It’s been quite a whirlwind of a few weeks in Ethiopia. With my internship nearly halfway through, I’ll use this blog to talk about what I’ve been doing in terms of work and Addis living.
During three days of my second week, we made Speed School site visits all over Oromia. The primary purpose of visits had to prepare for a visit from employees and families of our big social-corporate responsibility (CSR) partner, Supercell. Founded in Finland, Supercell is a mobile game developer that has grown massively since its founding in 2010. The company has a small CSR fund, which funds an immense amount of Speed Schools in both Ethiopia and Uganda. All our visits went smooth and things appeared ready for our guests. I spent the weekend around Addis with my roommate, Anahita. We checked out both the Addis Ababa Museum and Red Terror Museum, at Meskel Square. The Red Terror Museum is in memoriam to victims prosecuted and killed under the Derg government, which took power through a coup in 1974 and lasted until 1987. Anahita and I were the only two people at the museum and received a personal tour, from a guide who had been arbitrarily thrown into prison for eight years and shared some of his torment. Red Terror proved a provoking and somber experience.
This week had been an absolute (though worthwhile) blur. Our Supercell guests arrived over the weekend and stayed until Thursday morning. The Geneva Global team planned a lot of hands-on activities for our guests, including having them teach Speed School students a lesson and facilitating a football match between visiting family children and Speed School students. Two things that will stick with me for awhile from the Supercell trip: the joy on the faces of our guest in seeing the impact of their support for Speed School; and, I’m not even kidding, the 80+ kids and 10+ horse-back riders that greeted us as we entered one site, running along our cars as they pulled up. Truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
I met a group of Peace Corps members at the end of the week and joined them for an impromptu hike. The hike ended with us at a rock wall and I tried my hands at climbing. The picture is deceptive–I didn’t get up more than 25-30 feet. This had only been my second time climbing–could see myself taking this up more as I’m all about good views and the outdoors.
There had been a tragic attempted coup the night of the 22nd. As a foreign visitor with no connection to Ethiopia, I’m not going to attempt explaining what occurred, so will defer you to a few articles by: Al-Jazeera, Associated Press, and The Reporter Ethiopia. Until June 27th, there had been a full internet shutdown and block on text messaging. Beyond getting in touch with my parents briefly via international calling, the week proved isolating. I spent a lot of the week watching the news trying to figure out what was happening in Ethiopia and the world. Surprisingly, with the shutdown, I managed to get quite a bit of work done. My primary project is seeing if the Speed School model may have interest with street children and can be repackaged to their needs. As part of that, I’m doing a literature review on street children in Ethiopia and interventions from other contexts, and fortunately downloaded a few reports ahead of the shutdown. I ended the week with a nearly 2 hour call with my friend and colleague of many organizations, Amy, about a project we’re both working on.
I started the week off by pitching some preliminary ideas I have for remodeling Speed School for street children to the Geneva Global Ethiopia team. My presentation went quite well–the team liked my ideas and gave me some points to consider. I’m excited about putting this project all together after conducting focus groups with street children and a few more informational interviews with local non-profit and governmental leaders. For the rest of the week, I worked on getting IRB approval for my focus groups, doing more research, and writing a summative report on an education program we ran for secondary school drop-outs. Also, phone service had been restored after a day 10 shutdown. I was absolutely thrilled–it’s been a nightmare getting in touch with friends and family.
Admittedly, my expectations for life in Addis and the reality of it are mismatched. I’m an avid runner and had been excited to train in Ethiopia, a country that has produced some of the world’s greatest runners and a running mecca of sorts for professional athletes, including Mo Farah. Since I’ve been here, I’ve realized most serious runners don’t seem to train in Addis–the combination of population and traffic makes it untenable. I have yet to run outside myself, opting for the treadmill (read: dreadmill). I did connect with one runner and a running group, though the near two week communication shutdown made coordinating impossible. On a positive note, it looks like I’ll be attending a dinner with one of Ethiopian’s most decorated runners. Maybe more on that in my third blog post?
I do have some trips taking place over the next few weeks I’m excited for. I’ll go to the Wolaita zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) to meet with implementing partners over two days. At the end of the month, I’ll be back in SNNPR for a 5 day work retreat and we’ll be heading to a safari too. The first week of August, I’m planning a weekend trip to Lalibela! Looking forward to getting some time out of Addis and seeing more of Ethiopia.