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There are 80 languages in Ethiopia and over 200 dialects, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I delivered my well-rehearsed “selam tena jistilign” (hello) and the young woman shook her head that she didn’t understand. But the welcoming ceremony from the village of Yerer had made up for my disappointment. They were so excited to see us!  The children sang for us–they are dynamic singers–and gave us each a rose.

Expedition members alternate between doing construction work and teaching the children. In recent years, Engage Now Africa has realized it’s more cost-effective to build cement block schools and then paint the classrooms and put together desks.

Teaching the the children is an absolute joy although it takes awhile to get into the rhythm of using a translator. Each day we teach simple concepts followed with an activity so we can interact with the children.  Of course, hygiene is an important topic to teach.  Yesterday we taught a hygiene activity using different colors of glitter, and as the children shook hands and touched their faces they could see how easily germs spread.

They LOVE to have their picture taken. They are shy, but when coaxed into a smile they melt your hearts.

The countryside is beautiful. Deforestation created problems several decades ago so fast growing eucalyptus trees were planted in abundance. The villagers earn their living by farming. The countryside is dotted with farmers plowing fields by hand.

One of their major crops is teff, which is a grain used to make injera. Injera looks like an enormous crepe, but is spongy and made from sourdough. They use injera to scrape up the food and eat it, without utensils.

We have a genius among us named Larry Bingham.  He has constructed a toilet for us out of corrugated cardboard so we don’t have to squat over a hole.   The base is a triangle (Larry’s research suggested a triangle is sturdier than a square) with a side pocket to hold reading material.  A biodegradable sack is placed over the toilet seat (duct taped to the base) before we do our business  then we remove the sack, tie it in a knot so it doesn’t stink or attract flies, and dump it in the nearby hole.  You can’t make yourself too comfortable however, because the sack dissolves in 30 minutes!

This is a most excellent adventure! I can’t wait to tell you more.

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