St. Lucy Flute School

St. Lucy  Flute School
Class of 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


(From top left to right)

Orphan girls of St. Lucy's all prepared to greet the Mother General. November 25, 2009

Sr. Bindu, MPF (Principal at school in Sassie, Tigrai), Sr. Reggie, MPF (St. Lucy Primary School Principal), Sr. Negesti, MPF (instructor of religious studies and ethics at St. LucyPrimarySchool) Sr. Accunta, MPF (Mother Superior of Gola House and School), Sr. Antonia, MPF(head mother of the orphan girls at St. Lucy's)

I can’t believe its December already! My time has flown by so fast. I have such mixed feelings right now. Yes, I want desperately to see my family but I also love my new family too. Truly this is so hard to prepare myself to say good-bye to my Ethiopian family but also I get to say hello to my American family too.

Thank you to all my sweet family and friends for sending me Happy Thanksgiving wishes. I really loved them. It felt truly great to hear from everyone. I will respond to all of you when I can have the internet again. Which of course you will be receiving this blog too.

This last Friday the Mother General of the Religious Sisters of Filippini arrived from Rome. She came with Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lloyd, Sr. Virginia, Sr. Casa, and a media person (Caroline from Amsterdam) who is doing documentation for a documentary film of what the sisters do and the flute school. They arrived around 1pm on Friday. The orphan girls created a V formation, they sang songs, danced in Tigrinya, and wore their traditional clothes. After our greeting we all sat down to have lunch. Sr. Mary Beth was surprised at how at home I was with the sisters. She commented that I looked right at home with them. We all laughed because I have become a sister in a sense. After lunch we all went to our rooms. Sr. Mary Beth came to me and brought me a beautiful holy card of Padre Pio and a multi colored mission rosary. She gave them to me as gifts of thanks for the work I am doing at St. Lucy’s. She said the rosary is to be prayed specifically for the orphaned children who are lost throughout the world. I was so honored to receive such gifts. I especially treasured the Padre Pio card. On the card there is a piece of his clothing, so it’s a relic as well. Sr. MB told me that she always prays to him for impossible cases and she suggested I use it too for my impossible cases too. I will do that.

Later that evening I was taken out by the teachers as a gift for all my hard work I have done for them. They took me to dinner and then a night out dancing. I had a blast. I danced from 8pm – 11pm straight. I haven’t done that for years and years. It felt great. We all sang songs, drank beer, and danced traditional Tigrai dances.

On Saturday Sr. MB, Caroline, Sr. Antonia, and myself visited the Honey center. It is a restaurant park owned by the Religious Sisters of Filippini. The place is set in a beautiful park. There is a swimming pool in the middle of the park. The place is quite nice and the sisters are working very hard to refurbish it with new playground equipment for the children and replant the gardens. As we walked through the park Sr. Mary Beth saw all sorts of things to repair and improve the situation of the park. Especially the swimming pool, she will make it her own project to get repaired so the kids could go swimming. As we walked around the grounds some of St. Lucy students saw me walking. They called my name from the street and I waved at them. Sr. MB shouted back at them, “Hey boys, come back in three months we will have a swimming pool for you to go swimming in.” Of course they didn’t understand a word she said and as she made this statement all I could think of is how scarce water is in Adigrat. I figured the kids would come but not to swim, they would come with buckets and load their buckets and haul that water home with them. I figured within one day the pool would be drained, even if the water had chlorine in it. Oh, how life is different here in Ethiopia. I have been here a while and my thinking is entirely different from what it was like when I was in America. I used to think like that too but the reality of life here has changed my thinking. Her comments were so funny I laughed and laughed on so many of them because of practicality of the situation just can’t be due to money, culture, or lack of skill. It is probably even hard for my readers to understand what I am saying. Because around here it is completely different from life in Amercia.

On Sunday I had Caroline join me for a coffee ceremony at Froweyni’s house. I told Caroline if you really want to experience a true Tigrai coffee ceremony you must come to Froweyni’s house. We were joined at the ceremony with Gebremedhin and Gebrejohannes. Caroline enjoyed the coffee, said it tasted like toffee and said it was delicious. After a while we had her up dancing. It was another fantastic day.

The rain came down in sheets. As we danced inside the rain poured. After a few hours I had to go to an appointment with Seyoum to discuss the program for the flute school. I waited for a moment to have the clouds clear and I darted across Adigrat. When I got to his home it began to pour again. He and I discussed our program and I we watched some TV. It rained and rained, all afternoon and into the evening. Finally after about 4 hours I heard the rain stop. I told Seyoum I needed to go. It was around 8pm. Normally Seyoum walks me home but tonight he was feeling a little sick and decided to stay home. I walked across the wet Adigrat. The rain began to come down again. I picked up my pace. It rained harder, so I began to run home. As I turned around the corner to go down my street it looked like I was in a flash flood. Water was everywhere. The streets were covered in water. I became frightened as I ran through the water and the electrical poles were sparking. I was afraid one of the wires was going to drop into the water. I booked it home as fast as I could. I arrived at the front gate and knocked on the door to have the guard let me in. He wasn’t around. It’s raining very hard now. I am soaking wet. I pounded on the door and finally Casai came to the door. I quickly run through the gate and landed right into a deep mud puddle. Shit!!!!! I said I don’t need that. I ran up to the house and got into my room. I was freezing. I stripped off the wet clothes and put on some dry ones. I got every blanket I could find in both of my rooms and crawled under the covers, shivering; thinking, “God I hope I don’t get sick again.”

Since the arrival of the Mother General, after supper is over, Sr. Lette asks me every evening to share a new story for the Mother General. I have shared the story about my fantastic landslide into the Cathedral, Nick’s first confession, and tonight I shared the story about when I was a little girl how I accidently urinated in the confessional. I thought Sr. Mary Beth, Sr. Lette, Sr. Virginia, and the Mother General were going to pee their pants. By the time I got to the part of the story where a boy came out of the confessional with his knees soaked in pee Mother General was crying with laughter. Tears ran down their faces, I was sort of embarrassed by sharing the story but happy to make them laugh. Mother General shared that I am her source of entertainment during our dining hours. She said that when she looks at me it makes her laugh. I asked her how she would feel if I became a nun. She laughed and laughed and said “This order would never be the same again!!!!!” Not sure how to take that one but I think it’s a compliment.
This week I have been very busy getting the children ready to sing songs for the Mother General. I have a specific song for each classroom. Yesterday I was working with Grade 1B on a song called a “My Dog Rags”. In the song I have the children do a 180 jump turn so they all can wag their tales using their butts. Right when I am teaching this song I don’t realize that Sr. MB and Caroline were filming me wiggles my ass in front of the camera. When I jumped around I jumped right into the camera. Sr. MB and Caroline were both laughing very hard at me. I guess I get to bless the documentary with my butt!

In class 6A I had them sing the song “You Gotta Sing.” They love this song. They really get into it. They sing their hearts out and the decibels in this class room are extremely high. Then we followed it with “Skip To My Lou” and “This Little Light Of Mine.” As each song was sung the students got more and more into it. The volume went up and up. We were dancing and clapping and having a blast. By the time we got to “This Little Light of Mine” the students were singing at the top of their lungs. We finished the song with great big Hooray!!! I turned around to get them started on “Rockin Robin” and saw the director of the 5th-8th Grade standing in window. I went over to the window and he said “Celine, really, the students are too loud. Your singing is causing all the other students in the entire compound to sing with you. They are all laughing and dancing in class and the teachers can’t get their subjects taught.” I promised Johannes that I quiet down. I turned to the students and put my finger to my mouth and said, “sssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. The students responded, all of them repeating exactly what I did laughing. Then we sang “Rockin Robin” we started quiet but got loud real fast. I looked outside and knew I was in trouble as Johannes shook his head at me.

I have 26 beginning flute students. I’m so overwhelmed by this class. No flutes, no music stands, and the teachers are beginners themselves. It’s really too much. Sr. MB agreed how badly I need flutes and teachers. I decided to divide the class into groups of 4s and gave each group a flute. Teachers Gebremedhin and Gebrejohannes are beginners themselves but they helped me. It was so hard to teach. The students who are not playing on the flutes space out and look around. I can’t get them to understand that it would benefit them if they would pay attention and help the student who is playing. I spend the hour moving from group to group helping them. So many things are unnoticed by my dear teachers because they are beginners. Things like wrong hand position, the flute is assembled incorrectly, and they don’t know what to do when the student can’t produce tone and several things like that. My work for this class is really taxing and I am so exhausted when I finished. I’m not sure what to do as I return home in a few weeks. I am very concerned to leave this class in the hands of beginning teachers themselves. As hard as I work with everyone its simply not enough time to help them the way I want to.

Flute classes A and B are doing really well. They are working hard and I think I have finally got the students who want to be part of the class to be there on time, do their homework, and not miss any classes if possible. I have begun teaching Johannes Welday, a 7th grade boy who is doing extremely well to be the teacher of the class B. I also had Froweyni return to her classes too so she can also help me. It is going to be very interesting when I return in June to see how everyone is doing. I pray Seyoum can keep all of this going.

On the Sunday following the American Thanksgiving, I made our Thanksgiving dinner. It was made more for the thanks for the arrival of the mother general and that we were all together. On Saturday I prepared the pies, made the giblet broth, baked the sweet potatoes, and made the basting sauce for the chickens. First I had to cook the pumpkin. After doing that I had to put the cooked pumpkin through the food mill and hand crank the pumpkin into a puree. This took about two hours to do. Then I had to drain out the excess water so that I had the main pulp of the pumpkin. I added the spices, sugar, eggs, and poured the custard into my prepared crusts. We didn’t have pie pans so I used one large cake pan and one fluted pan. As I baked the pies I got busy with the giblet broth and potatoes. I left for a while to go out with friends and get an avocado juice. (This might sound bad but it’s actually delicious. Avocado is a fruit and here it is put into a smoothie type of drink.) After I returned the sweet potatoes were done and the broth was ready. The potatoes were cooled and I peeled them and prepared my candy yam sauce my mother had taught me. As I peeled the potatoes more than half of them were bad on the inside and they had to be tossed out. The sweet potato casserole didn’t look that appetizing after I prepared it. But what the heck can’t have everything perfect. The pies were finished and I set them on the window sill to cool. They looked beautiful and Sr. Lette really complimented me on my master cooking. I felt proud from her compliments and went to bed feeling very happy with my work.

The next day after mass I got busy with preparing the rest of the meal. Sr. Mary was worried that we wouldn’t have enough pies and asked me to make two more pies. “In what???” I thought. Ok I said. Sr. Casa helped me make the pies. I made the crust and lined two loaf pans and helped Sr. Casa make the pies. As we worked I noticed from the previous day that I didn’t add enough sugar to my other pies. “Oh shit” I thought, I hope they taste ok. I then prepared the stuffing and had the cooks peel the potatoes and snap the green beans. I stuffed the very skinny chickens and poof off went the power. I had just put the pies in the oven. OMG I only had enough time for the pies to cook and to roast the chickens. OMG what am I going to do? Sr. Lette helped me. She brought in one of the coffee making BBQ type things that is light by coals but this one was the size of four of the regular coffee burners. She pulled out a large kettle pot and asked if I could cook the chickens in that. I figured well sure, give me a lid and I can make this work. I put the chickens in the pot, rubbed them down with my basting sauce, topped them with fresh herbs and poured the remainder of the giblet broth in the bottom of the pan. I then turned to check on other things. One of the postulates “nuns in training” inflamed the fire on the BBQ. I turned around the pot was covered in fire. I practically leaped across the kitchen to get to the pot. The chickens had already begun to burn. The pot stunk from the burning chicken. “F#########&&&&&&&&*************!!!!!!!!!!” I quietly said to myself. I couldn’t scream it out loud but I really wanted to. “What the hell am I going to do?” I added more water but the chickens stunk. I got very mad. It was obvious to the poor nun in training as I flurried through the kitchen trying to save the damn chickens. Three chickens lost their lives for this meal and I was damn if I couldn’t make it work. I told everyone to leave the pot of chickens alone and only I touch. The nuns in training and the cooks all stood there with “dears in headlights” expressions as they watched me fly through the kitchen to make it work. For the next two and half hours I prayed over this stupid pot of chickens. Oh how I carefully basted them, praying Hail Mary after Hail Mary, hoping to God they will turn out ok. Sr. Lette returned from the store walked into the kitchen, “something’s burning, I can smell it” she shouted out. “It’s the chickens Sr. Lette, they are burned!” Oh man was I mad. I stood over that stupid pot of chickens begging God to help me.

Let me explain a little bit about Ethiopian chickens. First of all they are very small and skinny. Our regular size chicken really is the size of about two of these chickens. Secondly, the chickens are older so the meat is tougher. The best way to cook these chickens is really in a stew. But I figured if roasted the birds and basted the chickens ever 20 minutes I could make them nice and somewhat tender. But I didn’t roast the chickens now did I? No, I burned them so I was going to serve burned leather meat. Truly it is really difficult to make chicken taste good around here.
12 o’clock came around. Sr. Lette was in the kitchen wanting to know how things were going. I was frantically and sweating like crazy trying to pull off the thanksgiving dinner. I announced, “The chickens aren’t done sister.” I had 30 minutes to get the chickens done, process the largest pot of potatoes I have ever made through the food mill, turn them into mashed potatoes, make the gravy, and heat through the sweet potatoes (which of course I didn’t have any oven to heat them in). I had no idea how I was going to make this work. I went to pull out the sweet potatoes from the magazine and OMG they had turned black from the pan I put them in. OMG did they look bad. Fuck it I heated them anyway on the gas burner. My dinner so far was not a creation from a master cook but more of a master disaster. I cooked the sweet potatoes on the gas burners and parts of them were scalding hot and others were still cold. At this time, my crazy face was on, the kitchen was buzzing, it’s almost dinner time and our guests were hungry. Sr. Nigesti took over the chicken pot and said, “These chickens are done.” They weren’t done. I couldn’t pull the meat away from the bone at all. I knew they weren’t done. Sr. Lette said they were done too. OMG I thought, on top of the food tasting like burnt shit I’m going to kill everyone with food poisoning. I pulled the chickens out of the pot. Thank God!! Only a very small amount on the bottom of the chickens were burned-really it didn’t look that bad or taste that bad either. Thank God I mumbled to myself.

Forget the gravy it’s not happening. I removed the stuffing out of the chickens and poured the basting sauce through a strainer onto the chickens. I have to say the chickens looked fantastic in appearance. Everyone was really delighted when I brought them in. After the presentation I went back into the kitchen to cut them into pieces. It was like trying to cut through a rubber tire. I tried to cut through the meat with my knife but the chicken slipped right off the platter and flew onto the table. This is something out of a horror movie, nothing was going right. The cooks and I were desperately trying to get these chickens cut. Everyone was waiting to start their lunch. It got to the point where I took the chicken with my own two hands and pulled it apart like an animal. We accomplished it though and I returned to the dining room with the chickens in pieces.

Breaking them apart was a real aerobic exercise and my head was dripping in sweat. I looked quite the sight when I sat down for lunch. The Mother General looked at me with a concerned glare. I was truly annoyed. I had black sweet potatoes, sugarless pies, and uncooked chicken. WTF!!!!

Everyone served up their plates full, except me, I was afraid to eat the food. I watched as everyone tried with all their might to cut the chicken. They chewed and chewed and chewed through the chicken. Many were gulping it down with large amounts of water. Master cook my ass, I barely can pass as an apprentice. This dinner sucked. Boy was I mad.

In spite of it all many compliments came my way. I thanked them kindly but begged God to not let anyone get food poisoning. The mashed potatoes and the stuffing did turn out fantastic. I also loved the green beans but then again, I didn’t make the green beans. I barely ate my plate of food. I was tired as well as disappointed but it seemed that everyone liked it ok. Also the pie didn’t taste that bad. In retrospect it wasn’t that bad but I really wanted to make it especially nice for the Mother General. I guess this was another moment in my life where I get to practice humility.

The electricity didn’t come back on for most of the day; it was late afternoon (after 4pm) when it finally returned. Oh well, what the heck we managed to have our Thanksgiving dinner after all. Sr. Mary baked the additional pies (which we didn’t need, my God we ate pumpkin pie for the entire week.) and they did turn out nice. Thanks to Sr. Casa, she really paid attention to the recipe….I think I will stick to my musical arts and leave the art of cuisine to someone who is better.

This weekend we had a huge celebration. On Saturday we had Sister Nigesti Tesfay (from Sassie) and Sister Teresa Abraham (from Zalambaasa) celebrates their 25 years of being sisters. We started the day with a high mass. The Bishop came with 5 other priests and we had a gorgeous mass. We followed it with breakfast outside in the courtyard of the sister’s house. Everyone came, the priests, all the sisters, and the celebrated sister’s families. It was really nice. Then I had to get the orphan girls who are also my flute students to run a rehearsal to prepare to play for the Bishop that afternoon. The girls had not practiced and they sounded so bad. I thought I was going to shoot myself in the head with how hard I worked with them. I left the rehearsal super upset. I had to make a cake for the luncheon and I came into the kitchen with a very pissed off face. Everyone looked at me and already they know when they see that face on Celine don’t bother her. I didn’t talk to anyone and got to work on my cake. After a short time I chilled out and decided it will be what it’s going to be. The priests and the bishop returned. We celebrated the sister’s 25th jubilee with a great lunch. We all laughed and had a great time. Then I got up to help the girls perform. I got them prepared and Sr. Lette shared a very nice opening about my work and what I have done for the flute school. I was deeply touched with her kind words. I prayed several Hail Mary’s and then went out with the girls to perform. They did a beautiful job. I think I scared these little darlings into submission because they really played well. I followed their pwerformance with a piece too. Oh they loved it. The Bishop and the Mother General were very pleased. As I performed I thanked Blessed Mother for being there for me once again.

Today was the community day for the sisters. This weekend has been fabulous as all the sisters from the region were together for the weekend. Sr. Lette asked me to make pancakes for breakfast. They all loved the pancakes. (I guess I didn’t retire my apron just yet.) Then later in the morning we had mass and I played a special song to St. Lucy of Filippini. It went really well as the sisters sang the song in Italian to their beloved saint. I was pleased to make them happy. We had lunch after mass and I finally got my first break at 2pm from the weekend with the sisters.

At that time I went to the school for a rehearsal with the flute students. Again I worked these students hard but they are in better condition to play and I feel better about them.
Today I finished with going to Seyoum’s to watch a movie. As I watched with him I fell asleep. Nothing changes with me, it doesn’t matter where I am on this planet, when I watch TV I fall asleep. Later Froweyni came over and we all talked for a while.

When I returned back to the sisters dinner had already begun. I sat down and had my dinner. As I ate, Sr. Reggie announced we don’t have school on Tuesday so my program of flute performance and individual classes has been cancelled. Oh no, after all that work. I didn’t even mean to say it out loud but I did, “You mean after all that work and the students giving up their Sunday afternoon to rehearse, you’re gonna cancel it?” Sr. Reggie felt really bad. So we made the program for this morning (12-7-09).

I only could have grades 4A and 6A perform for the program. There wasn’t enough time to get everyone in. I felt very bad for all the teachers and students who worked so hard for me to get ready but oh well, the Mother General is so busy and she leaves in 2 days so she can’t attend to all of it. I was grateful I could get that in. The children sang well, the flute students played fantastic, Seyoum performed beautifully and then I played a portion of the “Carnival of Venice” for MG. Everyone really loved it and it went so well. When I finished my piece the MG gave me a standing ovation as well as everyone else followed after her. Several of my dear priest friends were there and were very pleased too. I was so grateful to God to have everything come together and it was so impromptu for everyone as well. No one knew their program was going to happen until they arrived at school.

When I came to lunch Sr. Lette said she was incredibly impressed with the children’s capability to speak English. She said it wasn’t like attending a concert in Ethiopia but for the time we were in America. All the children speak their English with an American accent and pronunciation. I laughed as of course they are imitating exactly what I taught them. I was happy to be able to make her happy. When I make the sisters proud of me, I am very happy.

I think that’s enough for now. I hope everyone is well at home. I’m down to 2 weeks now. I will see everyone at Christmas. I love you all so much. Thank you so much for reading. Sorry it takes me so long to get these too you. Safia, I really miss your help.

Love and God Bless You,