Dear Family and Friends,
I cannot believe I have been here for a month already. Time just zips on by. I have so much to share with you in this blog.
Last Sunday our flute class performed for the fundraiser concert at the high school. I have to say almost the entire town showed up to hear the flutes. The class met at St. Lucy’s for call at 1:30pm in the afternoon. We tuned and rehearsed. Then we walked over the high school to prepare to play. It was close to 3pm by the time we arrived. Thinking that the fundraiser had already began I was a little anxious to get the flute students in and set up to play. We arrived, the stage wasn’t prepared, the room is still being set up, and the hall is empty. Ahhhhh, Ethiopia, I think to myself. Why in the world would I think that anything starts on time around here?
After we arrived, we set up and were prepared to play. Seyoum told me that the concert will begin at 3:30pm (9:30pm, Ethiopian time). The event didn’t start till after 4:30pm. I had no idea of when we were suppose to play. There were several performers that day that were asked to play, not just us. One of them was Soloman Twabe. He got up to sing. If some of you don’t remember, Soloman Twabe taught at St. Lucy’s last year, he now teaches at a private school in Mekele. As Soloman sang, the flute students got up to dance. He sang a contemporary Tigrai song as the students danced away. They grabbed my hand and got me up to dance with them. We all had a blast. We danced in a circle doing the traditional Tigrinya shoulder dance. We really got into it and danced very hard. The children laughed as we danced together. It was a lot of fun. Most Tigrai songs last for over 5 minutes. So dancing goes on for a while. After Soloman finished his song, Seyoum came up to me as I’m sweating and panting, “Ok Celine, it’s time for you to perform.” “What?!?!” I yelled back. “I’m not ready to perform. I’m out of breath and dripping in sweat. My students aren’t ready to perform.” Seyoum looked at me, laughed and said, “Well you’re next on the program.” I had to go on stage, dripping in sweat, out of breath, and perform. As I walked to the entrance of the stage I prayed, “Please God, be with us today.” Needless to say, the flute ensemble did a stellar job. The audience really enjoyed the performance. When I got off stage, someone had gone to the store and bought me a large bottle of water. They gave it to me and said, “You are very tired (which means you are very hot). You drink now so that you can rest.” I laughed when I saw the pictures Seyoum took of me. My head was a sweat bomb, I looked terrible!!!
The next day I was having breakfast with the sisters and Sr. Mary said, “I was at a workshop yesterday at the Archdiocese office and we have guests from South Africa. They told me that they want to meet the famous flutist who is here in Adigrat teaching music at St. Lucy’s.” “What??” I said. Sr. Mary says, “Yes, they know all about you. They heard of your performance yesterday with the children and they are anxious to meet you.” I went to the archdiocese and met the S. African’s. Actually they were Canadian who live in S. Africa. I was very happy to meet them. They said to me, “You are the famous flutist we have heard about. We are very sorry we missed your program yesterday.” I responded, “I don’t think I’m famous but thank you so much for the compliment.”
On Tuesday, Seyoum approached me in the afternoon. “Celine, Mekele (Tigrai capital) has heard about our famous flute teacher and they have sent a journalist here to interview you. He will be here in one hour.” Seyoum told me that the news of our flute performance on Sunday traveled all the way to Mekele and they are very interested in meeting me and seeing what I am doing for the children at St. Lucy’s.
The journalist (Efram) arrived at 3:45pm. He interviewed me while I taught music songs to the kindergarten class. We sang the “Hello Song” and the “Peek-A-Boo” song. If I can get my camera to download the pictures you will see these adorable children singing these songs. It is the most precious thing to watch. Especially on the “Peek-A-Boo” song, several children get in front of the desks and hide underneath them. Then they jump up shouting “Peek-A-Boo” as they uncover their eyes and face. It makes the kindergarten teacher and I laugh and laugh. When the journalist saw it, he turned his head and starting laughing very hard too.
At 4:30 he came to the flute class. He recorded the class performing three of our songs, followed by a short performance of me. He interviewed me. Asked me why I came here, what brought me to Adigrat, Ethiopia, and what do I plan to do with this flute school. I answered all his questions in length, (which I won’t write in the blog simply because all of you at home know why I’m here.) I told him I came for the purpose to teach the flute as a skill so children can develop it into a source of income if they so choose to. I told him that through my research in S. Africa it brought me to Ethiopia and that it is with music that one can develop a richer way of life. I told him that studying music helps with the discipline of their other studies and makes them into better students. I told him how wonderful it is to have the opportunity to teach such talented and intelligent students and teachers. How lucky I am to have this chance and how fortunate I am to be in such a rich and welcoming environment.
Next he interviewed several of my students and Seyoum. They were all very kind and shared how much they love me and what a difference learning the flute has made to their lives. All of them love it and said I was a very good teacher. It was very sweet. Really, though, they are excellent students and they sound fantastic.
I will mention again, the desperate need for more flutes, cleaning clothes, tuning rods, and music. I hope soon some of this will come. I have over 50 flute students now and I really could use more help. Also, we need money to help buy clothing for the orphaned children. As well, they are orphaned children who are not in the care of the sisters or priests and they need money to buy uniforms. I have already purchased some for the children. But I am trying to keep to my budget and not have my family have to wire me any additional money. Please send help, it is needed. St. Lucy’s School needs a music room, gymnasium, and laboratory to assist in a better education. They need writing supplies and penmanship books for the primary grades (1-4). So much is needed, I can’t request it enough. Please send help. I can’t ask this enough. I hope someone out there will send help soon.
The journalist broadcasted our interview and now all of Tigrai knows of me and what I am doing at St. Lucy’s. This upcoming Tuesday the Ethiopian Television Network is coming to St. Lucy’s to make a documentary to broadcast throughout all of Ethiopia and the world. I hope with this type of media will bring forward some kind benefactor to help us. I will let everyone know of the broadcast and you can check with your networks to see if you can get ETV. The network told me that with satellite TV it is possible to tune into ETV. I will keep you updated.
Other than that, things are going along really well. I spend a lot of my free time with the teachers. It’s my social outlet. I have been able to go out dancing with several of them- so I’m getting to know the social side of the Tigrai people. I eat dinner in their homes and I have been spending the night with my dear friend Froweyni. She is a 2nd grade teacher and has become a very dear friend. We stay up for hours visiting, like a couple of school girls. It’s a lot fun. Everyday I am swarmed with hundreds of children. All of them eager to practice their English with me and give me lots of hugs and kisses. The director and Sr. Reggie (principal) get concerned that the children are bothering me, but they aren’t. I never tire of their sweet faces, filled with big smiles and big eyes, laughing as they approach me and wrap their arms around me. I love watching the teachers on the playground with the children, they play with them and sing songs with them, everyone is so happy in this place. I love the morning flag ceremony. I won’t miss one day of it. It starts with prayer, followed by singing songs to Mary, the raising of the Ethiopian flag, and it finishes with the children grades K-8 doing some kind of show and tell. I stand with the teachers as all the grades line up and we pray and sing together. This is bliss for me. I am very happy to be part of this. I cannot help but tell God thank you for bringing me to such a wonderful place.
I love Ethiopia very much. My heart and the heart of the Ethiopian are the same. They believe in genuine kindness like me. They give from their hearts more than they take. They are honest through and through and what they have they give. It doesn’t have to be a material thing; it’s often themselves that they give. I find this very precious. I enjoy the deep laughter that comes from within me as I visit with these beautiful people. I finish many days with my cheeks soar and my abdomen aching, but I go to bed very happy. I encourage everyone out there to come and experience the simple life of Adigrat, Ethiopia; it is a place of serenity, joy, and love. There isn’t anything else in this world that can compare.
Tomorrow I go to meet Seyoum’s family. We will take the taxi (horse drawn buggy) to his house. It is a feast day and he has prepared a large party for all the teachers and Sr. Reggie. I will write to all of you about it. I’m very anxious to meet my dear friend Seyoum’s family. I cannot wait to meet his parents and other 6 siblings. I hear about them often as we visit.
Until the next blog, chaw (Tigrinya for good-bye) to all of my wonderful family and friends. I wish more than anything you were here with me to enjoy this culture of the most beautiful people I believe to be on this earth.
I love all of you and miss you very much. Please write to me.