13 months of sunshine

Posted on January 28th, 2013 by Chaplaincy in Tybed

13 months of Sunshine’
I don’t like frosty mornings! Its so much harder to get out of bed and get going. I’ve just returned from 16 days of travelling in Ethiopia – so the cold weather came as an even greater shock after basking in the Ethiopian sunshine. Their tourism, industry boasts ‘13 months of sunshine’ and we saw plenty of it. (Ethiopia uses the Ge’ez calendar which has 13 months and is currently in the year 2005 – new year is in September!)
Experiencing life with intermittent supplies of water and electricity, and gaining an insight into the lives of others has left me with much to think about. In Ethiopia few people have their own transport so people have to carry what they need to their homes, which might involve a trek of miles, especially in the rural areas. This includes great bundles of wood which most people depend on as fuel for cooking, and jerry cans of water from whatever source is available. Such tasks may be left for the children (especially girls) to do when they come home from school.
While I was in the west of the Country, in Aira, I had the privilege of visiting two secondary schools. Secondary education incurs school fees and is conducted in English, a language in which the students demonstrated various levels of competency. The schools operate a shift system where pupils attend mornings starting at 8am, or afternoons. This enables the students, which included some mature returners to education, to work when they were not in school. The library had few books and no internet connection, and the new laboratory blocks were yet to be equipped. Class sizes were in the region of 70.
So imagine the scenario… you walk for over an hour in order to get to school for 8am. At lunchtime you return home but every two days you need to collect wood so that the family can have a cooked meal (a four hour round trip) and you also need to collect water. Luckily the village tap is only 300 metres away and is not too expensive.
It is quite noisy and cramped in your two roomed house, as your younger brothers and sisters take a long time to settle down to sleep. It is dark by the time it’s quiet enough for you to concentrate on your books, but by now you are feeling very tired. Nevertheless there is still homework to do. You have just turned to the right page and found your pen (a very precious possession) when there is an electricity cut. How long will it last? – 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days? -there is no way of knowing. Have you got a candle, or a torch or will you give up and go to bed? After all you will have to be up again before 6am.
The young people of Ethiopia face all these challenges and more, yet they cheerfully persevere and achieve their goals. I observed something else between the students that I met; that was the way in which they encouraged each other to achieve their best.
For many of us life is not straightforward as we struggle with responsibilities beyond college, issues of finance and the challenge of our relationships with others. I would like to think that this experience will help me to put my own problems in perspective, or at least find some inspiration in the people that I met to spur me on when life gets tough, but most of all I am reminded of the importance of encouraging each other and am thankful for those people who have encouraged me through the years. So tonight I shall ask myself – who have I encouraged today? What about you?


Em said:

That sounds like an inspirational trip. Thinking about the lifestyles people in some countries have makes me appreciate what I have all the more. It puts the petty complaints I’m sometimes guilty of making into perspective.