St. Lucy Flute School

St. Lucy  Flute School
Class of 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last blog entry from Ethiopia

April 29th 2009

As our trip draws to a close my aunt and I are finding it rather hard to say goodbye, it’s like we have been living in denial for the past week and now that we are on the eve of our last day the reality is hitting us that we are going to leave this life behind, we are going home in America.

There is a mixture of sadness but equal excitement to see our family and friends again and to be back in the city we love so much. We both wonder what it will feel like when we come back, if we will go through culture shock again because of way we have acclimated to this way of life, my aunt and I agree we both will probably feel like foreigners in our own country. However this is only phase two of our mission, we have plenty of work to do now in the states for what we have started here in Ethiopia from spreading awareness to setting up displays of my aunt’s work and the work of the natives for the American people to see for themselves.

When we first started out on this mission trip we had no idea what we were getting into we were subject to our own doubts, and perceptions of others about what it’s like in Ethiopia, a developing country with very limited luxury, disease and we had heard there were conflicts with Eritrea. I was excited to be leaving the country for the first time to Africa and terrified at the same time. When we arrived it was like something out of a story book, I had never seen life lived in such a way as the natives live, from the farmlands to the mud and clay homes with no plumbing I was in awe of everything I saw but thought I would be ready to go home after seven weeks of living in it all.

I never expected to fall so deeply in love with the people, the land, the sisters and the lifestyle. The relaxed pace that everything flows around here, the nights walking around Adigrat under a star riddled sky with close friends who have become like family to us. Eating organic food and laughing hysterically with the nuns. Traversing the landscape and exploring the magnificent mountains and valleys that stretched out as far as the eye could see with no signs of industry, just villages and farms. We have also become ritualized coffee drinkers taking part in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony almost everyday. We also have become quite fond of the Ethiopian cuisine, especially the injerra bread they eat with everything. When ever we go over to friends houses we were hand fed and were given the traditional Ethiopian drinks such as mez, also known as honey wine and Souwa which is like homemade Ethiopian beer. We have never received such warm hospitality from people who supposedly don’t have much to offer. Their first priority has been our comfort and happiness we often times feel like we are being treated like royalty here.

This experience has changed my life and opened my eyes for the better and I highly recommend anyone I know to have this kind of experience at least once in their life, get up and go live in a country that isn’t just a big, wealthy tourist resort. Go to a developing country and see for yourself how these people survive and live in such close, happy communities. Actively get involved in the community and learn a different way of life. Its one of the best things you can do for yourself. The richest person is the one who has happiness; you will find some of the richest people here. Words really can’t describe the change I have gone through and I am surprised at how much I can live without and yet I have not found myself wanting.

Ethiopia will always be in our hearts and on our mind; it will be the main subject of our discussion for the next several months. I look forward to showing everyone pictures I have taken on this journey and Celine and I have several stories to tell and have built up a multitude of inside jokes with each other. She will be going back to this wonderful place in October and I can only look forward to the day I know I will visit this wonderful place again. Until our next return we will miss Ethiopia dearly and will cherish the memories and the people in our hearts always. We will see all of YOU readers very soon!! We can’t thank you enough for your wonderful support and contributions that kept us going, we love you!

Celine and Safia

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Safias Post for April 14th, 2009

Holy week has arrived (the fun week) and we have been baking for most of the weekend for the priests major fathers and the minor fathers for Easter we blasted the poor nuns with our less than reverent music while we cooked, it was well worth it. We were rockin’ out to Jimi Hendrix, Nat King Cole and Tom Waits and even got Sister Reggie to get into it, imagine a sweet nun rolling dough balls dancing to the likes of Ray Charles, Muddy Waters and Rolling Stones. It was awesome J We did make an exception for when the Bishop came and switched to Mozart but the jammin continued once he left. With over ten hours of cooking time under us we completed the baking with six different cookies, brownies, and date bars and got them packaged up in lovely saran wrap and bow.

With only sixteen more days left here in Adigrat my aunt and I are still shocked about how much we don’t know though we are right in the middle of it all we are still unaware about the slow progression the town is making and what they continue to live without. We visited the parish priest, Selassie Tesfay and gained some valuable information about this community. The town of Adigrat has a population of over 111,000 and they have confirmed over 300 aids victims that have come out and are taking care of their disease but they know there are thousands more that have not/will not come out because of fear and shame of public humiliation or they are still unaware they have the disease. The problematic areas are villages further out where girls are uneducated and will prostitute themselves and the soldiers and men are lonely and have nothing else really to do and when people get drunk and lonely-stuff happens naturally. The ways the catholic community tries to prevent and spread awareness is through clinics and reaching out to the youth organizing youth groups, recreational activities and sports to keep the young adults active and lectures about faith, abstinence, community and love (no education or support of condoms) in the inner city it has seen improvement and awareness in the youth but the outer areas of Adigrat are harder to reach and the issue of HIV is still at large in the rural lands. The people are invited to attend workshops in the city and blood testing is available and many representatives try to go out to Sassie and Zalaambasa to be of closer access to the villagers living further away. Volunteer work is needed for people to go out into the place were HIV is most prevalent and tell the people what is happening and the consequences of their actions. Lectures do take place in the military bases but there is only so much talking they do and hopefully they don’t all fall on deaf ears.

In outlaying states of Ethiopia there are practices among the people that also are harmful to the youths and have a high risk of spreading the aids disease. For example there are towns that are still practicing the rite of passage for girls through circumcision were they remove half of the clitoris. The girls are usually seven or eight years old and she is not deemed marriageable unless this ritual is performed, removing half the clitoris also cuts her sex drive and she wont have the desire to “sleep around”. The people who make a living on this profession are paid by one goat per circumcision this person becomes very rich very fast. They use one unsterile knife for circumcising all the girls in the town, imposing a huge risk to the spread of disease among the girls. If the girl refuses this practice she is forced to become a prostitute because no one will marry her and she needs to make a living somehow and that is the only option. This ritual also is detrimental to marriages because the woman now has no sex drive and the husband in turn will become frustrated and become unfaithful. The government is trying to stop this ritual but they must train the people who have made a living on circumcision into a different profession so they don’t go hungry when this custom is becomes obsolete. Or if the villagers don’t let go of their old customs then they need to use ONE STERILE knife per girl so there is no chance of spreading disease.

Due to no contraception really enforced in the towns there is a large population of children in the town, no less than five kids per family. A lot are child headed house holds because that lost their parents by aids. A lot of these children have no place else to go but the streets and become “street children” begging or stealing for money and with no intervention or guidance from a elder figure they risk growing up to be criminals more desperate for money and a means to survive with nothing going for them. Slowly but surely centers are being built up to help the vulnerable and the homeless kids with education, finances and job skills so they can have a better chance and making a living and not becoming dependant on stealing or begging as a source of income. Same with adult and the elderly beggars, centers are opened up so they can come and earn their food instead of begging for it. The centers are a source of training as well as moral support and guidance. The religious in the town are also trying to pry into the lives of how these people became beggars in the first place so they can go to the source and stop it before it even happens.

Healthcare is a huge issue here. This year 2009 the bishop was able to get anesthetics in the town, up till then there were none available so if anybody got hurt or broke anything they would have to travel for days, weeks to get to a hospital that could help them. You walk the streets sometimes and you see beggars who have severely deformed body parts, half blind, missing limbs and its sad to think that with a decent health care system so they could get the proper surgery performed they wouldn’t be so destitute and helpless. This town is also still in need of the special drugs a pregnant AIDS mother takes so she doesn’t transfer her aids to her infant during birth. They are in serious need of healthcare professionals and health care education.

Things are improving now they have anesthetics and they can perform corrective surgery without killing the person. They still are in need of skilled professionals to help care for the sick, homeless and HIV infected. Nurses, doctors and pediatricians all are in high demand in these parts. Media coverage of the growing organizations and help groups is also needed to spread the reality of these little developing cities.

Donations are very much needed from anyone who has anything to give; the biggest donations they get are about 400 Birr, that is 40 american dollars there are plans that need financial help to get off the ground such as a hospice to be built for the dying AIDS victims so they have a place to die instead of wasting away in the streets and the youth organizations also need funding as well so they can open more doors to the homeless and poor villagers and teach skills for work and provide childcare for orphans and neglected children living on the street. I will write back with more info soon about the organizations and contact info and hopefully pictures but no promises on that. Much love to everyone reading this and thank you for your continuing support!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Safias Post for April 11th 2009

April 11, 2009

As foreign and hard life is here at times, it is really starting to feel like home for me and my aunt, we are walking around more freely and more comfortable with trying out the local food and drink. We run into many new found friends on the street walking back from cultural fairs or restaurants. Walking everywhere has been nice especially because we feel like we have been eating too well…the exercise is needed. We have been going to the neighboring cathedral a lot as Easter is approaching and preparations are being made in this very Christian town for the upcoming holiday. They hymns the people sing are absolutely haunting, they are accompanied now by traditional drums and bells and it resonates through the wide cathedral halls and created a very atmospheric ambiance that would send anybody into a trance like state; it reminds me of the Tibetan monk chants. I myself not being a practicing catholic still appreciate the beauty it holds however reactions from people here are more shocked of my absence of faith because of how intertwined faith and culture are they are disturbed by my beliefs. When I openly said I was agnostic to a friend named Atakelti (who by far speaks the most fluent English) He turned his back on me in shock and half disgust, I then also chose to sit outside the church and listen to the hymns with the children and watch the mountains while the echoes of the songs traveled out through the buildings arches. People were confused as to why I was not in the church, I would get weird glances and remarks thrown at me such as “What is the matter with you? Why are you not in Church? Are you burning?” It was the first time I ever felt uncomfortable because of my beliefs (or lack of) these people cannot fathom a life without god and the idea that there is maybe not this paradise after death and the fact that someone questions it concerns them. I however will never press my beliefs on anyone and keep it to myself but when asked, I will not lie to them. I respect aspects of Christianity and these people who are really trying to make a difference in the community and like them I too just want to help. And I would like to show people that you don’t have to be Christian to have a desire to love your fellow man and help people, you don’t have to be anything to have a desire to make this world a better place. There is love and respect for the people even without the commitment to a religious following in my life. Ata let it go the next day when he warmly welcomed us to his office so we could use the internet, the only place in Adigrat that has broadband. Before hand we got the opportunity to see a cultural fair taking place in downtown Adigrat with different tribes competing for trophies to see who could put on the best musical and dance performance of their tribe. It was remarkable to see the endurance the musicians/dancers had. It was a hot day and they were leaping around while playing the drums and tooting their horns and the women balanced woven baskets and pots on their elegantly braided heads. Afterwards we met up with Ata and he showed us more Ethiopian music, and we showed him Jimi Hendrix J I then got the chance to climb the church’s bell tower with my camera and get some cool shots of this small city surrounded on all sides with immense mountain ranges. We got to witness the men practicing their chants for Palm Sunday and it was entrancing as usual and I actually look forward to going to church and hearing that all morning tomorrow. We ate later that day at a traditional restaurant and had this delicious meal that has this spicy, meaty, cheesy, floury dip in the middle and you dip rolled balls of special dough and it melts in your mouth with a variety of wonderful tastes. We ate so much of it by the time we got back to the sisters house, we were stuffed already and we came back in time for dinner, which we ate one agonizing bite at a time feeling our waistline expand with each swallow. Ata rented Ray for us so we sat slumped in the chairs afterwards in a food coma watching a pirated, scratched version of Ray. Good times.

Celines Post for April 5th 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Time is flying by. I have not been able to contact anyone very much lately because the sister’s house computers have been down and when they’re not down we don’t have power. But alas, I just throw my arms in the air and say c’est la vie. Whatever, I can’t do a darn thing about it and I am just going to deal with it, what else can I do?

Another week has passed. This last week was a bit difficult due to the 3 funerals that occurred in one week with close members of the St. Lucy School. So I had sporadic adult flute classes, gave Seyoum his lesson over two days and small amounts of teachers attending the classes that I did give. This wasn’t a problem for me or them, it is what it is. In Ethiopia it is culture to attend the funeral of a loved one who has their loss and continue seeing them for the full week. This meant school got out early, classes were rearranged and so forth and I had to do my best to take care of all the lessons and general music classes that were on my schedule. All the children’s classes went fine though. The students can easily put their flutes together and are able to play an entire page of music. They are practicing their rhythm and starting to understand the concepts of the visual with the “feel” and connecting the two. So this is all good and I like seeing the students grasping the concepts and actually playing the flute.

As for the funerals, I will let Safia’s blog express the impact we experienced with this funeral. Sr. Reggie knew the mother of the boy that was killed. She came to lunch on Thursday extremely upset. She couldn’t eat and had tears in her eyes. She told us what was wrong and Safia and I felt bad to hear of such bad news. Later that afternoon, I was waiting on some teachers to come for their lessons and I stopped in Sr. Reggie’s office to see how she is doing and she told me that she went to see the mother of the boy that was killed in a hit and run accident. As she described me the details of this horror story I couldn’t help but start to cry myself. I have read a small bit of Safia’s blog and I do know the story very well. As Safia mentioned the boy was crossing the street that is heavily under construction. A dump truck struck the boy and didn’t realize what he hit; he just knew he had hit something. The driver then backed up and rolled back over the boy. Although the boy was not killed instantly he was left bleeding all over the road and screaming for his life. No one would help the little boy because it was a hit and run and it is against the law to disturb the crime scene. So all these people just stood there and watched this boy scream for his mother and his life and to please help him. Then finally a woman couldn’t stand it anymore and she starting screaming for someone to pick up the boy and get him to the hospital. (Now I know you’re thinking why didn’t anyone call an ambulance? Only a few people have mobiles and there isn’t an ambulance anyway in this village. So your next question is why didn’t anyone call the police? Good question. The police never came until night time.) So this man ran this little boy to the hospital as he was still alive. No one knew who the boy was until someone recognized him and ran to tell his mother that her son was badly hurt. The mother, who is crippled and in a wheel chair worked to get to the hospital as fast as she could only to get there and find her son dead. This boy was a high school student, made excellent marks and was a leader in his high school community. Sr. Reggie and I sat and cried a little bit as she told me the story. She invited Safia and I to attend the funeral the next day with her.

Safias Post for April 5th 2009

I have to say that sister Reggie is one of the coolest nuns I have ever met; she has a great sense of humor with an infectious laugh. She has a commanding presence around the children but is one of the warmest people you will ever meet. She made samosas for Celine and I. They were DELICIOUS they were handmade everything was perfectly cooked inside I have not eaten that much in one sitting in a while I was reminded of my Step-mother’s wonderful cooking back home and it felt good to taste something familiar again. I am becoming of the opinion that Indian food is some of the best food on Earth. After Lunch we watched videos from their schools in India one of which is located coincidently in Hyderabad, India which is were my father was born and raised.

The school looked so beautiful and well organized with vibrant colors and excited children everywhere. Their main message is to teach the “religion of love” which means not to judge anyone based on religion, love your neighbor and don’t look down on them just because they are not the same religion as you. Their goal is to live in unison and harmony with all other religions, the symbol they had on display was the three main religions of India merged as one, the Ohm symbol for Hinduism and the start and moon crescent for Islam with the cross for Christianity. It was really cool to watch and I sincerely hope I get the chance to visit there one day and my aunt has aspirations of opening up a music school there as well.

So five O clock rolls around and its time for the beauty pageant and we met Seyom and Solomon who is another great teacher and music student of Celine’s and we head down to the high school. We arrive a little after five thirty and that is when the pageant is supposed to start. It didn’t start until about seven thirty… A lot of the events we have gone to have been very, very late starting, the planning and organization need a lot of work. My aunt and I also have been questioning if these people know what an equalizer is. We find that whenever they play their music it is ALWAYS distorted because the bass and treble is turned up too high and you can’t even hear the lyrics or actual song, just bass and static filled melodies. When the time finally comes to start the pageant the Seyom and the boys approach us and ask us if we want to help them judge. We say okay and become two of the official judges at this pageant. It made me laugh at the whole ridiculousness of the situation; my aunt and I were randomly invited and then placed as the only female judges for a high school beauty pageant in Ethiopia. The girls paraded out in traditional and non traditional attire (some were down right skanky with their dress) and did some traditional dancing and were asked questions about the issues facing Ethiopia and Adigrat. In the end a girl who looked like she was born to be a model-nothing but LEGS, won the crown and the girl my aunt and I voted for didn’t even place as a runner up. (Psh…)

We ended up coming back to the house after ten at night and ate more samosas and laughed about how much of a spectacle we are here… We find people taking pictures of us with their camera phones and people who are driving will be gawking at us Americans trying to help out. We do have a concern however that we wont be taken seriously, that they do not realize just how much is being given so we can make this effort to help change these people’s situation. Though we don’t have the distractions of televisions or fancy, flashy things there are distractions, there are things that can get in the way of progress. What we are trying to accomplish is dramatically different that what these people are experienced to and we aren’t sure they quite realize the dedication that has to be put forth to keep this dream of change alive. Our hope and mission is to become more than just a novelty appearance here, more than something different to look at and experience, we hope to create a better lifestyle with quality musical education that will hopefully change lives and broaden horizons. Wish us luck. We miss you all very dearly.

Safias Post for April 4th, 2009

It has been a busy week in a slow paced town we have had a total of three deaths to deal with in one week, its so strange to hear about another death every other day when it is so rarely talked about where we were at home, occasionally you will get news about a death of someone else’s family member, three in one week that has effected all the teachers so scheduling around that has been a tad bumpy but the show must go on. Celine is progressing with the teachers and is allowing them to take the flutes home to practice; it’s cute because they will practice at the school during their off time so you will hear the tooting of flutes randomly in different buildings.

The teachers are really proud of what they are learning it’s really cool to watch the transformation happening within them and how it is affecting the school. They are thrilled that someone is finally coming in and getting a music program started, a real professional musician is teaching solid foundations for musician hopefuls and it’s consistent. They have limited music programs here and they teach bare minimums its mainly cultural foundations and the aesthetics of music they are taught but not the technical aspects.

Teaching the kids English through American folk songs is also going well and they love the interaction, we choose the most active songs possible so they are doing more than just singing, they are dancing and clapping to the rhythms and they eat it up. The teachers enjoy it just as much as the kids; they sing with us and act as Celine’s person marionettes for head and shoulders. The 6th grade classes I teach alone with Sister Mary and Celine takes the top ten students from the classes and teaches them flutes. So I am alone with 50 students with Sister Mary as my translator. It’s awesomeJ They are young and rambunctious and last class they tried sister Mary’s patience one too many times and were more interested in pulling her chain and goofing off than listening to the songs we are trying to teach them. Sister Mary was pretty livid after. I remember being that young and giving strange teachers’ hell in middle school so I wasn’t so put off by it. However I knew they wouldn’t listen to me alone because of limited English skills and I am not fluent at all in Tigrinya. I approached the principal (Sister Reggie) with the problem immediately after class and she told me not to worry, she would handle it. She was right because after she and Seyom talked to the class they apparently wrote me and Sister Mary a letter asking for forgiveness and expressed they wanted to learn the songs we would teach them. Sister Reggie doesn’t mess around. J So next class I am going to introduce them to Ray Charles and give them a brief lesson of blues and start teaching them how to sing Hit the Road Jack. I am pretty curious as to how they will react to it and am excited to be doing this for them.

Yesterday on our day off We got to sit and listen to the motivational speakers that came to talk to the 6-8th graders and didn’t understand a single word because it was all in Tigrinya but it meant a lot to the school that we were present. After that we had tea and bread with the teachers and speakers followed by volleyball tournament between the high school students and middle school students, it was a good chance to sit and visit with the students who kept asking us questions about our family, or friends, what life is like in the US, what are our favorite musicians, movies, foods etc… So it was a good opportunity for the kids to get to know us better.
Afterwards we met with Seyom for coffee at his house; he took us there by horse drawn carriage. My aunt and I both felt bad for riding on it, the people here do not really view animals as pets as much as they view them as tools. They whip the horses incessantly so they go faster and do not feed them and work them to the point of complete exhaustion on no nutrients, if they do not perform well they are sent to the butcher. It’s really hard for a horse lover to watch but I know before I can lecture them about animal rights the people of the country need to be educated and helped in so many other aspects. This is their only source of income. So I mainly kept my mouth shut as I climbed onto the shabby carriage. We made our way through rocky and dirt roads bouncing and jolting back and forth on the metal seat that kept stabbing me in the back, a pleasant ride around town… When we arrived at Seyom’s house, the building looked similar to a clay townhouse with multiple tenants living in the same building. We met his friends and neighbors, one who was a journalist and the other in the business of marketing. They were pleased to have us over.

When we entered into Seyom’s humble abode it was smaller than the size of my room. There was a bed, another mattress on the floor, religious pictures and photos of musical instruments. We filed in one by one and we met his very sweet sister who did not speak a word of English but was thrilled to have us over and made us delicious coffee. We found out that that part of town only gets electricity once a week and when we go with out power for a day or two it’s because the other parts of Adigrat are getting electricity that day. They can’t afford to give the whole town electricity at the same time, so we actually are pretty lucky to have as much electricity as we do. I could not imagine trying to do all this with only one day of power each week. Seyom’s friends explained to us though that they do not mind so much living in this lifestyle because they love the sense of community, the friendships that are very strong, the socialization that they have because they have nothing else for distraction, no TV, radio, computer or video games. Life is lived simply and relaxed because that’s just the way it is and there is no use stressing over what you don’t have. They aren’t slaves to their jobs, their material goods, their clubs or private lives. They know and love their neighbor and everyone is like family. I see how affectionate they are with each other and it’s odd at times because they are very close physically as well. It’s not uncommon to see straight boys walking around hand and hand or arm locked with their guy friends. I even saw some of the soldiers like this which was amusing, two male macho looking guys walking around holding hands. Back in the states they would look gay which is what I thought at first but then I saw everyone doing it and then realized that this is the norm here.
We discussed more about the laid back lifestyle Seyom and his friends lived and then Seyom took out an Ethiopian traditional musical instrument called ___ it looked similar to a guitar and he played and sang for us Ethiopian songs with very poetic lyrics about love, women and life. His friends started to dance shimmying and rolling their shoulders very fast my aunt and I tried to imitate them and could not perform with our shoulders nearly as much as they could, we just laughed at ourselves. They wrapped traditional scarves around themselves and danced in circles around one another and then convinced me and my aunt to join. They taught me some basic traditional folk dance and I taught them some veil work and the kind of tribal dancing I do. They caught on pretty quickly were spinning around with my scarf dong snake arms and undulations with me I could not shake my shoulders in the fast shimmy they could do but I showed them how to hip shimmy and they loved it, the song and dance continued through the rest of the visit. When it was finally time to go home we walked back (much to mine and my aunt’s relief) they invited us to come to a beauty pageant they were judging the next day and told us it would be a good opportunity to see traditional dress and dance so we said yes so we could get the chance to photograph some beautiful girls in traditional attire.

Safias post for April 3rd, 2009

(I was not present at this event but am relying what the witnesses saw)

At ten O' clock yesterday morning a young boy was simply trying to cross the street in down town Adigrat, he was in a construction zone and was struck full force by a construction truck. So severely wounded he was still conscious and began screaming for his life. The truck driver bolted leaving the truck and the screaming boy behind. Despite the boy's cries no one helped, no one called the police, no one did anything but watch. A woman helpless woman started screaming with the boy, shrieking for someone, anyone to help him, take him to the hospital. A man finally stepped up and wrapped up the boy who by this time had lost a massive amount of blood and took him to the hospital. He had no ID card on him so they had no way to identify who he was. When he was identified they notified his mother, when she was on her way to the hospital the boy died. He was a grade A high school student with a lot of promise and enthusiasm for learning, I can't even fathom the overwhelming sense of loss, a pointless loss that will plague this poor woman for the rest of her life.

Today was the funeral. My aunt and I both attended. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. The whole town was there to morn the loss of this boy. There were women and men dressed in traditional white shawls, most of them were crying and wailing, screaming at the top of their lungs to the skies, some were even collapsing on the street they were so filled with grief. In between their sobs and shrieks of agony they would break into songs or chants, they walked with the casket to the graveyard and did ceremonial prayers and songs of final rest. The priests had very elaborately decorated and brightly colored umbrellas yet wore the traditional black robes. It was very moving yet unsettling to see such a spectacle. My aunt was disturbed by it as well and cried tears of sympathy for the family and closest friends that were really losing it. They finally preceded the body back to the marked grave and after some more ceremonial songs and prayers over the small coffin, they buried him. I will never forget what a funeral is like in Ethiopia compared to the somber, very quiet, black clothed funerals I attended at home.

On a lighter subject that has none the less a dismal past, there is an orphan girl here that my aunt is absolutely in love with named Tharic, she is a beautiful 4 Year old toddler who is very bright and with a deep and curious gaze always on her very striking face. She was orphaned by her mother because Tharic was the result of a rape that happened to this woman. Despite the two attempts she made to kill the baby, once while she was pregnant with her and once when she was an infant, Tharic lived and ended up coming to the orphanage and the mother loathed her existence and did not want anything to do with her daughter. Tharic did not understand; she would see her mother still walking around and go stiff because of the memories of abuse and neglect. This is not a bad reflection on the mother, she was traumatized because of the events that happened leading to Tharic’s existence she had physiological damage done to her. She has been placed in a mental hospital and is receiving help to deal with what has happened and is working towards recovering from the past and is now starting to see Tharic again and they are both trying to re-bond and heal together and look to a brighter, happier future together. Everyone has high hopes for their relationship…

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Celines BLOG for April 1st, 2009

April 1st, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

I can’t believe its April already. Time is flying by and we are going to be at the end of this journey before you know it. If you haven’t heard from me in a while it is because of the internet problems we have had. Days and days I have tried with great Ernst to get with you but just can’t seem to get through. I apologize for that. I have had Safia send blog posts because she has had better luck than I and I am getting so frustrated not being able to talk to all of you that I get discouraged even trying. Today I even cried because I have wanted to hear from my husband and I can’t.

Things here in spite of the internet dilemma are going great. I finished off my first full week of teaching classes in general music and flute schools last Friday and I am half way through the second week. I am extremely grateful to have one Seyoum-Micheal (yes that is the right spelling of his name) to translate for me. He is a flutist himself, he studied at a school that is similar to what sounds like an AA in our country. He called it getting his advanced certificate. He is finishing is BA in education this summer and is very eager to assist me in every way he can. He is a God send for me because without him the flute classes would be quite challenging. Since he knows the flute and English and Tigrinya I can go forward in my classes with the students. And these classes are going very well. The students all know how to hold the flute with proper hand position, standing posture, aim the air into the flute and they have learned 3 notes. They are reading the music and playing, they get their rhythm (of course, they’re African for crying out loud) and they are doing their music theory. It’s pretty great to see the flute school really begin to take off. I have so many eager to learn students that it is downright rewarding to be their teacher. The only unfortunate thing about this is that I have so many students that the practice time on the flutes outside of class is limited to 2 days per week until we get some more flutes. As for Seyoum he takes lessons with me privately at the beginning of the week and he practices and studies hard. He wants to come to America to continue his education in music. I see potential in him and with his dedication to practice and studies with me, I am sure I can help make this happen for him. He already sounds a lot better than when I first heard him play. In addition to all of this I also am offering a singing class to students who want to learn solfege and basic singing technique. I already have 8 enrolled in the class. I am teaching 7 days a week and attending 6 practice sessions. Seyoum attends the other 6 for me. It’s a blast, lots of work and I don’t care if I get tired. I figured I can sleep on the plane on my way home.

As for other things, I hope all of you read the blog my dear niece wrote about our outing with the teachers. What a fantastic day that was. The teachers here are excellent and some of the nicest people Safia and I have ever met. We enjoyed visiting with them on the way up to the mountains, even though I screamed loudly of shear terror over my fear of these winding roads that have 600 feet drop offs and no railings. I unfortunately became the spectacle of the bus ride and I seemed to amuse the children and the teachers very much. I know I made my niece laugh so hard she was crying. This place we went to was amazing. The climb to the top was as high if not higher than the Columbia Towers in Seattle. I made it up a 1/3 but my Safia made it all the way up. She is very impressive and I applauded her when she came down. Both of us soaked in sweat from the hot, hot heat and sun joined the teachers to eat lunch which consisted of a layered injerra of potatoes and other vegetables. The teachers enjoyed and it is Ethiopian custom to feed the guests with their fingers the injerra. So I kept having handfuls of injerra crammed into my mouth. I kindly ate, and begged God my stomach could digest this foreign food. I did and I loved so much visiting with the teachers. I know you read about the man that stuffed his mouth with a hamburger size of injerra one bite after the other. When we finished the lunch he came to me and said, now I have eaten the injerra and my body is strong, so if you need me to carry you I can. I haven’t told you about this poor man. When I was attempting to climb themountain, I was having a little bit of asthma and adjusting to the high altitude, this man wanted to put me in his back and carry me up the mountain ( I tell you these people are billy goats for crying out loud, scaling hillsides and mountains like this is effortless work). I of course was not going on anyone’s back, but he didn’t want to listen to me and he truly tried to put me on his back, I was slapping him and telling to stop it. Sr. Reggie was laughing so hard because I just couldn’t believe he would truly try to me on his back. After he realized I was serious he said ok and ran up the mountain. That poor man, he really wanted to help me but I was afraid I would break the man’s back.

I was sad I couldn’t make it to the top because of the beautiful church I missed seeing. But Safia took pictures of it for me and you will see them too. When the teachers all came down they ran looking for me and were so sad I didn’t make it to the top. Safia said the last 1/3 of the climb that I missed was treacherous and she said at points she was really scared. I know with my vertigo, it probably was wise for me not to climb to the top.

I did get the chance to go into a 4th century Catholic Church that was carved out of the mountain. This type of church was similar to the one Safia went into on top of the mountain but not as old. The paintings on the walls reflected the Old Testiment , mainly stories from Genesis 1. The pictures of the Madonna were gorgeous and the tabernacle was hidden as well. To be in a place such as this the presence of being on holy ground is most apparent. One cannot help but bow before the curtain of the tabernacle and sit in awe of the quiet beauty, serenity, and peace this place brings. The church was built by the twin brothers of King Axom in his honor. When the Queen later took over the land, she was a Muslim and tried to burn down the church. But she did not succeed. The only thing she did manage was to remove the diamonds from the ceilings of the church, but the remainder of the church has lasted this entire time. When looking at the structure and carvings of the sanctuary, you can see the burned marks to this day from the fire but it really did not do anything to the church except leave some dark marks on the ceiling walls.
As one enters this place you first begin with prayers in the steps, you enter a foyer filled with painted pictures, again it is necessary to kneel and pray, and then you take two large steps up into the sanctuary into the scared vessel of the architecture. Women are not allowed but because our group had foreigners present we were allowed. We were asked to take off our shoes but we could enter with our socks on. When entering the main sanctuary, two large drums are hung on both sides. These are used to bring in the celebration of the mass. Sr. Reggie saw me admiring the drums and said, Celine you should play and she showed me how to strike the drums. (Little did I know that she was goading me on). Eager to play the instrument, I started pounding away. Of course this upset the priest and he told me to stop it. I could see Sr. Reggie off the side of me laughing her head off. Ha, Ha, Ha so funny, I was made the joke. A lot of others were also laughing at me.

Anyway, the day was fantastic, in spite of the puking kids on the bus (yah, I handled it), the terrifying bus ride through the mountain sides, scary old wooden bridges that caused me to say prayer upon prayer that we wouldn’t plummet to our death many feet below, Safia and I really had a day of in taking some of the most beautiful landscape and historical sights we have ever seen. We loved it so much.

The only thing that is really hard to handle hear in Adigrat, Zalaambasa, Goul’a and Sassie is the truly sad presentation of the orphaned children and the unstopping death from AIDS. It really gets to you. Safia and I sat down with the sisters and discussed this issue and we asked why the villages are not doing something to prevent this sadness. (If you were around as many orphans as I have been around you would ask this question too). The sisters told me that using contraception isn’t really understood around these parts and the missions are working with the village people to help them understand abstinence. I agreed that abstinence is the best way to prevent any problems but the mentality of the people is to procreate and they are strong believers in family. But victims upon victims fall to this disease and it rips your heart out to see such suffering. Poverty is a huge issue among these villages and often there are so many people in need that there just isn’t enough of the sisters to go around or the funds to help everyone. The use of condoms is such a hard controversial subject because an outsider may think it’s the wisest choice to stop this problem but to these God fearing, God loving souls, the use of contraception is wrong to them. Most of these villages do not even know what a condom is because they do not believe in this. But how do you help these villages where death and funerals are more frequent that getting groceries or attending weddings, where poverty is overwhelming, where their faith is undying, how can we help them? Abstinence is the only way to educate these people but abstinence is easier said than done around these parts, what can one do? In South Africa and even in Addis Ababa it was apparent that condoms were highly forced among their people. But where I am now these people are village people. They only know and understand God and their faith in God. Is it really right for a foreigner to come along and push their beliefs on a society that simply will not accept this? One truly can’t. Although it may sound logical and the answer to the problem, the problem stems deeper than its appearance and respect for these people and their beliefs is more important to them than anything else. I hope all who are reading have the opportunity to meet the Ethiopians. They are the most beautiful, kind souls and I love being with them. It crushes my heart to know how many children I hug and play with on a daily basis are orphaned, have AIDS themselves, and truly need all the love in the world. If there is anything we can do as outsiders, it is to send help, to help build the infrastructure so that this society really can see their hope and their beauty of who they are. I often think that these people figure the outside world doesn’t really concern themselves with their problems and they just deal with it themselves.

Each day I go to the school to teach I am immediately surrounded by beautiful children, full of love, and they run to hug me and kiss me and hold my hand. I would hundreds surround me. I love it. I love children and they never bother me, not for one second. I have given more kisses, more hugs, and more love to these beautiful little lives than I think I have given to my own children in their lifetime. I seem to have a never ending source of my love for these beautiful children. I love the teachers, they come along while I am going from class to class and grab my hand and hold it while we talk and walk across the school yard. They are so warm and friendly I cannot stress how beautiful it is to be around. Men and women a like do this with me. They all love what I am teaching the children. Sr. Reggie says the children go out to play at their recess and they are singing the songs I have taught them. I love hearing that. Seyoum says what I am doing is making such a difference to the school and everyone really appreciates the new education I have brought to them. I have been asked to stay. But I told them I must go home. They have asked when I return to bring my children and husband so they can all meet them. Everyone wants me to bring my family.

The sisters of the Religious Sisters of Filippini are most beautiful of all. Sr. Letteselassie is kind, gentle, and speaks with a soft high voice. She is a tall, beautiful woman, with kind tender eyes and is always in the presence of helping these children and the school. Sister Antonia is another gentle spirit from Italy and is very close with the girls and has helped established several women centers throughout Ethiopia. Sister Reggie is a strong, smart beautiful Indian woman who works as the schools principal and does an excellent job of keeping things in order. Sister Mary is the adorable and sassy nun from New Jersey who has a great sense of humor and a real sense of music and how to teach it, she knows practically every song we pick out for the kids and then some. It's really impressive! Sister Margaret is a kind nurse with a sweet smile and is very knowledgeable on health concerns. It's always so enjoyable to sit down with these incredible women every night and laugh and share jokes along with the amazing stories they have to tell.

To see such dedication to a cause is really uplifting. They eat, drink, and breathe in these environments most people would not last a day in. Most of these women have done this kind of work for over 30+ years. It really takes a strong individual to stomach the reality some of these poor people, they only strive to make it better and give their all to see these kids lives turn out for the better. We are very honored to take part in their cause.