St. Lucy Flute School

St. Lucy  Flute School
Class of 2009

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little Abraham

July 14, 2011
Mother Teresa Orphanage
Last Saturday Sr. Mary and I had a very nice discussion over breakfast about women in these parts and pregnancy. I learned that there are several women here that get pregnant, can’t do anything about the pregnancy so they carry it to full term and give birth. Right after birth they throw the babies away in the bushes. It’s so hard to hear about these things. Seyoum even told me how hard it is to hear the tossed baby crying.

Sr. Mary works on a project called “The Caring Project”. This project is to assist women and families who are in desperate need. It is connected to the Kavaleh (school districts) and to help mainly orphaned children get school supplies, uniforms, and their education paid for. Of course any project like this immediately expands into so many areas. One of the areas this project has expanded into is helping the prostitutes to stop giving birth to babies and throwing them away in the bushes.

As this visit has been difficult I have spent more time in personal reflection and meditation on my purpose with the flute school and the work I’ve done at St. Lucy’s. One evening I attended mass with Sr. Mary. The Deacons of Don Bosco, together with Abba Mirdoch (Polish priest who trains the deacons), has the deacons help with the mass. They help with saying the gospel, giving a sermon, and communion. One deacon decided to discuss about faith. He related it to the story of Abraham. Abraham was told by God although he was 90 years old, that he would be given a son by his wife who was 80 years old. Abraham told God this was impossible but God told him that if he has faith he will give Abraham a son. Abraham chose to have this faith and to trust in God and God’s will. This sermon spoke deeply to me as the deacon expressed our need to have faith in God. From these difficult times I really felt that I needed to do like this and have faith. I really need to trust that my purpose, although at times I can’t see my path, that I trust in God in what is going to be right for me. I took this sermon into my heart and really meditated on it.

At the breakfast with Sr. Mary and learning about this one prostitute of 19 years, she had a baby. Sr. Mary and her assistants went to her to help her not throw the baby into the bushes. So she gave the baby to Sr. Mary. Sr. Mary and her assistants took the baby to the Mother Teresa orphanage in Mekelle. As I listened to the story of this young woman, who has an older child already too, I felt something within me calling me about this baby. I learned the baby is 7 months old and that after its second birthday he will be put into a boarding school until he is an adult and can get himself to high school. I was deeply sad to hear of this child’s fate. I asked Sr. Mary what the mother is going to do. She shared that the project is going to work hard with the mother to rehabilitate her, get her an education, and get her into a job so she can take her son back. But Sr. Mary also explained that after working with this woman, she said, “yes I can do that but I can also keep on doing what I’m doing now.” Which means this woman is perfectly happy being a prostitute. As I listened to Sr. Mary I was very sad for this little boy. What is going to happen to him? What if the mother can’t rehabilitate herself? How many more pregnancies is she going to have and throw away the babies? I asked Sr. Mary; since I was in Mekelle can I visit the child? “Of course you can Celine, just go to the orphanage and ask to see him.” “What’s his name,” I asked. “It’s Abraham.” “Interesting,” I thought but I wasn’t sure what this meant but I knew I had to see this little boy.

After I finished with everything at the University, I asked Seyoum if I could go to the MT orphanage. It took us several trips to several different bus stations to finally find the bus to take us there. We were about to give up then luckily for us the bus driver we found was Seyoum’s relative. Seyoum asked about the MT orphanage and which bus we needed to take to get us there. His relative responded, “My bus goes there specifically. Come with me and I will take you there.”

Within a 15 minute bus ride outside of Mekelle we reached the MT orphanage. I knocked on the gate and was greeted by a very pleasant MT sister from India. I asked about the baby and she wasn’t sure who I was talking about. She said, “Come back this afternoon when the other sisters come back and you can talk to them about it.” “Oh, I have to leave Mekelle this afternoon because I have to be back in Adigrat no later than tonight.” Then she said, “Let me go see if I can find someone to help you.” We walked together across the yard and the place was beautiful. Full of flowers and fruit trees surrounded the courtyard. We turned a corner and I was met with several severely crippled children. One was even crawling on her stomach because her legs and arms didn’t work at all. The little girl about 6 years old was happy to see me and she eagerly crawled closer to me with a big smile wanting to say hello. Around this area were also several women with small babies and obviously extremely poor. Many of them also had handicapped children. Seyoum became extremely sad. Mebratu was also with me and he also was having a hard time seeing these children. After a short time the Indian sister reappeared and she said, “Come, the baby you are inquiring about is in here.” I entered a room. The room was lined with cribs. In the 6 six cribs I saw were three little baby boys. The one I inquired about was the first of the three. He was asleep with a bottle hanging out of his mouth. The second one was awake and the third which looked no more than 4 months was fast asleep. I asked if I could hold the little boy. They prepared some blankets to wrap him up with and the sister handed him to me. What a beautiful little boy this was. He was obviously a mix of Ethiopian and foreigner because he had soft thin black hair rather than curly tight hair. His features were also of a white man instead of an African and the skin was more mocha than black. As I held the little baby he woke. He was very alert when he opened his eyes. He looked at me first not sure what to think then he began to coo and smile. As I visited this little guy Seyoum and Mebratu were talking to the other little boy awake in his crib. Then Seyoum came over and took several pictures of me holding the boy and him smiling at me. I continued to coo with the little baby. I must have sat there for 30 minutes just talking to him and he was laughing and cooing back to me. It looked like he had a cold or something because his lungs had a little rattle in there and his eyes had some mucus in them. Seyoum and Mebratu couldn’t stand it anymore and they had to step outside. Seeing little babies abandoned was breaking their hearts. As I played with little Abraham several other children approached me in the ages of 12 months to about 4 years. They all came to say hi and give me a hug. How sweet they were. After a while they were kissing the little boy and calling me “ama” which is “mama”. It was hard to not cry but also such a gift to sit amongst these babies and give them some love.

The sister asked me how long I was staying. I shared my new position at the University and that I will be here for a while. She became very happy. We discussed the issue of little Abraham and I said, if the mother doesn’t want the little boy to let me know and I will do something to help this child. Then she asked if I would be willing to come and teach the children songs and I gladly accepted the offer when I return back to Ethiopia.

By God’s will I hope to help this little guy. There are more people and families that are extremely desperate in this village that I can’t even count. I get asked by more people to give them money. I help each case as I see fit. Often times it’s just to buy food for a family for the month or get a mobile for a priest or something like that. One of my most recent assistance has been to Sr. Mary’s guard. He is a father of two young children and a wife. He doesn’t make enough money to feed himself and his wife. So I give to help in that respect. I believe I am directed to give to the people I am suppose to give to. This is one of those cases. This little baby has no one right now. The rehabilitation of his mother is still very uncertain. So for me, to help him have some kind of life, this is what I believe I’m being called to do. As I have said in so many benefit lectures I’ve given, Mother Teresa said, “To look to the masses is overwhelming and one cannot help. Look to the one child and help that child.” For this, I’ve said these words more than once I believe it’s not coincidence of this meeting. I believe this little boy made known to me so I can help him.

Gebremedhin Aregawi Friendship and More of Meeting with the Dean

July 12, 2011
The beauty of friendship
Gebremedhin met me at the bus station this morning. He looked very tired. I made him a biscuit with cheese because I wanted to make sure he had food. He often goes without it. I asked him how he was. He said he traveled all night to get back to Adigrat. He said the rains also came in Saessie and the river was too high for him to cross. He had to sleep in a cave and wait for the river to come down before he could cross it. By 1am the river was able to cross and he did. He traveled by foot to get to me on time in the morning to help me. What a friend!!! I hugged him hard as he told me this. I couldn’t believe the loyalty he gave me. I was deeply affected by his devotion to help me and his kind friendship. I shared how sorry I was to hear about his cousin and why didn’t he stay with his family. He told me that he wanted to help me. He knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to Mekelle alone.

I was supposed to meet Seyoum in Mekelle but he was busy in an interview and he couldn’t meet me. Gebremedhin stayed with me until Seyoum could come. By this time it was night. I asked Gebremedhin to let me get him a hotel room so he could sleep, take a shower, and let me buy him dinner. That was the least I could do for this sweet man. He agreed to stay and He, Seyoum, and I enjoyed an evening of walking around Mekelle, we ate a delicious dinner, and drank St. George beer until we were stuffed. It was a nice ending to his day. I was really happy to do something nice with him and for him.

July 13, 2011
The next morning Seyoum and I helped Gebremedhin get on his bus to Adigrat. He was called by the University of Tenben to attend his summer classes. I was sad to hear this because there goes another friend. I called him to make sure he made it to Tenben. He had. He took a bus from Adigrat to Tenben and it was an 8 hour ride. He was exhausted and hungry. I asked if I could come to visit and he said, “don’t come to Tenben Celine, it’s full of mosquitoes, malaria, and other diseases. It is a small village and it will not be a good idea for you to come here.” I became disgusted that he was made to go there. I was hoping he could go to Axum or Adwa, where it’s only a 3 hour ride so I could see my good friend and they are safe villages to visit.

Later that morning I went to meet with the Dean. I decided out of respect that I would get dressed up in the traditional Ethiopian clothing. I put on my make-up and Ethiopian closes, earings, and shoes. Seyoum and I headed to the university together. The walk to the bus station was hot. I began to sweat. Damnit I said to myself. If I start sweating then I will sweat for the Dean. We got to the university and I was still sweating. Of course wanting this to stop only made it worse. Now my dress was pitted out and the back of my head was wet. I was annoyed with myself. This is one of those things I do when I get a little nervous and I was a little nervous. Seyoum and I first met with Gizachew and he handed me some curriculum to help him with and a book on black music history that he wanted me to read. I gladly accepted the work and we all headed up the stairs to the Dean’s office.

I sat alone with the Dean and my head dripping with sweat. As I spoke with him about the department and my part in it, my hair dripped with the sweat. I kept answering his questions and wiping the sides of my face. I was so embarrassed about this. I finally apologized because I was so embarrassed but he could have cared less. He was more interested in talking with me than me sweating. I knew this visit was to discuss my salary. The dean was very enthusiastic with my resume and experience but he was also concerned he couldn’t give me enough salary. We talked a while longer. It ended up the salary he offered me was about the same as what I make in the USA now. I told him this was just fine. I then performed for him and he also became impressed with me. He asked if I would consider being the head teacher of the music department. He and Gizachew who was also in the office by this time asked me to go to Yared School of Music at Addis Ababa University and meet with them. They want me to give concerts and lectures at this school too. I was so happy to hear all of this. This is my dream I thought. I’m going to teach music, perform music, and give lectures. As well, from this meeting I learned the curriculum I’m helping with is also going to be used in Nairobi, Kenya, Sudan, and other African countries. They asked if I would be willing to go there and give concerts and lectures as well. I responded with an extremely enthusiastic and happy “Yes, of course I will!!!” Then they told me I need to return home early so I can get my things in order and get back to Ethiopia by mid September at the latest. They will help me with the financials of taking care of my work visa and my travel expenses. As well, they will give me a house to stay in until I can get one of my own.

I returned back from this visit so excited. I accepted the job and now I’m very happy to be here next year. I will do this contract for 2 years. I can’t believe how lucky I am. I need to share all of this with my children. Now I have to see my kids for a short time and then say good-bye. My children are grown but I know this will be very difficult for me to do.

Seyoum and I met up with Soloman Twabe. He was a teacher for St. Lucy School when I first went to the school to teach the flute. He also was one of my flute students and later joined in my solfeggio class I taught too. A very talented young man and it was so nice to see him. We met for coffee and enjoyed visiting for quite some time. I told him I was coming to Mekelle for the next year. He was so happy to hear this. He shared with me that he teaches music at a private school in Mekelle and sings, plays Krar, piano, and bass guitar at a local night club in town. “Oh, how I wish I could stay for the weekend to come and listen to you.” “Celine, our band plays nightly at this club, come tonight at 9pm and see us.” “Okay, I will come.” I said.

Afterwards Seyoum got a call from one of his friends that graduated with him in flute at the Tigray Arts College. He told him I was in town. His friend said I want to meet her. So we met at a café. His name is Mebratu. He is a middle age man with a 12 year-old son, whom it was obvious, he loves very much. He and Seyoum were best friends while they attended the college. He also is a music teacher at a school in Mekelle. When he heard that I was coming to teach at Mekelle University, he asked if he could sign up for flute lessons and I agreed I would love to teach him.

The three of us visited for the remainder of the afternoon. We went to dinner and afterwards headed to the night club where Soloman’s band played. The night club was fantastic. It was in a very traditional style. There were several men that attended the club that were from Southern Ethiopia. They were dressed in their traditional clothing. The clothing was a skirt that was held up by a wide belt. The skirt was white with bright colors embroidered in a trim around the bottom of it. They wore a regular shirt and had a thick white swag also lined in this bright embroidered trim that wrapped from behind the neck to then over the shoulders. It was so cool to look at. They walked with walking sticks. When they danced it was fabulous to watch them. Their movements were amazing to look at. They used their sticks as a form of appreciation of the music. They would sway the stick back and forth over the singer or other person they wanted to show appreciation with. When I got up to dance two of these Ethiopians came to me to dance with me and they swayed their sticks over me. It was so much fun.

Soloman’s band’s name is Katim. This means ring. I’m not sure why they named their band that but whatever they played so well. It was so much fun to hear the traditional Tigray rhythms and dance the Tigray dancing. I just love it. Engaging in their culture makes these trips so fantastic. Seyoum, Mebratu, and I danced all night long. I danced so hard that I was exhausted and hot. We left the night club happy. Walking together arms wrapped into each other and walked the night streets to the hotel.

Meeting with the Dean, Dr. Gebreyesus Teklu

July 12, 2011
Headed back to Mekelle
I received a call from Gizachew to come back to Mekelle so I can meet the Dean. I called Gebremedhin to see if he could help me. He wasn’t in the service area and then his phone was switched off. The sisters were going on retreat and for me to go to Mekelle is the best time. Seyoum is in Mekelle and so I couldn’t ask for his help. I finally got a hold of Gebremedhin.

Gebremedhin was in Saessie. This is where his family is from. His cousin was hit by a car and killed on the 10th. He went to comfort his aunt and spend time with his family. I shared I needed to go to Mekelle and does he know of anyone who can help me. He said he would come back to Adigrat to help me get to Mekelle. I didn’t want him to come because of his business with his family but he insisted.

Later that afternoon the rain came. The storms of Africa are something to see. Sheets upon sheets of rain fall in July. Then hail came. The thunder clouds crashed and banged for hours. Everything became soaked. Water was evening running in our rooms. We had to mop it out and Sr. Mary and I spent the evening cleaning up after the storm. It was a mess.

Abba Dietmar's 50th Celebration

July 11, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
This weekend I’ve spent a good amount of time with the Don Bosco Deacons. These are young men studying to become priests. It has been a lot of fun talking with them. They speak very good English and they are all so nice. They also want me to teach them the flute. I’m waiting on Abba Steffano to discuss music classes with them. He’s currently in Addis Ababa.

I’ve gone to their house for dinner several times over this weekend. I appreciate the company and laughter I’ve been able to have with them. They invited me to attend the celebration mass at the Cathedral in Adigrat for Abba Deitmar, a German priest, who is celebrating his 50th year of priesthood. I accepted the offer and went to mass this morning in the Cathedral.

I love going to the Cathedral and spending time in their. I especially love the mass. The mass always begins with chanting and drums being played. But this time because it was a celebration mass the drums were going strong and the priests were dancing in the back of the church. I sat in the back row and turned around to watch them. It was so jubilant and fantastic to listen to I had to take a look. Really there isn’t anything to describe how interesting it is to watch an African dance and drum. It’s an experience to watch. As Sr. Mary and I watched I leaned into her ear and said, “This is what I love about Ethiopia; no where else can you enjoy this experience!” She agreed with me. Then the procession of priests began. This is also an experience to see.

After the 3+ hours of mass we went to the major seminary’s open square to have tea and biscuits for breakfast. All the priests, the sisters, and family members join together in this celebration. Abba Deitmar’s family was there from Germany too. It was fun to watch this family be terrified of eating this food and drinking tea out of old cups. I enjoyed as the wife of Abba Dietmar’s nephew constantly turned down food and tea as the priests continued to push it on her.

In the afternoon we were invited to the luncheon. We, is meaning, all the community of sisters and priests, and since I am staying in Gol’a with Sr. Mary, I get to be one of the invitees. I ended up sitting across from the German family. I laughed out loud as I watched them sniff the injerra and the dorowet meat sauce. They turned it down and only drank coke and bread. I ended up starting a conversation with them and shared the reason I’m laughing is because I remembered when I was so afraid of the food. I wouldn’t eat anything. I think this made them feel more comfortable but I guess this family will dine on coke and bread for the week.

Long Week

July 9, 2011
What a long week:
I’m tired. This week has been a struggle. I’ve given private lessons. There are several students who are not practicing. I couldn’t even get passed the tone exercises just because they needed so much attention. It was frustrating.

Their teaching skills have been exceptional though. All the beginning students are doing very well. These advanced flute students are very good at teaching. I guess this is a product from my teaching, it is reflecting in their teaching. But I’m constantly telling my advanced students, “if you play wrong, learn wrong, what are you going to do?” They answer me, “Teach wrong”. They know what to do it’s just a matter of getting some of these students to practice more.

Flute Classes Begin

July 5, 2011
First Day of Flute class
I gave the lessons and flute classes. The students did well. Then we had English. I work with Abba Negasi and his tutorial program for orphans to help better educate the children in their English. I’m working on conversational English more than book English. I figure this will be better for now. Several of these students are in high school and to help them get through high school they have to understand their teachers lecturing in English.

In this country after primary school, when the students go to secondary and college everything is taught in English. Some students fail or drop out of high school because they don’t learn their English, often become hoodlums and pregnant.

My flute students are required to attend this class. I teach their flute classes in English, I make them ask me questions in English; I make them tell me in English if they don’t understand. For 3 hours these students are either learning in English or teaching the beginner classes in English. I also require my beginning students to take the English classes. None of my students will go to high school without a decent knowledge of conversational and book English. They really appreciate it as they know how much this is helping them.

Keeping My Chin Up

July 3rd, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
Although having this exciting news about working at Mekelle University this trip has been exceptionally difficult so far. I remember last year and it was also difficult but things got better after a month. Last year, some of the sisters were angry at me because of the things that have been said about me and the jealousy of the teachers. It hasn’t left me yet. I came back again and still this is a problem. I’m tired of having to defend myself and my friends. I’m tired of this problem. I wonder if my work at St. Lucy’s is finished and I’m supposed to go elsewhere.

I’m at a month and I’m hoping that it will become better. I’m grateful to stay in Gol’a because it’s nice, free of judgmental thinking, and a very serene place. I think one of my biggest problems for this trip being difficult is that I miss my friends. All my friends are either in villages visiting families, at the university getting their educations, or have gone to Addis to look for work. So I’m alone. I do get to spend some time with Sr. Mary in the evenings which are always nice. We prepare dinner, say prayers together, and she and I are becoming good friends. She has been my shoulder to cry on because I’m alone, feeling like “is this trip even worth my time” and the discontinuation of my flute school at St. Lucy’s. She has counseled me and given me insight to think of other directions to go in. She loves the idea of me working at Mekelle and she says that after a time Sr. Kahsa and these other sisters will realize that removing my flute school was a mistake. But for now these things are what they are. As well the lack of my friends has discouraged me. Even Seyoum has left me. He is looking for other work. He doesn’t want to work at St. Lucy’s school anymore. He needs to make more money and he is absolutely fed up with the sister’s treatment toward me, him, and the flute students. I stand here in Ethiopia alone. I’m trying not to become depressed but this has been a trial.

Continuing on:
Later this afternoon I went to Adigrat to photocopy tone exercises, scale studies, finger technique development exercises, double tonguing exercises, and parts for their flute choir piece Londonerry Air. I then bought rubbing alcohol and a roll of cotton to clean up the flutes, chalk, and erasers to clean up my theory exercises that I will give to the students later this week. I prepared my classroom and changed the room into a music room, with stands, and music to hand out to the students. I cleaned the instruments. I’ve brought 40 flutes to this country. After cleaning and testing the flutes 15 of them are in need of repair. This is from the high demand of playing on the instruments during the time I didn’t have enough flutes. I’ve found someone in Mekelle to help repair them and I’m going to see about taking some of these flutes to the university in Mekelle for use there. I’ve given 15 to the graduated students, which leaves me a total of 10 working flutes for my beginning class. This is good because I have only 12 students in this class for the summer. I wrote the flute school schedule on the blackboard and the assigned private lesson times as well. Here is the schedule:

9:00 Private lesson
9:30 Private lesson
10:00 Advanced Flute Class
11:00 English Class
11:30 Beginning Flute Class

9:00 Private lesson
9:30 Private lesson
10:00 Advanced Flute Class
11:00 Beginning Flute Class

9:00 Private lesson
9:30 Private lesson
10:00 Private lesson
10:30 Advance Music Theory
11:00 English Class
11:30 Beginning Music Theory
12:00 Break
1:30 Advance Flute Testing: tone, finger technique, tonguing, rhythm, and repertoire
3:30 Beginning Flute Testing: rhythm, hand position, posture, and repertoire

9:00 Private lesson
9:30 Private lesson
10:00 Private lesson
10:30 Flute Pedagogy
11:00 Advanced Flute Class
No Beginning Class

9:00 Private lesson
9:30 Private lesson
10:00 Advanced Flute Class
11:00 English Class
11:30 Advanced Flute Class Pedagogy Discussion and Brainstorming
12:00 Beginning Flute Class

Saturday and Sunday

It’s a busy week, but the students are dedicated. They appreciate the new music, metronomes/tuners, and flutes so much. They all want these wonderful benefactors to know how much they appreciate this and by showing this appreciation is how hard they are willing to work.

July 4th, 2011
Happy 4th of July America, I wish I was there to celebrate it with you. Nothing new or special for today. I went to mass at the Parish for Gol’a, did my laundry and documented my work with the students.

Meeting with Dr. Joahchim Herzip

June 29, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
I met with the president. His name is Dr. Joachim Herzig. He is from Germany and a very nice man. I gave him my documents and resume. He loved hearing the project of coming to Ethiopia and setting up a flute school. He also was impressed with my experience of designing curriculum, and running music schools in America. We talked for well over an hour. Enjoyed a cup of coffee with him and discussed how I can help the university.

The university just celebrated its 10th year in 2010. Dr. Herzig came to Mekelle University to help develop a stronger curriculum and assist in getting the Ethiopians better educated so they can run their schools. He said he set the stakes high for the professors to follow the German College of Education curriculum and after 3 years he will then turn over the school to a worthy Ethiopian President to run their university. He loved that I have done the same with my flute students. That I have required them to discipline themselves, practice hard, and improve their knowledge through music to offer them a richer way of life. He liked my blog and what I’ve done to help these children. He agreed with Gizachew that hiring me would be a great opportunity for me and the university.

I left the visit/interview with high hopes I can come and do this work. I really love the idea of developing western music into their curriculum as well as developing this type of education into the primary and secondary schools all over Ethiopia. I really hope this will work out for me.

Mekelle University

June 28th, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
I’m so excited; today I go to Mekelle to meet with the director of the Music Department. His name is Gizachew, can’t remember his last name. After the horrible bus ride into Mekelle, my friends and I got some hotel rooms at the Milano hotel. Although this hotel is considered to be one of the better hotels in this town, it wasn’t. The shower didn’t work, Seyoum’s toilet wouldn’t flush and it’s just what we would consider as a cheap motel room would look like.

Seyoum, Gebremedhin, and I got settled into our rooms and then met up for breakfast. Nothing fancy but the waiter tried to robbed us of more than the cost of the meal because I’m a foreigner and this always happens. My dear friends got after the waiter and made him rewrite the bill for the breakfast. Everywhere I go, because I’m a foreigner, they try to take advantage of me.

After breakfast I went to practice. BTW, practicing has been very good on this trip. This is one thing I’m very happy about. I’ve been able to practice for hours each day. It’s refreshing after a year of not being able to practice. After practicing we headed for the bus station to catch the bus taxi to the university. I learned there are 5 separate campuses for Mekelle University. I cannot remember the branch the music department is at but it’s connected to the school of law branch (not sure why). As the taxi pulled up to the university there was a lot of construction going on. The area where I will be at is brand new and parts of the music building are not even finished yet. Even the road was under construction. We hit dirt road to finish our ride to the university. As well pulled up to the campus I looked up. It’s huge. It read Mekelle University across the top and a very large Ethiopian flag stretched across one side of the entrance walls.

Seyoum, Gebremedhin, and I were met with Gizachew’s assistant to take us to his department office. We walked for some time before we reached the building for Social Sciences and Language. We entered and I was taken to Gizachew’s office. After greeting him, we talked extensively about what his vision is for this new music branch and what he would like to see for the future and growth of the arts building. I could answer every question he had. I’ve spent time now running music schools in America, developing curriculum, and running projects. With all this experience and background I simply was ready to do this job. He handed me the curriculum and I immediately began help with editing the music program. He was very impressed with my knowledge and background and was already talking about me working for the department even before I did my audition.

For my audition, I played the Carnival of Venice. It was interesting; there were no accompanists around to assist me, no music stand to play off of, and the room was dark. Didn’t matter, I knew the piece well so I played it anyway. He listened and got up to come around my side where I was playing. I had the music open just in case I couldn’t remember a part. He really liked the piece and was very impressed with my playing. By the time I finished the performance he had made a call to the Dean of the Department and arranged a meeting for me to greet with the University President.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Puking Bus Ride

June 27, 2011
My trip to Mekelle University

Early on Tuesday morning I met up with Seyoum and Gebremedhin to go to Mekelle so I could meet with the professors and dean of the new music school at the University. We caught a bus. Seyoum sat up front and Gebremedhin and I sat in the back. These bus drivers here are insane. They drive so dangerously. This one bus driver was no different from the others I’ve dealt with for public transport here in Ethiopia. He took off like a bat out of hell. I was talking to Gebremedhin about the conversation I had the day before with Sr. Kahsa. He shared yes, the teachers have behaved very badly but it wasn’t my fault and he was annoyed to hear that Sr. Kahsa wants to stop the flute school. He was further annoyed they had placed the teachers problems on me. Most of all, he was very sad to hear the lack of appreciation from what I have done for that school.

Gebremedhin has a problem with being in a bus, he gets car sick so he said he wanted to sleep. Off to sleep he went. I sat there while the loud Tigray music boomed throughout the bus. Of course on other trips I’ve gone on I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for someone to get car sick. We weren’t even into our trip 30 minutes before someone was puking. I ignored it and listened to the music. I covered my nose so I wouldn’t have to smell it. But the stupid bus driver kept driving like a bat out of hell. He was going so fast that at times I was literally bouncing off my seat and bumping my head on the ceiling of the bus. This is a mini van type of bus. We had about 12 people on board. A good six of them were puking. OMG I can’t stand it. I opened the window wide as several of these passengers didn’t even use puke bags. Puke was on the floor and all over the side wall of the bus.

Let me interlude here to give you a better idea of what I was going through. I’m sure you’re getting a nasty picture of what I’m saying from just the puking. Get this, I’m in Ethiopia. This is a 3rd World country. People here are extremely poor. These people are lucky if they get to bath once a week. They stink!!! They don’t brush their teeth. It’s awful!!! Dealing with just the smell of these people is enough let alone them puking.

What a fucking nightmare! I hung my head out the window, tears running down my face, gagging. “Please Blessed Mother, don’t let me puke too!!!” I cried. The music blasted as the passengers puked!! Oh God, how I wanted to get off that bus.

The drive to Mekelle is normally 2 hours. That son of a bitch bus driver had us there in less than an hour and a half. How I wanted to hit that bus driver. As we arrived, I was sick to my stomach, my ass was sore, the bus stunk, and the music blasted. I was so glad to get off the bus. It was like jumping off the titanic with joy. I leaped!!! I felt so bad for all those poor people who got sick. How awful that must have been for them to deal with that ride. Those poor people…..

Anyone who knows me knows how paranoid I am about people getting sick. It’s like I have a phobia about it. When it happens I run the other way. So for me to deal with this was an overwhelming nightmare.

Not all things work out as you would like them to.

Afterwards I went to give Sr. Accunta some rosaries and scapulars my sister sent for her. I ran into Sr. Kahsa and Sr. Brehan (who is now the director of the school while Sr. Grace is in Italy). They stopped me and said they were just talking about me and my flute class and they wanted to talk with me. “Sure” I said and sat down. Sr. Brehan shared that I could have a room on the bottom half of the school, where grades 5-8 have their classes. I thanked her very much for letting me teach at the St. Lucy’s school. She then stressed her concern about the 8th grade students coming to St. Lucy’s after Sr. Grace said she didn’t want them around. I promised both Srs. Kahsa and Brehan that my students are extremely well behaved and respectful and I would be surprised if any of them were the culprits of that vandalism. I promised them both I will take full responsibility of that classroom and if anything happens in there I will pay for it. We agreed to this.

Sr. Brehan left and Sr. Kahsa asked me to stay on to talk some more. She asked how my flute school got started and purpose to St. Lucy’s school. I shared how I read the book, “Aids Orphans Rising” by Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lloyd and the inspiration it gave me. Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lloyd invited me to come and teach the flute to the children. I first started with only the orphan girls, then it expanded to the St. Lucy students and teachers. I went from 10 students to 60 within a week. I shared how I was asked by Sr. Reggie to help all the classes from grades kindergarten through 6 with teaching English and American songs. Then Sr. Kahsa shared some terrible news. She said because I have made strong friendships with some of the teachers that other teachers became jealous and they have been fighting with each other all year. She said that some teachers wouldn’t even work together because they were fighting so badly. She said, “I know you plan on taking Seyoum to America to go to school.” “Yes, I do plan on that” I replied. “He has helped me so much with all of my flute students. For 2 years now he has faithfully stood by my side and been there for me while I had to go back to America.” Sr. Kahsa then said: “Well this has made several teachers very jealous of your relationship with Seyoum. Then she said that I was going to take many teachers to America. “Many teachers to America?” I said, “How can I take many teachers to America?” “I don’t know Celine but all teachers are very jealous of this.” I couldn’t believe the stupidity of what I was hearing. These teachers were fighting so badly that they even stopped teaching the students. Sr. Kahsa said this whole problem was because of me and it’s my fault for all this fighting. Oh how this disturbed me. “Sr. Kahsa, the only person I made a promise to has been Seyoum. And yes, if I can, I will help him get a good music education in America. But Seyoum himself is not ready to go. He is weak on his flute. He is a fantastic musician but the only way I’m planning on getting him to America is with the flute and he simply is no where near ready to go and study in a university.” She said, “Well what about Gebremedhin?” I said, “I only wanted him to come and visit my family. He had wanted to and I offered to help him get a chance to come and visit. But the American Embassy denied his visa.” I then shared with her that I wouldn’t let him come until he had found another teacher to replace him because if he would have come to America he would have had to stop his job. I also made sure as soon as I realized his visa was denied that I got him a plane ticket to get back to the St. Lucy school so he wouldn’t be away from his class any longer that the agreed amount of time. Plus Gebremedhin made sure before he left for Addis Ababa that he got a sub to take care of students during his absence.” Then I was told that Froweyni, another teacher left for Addis to get a visa for America to see me and she left her job for 2 weeks to do this. I shared I had no idea about Froweyni or what her plans were. She said, “But you are friends with Froweyni and we know you were trying to get her to America. We know you are taking all of our teachers away and the others are feeling very jealous that you have picked only so many to take with you.” I looked at her in shock. “Sr. Kahsa, I’m not friends with Froweyni. I stopped that relationship last year because her behavior was bad to me and that she had said all sorts of lies about me and Gebremedhin, about Seyoum, and other several teachers. I have no idea about this visa or anything she is doing. Please don’t point to me about that.” “Well, we feel all of these problems have caused the directors of the St. Lucy school a lot of stress and the directors and us sisters all agree it is your fault for these problems! So we as a community have agreed that after this summer we don’t want you to come back.” Oh how sad I was to hear this. “Sr. Kahsa, I have no idea about these teachers and their fighting. Please don’t blame me for their stupid behavior. Yes, I will help Seyoum. I only was trying to help Gebremedhin come for a visit. Please don’t let me stop my flute school. I have worked and sacrificed to get these flutes, music and all these things for my flute school. Please think of the children who have worked so hard to get where they are.” I reminded them that receiving a music education as I have given them is helping these students. They are going to the 9th grade. In high school and college they only teach in English. All my students now learn in English and teach their flute students in English. I stressed how the students have shared how studying the flute has opened doors they didn’t even know existed. I was asked to teach the flute and music at the Yarmonin Gebremeskel International School but I turned it down because I only wanted St. Lucy students to have this unique education. With my entire defense she said, “We want it to stop.” I became so sad. I began to cry. I didn’t understand. I said, “What do I tell all these wonderful people in America that have helped so much and have supported me? That you don’t want my flute school anymore? What do I do with all these flutes and music I have brought? She said it wasn’t her problem. I left there in tears and went to find Sr. Mary so I could go to Golaa.

After I left I sat on a stone and cried my eyes out. I was so upset. Along came a man looking for someone and I didn’t want him to see me cry. I told him to go to the sister’s house. Sr. Negisti came by and said this is Abba so and so (can’t remember his name). He shook my hand. I’m sobbing. He began to say: “You are a child of God, Jesus loves you very much and don’t give up on what you are doing. Whatever it is, it is from God and you must continue.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but if felt like the hand of God came down and wrapped his arms around me and comforted me. This man talked to me for more than an hour. I couldn’t stop crying. I cried the entire time he spoke to me. In all that time, he kept telling me how I was a child of God and that my gifts were more important to this school than anything else they received. I listened and sobbed. He was very kind and I was very grateful to have received such love from a stranger.
Sr. Mary and I went to Golaa. She called me into the kitchen and made me a cup of coffee. We sat and began to talk. I cried more with her as I talked. She said that she had no idea of this voting my flute school because she is part of the community and she wasn’t part of that vote. She also said this was started under the supervision of Sr. Lette and Sr. Kahsa didn’t have a right to say this. We talked for 2 hours over all these things. She said this jealousy of the teachers is for the birds. They see a foreigner and they all thinkwe should take them back to America. They think America’s streets are line with gold and their lives will be so fantastic if they get to go. I agreed with how stupid this behavior was and that any Ethiopian I know in America struggles a great deal to make it. Just like all of us Americans do too. Only a few I’ve met where they are a little more financially stable. In general most Ethiopians, who stay, not only miss their homeland, but often struggle a lot!!

My eyes were swollen from crying. I finished my evening with dealing with my daughter and the caretaking of my home. I felt what a mistake it is for me to be here. How it cost me more money this time o come. I had to borrow just so I could make it this time. I felt worthless from the sisters in the Adigrat house. I felt disgusted with the St. Lucy teachers.

Since that conversation I really haven’t made much effort to see the teachers or the sisters of the Adigrat house. I feel unappreciated so much. It really hurts.

First Flute Class

June 26, 2011
First flute class

On Monday morning, I was allowed to give the flute students their class in one of the classrooms. This day was also the day the teachers gave the books out to the upcoming class for the next school year. Seyoum was busy so he couldn’t attend the class. I shared the letters from Megan’s flute studio and how her flute students would like my flute students to write to them. They all loved that idea. I handed out the Winning Rhythms Book; Learn to Play the Flute, book 1 and 2, the metronome/tuners, and the new flutes. Not all the students received a new flute, but some received new flutes last year so that was ok.

The students warmed up on some major scales. Seyoum had told me they knew all 24 major and minor scales. I asked them to play a D-flat Major scale. Wrong, they didn’t know it. I asked them to play an e-minor scale. Wrong again, they didn’t know that too. They only know about 5 major scales: C-Major, F-Major, B-flat Major, G-Major, and D-Major. What Seyoum told me, I’m not sure? But it was obvious I needed to help my students learn more of the scales. We worked with the tuners to tune up the flutes and played some scales again, now playing in tune. Next the students performed for me an Ethiopian song, Seyoum had composed for the flute students. It was quite beautiful but stiff in the sound. I then told them I will play this song and I think it is to sound like this. I played. From my experience being in Ethiopia, the way the song was written I knew it needed some note bending and stresses on certain phrasing. After I played the students cheered and said I played it perfectly right. I asked them if they knew the words to the song. They did, I asked them to sing it. They did, it was beautiful. Then I asked them to play the song on their flutes the same way they sang it. This time they played and how beautiful it was to listen to them interpret their music through the western flute. I just loved it.

Getting back to the flute students

June 24, 2011
My trip to Mekelle

I woke early to get ready for my flight to Mekelle. I put on my Ethiopian dress, all excited. I did my make up and off to the airport I went. I hadn’t had any food or coffee yet and I wanted to but it was time to go through customs again and I knew it would take me some time. I was wrong; the attendants at the airport were delightful. “Musika??” They said, “Yes, I answered, “how nice.” Off I went to wait for my plane. But now I can’t get any food, I’m on the other side of the gate. “Oh well, I will get something on the plane.”

An hour and a half later I landed in Mekelle. Oh, how nice it was to be back in the land of, what I thought from previous trips, happiness. I got off the plane and excitedly ran to see my good friend Gebremedhin waiting for me at the airport. I can’t tell you how fantastic it was to see his sweet face. We embraced and hugged and hugged each other. I just love this person. He is such a sweet man and he came to greet me at the airport. I was delighted to see him.

I haggled a driver to get the price of the car trip down from $1500br to $1000br to take me to Adigrat. I got someone to agree and I off I went to Adigrat. I noticed I wasn’t as excited to get to Adigrat as I have been in the past. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because I have been there many times now and it wasn’t that new. We arrived at the Eve Hotel and unloaded my luggage to my room. My God was I exhausted. I hadn’t finished getting my luggage to my room before I was on my bed and fast asleep. I woke to the knocking of my door from Seyoum. It was 8pm. I told him to meet me down stairs so I can freshen up and we can have some dinner. Oh how fun it was to sit with my friends and we drank St. George beer and ate a fantastic Ethiopian dinner. Seyoum called Gebremedhin and Mehanie to come visit too. We talked into the night and laughed and enjoyed one another’s company. After a while I tired again. I bid my friends good night and asked Seyoum to meet me in the morning to take me to St. Lucy’s school for parent’s day.

June 25, 2011
Meeting the flute students and Parents Day

I woke and I hadn’t had a cup of coffee in 2 days. My head was throbbing from the detox of caffeine. I got ready for my day and went down stairs. It was dark and quiet in the hotel. Someone saw me and I asked, “Buena?” (Which is coffee in Tigrinya). “No Buena,” the girl said. Oh what do I do? I’ve got a coffee headache and I’m hungry. I called Seyoum, it was 7am. “Seyoum, can you come and meet me and take me to a place where I can get some coffee and breakfast?” “Of course, Celine but give me a while, I just woke up and I need to get ready.” “Just woke up?” I thought, “He was suppose to me at 7:30 in the morning. Will I have time for coffee and breakfast?” Then before I knew it the girl from the hotel had woken the hotel manager. He was obviously tired. He rushed to start up the espresso machine. In moments I had a nice cup of macchiato placed before me. Then I large plate of Special Fata was put down for me to eat.
Special Fata is my all time favorite thing to eat in Ethiopia. I was so delighted to see this.

Special Fata is a dish of 3 rolls, like French rolls, onions and garlic are sautéed in butter. The bread is torn into small pieces and tossed with berbere (Ethiopian red pepper). The egg is scrambled in the butter mixture and the bread mixture is fried in the butter. The egg, bread and a yogurt like cheese is then tossed all together in a silver bowl. Sprinkle that with salt and enjoy. It is delicious.

In walks Seyoum. We greet and I ask him to enjoy this breakfast with me. He did. We talked about music and the flute students. We finished up the breakfast and the coffee. I looked at my watch. “Oh, Seyoum, it’s 10 minutes to 8am, we must go so you aren’t late for school.” “No Celine, we have time, it is early still.” “What time is it Seyoum?” “Its 6:30am Celine.” OMG, I thought, I’ve woken the help in the hotel around 5am. I was asking for coffee. I called Seyoum and that was before 6am, that poor guy. OMG, I felt so bad.

I attended the Parents Day. Parents Day is an end of the school celebration with music, songs, skits, dancing, and poems read for the parents. It is very nice. The flute students didn’t perform like I was told they would. I will tell you later why. I greeted so many children with warm hugs and gentle kisses. So beautiful they are. Immediately they started to sing to me “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I was delighted to listen to them sing to me. None of them could speak their English to me. I was sad with all the work I had put into the children the year before, but oh well, that’s the teacher’s fault not mine. Many pictures were taken, much hugs were given, and greetings to the parents.

Afterwards the flute students waited for me patiently to greet with me. I was so happy to see them. I asked why they didn’t play and it was said that they had already performed earlier in the quarter so the sisters wanted to have other performances instead. Whatever!!!! The flute students and I hugged and kissed. We were all happy to see each other. I sat with them and shared how Megan Holstedt, a flute teacher and employer of Miyazawa Flute Company and Miyazawa had sent them new books, new metronomes/tuners, and flutes. Oh how happy they were to hear this. I showed them on my cell phone, the benefit concert I gave in their behalf. They loved seeing that too. I told them they now are graduating from my program and they are becoming the flute teachers. The students all cheered.

Later I went to see the sisters. They greeted me nicely. Immediately Sr. Kahsa said, “You need to have your flute class in Golaa” I don’t want you to use any of our classrooms to teach your students because we are cleaning the classrooms and don’t want them to be used until the next school year.” I said, “Golaa is far, Sr. Kahsa, its quite a walk for the students. I will have classes in the morning hours and that means the students will have to leave their homes early to get to Golaa.” Then Sr. Kahsa said, “Well the priests are using the bottom half of the school this summer, so you can ask them if you can use a classroom.” I thought this seems to be a little curt on Sr. Kahsa’s part, what’s wrong? Later Seyoum explained to me that at the end of the 8th grade testing, several 8th grade students went crazy. They broke windows, a crucifix, and a picture of St. Lucy. The school director, Sr. Grace was very angry with this vandalism and demanded the students tell who did it. None of the students would nark on each other. So Sr. Grace told the 8th grade students after they graduate to not return to St. Lucy’s school because she doesn’t want to see them. Seyoum begged Sr. Grace to let us have flute class here. All my advance students were in the 8th grade. He assured her none of the flute students were vandalizes of the school. More to come….

I'm back in Ethiopia

June 23, 2011
Arrival in Addis Ababa

Dear Family and Friends,
After an exceptionally long trip I finally landed in Addis Ababa at 7:30 in the morning on June 23, 2011. I have to say, I really liked taking Ethiopian Air. I was reluctant at first because of all the trouble I have when I take them from Addis to Mekelle. But flying across the world in their 777 was quite comfortable and the service was very nice.

Of course when I arrived, it took me forever to get to the baggage claim. In Ethiopia, the Ethiopians have no concept of courtesy and they push and shove you all around. You literally have to fight your way through the people to get to your luggage and fight for a cart to carry your luggage through customs. I’m getting ahead of myself; I need to back up by an hour or so. For this trip I decided to get my visitor’s visa at the airport. I will say this is also better to get your visa at the airport than to go through the Ethiopian Embassy in America. It was only $20 dollars versus $75. Getting it was very easy and the line went decently fast. After I fought my way through the baggage claim I had to stand in line for a long, long, and I mean long time to put my luggage through the scanner. Well over an hour I stood there waiting. I was tired and my body needed a bath. My head hurt too. When I got through to put my baggage through the scanner I knew I would be tagged by customs to open my suitcases and have them look at the instruments. I was tagged and sent over to customs for further inspection. I waited, waited, waited and waited some more. The one guy kept saying give us just one minute, which means that could be endless. I finally got annoyed because I knew people were waiting for me in the airport to pick me up. I asked, “Can you please go a little faster?” “Just wait one more minute, madam, we will get to you.” I waited more. There were 4 custom officers and only one person was doing all the checking. This one person had to write up a voucher for every piece of property she was checking. This means, they hand write each voucher by putting carbon in between three pieces of paper and writing down all the information. This takes FOREVER!!!! One after another the custom officer did. The other custom officers stood around and talked. They took my passport. I asked, “Where is my passport?” They couldn’t find it. It had wondered off with one of the officers. I made them go and get it. Finally they got to me. I think it was an hour later. Of course each and every flute had to be checked. I’ve gone through these 3 previous times from my other trips and this wasn’t going to be any different. I was annoyed, tired, dirty, and had a headache. After flute number 15 I said,” enough, they’re all flutes. I’m a flute teacher; I’m going to Adigrat to work with the sisters and the orphans. Please let us wrap this up I’ve got people waiting on me who have been waiting for hours!!!” “Just one minute, madam”. “No, no more minutes, I have someone waiting for me, its been over 2 hours and I’m concerned for them.” The custom officer said, “You need to pay tax on these instruments before I will let them go into the country.” “The hell I do!” I said. “These are not gifts, I am not going to sell them, these are my flutes and I’m bringing them for the students to learn. I’m not going to pay any tax on anything!!!” I think my assertive mannerisms made her back off and she said, “Ok, madam, you can go.” And that was it.

I packed up my things, angry, scowling at the officers, took my passport, and headed out to find Sister Froweyni and Yared. I found Sr. Froweyni right away. She said, “I have a hotel for you, let us go.” “Oh Sr. Froweyni, nobody told me you would get a hotel so I made arrangements for Abel Ghirmai’s family to take me to their home for my stay in Addis. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.” Then she said, “I waited for you since 7am.” “Oh how sorry I am for that I landed at 7:30 but it has taken me 3 hours to get through the gate, I’m so sorry Sr. Froweyni.” “That’s ok Celine, no problem.” Then at that time, Yared approached me, “Are you Celine?” “Yes, I am” and we greet each other. “Sr. Froweyni, I had no idea about this hotel, please forgive me for causing you any inconvenience.” “No matter Celine, I will tell them you can’t make it.” “Ok”, I said. We hugged and departed.

Yared and I went to his family’s home. It was a very nice and comfortable home. I met his family, his children, and his wife. They had a special relative visiting and all of his family was there. They made a nice amount of Ethiopian food and I enjoyed a good lunch with them. We then went to get my plane ticket from Henok and the Ethiopian travel agency. I finally got to see the office where I’ve ordered so many tickets to Mekelle. Afterwards we headed back to the house and I sat down to visit with his family. Before I knew it I was sound asleep sitting straight up in their chair. My head bopped down which sprung me awake and Yared said, “are you tired?” “Yes I am, I haven’t slept for 2 days now.” “Why don’t you lye down and get some sleep.” Good idea, so I did. I slept for 7 hours!!!! I then woke and it was after their dinner. They wanted to feed me but I was still full from the lunch I had, so I passed. I had some tea and back off to bed I went. I again slept so soundly.