Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nov. 5 2011 Go Anthro!

We read (and saw photos) of the hellacious storm that hit our home in Northampton, where Western New England from New Haven to southern Vermont got hit with a rapid snow and ice storm, laying from 10” inches to 27” in the Berkshires. This knocked electricity out for 3 days for our house sitters, and all of Smith College, Hampshire College, etc. Our email was out for 3 days.
                And then two days ago, we got the Hawassa version. We woke up to clouds, which is pretty unusual as the rainy season should have end in October.  But by 3 PM the clouds had turn very dark and the winds picked up. Marty and I went on our balcony and looked east where we could see grey sleets of rain falling over the large rocks to our east. Our roof began to rattle and its metal wrapping started to lift and buckle. And then the rain hit us, massively. We watched as the cattle herders who use the university fields on tried to find any sort of shelter - under a tree, under an old roof. The rain came through our upstairs roof and flowed easily down the stairs into the living room. And through all this, the big black hornbill (who walks around on his two legs like a Dodo) stood stoically by a bush waiting for the storm to pass. By 5 PM it was sun was out, albeit glistening on the wet grass and rocks.
We had a busy week at the university. I am trying to get my students ready for their first quiz, worrying how to construct questions that were important but understandable given their varying degrees of speaking English. My colleague and apartment neighbor Walelign (Wally) invited me to a large meeting of all the faculty in Behavioral Sciences (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology) for an internal review of the Masters of Social Anthropology degree he is proposing. It was a good proposal, well written and comprehensive, but very ambitious as it called for eleven new courses at the graduate level, but without any increase in faculty size. Wally argued, probably correctly, that you can only get the faculty if you have the masters program in place. This would make us the second program in Ethiopia (after Addis) offering a masters in Anthro. Various faculty from our department argued that there was no better place for this then the Southern Nations and Nationalities Region (of which Hawassa is capital) given all the ethnic diversity in southwestern Ethiopia. I was impressed by the review discussion, attended by twenty faculty and two student representatives. They asked probing questions, some quite strategic, others quite petty (“I see you did not use the correct numerical designations for the courses listed). Christ, just like home! Wallelign acknowledged the good points, but stood by his proposal and curriculum. My main comment was they need a longer period for student research – it is an MA thesis program, but they only dedicated the second semester of the second year for it. I suggested a full year for the tehsis, with preparation and reading in the fall followed by research over winter break and spring semester for the write-up. There are many thesis topics in our own back yard – gender, HIV, street children, immigration, coffee cooperatives, etc. The MA is an ambitious project but I think it will happen. They asked if I would do a graduate seminar in development, which I readily agreed if the program actually is up and running this spring. Ironically, I was asked to develop a masters in development anthropology when I was a Fulbright at Asmara University eight years ago, but it got sidetracked by Eritrean politics (closing the university) and the rather ill use of my time by having me teach Introduction to cultural anthropology for several hundred students. So it is satisfying to work on an actual MA program here.
The day ended fabulously as Adam (the other American anthropology teacher) and I were invited by our students to watch the big soccer match between Anthropology department students and Veterinary Science. This was no nonsense game, with very gifted players (I was told they were all on their secondary school teams), our guys wearing red and theirs maroon. Adam and I were given a big round of applause when we joined the other students in the bleachers (later joined by Emelia, Adam’s wife), and our six female students formed their own cheering section waving purple shirts that said anthropology. We lost 2-1, there was almost a fight when the Vet tem didn’t accept our goal (which bounced off the goal frame), but it ended in cheer and friendship all around.
The routine is starting to feel good.

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