International TESOL Convention 2016: Proposal Acceptance!

Working in conjunction with my colleagues from Tanzania and the Congo (Democratic Republic), we designed a Colloquium Session titled, “The English Language Club Movement: Transforming Lives Across Africa“, in which we aimed to present on aspects from our three different countries as they apply individually to the work we are doing in our respective locations.  Submitting the Proposal for inclusion at TESOL 2016, we just received word of acceptance, and will be presenting in early April at the International Convention in Baltimore!

Congo and Ethiopia
                   Congo and Ethiopia

Approaching the topic from distinct platforms, we will be looking at the roles of English Clubs as they pertain to issues associated with gender equality, LGBT rights, Refugee programs that promote Democracy, as well as various other youth movements which are sustained by these dynamic marginalized learning opportunities created across Africa.  The functions of these clubs are an integral part of learning and community engagement about issues ranging from English language attainment to conflict resolution, and their significance cannot be overstated.  With the four of us presenting over the course of a two-hour session, we will also have students from our respective countries in attendance as well, offering personal views and experiences on how their lives have truly been transformed.

From my particular end, I will be speaking about the Women’s English Club I began last year in Ethiopia, and will be continuing upon my return next week.  Creating an outlet at my University where female students can address issues regarding the obvious gender inequality taking place not only in education but across the social, professional and political landscape, our collective experiences have been a rewarding challenge while generating empowerment through a number of different means.  Learning in a traditional setting certainly has its advantages, but education which takes place outside the realm of the classroom can oftentimes have a longer-lasting impact.

TESOL 2016: Baltimore
             TESOL 2016: Baltimore

To work with such esteemed colleagues such as my Boss, Scott (Tanzania), Senior Fellow, Bryce (DRC), and Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Kathy, is an honor for me, and something which I know I will learn from for my future endeavors, wherever they may be.  Clearly we are excited about our acceptance but at the same time understand that this opportunity to present is not about us but rather it is about those students we are able to reach, from the Highlands of Ethiopia to the shores of Zanzibar to the Jungles of the Congo; helping to provide others with learning opportunities where indeed, The World is Our Classroom!

TESOL 2016 is the largest International Convention of its type within the field of ESL in which I teach, and something which is an honor to be selected for.  Our particular presentaion will be held on Thursday, April 7th from 3 – 5pm in Room 350 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown (Ethiopia)”: Sunday 9pm ET/PT on CNN

Perhaps nothing describes culture better than food.  We are introduced to our respective diets the world over from the time we are infants, and if there were ever such thing as a “last supper”, undoubtedly it would be based on our cultural preferences (Chicken Enchiladas for me).  Just like language, food influences, opens avenues otherwise unexpected, and furthermore allows insights into who we are and where we come from.

A few months ago I was in the capital, Addis Ababa, for some Embassy meetings when I heard a rumor that CNN was in town as well, on location for the filming of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”Pictures were popping up on the Interwebs from the famous spice markets of the city, with particular attention paid to Berbere, a key ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine.  But the spice markets here are endless, like the challenges, with seemingly no beginning and no end, proving that the show and it’s star may in fact be in the country, but leaving little hints as to where.

With more important things on my agenda at the time such as educational-related meetings with work and with the Ethiopian Press Agency, I didn’t pay too much heed to the show, figuring that based on past experiences, they were probably in some cave eating newborn Walia while washing it down with some local Tej.  You can imagine my surprise then when on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, I visited my favorite Hamburger joint in the country, only to walk in on a camera crew surrounding a table of three Ethiopians and one Ferengi!

Sishu is more than a “Hamburger Joint” and in fact is actually a model for Ethiopian businesses, with high wages, local ingredients, and overall sustainable practices.  It turns out that Anthony Bourdain was interested in the exercises taking root here, meeting with the owners for a roundtable discussion on the Ethiopian Diaspora, where the idea for the restaurant itself actually came from.  Seated smack-dab in the middle of the venue (which is actually a warehouse), he sat and talked while cameramen worked their angles and producers whispered into their earpieces.  As the mid-day lunch crown ushered itself in, still they discussed and ate, interested in the food yes, but more so in the combining of two cultures which resonate at Sishu.

Sishu Burger
               Sishu Burger

Lunch was burgers with sweet-toasted buns, seasoned organic beef, locally-raised bacon, imported Gouda cheese, and tangy sauces which combine to form what many here call the best in Addis, let alone the country.  Yet Parts Unknown can probably get a burger wherever they go, instead emphasizing the conceptualization of the restaurant as the main focal point, and something that is hoped to be replicated within the emerging market of one of Africa’s fastest growing economies.  Mr. Bourdain’s main interest may be food, but even he understands the collective practices which go into making it available to others.

As I sat around and enjoyed lunch while watching the filming, I approached the producer to see if I could have a word with Anthony after the formalities were done.  I wanted to express my personal food interests to him as an American living in Ethiopia, and how that has gone to shape the way I view the correlation of culture and diet.  Afterwards then I had an audience with him, explaining my situation while both asking and answering questions about my realities as they pertained to food in East Africa.  It was ironic that the discussion was happening at a hamburger restaurant in Addis Ababa, but I think we both understood that there was more to the menu than burgers and fries.

Mr. Bourdain with Local Children
Mr. Bourdain with Local Children

While that was probably the only American meal he had during his trip, I am sure that he took with him lessons learned about cultural practices and how they can go to shape ideas in the most distant of lands.  Here it wasn’t necessarily about the food, but about the notions behind the kitchen which can go to influence others to find better ways of doing things, irrespective of where we may find ourselves on this great big earth of ours…

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Ethiopia) will air on Sunday, October 18th on CNN!  Check your local listings…

U.S. Embassy Article: “A Little Bit of Ethiopia in Los Angeles”

Art Gallery
                   Art Gallery

“A Little Bit of Ethiopia in Los Angeles”

https://usembassyaddis.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/a-little-bit-of-ethiopia-in-los-angeles/

The rich culture of Ethiopia is not relegated to the confines of East Africa alone, with countless Diaspora living across the world, adding both success and knowledge to the global communities they call home.  Included among these is “Little Ethiopia” located in Los Angeles, California, a vibrant neighborhood that adds to the limitless multiculturalism which helps to define the United States.  The second largest Ethiopian community in the U.S. behind only Washington, DC, Little Ethiopia fosters the positive exchange of ideas coupled with constructive discourse between people with vested interest in the direction of their homeland.

A city block which is lined on both sides by restaurants, cafes, and cultural shops, the street remains vibrant with locals and visitors alike, teaching and learning like any sustainable practice should, with enlightenment through knowledge about both countries and the ties that bind them so closely together.  Little Ethiopia is not an island surrounded by a vast sea, but rather one of a number of cultural enclaves within California including Korea Town, Little Bangladesh and others, all of which play a part in the global community which makes up the country’s most populous state.

Coffee Shop
            Coffee Shop

As an educator living and teaching in both Ambo and Dire Dawa, the visit for me was a means of celebrating my understanding of Ethiopia within the context of a city where I grew up.  A constant reminder that the world is a classroom where knowledge is obtained well outside the realm of any campus, the cultural exchanges between partnering countries can only gain in strength through these continued learning opportunities.

Street Sign
                 Street Sign

Matthew Jellick is an English Language Fellow who will be teaching at Dire Dawa University during the upcoming academic year…