Archive for July, 2013

Summer Activities

Following is a post written by Megan Messano.  Megan is a school teacher in the US and is spending her summer volunteering at CCC in Soddo, Ethiopia.  She is running a summer camp/school program.  This post was written after Megan’s first full day at CCC.

 

I slept  in until 7:00 this morning, long after the sun rose and the choir of birds and children started to sing.  I’d been up late finishing lesson plans for my first English class, which was made more complicated when the power went out and I had to feel my way in utter darkness out of the kitchen, through the living room, and into my bedroom where I’d fortunately had the foresight to hang my flashlight in an obvious place.  With it I located the candles and matches and carried on.

I got up and had breakfast in the cafeteria, then played with the kids until it was time for class.  The first night here was very overwhelming, but I’m already learning many of their names and figuring out how to communicate in English, Amharic, and smiles.

tumblr_inline_mp0kd72JuV1qz4rgpI’ve learned to answer to “Ferenge,” which means “foreigner.”  It’s basically my new name.

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I was prepared for class, but a little nervous that the lesson would fall flat, or the kids would resent being there.  I needn’t have worried.  We finished my lesson plan in under an hour and when I told them we were done, they protested.

“No! We want to learn!”

“Ask us questions!”

“About the story!”

Shocked and pleased, I launched into a more in-depth discussion of the first three pages of Tikki Tikki Tembo.  There’s only so much you can talk about, but they ate up every word.  From there I had them all tell me about their favorite things: colors, foods, sports, and when they still didn’t want to leave after that was done, I had them put up labels I’d made for classroom objects (table, desk, chair, bookshelf).  We finally stopped around 10:30 when a nurse came in asking me to unlock my room because she’d left a book there.

I wandered out to the soccer field and watched the kids kick a ball around, and then was called to join a jump rope game.  They’d abandoned the frayed hemp they’d been using and the rope of choice today seemed to be some type of wire.  I’m getting good at jumping in and out, which is crucial to the way they play.

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When I got tired I sat down on the bottom of a slide, and several kids joined me.

“Maygahn,” one said, “You like to sing?”

“Yes, I love to sing,” I answered.

Instantly, the sing-along began.  They taught me three Amharic worship songs, and helped me sound out the words to write them down.  They were SO patient with me, and happy to help me not just sing the words, but understand what they meant.  These kids are incredible, they really are.

After a lunch of rice and bread I was quite desperate for a vegetable, so I went back to my room and made green beans.  Afterward I crashed.  I’d had no idea how tired I was until I realized I’d been dreaming but didn’t remember closing my eyes.  I set my alarm for 2:00, an hour before my next class, and lay back down.

ChuChu, the dean of students here, came to my door moments after the alarm woke me up.

“There is a lot of people in town. You have heard about the football match?” I’d heard murmurs about football (soccer) since I arrived, and told him so.  He explained that they have a National League and a Premier League, and a team from Wolaita (the region/people group we are in) had just made it into the Premier League.  Apparently, they were the first to do so. “Come, they are waiting for the team to pass by.  See how the people are acting.”

ChuChu and I walked up to the main road.  There were tens of thousands of people in the streets, many in red, yellow, and black striped Wolaita cultural clothing.  All were expectantly milling about, watching, waiting.  ChuChu explained that there was no telling when the team would pass by, because they were going through many small towns where they would be obliged to stop for coffee.  Some people had been standing there since early this morning.

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We waited for maybe two hours, talking and meeting people.  Finally some motorcycles started blowing through, decked with Wolaita colors and leafy branches.  At first I thought this was the team, but people only seemed mildly interested.  Later more motorcycles came until they filled the street and took laps around the traffic circle.  People started to get amped up.  After this came a sea of people on foot, running and cheering, and finally a bus crawled its way through the crowd.  Soccer players in light blue shirts held trophies out the windows.  People sang and danced and chanted.  It was a very emotional display.  “Wolaita is a small zone, one of many with their own people and language and culture.” ChuChu explained.  “The prime minister is from here, and now this has happened.  It doesn’t give sense for you, but it gives sense for us.”

“I think I can appreciate it,” I replied.  “It’s pride.  This is clearly about more than football.”

“Yes,” he smiled.  “Pride.  That song they are singing, it says ‘Now is the time for Wolaita.’”

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We came back exhausted, having inherently cancelled the afternoon class because all of the children were in the street somewhere.  I sat down and rested for a minute, thinking I could just stay in for the rest of the night, but something nudged me out the door.  I played with the little ones for a bit, and then one of the young girls asked me, “You go to church?” I said yes and she took my hand. “Come. Church now. Sing and pray.”

She led me into the youngest girls’ room, where kids were already gathering. They were all between the ages of four and maybe twelve, and in the end there were twenty-six of them there, fully half of the children who live here.  They sat on the beds that lined the walls and waited for Banchiwosen to lead them.  This was clearly a regular thing.

They all began to sing.  The first three songs were the ones I’d learned this morning, so I sang with them.  I cannot fully express what I felt.  They were worshipping.  REALLY worshipping. Entirely on their own.  It was beautiful.  They followed Banchi and moved into some English songs (This Little Light of Mine, Joy to the World) that they didn’t know many of the words to, but they fully enjoyed trying.  After this I had to drop out because the longer Amharic and Wolaitinya songs began.  I just sat and listened and melted.  I was in the Throne Room.  More than once I wished for my camera, but at the same time it felt too sacred.

When they stopped, Nanni stood up and sang a song by herself. Apparently it was solo time, because it continued down the line until it came to me.

“Maygahn! Sing! In English!”  I was startled and let little Meskerem go ahead of me, but then I stood and sang a verse of “Forever Reign.”  Solo time continued all around the room and I listened intently while Meskerem held my hand and leaned her head on my shoulder. So many thoughts chased each other through my head.  If it were possible, I would love so much to take any one of these children home and raise them as my own.  But what of the others when certain “chosen ones” are whisked off to America?  And how could I replace this?  There is so much that these kids are lacking, but they also have something very special here that I’ve never seen at home.

When the last soloist sat down, all of the kids started talking again and I made out my name amid the chatter.  “Maygahn!” “Ferenge pray.  Then finish.”

“Abba Father, thank you for this special place and the chance to worship You tonight, and the way You’ve blessed me through these children-” a perfectly unison “AMEN” interrupted my train of thought, but every head remained bowed. “We ask you to help us with the things we need, and we thank you for the food we have, the beds we sleep in, and the love we have for each other.”

“AMEN.”

“Thank you for Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sins so we could know You and love You.”

“AMEN.”

“Amen.”

“AMEN.”