My new home

I sit in front of my computer sipping tea that contains two Addis
teas, one ginger and the other chamomile. I am trying to regain my
voice from a long day of teaching. As I flip through my pictures I am
disappointed, not by their quality, not by their content, but by their
reality. They cannot portray what it is really like, and I feel as
though they do not show the truth to someone who has not been here.
Imagination, description, imagery, nothing can truly portray what it
is like. I think back to the first moment my eyes began to take it all
in; the stark contrast from the dry orange of the Sahara to the lush
greenery of the Ethiopian mountains, and the green and black patchwork
of fields that spread out as far as the eye could see. These images
are already fading in my mind. After clearing customs and collecting
my baggage I was met by Kyle, Jasmin, Toby, and Hirut. They took my
bags and led me out of the airport and into the parking lot. I was
here at last. The rest is hazy as I was sick and tired. I remember
them pushing me into the front seat and reaching for the seat belt and
realizing that no one was wearing one. This much be Africa. Even in my
tired state I was enthralled as the city passed by in the darkness. I
quickly noticed that there were no traffic lights, no lane markers, no
stop signs, and seemingly no rules. As chaotic as it may sound, it all
works just fine. One could even argue that it is faster to get through
a roundabout here as instead of wasting all day waiting for a gap you
just barge right in. With curiosity I noticed that all signaling is
done with the horn, warning people that you are there. There is also
no slowing down for the pedestrians crossing the street, if they don’t
move they’ll simply get hit, needless to say later I was seconds away
from being flattened by a chargning taxi. Toby got out along the way,
and we continued on to the Amare’s house. Finally we headed up the
left side of the road towards oncoming traffic for a few meters before
turning off onto a very African looking rocky lane. Shortly we arrived
at a gate, Hirut laid on the horn, the gate doors swung open, and we
rolled into the compound. We were immediately greeted my several
grinning Ethiopian girls on insisted on taking my luggage from me and
hauling it up the stairs. Gail and Zelalem had gone out to see a movie
so were not there. I’m not exactly sure what order the rest happened
in, as I said I was tired and sick.

I remember following Kyle and Jasmin into a small room with a high
table laden with food, eating and enjoying real food after a thirty
hours of travel and lack of sleep, and Layli the youngest of the Amare
children soon clinging to me. Soon we were out the door again and
walking down the treacherously rocky road, and catching a taxi. Again
reaching for the seatbelt, receiving a dirty look from the driver,
feeling like a foreigner and abandoning any hope of a seatbelt. Next
the was taxi drifting to the side of the road and saying ‘sorry, out
of gas’. Climbing out and seeing that we were at Kaldis the African
version of Starbucks and gulping down my tea in an attempt to stall my
throbbing cold. Returning to the Amare’s and meeting Gail and Zelalem
at last, and their loving hospitality. Following them into the same
room with food and sitting around the table till late. Finally,
dragging my feet up the stairs and falling into bed.

I sit and stare as the curser blinks black against the white of the
page. I listen to the sound of various voices speaking in Amharic and
some sort of loudspeaker or voice that seems to be resonating through
the neighborhood. A door creaks on its hinges, and I listen to what
sounds like crickets. There is too much to tell.
Two nights ago Kyle suggested to me that if I had any clothes I wanted
ironed I should do them before I go to bed in case the power was out
in the morning. I nodded and said I was too tired. Sure enough after
finishing my shower the power flashed off. I wore wrinkled clothes
that day.

So much has happened that I’m not sure where to start, my thoughts are
scattered. On Sunday we moved into our apartments, after weeks of
Zelalem preparing them for us. By Ethiopian standards they are middle
classed. We are in a relatively safe neighborhood, there are lots of
people around which makes it safer. There are many things that
definitely remind me daily that I am in Africa, but that is what makes
it so fascinating. Outside of each apartment building is a
surprisingly abundant garden. It is a garden of large satellite dishes
littering the ground, cables running up to apartments. In the bottom
of our building there are a few stalls or shops that sell basic needs,
and often some fruit and vegetables. Next door to us in a large beat
up looking blue office building there is a primary school. Along the
potholed dirt road that turns off the main road and leads past the
sketchy looking power plant there are several stalls selling various
foods and household needs. There are also several cafes and other
stalls and shops along the main road just before our road. There is
also an orange dirt and rock soccer field just outside of our
building, yesterday we passed a curled up donkey on the side. We are a
thirty-minute walk from One Planet. Generally we walk, but if we are
late we take a taxi, which usually costs us thirty birr, about three
dollars.

Arriving at one planet we nod to the guard and then pass through the
metal door and into the compound. In front of us amidst a concrete
playground stands a round colourful building. Inside is the main
office, Mr. Zelalem’s office, a learning centre, and a small place
where we can buy lunch. We walk around this building and into a
straight building that stands to the left of it. In a small room we
move past two-canon photocopy machines to a desk where we sign in. We
then come out of this room, walk around the back of the round
building, past the colourful metal merry go round and teeter totter,
through a small opening in a solid concrete wall and into the primary
section of the school. We walk under the basketball hoop and across a
small half court, across some trampled and dirty grass, past the
library, and into the staff room. My desk is the first on the right as
I enter the room; I slide into my chair and take in the familiar sight
of paper and books that lies before me. I am a full time primary
school teacher.

I get up and walk to the fridge to see if my mango juice is cold yet,
its not. The mango juice here is unreal, it’s like eating mango
straight out of the blender. It’s time for dinner.