Nov. 16th, Mekelle University—Northern Ethiopia
Am nearing the end of my 42 day Fulbright appointment. So many poignant moments to share. 15 students came to my home last night to make braided bracklets, compliments of my friend NIKKI, from BEADWORLD—60% men, 40% women; their focus, determination, energy was mindblowing, within an hour they made the bracklets and were so happy…now they must teach their classmates. An older student said to me, “A teacher has never done this for us…”
Tomorrow is an ALL-DAY workshop for all 75 students in Public Speaking and Nonverbal Comm…am throwing a Public Speaking CONTEST next Weds. evening w/ PRIZES!
I’m giving a FINAL PARTY for all three classes, 75 students; the President of Mekelle U. is coming (with his wife), and about 10 faculty and friends…at a delicious, outdoor Pizza Restaurent, with pizza, drinks & dancing!
I got such a nice compliment from the guy who brought me to Ethiopia—he said, “I notice you teach the WHOLE 2 hours, most faculty are 1—1.5 hours; and you do all these extra lectures/workshops….we all agree you were the right Fulbrighter to bring here” – I was very touched. It’s been fun, takes a lot of initiative to do anything here; easy to just slide by. Last week, I gave a talk to faculty on SOLITUDE, expected about 4 to come; but 12 faculty came, including the DEAN (who is a poet and misses his solitude!)…we had such a great, lively discussion! Not sure I could do a full year here—but I leave w/ so many great memories!
There are little reminders of life’s struggle here…although never verbalized. When I grab the students’ arms to walk up stairs, I am always struck with how thin and fragile they are—even those that look “full body” are what we would call “skin & bones.” A perpetual reminder of the minimal food, low protein here or in their past diet. You do not see starvation, but people are so thin here.
One never knows the “real” background of their students. I took this student, who I think is exceptional, out for coffee—to hear about her life plans. She comes to class dressed so immaculately, so sparkling clean, her writing is great, she is outspoken, so quick and lively (unlike the sullen, taciturn females here). I presumed she was from a middle-income, intact family. Her mother died when she was about 8, only child, her father is a laborer. She said, “I am very neat because it gives me confidence. I don’t have any money, but I can be neat.” She is studying Japanese/Chinese, and trying to learn as much as possible—she wants to enter politics and study political science…I find her inspiring.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis wants me to do a couple workshops in Public Speaking and also Nonverbal Communication—the US Embassy is working on dates and logistics…MFA heard about my “success” with govt. officials and PR people—now the “big wigs” want the workshop…I am totally jazzed to do this.
I will be very sad to leave…it really has been an amazing journey, of all kinds….
Mara Adelman, Ph.D.
Department of Communication