by Emily Gretland
Enjoying an overdue breakfast on the small plane from Addis to Gondar, I peer out the window as we descend and glimpse my first view of this beautiful country. The vibrant shades of green are arranged in checkerboard patterns across the land and provide a lush coating on the mountains. It’s so different to anything I have seen before, especially when compared to the dryer and barer landscape of home, Norway. I cannot help but snap some phone shots from the window. Riding in the taxi on my way to the Link Office, I am overwhelmed with first impressions. My eyes are darting from this to that, wondering whether to settle on the goats, cows, farmers herding their cattle, or concentrate on the road and my taxi driver’s excellent ability to dodge any donkey in our way. Arriving in Gondar feels like a big warm hug in contrast to Addis, which on a short one-day visit felt rather chaotic and intimidating.
We are in Gondar centre now and the taxi rumbles along the quaintly bricked streets. The taxi stops and I am pleased to see that the Link Office, which is also our accommodation, is situated on a charming street full of little shops, houses and cafes. Children are playing in the road and women are preparing “wot” and “shero” outside their cafés.
The welcoming Link staff greet me and show me around the accommodation area. We step into a tranquil garden and I ask whether the space belongs to the offices. It turns out it belongs to the owners of Valentine café. Valentine is situated just adjacent to the Link office, which makes it feel like our very own private garden. Not surprisingly, it turns out I spend most of my free time in this idyllic café with the other volunteers and Link staff, having “shero” or “misr”, participating in a traditional coffee ceremony or simply enjoying a cold “dashen” (a local Gondar beer) after a long day of work. It has been fantastic getting stuck in here at the office. As an intern in the Link Ethiopia Gondar office, I am participating in a research project with the aim of identifying barriers to girls’ education in Ethiopia, and more specifically in the areas in which Link Ethiopia operates. A report, which shall be the end product of this collaborative effort, is aimed at assisting the identification and implementation of a new Link Project directed towards helping girls enter and stay in education.
The work has so far been a joy and I feel lucky to be a part of it. Not yet half way through my time here, I already know that one of my favourite memories has been developing and being part of conducting a focus group on girls education in a rural school about 30km outside of Gondar town. Collaborating with the Gondar staff we were able to ask questions and listen to the opinions of young female and male students as well as their parents and teachers on the topic of female education. These experiences and the expertise of the Gondar staff in the area of education, gives anyone who spends time in these offices, an opportunity to learn so much, not only about education in Ethiopia but also about Ethiopian culture and society. I am anxious to see what experiences the rest of my time here will bring and I know already that I will be sad to leave in a month’s time.