“Every child is potentially the light of the world”

So Finally, after weeks of blogging, and weeks of digression, I arrive at the purpose of this blog, my service.

On Monday, my first day at One Planet, Mr. Zelalem took me on a tour through the school while the kids did their morning assembly. I’m not sure if I have mentioned but there are a total of 300 students at the school, 90 of those are in the primary grades and the rest are in the various levels of kindergarten. The school is inside a compound, so what is a compound? A compound is an area surrounded by high concrete walls and topped with barbed or razer wire. There are two entrance gates, one into the KG section of the compound, and the other into the primary section. At each gate there is a guard, no AK-47’s though thank God. I digress for a moment to say that the police here are quite different than in the Western world. Here there are police pickup trucks that have maybe 6 men sitting in the back with Kalashnikovs laying across their laps or hanging off their backs. There is no doubt that it is a different world.
One Planet International School was a dream of Gail and Zelalem Amare that came to life just four years ago. It began in just the KG compound, but each year they expanded adding a primary grade. First they leased half of the primary compound from their neighbor, then, when they were ready to expand again they kindly asked him to move somewhere else so they could expand into his house. Mr. Zelalem pointed to the compound behind the school and said “their next”. Their dream and plan is to continue adding a grade each year all the way through high school. Mr. Zelalem told me the other night that he expected to have a thousand students at One Planet some day.
Later in Mr. Zelalem’s office he talked about the impact of the school reaching 300 students, 600 hundred parents, all of the staff that he employed, and just the overall immensity of the operation. He spoke in length of the importance of this service to the faith and the education of children, and how this year would be a hallmark in my life that I will always look back on. He spoke about remembering why I am here, to serve, and cautioned me not to become distracted but to devote myself entirely to serving. He thanked me sincerely for taking a year of my life and devoting it to service, it is huge. He spoke to me for the most part of an hour, and I cannot portray how emotional and moving it was.
After that I walked back to the staff room and before sitting down reached for a globe from the shelf and placed it on my desk.
Soon Jasmin asked if I would go and teach my grade two reading class, I told her I would come watch today. I followed her to the grade two class, upon entering we were immediately bombarded.
“Good morning Ms. Jasmin and Mr. Galen.” Screeched the class.
“Good morning class how are you today” replied Ms. Jasmin
“We are fine thank you and you?”
“I’m fine, please take a seat”
“Thank you Ms. Jasmin.”
Mr. Olata was in the midst of telling a story and he now continued while I sat on a desk at the front of the class and observed. Once he was finished with the story him and Ms. Jasmin divided the class in two, half went to computer class while the other half stayed. There were 13 grade two’s left in the room. I should mention that all the while this was happening there was a painful level of noise and yelling coming out of the students mouths, they just couldn’t be quiet. Ms. Jasmin handed out the boxcar children, and asked them to read. One student wanted to be read to so she took him outside with her, I was left with the class. Everyone that I have talked to have warned that it is important to be very strict and serious for the first few weeks, otherwise the rest of the year will be chaos. I was very strict and serious, and the students were relatively good. I went around and had students read to me. I sincerely enjoyed this class.
By 5th and 6th blocks I had had enough time to prepare a lesson for Grade one P.E. In grade 1A there were twenty students. I was uncomfortable taking them outside as I knew that they would be absolutely uncontrollable so I made the mistake of attempting to teach most of the lesson inside. I have never encountered so much noise or so many screaming children. The lesson was a mild success, I was able to teach them to freeze and stop talking when I raised my hand and said freeze, however I was beat. I was not exactly looking forward to going next door to grade 1B and another twenty kids. This time I took them outside sooner in order to play a name game; I was delusional in imagining that I would be able to learn their names. Let me give you some examples of names: Nafyad, Abel, Kibret, Ananiya, Natanim, Nehiia, and Arsema. You may think that it is easy enough to read these names but pronouncing them is a whole other story, needless to say I am can’t seem to pronounce anything in Amharic correctly, the taxi drivers can never understand where I want to go. Even the names that you would think would be easy like Solomon are not at all what you would expect. It is not Ethiopia but Etiopia. I digress.
Once outside we formed a circle and attempted to play a name game with a tennis ball. (Thank your Brian for all the balls! They made cards for you!) I have always felt sorry for grade one teachers, and now I know why. Sometimes it is not even that they are purposefully ignoring you or misbehaving, it’s just that their brains are programmed to notice every little thing, and often they just plain don’t understand you. The fact the some of the students do not yet speak English also does not help either. Mr. Zelalem walked by and was very serious with them sending one of the kids into time out. I quickly learned from his example. By the end of the period I was absolutely beat and wondering what I was going to do. I still had a cold, and was not feeling very well at all. It was a challenging first day.
Each day, as I begin to get to know the kids, things are getting better. I am glad that it is the weekend and I have some time to read Around the would in eighty days and Robin Hood in order to make some comprehension questions for grades two and four.

We went to the Amare’s for dinner last night. While we were sitting in the living room before dinner one of the girls that works there came around with a special fountain looking bowl with a bar of soap in it in one hand and a watering can of warm water in the other. She went to each person around the room so that they could soap up then she would poor water over their hands. Until then I hadn’t though much about the maids, but that made me feel very uncomfortable.
Grocery Shopping

It is the first time that I have lived away from home, and the first time that I have had to do my own grocery shopping. The difficult thing is, I don’t know what anything is, and don’t recognize any of the brands. It’s like when you go to a foreign restaurant and have no idea what anything on the menu is, it’s hard to know what to choose! Finally I was able to find some Indian brown rice, and I’ve been eating that with onions and tomatoes. I bought some ground beef but I keep forgetting to unthaw it. As for breakfast I haven’t quite got that figured out yet. I started on Tuesday with South African corn flakes and Ethiopian yogurt. I have never tasted yogurt so incredibly sour. As for the milk, it is either not pasteurized and you have to boil it, or it comes in a bag. So for now, I’ve been eating my cornflakes with mango juice, it’s quite the sugary blast. We went out for pizza the other night with Zelalem and Gail at a place that was supposedly KFC, Pizza Hut, City Life Café, and numerous other names depending on which sign you chose to look at. An extra large pizza cost around 60 birr, which works out to about $5 US. It is a different world.
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