Saturday, June 22, 2013


So I’ve been chilling in Paola, Kansas for the past week, getting ready for this Ethiopia trip and getting in some quality family time.  It’s amazing how my two years in Chicago has changed by idea of what a city is.  Kansas City (the closest urban area) seems small now, but it’s larger than Austin (always the city of my heart).  It’s been a little strange, not having a specific schedule that dominates my day.  I have a to-do list for the week, and I am still quite busy, but  I also have a lot of free time.  It’s nice, I’d almost forgotten what it feels like not to constantly count down the hours/minutes until this appointment or that class every day.  I was able to spend two whole days devoted to recreational activities with my parents:  it was amazing.  Little things like going to an art gallery, walking around the city market, getting the cars washed by the church youth group, seem so out of the ordinary to a graduate student.

Of course, it’s not all been lounging about, going on long walks, and binging on tv-shows (I highly recommend the British show “Broadchurch” with David Tennant).  I’ve also been pulling everything together for my internship in Addis Ababa.  I got vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio, and Yellow Fever, bought some new Chacos (they’re gorgeous), and finally got confirmation that my passport/visa were on their way back to Chicago (Hallelujah). I also bought my two tickets for my trip home (I’ll have a one-week layover in Kerala for a wedding), ordered books for the trip (homework for the fall—already), and began planning my first few days in Addis Ababa. 

So here’s what my first week or two will look like in Addis:  I’ll arrive the morning of June 25, check into my guesthouse, and take the rest of the day to get some idea of how the city is laid out.  I’ll get a cell phone and internet hookup for communication and purchase a map (or a few).  During the first 10 days, I’ll meet with people in different care institutions and aid organizations, explaining the project and building relationships.  I’ll also meet with the director of Children’s Heaven, a home for children that IOFA has closely worked with for the past few years.  Two days a week, I’ll be volunteering at Children’s Heaven, which I’m really looking forward to! 

After I meet with these organizations, and any new ones I hear about, I’ll start scheduling and planning focus groups and individual interviews, the research project that will dominate the majority of my summer.   My research will focus on the experience of youth who have now aged out of institutional care, asking them what challenges they faced as they transitioned, how well they were prepared for adult life, how they are doing now, and what could be done to assist other youth as they age out of these institutions.  These focus groups and interviews will mostly be done by translators who will give me notes and transcripts (in English) to compile.  I will comb through these stories, looking for patterns and themes across many experiences.  This will also help us understand the availability of resources and support of youth ageing out of care, and give us an idea of how well these youth can navigate the social support system in Addis.  I will also be visiting with several organizations that work with vulnerable populations in Addis (focusing on substance abuse, homelessness, sex work, domestic abuse, etc.) to find out how many of their clients grew up in institutional care.  I may be able to speak to the clients that they have served, but I will also talk with the staff about the challenges they see for youth ageing out of care and how they think these youth can best be assisted in the transition to adulthood.

In just 72 hours I'll be here!

It’s a lot to do in just 2 months!  I’ll definitely be kept busy, but I’ll also be doing a kind of work that isn’t bound by a lot of specific deadlines (except August 19, when I leave Ethiopia) or by quotas.  This will be quite a change from the past 9 months, when every “free” moment had to be filled with reading, writing, preparing for class, emails, phone calls, or errands.  It will be nice do be working but also to do it at a healthier pace and (hopefully) a lot less stress.  You’ll probably hear a couple of updates from me over the next week as I settle into Addis.  I have a few topical posts that I’d like to write, and I’ll have a lot of travel time before reaching Ethiopia! 

As always, you can visit my GoFundMe page to contribute to this research project (which I must personally finance).  Any contribution helps, and I’ll make sure that you get a postcard for your trouble!  You can also visit IOFA’s blog to learn more about the organization’s work in human trafficking prevention around the world.  They’re a great organization, and deserve lots of buzz. 

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