recovered it 24 hours later

chocho in woldiaThat morning I headed into town in a bajaj for breakfast and there he was – ChoCho the one horned pet Afar goat lives! Though he did seem pretty old and frail I was pleased I got to see him one last timecute bajajOne thing I really love about Woldia is the easy way you can get a bajaj anywhere for about 10 cents

special ful at wawNaturally I had to have Special  Ful for breakfast at the Waw Cafe balcony and enjoy the passing parade

chechebsa at wawAnother tasty breakfast option is chechebsa – small chunks of fried bread soaked in a honey-spiced butter-berbere mixture

cinema advertising vanOh yes, I had forgotten how these buses troll the streets with really loud speakers blaring out the cinema on offer at the municipal  hall

woldia view from wawConstruction continues to boom with skeletal scaffolds above already open ground floors

beer with zelalemThat afternoon we met up with Zelalem, who had been in my class, for a beer and to catch up on all the gossip. Aisling on the right is the new young Irish volunteer working with the Woldia University Higher Diploma Program

zerefa and her sisterLate afternoon we met Zerefa and her sister dressed for the Mels of their nephew Tamrat. We were honoured to be invited to attend this event that coincided with our trip to Woldia and Zerefa was thrilled that her match making had worked out!

aisling jim and tekluWe were all graciously included – Aisling is joined by Jim, another Irish volunteer who was passing though town on a Ministry of Education road trip with his colleague Teklu on the right

wedding welcomeExcitement mounted as candles were lit and a sheep was herded into the center of a jubilant circle of people clapping, drumming and singing

wedding sheep and drumI wondered if it was to be slaughtered on the spot but then I saw the buffet so I think it was given a reprieve…

bridesmaidsBridesmaids!

grrom and brideGroom Tamrat helps his bride Feven out of the car

wedding scene with briede and grrom and basketsA Mels happens after the wedding and is where the family of the bride welcomes the family of the groom or vise versa. The groom Tamrat is from Canada and his bride is from Dessie

buffetThe wedding party enjoys an impressive buffet

I was an honour to be included in their celebration and I wish Tamrat and Feven many blessings as they begin their married life together.

Next day I visited the new Woldia University

woldia university tea houseWoldia University is up and running in two years with 6 faculties and first and second year students, an impressive accomplishment. This round tea room is gorgeous!

woldia universityIt is astounding how fast this university went up. Two years ago it was only a plan. Last year they started using a temporary facility nearby and now they have enrolled 2nd years students amid the construction on campus – a work in progress!

sharing a laugh with balianeshIt was fun to meet old friends from our time in Woldia CTE who have moved on to work at the university. Balainesh is now secretary to our former college dean, Ato Bihonegn

friend from woldia CTE now at universityBalianesh, Tesfaw works in Finance and Ato Bigonegn is Vice President – Administration

countryside n=and jeery cans near universityWomen  with jerry cans of water near the university campus, a reminder that 85% of the population still exists on subsistence farming alongside this rapid expansion of tertiary educational facilities and that only about a quarter of adult females are literate and half of males…

Later I visited my old workplace, and was amazed at the transformation

Woldia CTE buildingsThe new Woldia College of Teacher Education is almost complete. Next step will be the landscaping

I enjoyed some brief reunions with many of the instructors who had been in my HDP class though about a third have transferred to other institutions, as is common here. Still it was lovely to sit and catch up with several in their new offices and share a thirst quenching laslasa (soft drink) in the hot sun with others. The next day I spoke to several on the phone that I had missed seeing, including Nejashi who said, “Please don’t forget us”. “I promise you”, I replied, choking up a little, “I will never forget you” How could I?

goofing around in the old HDP ELIC roomAt the College we enjoyed some silliness with masks in our old classroom, scheduled to be demolished in a month since the new buildings are all  but complete

with grads and yokosoIt was a delightful surprise to see a group of 3rd year students about to graduate – when we were there they were beginners! And the boy called  Yokoso in front with the drawings turned up too – he used to draw me a lot of lions on scrap paper I provided and he is still at it!

woldia VSOs past and presentTea time with the soon to graduate students – here you see all the volunteers in Woldia past and present lined up. Alain and David replaced Shelagh and me and have now almost completed their two years. Aisling arrived two months ago to teach HDP at the new university

Marian serke and shelaghAnd Serke has a new Shy Bet (tea house) near the primary School so we had another reunion

future teachersFuture teachers brimming with confidence!

passin scne shopI enjoyed a visit to the Adago area and said hi to a few shop owners I knew

makeato fancy cup with sayingPaused for a makeato at the Hamar Cafe – it came is a most surprising cup!

The message on the saucer read: “In the taste you may do as much as you like to enjoy an elegance and leisure. Even if there is a leisure time for awhile you still can expel sadness and oppression.” Indeed!

All too soon it was time to say a final farewell to Woldia and tackle a day of bus travel to Lalibela to visit our friend Susan at her Ben Abeba restaurant, the one Shelagh and I had seen two years earlier when it was still under construction. Stay tuned for part two, including the fate of that air filter…and a visit to a movie set…

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Rocky the pup, snoozing as usual on my doormat, perked up when he saw my packed bag at the door. He looked at me as if to say “and just where do you think you are going and who will be giving me my morning biscuit?”Rocky at my doorThe phone rang. Meseret was calling to say they were en route to get me.

collecting addisuShortly after her call the MoE SUV collected me and  we headed to Arat Kilo to pick up our colleague Addisu. Plans had changed and we were behind schedule but “expect the unexpected” is the norm around here so I sat back to enjoy the passing parade and take photos, as is my custom!

meseret and tshomeNext we backtracked to the Ministry of Education office to collect Ato Teshome from the legal department and he squeezed into the back with Meseret

MoE sign on SUVWe were on our way! Turns out that there was an issue with vehicles (as is often the case) so we were doubling up and taking Addisu and Teshome with us to drop off at Debre Zeit before we headed down the road to Adama. I sat back and enjoyed the views…reflecting on the dramatic juxtaposition of tradition and industrializtion

candle seller in wheelchairA typical scene in Addis: selling tapers to women wearing netellas of loose cotton who are on their way to church

road buildingHeading out of Addis, (likely this way for the last time since I leave in 2 months) I reflected on the rapid development in Ethiopia. Here road construction is a constant reminder of ambitious infrastructure projects, including a light rail system in Addis to help ease the congestion of almost 3 million people.

street cleanersModern transport systems are under construction but labour intensive garbage collection remains basic!

small shopsSmall shops setting up for the day

high loaded tuckFully loaded trucks crowd the streets

fully loaded donkeysAlong with fully loaded donkeys!

paint factoryPassing the paint factory and anticipating the dusty road jammed with lorries that leads south past many factories I was glad I had my usual scarf to hold over my nose when the bellowing black smoke/fumes got to me

egg truckYes, we are heading to Adama, the land of farm fresh eggs!

yegna bus“Look, its a Yegna bus!, I exclaim, seeing the Ambessa bus “wrapped” in the soon to be very familiar logo that is the brand of Yegna.

A few weeks earlier I had attended the launch of Yegna and just last week I had participated in a workshop organized by the Girl Hub Ethiopia intended to link up NGOs and agencies working on gender projects focusing on adolescent girls. Meaning “ours” in Amharic, Yegna is a weekly half hour radio drama, followed by a half hour talk show being piloted in Addis and the Amhara region. The show targets girls from 12-19 and is 70% entertainment and 30% educational messaging about girls’ empowerment. The five girls in the drama become friends because they share a love of music and each episode will have a new song. Funded by DFID (the British Development Department) and the Nike Foundation, Girl Hubs are doing innovative projects in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Rwanda using social media to reach out teenage girls and encourage boys to support gender equality at the same time.

buyilding with scaffoldSkeletal buildings abound as more and more hotels, office buildings and factories go up. The scaffolding is made from fast growing eucalyptus trees that were introduced about 150 years ago from Australia by Emperor Menelik.

addisu and tshome chacking inAt Debre Zeit we drop off Addisu and Teshome for their meeting

They are spending a few days with a group to develop sexual harassment policy for colleges, based on the already completed model document designed for universities. Eventually all levels in the school system will have sexual harassment policy. The next challenge will be enforcement as, by all reports, sexual harassment is widespread and a threat to girls staying in school. As the Ethiopian proverb goes ” Slowly, slowly the egg will walk”. This is a first step…

cows along roadPast Debre Zeit we breathe more freely as the congestion clears a little and I enjoy the landscape of the south as we head down the Rift Valley toward Adama

wrapped water containersAn innovative idea – wrap plastic jugs in twine to create a cooling thermos for truckers to store their water for long haul trips

industiral zoneA Chinese built “Industrial Zone” reminds us of the large investments China is making in Ethiopia

industrail zone buildingsAlong the route we pass steel and marble tile factories, tanneries, flower farms, food processing plants…

mojo portAnd choke our way through hundreds of lorries near Mojo, a “dry port” stacked with containers going to and from Djibouti

biscuit factory signAnd now a colourful sign for a Flour and Biscuit Factory – we are in Oromia and the language is Afan Oromo which uses the familiar alphabet but for some reason, they are big on multiple vowels!

adama signArriving in Adama ( also known as Nazreth) Meseret explains to me that this sculpture represents the “womb” and is meant to indicate that Adama is a growing town where many developments are being “born” at the numerous workshops, meetings and conferences that are held here

work roomOnce we get over the usual hotel room wrangle we meet late afternoon to begin our task – to complete draft #2 of a module on Gender Responsive Pedagogy (aka GRP) to be used in Universities and Teachers’ Colleges to train all primary and secondary teachers to be gender responsive as we like to say here in the “teaching-learning process”.

I am delighted at last to meet with these gender experts who are also university and teachers’ college instructors to review the first draft I have prepared on our MoE GRP module. This project has been in the works for over a year and I am thrilled to at last see things moving forward. We welcome as well the chair of the FAWE Ethiopia board who has been delivering GRP trainings at Teachers’ Colleges, based on the GRP Teachers’ Handbook developed by FAWE and used in 38 African countries. FAWE is the leader on gender work for schools in Africa and I have long appreciated their “made in Africa for the African context” resources.

mom baby meserat and azmeraAs always there are surprises – yes, Helina has come with her 11 month old baby and husband, who keeps the baby entertained while we work, an excellent role model for men here!

meseret and babyMeseret takes a turn with the baby at meal time

melkam and babyAnd Melkam shows her baby amusing expertise!

tech support!Another surprise – Melkam’s son shows up for dinner and is recruited to solve some of our technical challenges – turns out he is studying computer science at Adama university

part of groupLet’s have a group photo – OK! But where are the others? Bohala – we will do another later!

driver and finance ladiesAfternoon tea break time and the driver has brought 3 women from the Finance office to sort out the per diems and of course enjoy the snacks and shay/buna

azmerat and tigistWe ate all our meals at the hotel but Azmera and Tigest invite me out one night for a juice at the best juice bar in town – very yummy with lots of strawberry!

2 smiling sistersMulu and Helina both teach at Haromaya University and their smiles gave me a clue – yes they are sisters! With a rapidly expanding tertiary education system, most university and college staff are young recent graduates. Mule is already a dean and a role model for women where the gap is still wide in terms of women in leadership positions.

During our days together we worked hard to go through the draft step by step. I was delighted by the group’s thoughtful contributions, background knowledge and commitment to provide feedback that will ensure this module meets our goal of making the theory of gender responsive pedagogy come alive through active learning, continuous assessment, reflection and action research processes.The intention is that all future primary and secondary teachers be given this preparation so that the school system ultimately becomes more “girl friendly” and that the national goal of gender equality come closer to reality. Increased enrollment of girls in schools, coupled with retention and achievement, are key targets of the Ministry plan to address gender issues in Ethiopian schools. It is a massive task but this working group showed me that there is the will to succeed.

whole group at workFinally, a picture of the entire group. Left to right : Meseret from MOE, Leilet and Setu from Gondor Teachers’ College, Melkam from  FAWE, Azmera from Axum University and Tigist from Ambo University, Mulu and Helina from Haromaya University and guess who! We retire to the dining room for a last lunch and then head down to road again…

wind farmOn the way out of Adama we pass a wind farm, a reminder of new technologies for energy being developed to supplement the hyrdo-electric dams under construction here, all intended to bring electricity to a larger segment of the population

gas stationTime for gas – and of course a chance to add to my collection of photos of flag colours – red, green and yellow are never far for view!

buying watermelonsWatermelon and pumpkins by the tonne. Naturally we had to get some…road trips usually involve some shopping on the way home

eating watermelon ion carAnd some sampling as well…

oranges and mangoes on truckCloser to Addis vendors offere oranges and mangoes

plants for sale at debre zeitDebre Zeit is famous for the plants and flowers that grow so well in this climate

I appreciated the sights and scenery on the road home, already feeling a slight nostalgia knowing that I will soon be leaving it behind. I also had a sense of accomplishment that we had taken the next step toward this module getting finished.

But I am experienced enough now, after my three years in Ethiopia, to know the road ahead for this module is still long, winding and rocky. Several more drafts will need to be done, many more experts will weigh in, funds will have to be found to pay for validation workshops and printing. Then the cycle of Training of Trainers (ToT) will kick in and the “cascade model” will be enacted to reach the grassroots. Still, we have begun the journey…and my part is soon to end. I admit I had been apprehensive about how much we could get done in Adama but I came home feeling satisfied that we had done our best. I have prepared the next draft and am awaiting feedback to complete draft#3. Once my part is done, I trust that my colleagues will carry it forward.

titi and babyNaturally my welcome committee greeted me when I was dropped off at home, though they clearly had been hoping for something other than watermelon as their treat !

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What can I say? The first time is the one you remember with the most fondness. Mine took place at the Waw Cafe in Woldia one sunny Saturday morning a couple of years ago when I was open to experiment and looking for some excitement. In my breakfast that is…!

waw cafe foul

So I ordered the Ful, spelled Foul on some menus, and pronounced as in “Fool”. “Normal or Special?”,  asked the waitress. “Normal I suppose”, I replied. Soon I was dipping my crusty bread in a piping hot,  spicy, tomato infused, garlicky, beany blend. Deeply satisfying! And less than a dollar for a nutritious start to the day. It became my regular treat in a small town not known for its’ gourmet offerings! Accompanied by a good coffee and conversation with assorted fellow diners, always curious to ask the ferenji why she was there, it was a pleasant way to while away a weekend morning.

Ever since, when I see Fool, Ful, Foul or even Full on a menu, I order it. All too often the traditional “not available” is the reply. Taking this as one of my many challenges living here, I have continued on my quest for the perfect fool! Naturally I document the ones I find, often amusing the other customers in the process! Here is a taste…

messi cafe foulThis is the creatively garnished Messi Cafe ful – a VSO favourite in the Haya Hulet neighbourhood of Addis Ababa.

The advice is to go to the cafe and order it, then do your other shopping and come back since it can take up to an hour to get it! Or take some reading material, sip coffee and practice your patience. It IS very delicious and you get a bonanza of vegetables on top!

The base of a ful is always beans, usually fava or broad beans but sometimes even kidney beans. You can buy them in tins called Ful Medammes but what fun is that?

foul with falafelShelagh came back to Woldia from a trip to Addis raving about a new Ful place by the Yonnas Hotel.

Amazing! It has falafel too! All this for about $1.50. Rumoured to be run by an Israeli man married to an Ethiopian woman. Truly it was a special, special ful. At least I tasted it once and got to document the great presentation… Alas, it disappeared a few months later!

foul at no-name cafeHere you see one of those run of the mill “special fuls” that small cafes serve.

Basic, cheap and tasty enough but not fully satisfying. Why is it called “special”? It means it has scrambled eggs on top! And often some awaze paste and chopped onions and hot green peppers. I think the secret is long slow cooking of the beans with plenty of onion and garlic…and this one seemed thrown together at the last minute I am afraid.

Paris Cafe fulThis nicely presented ful is served at the Paris Cafe on Djibouti Street where the French decor includes pictures of the Eiffel Tower but sadly, no crepes on the menu…

gondor avocado foul.JPGOn the other hand, this was one big fat VERY SPECIAL  ful.

Yes indeed – big tomato flavour and it even had avocado and chopped tomato along with the onions and peppers on top! And yes, there was even a swirl of yogurt! Lip smacking good! Found in a cafe on the piazza in Gondor, facing the newly erected statue of Emperor Theodros for a little taste of history with your breakfast.

Foul arabic breakfast at Fusion BistroSwanky Ful all dressed up with feta, olives, pita and falafel at the Fusion Bistro in Addis near the Edna Mall.

This cafe specializes in Middle Eastern dishes and is well worth visiting. Salads are great too! Naturally this ful is a bit more costly, what with the tinned imported olives,  fancy dishes and all.

Sudan ful

Back to basics – Sudan style ful at a super busy and  popular small cafe in Addis near Getfam Supermarket

This morning I woke feeling like today would be the day! “I am going to only have a coffee, leave early for my weekly VSO meeting and stop for Sudan style ful in that tiny cafe that I was told had the BEST Ful”, I told myself. And so I did! The ful was not a work of art but the bread was super crusty and the ful itself quite tasty, garnished with peppers, onion and hot sauce.

The place was packed and a pleasant man joined me at the table, ordered himself a normal ful and struck up a conversation. He had once visited Toronto and told me that he farmed sesame seeds that he exported to China. Globalization strikes again! I ate all I could and, realizing I needed to hurry on to my meeting, I called for the “heesab”. When my bill arrived he plucked it from the waitress and said “It is my treat for you”. Sweet!

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“We are keeping the big one,” said Sami a week ago. And so we have added a third dog to our clan on the Kifle compound! “You can name him”, he said. I actually felt the heaviness of this responsibility after I tried out Teddy and discovered that Ethiopians don’t usually give people names to dogs. So I withdrew that option. Knowing people here enjoy nicknames that end in “e” I next suggested maybe we could call him Zebie, short for Zebegna which means guard, a good name for what he will grow up to be once he is mentored to bark loudly by his parents, Pico and Titi. But no one seemed keen on that name. Almaz suggested “puppy” but I pointed out he will grow up and not be a puppy after a few months so we settled on Papie for our new baby dog. At least I thought we had…

still wating for my name!Today we decided that Papie did not really suit him. So we are back to square one…

our compundEntrance to our compound – my bathroom and kitchen windows are on the right. A fine balance of companionship and privacy exists within these walls…

With only three months left of my three years in Ethiopia, I am starting to transition in my mind back home to Vancouver. I find myself preoccupied with questions. What will I miss? What do I most look forward to back in Canada? Who/what do I want to make sure I see and do before I leave?  It has become a hectic time already. At work the predictable situation of suddenly becoming busy after months of treading water is playing itself out. I have already seen many volunteers go through this, so it was no surprise when the assignments started to pile up. “What, you are leaving?” “Why not add another year?” 

When I think of what I will miss, top of mind is my sweet tiny cocoon of a house on the Kifle compound and the people (and dogs) who surround me. Living in Ethiopia has reinforced for me the value of community. Inside our peaceful compound there are three small houses rented for volunteers, a small spare bedroom/bathroom that was rented until recently to a man setting up a sugar factory, and the Kifle household, made up of two parents, 3 kids, a housemaid named Amazon and two, now three, loveable but barky dogs.

kids and dogs 2011When I arrived in Addis in September 2011 I took this “family portait” of Meron,  Eyob and Sami. Sami is holding Pico and Titi is in front

baby picoPico was only a few months old when I arrived

Titi and Pico enjoy freesias!I always look forward to coming home from work, greeted with enthusiastic pirouettes from Pico, who remains a puppy at heart, and by Titi sweetly accompanying me to my door, politely looking for a treat.

sorting dried chilisAmazon and Almaz and sometimes Etenu can often be found preparing food outside the kitchen near my door. The amount of  drying, sifting, sorting and chopping that goes into Ethiopian food preparation is both astounding and fascinating and we often have a little chat about what’s cooking.

etam cleaning chilis for berbereEvery second Saturday Etenu does my washing in a big basin in the back, hanging it on the lines to sun dry.

Once in a while Almaz and the kids squeeze into my kitchen too for a lesson on ferenji baking. Cakes, scones, biscotti and lasagna have all proven successful.  Life is simple, peaceful and kind.

pumpkin carvingOur Halloween pumpkin carving…

On weekends more family members visit; it has been fun to watch Natan growing – he was born last August and, as is the custom, he and his mother stayed here for a couple of months so that she would have extended family support with her firstborn.

natan and momA much loved new baby

family portrait with nathanWeekly  family visits allows me to see Natan growing…

sami goofing around

I was pleased to be invited to an art opening a few weeks back by a young cousin who visits often; I enjoyed meeting two of his friends who had just completed art school. Another frequent visitor is Kifle’s younger sister Adanech, a nurse at the Korean Hospital who has been really helpful when my visiting friend and some volunteers have ended up there, needing some support. It feels great to be included and supported by this extended Ethiopian family.

Several volunteers have come and gone in the two other small houses. These days, I often enjoy a nice after work cup of tea with Peter, an IT volunteer from Scotland who has previously volunteered in Kenya. Over our sips we have covered a lot of territory from peace activism to development theory while sharing the joys and frustrations of volunteering.

kifle and endashaw at repair wallOne Sunday a few months back at around 5 PM we were stunned by a huge explosion with a cloud of white dust in the middle of the compound! Peter’s wall had broken off – his is the original building from 30 years ago and the rainy season had done in the outer cement layer…here Ato Kifle and Endashaw watch the repairs

Endashaw, recently married to Selam, is an Ethiopian-Canadian volunteer who can often be heard talking on his mobile as he comes and goes, dropping by now and then for tea and to treat me to some food one of his many sisters has made for him. With a large extended family in Addis, he spends lots of time with relatives. Soon he will return home to job hunt and start the paperwork so Selam can come to join him to build their new life together in Canada.

birthday daboLast June we had a big compound party and Amazon and Almaz presented me with a giant bread that is traditional for birthdays. We still speak fondly of that party and are planning to have another this June before I go, sheep included!

kifle and almazKifle and Almaz all dressed up for a wedding

eyob and me with scrabbleOn weekends I sometimes play Scrabble with the kids. Why does Eyob look so happy?

eyob celebrates his win!He is  celebrating his win, with Meron a close second!

all set up for a dinner partyI enjoy inviting guests over for dinner now and again though the space is too cramped for more that four people to fit in comfortably

addis nestEthiopian art from an old airlines calendar brightens the wall

Christmas morning coffeeMy morning ritual always involves a good cup of Ethiopian coffee

the whole familyLast summer while I was back in Vancouver Titi and Pico’s first litter was born. I met the five pups when they were about 4 weeks  old, having heard about them on Facebook from Sami!

the whole gang of puppiesLooking back at photos, I see how alike the second litter, born 2 months ago, resembles this first group of five!

drinking milk 6Litter number two, trying milk from a dish for the first time!

family portraitHere is Sami with the last 3 from the second litter

asnakech gets her "wond"

Asnakech from my office came to collect her puppy a few weeks ago – she had gotten a female from the first batch and placed her order for a male. She is thrilled to have her new little guy!

titi and babyNow our new guy is big enough to join his parents at my door mat and is being taught to sneak into my kitchen when I am not looking!

This afternoon we played another round of Scrabble and, as Eyob and Meron were leaving the suggestion came ,“Let’s call him Fuzzy”. I’ll let you know if it sticks!

Whatever his name is, I know that when I finally say goodbye this July, I will miss him and the other two dogs as well as the easy companionship of the people I enjoy living alongside in this Addis compound .

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