Clap Clap Clap


So now of course Ethiopia will always have a special place in my heart because of one small highlight today that really stands out in my teaching career so far. After I gave what I felt was a rather standard demonstration today, the students broke out into applause. It felt better than winning the lottery.

I was showing them how to animate and rotoscope (draw over video) using Photoshop as their main software platform. I demonstrate software and other things all the time, maybe even thousands of times now for various classes and in various subjects over the years since 2000. I have gotten applause when giving some sort of formal talk in front of an audience or while at a symposium or conference. So it just felt nice to be so appreciated for what I consider an “every day” sort of lecture.


Students hanging out in the sculpture park/courtyard during break

What also tickled me is when I was showing different styles and types of animation, they also broke out into applause after I screened the classic traditional animation from the 1960’s, Harold and the Purple Crayon. This film really resonated with the students, maybe because it is so simple and yet creative as Harold draws and invents his imaginative reality using ordinary lines from his crayon.

I actually showed quite a bit of student work, particularly stop motion animations from The American University of Rome and a few of my own pieces. I showed them my 2003 political ad, Yellow Ribbons but also had to explain how making this sort of film as an Ethiopian in Ethiopia might have gotten me arrested. I then reminded students to be careful with their immense power as filmmakers, animators, and artists and that they can probably do more good for society outside of jail than inside so choose their battles wisely when trying to make positive social change. Honestly, I never really had to ever give such a warning so I appreciate being reminded of what a luxury it is to be able to criticize one’s own government.

MFA student, Eden taking a break where students get drinks and coffee on campus.

Other luxuries I appreciate even more while I am here is having hot water all the time in Europe or the USA. The flat I am staying in loses its water now and again and so far has been without water more than with. Trying to get ready this morning started out like an ice bucket challenge sort of experience, until Lucrezia showed me how easy it is to just boil a few pots of water in the kettle to heat it up a bit.

Well, aside from some inconveniences that most people in the developing world deal with gracefully on a daily basis, Ethiopians sure do make an amazing coffee! They invented it after all so I’d expect nothing less than complete coffee mastery and I have not been disappointed. However I will need to search high and low for some regional or at least Kenyan teas for my “tea-master-in-training” husband who asked I bring some back for him. I can’t find tea anywhere so far (except the kind in tea bags that he would scoff at) so he will need to hold his applause until I do.

Read the next blog post in this series.