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.