Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ethiopia reads

I hope you took a few minutes to view these videos! I expect it is impossible for me to describe the joy they bring me on so many levels. Most personal, is hearing the language of my childhood. My parents were missionaries in Ethiopia many, many years ago. The first memories ever that I have involve the music of the Amharic language, the dust and sun of northern Ethiopia and the smells and flavors of wot and injera cooked over charcoal and eucalyptus. In fact, for many years, I'm told, I thought every animal was some version of a donkey, large or small, even the first giraffe I saw in a zoo. Yup, it was "such a very large donkey", to the eternal amusement of my parents.

My friends know I love my books. I was raised surrounded by books. I have many memories of one of my parents reading to me and my sister and brothers, night after night. Later, in Helsinki, I was introduced to the children's department in a library near my home by my best friend, Sari. I did not know I could take the books home. I was far too shy to even look the librarians in the eye. But day after day, that last summer we spent in Finland before coming to Canada, I crept into the library, took a stack of books off the shelf, sat at one of the child-sized tables to read and got lost in a world of wonder and imagination.

I read about Curious George. I read about Babar the Elephant. I read beautifully illustrated Russian fairy tales. I read and read and read. Hours later, I would emerge to blink at the summer sunshine and stumble home, my imagination stimulated, and a little worried that I might have be late for dinner.

When we came to Canada, my father began the custom of taking us to the library once a week. We were allowed to borrow 8 books each (library rules). My father tried to steer our reading towards biographies, history and science. But we slipped in lots of fantasy too! Imagine: every week, for several years, each of us read 40 books, thanks to having 4 siblings!

I remember an argument my parents had when I was about 12 or 14. Xaviera Hollander's book, The Happy Hooker, appeared in my mother's closet (where I was snooping, I admit), so naturally I had to read it. I thought it might be a source of trouble, but I was terribly curious and I read it. Of course, my father found me reading it and as I quickly blamed my mother, a fight ensued. I'll never forget my mother saying she would rather her children read about the world than having to find out things the hard way by having to live everything, an argument for which my poor dad had no answer!

That has been my belief ever since. Knowledge is power. Without knowledge, nobody can make wise or informed decisions. Now, I find I don't have the time to read about everything that makes me curious! Ah me! Life is just too short.

Anyway, back to Ethiopia Reads. I am going to Ethiopia, as you already know, in November, to run in the 10 km Great Ethiopian Race in Addis Ababa. What I want you to do is to check out Ethiopia Reads' website. They are also now on Facebook. Most certainly, donate if you can. Or, tell your friends about Ethiopia Reads, or just wish me luck in the race in November.

Someone recently grumbled to me that he could not see how anything he did could help someone in Africa (or any other troubled part of the world). Okay, I admit I'm a naively hopeful bleeding-heart liberal. But I cannot believe anybody is that much of an ostrich that he really believes what he buys, what he consumes, how he lives, what he says and who he votes to govern his country, does not have some impact on somebody else in the most far-flung corners of the world! It is impossible to believe our actions do not affect others! I love the image of the butterfly wing causing a hurricane on the other side of the world.

So, let's give a few kids the opportunity to read, to imagine, to play with ideas. And let's see what might happen!

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Blogger Sky said...

this is such a moving post. thank you for sharing your feelings, bits and pieces about your life, and the videos. your life has been rather fascinating....lucky you! :)

7:35 a.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

I am very lucky, I know, and I'm humbly grateful.

8:19 p.m.  

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