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Angie Martin - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Ethiopia

Arriving in Ethiopia

My placement in Ethiopia

My trip to Ethiopia was the first of many things. It was the first time I was going to be away from home for longer than two weeks, the first time I flew to two different countries to arrive at my original destination, it was the first time I had been to Ethiopia, the first time I was staying with a family other than my own, the first time I was going to be teaching English. Surprisingly, it was the first time for my host family to welcome a volunteer into their home and the first time for my placement to receive a volunteer. It was all so exciting!

When I arrived in Ethiopia, I had no idea what to expect and I had my own perception of what I thought it would be like. All I really knew about Ethiopia was the disastrous famine it was experiencing and the fact it was the birth place of one of the most wondrous inventions in the world, coffee.

As soon as I landed I realized just how beautiful and peaceful the country really was. I fell in love with the landscape, the food, and most importantly the people who made my whole experience in Ethiopia amazing.

Volunteering at Holy Hills School

Hillside school bus

My volunteer placement was at Holy Hills School where I taught English; spoken English that is. During my time I taught fourteen classes per week, ranging from grade one to four. My placement was a life altering experience for me. Prior to my time in Ethiopia, I was terrified of public speaking and standing up in front of a crowd, but after one class of eager, smiling and excited students, my fear quickly disappeared.

While I was with the children we would practice word pronunciation which included the days of the week, seasons, months, buildings, plants. I would also help them with reading English books. It was wonderful being able to teach the children in a fun and energetic way which created a successful and memorable placement for not only myself but my students as well. I am pleased that we are still in contact to this day.

At my placement

The one thing that is still prevalent in my mind is how I was accepted by the students of the school. In Ethiopia it is not common for an individual to have tattoos or piercings, and I have both. It was because of this that the students thought I was a rock star and led to many students wanting to see my tattoos, saying it was the coolest thing ever.

Another occasion I will never be able to forget was in my third week of living in Ethiopia. I had been to one of the most exclusive hotels in Addis Ababa (the Sheraton) where I went swimming for nine hours straight. Little did I know, my sun screen was not waterproof and so as you might have imagined, I became quite tanned.

Coffee ceremony

Since I was basically the only ‘white’ person my students and colleagues had ever met, they had no idea what a sun burn was. Many were concerned that there were something wrong with me. Once classes were done, students and teachers would take the Hillside School bus home. I loved these drives home to spend extra time with my students in a more casual and relaxed atmosphere.

Spare time in Ethiopia

My evenings were also a highlight for me because when I got home there would be a mini lunch, usually a small salad or some Engela (traditional Ethiopian food) waiting for me. While I ate, my host family would sit in a circle for about an hour or so discussing our day while having the traditional coffee ceremony (which I only did once and was horrible at it).

It was during this time that I got to learn to speak the local language, Amharic, usually from my three year old house brother. Additionally, in the evenings and weekends I would usually explore different parts of Addis Ababa with the oldest children of my host family; allowing me to learn more about the culture I was falling in love with.

This experience in Ethiopia was quite amazing for me. I met remarkable individuals whom I have grown close to and who I am still in contact with. I learnt first-hand how proud Ethiopians are of their history (both family and community), culture, and especially their food. It was such a pleasure living in Ethiopia. I could have easily stayed there and often dream about moving back.

Read more about Teaching in Ethiopia

Angie Martin

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