8 Aug 2011

Diary of Ale from Abugida 6, 18 July

STRESSED OUT!! Last night I set about organising the time we have left and allocating the tasks still pending and I was up to my eyeballs! We’ve hardly got any time left! In less than two weeks (ten school days) we’ll be going. And we’ve still got millions of things to do. And we have worked non-stop but there is so much that we want to get sorted and up and running before we leave. I’ve covered the cupboard door with bits of paper listing all the tasks that are pending and we are trying to get it all done, giving the maximum in the minimum of time. The worst thing is that nobody is in a hurry here and every job we do seems to take us ages, along with the odd unpleasant experience and things are generally taking longer than they should. But as Zeri says “don’t forget that this is Ethiopia! What’s more, this is Akaki!”.
In order to de-stress and start the day positively I submerge myself in the little ones.  After half an hour in the classroom with my “melons” and everything looks rosy again! They now call me “ALE!”, they have stopped calling me “foreigner”. OK, enjoyment over, back to work!
As always, every morning we start by receiving hundreds of good morning kisses. They leave me exhausted, they seem to be competing to see who can give the biggest and longest kiss. In exchange, from us they only receive kisses, hugs, smiles, knowing looks and jokes about the language difference. This is because we have resisted the temptation of buying them sweets, giving them presents... so that they don’t follow us around all day long asking for more. And they seem more than happy with that! However, I’m sure that on the last day we won’t be able to resist the temptation!
We take the gari into the town centre to change euros into birrs to buy supplies. Done. We go to the market to pick up the curtains.
They are not ready, what a nuisance. We have arranged for somebody on another stall to bring us the 50 pairs of socks we need. There are only 25. We’re not having a good day! Zeri stops at the butchers where the school buys the meat for the children, to check that the place is suitable and hygenic. It gets his approval and we head back to the school.
At Abugida they’ve got the hosepipes out and they are cleaning the outside areas. The school looks beautiful, clean, well maintained gardens, tidy and in order… as we all know already, this is the local paradise. Today the owner of a local bar asked us if he could send his son to school here. We told him that he was able to afford to send his son to school, he ran his own business and earned money. We told him that this school was for children from extremely poor families. When he heard this he was surprised as he thought Abugida was a private school! Well it does look like one!
I have now taken the photos of the four children who were missing the other day.
The Red Chocolate Box is now complete! I still have to go and get them printed but the photos from the other day are now ready. We have put them up with the child’s name beside their baskets (from Ikea like lots of things here) containing the personal belongings of each child (sponge, socks for the classroom, clothes...).
In the meantime it was bathtime for some of the children today. I have already prepared and distributed the timetables for the bathtimes for the four classrooms of the “chocolates and melons”.
The babies (“chocolates”) are bathed every other day. The  infants (“melons”) are bathed every three days. We have done as much as we can to ensure that the children get bathed as often as possible but it’s not easy with 68 of them! I hope that the families, wherever possible, can wash the children at home on the days they don’t get a bath at school.
Today the mums of last year’s “melons” paid tribute to Kedija and Kidist, just as the mothers of the babies did a couple of weeks ago. They were full of gratitude for the loving care their children receive and for all the good work carried out. The ladies received gifts (which we had to give out as always, although I don’t understand why) from these families living in extreme poverty, by way of thanks for all the hard work carried out by the teachers and carers at Abugida.
The carers also thanked the mums for their kind gifts (“amasaganallo”, “betam amasaganallo”). Of course the occasion wasn’t complete without coffee and an enormous homemade bread baked by the mother of my sponsor child.

Today we had the first two parent meetings about the teaching at Abugida. We had prepared for them during the last class of the training course and they went really well. Almost all the parents came (mainly the mums, a few fathers – if the mums weren’t able to come – and some grandparents – if mums and dads were unable to attend). I love seeing the Ethiopian mothers, with their bare feet, long dresses, their typical African fabrics, with their hair in braids or their heads covered... amidst the very European atmosphere of the school. They are such a lovely sight and I think of all the hundreds of photos I could take and pictures I could paint. As we agreed the teachers have given the welcoming introduction, thanking them all for coming, they have talked about the timetable of the nursery, they have read out the weekly lunch menu, talked about the uniforms and the importance of bringing the children to school as clean as possible, they asked them not to bring sick children to the school just so that they can get a meal (instead, we told them that if their child is sick they can come and let us know and take some rice or pasta to give them at home), the teachers offered to give the parents an hour of their time each week if they wish to come to the school and discuss anything.

The families were so grateful for everything that is done for their children.
It is quite emotional listening to them speak. They say that before they didn’t have any food to give their children or they couldn’t go to work as they had to look after them and some of the grandparents express their relief and sense of calm now that the children get so much help. The grandfather in the photo is so pleased that his grandson is at our nursery that he has offered to help with any general maintenance around the school. I like the idea of the local community getting involved in the school!  In the case of the small children, the families were shown the exercise books that each child will have from now on, with the children’s records (personal details, family details, medical info, incidents, arrangements with the family, development etc…).
To be honest I was so amazed at both meetings, they couldn’t have gone better.
What great carers and teachers we have!  We then gave out a feeding bottle with 22 sachets of powdered milk to each family so that the children can have a meal in the evening or at the weekends. They were all so happy!.
We finished at five.
I gave a dose of Dalsy to one of the little ones who had fever and then we went and had some lunch. We didn’t have time before! But it was well worth the wait because the rice they had prepared for us (lunchdinner) was delicious.  We went back to the market to get the curtains. They were almost all there…..one pair was missing…..we found out we had to pay separately for these (and they weren’t cheap) because they made a mistake with the original order. How frustrating! “This is Akaki”, Zeri told us in an attempt to calm us down (because we were armed with curtain rails and we didn’t want to lose our temper!). Well, let’s keep calm, we’ve got enough curtains to hang whilst they finish making the last one for us.  Afer our large late lunch we just had a beer and a yoghurt for dinner (our latest discovery... although the kiosk where we get them doesn’t take much notice of sell by dates).
Well, that’s Monday over with. It’s time for bed as it’s getting late and we’ve got a lot to do this week.
Chocolate kisses.

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