Last weekend we went to the Mother Teresa orphanage for their birthday celebration. The kids put on a variety show. It was fun to participate in their celebration. There was funny moments when the kids would dance to Ethiopian music, then cut to American hiphop, then back to Ethiopian. The Ethiopian folk music caused the boys to smile and dance in a cute way, whereas the hiphop caused them to display attitude and pull breakdance moves. Another skit was a karate demo with some absolutely impressive moves. I sat next to a Benedictan monk from Yorkshire who was a character and enjoyable to converse with. Kelemwork brought her kids and also Sister Carol joined us. The funeral was on Sunday and it was announced that religious services had been cancelled, but we all went to the Vatican for the English language mass that was held. I met new Comboni Missionary priests from Mexico and Peru who were telling me the difficulties of learning the Amharic language.
This past Friday I thought I'd have a quiet day of library research. I had a meeting in the morning with the Director of the institute who helped me to obtain my visa and is meant to host me here. He reinforced that the institute is really not prepared or equipped, or maybe it is lack of willingness, to help with my research. But it matters little since I have been able to make such good contacts and headway regardless - with the generous help of the Catholic community here. Then I had a chance meeting with a guy I go to school with in Oregon. I just ran into him on the street. I had no idea he would be here, but he then offered to bring me to two offices I had been trying to locate in town (unfortunately the people at the Institute have mentioned that they know these offices but were unwilling to take me there or tell me where the offices are). The first offices we visited, the Nile Basin Initiative offices along with the an Ethiopian specific office for the Nile, were empty of any employees. We were told they were traveling. The second office seemed empty. We called the number and a woman answered saying she could see us on the street and let us in. I was met with a jovial and witty director who then spoke with me for the next 45 minutes about various things concerning the dam. This was not my plan and so I missed lunch and moved to yet another interview at an environmental NGO, did not get to the library at all, and finished my day around 6pm. All of this information is great to gather and I'd rather be spontaneous and go with any opportunity offered.
The story of this dam, from the national level, looks to be very different than I expected. I am interested to see what the results will be once I move to a local level of interviews. I am optimistic about the future of Ethiopia and this region in general. It seems that if conflict can remain out of the way, internal or otherwise, the countries of Eastern Africa have a great opportunity to develop.
The New Year is marked with the buying of sheep or goats and at many places around town you see herders with a mess of the animals for sale and people leading them away by one leg or on a string. Right now there is singing in the air and apparently on the holiday eve there are bonfires and feasts. I don't know what I will be doing for the holiday, myself. I am told that once the New Year passes, the rains stop, and sunshine returns. I look forward to sunshine and summer weather.
I met with some American neighbors last night who live just across the street from where I am living. One man is the friend of a friend in the States, and we laughed at the strange coincidence of realizing that we lived just across the way from one another. They have lived here for 2 years and have a pet tortoise that they rescued from the street. He and his wife hosted dinner and another couple living next door joined. They work for Catholic Relief Services. I may go up and speak with people in their offices about the water projects they are working on in Ethiopia. We had a delicious meal, followed by interesting conversation, wine, and a warm fire. It was an evening of comfort and normalcy that I find, to my surprise, that I miss, and I had a great time with them, though it has made me a bit homesick.
My friend Father Ayele is leaving to his post in the Omo River Valley on Wednesday morning. I will miss him. But, I too plan to travel from Addis very soon, as my interviews are almost complete at the national level. Right now I plan to travel to the south, stay at the convent to process my data, and take a few days off to go to Bale National Park. If you are coming to Ethiopia, please let me know. I'd love to have someone to trek around the Simien Mountains with!