Anna Dailey - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Ethiopia
Though its surprisingly tasty cuisine, delicious coffee, and intriguing history add to the beauty of Ethiopia, in the month that I have been here, I have become convinced that Addis’ greatest asset is its people. Though sometimes being the object of everyone’s stares, every moment of the day can make even the quickest trip to the store a tiresome affair, I have found that everyone, without exception, is delighted to return a smile, shake my hand, or practice some virtually nonsensical English when they see me on the street.
On a more daily basis, my experience with the people at my placement – a private primary school – has been nothing less than fantastic. Aside from having endless questions about my life, my home and my thoughts about Ethiopia, the staff at the school has welcomed me as a volunteer with open arms. I have been made to feel that my work with the kids is significant, not only to the students, but to their teachers and principal as well.
The most important relationship that I have formed, by virtue of the sheer magnitude of her commitment, is with my host mother, Saba. She has done an incredible thing in taking me into her house for the past month, and gone to great lengths to make me feel at home. Though I’m leaving Ethiopia with an incredible collective experience, the most significant thing that I have gained is a second mother. Saba has even taken to warning me about the dangers of boys and alcohol before I leave the house; my real mother would be overjoyed – and, not to mention, very appreciative!
Despite the friendly nature and welcoming attitude of everyone I’ve encountered, nothing can compare to the reception I repeatedly receive from the true reason I’m here – the kids. From the very youngest nursery classes all the way up to Grade 6, the children have made any discomfort or hardships of this experience undoubtedly worth it. Although the really young kids were initially very quiet in my presence, it only took a few encounters with them to receive a truly touching welcome. The second I step out of the car at the school compound or into a classroom, I am unfailingly greeted by shouts of “Miss Anna!” and numerous requests to shake hands or have my cheek kissed.
Their overwhelmingly sweet reception aside, the kids are remarkable students. Their curriculum is astonishingly advanced, and their behavior is thoroughly disciplined. Because of this, the students threw themselves whole-heartedly into any kind of spoken English lesson I offered – which varied from some strange and awkward pronunciation exercises to silly games like Simon Says and Charades. Though one month is not a generous amount of time to make a significant impact in their English speaking, if I made any difference in their language capabilities at all, it is because the students persistently engaged themselves in my 45-minute lessons with unparalleled academic enthusiasm.
The students, along with the people of Addis, have made me feel incomparably welcome and important, and it is because of them that this experience is one that I would (and hope to) do over again in a second.