Sunday, September 15, 2013

Addis --> Kerala --> Chicago

It’s been a long time since I updated the blog, partly because I’ve been busy since leaving Addis Ababa and partly because I needed a vacation at least once this summer.  In the past few weeks I’ve been to India, Missouri, and Chicago; I’ve finally unpacked and have some feeling of permanence! 
My friend Tsiyon and me my last week in Addis
Leaving Addis was difficult; I had made several friends, made a lot of really good connections, and found the work invigorating.  I knew that in a little over a month, I would be taking classes at SSA and McCormick, doing community organizing at my field site, coordinating events and meetings for the UCC’s Radical Peacemaking Initiative, organizing faith communities around the Trauma Center campaign, and somehow finding time to get all of my homework done.  This internship gave me the opportunity to focus on one project, to really do my best work and to do it at my own pace, which is my preferred working conditions.  Once I returned to Chicago, I would be pulled in many different directions instead of focusing on one project. On the other hand, I felt that I had accomplished the tasks that had been set for me, there was nothing keeping me in the city at that point.  I also knew that the friendships I made in Addis would probably not survive the long distance and the 8-hour time difference between Ethiopia and the United States.  These relationships gave me the emotional and spiritual support that I so desperately needed so far from home, and I was sad to say goodbye to the amazing people I had met.  However, my previous experience in India had prepared me for this situation, and I began these relationships knowing that they would have a very short life.  So when I left, it wasn’t nearly as emotionally devastating as my departure from India was three years ago. 

The termination of my Addis experience was sweetened by the next stop on my summer travels:  Kerala!  Rev. Thomas John, who was the site coordinator for the India YAV program, had invited all the previous volunteers to the wedding of his son.  Since I was already going to be halfway around the world this summer, I felt there was no excuse for me not to go back.  I planned to stay in Kerala for a week, in which I would visit Buchanan Institute Girl’s Higher Secondary school (where I lived and served during my YAV year) and see all of my teacher friends.  I had been looking forward to this visit all summer, but was a little anxious as well.  Had I romanticized my India experience in the three years since I left?  Was my nostalgia based on a fantasy?  Would I still be able to connect with the people that meant so much to me, who were integral parts of the most transformative experience of my life?  Did I remember enough to independently navigate the city and interact with the locals?  Would I revert to the emotional wreck that I was when I returned to the US?  Would I have the opportunity to eat all of the delicious food that I miss so much?
Let's be honest:  Kappa and Meen Curry was a big reason
that I came back to Kerala

I shouldn’t have worried; my visit couldn’t have been more perfect.  I stepped off the plane in Cochin and immediately felt like I had come home.  The smells, the sounds, the air, everything was so familiar.  I was still able to take the trains and buses, converse in Malayalam (though not nearly so well or easily), walk around the cities and towns, and connect with many of my friends.  Madison Muñoz, who was the YAV at Buchanan after me, was also in country for the wedding and we visited the school together.  We were able to see the teachers, the old warden from our hostel, and even some of our former students!  It seemed as if nothing had changed in the past three years, except that there had been some staff turnover and the students had shot up like beanstalks.  In a way, it was comforting to know that life had gone on without us.  I was also relieved to find out that I had (finally) processed and integrated my YAV year experience into my understanding of myself and my life’s journey.  Of course I got emotional during the visit, but only in good (healthy) ways.  The week in Kerala provided me with an opportunity to see just how my YAV year has formed the person I am today and I was able to appreciate Kerala in a different way.  I took long walks every morning and afternoon to take in as much of the natural beauty as possible, I spoke in Malayalam as much as I could so that I could remember it, and I ate SO MUCH FOOD.  I did it all as a visitor, but one totally comfortable with my surroundings.  Like I said, I felt like I was coming home. 
Madison, me, our site supervisor Jaimol Kochamma, and her son
who is SO BIG now!

Alas, the week went by too quickly and I soon had to fly back to the United States.  I was glad to finally come home, give my clothes a good run through the washing machine, and finally relax for a little while.  I spent a few days in Missouri, breaking in my parents’ new house, and then returned to Chicago where I’ve hit the ground running:  I’ve already started work at my internship, facilitated an event for the UCC’s Radical Peacemaking Initiative, am in the process of writing a report for the International Organization for Adolescents, and taking a class at McCormick.  Thank goodness I have a couple of weeks before classes at SSA start!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Still the Ignorant Ferenji

So, yesterday was my last day in Addis Ababa.  These past two months have flown by; I have learned more than I thought possible and been inspired in so many ways by the people I have met.  I will miss Ethiopia:  the people, the work, the sights and sounds, and of course the food and coffee!  My experiences here have been varied, some good and some bad.  All of them have been informative and valuable in their own way.   Each has made me reflect on what I value, rethink my opinions of certain issues, and expand my understanding of complex societal and cultural dynamics. 

One of the most valuable, and exciting, experiences happened last Thursday.  For Ethiopians, it was the end of Ramadan:  Eid Al-Fitr.  I had scheduled an interview at Siddartha Development Organization for that morning, not knowing the significance of the date.  The manager later told me that it would be a national holiday.  I asked him if people would be at the office, he said yes; I asked him if it would be an inconvenience for the staff or for the interviewees for Mikiyas (IOFA’s translator) and me to come in the morning, he said no.  So, I confirmed the time and wrote the interview on my calendar. 

The night before the interviews, I had dinner with a friend who mentioned that there might be protests on Eid Al-Fitr.  I asked when and where they would be, knowing that I would have to plan my journey to avoid those areas.  He said that the activity would be mainly at the Stadium, where the Addis Ababa Muslims would go in the morning to worship.  No problem, I thought, I don’t have to pass by the stadium on my way to Siddartha Development.  Just to make sure though, I told Mikiyas that if things were bad in the morning we would cancel the interviews. 

This might be a good time to give you, the readers, some background on the political/religious discontent in Ethiopia.  A couple of years ago, Islamist extremists put the word out that they were targeting Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria to expand their influence in East Africa.  This, understandably, put the Ethiopian government on edge.  The political climate here has been stable for the past 8 years, but it could change.  Sure enough, some more radical imams began to speak out against the government and stir up discontent among some of the Muslim population.  The government tried to repress these radicals, but couldn’t do so without tightening restrictions on all Muslims.  This, of course, has frustrated the entire Ethiopian Muslim population.  Last year, there began to be protests during Ramadan, culminating in a large protest on Eid Al-Fitr that turned violent.  This Ramadan, there were protests every Friday in some Addis mosques and in many of the regional Ethiopian areas.  About a week before Eid Al-Fitr, calls came for a mass protest for the end of Ramadan.  This was general knowledge for Ethiopians, but not for the ferenji tourists. 

So, on Thursday morning I left my guest house to find that the road was closed—there were no line taxis (public transportation) running.  This wasn’t too surprising since my guest house is located just North of a mosque, and there were quite a few people on their way home.  Everyone was chatting, nothing was alarming.  I decided to walk up to Mexico Square (a major taxi hub) to catch a line taxi North.  As I approached the square, the crowds became thicker, and I soon realized there were no line taxis in the square.  Then I heard shouts and saw a huge crowd filing down the main road.  It seemed that if I could get across the road, I would be able to make my way to the National Theater/Ambassador area, in which is located a fair number of international hotels.  I could hire a private taxi and still get to the interviews on time. 

Some of the protestors around the Ambassador area
I squeezed through the crowd in Mexico square and made my way towards the National Theater.  I soon came to another major road with another large group of marchers.  An elderly gentleman with two young boys pulled me to the side of the street against a building.  “Better to wait here until they pass,” he told me.  I was watching the marchers and wondering how long it would take before I could get to the hotel, when something stirred the crowd and they began to stampede.  I pressed myself against the wall to make as much room for them as possible.  I then saw what had happened—the police had arrived.  The police had their clubs out and were holding riot shields.  That’s when things went bad.  The protestors started throwing rocks, large ones, at the police, who were standing near to me.  I ran to a small book kiosk where some other women were huddled.  The police began chasing down the men and beating them.  The men were fleeing every direction, but still throwing rocks and shouting back. 

The owners of the book kiosk, to whom I am forever indebted, pulled the women and me into the small shop, turned off the lights, and barred the windows.  We sat in the dark, hearing the commotion outside and waiting for everything to die down.  I pulled out my phone and texted a few of my friends my location and what was happening.  After about half an hour, the owners opened the kiosk windows and let us out.  The street was littered with debris, but was otherwise eerily silent.  I hurried to Ethiopia hotel (maybe .25 km away) and sat in the café until the roads opened, then took a private taxi back to my guesthouse.  I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t see the worst of the protests, which took place in the Merkato. 

So what do I take away from this experience?  First, I now have a deep appreciation for the political stability of my home country, which makes it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms enshrined in our constitution.  It has also made me deepened my understanding of foreign governments that I, as an American, by criticize for being repressive.  It’s easy for me to level such criticism in a country that’s secure, where political leaders do not have to worry about being overthrown by radical extremists, where our neighboring countries are also relatively stable.  I’m not saying that I agree with the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on religious and journalistic freedom, but I do understand, and can even empathize with, their motives.  And even though I can become a little frustrated with many Ethiopians’ views of Muslim dissenters (which can be interpreted as unsympathetic and condescending) and their general disinterest in politics, I also know why ths kind of attitude prevails.  In case you have forgotten (or never heard), Ethiopia experienced an extremely oppressive communist regime, a tragic famine, and political upheaval within the past 25 years.  Can we blame the Ethiopian majority for preferring a strong (and stable) government  How does one protect a people’s rights to freedom of speech and worship and also maintain a stable government in a (relatively) insecure region?  On the other hand, can we blame Muslim protestors for claiming their own religious freedom and trying to expose the government’s repressive means of silencing their voices?  There are no easy answers. 

Some of the Eid Al-Fitr protestors

Unwittingly being caught in the middle of a protest is one of those experiences that can often come upon world travelers.  In fact, many people I know who have lived and worked abroad have similar stories.  In some ways it’s become a source of pride and legitimacy—one can claim to be “enlightened” or an “expert” because he/she has been in the middle of a REAL riot.  But this attitude is just part of the ignorant neoliberal attitudes that Westerners have towards the two-thirds world.  I had absolutely no business being out and about that day, if I had had any sense I would have realized that my local contacts were trying to warn me to stay inside.  If I had been smart, I would have turned around and headed back to my guest house when I first saw the agitated crowds in Mexico square.  But I didn’t.  To be completely honest, a small part of me wanted to witness the march, to get the full “Ethiopian experience.”  I counted on my racial/ethnic identity to protect me, exploiting it as a means to be a kind of voyeur—to see and experience the excitement political unrest, perhaps at the expense of others.  In this way, I am just as guilty as the “tribal tourists” I was repulsed by in India.  As a Westerner, I have to consciously and continuously reflect on how my presence stirs the waters, where I do and don’t belong, where I should and should not go.  Only then can I respectfully experience this vast, diverse, and infinitely complex world.   

Note:  I did not take the pictures on this blog, I pulled them from Aljazeera, which republished twitter photos of the protests.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Last Round of Interviews

This past Saturday, Mikiyas and I wrapped up the last set of interviews here in Addis Ababa.  All in all, we talked to 58 individuals from 9 different organizations.  Their stories reflect a vast range of experiences, with some being very successful in their independent life and some still struggling to find work and shelter 8 years after they left care.  For some interviews, we were able to go in depth and hear very personal stories of the transition process.  Some interviews included a lot of participants and we were able to get a good idea of what the majority of youth are facing once they leave care. 

Our last interview was at the headquarters of Service In Mission (SIM).  The clinic director, Mary Vanderwal, has been doing volunteer work with young men who aged out of Kolfe--I wrote about her ministry a few weeks ago.  Because of her good relationship with the boys, and because we were providing lunch, we expected a good turnout—maybe 8-10 participants.  The line taxi pulled up with 18 men, aged 22-29, ready to talk about their experiences.  Thank goodness we had enough food!  Because we had so many participants, Mikiyas and I used the large-group interview model we developed for IOFA’s summer research.  A young Ethiopian theology student, Tseyone, was also present and translated for me as Mikiyas facilitated the discussion. 

Mikiyas first asked about the general experience of these Kolfe boys as they aged out of care.  They said that the orphanage gave them a lump sum of money and then basically turned them loose.  The boys had no idea how to budget or manage finances, and this money was gone within a month, without the boys securing a job our housing.  Many of them lived with friends or in khat houses*, which now rent rooms.    The boys may have completed their public education, but received no vocational training or support to attend a university or college. 

Mikiyas then broke the boys into 3 small groups and asked them to discuss three different topics: the primary challenges they faced once they left the orphanage, how they managed to provide for themselves, and the kind of support available to them once they left.  The young men were instructed to write down their experiences and elect a representative to report back to the larger group.  This is what we heard:

Talking about the transition experience in small groups

  •  Primary Challenges:  “Because they know we are from the orphanage, the society doesn’t trust us.  They think that we are all criminals.”  “Landlords won’t rent to us, businesses won’t employ us.”  “We pretend that we have families so that we can get work, but someone always finds out.  Once they know we are from the orphanage, they will find a reason to fire us.”  “We can’t even get an ID card*.  Without an ID card, how are we supposed to get a job?” 

  • Self-Sufficiency:  “We can get some work in day labor.”  “We stay with friends, mostly other boys from the orphanage.”  “We don’t have a choice where we stay.  I have to be careful because I can’t always trust the people I stay with.  I have had many things stolen.”  “We don’t know how to cook, and we don’t always have a kitchen.  Mostly, I  eat food I buy on the street.” 

  • Family and Social Support:  “Our families don’t help us.”  “I found my aunt and uncle, but they wouldn’t let me stay in their house or give me money for my education.”  “Our brothers are in the orphanage, or are outside with us.  They are our only family.”  “We try to support each other, but none of us has much to give the others.”  “Our family didn’t welcome us.  Society didn’t welcome us.  Only addiction welcomed us.” 

After these presentations, Mikiyas brought out a posterboard with a drawing of a soccer goal.  The goal, he explained, stood for success in their independent life.  We then passed out small paper soccer balls and blue stickie notes.  The boys were instructed to write a goal that they had for their lives on the stickie notes, attach the note to a soccer ball and place the ball either on the poster (if the goal had been achieved) or outside the poster (if their attempts had failed so far).  After the boys “scored” their goals, we handed out red stickie notes and green stickie notes.  The red stickie notes were for the balls outside the poster—those goals that had not been achieved.  The green stickie notes were for the goals that had been realized.  On the red stickie notes, the boys were instructed to write the obstacles that kept them from achieving each of their goals.  On the green stickie notes, they were asked to write down the support that made their achievements possible.  They then were told to pair the red and green stickie notes to the appropriate soccer balls.

Many of the balls outside of the poster had to do with finding stable work, having a place to stay, and having a family one day.  The challenges that were most often named stemmed from systemic issues:  there weren’t enough jobs available, the boys don’t have proper vocational training, etc.  Many of the balls on the poster (achievements) were social in nature—many had found friends outside the orphanage, and some had even found romantic partners.  These successes were attributed to the boys own personalities, patience, and hard work. 
Writing goals and placing them on the poster
(successful) or outside (unsuccessful)
After the interview session wrapped up, the boys were invited to lunch in the common area.  We went through 25 injera, 2 pots of lamb stew, and 2 big bowls of vegetable wot.  All of the participants told us that they found the interview process extremely helpful.  It was good, they said, to have somewhere safe to go and discuss their lives and the challenges they face.  Usually, they only come together in bars and khat houses.  They also appreciated that people were actually interested in their experience and that work was being done to help other children.  “Our lives are difficult, they will always be difficult,” one young man said.  “But it is important that our younger brothers [still in the orphanage] don’t have the same experience.” 

*Khat houses are places in Addis where young men can smoke shisha & marijuana, drink, and chew khat.  These establishments often offer a place to sleep and some food for a low price because they make money on the addictive substances they sell. 

*In order to get an ID card in Ethiopia, you have to have a permanent residence and someone to vouch for you, to provide a “guarantee.”  The person who provides the guarantee must also have an ID card and be willing to have some sort of legal connection to you.  Because these young men don’t have either, they cannot get an ID card.  Without an ID card, they cannot enroll in educational/vocational programs or apply for the majority of jobs.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

First Round of Interviews

It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent over a month in Addis, and that I’ll be leaving in just three short weeks.  I am now able to get around the city confidently and comfortably, I have favorite restaurants and cafés, and I’ve made many friends that I’ll be sad to leave.  Moreover, my work has finally changed from meetings with organizational staff to interviewing young people who grew up in care:  hearing their stories and experiences of transition.  This is the work that I am most interested in, and will be the basis for IOFA’s decisions moving forward on the Transitions Initiative in Ethiopia.  We want to know what the personal experience of transitioning from care institutions to independent life looks like, what challenges young people face, what supports they have, as well as the emotional aspect of leaving care. 

So far, Mikyas Feyissa (IOFA’s Ethiopian representative and translator) and I have conducted five interview sessions, each with adults from different organizations.  We heard from 5 youth from CIAI who spent much of their time on the streets until CIAI’s shelter took them in.  We met with 10 individuals who grew up in L’Esperance:  an Adventist orphanage on the outskirts of Addis.  We talked to 5 adults who grew up in Abebech Gobena (Addis Ababa’s most famous orphanage) and who are now employed by that institution.  We also met 4 girls from Kidane Mehret orphanage, who have just started transitioning to independent life.  On Saturday, we interviewed 7 young adults who grew up in SOS Children's Villages Ethiopia.  Additionally, I’ve been able to have great, informal conversations with two young men who grew up in care and who are now living independently.

Mikiyas interviews a girl from Kidane Mehret
 Each individual and group has a unique story, but there are common themes that we hear over and over again.  One challenge that every youth seems to face when they leave care is the extreme culture shock of joining the outside community.  Most orphaned children grow up isolated in institutions with very little community interaction.  Basic social skills that most children pick up through observing adults are completely foreign to orphaned youth.  Tamerat, who now works as a psychologist in a Catholic orphanage, told me that he didn’t know how to buy food or clothes because everything had always been provided in the orphanage. 

[Orphaned youth] have no budgeting skills and don’t know how to save money.  They also don’t have any role models for working and responsibility.  Other children see their parents go to work every day, [orphaned youth] don’t have that experience.  They don’t know how to manage their time to make sure everything is done.”

Every group has commented on how difficult it is to converse and interact with other people outside of the institution.  The youth feel that the community will ostracize them, which leads them to be very reserved; most Ethiopians generally do not trust reserved people, so they treat the youth as though they were of bad character.  This confirms the youth’s fears and leads to further psychological distress.  The youth also have no sense of good and bad behavior in other people, they are often too trusting of strangers.  Because the only interaction with adults has been in the orphanage, they don’t possess the healthy dose of suspicion that most of us employ when meeting new people, looking for a job, and searching for housing.

Children who grew up in this orphanage have similar thinking and conduct. We respect people and we do not pretend like people do in the society. If we trust others; we give ourselves.  On the other hand members of the society do not give themselves, they rather are selfish.”

We are also hearing that although institutions often assist the youth in pursuing some sort of education or vocational training, the support stops as soon as they graduate.  In Ethiopia, the biggest challenge for young people is finding employment.  While young people with families have the option of taking their time to find a good job (they can always stay with their parents until then), orphaned youth must enter the job market immediately so that they can support themselves.  Families also function as a job search and referral system—social connections are the key to getting a good job.  This lack of material and social support leads orphaned youth to take jobs that they are overqualified for, jobs with low wages and little opportunity of advancement. 

We suffer long periods of time without any finances…Students who graduated with fewer qualifications and lower grades secure better employment.  We graduate with honors and do not get a job at all.  You can only explain this by people having contacts: relatives, families, etc., and we do not have that.”

Having fun playing the "yes/no" game at
SOS Children's Village
For many of the participants in these interviews, telling their stories can be cathartic.  The four girls that Mikiyas and I interviewed at Kidane Mehret orphanage were disappointed that we wouldn’t be meeting again.  This was the first time anyone had asked them about their experience, showed an interest in how the transition was affecting them emotionally.  The group from L’Esperance often meet weekly for fellowship.  They said that they discuss the challenges they face and lean on each other for support.  I am glad that IOFA’s interview process gives them the experience to process and reflect on their experience, as well as assurance that people do care about them and want to make the situation better for other youth.

I’ll be conducting interviews for the next week, then compiling them in a full report for the International Organization for Adolescents’ Transitions Initiative.  When I get back to Chicago, I’ll present a project proposal to the board, explaining the basic challenges that these youth are facing and the support they need to become successful in their independent life.  You can STILL help fund this important work!  Visit my GoFundMe page to donate.  Again, every little bit helps!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lunch with Eyob

From my last post, you know that I connected with an American named Mary who does volunteer work with the boys from Kolfe orphanage.  She is very close to one boy, Eyob, who has become a part of her family.  Eyob speaks English very well and was willing to talk with mei informally about his experience.  He will be a great help in putting the other Kolfe boys at ease when Mikiyas (my translator) and I interview them next Saturday. 

I met with Eyob today to have lunch and learn a little bit more about the experience in Kolfe boys’ home.  Eyob is 22 years old and left Kolfe 2 years ago.  Since then, he has been in and out of work and training programs.  He is currently completing his second program at Dorcas Aid International—he dropped out after 2 months the first time.  Because Eyob, like most of the orphaned youth I’ve met, doesn’t want to be exposed, he asked that his picture not be taken. His name has also been changed. 

Sports:  I like to play football.  I wanted to be a football player, but there was no opportunity for me to try for any team.  All the Kolfe boys like to play football.  My friends and I meet every week to play.  Mary took me to a Christian sports camp last Christmas, I had a lot of fun there.  I wanted them to hire me as a counselor, but they want me to be Christian first.  My favorite team is Ethiopia.  I think we are going to play in the World Cup next year!  When I am not rooting for Ethiopia, I like Brazil.  During the last World Cup, all the Kolfe boys were cheering for America, except me.  I liked Ghana!  Most of the boys have some sponsor parents from America, so they wanted America to win.  When Ghana won the match, I was the only boy who was happy.  I also like to play volleyball, but I don’t know many of the rules. 

Dorcas Aid International:  Right now I am going to classes at Dorcas [Aid International].  This week I learned woodworking.  I am learning how to make furniture.  Next week I will learn metalworking: making windows and frames.  I like the training because I like to work with my hands.  The Dorcas program lasts for one year, I have four months left in the program.  At the end, we can choose to find a group and form an association or be independent.  Dorcas will give us the tools to work.  If we are in a group, Dorcas will help us find a business spot and give us some more expensive machinery.  I don’t want to join an association.  If you join a group, you have to rely on all the other people.  If the other people want to drink or chew khat, then you have to do everything yourself.  I want to work for a shop or have my own shop. 

Kolfe Mindset:  The Kolfe boys don’t have a good mindset.  If we want to change our lives, we have to work hard and learn.  The older boys just want to drink and chew khat, they do not want to work.  The older boys also don’t think we have any future.  We know the community doesn’t like us.  We don’t have any family or connections outside Kolfe; it’s very hard to find good work or a place to stay.  There is vocational training available, but they don’t help you find a job afterwards.  Some Kolfe boys had American sponsor parents.  Their sponsor parents gave them gifts, so now they think they don’t have to work.  There was one boy from Kolfe who was very successful.  He used to gamble, drink, and chew khat, but then he enrolled in a special program.  He changed his mindset and then he got a job.  Now he is in America and has a wife and kids. 

The Army:  My brother is in the army.  There are many Kolfe boys in the army.  The army gives them a job and they have structure, they don’t have to take care of themselves.  Many boys like that.  Eyob’s brother recently got into a barfight with a politician’s son; he is now in hiding. 

Social Network:  Most of the Kolfe boys only are friends with other Kolfe boys.  I have many friends from the community because I am a social person.  If you don’t talk to new people, then you won’t make friends.  My friends help me; I stay with them sometimes.

Music:  Music is my life!  I love music, especially rap.  Tupac is my favorite, he is amazing.  Do you know the song “Nothing changes?”  Wow!  I also like Bob Marley and reggae, but really I like all music:  African, Arab, Indian, Country.  Do you know Yanni?  He is great, I really like his music.  You don’t need to understand the words to understand the feeling.  Whenever I am feeling depressed or angry, I go to an internet café and listen to music.  I don’t have an ipod or mp3 player; I don’t have a radio.  The only way I can hear music is to use an internet café.

Food:  When I was in Kolfe, all we had to eat was spaghetti, shero, and baeyenatu. Now I will never eat shero, spaghetti, or baeyenatu, I had enough in Kolfe!  We only had meat on special occasions.  Also if we were sick.  We could go to the clinic and the doctor would give us some paper that said we should eat meat, eggs, and milk.  We used to pretend to be sick and go to the clinic just to get that paper!  Then there were too many boys who needed meat, and they stopped giving it. 

My favorite food is doro wat, tibs, and firfir.  I know how to cook too.  In Kolfe, I made friends with the women who cooked and they showed me how to make everything.  I can make all kinds of wat and injera, I can also make coffee.  Most boys don’t want to learn how to cook, especially injera.  They think it is women’s work.  You know, every good habesha woman has to know how to cook, especially doro wat!  But I like to cook, and I can make food for myself.  I teach some of my friends so that they can cook for themselves too.

Religion:  The older Kolfe boys don’t like to go to the Church and take the classes that Mary runs.  I don’t like that church either.  Many of the boys are from Orthodox and Muslim backgrounds, and most Ethiopians don’t like Protestant churches.  In Kolfe, we were allowed to attend mosques and Orthodox churches, but not Protestant churches.  I don’t like church because I always think about God and why I went to Kolfe.  I have too many questions.  Why did my mother die when I was 5 years old?  Why was I sent to Kolfe?  God gives no answer.  So the Kolfe boys don’t like to go to the church. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Logs in Our Eyes

“Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s or sister’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own?  How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Brother, Sister, let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the log in your own eye?  You deceive yourselves!  First take the log out of your eye, and then you sill see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”  Luke 6:41-42

Last Wednesday, I met Mary, an American NP who runs a clinic near-ish to my guest house.  For the past few years, she’s been working with boys from the government orphanage in Kolfe.  I was very interested to hear from her because it is VERY unlikely that I will gain access to this institution—the government in Ethiopia is really cracking down on outsiders visiting, for good and bad reasons.  I’ve visited many private care institutions while in Addis.  Some are well funded, staffed, and organized.  Others are struggling a bit, but they are doing what they can.  What Mary told me about the boys’ life in Kolfe was mind-blowing.  First, there’s hardly any adult supervision, the boys are mainly left to their own devices during the day, which means that there are very few adults modeling socially appropriate behavior.  The boys have developed their own rules for living and interacting within the orphanage, which does not translate well to the outside community.  Because of this, they are perceived as problem children and delinquents. Although they attend school, they are stigmatized, which further exacerbates the situation.  Because the children are seen as criminals, whenever something happens in the Kolfe neighborhood, the police will raid the orphanage.  It is normal for the boys to be pulled from their beds in the middle of the night. 

When the boys turn 17, the orphanage gives them a little bit of money and sends them on their way—no vocational training, housing support, nothing.  The older boys, who have aged out, can be found hanging out outside of the orphanage because it’s the only place they feel at “home.”  Until last year, they would often scale the walls at night and to have a place to sleep, then the government heightened security.  Many of the boys end up in jail, others bounce from place to place.  Yes, there are programs that offer work training and rehabilitation, but the boys have never been taught how to be responsible.  Showing up every day, on time for a program is so foreign to them that they have trouble completing these programs.  Without interventions specifically designed for them, they have little chance of living a happy, healthy life. 

Mary has helped convince a local church to offer Saturday afternoon Bible classes to the younger boys, which I attended with her the other day.  Even though she had previously told me about the life conditions of these boys, I still was unprepared for what I encountered.  I met around 20 boys between the ages of 9 and 15, though it was difficult to tell the teenagers apart from the younger ones.  Their clothes were ragged, full of holes and obviously had not been washed for some time.  Mary brings her medical kit with her in case any of the boys are feeling ill, and she told me that she wanted to check on a few of them.  She believes one has pneumonia, and I was shocked to hear that the boy would have to be literally on his deathbed before the orphanage would take him to be treated somewhere.  An older boy, who is about to age out, was recently hit on the head with a bottle and now cannot see out of one eye.  The orphanage staff told him to wait and see if his vision got better.  When we were sitting together, some of the boys told Mary and I that last Sunday the church had actually extended a welcome to them—the congregation told the boys that they were prepared to support them.  The boys were overwhelmed; they couldn’t believe that someone in the community actually cared about them. 
Some of the boys from Kolfe

It’s shocking, appalling, horrifying to see.  I was so angry: angry at the Ethiopian government for caring so little for it’s own children, angry with the Kolfe community for ostracizing these boys who are in desperate need of care and support, angry with the church for needing some foreigner to convince them to follow Christ’s very obvious call in this situation, and angry with NGOs and private care institutions for leaving Kolfe alone because they don’t want to make waves with the government.  Because they were unlucky enough to have been orphaned and unlucky enough to be sent to Kolfe instead of a private institution, these boys now face a bleak future—and it seems as if no one cares. 

It’s easy for us as Americans—alien to Ethiopia—to feel righteous anger in this situation, but anger can only be righteous if it’s free of hypocrisy.  Witnessing the lives of the Kolfe boys should force to take a good look at our own culture and society in regards to underserved children. Because guess what, we do the same thing in the U.S.  all the time.  We write off children of certain backgrounds, from certain areas, with certain behavioral “problems” as delinquents and unworthy of sympathy: children of single mothers, children of color, children from rural areas, children from low-income families, children in the foster care system, children who have had run-ins with the law, the list goes on.  Our government and our society fails these children every day.  We refuse to fund their education, we refuse to ensure adequate nutrition and health care, we refuse to even think about firearm regulations that would make the streets safer, we refuse to fix a broken social service system, and we refuse to go out and actually go out and engage them in relationship.  I feel sometimes that the Church is so eager to “help” children in the two-thirds world that they neglect the children in their own communities.  Sure, a wealthy church in Chicago could spend their entire mission budget on supporting the Kolfe boys, but this would mean nothing if they refuse to even think about youth outreach on the South Side. 
Fearless Leading by Youth (FLY) on the South Side

So here I am, trying to find the balance between global and local action.  I am only in Addis for three more weeks, and I’m going to do what I can for the Kolfe boys.  I’ll make sure that their stories are heard and recorded, that IOFA will use their input in designing interventions so that others don’t end up in such dire situations.  I am also reaching out to the different organizations I’ve connected with here to see if Mary and I can organize some kind of network so that the boys can be referred to programs that can help.  And when I return to Chicago, I’ll keep their faces on my heart so that I can stay motivated in my work with the Trauma Center Campaign and the Radical Peacemaking Team—two faith-based initiatives working to save and improve the lives of underserved youth.  And I ask of you the same, let the boys of Kolfe inspire you to take a look at what you, and the church, are doing for the children in your community. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rethinking my Position on Missionaries

As far as my work goes, there haven’t been many new or exciting developments.  I’m still meeting with great organizations and learning a lot about the transition/reintegration experience, but I’ve yet to start the individual interviews and hear personal stories.  That begins on Friday though, so next week I’ll have a nice long post about it! 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the meaning of Christian mission, especially in an international context.  Full disclosure, I’ve been a “missionary” before, but I very rarely claim that title.  I have a sever aversion to the term because it evokes images of Western imperialism and is closely associated with the colonization of the Two-Thirds World.  My recent involvement with St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, where many members are missionaries through Serving in Mission (SIM), has prompted some serious reevaluation of this view.  SIM-Ethiopia’s vision is to proclaim the Gospel and  foster new church development, focusing especially on outreach to people who have “never heard the Gospel.” They do this through providing services such as prenatal care, HIV treatment, a house shelter for street children, and community support, all the while being very vocal in their core beliefs.  

Having lived most of my life in a country in which religious freedom and choice is a right, and therefore taken for granted, I have developed a dislike for organizations that go out into the world to convert others to Christianity.  This kind of Gospel proclamation is often closely tied with conversion to Western-style individualism and materialism, which I believe is antithetical to Jesus’ radical message of love, justice, and the coming Kin-dom.  My previous experience in Kerala did not require me to reflect on these views.  Kerala is something of an anomaly in India, a place where Christians, Muslims, and Hindus respect each other and live together peaceably.  And while religious leaders often hold political power in the community, the Church and State remain fairly separate.  I did meet some missionaries, but they were Indian citizens and were more interested in converting Syrian Christians and Catholics to the newer Pentecostal and Full-Gospel churches. 

Here in Ethiopia, things are very different.  The two largest religions are Islam and Christianity, which are recognized by the ruling government.  Most Christians here belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but there are a few “Protestant” churches that are more Evangelical/Pentecostal.  Unlike Kerala, there are tensions between religious groups.  Muslims and Orthodox Christians may work in the same offices and companies, but they don’t mix much socially.  There is a lot of friction between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the indigenous Protestant churches; if someone converts to Protestantism they are often disowned by their family.  Here, to choose your religion is a radical act.

The separation of Church and State in Ethiopia is the theory, but not the practice.  The government is directly involved in the selection of Church and Mosque leadership.  If one wants to pursue the priesthood, they have to apply to the Ministry of Education to study theology, just like those who want to study engineering, psychology, business, etc.  The government decides who pursues theological education and has a hand in who rises in clergy leadership.  There is some unrest in the Muslim community about this, but the Orthodox Church doesn’t seem to be putting up much resistance.  Again, to choose to convert to another religion—one that isn’t bound to the government’s whims—is a radical act.  It's a radical act that everyone should have the right to make. 

So what does it mean to go out and make disciples of all nations, especially in this Ethiopian context?  That is our call; we cannot escape it.  If I value choice in faith, the ability of someone to freely think theologically and worship God as best fits them, then I have to not only accept but promote exposure to a variety of religious traditions—including Evangelical Christianity.  SIM brings needed services to vulnerable populations, and through their work do proclaim the loving message of Jesus.  I don’t theologically agree with some of SIM’s core beliefs, but in many ways they are better, more intentional, disciples than I am.  I didn’t expect to wrestle with these ideas this summer, but I guess I should put some of this theological education into practice. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Weeks In: Initial Understanding of the Challenges of Transition

It has now been three weeks since I arrived in Addis, and already I have learned much about the situation of orphans and vulnerable children in Ethiopia, as well as the obstacles they face in transitioning out of care and reintegrating into the outside community.  After many long conversations and meetings with various NGOs and care institutions here, this is the general picture of the future of those children growing up in care institutions:

First, most institutions in Addis are orphanages whose main goal is international adoption for their children.  As they grow older, their chances of adoption grow slim.  Many of the orphanages that focus on adoption do not have plans for children who have grown too old for adoption, and the children keep hoping and dreaming that they will leave Ethiopia one day.  Some care institutions move children to group homes after a certain age, or try to reintegrate them with their extended families. 

Some care institutions are not interested in adoption.  These institutions can be private and well-funded (like Selam Children’s Villages) or public institutions (like Kolfe and Kechene orphan homes).  The private institutions usually have an organized plan for transition and reintegration, including gradual transitions to independent living, scholarships for university, vocational training, etc.  The public institutions are overpopulated and understaffed, and often do not have the funding or the manpower to thoroughly address the issues that these children will face outside of the only home they have ever known. 

Imagine growing up in a compound with lots of other kids, then being asked to make a life on your own in the big city

The challenges that these children will face when they age out of care are many.  The biggest challenge seems to be the culture shock that they encounter as soon as they leave the institution.  Many of these children have been isolated in these care institutions for their entire lives.  They often do not have the social skills necessary for community life in Ethiopia, which is a different culture than the in which they grew up; this seems to be especially true for young people from large institutions that have a more dormitory living arrangements.  Some institutions work with a village model, raising the children in homes of 8-10 that effectively function as family units.  Still, the children in these village-based organizations have very little contact with the surrounding communities and have developed a certain set of social skills that allowed them to function within the institution but not outside.  Without social and cultural education, these young people often find it challenging to integrate themselves into the city of Addis Ababa.

A complementary challenge to transition comes from Ethiopian community-based culture itself.  Most children in Addis grow up in a community in which their family is established.  They often do not move far from that community, even when they reach adulthood. People do not move to new neighborhoods and communities like we do in the United States.  Young people leaving care must find homes in established communities and they are often viewed as invaders.  Because no one knows who they are or much about their background, the community often does not trust or engage with these young people.  Being an orphan or an unsupported youth in Ethiopia also carries its own stigma.  They are often seen as delinquents, which creates another barrier to community integration.  Keep in mind that when these youth leave care, they are also leaving behind their entire social network.  It’s often not an option for these young people to come back to the community in which they grew up except for short visits.  In a culture and society so focused on communal interaction, this kind of social isolation can be psychologically and emotionally devastating.

Communal culture is even reflected in the food.  Everyone eats from the same plate; there are no such things as "single servings" in Ethiopia
The social and cultural challenges that these young people face are difficult enough, but often added to this burden is lack of support in securing basic needs.  Some youth attend university, some get vocational training.  The quality of education is variable, depending on not only an individual’s academic performance but also on how much financial support they get from their institution.  Because Addis attracts many people from all regions of Ethiopia and because the youth are the fastest growing population in Ethiopia, there is a shortage of good jobs.  Many young people cannot get a job for at least a year after graduating from college.  If and when young people do find work, they often do not make enough to support themselves.  It is common for young people to live with their parents after they have graduated from university or vocational school until they get married—a good 2-6 years.  Without the support of a family system to fall back on, many orphaned and unsupported youth are forced to take job opportunities that others pass up—jobs that are low-paying.  Some institutions do support their former residents by giving them housing and food allowance, but these are in the minority. 

Fortunately, the Ethiopian government is finally realizing that there is a service gap in reintegration and transition support.  Along with moving away from the traditional dormitory/orphanage model of care for unsupported or orphaned children, the government is trying to incorporate models of care that mimic community and village life.  UNICEF Ethiopia is also collaborating with Kolfe and Kechene orphanages in Addis on reintegration education and support programs, though the funding and results of their efforts are still unclear. 

All of this information has come from administrative staff of various NGOs and care institutions here in Addis Ababa.  I am very interested to hear from those individuals who have transitioned into the city of Addis about their own experiences, to hear their own individual stories. 

If you are interested in learning about the organizations with which IOFA will be working with this summer, here is a list.  Each is doing great work and deserves to be known. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lost in Translation: Bruce Lee's Twin Sister

In India, I got used to people (especially children) publicly acknowledging my being a foreigner.  People call out “Faranji” (derived from “French” colloquially meaning “white person”) here in Ethiopia all the time.  In Kerala, children would shout “Madama!” and point to me from cars, shops, and anywhere else I went.  It’s usually harmless, done in good humor with no ill intent, but it takes some getting used to. However, during my last 3 weeks in Addis Ababa I’ve experienced a most perplexing phenomenon:  having my racial/ethnic identity being misidentified.

It all started my first Saturday here when I went to the Merkato: a huge, crowded, open air market in Addis that sells everything you could possibly imagine and one of the big sights-to-see in most travel guides.  Of course I drew attention, and unsurprisingly heard lots of “sister!” “faranji!” “America/Germany!”  And then one guy stopped in front of me and said “Bruce Lee!” My friend Nahom, who was acting as my guide in this maze of shops and stalls, laughed and said, “he thinks you’re Chinese!”  I was willing to chalk this experience up to the guy’s poor eyesight, but it’s happened several times.  Anytime I’m out, a good 1/3 of the shouts I hear are “Chinese/China!”  Still trying to figure out why.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

One iphone Down

On Tuesday I became another victim of the Addis Ababa cell phone black market.  I was walking past Bole Bridge when I was approached by two boys between the ages of 6 and 8.  This is nothing out of the ordinary, children approach me all the time, wanting to say hello, sell me some gum or tissue, or just ask for money.  And although I am quite wary when it comes to beggars/street sellers coming up to me, I don’t usually feel that way around small children.  Anyways, one boy grabbed my arm and began hitting his head with his other hand (which was extremely odd) and the other boy shoved a box of tissues against my other side.  I walked away quickly, and about 10 minutes later realized that my phone was no longer in my pocket.  The irony is that I kept my cell phone in my pocket because I felt it was safer there than in my backpack where someone could unzip it without me knowing.  Surely I would notice if someone reached into my coat!

All in all, it’s no big deal.  While it was an iphone, it was old, a leftover from when my parents upgraded.  It had been nice to have a smart phone that I could keep all my appointments and notes in and that was able to connect to the 3G network if the Ethiopian Telecommunications Cellular Network was down/unreachable for some reason (which happens).  If nothing else, these two little boys will have made a couple hundred Birr for duping another foreigner.  I’m not even inconvenienced that much.  My guest house manager leant me a dinosaur phone and a temporary SIM card to use for the next few days until I can get a replicate SIM card with the same phone number as the one that was stolen.  Most of the phone numbers of my contacts here were given through email or business cards, so I really only lost 2 numbers, which I know that I can get back. 

This has made me much more wary of children on the street though, which feels really odd and bad.  Some of these kids are just playing around, asking money from a foreigner because they can.  Some are employed by their parents/relatives in selling items on the street to make some extra money.  Some are genuine “street children” who have no family or whose families are homeless and their only source of income is begging.  And some are thieves. It’s impossible to tell one from the other most of the time, and so I have to be careful about who I address, ignore, and give money to.  I learned (the hard way) that children with boxes full of gum and tissues are using it as a cover to pick people’s pockets, so I know to not let them get to close and (now) to not carry anything of value in my pockets or outside zippers of bags.  But do I rush by all the children asking for money?  What about the children who seem to just want to say hello?

Street children, like the ones who took my phone, are some of the most vulnerable people here in Addis Ababa, and most of them are engaged in some kind of illicit work because they really have no other choice.  They come from the rural areas of Ethiopia for many different reasons, but almost always because they (or their families) believe that life will be better here in the city.  Many families give money to traffickers who promise that their children will have jobs and an education in Addis, and then leave the children to fend for themselves in the city.  Some children leave home on their own accord because of family issues or because their family cannot materially support them.  Addis provides no solace and no opportunities.  Many of these children experience abuse, assault, and exploitation on the streets, and they have either no means or inclination to go back home. 

The Ethiopian government realizes that these street children are a “problem” and so has implemented a roundup program.  Every few months, the police go out to the streets and apprehend as many street children as they can, then drop them off at the two government children’s care institutions:  Colfe home for boys and Kechene home for girls.  Unlike many private, well-funded care institutions, Colfe and Kechene are overpopulated and understaffed. Life inside these institutions is not much better than life on the street, and many apprehended street children end up “escaping” these places after a very short time and returning to street life.  The longer children live on the street, the harder it is to reintegrate them into their families and/or communities.  They are also notoriously difficult to approach and enroll in service programs because their experience with adults is dominated by exploitative, abusive, authoritarian figures.  Street children outreach, empowerment, and advocacy is one of the most needed services here in the city, especially for anyone interested in preventing and intervening in trafficking. 

A previous street-child at ReTrak's Vocational training program

The bottom line is, the children who took my phone did so because it was a way to get money, which they might need more than I need a smartphone.  And they don’t need my pity, but I can give them some respect for pulling one over on me and for their resourcefulness in developing a pretty good scheme. 

If you’d like to read more about street children and some great advocacy/outreach work in Addis, visit

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lost in Translation: "Faranji" Onion Soup

This week, I came down with a bit of a cold—kind of a bummer when you’re abroad.  My voice was hoarse, so I decided to seek out restaurants with some soup choices.  I walked to Downtown Restaurant for dinner and perused their menu.  Cream of chicken—I don’t get why this exists; Cream of mushroom—too creamy; Minestrone—maybe; Vegetable soup—had it for lunch; French onion soup—PERFECT.  I could already taste that dark, rich, sweet broth and feel it soothing my throat.  Next to chicken tortilla and hot & sour soup, French onion is my go-to when fighting a cold.  I ordered some tea and read my book as I waited, which is always quite a while in Addis restaurants.  Finally, I saw the waiter headed towards my table, and this is what he set in front of me:

"French Onion Soup"
I almost laughed out loud.  At first I thought it was cream of chicken or mushroom with some onion rings for garnish, but it’s actually a bowl of onion rings suspended in a (slightly) thinner version of béchamel sauce.  Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was delicious.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Addis Ababa: The First Week

Well, I made it to Addis Ababa safely about a week ago, and I have had very little time to sit and write about all that I’ve experienced in 6 short days.  In less than a week, I’ve become familiar enough with the city to get around on my own using the shared land-taxi system, find good restaurants to patronize, communicate a [very] little in Amharic, and adapt to different cultural concepts. 

My previous experience in India prepared me in so many ways for life here in Ethiopia.  Although coming to a completely different country will always result in some culture shock, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  I was prepared for the attention that I draw, for the inability to communicate fluently with most of the locals, and the general chaos that accompanies living in a different society.  In India, I learned to embrace this chaos, to keep in mind that everything will work out and that small setbacks and inconveniences could be shrugged off.  And although I’m still determined to be as independent as possible here in Addis, I am much more comfortable asking for help and guidance than I was four years ago.  In contrast to India, I am very much on my own here in Addis.  The Young Adult Volunteer Program provided a program director in country, a community that was prepared to accept and teach me, and readily available resources for helping me adjust to living in a different country.  Here, I’ve had to make connections, explore, and figure much of life out on my own.  Not that I’m complaining, it’s been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to the next 7 weeks.

 Getting around in Addis

This past week, for me, was all about orienting myself to Addis Ababa so that this week I can hit the ground running for my work with the International Organization For Adolescents (IOFA).  Addis is a rapidly growing city, construction projects are everywhere and many areas of the city are dominated by new, gleaming buildings.  The city itself is only 125 years old, which makes its development even more amazing.  Addis is divided into different sub-cities, each with a distinctive character.  Kera, where my guest house is, is near the African Union and is a densely populated area filled with homes and shops.  From Kera, I can walk to Mexico Square (so named for the Mexican Embassy nearby), which is one of the land-taxi centers.  From there, I can catch a ride to any of the other areas of the city.  Arat Kilo and Aminst Kilo are near to Addis Ababa University, the Hilton, Radisson, and Sheraton (super fancy hotels).  The restaurants and cafes in this area are great, and there are many young people, mostly university students, around at all times of the day or night.  West of Aminst Kilo is the Piazza, one of the shopping centers of Addis.  You can find anything in the Piazza, jewelry, clothes, electronics, etc.  This is also where the Taitu Hotel (the first hotel in Addis) is located—a good thing to know because they have a vegan buffet lunch every day for just  $4.50.   On the far West side of the city is the famous Merkato:  an outdoor market that deals in EVERYTHING.  In the South part of Addis sits Bole International Airport, the hub of Ethiopian Airlines.  The Bole area is also where many NGOs, international development organizations, and international business offices are located.  As a result, most of the buildings and businesses there are more “modern” and Westernized.

Of course, it would have been pretty impossible for me to figure all of this out by myself.  I am eternally grateful to Amy Gilbert (a previous IOFA intern) for connecting me to Nahom, a business student here who has been extremely helpful.  Nahom helped me navigate the land taxi system, took me to many of the tourist sights in Addis (Entoto Hills, the Ethnographic Museum, the National Museum, the Merkato, etc.), hooked me up with an Ethiopian SIM card (difficult to get), explains different cultural quirks, teaches me very basic Amharic phrases, and gives advice on where to eat.  Without his help, I would know only a fraction of what I do now.  I am also lucky in that the manager of my guest house, Tutu, lived for several years in the United States, speaks fluent English, and has a good understanding of the challenges Westerners may face in Ethiopia.  

 The Merkato in Addis

Already I can see how my work with IOFA is going to be challenging, rewarding, and much needed here.  Ethiopia already has a reputation in the West for being a country with many orphans and children in need of care.  From what I have seen so far, this is indeed the reality.  There are many street children here, some with their mothers but many unaccompanied.  This week, I will visit some of the children’s homes in the city and learn more about their work and the needs of children in Ethiopia.  Through my conversations with Nahom and other locals, I am beginning to understand the extreme disadvantage that youth without supporting families face in Addis as they transition to adulthood.  Higher education is not guaranteed, and even if youth test into college programs their tuition is not covered by the state.  Once young people graduate college, they often must live with their parents for a few years before they find a sufficient-wage job.  Young people who do not attend college also live with their families until they are able to provide for themselves, which may take many years.  If these youth have no families to take care of them, and they have aged out of care provided by institutions, where can they go?  What can they do?  The rest of my time here in Addis will be getting the answers to these questions and identifying ways in which care institutions and other organizations can provide support to young people who cannot rely on family as they transition to adulthood.  IOFA will use this information to develop programs and curriculum to decrease vulnerability for the orphaned population.  As always, you can contribute to this work (aka, my unpaid internship in Addis) by going to GoFundMe.  And, of course, if you have any questions about my work, my experience, life in Addis, or Ethiopia in general please post in the comments and I’ll do my best to find the answers!