The Seeing is Believing Tour has officially ended. This group was so rich with laughter and full of awe at Ethiopia and CODE’s work here. Regardless of stomach problems, lost luggage and chest colds, everyone has been brimming with curiosity, respect for Ethiopians' determination to make change and inspired by the thirst for education and knowledge all around us. I feel grateful to have been able to see the beauty of Ethiopia through their eyes.
Our last days on the tour were spent taking in more scenes of this striking place, and meeting more inspirational individuals. We’ve been collecting our thoughts and writing down reflections throughout this trip – many of which you’ve read on this blog.
There is one individual my mind keeps straying back to. He was an official with the Ministry of Education. He told us about his life growing up, about how after school he would go home with his books and take up his responsibilities as a shepherd for the family's herd of animals. He has vibrant memories of sitting in the fields reading books and keeping an eye on his herd. His story, now told in his big office, and his impassioned and articulate vision of how the region could improve their education has stayed with me. Along the way we have seen so many young shepherds, reading in the field.
Here’s a few more from the last days on the road:
“The Obama factor: It seems the whole world is celebrating the election of Barack Obama to the office of president of the United States -- and Ethiopia is no exception. Everywhere you look there are t-shirts with Obama's face, his name is written on mini buses and his picture is on every newspaper’s front page. The other day I was walking through a crowd of young people in Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square, and a young man said to me "yes we can!!!". It's a world-wide celebration of hope, and a wonderful connection between strangers from opposite sides of the world.”
- Ann Speak
“As we drive people and farm animals miraculously appear out of nowhere, everywhere - and just as unobtrusively vanish into the countryside again. The road construction is surely causing a tremendous amount of disruption and destruction to the landscape, to the trees and the fields, and most certainly to the lives of the local people.”
- Adele Kaminski
“On the road today two things were particularly striking: 1) The incomparable scenery - 6 hours of endless visions of spectacular geographical formations… Truly the Ethiopian highlands are a wonder of the world. 2) The ability of man to grow food almost anywhere. Every inch of land that has any possibility of growth has been used for a vast variety of crops.”
- John Casey
“A stunning long journey through the rural mountain communities today. What became clear was the incredible density of the country's population in apparently desolate areas. There is a strange contradiction in realizing the intensity of humanity in Ethiopia (88 million) compared to Canada's 30 million - it suggests both profound challenges and profound possibilities.”
- Marlene Asselin
“At a visit to a public library in Addis Ababa, one of several branch libraries in the city, we once again saw the library crowded with young students quietly reading and studying for school. Students were sitting in every possible seat including up the stairwells with very little light to help read......what is common to all the libraries we have seen is the need for more books, the reliance on foreign donations to get those books and the real need for technology to deepen the services and programmes they offer."
On our last day I asked the tour participants to share with me the number one impression they will come away from Ethiopia with. Here are a selection of answers:
“The gratitude of the Ethiopian people for support of literacy - expressed by almost everyone we met.” Loraine Rowan
“The pride and desire of Ethiopians’ to make their country better.” John Casey
“Supporting CODE Ethiopia and its community partnership strategy will lead to success for more students and will encourage self reliance in communities.” Camrose Burdon
“Ethiopians are sophisticated and knowledgeable people who understand their problems and see solutions…” John kamiski