Yet another forced family selfie. Taken just outside the main gate on Orientation Day
The start of the school year - no matter the level or location - brings with it an embraceable chaos. Ready or not, the changes come quickly. Thankfully in Addis where so much is new and chaotic, Maya’s school offers a sanctuary for all three of us. We really couldn’t be happier with the introduction we’ve received.
Maya’s attending the International Community School (ICS) in the Old Airport neighborhood of Addis. It’s a K-12 school, and there are 50-60 kids per year (approximately 200 in 9-12th grades). Being the confident, gregarious person you all (hopefully) know, Maya’s hit the ground running. But that wasn’t a given. Meeting new people - especially when you’ve been in country for less than a week - put the onus on all of us to sink or swim. Maya’s a good swimmer, though. And we all know the strokes. So it’s been a fun dive into the deep end. All the welcomes we’ve received made that entry surprisingly easy.
ICS emphasizes the “community” as an important part of their mission. Parents spend time on campus, utilizing the wifi and snack bar and impressive facilities with an unwritten expectation that families are always welcome. We’ve been told by those with far more experience in Africa that ICS is the most expensive school on the Continent. But the price of tuition brings with it far more than just the cost of education. It feels like a supportive home away from home.
One of the standard parental greetings here takes some form of “is this your first posting?” Given that most families are here on some sort of diplomatic or NGO (non-governmental organization) post, that’s an easy way to gauge the overseas experience of who you’re meeting. The students probably also use it, being so well-traveled and adept at gauging their schoolmates. While we’re certainly not alone in being so fresh to the world of foreign assignments, we’re total posting newbies.
Overlooking ICS campus. The crane looms over construction on the new Elementary School building.
When Sarah and I got the Orientation Day tour with other new families, some explanation was offered for the Old Airport neighborhood name. There formerly was an airport near ICS’s location. That expanse of green to the north is now inaccessible government property. The newly big and bold architectural style of a government ministry building barely visible in the distance echoes new construction seen elsewhere around Addis (including the campus of the African Union). Understatement seems passé in developing Addis.
Foreign language classes (including Maya’s French 2) are held on the top floor of the Middle School building. Just climbing the stairs was a chore as we continue to acclimatize to the elevation (around 7700 feet or 2350 meters in Addis proper). The kids at ICS would have no problem getting jobs as sherpas after a year spent traversing their daily schedules.
ICS Head of School Tim Stuart welcomes parents on the first day.
Classes started on Wednesday. The Head of School (Tim Stuart) hosted morning introductory coffees on the first two days for parents to schmooze and catch up. Given that Sarah’s not yet needed to start work, we both got the chance to meet an array of helpful folks. Our social calendar is filling up and no one ran away (yet…) from our total newb questions about transportation, staffing, and logistics. Discussion of shared work interests come up at every turn, or at least people seem interested in what we’re doing here. A writers group has even been discussed. We are all crossing borders and making connections. Just like the students.
Next up - track and field tryouts for Maya after school today. Sarah and I were invited on some exercise dates over the weekend. We’ve got dinners booked with two different families on Saturday and Sunday. The whole “community” welcome is working like a charm. More on all that later. Ciao.