”You have the clocks, we have the time” – Ethiopian proverb

Ethiopia, Adigrat Vision 16/01/2016–23/02/2016

It's a Sunday evening and we are enjoying the last rays of sunshine and pondering about our time here. We're accompanied by the echo of Christian orthodox song, the sound of which has caused us many sleepless hours and we still haven't got used to it. Today marks 5 weeks of our stay in Adigrat and on our second-to-last night we would like to take the time and reminisce.

Although we have been promised running water since the beginning, we have had to do without it the entire time here. The fact that the city hasn’t had running water in nearly two months doesn’t seem to bother anyone but us. Nevertheless, we have found our way around it. Every morning we've been brought water in yellow canisters and haven't had to do without much. The room for the volunteers is directly in the kindergarten, and is very spacious and comfortable.
In the kindergarten there are 2 cooks, 6 educators, an accountant, a team leader, Haile Melekot - the head coordinator and Hagos - the boss - who is actually rarely there. Despite the fact that there are designated tasks, everyone just helps everyone else out. The educators are very sociable and the kitchen acts as a meeting point where everyone eats together, drinks coffee and chats as well as relaxes. "Stress" or "hectic" aren't in their vocabulary. This style of working is pretty foreign to us. 

In the mornings we get up at seven thirty accompanied by blazing sunshine and get to work in the kitchen helping out with the chopping. Our main responsibility is the washing of hands, cleaning of teeth and provision of English lessons to the kids. Sometimes we get a small group of 4 kids together in the playroom and start painting or playing with Lego. At four thirty the kids are all picked up. Our contact person Haile Melekot has organized an English course for children from the seventh grade from a nearby school. We are shocked by how little the children are able to speak. In general, only a small minority of Ethiopians speak English which causes us all kinds of problems when trying to communicate with the children in our kindergarten.  This is because of the predominantly badly educated teachers, but also the lack of motivation. Not a single educator came to our first lesson but it's clear they have great fun when they do finally start attending. Even conjugating the verb "to be" appears to give everyone difficulties, but with Haile's translations we are able to convey a little knowledge.

From a food perspective nothing is out of bounds in Ethiopia. Most of the locals enjoy eating "Injera" (a grey, sour flatbread served with different hot sauces) and they do this at pretty much any time of the day. For us there was white bread made available in the morning, Injera for lunch and most evenings we cooked ourselves pasta.

The kindergarten is in the mountainous area  – close to the center of  Adigrat where we have often been to eat noodles, drink mango juice or jump on the Internet. Over the weekends we have been on trips with Haile Melekot or Hagos, gone hiking or carried out tours of the city so as to make new friends. Particularly impressive was the trip to Hagos' family, who live in a nearby village without electricity and lead a very basic life. From there we had a great view and we decided to sleep that night outside in the hay under a straw roof. This was a super adventure for us and especially rejuvenating to be surrounded by nature. Hago's 18 year-old sister, who is already married with a baby, showed us how hard life in the countryside can be especially as a girl or woman. 
The last 5 weeks have been rich in experiences that we have tremulously enjoyed. We have met people such as the guard's 9 year-old daughter that looks after her younger brother permanently and is content and happy.  The heartfelt and welcoming locals have meant that we have been invited to dinner on a number of occasions, and have been offered (other than Injera), sickly sweet coffee and schnapps - giving us a personal glimpse into everyday life. We will always remember Haile's loud laugh, dancing through the kitchen, our adventurous night Bajaj trips and our endearingly nicknamed "Anettchen" (little Annett), jumping around the place flashing us a huge grin. 

One more anecdote to conclude with: There is a widely available drug in Ethiopia known as "Qat.” When we asked Haile to tell us more about it he responded: “Yes, there is cat." (long pause) “But I think more dogs."

Alena Henkel und Charlotte Barth