I have now been here for almost 10 weeks. And it's about time that you guys got a complete update on what my life is like here in Ethiopia. I figured this because I have gotten many emails/ Facebook posts, and letters requesting more info.

***Disclaimer***
This might be too much information for the casual reader, but many people want to know the details of everything that is going on in my life in Ethiopia… so here they are.

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The beautiful mountainous countryside in Yetebon, Ethiopia
Language 
The national language spoken here is Amharic. But there are about 70 different languages spoken in Ethiopia depending on the region of the country you are in. In Yetobon, the region that I am staying, the people speak Graganie. But that is mostly in the countryside where not much of my communicating happens. I would say I know about 50 Amharic words; enough to greet people, get around town, order food and coffee, and negotiate prices in the market. But in the compound and in my classes people understand English for the most part. They are required to learn it from a early age. Most students can read and write in English a lot better than they can speak it. I'm trying to change that trend in my 12th grade English class by making my students do a lot of speaking in class. 
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The Cultural food for the New Year calibration in Addis Ababa
Food 
Here in the Project Mercy compound we are fed about half American food and half Ethiopian food and get three square meals a day.

Breakfast - We almost always have American food for breakfast. We get things like oatmeal, porridge, eggs, and every now and then French toast or pancakes with syrup. We also have salty bulger wheat and a spicy concoction of a crape-like substance called Ingera (I will talk more about that later) that is a cultural food for breakfast. But mostly Ethiopiansonly have a cup of coffee and a handful of kernels of corn for breakfast.  



Lunch - In Ethiopia, lunch is the most important meal of the day. And people usually take about an hour to an hour and a half break from work and school for lunch. This is where we get most of the cultural food. And I love it! The base item of food is Ingera as I mentioned above. It is a spongy, fermented, crape-like flat bread that is made with a flour called Teff. On top of the base there is a sauce called Wat that is sometimes made with meat, lentils, and a lot of onion as well as other ingredients. There are about five to ten different types of Wat, some I like more than others. We also have vegetables (usually served with a lot of local butter) and bread of which there are three main types. One is a lot like white fluffy bread made in the shape of a cinnamon bun, then there is a denser, dryer, more “home-made” style bread that we get most often, and lastly my favorite bread called Dabo that is the cross between Indian Non, and Italian Ficashia bread that is very moist and dense made with, what I assume is, a lot of eggs.  This is amazing when it is fresh out of the oven and still warm. They always put peanut butter and jelly on the table for us “faringies” (white people). And after every meal there is fresh shy and buna (tea and coffee) for us to enjoy with fresh milk from the cows. 

Dinner – There is usually salad and bread for dinner with the main dish being soup or spaghetti or some other simple course. Sometimes we get a special treat and have cheese or some unidentified vegetable/fruit that usually tastes pretty good.


*Oh yeah, and all cultural food is eaten without utensils. Eeting with your hand is actually a pretty effective way to eat believe it or not. And it's kind of fun too. 
Picture
Me and some of the house kids my first week in Ethiopia
Culture
The biggest thing that sticks out to me about the Ethiopian culture is that, unlike America, it is a relationally based society verses an efficiency based society. Therefore, as you can expect, things don’t always start and finish on time. But people actually know their neighbors here and usually greet everyone they see on the street not only with a wave but a handshake and shoulder hug. Women do the cheek to cheek “kiss”.  It is very rare to see PDA between husband and wife, but you will see men walking together hand in hand very often.   The coffee ceremony is very central to the Ethiopian culture. This is where one will invite someone over to their house in the afternoon to share coffee, fundisha (pop corn), and other snack foods like roasted barley.  The coffee is roasted, ground, and brewed on open flames right in the living room and then new coffee is brewed with the same grounds over and over (usually about three times) until the conversation is over. This process may last an hour before you even start drinking the coffee is even ready and maybe two to four hours total. People go from house to house during the day to invite others to their coffee ceremony as a gesture of kindness. I love this part of the culture as most faringies do. And I have even begun doing it without the coffee but with tea instead. I have a little tea station in my room where I can make it here and serve it to my guests. One of the teachers is coming over this evening for such an event.
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My new home
Home 
I live in a little one room apartment with a bed, night-stand, desk, and bathroom. I have a hot shower, sink, and a toilet.  The floors are cement but it’s clean. The walls are painted and I have a window facing out to the mountains. With curtains, pictures on my wall, a mirror, lamp, and a self that I made last week in the workshop, it’s really quite a cozy place. I just printed off about 80 photographs in town of friends and places I’ve been that I plan on using to make a boarder around my room.  I’m pretty excited about the project.
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The Medhanealem Project Mercy School
School
Like I have mentioned before, I teach 12th grade English and 11th and 12th grade computers here at the Project Mercy School named Medhanealem (medicine of the world). There are about 1,700 students who attend from all around, sometimes hiking down the mountains for hours every day. Unlike most schools in Ethiopia, the students here receive two meals a day, which for many of them will be the only two meals that have that day. Classes are usually about 50 – 70 students each. Fortunately I only have about 20 students in my classes because of the higher grades. Students are required to pass an 8th, 10th and 12th grade national exam to continue their education. Unfortunately many do not, thus the smaller classes in higher grades.  Only about 15% - 20% of those who attend K-12 school continue on to higher education. And only the top 2-5 students from each of the 10 Universities in Ethiopia continue on to Grad school. This is an incredible uneducated country with most people in the country side unable to write their own name. The school can only accept about 300 KG students every year from the two thousand plus that apply.
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Teaching computers in the relitivly amazing computer lab
Schedule 
I wake up around 7am and go to breakfast. School starts at 8am and gets out at 3pm with an 1.5 hr lunch break at 12pm. I have about 4 - 5 classes a day, but I remain in the computer lab all day when I am not in class to keep it open for those who wish to work on their computer skills. After school we hold a computer class for all the teachers, many of whom have never used a computer before.  In the evenings I sometimes go down to the sports fields to play with the house kids. Monday is usually movie night for the faringie teachers at my apt where we set up a laptop and computer speakers on my desk and pile onto my bed and watch some pirated copy of an American movie. Thursday is Bible study with some of the hospital staff which is def a highlight of the week. We are going though the beatitudes one at a time. Friday night is community night where we just get together and talk about our weeks. Overall this is a pretty stress free week schedule.
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The 1,700 kids performing the morning flag ceremony
Weekends
School gets out at 12:15 on Friday afternoons due to a compromise with Friday being a Muslim holiday. So this is really when the weekend starts. There is always a bus going to Butijera, the closest civilized town with stores and restaurants and an internet café that sometimes works. It’s about a half hour ride 5 miles down a very rocky dirt road. First, I usually like to sit down at a café with some other teachers and grab a Maciato (creamy espresso like drink famous in Ethiopia). Then I wander around the market to buy fruit and other snacks for the week.  Things here are very cheap compared to American prices for the most part. Diner and drinks for 4 people is less than 10 dollars in a pretty nice restaurant in Butijera. The rest of the time in town is usually spent getting frustrated at the slow to non-existent internet connection. But receiving emails is always fun and so worth the effort.  On Saturday and Sundays after church there is another trip to town that I’ll sometimes go on if I was not able to get things done on Friday. Otherwise they’re days for cleaning, exploring and chilling out. I’ve gone on hikes into the mountains maybe about half of the weekends I’ve been here. I hope to do a lot more, but there is a lot going on in the next few weekends.


ChurchThere is an awesome protestant church here in Yetabon about a kilometer outside of the compound. The choir is very uplifting and the messages are solid when I can get a translator. But it is very frustrating to not speak the language. Most of the time I attend the church, but sometimes the faringies get together on Sunday morning and listen to some American worship and a message on someone’s computer instead.
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Waterfall hike up in the mountains
Future Trips
Next weekend (November 13th – 15th) we have all been invited to the wedding of some of the hospital staff that will be held in Addis Ababa. I’m so excited to experience a new piece of Ethiopian culture.

The following weekend (November 20th – 22nd) me and Aaron and maybe also Nathanial (faringie teachers) are traveling down to the Southern region of Ethiopia  called Aromia to visit a few friends who are now attending a university there. They will be taking us around to see some of beautiful country side down there.

Then in the beginning of December, Ryan Burk, a friend form UNH, will be flying down from his study abroad in Englandto visit me for a week here at Project Mercy. By the way, anyone of you is invited to come visit me if you are able. There are plenty of rooms available for visitors. Now you can’t say you weren’t invited.
Then for Christmas I think I’ll be hanging out with the group of Peace Corps volunteers in Ethiopia. I just met one of them named Marina today in town. She has been here for the past 11 months. She is a great person. She gave me “Sun·Maid” raisins (my comfort food that you can’t get here). It was a blast to hang out with someone from America who is not also working here at Project Mercy.

I also want to visit the northern region of Ethiopia at some point this year. There is an incredible beautiful lake named lake Thana with islands each having a different historical church on them. Maybe this will happen in 2010.
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House kids with Marta and Deme (middle far left and right)
How God is working
God has been doing a lot here as I had hoped, but not in the ways that I had hoped which is to be expected. It’s been hard to be so disconnected to my support system back at UNH especially with the limited internet access. This have been coming up that I would normally go to them about but God is teaching me to trust him with the unknown. After a particularly poignant evening involving an argument with a teammate, a significant amount of homesickness, and some uncovered crap from my past, I laid everything out on the alter and gave it to God. He has been faithful to meet my needs in the past. What different does it make to be in the middle of nowhere in Africa, right? To me it seems to be quite a big difference. But with God nothing is impossible. Well, the next few days were blessing after blessing being heaped onto my life. I had an unexpected visit form a friend that I thought I would not see for another few months, lunch with one of the spiritual mentors where we really connected, and a really encouraging church service, among other things. I think God really confirmed some of the reasons I am supposed to be here that weekend. He is so good and faithful. If we truly give him our problems and stop trying to fix them ourselves he totally does the job and blesses us in the process for the faith involved.


Prayer requests
I just finished a book that warns against deception when it comes to ministry. The author suggests keeping four things in mind in this process. I would appreciate prayer for me in these areas.
  • Humility – Not letting pride or self accomplishment rob you form the success in ministry.
  • Love for Truth – Keeping the Word of God as the primary directional tool
  • Fear of God – Avoiding flippancy and recognizing him as the all powerful Creator of the universes and Lover of my soul.
  • Keeping the Cross Central  It’s all about his sacrifice on the cross that makes a relationship with god possible, let alone a successful ministry to others.
Also be praying for:
  • Team unity (Elena, Aaron, Andria. Nathanial, and I)
  • Health, particularly for - Nathanial
  • Successful communication with loved ones, especially for Aaron and Andrea who have difficulty contacting family in Costa Rica
  • Safety as we will all be traveling a lot in the next few months
  • Ease in learning the language and the breaking down of the language barrier
  • Spirit-filled interactions, and ministry moments
  • Further revelations of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love for us and the people of Ethiopia
  • Desta (Joy)
Mailing Address 
Thank you to you all who have sent me mail here in Ethiopia. It is such an encouragement to have a tangible representation of relationships in America. If any of you want write a quick note or send pictures for my wall or a package of goodies or whatever, here is my mailing address.


Steve Giordano
Project Mercy
P.O. Box 29561
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


*Note – Exclude my name on the outside of the box when you send packages. But please put a note on the inside designating it for me. Thanks!

Phone Number 
Believe it or not, I actually do have a cell phone here. And I’m able to call U.S. phone numbers, but it costs about $1/ min. So that’s why you all have not gotten phone calls from me. But incoming calls are free for me to receive. So if per chance you have Skype and went to give me a call it’s only about 40 cents a min to call me. I would love you hear from you guys if you get the chance. Send me an email (steveg86@gmail.com) or something and we can set up a time to chat. My number is:


011 (251)-912-74-0082

Thanks for reading this and your interest in my life here in Ethiopia. I definitely appreciate any prayers for me, the team and the people of Ethiopia, as well as any correspondence you might have with me.

Grace and Peace,
Steve~
11/15/2009 02:03:01 am

Hey, brother!! Thanks for the update. I read it with great joy. It's so amazing to read about the work that you are doing in Ethiopia. It sounds like you're having a great time. What a blessing!

In your previous post you mentioned experiencing a lot of stress about having to teach your English class solo. How is that going? It seems like things are going well based on this blog post, but I just want to be sure.

I LOVED reading about the culture there in Ethiopia. I would personally prefer the Ethiopian relationship-based culture over our American efficiency-based culture. I'm not very efficient and I greatly prefer spending time with people. It sounds like so much fun having coffee/tea time with people every day like that. It's so relational and personal. That would be the life for me!

I definitely WANT to visit (you did invite me!). But of course, finances would be an issue. I'll keep it in mind and see what I can do. Perhaps before your year is up I'll be able to come sometime. It also depends on what my schedule looks like once I return to the States.

It's so cool looking at all of the pics that you posted. I smile when I look at the pic of your little apartment and imagine you living inside and coming out the door in the mornings on your way to school. Steve the teacher!!

You're truly blessed to have a nice mountain view. You should post a picture of the inside of your apartment and a picture of the mountain view for us. It's also good to hear that you've had so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and go hiking. I know that you like that sort of thing. I also love doing that kind of stuff.

I hope you enjoy your travels over the next few weeks. Thanks for the update, brother. Keep sending them to us!! I'll try to keep sending you updates and emails to make your internet efforts worthwhile. ;)

-Chris-

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