Volunteering with Ethiopia Reads: Experiences and Perspectives [Part 4]


This is one part of an ongoing series chronicling the volunteering experiences of Nick Thayer, who recently returned from a 2 month visit to Ethiopia Reads schools and libraries in Addis Ababa.

By Nicholas Thayer

[Continued from part 3…]

On my last Saturday at the library, the staff and kids organized a goodbye party for me. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in 2 hours since I got here. First, we got to play a little bit of Simon Says, and then we all sat down and a few kids stood up in front of everyone to say something; some of it sounded like poetry, some like rap, some was singing, and I think some was just talking. It was all in Amharic, so I only caught maybe one word in twenty. I really hope I wasn’t meant to understand anything that was being said, because I didn’t. But it was still quite enjoyable to see everyone laughing and chatting, and also because one kid quickly became a running joke for the whole room by standing up four different times to say stuff. And in a full mix of delivery styles, too!

After that, there was a small parade of dance routines – some traditional Ethiopian, some hip-hop, some a mix. At one point, there were 4 boys of a range of ages dancing, and one of them was so good that the four oldest girls in the room decided to start putting money in his pockets. (Yes, real money. The adults in the room had quite a laugh about that.) Another was making it rain on the audience for a solid amount of time (no real money for him, though.) Eventually, almost all of the kids ended up dancing together to all types of music. One 3 year old girl got her hands on a pair of those plastic yellow duck lips that makes a farting/quacking sound when you blow into it, so she served as our live accompaniment to the recorded music.

I was also given two wonderful gifts during the day – one from the library and all of the kids, and the other from just one of the kids and his father. (From the get-go, he was the most fond of me of all of them, and showed it in many ways. He was the Hokey-Pokey dancer from a few weeks earlier.) He gave me a traditional-Ethiopian style painting of the monuments at Gonder, Lalibela, and Axum. The library gave me a book full of pictures of me and the library, many lovely notes from the kids, and lots of text that I think describes everything that we did together. (The whole thing is in Amharic, so it’s going to take me a looong time to figure out what everything says. Actually, even longer than a looong time, since I first have to transliterate it (figure out the sounds), and only then can I start to figure out the meaning of the words. The children’s handwriting and the minute but all-important differences between some feedels aren’t helping.) All in all, it was a terrific day. As if I needed more memories from my time at Gebeta, I was fortunate enough to get at least another week’s worth in just those 2 hours, as well as physical things to take back home with me. I suspect that that painting will be able to find a home somewhere on my dorm room wall in college.

Come back soon to read about the final part of Nick’s volunteer trip!