Getting Started

The new school year has finally started.  And since this is my last year here, I really want to make it count.  In so many ways, starting again at my school feels totally different from last year.  I can see how I’ve changed and grown and become more comfortable at work.  I know what teachers to approach for help, and who to ask if I really need to get something done.  Despite the fact that a good chunk of the teachers switched to the local high school, I know a large portion of the staff.  Instead of introducing myself and explaining why I’m here, I’ve been reuniting with my teacher friends who I did not see during the summer season. 

 All summer I was getting more and more excited about the new school year.  I have a good idea of what is and isn’t possible, so I planned my programs around that.  I am going to have two English Clubs at my primary school.  I am also starting a Grassroots Soccer intervention at my school as well because the program was so successful at the high school last year.  I am planning on getting more involved at the high school as well, with English Clubs, and Life Skills Clubs.  While I am guilty of enjoying spending hours in my house reading, I feel much more fulfilled when my days are busy. 

 With all that being said, I thought getting started would be easier.  Yes, I know how to navigate my school and community, but man, starting programs can be difficult.  Simple tasks that I thought could be done in a day, like registering students for English Club, turn into a two-week process.  Even though school started a few weeks ago, many parents had neglected to actually register their children for school.  This meant that the first two weeks of school was spent registering the kids instead of teaching them.  I was told to wait to start my programs.

 We have had uncharacteristic rains the past few days, so the school compound is essentially a swamp.  Since the classrooms are made of mud, it doesn’t matter if you are in or outside.  Teachers and students are slipping around in less than ideal conditions.  Because of this, registration has been delayed even more.  Who knew mud could affect school?

 My classroom has been used for a series of staff meetings.  While I was planning on getting in there early and painting visual aids onto the walls, I found my plans were not feasible.  I showed up to school one day only to be told that I was not allowed inside of my own classroom. 

 We also have an entirely new school leadership staff.  The Director was new at the end of the last school year, and they have since replaced the Vice Director and the Supervisor.  While I hope these are changes for the better, it is difficult to explain why there is a random foreigner working in their school and they don’t really know what my role is. 

 The past few weeks have been a reminder that nothing goes as planned in Ethiopia.  I can push for things to happen as much as I want, but at some point I know I just need to sit back and let it be.  While I’m anxious for all of my programs to get going, I am constantly reminding myself that I have to work in Ethiopia time.  Challenges I would never fathom come up and I find myself out of my element.  When this happens, I know I just have to trust the Ethiopians around me because even though I have been here for over a year, they usually know better.  Deferring my control, and often my planned schedule, can be frustrating, but it is often the only way to get things done.  “Kas ba kas” is a common Amharic phrase, which means “little by little”.  If any words have defined my time here in Ethiopia, I would say it is those.    

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