There are 15 Ethiopian girls sitting on benches looking at me with totally blank expressions on their faces. I am saying, “Hello. My name is Kathleen.” They don’t speak. I realize that they don’t understand me at all. They range in age from 7 to 17 (one of the girls has brought her little sister who is too young to be in REAL but came along to see the “ferengi” (foreign) teacher.
“Another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into,” my inner voice says to me. Now what do I do? Then the rain begins as it will every day for the next three months. Since all the roofs on all the buildings are made of tin, it sounds like we’re on a battle field in the heavy rainfall. “Oh, good,” I think. "Not only can’t they understand me, they can’t hear me either."
But this is what I’ve been waiting for for the last 44 years. Ever since I left Ethiopia in 1966, where I had been a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a small village, I have wanted to return. Now I’m retired, my son is grown and gone, and my friend, Tsehai, has offered to let me teach the hundred-plus girls in the REAL program. What a wonderful gift!
Kathleen Moore, REAL teacher
So I begin again. “Hello.” I motion with my hands for them to repeat and the two oldest girls, Fenan and Obse, do. Then the others follow. And we go on from there……