Saturday, December 22, 2012

Huruta Style!

Most of the people in this video you guys will have no idea who they are. Actually, I myself only make a cameo. But I did help a bit with the filming.

The PCTs who were in Huruta made this, and it does a pretty good job at showcasing what my site looks like. I figured you'd be interested in a indirect tour of my town.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Trainings, Round 1

 I promised you guys an update on my actual work, and here it is.

First Methodology Training: Sat Dec 8th

I went to school like normal to make sure things were in place on Friday. I had talked to the librarian previously, she had suggested we set up the library that afternoon.

I knew Friday was a holiday, Nationalities Day (thought I think Ethinicities Day might be a better name), but had been told it was only being celebrated in Bahir Dar and had no idea what was going on when I showed up to school to find more teachers than normal milling around the teacher's lounge and a huge tent in the middle of the compound.

She's representing Afar, a region in the north where Lucy comes from. It's also a place PC says I can't visit.
Apparently my school was holding it's own mini celebration.  Which was cool in it's own right, but it prevented me from checking in with my school director or the librarian. I had no idea if things would be okay for the next morning, and the librarian didn't answer my texts about meeting up early in the morning. Plus, my flyer was missing from the bulletin board.

Well, at least I had the projector.

Saturday dawned and I made my way to the school 30 min before my 9am start time. My director was there, and as the librarian wasn't around (though she had said she was coming earlier in the week) helped me arrange the teacher's lounge as a plan B location that quickly became plan A.  Come 9 o'clock, just my counterpart had shown up, and he had mentioned something about an NGO coming to the health clinic for free eye care, including glasses if needed. There went my idea of people showing up, free glasses are much more important than a farenji training.

(And there developed another idea for an app, one that allows NGOs to post activities so they can coordinate. It's actually a bit of a problem here. Other Ethiopian brainstorms include an app that recognizes what song you are singing and then can pull up strolling lyrics, meaning you don't have to pause in your strumming during campfire sing alongs, and an app that you take pictures of your skin with so you can compare moles over time to check for melanoma. Maybe I'll use my readjustment allowance after two years to build one.)

But they did, slowly, and while I waited until 10am to start, people still came in late during activities. My training, for which I expected 30 people based on a want assessment, had only 6.  Ouch.  Plus, things didn't go as smoothly as I had written in my lesson plan.  Note to self, a 15 minute activity for Americans is a 25 minute activity for Habasha. Habashas?

However, I think the small group was an advantage. They got individual attention, and they all seemed to get the idea I was aiming for (Dale's Cone of Learning, fyi. Mini lesson: if you read something, you remember 10% of it in two weeks. If you do something, you remember 90% of it in two weeks. Shout out to Donna's friend for giving a book on math card games I used to highlight different steps of the cone.). They all left happy. While it's not a practical lesson I can observe changes in the classroom with, I am going to refer to it constantly in future trainings.

First English Training: Dec 15th 

I was a lot more unsure about who would come, mainly because I had been in Addis to help PCTs the Wednesday and Thursday before, and only got back Friday afternoon. I popped into school for a quick visit and thank Primus my training announcement was till up!

What really made me realize that the methodology training was a success was the attendance for this training, up by 50%!  Which really just means I had 9 attendees. But hey, that's three more people. Who knows how many more will show up by the end of the year?

We focused on English listening. I played a song from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog,  "My Freeze Ray", slow beat, the words were clear, close to talking pronunciation.  I planned on them listening two times while filling the blanks in a lyric sheets. It was more I didn't actually count. But they all seemed to enjoy it. And insisted I get speakers, because the projector just hooks up to video. I'll have to do some Assella/Adama shopping around.

I really felt the cultural gap when we talked about what it meant. Even after watching the song as it progresses in the movie my teachers said it was about hard work paying off, and twisted it into a lesson about how they and their students have to practice a lot to improve.  Or just the chore of doing laundry. Er...sure guys. But I was kinda looking for the idea that the song is about a guy trying to get the courage to talk to a girl.  Regardless, they came to a conclusions by themselves, for which I'm happy with.

But still, while the comprehension  of the song wasn't really there, they got most of the blanks right, after many repeats, and I consider that a success.

For a future lesson, I want to talk about letter writing. I'd love samples from you guys to share, nothing too personal and with simple English if possible. Address is on my support page. ^_~

So, while my trainings didn't go as expected, they were still effective in some ways. And people showed up knowing up front the only thing they were getting from it was training, no per diem, no food, just further knowledge. I'm just excited that people want that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Actually Do

So, my father mentioned I haven't actually talked about my work here. Truth is, I'm still kinda figuring that out.

Peace Corps Volunteers kept painting this picture of a lazy man's job while I was in training. They go to school maybe twice a week, maybe working six hours a week (the teachers here work four hour shifts fyi), and there is a lot of down time. Kindle books and TV shows are your best friends. It was a job that you could shape to your own schedule.

A teacher did a training on SBEM I helped out at.
And then, near the end of PST we were introduced to the C.E.N.A, or as G7 has taken to calling it, Jon Cena. It's a beast of a report, a community education needs assessment that required research into the town and the schools. I went to school pretty much everyday for three months working on, inputting student test scores into an excel file (there are more than 3,000 students, it took awhile, and I still can't get my formulas right. Anyone know how to average every other cell in a column?), talking to teachers, passing out and collecting surveys, observing classes. From my C.E.N.A, I developed an action plan. But really, I'm learning now that all was the easy part.

I'm trying to figure out how to fill my days no that I have no need to go to school everyday. My job here is not to teach, like some (including myself before I began PST) believe. My official role is 'English Teacher Trainer', meaning I help the teachers with methodology and English and they will help their students for years down the road.

But like I said, that doesn't require my being at the school everyday. And while I have an action plan, it's looking to be a hard thing to follow through on.

Take for example the monthly methodology and English trainings I have planned for teachers. I brought the idea up to the Woreda and my director (aka principal. Who I learned mid-October is working without the two vice-principles most schools have. At some later date, I might have to do into Ethiopian school policy.

Or maybe not.) and they were okay with my trainings and the dates. The Woreda even pledged to help me with printing costs by letting me use their printer. I went to them with this before I left for IST.

I return, my director is still cool with the trainings, he said I could use the library, but so far the training hasn't been spread around to the teachers. I meet a couple on the street today and they asked what I was doing. When I mentioned getting things together for a training, they said they had no idea.

I'm planning this for the 8th. But it's hard to market trainings, it's not like I can tell my teachers in an e-mail. Maybe a bulletin board.....

Anyway, I went to the Woreda on Monday with the idea of giving them a copy of my C.E.N.A and showing/explaining my worksheets for the training. Fancy that, the copier doesn't have paper. Nor does it on Tuesday. I did get things copied today, and stamped with the Woreda's seal of approval (it's a purple stamp, I approve). These stamps are awesome and in the government system are kinda equal to God. If there's a stamp, it's good and official and if it's on directions of some kind you better get it done.

So, I do have training logs for my teachers now, but they still have no idea, for the most part, that I'm doing work for a training that's for them. Communication here is a huge issue. As is consistency. And I'm finding that's the hard part of this job. Things stall if you don't get a step done, and if the person you need to get that step done isn't in his office when you go there every day for a week, nothing happens.

We'd like to work more than 6 hours a week, it keeps us busy and prevents us from going through TV shows too quickly (I know a PCV who went through all of Sex and the City, all of it, in three days) but there is so much red tape. No, that's not right, because most the hoops PCVs go though isn't so much bureaucracy, but social norms. Which is hard to balance with the trimester reporting PC wants us to do. It's an intense computer-reporting program. Each report, if printed, would come out to 80 pages give or take.

Being a volunteer is a lot more stressful at times than I expected, especially since the ideas here about professionalism differ. Some I'm okay with, I'm totally okay with ditching the American professional wardrobe, but giving me time to plan and being on time and doing what you say you will are things I miss. But hey, I am a lot more patient now. I think. Perhaps. Probably, if I can do a 2 1/2 hour bus ride w/o listening to my iPod. And can wait for 30 min instead of 10 before getting exasperated.

It's crazy how long it can take to get things done here. And getting people to actually listen to me. When I assisted on a training, I felt like everything I said was disregarded by the local teachers on the basis that 'Ethiopia is different.' In some cases, yes, but not in all. That's frustrating too, just dealing with people.

Might be why I'm in such a creative mood here, I want to make something without a hassle. Currently, I'm working on videos of my cooking adventures, and am writing a novel. And a memoir, but that one is kinda depressing so I might shelve it for a while.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zee School

Gates to my school

Huruta Primary is a hub school in a cluster. Cluster schools are supposed to help each other out, but I don't see a whole lot of that. With eight schools, my cluster isn't the largest I've heard of, but it's certainly on the large side. Truthfully, I've only even been to Huruta Primary, the others aren't in the city limits. Some of the are tiny, 16 students, so I'm sure they're out in a rural village that I wouldn't even be able to get a bus too.

I'm totally just going to focus my work on Huruta Primary.

Which is going to be handful.

The school recently, as in the past five years, expanded from a cycle 1 school to include cycle 2. Cycle 1 is grades 1-4, cycle 2 is grades 5-8. There are over 3000 students, and there aren't nearly enough classrooms for them all so students and teachers only come for half days. The morning shift goes from 8 to 12:15, the afternoon shift from 12:30 to 4:45. Every month (Ethiopian calender, not Western) the shifts switch. So grade 1 first came in the morning, then switched to the afternoon, and then switched back to the morning.

The school does have some nice amenities – a special needs classroom (the deaf kindergartners are adorable. Special need students here include the deaf, the blind, and the mentally challenged), a library with a better selection of books than the public library, a science lab (which I haven't actually seen used), and a resource room (of which very few teachers use). Personally, I'm a fan of the tea house on campus, all proceeds go to help orphan students. And it's the cheapest place in town that I've found so far.

The teachers are nice, and many know English well enough to have conversations with me. While not all are interested in what I have to offer, they do like me and are friendly. I love running into them on the street and have small conversations outside of school, it makes me feel like I really belong here. That I'm a community member.

Moments like that can turn a bad day around.

I haven't trully interacted with the students yet. They like to stare and touch, and in massive packs that I find overwhelming so I try to avoid being easily accessible when they have recces or there is a shift change. The teachers really help with that, they'll scold students who just hang on the fence around the teacher building during recesses. The kids in the states when I were subbing could be unnerving sometimes, I had two fourth graders start a fight, but here they can be down right terrifying at times. So many faces and bodies, it can make a girl claustrophobic under an open sky.

They are slowly learning the right way to interact with a ferengi (forgeiner in the local language). I refuse to answer to 'ferengi ferengi' or 'you you' (which is usually shouted at me) and turn away from any child asking for money. As a result, I'm getting yelled at less and kids approach me with 'hello' or 'good morning'.

And I always get a kick overhearing kids talking about me and one of them explaining I'm a teacher. It means they actually pay attention to what I do, and not just that I'm here.

Things are still rough at times, but I do like my school. I'm hoping to do all my trainings there, and include teachers from the other primary school in town, Boru Qalaxxa which is the hub school for the other cluster.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

House Tour and IST catch-up

Right, so as I mention in the first video, I made these before I left for IST. Which was the middle of November. But, I thought we were staying at a hotel with wi-fi for two weeks (we weren't) and during the time I did have wi-fi in Addis, the connection was terrible because so many people were on it at the same time. Skype conversations with the family kept cutting in and out, uploading a video, let along two, wasn't gonna work.

IST (in service training) was nice though, I love seeing friends and I did another long hike. Around a crater lake this time. The walk was supposed to take us through hot springs, but the spring weren't hot when ever I stuck my hand in the water. It was a pretty hike though, and at times very puzzle like jumping over mini streams and avoiding mud. All of us couldn't avoid the mud completely yet. Except for Dan O, the Education program manager. Habasha have this magical power to never get muddy, even in the height of rainy/muddy season.

Keep your fingers crossed, at IST they announced a co-coordinator position for the national ICWC (International Creative Writing Contest) and I'm going for it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


(Heads up, I apologize for the lack of pictures. I'm in Addis at the moment, and the internet at Kings Hotel has never really been able to support uploads.)

 I've done quite a bit of walking recently, it's amazing the views right outside my door.

For example, in 10 minutes, I can go from my house to a waterfall.

I've done a couple of walks around Huruta with the PCTs in town - I'm hesitant to explore the rural areas on my own being female and white, but I love being able to go for walks. 

There supposed to be a holy spring nearby, but we haven't found it yet. But on one of our hikes we did venture into cactus eating. The flesh, not the fruit. I have to say, not bad. Twas like a salted cucumber, but more slimy.

But really is exciting is the hike I did on Saturday. Dera, a nearby town, has a national park. The PCV there set up a hike from Dera to Sodere, a 20 km treck. I'm surprised by how many animals we saw: camels, baboons, an antelope creature called chookou (if I remember that right). And hyenas.

Holy cow I saw hyenas. We were supposed to go down and up jib valley (jib is amharic for hyena) but then saw probably about 7 of them up and moving. It was cool and nervous at once. I've had it as a kind of goal for my two years here, to see them and not just hear them at night, so that was cool. But I also hiked for a bit with rocks in my hand (we took a different path to get to the overlook, but twas still near the valley).

After we left the park, there was a bit of walking through rural areas and then we hit the Awash river. It's a cool place, and important for irrigation in the area. We walked along the irrigation channels, crossed the river on a boat pulled across by a habasha, and then made our way to the resort where we found a bus going to Adama.

I really enjoyed it. It only took about 4 1/2 hours, and it was awesome how the ecosystems changed from the beginning of the park to the back half to the river valley. I don't know if I'll be able to do it again, the PCV who got it together and guided us is COSing (closing his service, aka done) at the end of the month, so I'm glad I got this opportunity.

Even if I do have a sunburn.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Things I Took for Granted in the States

This is what happens when you custom order furniture
  • Sinks in bathrooms and kitchens and lights in bathrooms
  • 24/7 electricity, Internet, and water
  • IKEA
  • Stoves and kitchen counters above ankle height
  • Supermarkets and their variety of food (I pretty much have an option of potato, tomato, garlic, and onion. With some people offering carrots, cabbage, corn, or beets. After a month of using only the same ingredients, things start to get old.)
  • Knowing people would understand my words
  • That people know what snow or ice is
  • Washer & dryer
  • Salt that doesn't come in clumps the size of my thumbnail
  • For cats and dogs to not have fleas
  • To not have to check to see if the egg is expired before buying it
  • Drinkable tap water (and drinkable milk. Boiling things takes a while, and I'm lazy >.<)
  • That other people showered regularly (I shower about once a week, and I'm considered clean)
  • My meat not having bones in it
  • For school to start the day it's supposed to
  • For appointments to be met
  • Cookies, of any kind. And access to the ingredients to make them.
  • Someone to have a real, unique conversation with once a day. (many of mine seem to be versions of how are you and how are you adjusting. I can spice up my lack of a varied diet with different herbs, but you can't really do that with conversations)
  • Personal bubbles
  • Hot chocolate
  • Streets and shops having names
  • Working cell network (I sometimes have to send a text five times before it goes through, and I have problems dialing and receiving calls)
  • Bus schedules (I have sat on a bus for almost 2 hrs before it moved)
  • Rubber spatulas
  • Chocolate chips

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Welcome to 2005

The Ethiopian calender is different from the Western one.  For starters, there are 13 months. Each month has 30 days, with the remainder of the days of the year residing in a month at the end of the year. It's called Paugme. 

This often means that while I think it's September 1st, it's actually August 28th.  September 11th, aka September 1st in Ethiopia, is the Ethiopian New Year.  It is now 2005 in Ethiopia. I heard the year difference is because of difference in thought over when Jesus died, but I'm not positive. All I know is that Ethiopia, and some other African country, are eight years off from the rest of the world.

Habasha New Years is not celebrated quite as loudly as the Western January 1st variety. There's no staying up late and waiting for midnight, there's nothing special about New Years Eve here.

Everything happens on the 1st.  And by everything I mainly mean eating.

Most Ethiopian dishes here are a variety of wot, a sauce different types of food are cooked in. For holidays, the wot to eat is doro wot. It's not like the States where some families might have ham and the others roast beef for Christmas, every family has doro wot here.

Doro is the Amharic word for chicken, and doro wot included freshly killed chicken and hard boiled eggs. It's customary that every guest gets at least one egg and one piece of meat. There are no forks and knifes here, you have to break up the egg with a piece of bread and eat the chicken by peeling pieces off the bone with your fingers. It's a rather messy affair, but tasty.

It's customary in the morning for children to visit their parents for a meal, and the parents will return the favor in the evening for dinner.

I spent the day with my host family, and had two meals. First at my host mom's mom's, and then later at her place. I then returned to Huruta (my host mom sent me out the door with a bag of oranges and bus money. Food and cash, I felt like I was leaving my yiayia and papou's place.) and had two more meals. One with a counterpart and one with my landlords.

I feasted four times in 7 hours, I was rather surprised I didn't explode. As it was, I slept rather well that night.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Mass Funeral of Meles Zenawi

Bizu knocked on my door this morning, telling me she and Dani were on their way to the stadium for a mass funeral for the Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi. Did I want to come?


I expected a a dozen sheets safety pinned together to make a screen and a projection a a televised funeral. Nothing very exciting, seeming as I wouldn't understand it, but it was a good idea to join in community event and be seen.

The first clue I got that this was nothing like I expected was hearing a loud chant behind us on the road. I turned and coming down both side of the road was a mounted cavalry, red tassels swaying from bridles as the mass of riders trotted at us. We crowded against the median to let them pass and then mad our way to the stadium.

When we got there, the place was packed. The stadium was filled with people and two of the banks surrounding it were covered with mourners. The far side of the stadium was a mini bus station, people from neighboring towns and villages had come to. The other side held grazing horses. The group that had passed me had swarmed onto the field and were riding around it, but they weren't the first group there. Eventually they dismounted and joined the other groups on the field. They stood on foot in small groups in the fog or under tents, chanting and displaying memorials to Meles Zenawi – wooden signs, black and white posters stapled to palm leaves, flags.

We took a spot on the corner nearest to the stadium entrance, and had a prime view of the other groups coming. There was a church, led by a children's choir. Several more groups of mounted riders. Trucks filled with habasha and decked out in palms and flowers as if float parades. Most common though were simply groups of marching/running people, led by men with trailing women. They thrust wooden sticks in the air and they went by before walking onto the field, but sometimes the sticks were substituted with canes, umbrellas, and, nerve-rackingly, guns pointing into the sky held very insecurely.

Every group marched passed where we were standing, and then made their way down onto the field below. Groups just kept coming and coming, there seemed no end to the mourners, and when the fog rolled in you could see lit candles in people's hands as if it were the Easter midnight service.

It's crazy the amount of support and love Meles Zenawi had in his people. There's been a song composed about his death, I hear it everywhere, and the TV shows picture of him all the time as well as street testimonies of those who are sad at his passing. Kids sell pictures of him, the market has shirts depicting him, and when I went to Adama last week there was a huge parade of bajas going up and down the street. (It actually reminded me of Rhodes when Greece did well in the Euro cup, cars going up and down and honking and waving flags in celebration. I never would have expected similar activities for a memorial.)

If Obama died, I'm sure people would be sad, but I doubt it would be in the media as much as PM's death is here. Or that it would be a topic of conversation over a week later. People ask me 'did you here our president died?' as if they were announcing the scores of last night's gate. He is at the front of Ethiopian's mind, and it amazing to see how much this country cares for him.

I've been called 'sister' here. I had it explained by a judge in town that because he has a sister and cares for her, it's easy to extend those feelings to others. He wants his sister to be safe, and has similar feelings for me. Thus, I am like a sister to him even though I only knew him for the duration of an hour and a half bus ride.

So Ethiopia hasn't lost a leader, it's lost a brother who has worked hard to improve the life of his entire family. No wonder the country mourns so. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm Now an Offical PCV and Have Moved to Site

I've been in Huruta for a week now, and I gotta say this is the slowest move-in ever.
Whenever I moved into someplace in college, there was already furniture waiting for me so I could start putting things away. Even if I didn't have the shelf space for everything quite yet, there was a dresser and a bed. And I would get settled a little, go out and buy what I needed (a trash can, a rug, metal shelves) that day. Maybe food too, or that was for the second.
Moving in Ethiopia is nothing like that. I blame the lack of large stores.
First off, my landlord didn't expect me. He though I wasn't coming for another week (though he talked to my host mom two days prior and one of my counterparts knew my arrival date, figured someone would have told him) and as such my suite of rooms wasn't ready. Can you imagine? Going to move into an apartment and realizing the previous tenet is still living there? I totally expected to have to spend a night with one of the host families.
Instead, my landlords piled my stuff in a corner and emptied out the suite. It was quite entertaining to be sure, the furniture was huge and barely fit in the doorways. There's at least two new holes in the walls. I have no idea how they fit a wardrobe and wooden bed into that other, narrower room. And, as the door way between my apartment area and the living room didn't have a door as promised, they moved the china cabinet to block it. Which in turn led to moving the TV, which led to moving the antennae. Moving the antennae involved digging up the dead tree is was attacked to and replanting it.
I should have taken pictures, but I was too busy being entertained.
It took awhile, and when I finally went out to buy a mattress, I was dismayed to find the shop closed. I prepared myself for a night on my yoga mat, when my counterpart saw the owner and had him open up so I could buy one.
A week later, and my mattress is still the only thing I've really bought. While I have too rooms, only one has a thin plastic tile cover for the cement floor and so I'm kinda crowded in there at the moment. Thus, I have no room to cook (nor a stove to do so with yet). The tile/plastic store is something I want to go to with a habasha, to make sure I get a fair price, but my landlord is usually busy with guests. And while Wednesday was market day and I was looking forward to maybe getting bowls and buckets and spoons, it rained all day.
When it rains here, everything stops. People don't even go to work.
I have ordered a dresser, more pricey than I thought, but I figure it'd be more functional than a bookcase because I could use the top as a vanity or end table. And I have been living out of my suitcases since I arrived in country, I'm ready to empty them.
Been trying to order a bed, but the quotes aren't consistent, even at the same vender. That's the problem with ordering custom furniture (pretty much my only option here), prices depend on the design, who's doing the bargaining, and who'd be doing the work.
All in all, building my home is going...very slowly.
But I've got two years.
I've been spending most of my time reading or playing cards with my landlords. They only know one game so I'm trying to teach them more. There's a bit of trouble understanding B.S., so I think I'll refrain from teaching them cribbage or hearts. For now.
They're good people, and like my host family he's away from home more often than not. No kids yet, they're a newlywed couple (which made me feel doubly bad when I realized my suite of rooms was the master suite and I was kicking them out), and I think she's lonely. Even though ideally I'll be cooking my own meals, she's been feeding me a lot, which I'm very grateful for as, as I mentioned before, I don't quite have the instruments to cook yet.
I think we'll get along well, which will help make these next two years fly by. And once my oven in plugged in and I have a mixing bowl, I'll have to make cookies to share.
Huruta as a town, like I mentioned in a previous post, is lovely. Despite all the rain, I'm surprised by the lack of mud. There were more squishy roads in Eteya. And the other day I finally saw the waterfall and rivers. It's so beautiful, a mini green park. People like to float down either of the rivers for a little while, and I can see myself during the dry season sitting on a rock with a book in my hand while my feet dangle in the water.
The only problem are the hyena caves. They're right above the road that follows the river, and I certainly hope they're deep. My guide didn't seem to be worried though, and the road is fairly popular, so I guess hyenas sleep deeply. I really don't want to see one from up close.
I'll have to post pictures eventually, but the Internet connection here is really hit and miss and sometimes I have to post an article in blogger three times before it saves. Just to let you know I'm trying.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Things I learned when reading the PC Ethiopian Handbook

  1. I want to be on PAC, an committee that analysis the Peace Corps program in country.
  2. I'm not a PC employee, but rather an employee of the Ethiopian government. Specifically the Ministry of Magic, ahem, Ministry of Education. PC just supports me financially and legally in cases where I'm a victim of a physical crime. Thus, I do not have diplomatic immunity. I really want to get a copy of all Ethiopian laws now, as I have to follow all of them in addition to US laws while here.
  3. I'm not allowed to write an article about my Peace Corps experience and sell it to a magazine until I COS.
  4. I can be released from service if my community thinks I have a drug problem, even if I've never done drugs. Image is really important here. Maybe it wasn't a good thing I left my make-up in the States.....
  5. I should avoid talking about host country politics.
  6. I am not allowed a pet dog or cat. (or monkey or lion)
  7. I can go to the states for vacation and while there have my teeth checked, and have PC foot the bill.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Just a quick heads up, I'm in Addis for a dentist appointment. I chipped my tooth, and with it being common to find rocks and/or small bones in your food, it's no wonder. I always freak out though when I bit a rock of salt. Things crumble in your mouth and your first instinct is to swallow and make sure your teeth are ok. It makes me nervous every time. What also has me in a tizzy is my LPI next week, a test to gage my proficiency in Amharic. We've gone through the book in my Amharic classes, and we've covered all the topics grammatically and vocab wise I think I did in all four years of high school Spanish. We'll see how I do. Peace Corps requires us to be Novice-High, but I'm hoping for Novice-Expert, just to have a goal here. I'm also nervous about our swearing in ceremony next Friday. It'll be televised. Totally thought it would be small thing at the embassy, but apparently it'll be pretty huge.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A little warning about monkeys...

They are thieves. Yesterday, Peace Corps took us to Sodere, which is a hot spring resort. There was a really huge pool, warmed by the springs, and hot spring pools, which were apparently used as public baths and not quite up to my standards. The monkeys were cute. Gray things with long tales at the tip and adorable faces. Until Peace Corps brought out our lunches. Complete with bananas. The little monkey devils stole our bananas! They would jump on tables and snag them, knocking down drinks, and managed to grab our fruit even when we tried to fend them off. Thankfully I didn't have anything stolen, but at one point I tried to see how close to one I could get. I managed about a foot and a half before it retreated, only for it to gather up its courage and lunge towards me. I really had no desire to take it's banana peel though.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vegetarians – Don't Read!

I came back to the compound two days ago to find a goat tied up to the laundry tower. It bleated at me pitifully, and I expected to see it on my plate for dinner the next day.  Only...I got back from work/class (I'm learning language in the morning and as of this week have started teaching in mock classrooms in the afternoons) and found the goat still alive. While it was great fun to have it chase the kids, I couldn't help but wonder if it would turn out like the Missing Chicken.  

The Missing Chicken is the most annoying animal on Earth. My host mom bought it with a friend, we ate the friend, but this rooster hung around for about a week afterwords. And it doesn't only crow at dawn. Though when it was kept in the shower at night and so come morning it would crow and crow, the noise echoing down the hallway and waking me way earlier than I wanted to be woken. I was so looking forward to eating him, but then he went missing. I don't know if he was sold or escaped or was eaten by a hyena, but he never crossed my plate which is sad.

I was very worried I would wake up to bleats the next morning.

But yesterday, low and behold I came back after class to see a skinned goat hanging from the laundry tree and my host nephew cutting the fat off. There was less blood than I expected, even on the skin stretched out on the fence. And I couldn't help but watch as when trimming fat, the thorax cavity was exposed and intestines literally started falling out. The cavity was fully opened, and I watched him remove the stomach and organs, all of which took up more space in an animal than I realized. The carcass looked so big and meatfull before it was gutted, and then it seemed to shrink to half its size.  It was also kinda amusing to see my host nephew pull on an end of the intestine from where he cut it and watch it unravel and straighten in his hands, as if he were winding around his hand a pile of yarn from the table. But when it came to pushing waste out of the bowels, I had to leave.  That was not so cool to watch.

Also, I'm now a vampire, because I ate blood. (And it's better than brain).  Apparently the lack of blood I saw was because they drained the goat, collected the blood, and then once it started clotting cooked it. It wasn't bad, and while it looked odd I thought it might just be liver at first until I was told else wise. Still, as odd as that is to eat, I think I prefer it to the jaw my host mom munched on tonight, complete with teeth attached.  I'm okay with distancing myself from things, but it's hard to do when it's even slightly possible that I know what I'm eating.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Huruta - First Impressions

I have to say, I really liked the town. Apparently, even when people are successful and move, they still invest in the town.  As such, Huruta is very pretty and feels somewhat resourtish at times.

While the main road is unpaved, it's separated by a median of trees. And those trees are surrounded by iron fences that are shaped into designs and painted. Plus, there are street lights, statues, lots of cafes and restaurants, and at night you can hear music blasting from several places. Which did get in the way of me sleeping a little bit.

There's a lot more amenities than I expected here, a full size soccer field with chalked lines, a public library, a flour factory, a juice bet.  I checked out the schools in town too – the high school has a full computer lab and is putting the finishing touches on a new administration building, and has a basketball, handball, and soccer field.  My school has a garden, a museum, several clubs, a tea room, three sports fields, a library, a science lab, and a special needs class.

It's in the foot hills of the mountains, and despite being only 14 km from Eteya is so much prettier. And slightly warmer. And not as rainy. The soccer stadium is on the edge of town on the side of the hill, and so from the top of the small bank around it you can see for miles all the rolling baby mountains covered in trees and farmland.  There's a river nearby, with a gorge and a waterfall, but I didn't get around to seeing it.

Most of my days involved visiting places/people, break, lunch, break, afternoon visiting depending on when lunch finished, and then dinner. I liked the down time, I allowed me to spread out all my tasks and it was nice to have time to rest. I always felt weird during dinner however, and some lunches. Frequently, my counterparts didn't eat but rather just sat there with me as I did, there just to show me good restaurants and help with ordering and paying.

I felt like a foreign dignitary, meeting all the people I did in the government and school offices. And when I showed up at my school's closing ceremony, just to check it out, I was placed at the table of region education officials to stare at (and be stared at by) the students, teachers, and parents as well as was introduced. But as I also got a PO Box (note new address in one the support page) and opened a bank account, I also feel a bit like a resident.   

Visiting the site, I came up with so many project ideas of my own and based on what people told me they would like to see. Girl Scouts, English clubs, summer sports camp, organize a library, help out at one of the three private English schools, actually teach, try to do something PTA related to get parents involved in the school.  And while I was qualified for getting into Peace Corps, doing some of this stuff actually scares me a little because I don't know how much I'll be able to do and honestly for some of them I have no knowledge at all.  If anyone has any electronic resources on any of those subjects, or teaching in general, I'd love it if you could e-mail them to me.

I also got a peak at what will most likely be my home for the next to years. It's really close to the school, library, mayor's office, and police station, so the location is great. The compound is a bit small, but my actually 'apartment' is wonderful. I'll have a small hallway that dead ends in a shower (completely covered in tiles and with a shelf for shampoo) and off that hallway are two rooms, both of with might be twice the size of what I have now. Unlike my school apartment, I'll have to furnish it myself. And there's no IKEA here. I have to order it and then it'll be made. And I'll have to get kitchen stuff. Not just plates and cups and pans, but a stove. And gas. Grills don't exist here, but I wonder if I could improvise one...

I really liked Huruta (the quarter day travel from Addis is nice too, some people had a 2-3 day travel to get to their sites) and I'm looking forward to moving there so I can set up my house and start on projects. There isn't much recreation wise (aside from the juice bet) and so I think keeping busy will help me stay sane, happy, and not go through all my movies and shows in the first few months. Especially since the cell network isn't stable and there's no such thing as wi-fi or Ethernet.