In Debre Libanos, Ethiopia

DEBRE LIBANOS, Ethiopia—Injera is a traditional Ethiopian food like a tortilla. It is porous, made from a grain called teff, and I eat it with every meal here. I got used to the sour flavor in the first two days, and now the challenge is getting used to eating it for every meal, like a native Ethiopian.

There are other things to get used to, like seeing more cows than cars on the roads and encountering monkeys as often as one meets squirrels in Massachusetts. I have learned many new words, mostly nouns because the language here, Amharic, is constructed quite differently than English.

I came to Ethiopia with Building Active Literacy, and along with eight other volunteers from the U.S. and Ethiopia, we brought books and supplies to set up a library here at an orphanage in Debre Libanos. We spend all day teaching English or math, and in between we play games like “Simon Says” or “Geography.”

The students here are so eager to learn anything they can and quick to giggle. We show them how to use a computer, and they show us what their lives are like here. They have two hours of spiritual lessons after our classes every day, and the girls are given constant chores, such as washing clothes and sweeping bedrooms.

It’s cold here since we are in the mountains, but the scenery is breathtaking. We cannot soak up enough of the deep valley and rolling clouds below us. Every so often, a cloud is presumptuous enough to roll up the side of our mountain and swallow the orphanage, enveloping our world in a dense fog.

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