Monday, June 14, 2010
Another week has passed here in Adigrat. I'm having a really good week. It has been so nice to spend it with the children and the teachers. I often walk around Adigrat listening to my iPod. It really gives this country a different perspective on things. the flute class is doing fantastic. The children of St. Lucy's school are wonderful and we all have such a good time singing and dancing in class. I don't have too much of an update this time around just wanted to let everyone know I'm thinking of them and missing all of you.
I head to Sassie to spend the weekend with a teacher's family. I will live in their hut and cook by fire only. I will have to walk about one hour to get water from the river. I will take all sorts of pictures to share with everyone. It should be a lot of fun. I'm excited.
I have a new number: 011 251 9 20 43 30 15. It is an Addis Ababa number which is a lot easer to contact me in Adigrat with an Addis number.
I love and miss everyone very much. I send you big hugs and kisses. Oh, btw, since I will be in Sassie, my mobile is out of range so you won't be able to contact me until another week when I return.
Love and God Bless,
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Again, this week the flute class continued to show their ability to grow in their learning. Today is Sunday. I go to make more copies for them. I am now preparing them to perform for the ordination of the priests that happens at the end of the month. I think it will be wonderful for everyone.
I am so frustrated with my mobile. It’s not working right. I have changed the battery but it still is giving me problems. I think I will buy a new mobile so I can hear from my family. I miss them very much. After I buy the new mobile I will send my new phone number. I’m going to get an Addis Ababa number that way the line will be easy for everyone to reach me.
That’s it for now. I don’t have a lot of new news; I’ve been busy all week with the priests. Next week I will have more to share as things get back into their normal routine. I’m starting to have a lot of fun and I’m laughing again.
After the end of next week, I’m off to Sassie to visit a teacher’s family, Abba Tesfay (who needs the solar panels) and the sisters. I will spend a week visiting the school in Sassie and having fun with these children. This area is particularly plagued with AIDS. There are many orphans and many, many sick people. It is always such an interesting place to visit.
I miss all of you please send me an email or call me if you can.
Ok, I don’t know what happened while I was away in Gola. I have returned to Adigrat to see the person who treated me so badly greet me with open arms and love. I also found out that the teachers have regained their jobs and all is fine with them. I went to a coffee ceremony and the teachers all said they had a good talk with the person and the truth was revealed. This person apologized to them and has been fine since then. It was said that the person who spread all the rumors and caused all the problems was said that she was very sad now. I guess that happens when truth is revealed.
Later in the week, Seyoum went to this person and asked if I could return to the classes to teach grades KG to 4 my American songs during his music classes. It was agreed that I could do this. I began my general music classes again and it has been wonderful to be with the students and teachers again.
Lots of singing and laughter have happened since Monday. It has been very nice.
I also have enjoyed all the time I have been able to spend with the sisters. I have had more time with the orphans and the sisters because I have not spent so much time with the one teacher that caused so many problems. I’m building beautiful relationships with them and I love the time I can spend in the chapel.
On Thursday the nuncio and the Bishop from the Vatican with the Adigrat Bishop came to say Mass and have dinner with us. It was really nice. I took some pictures and we all had a great time together. I made a cake, non other than a devil’s food cake. I made a frosting that turned into a brick of thick sugar that sat on top of the cake. I couldn’t find any other recipe for a chocolate cake than devil’s food. As I prepared the frosting no matter how hard I tried to keep it fluffed up it would eventually flatten out all over the cake. As I decorated the cake, I realized that I had made devil’s food cake for some of the top officials of the pope. I didn’t know what to do so I listened to Rob Zombie on my iPod and decorated the cake!!!!
At dinner the Adigrat Bishop wasn’t going to have cake but I became incensed and so he took a little bit. He said, “Celine, this is delicious, what kind of cake is this?” Oh how I didn’t want to answer that question. I tried very hard to say chocolate cake but I couldn’t lie to the bishop. I told him I made them devil’s food cake. Everyone laughed hard as they could see my face turn red with embarrassment. How kind the bishop was to me and said “well the devil sure knows how to make a nice cake, I love it.” The Adigrat Bishop then asked me to play my flute for them at lunch the following day.
On Friday I attended the 3-hour long mass for the celebration of the Cathedral’s feast day. I spent many hours between mass and lunch visiting with all the priests that came for this special day. I loved it. All of them were so kind to me and we had many wonderful philosophical discussions. At lunch I played 2 pieces by Christopher Caliendo, “Contigo” and “Caliente”. I played these pieces because I know Christopher and he has written music for Pope JP 2 and was awarded by the pope for his compositions. I felt it appropriate to share his music with these priests. The nuncio really loved it, as well as everyone who was there. I made Sr. Kahsa very pleased with me which made me extremely happy.
I’ve been in Gola since Tuesday. I have had a beautiful time in Gola. I love that I am so welcomed by Srs. Mary and Nigisti. It is wonderful to be around people that really appreciate who you are. Even though they have heard the rumors they know they are stupid and have said so many Ethiopians can get really jealous. Sr. Mary commented that she too had to go through gossip about her. She said it comes with the fact that you are an American and you are trying to bring something different into their culture.
Yesterday morning I called my former husband and talked about this with him. He was encouraging to me to not give up and reminded me what is more important and to move forward for these children. He is correct. I am doing just that. So what!! So people get jealous. This is not my problem. The only problem I have is if I allow these people to get to me. For me I’m here for the children and to help expand their minds. I pray that I can do this. This is my calling and my dream. I pray all will succeed.
On the other hand, I have some things I wanted to share with you. I joined Sr. Mary and her caring project. These students are from child-headed households that have been put into cooking school, have graduated, and are starting up a restaurant. I have already sent you a note about this. The last two days I have been working with these children to make different items to put on their menu. In the past 2 days they have learned to make hand-cut French fries, potato chips, herb crusted pizza with homemade tomato/basil sauce, Boboli herbed bread, garlic toast with dipping sauces, croutons with garlic oil and berber (red hot pepper powder that is indigenous in Ethiopia). We tossed the salad with these croutons and we made a homemade (from scratch yogurt) dressing, tossed fruit salad with mango dressing, zucchini quiche, and miracle cake with caramelized bananas and pineapple. These students loved everything I taught them and agreed no one else in Adigrat will serve such a menu. They felt encouraged to go forward with their restaurant and introduce these foods to the people of Adigrat. I’m also helping them decorate the restaurant and manage it. Its lots of fun doing this kind of stuff and cooking is the most therapeutic thing I do when I’m upset. Timing couldn’t have been better to do this.
After two days of hard work the students left exhausted. It was a blast for me to cook so much and work with these children. I loved it. I also went to the Gola primary school. I taught grades K/G through four new American songs. Like the children at St. Lucy’s they loved it. I was once again allowed to be swarmed by children and it really calmed my heart to be able to be with these children and be able to teach them something.
Gola is gorgeous. I can’t remember if I have spoken about it but the sisters’ house rests on the edge of the mountain that over looks Adigrat. At night I go on the roof top and look at Adigrat all light up. Gola is super quiet; there is literally nothing except small hut homes, the sister’s house, and the Silesians priests who have their seminary right below the sister’s house. The sky is almost purple blue and there are roses and other flowers everywhere. (I will take pictures for you to see). This is the place that has the 400+ year old peach tree that Safia and I took pictures on our first trip.
The chapel is gorgeous and I love it here. Sr. Mary and Sr. Nigisti have invited me to stay with them for the rest of my stay and I’m strongly considering it. I will have to walk about an hour both ways to get to Adigrat to teach flute, but I’m so welcomed here and treated so nicely I’m considering it.
I’ve had a hard start, but life is like that. It can’t always be perfect and this is part of adjusting to the culture here in Ethiopia. I have learned to be a little more careful about what I say around the teachers and other Ethiopians so I don’t make anyone jealous. I don’t want anymore harm to happen to any of the innocent teachers that have been damaged by all of this.
I also wanted to share about some news that happened with the elections. Last Wednesday Sr. Kahsa shared that the nuns couldn’t drive to Zalambasa because the soldiers won’t let them in. Zalambasa is on the border of Eritrea. This is one of the most unrested areas in Tigray. Sr. Kahsa said that the soldiers told her to turn around or they would open fire on them. So they turned around. Some others were not so fortunate. They went forward and Sr. Kahsa said that the soldiers pulled out their oozies and opened fire, killing everyone in the car and around them. Although the news says were at peace, this peace is an emotional one and can easily turn into a riot at any moment. Please keep me and everyone here in Ethiopia in your prayers.
I need to go. I’ve made a cake for Sr. Antonia and I need to get to Adigrat so I can deliver it to her. I hope she enjoys it.
I love everyone. I will bring more news about the flute school next week. All students will return from their break and we will get busy again. I will try to figure out how to record them playing on my camera so I can post that to the blog too. You will be so surprised at how well they are playing. I’m very, very pleased with this.
Please call or email me. I miss everyone and it would comfort me a lot to hear from all of you.
Love and God bless,
011 251 9 14 18 00 71 (Adigrat mobile)
Dear Family and Friends,
It comes a time when all things are not perfect and this trip seems to be the case. I hate to have to report bad things but I guess that is part of life and even in the best circumstances things can go a rye.
I have been putting this information off because I don’t want to report bad news. But here it is: when I came to Adigrat I was very unwelcomed by a person. I won’t say who because I am a person that will not harm another person’s reputation. I was very anxious to see this person so as soon as I arrived I ran to see this person. Upon my greeting it was obvious this person was not happy to see me. I went into the school office and I was told that I can’t sing with the children or even help them in their English classes. I was told that St. Lucy’s school could care less for my flute school and that they no longer supported it. I asked what was wrong and this person said nothing was wrong. Well, wtf??? I thought, I have traveled 8,000 miles to come and help these children and I’m greeted like this. I again asked and this person wouldn’t give me a straight answer, just a slew of excuses such as: the parents are angry at my flute class. I have become too good of friends with some of the teachers. Parents wrote a letter to the school about my flute class because it was disruptive to some of the student’s grades and they were beginning to fail in the classes. I asked to see this letter but this person could not produce it. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to respond to this. I really didn’t understand.
The school bell rang and it was time for the students to go home. I went out to greet the children. They screamed for joy to see me again and literally ran to hug and kiss me. I was delighted to see them. I saw several of the teachers and they were equally happy to see me. The children all chanted: “Celine, Celine, Celine.” It was wonderful. I was then thoroughly confused as this person’s response to me. From the greeting of the children and the teachers it looked like they were overwhelmingly overjoyed to see me again.
After I sent the children off to their homes, Seyoum came to greet me. He was in a meeting across town and one of the teachers called him. He left and ran across town. We embraced as strong as we could. We were so happy to see each other. At that time the flute students came. Delighted to see me and asked me to come to their class. I went in, they all prepared for the class. They put their flutes up as Seyoum directed them and played. Wow, how fantastic they sounded. Unbelievable with the progress they had come to from my last visit. The students have really improved. I applauded all of them and they were very happy to have me share with them my enthusiasm of their growth.
After the class I sat with teachers Seyoum, Gebremedhin, and Gebrejohannes. They shared with me the reasons why this person in the office was angry because there is a teacher who is extremely jealous that I have been helping them. Whether I’m working on a sponsorship for Seyoum into America or that I have sent them money to help them and their families. I found out that teacher was one of my very good friend’s I had become very close to from my last visit. I was devastated when I heard of such information. I heard a slew of lies that was unbelievable. I was very offended at such gossip. I couldn’t believe that my dear friend had betrayed me so unbelievably. From this gossip these teachers had lost their jobs. These teachers are devastated because now they don’t know what to do for work so that they can support their families. I’m not just talking about their wives and children. These teachers also support their parents and pay for their siblings to get an education too. I was horrified to learn all of this. When I went to bed on my first night, I spent the night crying and praying to God to help these teachers.
The next day, I went to town to make some new copies of music. It was obvious the students were ready to move forward in their lessons. At the next class the flute students were given a new rhythm assignment. They sight read it. Then I gave them a full page of music with dynamics as the subject. They gulped up that information too. They read the page without effort or mistake. I then gave them a trio. Again, sight read it and as a trio. I couldn’t believe it. I was so proud of them.
In my curriculum, I teach the flute as an extension of them. I have them learn music as a language, similar to what Suzuki and the Gordon Music Learning theory is all about but with a literal understanding as well as aural training. This education is harder to teach and it takes longer to learn. But if the student becomes successful in this theory then the student can read anything or play that is within their known vocabulary of music, including their rhythm. It’s pretty amazing to watch. Here I am in Ethiopia where I still struggle with speaking Tigrinya but the language of music has penetrated these students. They are all so smart and so eager to learn. I am deeply impressed with them. I thanked Seyoum tremendously for helping teach these students and he commented “It wasn’t me who taught them Celine it was you. Your curriculum and skill as a teacher has taught these students so many things.” I almost cried.
The next day several teachers approached me with sadness as they learned I couldn’t come to their classes to have the students learn new songs and help them with their English. Several commented on how stupid it was to restrict me to only flute classes as the education I bring to these students will expand their minds.
As the week went on the students continued to welcome me with hugs and kisses. The person that treated me badly was not going to stop me from teaching my flute school. The only unfortunate thing is that this person has given St. Lucy’s school a bad feeling inside me and because of that I don’t think I will not return for a while.
After some meditation I remembered the life of St. Paul and his mission work. St. Paul never gave up. So I won’t either, no matter how hard it gets. I’m penetrating a culture as well as a judgmental person. Chin up, Celine. You can do this.
Fr. Larson told me on my first trip “don’t give up no matter how hard it gets. You are doing a beautiful thing and keep your focus on the children.” I’m literally chanting this in my mind daily, even hourly as I go forward with the school. Thank God for these things I have learned in my life as they are my source of strength in this difficult time. I am alone right now. Being alone, being unwanted, and so many miles away from those you love makes this even harder. I pray God will give me the strength to persevere.