As I adjust back into my life here in New York, I continuously find myself thinking back to Ethiopia. I count the hours to determine what time it is there and what my friends may be up to. My experience there has been so rewarding- I hope to work hard during my last year of grad school and return next summer.
Here's a breakdown of our trip; it consisted of four 'chapters':
1. Welcoming event at DDIA which is the Deaf Development Information Association in Addis Ababa. They had a traditional coffee ceremony for us and a welcome event where local members told their story, shared experiences, and presented a Deaf culture play.
2. Workshop at Addis Ababa University. Deaf students, interpreters and Special Ed teachers were in attendance and it provided training and an opportunity for the Deaf community to gather and discuss their present situation and ideas for change. These trainings were well attended, received and fun! It gave our team a clear vision of what the Deaf in Ethiopia face on a daily basis which provided me with so much admiration for these students.
3. The third part was our work at the school in Bahir Dar. I had the 'little kid' classroom- they are so cute! Even with the young kids we had to do empowerment activities because they are already facing oppression within their families and the community. I had several artists in my classroom! During our body drawing activity (this served not only as a way to teach the body parts but also a way for the children to identify their identity) two boys in particular took great interest and produced beautiful drawings!
4. The last part was our retreat where we went to Awash national park and stayed in huts! We saw tons of animals (warthogs, ostrich, monkeys, hyenna-- just to name a few!) We used this serene retreat as an opportunity to reflect on the work we had done and to organize our teams goals for this next year.
The title of this blog is "chigger yehlem." This means "no problem." This is a word that I learned in Amharic (one of the languages spoken in Ethiopia-- i believe it is the most widely used language) and in Ethiopian Sign Language. As a whole, I have experienced Ethiopian people to be happy. They are always looking out for one another, for us and seem to know that everything will be alright. When there was a schedule change or a request to be lead through a busy market after a long day at school was made, our Ethiopian friends would say or sign "chigger yehlem." This is something that I am trying to incorporate into my life back home in America. When an assignment is given, a meeting time is altertered or something didnt go quite as planned in clinic, I hope that this new-found mentality of "no problem" will aid me in easing anxiety and tension throughout my last year of graduate school.
My heart has definitely been left in Ethiopia. I am in close contact with the IMHO's Deaf Education and Empowerment leaders to aid in our project plans and goals throughout the year, and am in touch with our Ethiopian partners and friends through email and facebook. I am incorporating my love for the Ethiopian culture (both hearing and deaf) by trying the local Ethiopian restuarants and going to local deaf events with several deaf Ethiopian friends that I have here in Rochester. For information regarding the project and how you can be help or become involved please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org