Monthly Archives: February 2016

An Ethiopian Odyssey: The Final Days (Making Books)

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The rest of my days in Ethiopia found me in the capital city. I’m not a city girl; no matter the country, I love the countryside. Addis Ababa is a bustling, rapidly growing city. It reportedly has a population of 3,384,569, with a growth rate of 3.8 percent, but  both numbers are widely considered underrated, according to Wikipedia.

But it gives you an idea. The city is chaotic, but it has a certain energy and bustle that is charming. I catch glimpses of the mountains surrounding Addis in the distance and I find peace.

Today we are here for bookmaking, and bookmaking we shall do!

First is bookmaking day. My dear friend Jane Kurtz is a very accomplished children’s book  author who grew up here in Ethiopia. She is also the co-founder of Ethiopia Reads. She has a passion for literacy in Ethiopia. Her dream for an Ethiopian Odyssey II was to create simple early reading books for children in their own language. Their are over 80 languages in Ethiopia, but school is always taught in Amharic. Then by, grade 7, school is in English.

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What we have learned is millions of kids never get to read a book in their own spoken language, and studies show this makes learning Amharic and then English that much harder. Plus, doesn’t every early learner deserve books to read? We think so. And so we —  the Ethiopian Odyssey II team, working with Ethiopia Reads — schedule a day working with local children to illustrate and write books.

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And so we did, all day long. We created. This is just the starting point for the bookmaking, we will have much art to do back in the States, but the ideas, the storylines, the starting points for illustration, has happened here in Ethiopia, on this day, with these kids, and that, my friends, is a bit of the extraordinary!

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In our next blog you will get to visit the artists’ studios … stay tuned. In the meantime, you can read more about Ethiopia Reads and An Ethiopian Odyssey by clicking here.

An Ethiopian Diary: Day 11

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Beauty from the countryside

It’s another day in the truck. Travel through Ethiopia is not fast, nor particularly comfortable. But fun? Yes, we can muster that.

It’s not hard in Ethiopia; warm smiles and kindness greet us around every bend. Bumping along in our truck, we spot amazingly decorated homes. “Stop!” Poor Demise, our extremely good natured driver, hears this repeatedly. Getting from Point A to Point B is made infinitely more difficult with a truck full of artists stopping the truck to record the beauty all around. Still, he is good natured about it all, and maybe even having a bit of a good time.

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The artistry of the huts is truly amazing!

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The design inspires!

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Tree trunk pillars. So beautiful!

Over we pull, off to the side of the road. As we attract a crowd, out comes my Polaroid, the great friend-maker. One of the women in the crowd stood out, funny, with a laugh that was like a scream filled with joy. Upon seeing her own image, she let out the loudest laugh of all. She laughed and laughed, but she also said her hair was a mess. Women will be women all the world over. I made a mental note to myself to try very hard to be kind to myself.

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A gorgeous smile from a lady who knows how to laugh.

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Just as our team is discussing the beautiful black and white Guereza monkeys we had been enchanted with throughout our trip, we spot some on the side of the road, but they are fast and elude our cameras ones again. So we stop to buy bananas. And while this did not work on the Guereza monkey, it did work on the baboons. Seeing wild animals in their usual habitat and open natural element is such a thrill. (See video at bottom of blog.)

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The elusive Guereza monkeys

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Our bananas finally come in handy!

And this is how it goes, traveling Ethiopia with a group of artists. We respond to our elements, we react with the situations around us and store it up. We are having fun on the road, but it’s never far from our minds that we are here for a reason beyond all of these rich and fun experiences. We are here to support literacy and education. We are here for Ethiopia Reads and the sweet ones they serve.