Bean soup and Bingo

Bean soup and Bingo

(… neither go over well)

On Thursday, we went to the feeding center, which is basically what it sounds like– a place for people to get food they would otherwise go without.  The people buy a token for a few cents and with it they get lunch.  On Thursday it was a serving of injera (an Ethiopian staple that’s sort of like a sour crepe, but made out of a plant), and two scoops of bean soup.  Apparently the beans weren’t all that tasty, because a lot of people insisted “Water! Water!” which I quickly realized meant they only wanted the broth.

800 people come every day and are served in 4 groups.  Each group only has about 10 minutes to get their food and eat, and the whole thing took about an hour.  We rotated in between collecting tokens, serving the injera, and pouring soup, and then in between groups we prepared plates for the next round.

The people were a mix– there were some apparently able-bodied people, but also a substantial number who were blind or disabled, and there were quite a few kids.  Unfortunately no one, including the staff, seemed to speak English beyond “hello”, “thank you”, and “America? Obama!”, but it would have been interesting to know what their stories were.

On Friday we got back to teaching the kids, and focused on numbers this time.  The kids all know the alphabet and their numbers 1-100 very well, but they only know them in order.  Put a “R” or a “7” on the board and most of them have no idea.  So we’ve been working on learning each one individually.  It’s difficult, because there’s a huge range of ability levels.  Some of the kids know every number individually and are starting to sound out words, and others don’t even know if it’s a number a letter. We’ve been splitting them in smaller groups, and that’s gone a little better.

An attempt at Bingo, however, was a fiasco, as the younger kids kept playing with the tokens and shooting them across the tables, messing up everyone’s cards. It took about 6 false bingos before we got to a real one, and even that one was probably just an accident. Live and learn.

Wherever I’ve volunteered it’s always funny to me how kids are just kids.  They have the same laughs, there’s always the bullies and the tattle-tales, the kids who know all the answers and get mad when they aren’t called on, and the ones who try to hide and avoid getting picked.

There are two other volunteers here, both guys, one who got here 5 days before I did, and one who has been here since August.  I don’t know if the guy who has been here since August is burnt out, or if it’s just his nature, but he complains a lot.  Most often about the food they serve us– which is mostly vegetables and pretty redundant, but when you think about the fact that meat is expensive and whatever they spend on us isn’t going to the kids, it’s easy to deal with. He also always seems to be counting down the minutes to the next recess or the end of the day, and insists that everything we want to do isn’t worth it, and I’m not sure if it really isn’t, or if he just doesn’t want to show us how to get there.  Anyway, this weekend, he has been staying downtown so it’s been a nice break.

It started raining like crazy on Friday night, so Saturday and today I’ve mostly hung around the house helping with the kids. We did go see “Surrogates” with Bruce Willis one day, which cost a whopping $2 and included assigned seats in the theatre.

Tomorrow, we get back to our regular schedule of teaching Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then helping at the feeding center on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then this coming weekend I’ll be heading to the northern part of Ethiopia, so more on that later…