Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas from Ethiopia!!

American Christmas here doesn't really feel like Christmas.  I know dressings are just dressings, but I fell like snow and trees and carols from store fronts have been elevated to the Christmas time culture.  Even if the snow if fake.

Not having them here makes it real easy to have the holiday pass me by.  Unless your friend had an amazing package from America that contained this.

It might have been the first time I've slept in a room with a Christmas tree.

While I spent the holiday in Bahir Dar with friends, I was the only who hadn't been to the city before and done the touristy things - namely look at the Blue Nile Falls - so I went by myself.  The Blue Nile Falls is the largest waterfall in Ethiopia and the second largest in Africa.  Though, if that's the case the others on this continent must be really pitiful.

Our guide explained that because there are two dams now that divert water from the Blue Nile before it goes tumbling off a cliff the show is not as spectacular as the display on the back of a one bir note. Apparently the best time to go is rainy season (so, June-Aug) and catch a rare moment when the dams aren't using water for power making.

But really, I think seeing Victoria Falls last year just spoiled me. I'll never see a waterfall as impressive as that.

Dinner was at a local resort, complete with a roaring fireplace in two of four corners.  Just the simple reminder of home set me at ease, and I had a lovely time hanging out with my friends all afternoon and evening.  Here, you get close to people real quick.  It's hard to separate friends from family.  I'll miss them when we're all back in America. But then, I'll be able to call them more often too.

At this point, I have roughly seven months left in country.  It seems a lot shorter on this side than the other.  And as much as I may whine about this place to friends, I do think I'll miss it.

Because even the most random people on the street will shout out 'Happy Christmas' here as you walk by in a way to make you feel welcome.  Or 'Happy New Year' I got that too.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Because you don't see my smiling face enough, I had to give you the option ^_~

1) Me in my house and compound. With a bit of cultural shenanigans for a holiday.  Watch me speak Amharic! Wash dishes! And jump a bonfire!

2) Me making coffee in a traditional setting, complete with costume. I swear, cultural dresses have way to many layers for an African country.

Sorry, Blogger won't let up embedded this one.

Many thanks to Carlin at Ferengi No Habesha for making these two for me.

3) I love the trip to my site, its a great 30-40 minutes down a dirt road with hills and mountains. I don't think this stop motion video does it enough justice, but hey, local music!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Last year, I went to the Hilton for Thanksgiving.

This year, I went to an homemade Thanksgiving party.  It was much better.

One of my PCV friends had connection through her parents to USAID workers and we stayed with them for the holiday.  It was so nice being able to cook in a real kitchen! With a maid who cleaned as we cooked. Which was very helpful as we made 6 pies, a corn casserole, cranberries, sweet potatoes with pecans, and stuffing.

Pumpkins pie, and we peeled the pumpkin ourselves.

 Part of Thanksgiving is making the food, something I missed last year and it was so nice to fall into a rhythm of domestic holiday work.

The food was wonderful, as was the wine. No local stuff for the holiday! There's a reason even the locals mix the red wine here with coke. And let's not get into the white.

Every dish was delicious, and the entertainment was also quite unique. The family hosting the dinner had two daughters with pet turtles, who they decided to pit against each other in a race.  It was over quicker than I expected. I didn't even have time to place a bet. ^_~

It was also quite a novelty to sit down and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. I haven't seen a parade in years, and it made me forget for awhile I was in Ethiopia. Except for the fact that it was morning in New York and after dark in Addis.  Still, marching bands, and a Santa sighting, was a nice ending to the holiday.

That, and coming back to my digs for the weekend and just crashing. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mt. Chilalo

Dex, a G6, is my walking buddy. We've spent hours tramping around the Arsi Zone. So I couldn't say no to one last walk before he leaves on Sunday. Climbing Mt. Chilalo.

Chilalo is the 4th largest mountain in Ethiopia, and Assella sits right at the foot of it. It's just over 4000m.

We left just after 7 am, walking with our guide and then the guard we picked up.  Guards a necessary, foreigners have been attacked before and hyenas live on the mountain. And there's no true trail so a guide is also a must.

We went through the country side first, past farm land, and apparently it's acceptable here to pull up plants to eat them while you go along. Our guide just pulled pea plants from the earth, picked off the pods, and gave them too us.

It was a long hike, more so cuz we went at a slow pace and stopped a lot. 11 hours of hiking!  But it was beautiful!  There's a wonderful rock formation at the top, and a holy water spring. We saw some deer, but no monkey's sadly.

Despite the longer than expected walk, it was a wonderful day.  I just crashed at the end, and woke up this morning tired and achy, but totally worth it. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I didn't really celebrate Halloween last year. I might have watched Hocus Pocus on my laptop or on the TV. Actually, pretty sure I did. But other than that, no celebration. Which was quite sad cuz it's always meant a party or some type of adventure in the past.

I think this year made up for it.

We made chili for lunch, but didn't have bowls.

The weird thing about celebrating American holidays in a country that hasn't even heard of them is that the local think you're a bit crazy.  I when to Carlin's house in Hossana with a bunch of other PCVs and her landlord was just fascinated with everything we did.

He had to get pictures of every costume possible (I went as an adorable jack-o-lantern, but I think the best prize when to Kat who made a bumblebee costume.  She sewed bubble wrap to a black shirt for wings, and then added strips of yellow fabric. And also made bug eyes from yellow tea strainers.) and insisted on calling him when we began the pumpkin carving.

Kat and I made a tree.
Honestly, I was surprised to see pumpkins, they don't exist in Huruta and I rarely see them in Adama, but they had them in Hossana!  They're a pain to carve here, the flesh is twice as thick and the knives just are carving caliber. Still, it was fun to do.  I havent carved a pumpkin in years and there's nothing like a holiday tradition surrounded by people who know it to make you forget you're living in a foreign country.  For a few hours, you can pretend you're home.

I think the crowning glory of the weekend was the homemade pumpkin pie.  Ok, the crust came from a mix, but we peel and chopped up the pumpkin ourselves and then made the filling ourselves to cook in a dutch oven.  Many thanks to Jackie for the pie pan.   I can't wait to make it in the States.

Made the hat myself.
The trip to Hossana was four buses and seven hours long, but it was worth it.  Having something planned each month is making this last year speed by.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Today marked my third week of actually teaching in the classroom.  Sometimes I think my lessons are too easy, all the 2nd graders I work with know the shapes of letters and can recognize them, but then an activity trips them up.  For example:

Class, how many 'f's are in this sentence I'm going to read to you?

Five fish swam away.


Oh boy.  They have no trouble listing words that start with a letter, and they're getting better at understanding the idea of phonetic sounds (B goes 'buh' not 'bah'), but listening skills are just, well. Not there.  But that's my job isn't it? I have the native accent!  Not that 'f' sounds different in Amharic, or Oromifya.  Still.

What really gets me is how excited the students are.  My first class is the first one after the recess, and as soon as they see me coming they're racing to their seats.  The second week, when I entered class I heard whispers along the lines of 'yay! she's back' and today it was the largest, most enthusiastic 'HELLO TEACHER!' I've ever heard.

I've also been noticing some of the secondary outcomes I was hoping for.  One teacher took time out to watch one of my lessons (though I wish he didn't arrive late to his own class to do so), and the second grade teacher I've been working with has 1) started looking into phonics on his own and asking me questions during his rest period  as well as 2) been taking a more active role in each mini lesson. It's no longer me doing a 7 minute phonics instruction, it's a 7 minute team-taught lesson.

I should have done this last year!

Also meet with staff at the secondary school today, I want to start a biweekly English music club.  My teachers' English club was supposed to start next week, but I'll have to push that back because apparently school will be closed next week so the kids can help with the harvest.  That's something that doesn't happen in America!

Well, at least not in my towns.  Maybe in rural Wisconsin? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I remember hearing once that you're considered fluent in a language if you dream in it.

The closest I've gotten to that was a dream in PST that was all in Peace Corps' weird phonetic language they use to teach languages that don't use roman characters.

However, I have noticed lately that I'll have conversations where I'm thinking in Amharic.  I don't have to translate in my head, I just say it.  Shopping, greetings, man, even the other day lamenting to a store clerk in Addis why I couldn't buy her cheese. (I need it for this coming up weekend, but hey, no fridge = no cheese.  Mozerlla can't sit on my counter for a week).  Of course, there are still times when I just stare at people and say 'algabunim' or 'I don't understand'. A lot of times actually.  But then later in the day I'll just spit out Amharic without thinking about.  Such as greeting other PCVs in the local lanuage and not English.

I think that freaked the newbies out.

Oh! Newbies!  G9 moved to sites the middle of September and I now have two new neighbors.  Both education.  I think there's only two PCVs in this entire zone who aren't education and one of them is leaving come the end of November.

Hanging around them also makes me feel like an Amharic goddess.  Good thing Dani's sister likes to bring me down a peg or two.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yay for chance meetings

The other day I was getting copies done for a training (and was still charged the full price even though I brought my own paper. Grr) and a man who walked in after me stuck up a conversation.  I immediately got the feeling that we had met before, but I didn't remember.  Such things happen when you're the post popular person in town and everyone wants to talk to you.

Eventually, I remembered who he was, a guy named Franco who I had met at the juice bet one day and had vowed to actually call once I had taken my GMATs.  His number has been on a Sudoku scrap piece in my purse for months! Fancy meeting him on the opposite side of town from his house (and work).

Franco, even when I first met him, is a gem of an Ethiopian. Aka a unicorn in PCV speak, but he doesn't consider himself habasha.  He grew up in Cuba, studied in Russia, and now is a security supervisor for the UN if I remember correctly. He's got a grip of 11 languages, travels a lot, and is more than welcoming in helping me with my (super duper) rusty Spanish which I'll need for grad school.

We got sodas and spent an hour talking. It was this weird mix of Spanish, Amharic, and English, but it worked all right. He even gave me homework to learn 1-10 in Arabic (which Dani can help me with).  Franco is so cosmopolitan, he's a breath of fresh air that will hopefully last this entire last year.

He offered to teach me how to drive stick, since my one lesson in the States didn't really stick with me, and what other Ethiopian in Huruta 1) has a private care 2) can speak English to explain how to use a stick and 3) pretty much told him I can use him as a bunna daddy.  Then again, he considers himself Cuban so....

There are just times here when I'm blown away by the people I meet, be it in sleepy Huruta or some place else.  Franco's one of them, and he's really only in the country for another year, so we'll be leaving together.  I have a brother in arms to join Dani and me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

First Training of the Year

And I'm off!

Technically, school started Sept 12.  But well, national teacher meetings weren't scheduled till after then, nor the teaching rotation finalized (that's Ethiopian foresight for you) so regular classes didn't actually exist until this past week.

I held a training on what is CPD and how to do it, which is a national level program all teachers much participate in every year that's focused on self-improvement.   I went to two school to invite people and hoped for maybe 15 total from both schools combined.

I got four.

Well, at least they each got individual attention!  The best part was all the Oxford ESL textbook I had laying around for teachers to fill through while waiting for people to arrive.  My teachers just fawned over them and begged me to lend them out.  They really are much best than the English for Ethiopia books that are used here and hopefully my teachers can use them to 1) understand the purpose of supplemental texts and 2) use them to some extent.  We shall see.

I'm just excited to begin working.  I've paired up with a 2nd grade English teacher and will now be giving weekly 5 min phonic lessons to his two classes.  

This is the letter B. You draw it like this.  It sounds like this.

Basic stuff, that really teachers ignore.  There's a reason the literacy rate in the local language isn't 40%.  Hopefully, for this class at least, we can boost that because skills like blending (which we'll get to about half way through the year) is a skill you use to read all languages.

Wish me luck for my first class on Thursday!  I hope the little kids at least understand me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ethiopian New Year! (Sept 11 in the International Calender)

In the Ethiopian calender, Wednesday was New Year. It also happened to be a fasting day and so celebrations were spread out over Wednesday and then Thrusday, because unlike the Greek Othrodox Church who said it was okay for American to eat meat on Thankgiving (which falls during the advent fast) because it was a holiday, the Ethiopian Church can't give thier people a break.

Or maybe the habasha don't want one because then they get two days off of work.

Regardless, I enjoyed both days and got to understand it a bit better compared to last year when I was a newly arrived Hurutalite.

Flowers are big for New Year, after all it falls at the end of rainy season. Children will draw flowers on paper with the words Happy New Year on them (melkam addis amat or inquan adasrashichu) and pass them out to people they know. The adults who receive them traditionally give the child money, a bir or so. Flowers are also the traditional gift of thanks from the small groups of children who go caroling.

(insert video)

It's usually the small children who come singing, and all our visitors this year were girls. They sing the local version of Auld Lang Syne, and not all are as well equipped with a drum as the one above. As with receiving a drawn flower, singers are gifted with change and maybe bread too if you have some on hand. Not everyone gives money, I know I didn't last year, but if you do the kids will give you a handful of flowers as well as the previous song.

Most of the ones I got still had the roots attached, but oh well. It was just fun watching their reaction when they say me. When the this group first came to the compound, they were singing to Dani who was on the porch and didn't see me in the living room. But then the girl in the pink dress stuck her head in the doorway and saw me. Her eyes went wide and her mouth mute.

On other holidays, I go house hopping for doro wat, but on actually New Years we just went to Dani's mom's house for coffee and then on Thursday went around town to feast. I feel really bad I couldn't even eat a half plate at our place for dinner.

I did make no bake peanut-butter chocolate cookies to share, except for the fact that I over estimated the amount of oatmeal I had left and so instead of staying in balls my cookie dough just filled up platters. But hey, people enjoyed it, and I have a huge amount left over for me to just spoon into my mouth. It gets me all the time, how they put three spoons of sugar into a tea cup but can't handle sweets.

Well, I guess they are small spoons.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I just got done with MSC, or mid service conference.  Only 11 months to go!

It was great seeing friends and going to restaurants that serve food I forgot existed. (The French place has pumpkin pie!)  And some of the sessions were enjoyable.

The Education sector is still pretty new here in Ethiopia, just two years, and so there was a lot of discussion about changing our framework and adjusting programs to fit with what the MoE already has in place.  I find such things fascinating, analyzing strengths and weaknesses of a program and working with a group to improve it.  Maybe it's because our ITELE program is important and the changes to it now will effect the future of edu volunteers in Ethiopia, of I can see the long term impact of the framework and not a similar view of my work at the school, or perhaps I just like being a part of something important.  Regardless, it's making me glad I'm getting a MBA.  I imagine similar round table discussions in my future career and am looking forward to them.

I did sign up for two huge projects in addition to my clubs and trainings at school.  One is to help with creating a teacher training manual, specifically creating lesson plans for future PCVs to use in conducting methodology trainings for their teachers.

The other is a personal writing one, well, editing. I want to put together a collection of stories from the current Ethiopian generation of PCVs and RPCVS, and publish it with all proceeds going to the country fund to help pay for PCPP grants volunteers have written for grants that aren't covered by VAST or PEPFAR aka HIV or Malaria projects.

But again, they are lasting things that make be feel like I'm actually doing something.

It's weird, because I've been here for a year already and know I've made a difference - I have the English grades of my club students to prove it - but I have nothing concrete. I guess it comes back to the whole 'leaving your mark' thing a lot of people have.  Having a say in the program and in the perception of how people see Peace Corps and Ethiopia as a country just makes me feel valuable. And who doesn't like that?

Regardless, the new school year is starting soon, next week in fact, and I'm quite excited to get things up and running.  I feel like I've learned a lot and nothing at all this past year, so we'll see how 2006 (remember, Ethiopia has a different calender) goes.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Being in Addis

One of the cool things about living in Ethiopia, or perhaps any place abroad, is that I'm always surprised by something and learning new things.  Many are those which strike me as odd, and so I have to take pictures.

 It specifically says not for sale, and yet this is a supermarket doing just that. For those of you who also donate clothes to Africa, they also end up in the hands of people selling them.  Or I've heard of a Salvation Army shipment of clothes being burned.
Yes, this is hail.  And it came without warning.  I was in a line taxi and it just parked and no one got out during the 20 minutes it came down. Large hail pieces too, like the size of my thumbnail. They crunch when you walk on them, and cause lots of traffic for humans and cars.  During the hail, everything just stopped, plus there was construction nearby.  We all just walked in the street weaving between cars.

I've seen hail in country before, but it always strikes me as odd. Cuz, well, this is Africa.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Life Snipits

  • Bought two chocolate bars to eat in honor of getting rid of most of my stressors, but was so hungry polished both of them off with out the time for enjoyment. Did notice however that while both are supposed to be off brand Snickers one was much closer to a Three Musketeer bar.
  • Zambia is awesome. People don't harass you, there are paved roads, and is that a sushi place across from the hostel?!
  • OMG, capsizing on a level 4 rapid is terrorizing.
  • It it weird to miss your own shintbet when away?
  • I love buying strawberries in Adama and then bringing them home. Everyone just stares at them and goes 'what is this' because they're such a rare sight.
  • You know your sweet input is really low when you have a bunch of berries and your teeth ache like a post trick-or-treating candy binge.
  • Wabam! A little fiddling with the TV cable and we suddenly have ETV3. Which apparently plays American movies. Back to back. With no commercial breaks. And they mostly (aside from Sister Act that one time and apparently wed nights it's all crime films) are Disney/Pixar films. Life here just got better. Who needs to rewatch Doctor Who on my laptop when Ratatouille is on?
  • Reading an article from Popular Culture: The International Journal of Media and Culture that mentions Inspector Spacetime and SuperWhoLock. I feel so smart for being a geek right now.
  • I think the one novel I've read more than any other is my own. I keep rereading and rereading it for edits and flaws and refreshing my mind before continuing to work on it.
  • My year of saving plastic bags and candy wrappers has now paid off. I have a crocheted plastic bag doormat and a table with a glued mosaic of candy wrappers. I feel very accomplished.
  • Cold, cold, go away!
  • It's sad watching Ghostbusters with people who don't know what a ghost is.
  • I ate a fish, and didn't mind the head was still attached. Or the spine still in it.
  • I now have an electric kettle! Got along fine for a year without one, but I just wanted it. Something about having an American gadget on my floor just makes me happy. Primus, I'm turning materialistic.
  • Still trying to figure out a good way to clean my yoga mat. Today, I'll hang it between two laundry lines while it rains.
  • Cut my hair today and then handed over the scissors to Dani. Who doesn't understand that curls, well, curl away from the head, and so they must be long pieces that need to be snipped. Thus, I'm pretty sure all of my curls are now living amongst the grass. This will probably be my last haircut here, I rather miss my curls.

Friday, July 19, 2013



It's weird, within one month I essentially directed one camp, took off on vacation, and then was in charge of the schedule at another camp, so I figured I'd want the rest of the summer to relax. But after less than a week I'm regretting not offering to help with the new group of PCTs' training or an Ethiopia training program.  I've pretty much done nothing but watch TV and read.  Should probably get to work on preparing programs and workshops I want to do come the end of September. August will be a bit more busy, and that's not that far away.

Guess I don't feel the pressure of deadlines until they're only a few days away.

Anyway, now that I've debriefed a bit I'm having fun comparing my two camps in my head. The Huruta one was much more focused - what will help these girls in three months?- and full of a lot more stress. But I felt super accomplished after doing it.

Bejoki was a lot more fun. Can't attribute to the fact it was an overnight camp, complete with down time to hang with other PCVS and more one on one experiences with the girls, or because I had less to stress over.  Really got to see how some of the girls developed throughout the week and formed more connections due to the 24/7ness of the work.  Less stress than before, but also less sleep. A lot less.

However, I'm super glad I did both, and am just sad I couldn't do it with any of my close friends here. I don't like the idea of going back to the States and our conversations will be about site complaints and trainings, but not anything productive we actually do together. PC is more than that. But I think Debra has that covered and is thinking of a joint project in January. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Today marks the half way point of my Peace Corps Service in Ethiopia. I've been in country over a year, but not quite 11 months in Huruta.

It's been an interesting time, for sure. I've been involved in two summer camps for girls, trained about 15 teachers in methodology and English, as well as worked with a U-17 girls soccer team and witnessed all active members of my student English club improve in their writing. And I have more ideas for next year.

Living here hasn't been a walk in the park. I distinctly remembering it taking 3 months before I was comfortable in my university town and only about one before I was comfortable in Wellington. But I only recently started thinking of Huruta, and thus Ethiopia, as home.

I'm chalking that up as the time it took to integrate with the town. I'll never do it fully, I stick out way too much, but I feel safe and know the best cafes and people call be by name on the street instead of the generic 'you' or 'sister' though I still get that.

I remember driving home once, or rather my mom was driving and I was lounging in the seat next to hear, and she mentioned how much I had changed while being away at college. I thought that was so silly, because mentally I felt (and still feel) like I'm 16. Though my conversation topics have shifted. I know that I'm learning a lot here, flexibility and program management and patience, but I still feel me.

Still, fair warning to friends and family back home I now:

  • Drink coffee. I've had as many as six cups in a day and have no problem going to bed after three of them post dinner. And no, decaf does not exist here.
  • Seem to have dropped the inability to read in cars. I pull out my kindle or magazines all the time.
  • Am really, really good at ignoring people. Habasha have commented on how they have called me on the street and I don't respond, but really, it's how I cope with the harassment the rest of the town gives me. 
  • Purposefully look for veggies in the market. I now regularly eat tomatoes and onions, and even make my own guacamole.
  • Prefer to sleep 9 hours every night. And rarely am able to sleep in past 7 am.
  • Am much more lazy. I do dishes maybe every 5 days. And I usually only do laundry when I realize I don't have any more clean pants.
  • Am also more literal, because it makes me happy to mess with people's brains that way here.
  • Have a new interest in gardening, maybe because I fail at it here and hope it will go better in the States.
  • Am amazed by porcelain toilets and hot showers and utilize them when ever possible. I also similarly eat cheese and ice cream and chocolate and fish and a whole load of other food when it's available because it doesn't exist in Huruta.  I can see myself gaining weight when I first go back.
  • Have no problems taking an hour bus ride down a dirt road for free wi-fi access.
  • Am very used to near car accidents on the road. I don't even look out the window to know when to brace anymore.

These may or may not effect our relationship upon my return. You have been warned.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zambia Re-cap

Oh, I had a lovely time here in Zambia.  I really do not want to go back to Ethiopia. Okay, maybe I just want to delay it a bit.  I do want to be back for my second camp, and all the projects I hope to do next year.

Christine and I spend most of our time in Livingstone.  It's a cute, flat town (never saw anything more than 2 stories aside from an Autoworld) with lots of dining options and while the scenery is very different from Queenstown I couldn't help but be reminded of it. Most of the tourists are young people, there were a lot of grad students in the country/neighboring ones taking a break from masters/phd research, and so much of the activities were geared towards young people.  But that didn't stop an elderly Chinese man I met.  The sole reason he came to Livingstone was to bungee jump and white water raft.

We took a wonderful bus ride down from Lusaka. Plush seats, free newspapers, drinks, snacks.  Nothing like Ethiopia.  Of course, music was still played the entire trip. But in Ethiopia it is blaring local music, Zambians play Christian spirituals at a comfortable level.

We spent the first day exploring Victoria Falls. It's in a small park area, but the paths cover a lot of ground.  Up close, the spray is so intense it's hard to see the Falls.  It's always raining, and now Zambia is approaching dry season so the Falls aren't even at their full strength.  Still, there is so much spray the opposite side of the gorge that the water falls into is always getting rained on and a mini rainforest has sprung up.  And then up you go to the top of the next gorge (where the Falls used drop) and it's all dry.  It's interesting seeing such extremes so close to each other.

Day two we went on a game drive aka rode in a jeep through a national park to look at animals.  While it might have been more interesting and special to actually tracking animals on foot, we would not have seen all that we did. Giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, water bucks, impala, wildebeest. It was like being in Lion King. We were lucky enough to see elephants. They only come around during the dry season, because otherwise it's just too muddy and they get stuck in it. This guy here decided to mock charge us, which I think is the elephant equivalent of a cat hissing and puffing up. But much more startling. Christine squeaked.

The next day, I went off on my own to do a little white water rafting.  Didn't quite realize what I was getting into. Only after we were at the river did I learn that much of the Zambezi is level four and five rapids.  And I had no idea capsizing was so scary.

I was a little nervous when before we set off our guide went through commands and one of them was 'hold on'.  You essentially put your oar along the rope on the edge of the inflatable raft and hold both together with your hands.  How often were we going to use that?

As it turns out, on the second rapid.  Chongo shouted hold on, and boy did I do so.  Maybe too much.  The boat hit a wave wrong, and over we went.  It flipped right side over left, me being on the left, and since I held on to the rope the whole time I went under quickly.  When it happens, it happens so fast you don't have the time to suck in a lungful of air. First you holding on with a death grip, and then you're under the boat and you can't see and you wonder where are the rocks how can I avoid them I dropped my paddle oh my god the air pocket they said would be here isn't because the water is too choppy!  I'm so glad they covered what to do if you get knocked out or if the boat flips. 

I found the edge of the raft, pulled myself  out from under it, grabbed a lungful of air while trying to be in an upside bug position - feet up to use as shock absorbers, balance with arms (but no way was I letting go of that rope), and head pointing upstream to make it easier to breath.  But it wasn't working, the water kept splashing into my face can't get a good breath omg something is pulling at my leg it sucked off my shoe Christine's Keen sandal that I was borrowing I'm in the middle of rapid and why is Chongo on top of the boat? Why is he pulling that rope? He's gonna right it? I have to let go of the rope?! No, just take a deep breath and I'll automatically move with it, my arms twist but my head's above water and no more waves in my face and I'm pretty sure I'm settling down but I just want out of the water into the boat and why can't I stop my mini tremors?

 (As Chongo explained later, when were were sitting in a calm patch with only three paddles while the three kayak guides on the trip searched for our paddles, just after we flipped we the front part of the raft went over a whirlpool and was sucked down for bit.)

Of all the things that experience reminded me of, it was when I thought I accidentally killed someone working as a horse carriage tour driver on Mackinac Island. My carriage had no breaks, they went out on the trip, and the horses were skittish and couldn't keep still as a result. An old lady tried to get on the carriage after getting out at a scenic outlook, the horses moved, she fell back, hit her head on the carriage parked next to me and went down.  She wasn't moving. And my boss just sent me back to the barn to get a new carriage, not even a new team, and barn staff on bikes and the ambulance went speeding past me on the way to the barn and I spent the whole day on edge and nervous and trembling and no one told me she was okay until my last run even though this happened on my first of that day.

Panic attacks, I realized then, because obviously falling into a rapid is a different experience than thinking you killed someone. Having a panic attack, even a mini one, while floating in the middle of a level four rapid is not very helpful or smart. It's rather dangerous. 

Not the one we flipped on, but looking at the pictures I don't know why we didn't.

It probably took me another three or four rapids to calm down, to realize that not every rapid meant a flip and if you aimed the raft correctly they could be fun.  But when Chongo gave the raft the option of flipping on purpose, I said no. As did the other girls, I'm so pleased. Our raft only flipped once the entire trip, others two or three times. And for others, people fell out more than once.

I'm glad I did it, but I don't think I'll be doing it again any time soon. 

Christine and I had spa appointments that night, massages and pedicures.  I felt like I earned them.

We spent our next, and last day, visiting the museum. Not impressive by American standards, but it is by Ethiopian.  It essentially highlighted how unique Ethiopia is.  There are no true tribal religions or practices, and the meanings behind several traditional items aren't known.  There is also very little to find about the history of Ethiopia, be it culture or policy. Part of that is the Derg and it's oppressive state, but I wonder how much colonialism has to do with that. Ethiopia was only occupied for five years by Italians, but fought them off.  Most of the early explores to Zambia wrote about what they saw, the life styles and the cultures that were around during the 1800s, preserving them.  Nothing like that happened in Ethiopia.  The museum of natural history is pretty much a place of relics from the old rulers, art, a fake Lucy and exhibit on human evolution, and how the climate of Africa as a whole shifted over time.  Maybe all the missing information stuff is just written in Amharic. I have no idea.

In the evening, we went on a booze cruise. Twas my first, and not really what I expected. While the bar tenders were friendly and the drinks were free, there were a lot of families on the boat with kids and the only single guys looked to be in there late 30s. They were also rather fond of smoking in our faces.  Apparently, the company the hostel booked us with advertised it as both a booze cruise and a sunset cruise, but oh well. Food, drinks, and watching hippos play in the river was nice and relaxing, just what my still sore from rafting body needed.

I spent some time overhearing, okay, eavesdropping on a couple of girls a bit older than us simply because I was interested in their conversation about medial aid abroad.  Throughout our trip, I tried to image what it would be like for someone to overhear the conversations Christine and I had.  How amazed we were at the signs telling tourists to not give food or money to the street children, how much more friendly the Zambian culture is, what the political repression of our respective Ethiopian regions by Addis is.  If they would fell like I did listening into those public health grads whose conversation we eventually joined,  they'd feel like they had just stumbled upon interesting, smart people.

Which is kinda weird.  I remember meeting world travelers before and thinking, that person was so interesting! and now I think I've become one of those people.  But I still meet people so much cooler than me all the time in the hostels.  Today I met a RPCV couple who met while serving in Guatemala and just finished a Habitat for Humanity trip in Mali with their kids. And a Berkley PHD student doing research for a project on the African laws about conservation for the past 50 years.   I guess the world is just full of cool people full of cool stories and I love learning all of them.  I think that's part of why I'm a writer.

I fly back to Addis tomorrow, and I'm rather sad about it. But I know I should, I need, to go back.  I'm almost at the halfway point of my 27 month service here and the first half went by fast. The second half will go just as quickly.

Oh Zambia, I will miss you. So glad Christine and I didn't go to Tanzania like so many other Ethiopian PCVs.

Monday, June 24, 2013

In Zambia!!!!

We arrived at two am here last night in Lusaka, and man it's like being in America. We got off the airport and bam! It's clean, orderly, the cars in the parking lot are brands I recognize and driving down the road in the taxi there are shopping malls. Actual shopping malls! And some lady bumped into me and actually apologized!

Hard getting here, trying to figure out a flight that meets PC safety standards. We had to fly direct (only to arrive at the airport and have the screen flash 'via Harrie' which I know PC says is sketch and to be avoided, but when we actually checked in learned that Lusaka was the first stop) and we got to the airport 3 hours prior to our site and needed most of them to get through all the security checkpoints and check in line because Ethiopian Airlines thinks, oh, night shift=less people, but really? most of the International flights leave then. My poor feet. I do not have the footware for 3 hours of standing around.

However, the plane was awesome. A 737 filling with only 20 people. The meal came quickly and I was offered seconds for every round of drinks. And who cared if it was 10 pm, I had coffee!

I can already tell this will be an awesome (if slight pricey) trip. The hostel we're staying at has more amenities than most I had in New Zealand (towels, soap, toilet paper that's pink, a pool, wi-fi) and while we'll only be here one night, I think the hostel in Livingstone will be wonderful too.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My School

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The craziness of camp days

Tuesday June 18th, 2013

7:00 – wake up, totally not wanting too. Spent too much time reading last night. Get ready for sessions.
7:20 – leave house for Medab
7:45 – at Medab, and no one is there
8:00 – Should be when camp activities start, but really when most of the campers and Alayu arrive. Missing guest stakeholders
8:05 – Start Personal Bingo activity.
8:15 – Welcome Prep school director, gender office rep, and edu woreda office rep to introduce Huruta's 2013 Camp GLOW! On the second day, because you didn't come Monday. And oh, I must do an impromptu speech to start us off. Lovely.
8:25 – guests leave, bingo resumes
8:30 – Who can tell me how HIV is transmitted? Start of HIV and the Immune System session.  Cue giving girls roles to play as cells (macrophages loved eating antigens, but the poor T4 cells were always like, who do I tell that there's an invader?), and then a game showing how the immune system works (adult elephants/immune system really got  into protecting the baby elephant/self from lions/disease. Pity they were useless against HIV me. ) and then talking about how to strengthen the immune system.
9:30 – Well then, didn't I plan 90 minutes for this session? What am I to do with the extra time before break? Tea/bread isn't ready yet. BS the  games of telephone and non-verbal telephone into a mini session on the break down of communication and what you can do to ensure a message is received as it's meant.  I've become quite good at improvising on the spot here.
10:00 - Shai-bunna! Though, most of the girls have pop instead of tea or coffee. But they take the time today to explore the grounds of the garden. Glad to see them becoming more comfortable.
10:25 -  Our guest speaker hasn't arrived yet for a 10:30 session. Quick! Think of mini activities in case she's just late and a whole 90 minute session if she doesn't show.  Thank Primus for the Life Skill's Manual.
10:30 – Do variation of trust falls in a circle. Discuss feelings on when you were in the center, and when you were doing the catching.  As much as I can BS my way through that, possible discussions questions in the manual would be wonderful.
10:40 – Wow, trust falls only tool 10 minutes. Must fill up more time! Despite requests for once again doing the hokey pokey (sorry, that was yesterday girls and didn't really appreciate the cell phone pictures of me) tried to recreate a Staging Activity on leadership and really flopped in my mind but I'm sure the girls just thought of it as something they didn't understand because I'm American and speak native English and they're Ethiopian and only know a bit of English. Didn't correct them.
10:45 – panicking, 'organize yourself silently' did not lead to groups that share a thing a common (was hoping for something based on clothes or distance from school) but rather groups for the sake of groups. Think the word 'organize' was a bit strange. Have no other quick idea in my head. And here's the guest speaker, yes!
10:50 – Begin Family Planning session! Tis awesome, because 1) guest speaker means no/little work for me 2) I honestly believe it's the most important session all week
11:30 – Alayu mentions he paid for the guests earlier to have a snack. Can the grant reimburse him? And for all the phone calls he's making on the camp's behalf.  Say nothing about all the supplies/time I've personally donated and that I'm essentially paying for the came myself and waiting for a grant reimbursement that I'm only 80% sure I'll get. Bosses said the grant was good, but that doesn't always mean the American govt will actually give me the money does it? But just tell him yes, the grant will pay.
12:00 – Maybe it was a good thing they were late, session finished early. Twas a bit boring, lots of lecturing compared to all the movement the girls did in the first session. Start the Q&A.  Very good questions asked, and even sensitive topics like rape (as in, if it happens how can you prevent a pregnancy, thanks for the questions Alayu, one of two adult males in the room) brought up.  Not a lot of girls took note, but I hope they remember this session.
12:30 – girls leave, prepare for next session
12:40 – call from Elementary school counterpart while one way home (man, didn't realize that hill was steep till I had to walk and talk up it). There is a program at the school, come.  Heard about it last Tuesday, and had planned on going after lunch. Oh well, I'll skip the meal.
1:15 – Show up at school, am the last to arrive and go through the whole, oh dear where should I sit deal and feeling very popular and not at the same time and several teachers flag me to corners but none of those whose names I know and those I did just smiled and waved. (kay, my counterpart waved me over but the people around him said there wasn't space)
1:30 – What do you know, it's a lunch program!
1:45 – People start being selected to get food, and at first I'm floored by people coming back with two beers in their hand. Did they grab one for a friend? Why are the women, who rarely drink let alone in public in the country, also carrying two beers? Why are the tables filled with so many bottles?  Questions answered. I hit the drinks table (really, just crates in the middle of the hall) and someone puts two St. Georges in my hand. If the school is paying, and there's the amount, why not indulge? The teachers passing out drinks seem rather miffed that I turn down the beer for, not even a malt drink, but a  Miranda and a Pepsi.  What's wrong with beer?  Start 10 minutes of questions from various people into my drinking habits who don't understand that I just don't like the taste.  If they want to see it as my religion forbidding alcohol, that's cool and I won't direct them to the restaurant where Gary made me drink too much ouzo.
2:30 – Speeches. In Amharic. Really hope they don't go long because I have an appointment at 4.
2:40 – Text from Greg, taking Internetless PCVs to take work related leaves to take the All Volunteer Survey. No longer in an Internetless site, should probably share that information, but rather like the idea of work allowed time away from site.
3:00 – And the speeches are done! Time for pictures, talking to people, making sure my meeting to talk about next year is set for Thursday at 4.  Must remember to put everything together. Asking a teacher for her niece's permission slip for Bekoji camps and hoping she's not miffed about me not selecting her daughter.
3:10 – Edu Woreda to give a spreadsheet of teachers who have participated in my trainings the past year and how many CPD hours they have earned because of it. Panic, again, when asked which teachers on the list are English teachers, and then feel relief and amazement and Shibeshi tells me himself.  There are 78 teachers in my school alone, and the woreda contains 31 govt schools. How does he call all that?!
3:40 – Phew, home. But not time to take off my shoes, just move a file from computer to flash drive and then off to the stationary store for printing.
4:00 – Alayu a no show, but I print 6 certificates, each with a typed name, on colored paper, but can't pay because the clerk doesn't have change for a hundred. Buying on credit isn't rare here, but I'm always worried I'll forget because they never write these things down.
4:15 – Avoid the children outside the shop who won't stop saying 'Hi' and following me. (Saying hi back only encouraged them on my way over and I don't know how to say 'once is enough' in Amharic. Must ask Dani)
4:26 – Ah, home. First time I take my shoes off since I left this morning. Quite a rare thing. I'm usually done with work by 11:30 and in my flipflops making lunch.
4:30 – Alayu calls. Did you print the certificates? Yes? I'll come pick them up.
4:40 – Alayu arrives at my house, is disappointed over the paper (why isn't it thick?), wonders if we should give them in frames (at 50 bit a pop I think not) and discusses a plan for the closing ceremony on Friday. And then tells me to type it up and give it to him the next day.
4:45 – Should start doing a whole list of stuff – prepare for the next two session, my meeting on Thursday, make reservations in Addis, write a project proposal, finish making prizes, but read a bit to relax instead.
5:00 – Dang it! Power went out. Must go buy another candle.
5:05 – Phew! It's back on.
5:30 – Get a call from Debra where I rant and complain to release a bit of tension, talk about coping mechanisms, writing things out for one of my sessions, remember more things I have to do (my VRF, laundry) talk about how I should be doing them, hiring a lady to do my laundry just this once, and the merits of buying ketchup.
6:24 – Figure I'll do at least a few articles of clothes, but the water isn't coming.
6:45 – Start dinner
6:50 – Dani comes home and tells me there will be no water for 4 days because the muddy stuff that came out of the tap yesterday is a sign that the reservoir is broken and it will take 4 days to clean. There goes the idea of laundry. And of tea for breakfast. And pasta for lunch.  And my Wednesday shower.
7:00 – Well, at least my first attempt at mashed potatoes came out okay.
7:20 – Eat, read, realize I knocked one thing off my list and added another – create a goal visual sheet. And checking on t-shirt orders for the Bekoji camp
7:30 – Really craving hot chocolate, it's my anti-stress food here instead of ice cream, but must save water. Really, really looking forward to Saturday afternoon when all my responsibilities will be gone.
7:40 – Trying to not think about the problems I'll face after my return from Zambia the 5th – no clothes for the Bejoki camp the week of the 7th cuz of no water to wash clothes, and getting girls to camp.
8:00 – Put off everything still to read in the living room. Can't really work there and if I don't 'visit' for a bit each night Dani gets miffed.
9:00 – Right, lets work on that goal sheet and then go to bed.

Friday June 21st 2013
2:32 – first wake up in a series of wake ups that usually happens with I have to get up at 6 or earlier in the morning
5:45 – throw in the towel on sleep and start getting ready for the day.
6:00 – wrap gifts, get together money, create spare logo for Bekoji camp, and all together get small things done
7:00 – Arrive at preparatory school. Am the only one, despite telling everyone to be there at 7 and that I'm not afraid of having the bus take off without them.
7:10 – Aha! Girls slowly but surly arrive and we start taking a multitude of pictures.
7:19 – What's this? Our contract bus is early? Cue taking a sign to it and more pictures.
7:54 – Of course an early bus didn't mean we'd actually leave at our 7:30 start time. Wait, why are we heading to the bus station? There may be empty seats, but I paid for them and we are not picking up extra people! Oh, paperwork, okay then. A~nd just past the turn off for the short cut. Guess we're going through Eteya.
8:30 – Flat tire. Gotta stop and change it.
9:45 – Arrive at the gates of Adama Science and Technical Institute almost an hour late. The guards won't let us in. We call the dean of students, he gives us the number for the chief of campus police, we call the chief, and he tells the guard to let us pass.
10:00 – Finally off the bus and on campus! Leave my bag of bunna ceremony gifts in the locked compartment behind the drivers seat.
10:30 – Still waiting around for our tour to start. Apparently to get into certain areas we need a letter of direction from the student dean. Who is in Addis Ababa. But he did give it to his staff.  Who lost it.
10:40 – Decide to start tour while Alayu waits at the office to see if the letter can be found to allow us to visit the libraries. The first building we pass is the female library. Our guide talks to the head librarian. We're in! Take that Ethiopian bureaucracy that's too convoluted to do things in a way that makes sense.  Am rather impressed with the selection inside, though several books are completely copied pages bound together. Female only library needed in an effort to keep harassment of women down.
11:00 – Head towards the dorms, and hello guys. I have never been to another country where the harassment of guys on girls is nearly as high. Looks, calls, approaches, despite the obvious 'preparatory' on all our matching shirts. So proud of the girls who used our anti-peer pressure session to tell them off.
11:20 – Get to see a few dorm rooms. 6 to a room, one desk, communal dorm bathrooms, and no outlets because the university doesn't want students to use it and raise the power bill.  You're stuck with bad cafeteria food unless you leave campus, which is way on the outskirts of town.
11:40 – Pop into  a classroom, not bad. White board, individual desks, lots of light, and lots of desk graffiti.
11:50 – Tour the Edu library and have to insert myself between a guy and one of my girls. She seemed kinda miffed. Well, she can send google eyes during our walks and not a presentation.  I have a feeling she  is one of the ones who won't graduate.
12:00 – Lunch! Smack a guy outside of the cafeteria for taking a picture of me with out asking. He kept saying sorry and that he did ask, despite my calling him out on the lie. Eshetu came over and made him delete the photo. I swear, men here are like 'oo! Ferengi! Must take a picture' the same way I am about monkeys.  But I'm very obviously not a while animal and don't appreciate the paparazzi attention.  I have a new sympathy for celebrities.
12:30 – The Ethiopians are impressed much by the cafeteria food, but I don't think it's bad.
12:45 – Head toward student center for coffee.  It's dirt cheap, 1.50 a cup, and you can taste the cheapness. But there was also a small baked good section (should have gotten a doughnut) and a suk.
1:00 - Head towards the stadium.
1:30 -  Back in the bus meeting spot, hoping it might come a half hour early. Spend time talking to the girls and posing with a tin Ibex.
2:00 – Alayu tells me we missed the bus, it's a contract, how is that possible? Ah, it just has a flat tire and is still in Huruta. An hour and a half away. And we have a program at 3:30. Lovely.  Plan – fill up minibuses, get to bus station, and fill up the next bus to Huruta. Thank goodness I had an extra 1,300 bir on me (wasn't entirely sure Adama U was footing the lunch bill).
2:15 – Get a call, our broken bus called a friend and there's a bus on the way to the university! And the driver will deliver my bag to Medab for the ceremony.
2:45 – Get ambushed on the bus by Eshetu and Alayu. Apparently, a bunna ceremony at the end of a week long program isn't a enough. Girls are grumbling about a tasty meal (some are from the rural areas who had rented rooms for the school year and were moving back the next morning so they had no food at home, others because it's not in the culture to not have one) and Alayu is talking about using the money from Adama's paid lunch.  Told him the grant doesn't really allow that, 1300 was set aside to go to Adama U and if it doesn't go there it goes back to Peace Corps.  But at the end of a long day walking around in the sun, willpower is low. Give in and say our incidental fund could be used for it. Just 800. And so we decided just the girls will eat, not us nor the stakeholders/guest speakers who have also been grumbling about the closing ceremony just being bunna. Decide it might be best to eat in Dera or Eteya.
3:00 – Call Medab to move bunna ceremony back again, thinking we'd get there at four after eating. Realize we still have 45 minutes of the bus ride to go. Ethiopians really don't understand schedules. Call Woin Restaurant and preorder so things will be ready.
3:50 – Arrive at Woin, meat for tibs isn't fully chopped and so get to work in the kitchen. Don't think the girls even know that I cooked their food. Get texts about things to do for Bekoji camp, must do those before I leave for Zambia on Monday.
4:00 – Our original bus called. It went to the rural area. With my bag with all the gifts for the bunna ceremony in it. Plus, three of our guests have showed up at Medab, at the original time (ish) and need to be entertained. The rest of our guests are still at the office. Eshetu goes to the office, to direct them to Medab, Alayu starts serving food to the girls, and I get attacked by little Mita who when I ask for a hug thinks that means tackle my legs.
4:40 – Mita takes to biting my legs, I punish her to the laugh of the campers, I pay for the meals and then take off with a few of the girls to Medab.
4:50 – Call came, my bag is at Medab!
5:00 – Way late to the bunna ceremony, which has been waiting for us most likely since 3:30, and feel terrible. Original guests on time are still there, and as most of the girls follow me in we start the closing ceremony with a role play showing all they learned. Present certificates and awards (extra t-shirts, had originally thought there would be 20 girls but there was only 17), had coffee, and probably got praised a million times in Amharic, and was gifted with a nutella. But what I loved the most was the girls' speeches about how much they loved the program, said we should do it for girls next year, and several bureaus, now knowing what the program is, are committed to helping next year. Alayu hopes this means a visit to Hwassa University instead of Adama.  Might be a bit much.
6:00 – Was surprised by how bittersweet I was at saying goodbye to the campers. Not that I was sad at all, but more like I know they're going someplace tough in a few months and I really hope what I taught them will help. I wish them all the best. And I know most of them I probably won't ever seen again.
6:15 – Alayu, Eshetu and I go to Woin for dinner only to discover that our girls cleaned them out of meat. There is also no meat at the next two restaurants we walk to.
6:45 – Really feel like a drink at the restaurant, to celebrate a camp well finished, but neither of the men order a beer so I feel self-conscious about getting wine and pass on it.  Talk about ideas for next year, and gender differences in positions of authority (Eshetu's doing a paper on it) and PC work (most PCVs are female, and most host families when given the choice prefer female trainees).
8:00 – Return home to find the door locked, but am let in soon enough.  Coffee, quineto, and I'm still so tired and having to go to Adama the next morning (aiming for the 6 am bus) for Bekoji camp stuff.  Go to bed exhausted.

Rest assured, there'll be a camp video soon.

Also, for those who may be confused, bunna is coffee in Amharic.