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Photos from Addis

I enjoy speaking at international conferences. And no small reason why is because I usually tack a few days on to the conference to explore the area. International conferences have taken me to Santiago, Rio, Istanbul, Tallinn, Berlin, Nairobi, Cairo, Amman, Bangkok, and Beijing.

So when I was invited to speak at a Learning2 conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I happily signed on. Because of staring a new day job, I could not extend my visit for another week as I had originally planned, but I did get in one good day of sight seeing with a car and driver in this interesting city. Below are a few photos and a little commentary:More photos on SmugMug here.

This is the view from the Radisson Blu hotel. Close the drapes and you could be in New York or Chicago. Open them and you are in a developing nation of traffic chaos, shanty towns, and lovely people. I know conference organizers mean well, but I'd rather stay in something more authentic. I'm probably in the minority.

Driving to the mountain top Entoto Maryam Church, we encoutered donkeys, goats, and human beasts of burden sharing the winding road. Somehow one's first world problems become more glaring when seeing a woman carrying a huge bundle of bamboo down a mountain side - something she probably does each day.

The Entoto Church is a pilgrimage destination, as this woman demonstrates. Open protestations of faith are common in this country of largely Ethiopian Orthodox worshippers.

Scene coming down from the Entoto Mountain.

Cow horns used as meat hooks in one of the palaces. Ethiopians are great meat eaters, preferably eating (as I was told) their beef raw. On fasting days - about half the year - one does not eat meat.

The fourth largest city in Africa, Addis Ababa remained a mystery of navigation to me. Alternately hot and cool, sunny and rainy, it was difficult to dress for the day. The place has a fascinating history. Glad I read Cutting for Stone before going.

The Ethiopian Natural History Museum, hidden in a college campus with guards who were reluctant to let us enter, contained a few rooms of stuffed animals from the region. I rather liked the mirror with the inscription "This animal is wildlife's greatest threat." I did get to visit great-grandmother to the nth power Lucy at the Ethiopian National Museum. If you are a museum fan, Addis might not be your first choice of destinations...

My excellent guide at the Holy Trinity Cathedral demonstrates the use of the prayer stick. It's sacrilege not to stand during prayer and since some of the prayers are very long, additional support is welcome.

Street scene near the Mercado market. Some people have a gift for sleeping. Perhaps he counts goats?

Market colors are bright even during the rainy season. Again, the Mercado market area which is huge and confusing.

Conference attendees were treated to an authentic Ethiopian meal at the Dimma Cultural Restaurant. Small mounds of unidentifiable food (one platter veggie, one platter meat including tripe), are transported to the mouth with scraps of the injera bread on which the little mounds sit. I tried it all. Along with generous quaffs of St George beer.

At the International Community School of Addis, we had excellent tech support by students. Not just knowledgeable, but nice!


International school campuses tend to have lush grounds and ICS was no exception. I would send my grandchildren to this school in a heartbeat. Great staff and great programs. (The director of schools actually cooked for us at his home!) A small oasis in this developing country.

I said to myself many times during my short visit "I wish every student in the US could spend a single day in a place like Addis Ababa." I believe they would go home thankful for so many things we simply take for granted: clean water, reliable electricity, good roads, and a standard of living most of Ethiopia can only dream about. 




True size of Africa

We Americans on the whole are woefully ignorant of world geography - even the best educated of us. If asked to name the provinces of Canada or identify Uganda on a map or tell which countries border Laos, I'd flunk the test.

Even so, I was surprised by how many people warned me about traveling to "Africa" (referring to it as though it were a country rather than a continent) certain I would contract Ebola immediately on landing.  

The outbreak of Ebola is in West Africa; Ethiopia is in East Africa. The center of the Ebola outbreak is closer to Paris than to Addis Abeba. Inter-country transportation is difficult.

In respect to Africa's size, compare this old Mercator projection in which Greenland and the entire African continent are roughly the same size:


to the Homolosine projection that tries to keep land mass right sized:

Kind a hard to even find Greenland in this map.

As much as I believe students should be able to find information and solve problems and construct meaning, I also believe that they need a foundational knowledge (cultural literacy?), that grounds their knowledge making. 

John Wooden once said that the two most important words in the English language are love and balance. A good education is all about balance. 






BFTP: Today's realization