Radio producers and Jewish blacksmiths

Thursday our group split up to divide and conquer our list of target people to interview, in the interest of time, since Friday was our last work day in Gondar. We have three functional sub-groups: marketing, supply chain/ops, and data collection/reporting. As part of the marketing sub-group, I really wanted to meet with local radio producers while in Gondar. I read this great book called “Influencers” that talks about how people can create change and influence people in many different ways. The book mentions several social and health campaigns in the developing world that use radio dramas and popular soap operas to get their ideas across. For example, they would have characters go to the library to get adult literacy materials, or have a “bad” character drink too much and abuse his wife (a “good” character who viewers empathized with), and seeing how these popular characters acted has actually influenced people’s behavior in positive ways. I want to see if we can use radio in similar ways here in Ethiopia with the rabies campaign.

People listen to the radio here as a popular media form, since many don’t have TV or internet.  In the morning we met with an FM technician at the top of a hill where his satellite is, and asked him questions about coverage and size of their reach. We also learned about the popular shows that people listen to, peak listening times and when they have time for ads.

Afterwards, since we were on top of a hill with such a beautiful view of the city, the whole team stopped at the Goha Hotel to look at the view, and then had lunch.


University of Gondar
University of Gondar

In the afternoon we split up again, Alejandra and Carla joining me to talk with FM station marketing managers (Danny was unfortunately down for the count today with a bad stomach virus) while the rest of the team drove a bit out of the city center to speak with a kebele leader. The FM marketing managers answered more of our questions about programming, specifically existing health programming that they already offer, and costs. We actually learned that it’s possible to have your own program on a regular basis within one of the popular news/information shows, as long as you pay for it. That could be a great opportunity for the rabies project going forward.

We went back to the hotel in the afternoon for some personal time. Some team members needed a nap, but others were itching to explore. Javed called John of Gondar to see about exploring the part of the Arada market where Jewish blacksmiths work. We asked our driver Amara to take us there. Alejandra, Javed and I noticed on the ride to the market that, despite the rain, many people were walking in quite nice clothing, while others were washing themselves and even others were herding lots of goats. We wondered why there was so much activity this afternoon, and Amara said that tomorrow was a holiday, the festival of Saint Mary. Apparently they will eat goat meat during this festival (other days, Wednesday and Fridays until 3pm, Ethiopians fast and only have one meal until 3pm).

We arrived at the Arada market to meet John. The pathways around the market were muddy and slippery due to the rain, and because they don’t have paved roads in that area. The mud was mixed with garbage and probably animal feces, and it smelled quite strongly. We tried our best not to slip and fall into the muck, and John was quite a gentleman, offering to hold our hands on the most slippery parts, but our shoes and feet were covered in gunk.

John leading us to the blacksmiths
John leading us to the blacksmiths

John took us to the back of the market, where children played a game, trying to hit a bottle placed on a pile of rocks with their own little stones. We finally encountered the section where Jewish blacksmiths worked, an area covered by tarps. They had coal-lit fires where they forged their metal axes and shovels. A few of them sat on leather bags that they moved back and forth, the air in the leather bag blowing onto the coals, feeding the fire. Little bits of metal material and ash flew around in the air. The blacksmiths looked at us curiously (probably the same that we looked at them), and John explained to them that we wanted to see how they worked. I had him translate to them that I am Jewish too. They said a joke, If I am Jewish, why can’t I make a ring? We all laughed at that. Then they started pounding the hot metal together, to straighten and shape it. It looked like very hard work.

leather marketWe walked around the Jewish quarter where women often sell things. A lot of their wares were leather, like leather pouches, wallets, and a sack for carrying a baby, and items made out of horse hair. I bought two horse-related items for Danny at his request; he was very sad to miss out on meeting his Jewish brethren. We had John and his friend Teddy negotiate for us, the vendors wanted to charge almost 300 Ethopian birr ($15) for a horse hair fly swatter, but we knew it was right to negotiate first. We told them that I am Jewish and a student, to have them empathize with me more, and they knocked the price down a bit.

spicesWe walked back through the area of the market where there are spices, and bought some tea, turmeric and incense. We said goodbye to John and Teddy and thanked them for their help, offering a tip for their tour guide services.

Javed, Teddy, me and AlejandraThen it was back to the hotel for a team meeting, goal-setting and debrief of the day before dinner. But first Alejandra and I took a photo opportunity at a truck parked near the hotel, which the locals thought was quite funny. We did too.

Hello, truck!We wiped our filthy shoes off in the grass to get the muck off, but some of it will