Following their competition schedules of the 2012-13 academic calendar, fifteen Ohio State student-athletes will be traveling this summer as part of the Ohio State Study Abroad Program. Overall, the international study abroad group is comprised of eight women and seven men from 12 different varsity programs, traveling to eight different countries. The Buckeyes will be updating family, friends and fans on their experiences overseas this summer via the blog entries below. Here is a list of participating study abroad student-athletes:
Quotes From Participating Study Abroad Student-Athletes Prior to Departure:
“I’ve never been anywhere in the Middle East and though it would be a great chance to experience cultures that I’ve never been exposed to.”
“I think this experience will help me be able to work with different types of people of different types of backgrounds. It will also show future employers that I am able to work in diverse and busy situations.”
Wednesday, May 1
More to come later. Off for the first night in Brasil!!!
Friday, May 3
Goodbye comfort zone, hello to the unknown! My mind is open to all things new. -Heidi
Saturday, May 4
Random comment: Not carrying around a cell phone is awesome. Some people bought a prepaid phone to use, but I'm going completely cell phone free. Yes it's difficult to plan events, but I'm happy to see people engaged in the present moment.
Sunday we went to the water park which was a lot different than the ones in the states. There were no life guards and pretty much no rules, which was awesome because as a group we were able to go down the slides all together. We have gone to the university and had the opportunity to talk to students that are majoring in translation, so they could speak English, which was nice.
The culture is much different but many of us are learning their customs already. The people here are very clean; they do not eat with their hands and they take showers 3 times a day. Everyone here speaks Portuguese so as travelers the term EW Nao Falo, which in Portuguese means I do not speak English, has come in handy.
On our first full day we had the opportunity to tour the Israeli Supreme Court and even sit in on an appeal of a murder charge. It was really interesting to hear what our Supreme Court guide had to say about the Israeli justice systems as well as some of the comments our tour guide makes because it's so clear that there are different political narratives here. Our group had a long talk after dinner with our teachers, one from OSU and one from Indiana University who are both extremely knowledgeable about the region, and we all remembered hearing comments that were clearly politicized and sometimes flat out wrong.
Tomorrow is our first trip into the Old City which should be exciting!
I've met so many awesome people so far. People don't usually talk on the bus or tube (London underground subway) but I like striking up conversations with strangers. People who know me think I'm either really friendly or maybe crazy for talking to strangers but I'm just curious. I think life is all about interaction.
We were able to take a tour of a sugar cane mill where they gave us a lecture on how the work is done, and they let us try actual sugar cane. The company is called Noble Bioenergy and the people there were really nice.
I had the best meal of my life at a Brazilian steak house. It was 20 dollars for all you can eat. They had about 20 different kinds of beef, chicken, and fish. They even had an all you can eat sushi bar! I tried everything, even a chicken heart, which I found out what it was after I put it in my mouth and started chewing. I don't think I'll be trying chicken heart again anytime soon.
My favorite part of the trip so far has been being able to visit Projecto Viva. It is a government-funded after-school program for children with working parents to go and be able to learn. The schooling here is different than in our country. They go to school for about five hours then they are done for the day. We were able to talk to the students whose ages ranged from about six to 15. Even though they spoke Portuguese we still managed to try and have conversations; mostly by drawing pictures or using our hands to talk. We were able to play soccer with them and those kids are really, really good. They pretty much made us all look like fools, but it was a lot of fun. We sat in on classes where the students learn dances, the English language, and even how to draw graffiti. In Brazil it's not illegal to do graffiti as long as you write your name when you're done.
We are now leaving rio preto and on our way to São Paulo where we stay for a couple days until we leave for Salvador. We get to go to the soccer game on Sunday which is one of the biggest games of the year. They described it as our Super Bowl and everyone is beyond excited for the experience.
After the museum we went to a semifinal soccer game at Estado Municipal between the Corinthians and Santos. It was a home game for the Corinthians so we rooted for them. The game gets so intense that if you root for any team but the home team you are fenced off and police officers surround you to protect you from other fans. There were over 40,000 fans at the game and people went insane. I have never experienced anything like it. They would yell at the refs all in sync, sing, dance, and scream. I would compare it to the Ohio State vs Michigan game, but five times more intense. When we left we actually had to run through the tunnel because the other team's fans were trying to rush where we were so they could fight the Corinthian fans, which was a little scary.
On Monday we went to UNESP São Paulo which is an institute of art. We were able to watch the choir sing, people play instruments and also watch people paint. The students there are very talented because it is very hard to get into the school.
We then went to Paulista avenue which is the financial center of Latin America. After we went there we went to Praca De Square which is the center of São Paulo. It was really cool with a lot of old buildings and tons of people. There are over 30 million people in the city!
Today we left for Salvador and right now we are sitting in the airport waiting to get on the plane. Security was very lenient. We could take water through, didn't have to take off our shoes or take anything out of our bags. So it's a little different here in Brazil, but not having so many rules is actually kind of nice. People here aren't out of control and they don't take advantage of the lack of rules, so it works!
Before going through the checkpoints we visited a refugee camp. One of the things about the camp that stuck to me the most was the graffiti on the walls, some pictures and some written. I was really blown away by the creativity and skill in some of the works, almost all of which are protests against Israeli policies. Today was certainly a tough day but I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to see these issues and spend all day discussing them with the other students on this trip, all of whom are absolutely wonderful.
It is surprising that the food is a little different here. Everything is cooked with a more spice and oil. I really like it but it is a little different than what I am used to. The oil used here is called palm oil and its thicker and sweeter than the olive oil I use at home.
We are studying at a school called ACBEU. It's also a lot different than UNESP in Rio Preto. It is smaller with a lot less students and technology. We have had Portuguese classes everyday and everyone is getting better and better at communicating. My home stay family is great! The two ladies, who I think are sisters, both speak not a word of English, so it's safe to say when I get back to the United States I will be the best charades player around!
We went to a school in a very poor part of town called Escola Aberta Do Calabar. It really made me realize how privileged we are in the United States. These kids live in houses that are falling apart and there are homeless people living in boxes on the street outside of the school. To get to the school we had to walk down a back ally and it's in the middle of what we would call the slums. The children at the school were amazing. They had us partner up with a child and we both drew a picture together and then presented it to the class in both English and Portuguese. After that they showed us a dance called "capoeira," where the children fake fight by kicking over each other and moving in a rhythmic pattern.
We have been learning about the Afro Brazilian religion called Candomble. We had several lectures on it. It is more of a spiritual religion where the followers believe that they are controlled by a spirit. This religion is consisted of healing, divination , initiation, sacrifice, possession and celebration. Their church sessions consist of people being over taken by their spirits from above and speaking in tongues. It honestly scared me going in the museum and hearing that they sacrifice animals and people become possessed. It was a good experience though being able to learn about a religion that I have never heard about.
We were finally able to go to in the ocean today. The water is about 70 degrees! It was great to finally get in the ocean but I cut my knee on a rock that was submerged in the water! We also learned Brazlian dances for two hours, which was really nice but everyone in the class was dripping sweat by the end of it. It was more like a Zumba class in a sauna because it was hot and muggy outside.
We leave for Lencois this weekend, and it's supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in Salavador. We will be hiking, zip-lining, repelling, swimming and enjoying great scenery while we are there. I've been looking forward to this part of the trip since we got to Brazil!
Today I ventured through Portobello Market, famous for vintage and fashion items. There were lots of booths that had "garage sale" type items, but marked up. The atmosphere is pretty neat, with lots of tourists and unique items for sale. I then went to the grocery store and bought some banana milk and some custard tarts. Cheers to trying new things every day!
Right when we get got off the bus from the six hour bus ride we climbed Morro Do Pai Inacia. The entire place used to be under water and it was 1200 meters high. It was a really uneven trail but it was a great thing to do to get our legs moving. We then headed for our hotel where again we got off the bus and walked there. We went through sand beaches, caves and all sorts of trails through the back woods to get there. The city is pretty small, and it seems like everyone knows everyone, but they are all very nice and surprisingly many of them speak English!
On Sunday we went to the Gruta Da Lapa Doce. It's a cave that is 45 meters down into the earth. It was really dark and they gave us flash lights to see. Unlike the caves I've been to in the States, this cave was actually really warm when we were inside and there wasn't much of a temperature change when we started getting deeper in. Once we were in the darkest part of the cave they had everyone shut off their flash flights and sit quietly. It was definitely something I have never experienced. It was a little scary because we were in a black cave and literally couldn't see anything! But it was really cool to get to experience something like that.
After the cave we went to Mucugezinho- poco do pato e paco do diabo, where we saw waterfalls and were able to swim in them. We were able to go down a zip line into the water, which was extremely fun. The water had a red tint to it and you couldn't see anything below the water. Swimming in it was a bit scary because you couldn't even see a foot down.
At dinner we were surprised with kids coming and performing capoeira. It's a type of Afro Brazilian dance that incorporates fighting and moving around and doing flips. It was really cool to watch and something I've never been able to experience before. We were able to bring the children gifts and they were very happy for that.
We spent today hanging out and shopping. It was our last day here. Since it was such a busy weekend we ended up sleeping the entire six hour bus ride home; which was great because everyone was exhausted.
For dinner, we had a class dinner at an Indian restaurant. Indian food is very prominent in London and some of my classmates tried curry for the first time! I love that eating is a part of our learning. We need food to fuel our brain! ;)
We have been to several Capoeira shows and every time we go they get better and better. Tuesday we went to a school called Baguncaco where we actually learned how to do capoeira! I didn't enjoy it because the teacher literally cornered me into the wall andn started doing kicks and punches over my head... You think being a hockey player that I wouldn't be scared of much but I looked like a kitten running away from the vacuum cleaner!
We were able to visit Pelourinho, which is the downtown of Salvador. Wednesday we got a tour of this part and visited museums and churches. One church called Saint Franciscanous is made from over 600 pounds of gold! We were able to walk around and the church was honestly one of the most beautiful, detailed places I have ever been to. After the tour we went to a folk ballet where the actors put on a show of capoeira; singing and dancing in amazing costumes.
Thursday we woke up early and went to the beach. We met Bruno on Tuesday and he has been our chair and beverage guy ever since. He's the only one that can speak English out of all the sellers so he makes a ton of money off of us. A couple of guys in the group rented a paddle board and let everyone try it! Surprisingly it wasn't that hard besides if a wave came, because then it was pretty much a surf board and you would fall off!
After that we were able to shop downtown and spend the day buying souvenirs. It was great until I got hustled by a little kid. He came up to me and my roommate and asked for food for his little brother. So being the great Ohio State University students that we are, we took him in the store and bought baby formula and diapers. Little did we know that after we left and turned the corner to leave he went right back in the store, returned the merchandise and got the money. I was not happy! But I still feel good about my good deed!
We leave for Morro De São Paulo tomorrow! It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in Brazil and I cannot wait!
I know all this is very complicated but what I want to focus on is not the questions of legality or policy, but simply humanity and individual decisions. The women told us that the settlers that have moved into the first house have done everything they can think of to try to drive the family away. When the Palestinian family walks by the first house along the sidewalk that connects the second house to the street, the settlers curse and insult them. They train dogs to attack them and try to offend the family by walking in front of the windows naked, forcing the Palestinian family to put up layers and layers of curtains on their windows. These are just some of the actions taken by the Jewish settlers in the first house but none of them compares to what they have done to the elderly woman who was sitting to my left. She is maybe in her late 80s or early 90s, an age at which no matter what your cultural beliefs you should be showing her extreme respect and ready to do anything to help her. Instead, the settlers once pushed her, causing her to be hospitalized since she fell and hit her head. As if that wasn't enough, we were told that about four years ago she went to the first house to try to get her furniture back and settlers broke her arm. When I hear stories like this politics is the last thing on my mind. These are not issues of politics; they are issues of morality and the decisions taken by individuals. Everyone has a choice on a personal level of whether or not to engage in such atrocious behavior. During our time in Jerusalem so many people kept repeating the phrase "the situation is complicated". While I do agree that certain logistical aspects of the conflict are complicated, many things are not. Whether or not to take someone's house and repeatedly abuse neighbors is not complicated; it's black and white. It's flat out wrong, simple as that. No matter where we live, what religion we practice, our ethnic background or our political views, in the end we decide how we want to behave and treat others.
As we were leaving the house, we tried to offer the family a small donation for taking the time to welcome us into their home. They politely declined and repeatedly told us that all they want is for people to hear about what is going on. This post is my fulfillment of the promise I made to them. I encourage people to look into what is going on in Sheikh Jarrah, there is plenty of info on this issue available online.
I'm sorry to make my last post about an absolutely amazing trip so heavy but this trip really reminded me that we can't shy away from difficult issues and that we need to speak out about what is important to us. Again this post was not meant as a political statement, just the fulfillment of a promise to one of the most resilient women I have ever had the honor of sitting with in the same room.
We had a tour of the island where we saw a battle house, cannons, a prison, old church's, and an outdoor bathing tub. The island has no cars and is very hilly with a lot of forest covering it. We got a really good leg work out while taking the tour. When we hiked up to one of the highest points of the island there was a zip line that we could take down into the water near the beach. It was really high, but so much fun. When we took the first step off the edge we were over rocks, but as we went down faster we made it to the water and it was a huge rush!
The world is a really small place! As a couple of us were taking an O-H-I-O picture we were approached by two little kids that were from Columbus! Come to find out their dad is the owner of Evolved and he was a Portuguese major at Ohio State. We ended up talking to the kids and their father for a while, which was really interesting to hear his story and his travel experiences.
Saturday we had a boat pick us up and take us to a bunch of little islands where we were able to snorkel, swim and play in the sand. It seems like the second anyone gets to the beach they turn into little kids again. We spent our day riding the waves and building sand castles. The best part about the boat trip was when we stopped on a beach and we all took a mud bath! The guide we were with grabbed us a bunch of mud and he made paste out of it, which we put all over our bodies. It felt really weird and after we washed it off our bodies felt slimy but really soft and smooth.
One important thing that I have learned while in Brazil: when you kill one bee, you will be swarmed by 100 other bees coming for revenge! They told me this after I killed about 5 bees that got into my room because the door was left open. When I looked out the window again there was honestly over 100 bees trying to get in to take their fallen soldiers bodies back to their nest for a proper burial.
The group that we are with really loves animals and on the island we adopted a stray kitten for the weekend. We named it Milo and it followed us around everywhere we went. It may be because the fact we kept feeding it every chance we got, but leaving him was a very emotional experience!
Today we had the morning free and we all woke up at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise. Too bad it was pouring when we all met so we woke up for no reason! It continued to rain the whole morning and we just sat in the hotel playing cards and talking.
It's unbelievable how fast this study abroad experience has went. Tomorrow we have our goodbye lunch with our host family and one last night in Salvador. I came on this study abroad trip knowing not a word of Portuguese, nothing about the culture of Brazil, and not anyone on the trip. I'm leaving being able to actually understand what people are saying to me and speak back to them. I have also learned what is expected of people in this country and have made many new friends from the United States, Rio Preto, São Paulo and Salvador. This experience has changed me for the better as it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and have the courage to go somewhere I could have ever imagined going. Thank you to the athletic department and the university for giving me to opportunity to experience this!
From the beginning, the whole idea of studying abroad seemed nothing but exciting to me. It wasn't until a couple of days before leaving for London that I started feeling nervous. I love being in situations that force me to make new friends and figure things out. But why did I choose London? I chose to study abroad in London because it is a global city and fashion hub. I wanted to observe what the locals wore and learn about London style, but I left with much more than just being inspired.
Removing myself from my comfort zone and studying in a new country gave me the chance to adapt. When I first arrived in London, I had to quickly learn the tube and bus system so that I could find my way around. I didn't get a phone because I wanted to be as tech-free as possible. I used my iPad to communicate with my family and occasionally blog, but didn't want to be attached to a phone. Without a phone, I had to learn how to communicate clearly with my peers so that we could meet up. I learned that it is possible to live life without a cell phone. I came up with a strategy that if I couldn't find the person I was trying to meet up with within 20 minutes, I would just go on without them or go home and hope to meet up next time. Thankfully, I was always able to get together successfully with friends. I always made sure I knew where I had to be at the right time and would ask locals to help me find the location. My handy dandy London map never left my side and helped me tremendously to explore the city.
Studying abroad enriched my academic experience because it taught me more about myself. I now have a better grasp of how I learn, (through discussions and the use of visuals), and what interests me, (such as architecture and design). Moreover, being street smart is not something that can be taught in the classroom. Occasionally, I was faced with stressful situations but had to use my common sense to find a solution. My student life at Ohio State is somewhat unchanging and easy, so I enjoyed every opportunity to be challenged. I loved that every day was different and we were always discovering new places. We were getting engaged in the culture by visiting museums, going to comedy shows, and eating scones and clotted cream. I learn best from people's stories and absorb more from being in real life scenarios, not just reading about them. I have been drawn to come back to London. I was never bored because there is always something to do and new people to meet. I love the busy, on-the-go lifestyle that Londoners live and would love to work in London for at least a couple of years after graduation. It would be a great place for me to create connections all over the world and begin my fashion career.
Traveling in a different country didn't just benefit me, but allowed me to contribute to London society as well. Through this experience, I learned that life is a proper balance of giving and taking. I believe that life is about reciprocity, you give what you can to help out those who are in need, because you never know what will happen in the future and when you might need help. Traveling has kept me thinking in the present, to absorb the beauty that is all around me instead of worrying about things I have no control over. I gave to the city of London my smiles and positive energy, and received a lot of kind love in return. I will continue to be awestruck by the kind acts of strangers, who take the time out of their crazy, busy life to help someone out.
It's close-minded to think that all places geographically distant are culturally distant too. Sometimes I forgot how similar humans are, regardless of where they are in the world. Studying abroad for a month has taught me to be more open-minded and to be respectful of everyone around me. I am thankful that this program gave me the opportunity to be a part of the British culture. Now it's my last day of class and it's a bittersweet moment. Getting lost on a double decker, navigating around a new city without a cell phone, and getting lost some more in London may have been the best adventure of my life that resulted in finding myself once again.
Just wanted to check in and say hi! We just finished day two of camp. I'm coaching basketball and teaching physics to both 7th and 8th graders. It's been well over 100 degrees since I've been here, but luckily the beach is close by so we go swimming after camp.
I wanted to thank the athletic department for supporting this trip. I know this is a once in a lifetime experience and I couldn't be more excited about the next two and a half weeks. I'm in the process of teaching the kids to say "GO BUCKS" and I'll be sure to send along a video once they have it down.
The past two weekends I've had the opportunity to travel around a bit and see multiple temples, ruins, beaches and mountains. My favorite of the places we've visited was definitely the port city of Hoi An. We went this past Saturday night and in celebration of the new moon, the entire city was lit with lanterns. The streets were filled with tourists and locals alike and the cafes and shops were all buzzing.
The Vietnamese coaches took us to a cafe which served a special noodle dish, Cam Loa, which are only available in Hoi An. This was by far my favorite dish of the trip and it was exciting to try a food that was also new and exciting for the Vietnamese since many of them had never been to Hio An. After dinner we made our way down towards the river where we lit lanterns and sent them down the river for good luck.
I truly can not believe how quickly the trip has flown by. It's incredible to watch the kids grow over the course of a few weeks and I am already upset by the thought of leaving them. I am also incredibly thankful for the amazing group of both American and Vietnamese coaches who have made this trip unforgettable.
To introduce myself to the viewers of this blog my name is Korbin Smith. I recently finished my fourth year at The Ohio State University majoring in Health Sciences. I just finished my athletic career at OSU competing on the Men's Track and Field team. I was very blessed to receive the study abroad scholarship from SASSO and am working on a medical research trip in Ethiopia. Three graduate students from OSU and myself will be working with students from the University of Gondar in Ethiopia to conduct a baseline needs assessment for rabies within Ethiopia. I will be here for 37 days.
I got here yesterday morning (we are seven hours ahead of those in Ohio). After some flight trouble our trip ended up taking us two full days. Nonetheless, we made it to our destination baggage and all. When we landed in Gondar I was blown away as we drove from the airport to our hotel. The sights I witnessed were breathtaking and it was as if I was watching the Discovery Channel. We were seeing things that we see on television such as young African families riding or ushering their donkeys piled high with vegetation, or dozens of shepherd's herding their livestock using a traditional shepherd staff. I am a long way from Columbus.
For a society that lives impoverished they are very generous people. I learned that when going to a meal with a group it is customary for one person to pay for everyone. They never pay for meals individually. One person just simply takes the check and pays for everyone without hesitation. While I am and will always be proud to be an American citizen, it really makes you think of how different our societies are. People here have very little yet share everything. They work together as a society to help each other. When is the last time you took a group of 12 to dinner and paid for the bill on general principal? It is very exciting to learn of the customs in this country.
We got a tour of campus yesterday. I was surprised how large their University is with several different campuses next to each other. Things are very different here with many dirt roads through campus that aren't particularly smooth and some not even drivable. We got to observe a microbiology class as they worked in the lab. After an exciting tour I got a chance to call home and talk to my mother who apparently stayed up till 2:30am the previous night waiting for my call. While it does seem like I'm a terrible son for not calling, my phone had died and it was a period where we didn't have electricity. In all of Gondar electricity is very unreliable.
This morning for breakfast we ate in our hotel, since most of the workers do not speak fluent English there have been some learning curves. For instance, no matter what beverage we order to drink we always seem to receive papaya juice. While there are worse things to receive, the papaya juice is more like shredded papaya. It isn't served cold so it is very difficult to drink.
We started jogging and I quickly remembered that Gondar is at 8,000 feet above sea level so it was much harder to breathe. As the jog continued Yosef had us do drills which ended up looking like a Richard Simmons workout video through fields all around Gondar. For those of you Ohioans that forget what hills and mountains feel like to run up let me remind you that it is not enjoyable. Due to the language difference we were not able to tell what the young kids were saying as they chased us and laughed. If I were to guess it would be, "look how tall and uncoordinated that large white man is." As we continued to jog I realized our definition of a short jog and Yosef's was vastly different. We had to tell him to slow down and stop many times on our seven mile run up a mountain. Needless to say I have retired from distance running.
If there ever was a competition for the first OSU student to get sick in Africa I came out victorious. I have tried many different types of dishes without getting sick. However, I figured I would give their American equivalent to a cheeseburger a try and it was a bad decision. Although I have been under the weather things have still been quite enjoyable. Unlike when I feel ill in the US, getting ill here is much more serious. Majority of our Ethiopian collaborators have reached out to me in one way or another to make sure I am ok. They are all truly compassionate and caring.
Since the rest of our research team changed cities I am the only one left in Gondar until tomorrow. I immediately noticed people are more willing to practice their English on an individual rather than a group. My waitress for dinner tonight was practicing with me and I could tell she was very excited when I understood and responded. While many villages have children who will ask for money, most around here simply want to practice their English. I can understand what it feels like to try to have a conversation in a language you aren't familiar with. Anytime I can say "hello" or "thank you" in Amharic I do so to try to fit in. I have also noticed that most conversations stop briefly when I walk into a room. In the natives defense there aren't a lot of 6'3 blonde haired, blue-eyed males walking around in athletic shorts and an OSU t-shirt. To them I am a spectacle. Now whether that is a good or a bad thing remains to be determined. All in all as we continue our stay here in Gondar I am constantly impressed with the class and generosity of the people of Ethiopia.
Luckily for me this means I now have a cold. I am beginning to think I have a weak immune system, as I am always the only one to get sick. From Debre Tabor we met with Dr. Gebreyes, who brought a photographer and a neurosurgeon from Ohio State, Dr. Eric (never got his last name). It was good to see others from Ohio. We drove to Bahir dar which is the city that borders Lake Tana, the biggest lake in Ethiopia. Being a fishing connoisseur it was very neat to see the traditional fishing methods.
We celebrated finishing the data by going to a traditional Ethiopian club in which we saw many styles of "shoulder dancing." I think I can dance better in Ethiopia than in the U.S. As long as you can move your shoulders to the music you can be accepted as a dancer here. People are less inclined to judge me on my overall lack of rhythm, or if they are judging me it is in Amharic and I can't tell.
Once we returned to Gondar it was the big day!! I got to pick up my suit that I had ordered in the city a week ago. Since I am a rather tall, skinny, and lengthy individual, the suits already made did not fit me. Dr. Tamiru, a partner we have been working with, took me to his tailor who agreed to make me a suit from the cloth of my choosing for 1900 birr. While that might seem like a lot in the U.S. that is equivilant to 100 USD. This is extrememly cheap for a customized tailored suit. So far this is the best investment I have made. The suit fits excellently or in Amharic (Ejig Batam Tiru).
Being able to spend 3 weeks with the students was amazing. We had 2 american coaches and two Vietnamese coaches for every team. I had to red team. They were all so sweet, smart, athletic, kind, and generous. I could not imagine having a better team. I coached soccer and taught math.
Getting a long with the kids was very easy. Just by being an american they looked up to us. They valued everything we said and did. Each student will forever be a part of my life. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I don't think I have ever cried that much before. The look on their faces said it all. They love us as much as we love them. Since I left some of them have been messaging me on facebook. They don't speak english but they look up sentences online. It is amazing that I can still talk to some of them. A couple of the kids have told me they will study hard so they can come to america and see me. Me and a softball player from Boston College are going to travel next summer and try to visit the school again and find as many students as we can.
I would definitely recommend this trip! There are a few surprises like the living situations and the food but they are doable. All in all meeting the kids outweighed everything. It was an experience of a lifetime and I wish I could have stayed longer. The kids are very dear to my heart and I will never forget them. They have completely changed my life and I will forever owe them.
After the conference in Addis finished we were about to do some touring throughout the capital of Ethiopia. Downtown Addis has the biggest market in all of Africa. This market is essentially hundreds of small stores all selling a mixture of food, clothes and souvenirs. Growing up in a family in which going to Garage Sales was a family activity we looked forward too, I was prepared for the price negotiations that were about to take place. In other words, "this wasn't my first rodeo."
As we entered the shops I think the store owners saw dollar signs. Most believe and perhaps correctly assume that all American's have a lot of money (at least comparatively with Ethiopians). While I did have a decent amount of birr to spend on souvenirs, I wasn't giving up my money without a price battle. After feeling out the atmosphere of many different shops, I began the negotiations. While I am not going to name the specific things I was purchasing due to ruining the surprise for people back home, I can give you a rundown.
After picking two items I liked in one store, the owner told me 300 Birr. After watching many seasons of Pawn Stars I decided that it would be a good strategy to offer half their asking price. After being shocked that I was brave enough to "haggle" with them the owner said 250. I followed up with 200. Ultimately I said 215 as my final offer and they took it saving me 75 Birr. (That one is for you Dad).
Having never really left the United States before, many would think that heading to Sub-Saharan Africa would be a questionable decision at best. I have talked to many who thought I was crazy for wanting to come to Ethiopia for this medical research project. Why would we want to go somewhere that doesn't have the technology and resources we American's are so used too? When I came on this trip I was excited about being able to help a nation that desperately needed help from more industrialized nations.
With the knowledge I have gained I think it is safe to say I was wrong and somewhat naïve in my beliefs of what African nations have to offer. So many times our only knowledge of things and places comes strictly from television. If a beautiful woman with a soft voice shows us pictures of a young African child with flies on its face we might assume that all African children are miserable and desperately need our help.
While there is certainly poverty and a lack of access to proper medical care here, that doesn't stop the people of Ethiopia from enjoying their life. I have been amazed at how little money means to this society. People that have almost nothing are willing to give everything to help someone else. Money doesn't have the controlling power in Ethiopia that it does in the US. When they acquire extra food or money they will donate it to those who need it more. What a concept!! Instead of trying to become rich and acquire tangible objects, they want to share their possessions to make someone else happy. While we in the U.S. are miles ahead of our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia in technology and industry, perhaps, they have something to teach us about morals and integrity.