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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Site Visit

I've spent the past two days in Addis for a counterpart training workshop.

A map of where all of G7 volunteers will be in Ethiopia.
Counterparts can make or break your experience here. They're the ones who help you integrate and help construct and implement projects in the schools. As such, they're super important and I've felt pressured to get along with mine.

I met mine, and he's nice enough. We haven't clicked like some other pairs, but he's a good guy. And come tomorrow, we'll be hoping on a bus and going to Huruta together.

For most of next week I'll be in Huruta, my little future home town, to try to get settled. I have to open a PO Box (my address on the support page will change soon) and a bank account. I'll also use this time to get used to the town and try to meet important people.

I'm not entirely sure how smooth the week will go, I'm more nervous than anything. My counterpart and I do have language issues and Huruta is small, can I really have a week's worth of stuff to do?

This will also be my first taste of the true Peace Corps experience, and I hope that it'll be easier than it is in my imagination.  Other steps in this process have been similar, I was worried about living with a host family but it ended up not being that big of a deal. Hopefully, settling in to Huruta will follow that pattern.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Site Placement - Huruta

When we were interviewed about permanent sites, I requested a place with water, a small town, some place not too hot, and ideally somewhat close to Addis to minimize car sickness because the driving culture here is crazy. Last Saturday, were told where we were told our sites. They did it in location groups, and it wasn't until they had gone south of Addis did I even consider the thought of being in a CBT site and I thought, oh, I don't want to go to one of those. But of course, I am. Huruta is 30 min outside of Eteya, down a dirt road.

I'm very mixed about it. I liked the idea of going some place new. This feels like growing up in GI and then moving to Trenton, but the PCTs who live in Huruta for CBT training love it. Apparently it's green, has great juice, and has a few locations for day hikes. Nothing like Wellington of course, but it's nice to know there's that option. Plus, there's a soccer stadium. That would be nice, even for me to just run around in shorts and not scandalize the town.

What I'm nervous about is my location to my host family. Now, I feel kinda overwhelmed by the girls' recent displays of affections (they grab my head and move it to plant kisses, and try to feed me food), and being placed so close to the family means that they'll probably want me over a lot. When I told them where I was going, my host mom threw here hands up in the air with a cheer and her husband grinned. He's actually from there, and can't wait to introduce me to his family. Oh dears. There goes the space and privacy I'm hoping to have for the next two years.

But there people in my area seem to be good. Laura will be in Assella, along with Joe and Kelly who are an environmental couple stationed there, and there's a PCV in Eteya, as well as Lisa now (who I'll have to get to know), and Joe will be in Bekoji. Joe and Kelly said they host 'ferengi Fridays' and that people in the area get together about once every other week. Which will be awesome, since I'll be the only PCV in Huruta. Not the first, there was an environment PCV till a bit ago. He's a PCL now in Addis.

The school also kinda worries me. I'm at a primary school, which isn't what I wanted but what I expected. Other sites though have ideas of what they want, like help with a media program or help making the school more attractive. I can do that. What Huruta wants though, aside from the government goals of me to train their teachers and help the kids' English, is to help establish communication between parents and the school. I know nothing about PTAs, and all those lessons I was mentally building for a creative writing class will now never come to be. *sniff *

But I'll just have to make the most of it, because well I will be living there for two years. I can take trips to visit people, and I'll go into Assella a lot. (I'll have to, because Huruta doesn't have Internet coverage at all, and phones can be spotty). Communication wise, I'll be pretty isolated which I'm nervous about. Especially as the only PCV in town and this will be my first time truly living one my own, no roommate.

Gah, I'm nervous and excited and worried and hopeful and optimistic and biting my nails and for some reason what to cry and for others to laugh.

Sometimes I can't help but look forward to the next two years and see this hole of unknowns and struggles, though I'll know there'll be good times too (though I think it's sad I won't be able to travel to Christine in Askum to have a joint birthday party). It's a huge dark thing, and I guess above it all it makes me want to curl up and cry because I'll be surrounded by strange things and strange places and strange people and have to push and push to get things down and do it all by myself with limited contact with other PCVs and even more so with home and I'll miss so many things back in the states and man this is tough. Really, really tough.

*breathe *

But I only feel that way when I look ahead. So I'll have to try not to, and really only focus on things one day at a time. Or as Teri advised me – one hour at a time because some times days can be daunting too.

I used to think canyoning ( jumping off a 10ft cliff and being dropped down a waterfall and jumping into the narrow spot between the wall and rapids) was the scariest, but most awesome thing I've done. But really, at the end of these two years, it might just be joining the Peace Corps and living in Africa for two years.