The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Ethiopian mud and picking one thing

When I headed for Ethiopia at the end of June, my grandkids headed for their new life in Alabama, saying goodbye to Lawrence, Tree Frog and Prairie Dog classmates, the cat from upstairs…Waaah.  I told them I’d be seeing their other grandma and grandpa–and I did (along with their great-grandma).

It’s mud season in Ethiopia right now.  We deal with extra days in a year’s calendar by tossing a 31st day into most of our months.  In the Ethiopian calendar, those days are gathered up into a 13th month; thus: 13 Months of Sunshine.  When I was a child, people joked that some of that sunshine came in liquid form.

One day, I walked around the guest house and just watched the rain as it slam-crashed down onto the muddy street outside, onto the tin roofs, onto the trees and walls.  Such a clatter.  The puddle at the end of our street got larger and larger until it seemed the cars would drive into it and disappear. 

The fact that KLM lost my luggage for the entire time I was in Ethiopia didn’t help.  I had mud splatters up and down my pant legs.  Some of the teachers who were part of the Fulbright Hayes group came equipped, though.  And Habtu told us that the roads to the north, where the group was about to travel, had greatly improved since the last time–when it seemed our bus would never make it past one big wet spot in the middle of the road.

I can’t wait to hear how the roads really were.  I can’t wait to hear who the intrepid travelers turned out to be.  Everyone sounds brave and eager and flexible on an application form.  Drop a group of teachers into Ethiopia, and you find out who really is.

What I do know is that everyone will come back changed.  It’s impossible to meet the kids of Ethiopia–to listen to the educators who talk about tests that fix a child’s path forever–about classrooms with no English words in them (when children will be taking those high stakes tests in English)–and not wonder: Is there something I can do?

Lots to be done.  One of the young Ethiopian teachers told us, “Only pick one thing and do it.”

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