I met up with Semira and Tahra to head over to Honeyland Hotel. The main workshop organizer, Gina, was staying at Honeyland and that was also where the workshop would be held the next day. We had dinner together in the garden area outside the hotel. I wasn’t very hungry since I had had a late lunch, so Semira and I decided to split a pizza. When our pizza finally arrived, we couldn’t even see it because it was so dark. Luckily, I had my headlamp in my bag. Semira thought it was quite strange to wear a “miner’s accessory” and took a photo of me looking goofy. I was happy to see our strange-tasting pizza though! The crust was sweet and the toppings included hardboiled egg and chunks of brie or gouda cheese that didn’t melt. I can’t say that it was bad...just not at all what I was expecting! We discussed a few of the workshop details and then headed back to our hotel.
Later that morning, I led another session about teaching writing. I should mention that the title of the workshop was “Maximizing the Conditions for Learning English” and Gina had created three overall themes of “exposure”, “use”, and “motivation”. I adapted my material to fit into these three themes. I shared my experiences teaching Intermediate Writing at Haramaya University and suggested various activities that I found effective and useful. I spent some time talking about assessment and how to deal with potentially large class sizes and low-level students. The participants were good listeners and asked me many good questions. Although there are some things I would like to change for future workshops, I thought my first full-session went really well.
Lunch was served buffet-style at the hotel – it was nothing fancy, but included lots of fresh veggies which I appreciated! After lunch, a Peace Corps volunteer named Chris led a session about energizing activities (this was perfect since everyone was feeling a bit sluggish after eating). Gina rounded off the day with a session on teaching reading. She focused specifically on how to use textbook readings that are often far too difficult for the students (and sometimes even the teacher).
On Saturday, the second day of the workshop, things got off to a rocky start. The workshop itself was fine, but everyone was in a bit of a strange mood since there had been an armed robbery late Friday afternoon. A group of Chinese men staying at Honeyland Hotel had been hijacked while driving just outside of Jimma. Sadly, one of them was shot in the neck and did not survive. Since our workshop was being held at Honeyland Hotel, we had to deal with the police coming and going and see the distraught faces of the survivors. It was a surreal situation; I still can’t help but think that our embassy vehicle could have been just as easily targeted. Generally, Ethiopia is very safe and as far as I know, this was an isolated situation. But still...I, and the other workshop participants and presenters, were shook up, to say the least.
Semira gave an excellent and realistic portrayal of the college admissions process in the U.S. So many Ethiopians will tell you that they want to study abroad and will ask for information about scholarships. While it is entirely possible for them to be accepted to American schools and to be eligible for scholarships, most are naïve to the details and the competitiveness of the process. Once again, the participants were interactive and had a lot of questions for Semira and me.
We left the public library to get lunch and head back to the teacher training workshop at Honeyland Hotel. I had another session to lead in the afternoon about the Academic Word List (AWL) and vocabulary teaching ideas. I wasn’t sure how this session would go over with the teachers since most of them were teaching lower-level students. I adapted much of what I had originally planned and spent much of the time having the teachers try out activities/games that I use with my own students. It was a hit! I think the teachers appreciated the practical nature of what I was sharing with them and also enjoyed having fun at the end of a long two days of being “talked at”. At the end of the workshop, all of the teachers received a certificate and many handshakes and congratulations.
The drive back to Jimma on Sunday was fairly uneventful save for the baboons! I purchased several bunches of bananas before we reached the spot where the baboons usually hang out. I got out of the car to feed them, but they were more timid than I had imagined. They refused to take the bananas out of my hand, so I threw them a couple of feet in front of me and tried my best to lure them over to the camera! It became immediately clear who the alpha males were...they managed to steal almost every banana. I tried to spread the “golden” wealth to the whole troop...especially the mother with a tiny baby baboon clenched to her chest, but it was easier said than done!
More photos from my trip to Jimma: