Sunday, March 17, 2013


So, I tried to upload a bunch of photos from the soccer game last weekend, but the Internet isn't cooperating. The girls looked dashing in their uniforms – red shirts, black shorts, and bright yellow socks (which were so old the elastic wouldn't enable them to stay up and so the socks pooled around their ankles). We won, 2-0, and then had Monday off from practice.

It may be a the middle of March for us, but the month is really just getting started here. 

As an experiment, I've been keeping track of my budget for the Ethiopian month of February.  I remember infomercials as a kid, that a dollar a day could make all the difference to a kid in Africa. So I set out to see if that was true. A dollar is worth about 18 bir, and as all months here are 30 days, that's 540 bir a month.

No way I tried to live on 540 for the month. I like my comforts, and naturally spend more than most habasha. I need to go to Assella once a week for Internet to check on home and stuff from Peace Corps. Dani, my landlady, maybe goes to Eteya (half the distance) every other month.  But I kept track of my costs for everything and then separated what I considered ferengi expanses from expenses I feel most Huruta locals would have.

The result? 337.80 bir a month on local costs (compared to the 1,123.70 I spent total).

Granted, that's essentially just my grocery and phone bill. (Well, market bill. I buy food like nutella, oatmeal, and powdered milk that most Ethiopians don't.) And I only bought meat once. Plus one bottle of laundry soap.  It doesn't include rent and utilities (which I think is about 150 bir a month for a room) or clothes or school supplies. It also is only the costs for one person to eat.  Families here are large, six or seven is not uncommon.  Lots of items are also bought in bulk. Dani buys 750 bir of teff at a time, because the grain only comes in large 50 kg bags.  And usually a family will buy an animal instead of ½ kilo of meat from the store. A mid sized goat? 700 bir.

So, does a dollar a day make a difference? I'd say yes. You can't live on it, no way, but it will guarantee a more varied diet by allowing 'extra' food to be purchased.  'Extra' food here is fruit, eggs, milk, and tomatoes. The average family doesn't eat those on a regular basis.  Or it will allow more of the staples to fill the kitchen, if the family is struggling with that.

There really isn't any NGO offering such a program in Huruta, but Compassion does have a sponsor program that for $38 a month will cover not only school costs but provide additional classes in subjects like hygiene and life skills. It also covers an HIV test for the families once a year, a field trip a year for the students, and paid for my soccer team's uniforms.

It's amazing how well you can stretch a dollar when you have a good exchange rate. 

Friday, March 8, 2013


So, about a month ago I wandered into one of the NGOs in town to see if I could help with anything.  I met a player on a girl U-17 soccer team. I'm now an assistant coach ^_^

After a few communication issues (which involved me waking up at 6 am when I really didn't need to) I settled into practice three times a week.

It was hard at first, I'm so used to players having their own balls and cones and nets on the goals. Not to mention understanding English, but I've kinda gotten over that on at this point.  Plus, I had to constantly tell myself this was their practice and not play time for me.

Originally, the coach just had them scrimmage each other the entire practice. And then talk to them about control afterwards. But eventually we set up a system where he takes half the girls and I'll take the other half (one ball per group) and well spend time on technical skills. Aiming, traps, headers, control. And then we scrimmage.

And I'll be lying if I said don't enjoy myself on that one.

It's interesting watching them improve.  It's dropped off quickly, but I think it's because what they picked up from my modeling on the field they already have and technical skills take longer to develop. When I first played with them, they were shocked at the fact I was making runs. That I was bumping into people.  Needless to say, they're now on top of that (though putting pressure on an opponent is something we're working on) and there's one girl who throws her weight around as well as my sister did. Minus the elbows sticking out.

And oddly, I've found myself improving too in a quicker manner than I did with any of my teams at home. Knowing I'm a coach, that I have to give the girls time to practice and not just try to make good runs by myself, I'm taking the time to not just clear the ball on defense, look for more passes, and, surprisingly, using more footwork than I used to.  In addition to my coach mindset, I think a small field with no nets is helping that.  With a good goal kick, I can kick the ball out of the field. 

My U-17 team is the only girls team in town, and I think it's awesome they have this opportunity. 

I think it's good for me too. I don't feel real comfortable around guys here, so it's great to get out of the compound to have fun with girls. I don't have to be on guard, I can just be myself and have fun. I practice Amharic, they learn English, and what to do when I yell 'cross!'

But I didn't realize how much my presence meant to the girls till this week.

I skipped out last week for a variety of reasons (another PCV in town, had a bad apple the day before, super long boring school meeting in Amharic) and when I showed up at practice Monday I was greeted with exuberant faces. Every girl had to greet me with a handshake, some with a hug as well, and then they were all off and talking about a game this weekend.  They all wanted me there to watch, every one said several times where and when it was going to be, and I had to wonder if this is what my parents felt like when I told them about one event or another. You wanna go to see them perform, but also because they want you there so much.

And then, one of the girls told me she admired me.

Which is a huge shock, I don't really do anything admirable. I just kick a ball around. But I think just seeing a woman willing to stand up for herself and willing to participate in a mostly male environment (like soccer is here) is a huge benefit for them.  Plus, I'm sure the story of how I shot down a guy on the walk home two weeks ago has made the rounds. (You want to be my friend cuz I'm white? Um, no. [Note: in Amharic, there is no different word for a regular friend and a boyfriend, but it's pretty obvious which one he meant])  These poor girls get harassed all the time and culturally it's not considered a big deal.  One of the local PC staff told us during training back in PST that to many guys, 'no' doesn't mean 'no'.

It's kinda weird being someone that's looked up to. I can't really say there was someone I looked up to as a role model or anything, it was more like the common themes in stories and characters I read about.  And life philosophies.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed that we win our first game tomorrow morning!