Last post from Addis

I can’t believe my two months here are up: in ways, I feel I’m just beginning to properly settle in and it’s definitely going to be hard to leave.

In the hostel, the past couple of weeks have been dominated by the national exams – Grade 10 (GCSEs) and Grade 12 (A-levels), plus the end of term school exams. As usual, all the students came together to support each other. For example, for those doing the critical Grade 12 exams, the other students got up in the mornings to prepare them  a special breakfast, and served them their dinner when they came back.

Now that most of the exams are out of the way, some of the students are starting to leave for the summer break. Many have family out in the countryside so, for some, it’s a 1 to 2 day trip back home. There are a few who don’t have anywhere to go, or where their home life wouldn’t be suitable (some come from very vulnerable backgrounds).  In these cases, they will stay on at the hostel: some will take a summer school programme of study, others will deliver tuition to younger students, and some will be doing painting and other maintenance work around the hostel, in preparation for the new term. Some of the painting work already started last week. I’m not convinced I’d hire them to do my house, but the enthusiasm was there…

I got the chance to join the ‘Medical Club’ (a group of the students who wish to study medicine), on a tour they’d arranged at one of the top hospitals here. It was a private hospital (the Korean), with a college attached and it was a far cry from my Black Lion experience (this one is evidently very well funded).  The students were passionately interested in the tour they were given: I was impressed how proactive they’d been in setting this all up, and in the interest and ambition they all showed.

I’ve also had a chance to do some of the great museums in the city – I’ve seen the famous ‘Lucy’ (or Dinkenesh as she’s known here’ – our 3.2m years old ancestor), a great exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum on the various tribal peoples of Ethiopia, plus there is a superb (though a bit harrowing) museum covering the ‘Red Terror’ period of the Derg regime in the 70’s.

And so now it’s my last weekend here :-(. It’s been such a wonderful experience.  There are many things I’ll miss, but also some I definitely won’t !  Top of the list of what I’ll be sorry to leave are obviously the students here at EEF: they’ve been a real inspiration to me – their drive to overcome the enormous challenges they faced in their early life and their enthusiasm in grasping the opportunity they’ve been given. I’ll also miss the others I’ve met here – I’ve found it such an open, welcoming and warm city and country and, together with Caspar, I’ve had some excellent nights out, with good music and meeting great people that I’ll be sorry to leave.  I’ll miss the coffee of course, some of the food (injera, I’m not sure…), the beautiful open Addis skies at night (there’s so little light pollution), and the mix of city and country (the goats, cows, donkeys, horses wandering down the main street, the live chickens beside me on the bus).  I’ll also miss the time I’ve had here for things like reading and photography.

And the things I won’t miss? The mosquitos, the six foot deep potholes and manholes that appear in the pavement from nowhere (treacherous when you combine them with the usually non-existent street lighting), the temperamental internet connections and power cuts, the construction everywhere, the pollution.  And, although I’m maybe just gullible for an urban myth, the constant trepidation when I walk home to the hostel at night, that I’m going to come face to face with a hyena…

All of these are hugely outweighed by what I’ve loved about here: the warmth, friendliness and pride of the people and the vibrancy and excitement of the city. It really gets under your skin.  All in all, cliché as it is, I feel it’s been a hugely rewarding, learning experience and I’m privileged to have had the opportunity.  It’s the smiling faces of the students that will stay with me for the longest, and that will no doubt bring me back again in due course – on that note, I’ll add more student pictures so you can see what I mean.

Finally, just a quick thanks to those of you who’ve been reading and chatting back with me on my ramblings. It’s been great to be able to keep in touch. For those of you in London, or Ireland, see you soon ! 🙂

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