I’m not sure if this is a universally true scholastic experience, but at least at the public schools I went to in Washington State, having a note was quite often essential. In the hall during a class period? You better have a pass. Missed class from yesterday? You’ll need a note. Planning on going on next week’s field trip? Gotta have a signed note from a parent. I expected to not have to use notes to the same extent in college, and thankfully that was true. However, what I did not expect was that I would be returning to the note system during my time in Ethiopia. Here, you always need a note.
Any time I want to accomplish anything here, especially with our partner organization, REST, a letter is absolutely essential. For instance, my evaluating team will be using laptops to administer surveys, which were being held in our partner’s storage. Our process involved not one, but two notes: first, REST requested a letter from us, explaining that we would again be using our laptops. Two, one of REST’s offices wrote a letter to the storage department, confirming that our letter was legitimate. Then, upon arriving at the storage place, our letter had to be thoroughly examined, including thorough discussion over the legitimacy of the signature (At least, that’s what I think was happening, it was in Tigrinya so I just saw a back-and-forth while people were pointing at the signature).
We then entered the enormous storage shed, where a gazillion things from a bunch of development projects go to die. Think Room of Requirement in Harry Potter 7, with years and years of things piled up. Once we found the three boxes that were ours, and separate from the others, the note was once again essential. We had explained that we were there to pick up laptops, and it was only by virtue of our signed note that we were also allowed to take other things in the same box as the laptops, like the extension cords and bags.
We are planning on hiring individuals in each of the communities where we will be working to be mobilizers: people who go ahead to tell our individuals of interest that we will be coming. My co-worker suggested that we get a note from REST, so that way the people we hire would know that we are working with REST. We therefore asked REST’s main office to write such a letter for us. They suggested that a satellite office write the letter. Then, when we called the satellite office to ask them to write a letter. They told us that for them to write a letter, they would need to have a signed letter from the main office, confirming that it is in fact okay for them to write a letter.
I appreciate the commitment to integrity and making sure that everything has a paper trial (after all, probably a lot harder for theft or other unsavory activities to happen. However, it is certainly reminiscent of being a 16-year old caught in the hallway between periods, where my fate is determined by whether or not I have a note.