Friday, December 12, 2014

I've survived the Pineapple Express!

What exactly is the Pineapple Express? Apparently it's a non-technical term for a weather condition, but most recently it's the name of the storm that hit (is still hitting?) California.  Some areas of the state got hit pretty bad.

ABC news - Healdsburg, CA

Mashable - Berkeley, CA






























Thankfully here in the city (or at least, the city parts I went through yesterday) there weren't a whole lot of problems. I mean, sure, I woke up at 8:30 to rain, fell asleep at 2am to rain, and woke up at 10:30 to a drizzle still falling. But I didn't run into giant puddles. I didn't see any flooding. It wasn't even raining that hard, traffic was normal. The biggest concern was power, so many districts were out. Except my little corner of the city. Not even for a second to cause blinking clocks. 

Huruta Rain
And yet, school was closed and my teammates complained and wanted to cancel our meeting to finish up final projects. I get it. All the hype made them nervous. And I had forgotten at first, but many people have different expectations of rain.

When I lived in Wellington, it was always long, strong storms with wind so fierce it snapped my umbrella before I walked a block.  In Huruta, it was a few hours of harsh rain that resulted in traffics (human, animal, and car) to stop, muddy rivers, and I used to walk with my umbrella angled into the wind so much it wasn't uncommon for a lot of my body to be out from under it. 

Some of my classmates saw this storm as a lot of rain, even though from my end it was pretty tame.

You always think about cultural differences hanging out with international students, or just ex-pats. But you rarely think of environmental differences aside from 'Norway is cold, so you must be warm here' or 'I can tell you're missing India's weather by your three layers'. But there's other things too, like rain, or even walking speed, crossing streets and taxi desirability that all comes not from the culture you were raised in, but your environment. I need to remember that before rolling my eyes when someone freaks out about what to do with a fridge with no power.

After all, I wasn't always a pro about going three days without electricity. (Thanks for that Huruta.)

SF rain

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving

It's a little late to go into details about the holiday and how it was a little weird being back in America and missing people. So I'll just give you a bunch of photos ^_^


This is the boat I spent the holiday on.



We kayaked around the marina and came pretty close to some seals. As in, maybe two paddle lengths.


Dinner! Since it was just two of us (me and roomie) we just grilled turkey parts instead of cooking a full one.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mockingjay Viewpoints

So, Thursday night I went to see Mockingjay.

(And would have totally posted about it yesterday, but you know, work. And fireworks. )



Anyway.

A bunch of us from school decided to go, do that whole sit against the wall and chill for two hours before opening type of deal.

I was decently excited for the movies. I read the books and hadn't been super impressed. The first one was interesting (even if I was reminded of the Battle Royale plot), the second very similar to the first, and the third, well Katniss wasn't super passive, but nor was she amongst the most important part of the world's action. I felt like things were seen from the side and from far away.

The movies though, they seemed to be getting better. I attribute a lot of that to Jennifer Lawrence,
she's grown tremendously in her career between movies, and also to the use of film as a medium. As I noticed re-watching/reading HP with Dani, movies do a better job at bringing out emotions. At showing the little details of the world because while reading you're focused on the main characters but movies can show you the small things you wouldn't notice/put in a book. Music, settings, they all help to create a mood that's hard to see in books (but then again, I tend to imagine things in ways similar to me. Unless a character is constantly said to be 18, I'm gonna think they're 26 like me.)

The increasing darkness of the Hunger Games trilogy, of understanding the impacts of the power plays and intense situations, is something I can see more in the movies than books. I'm sure it plays no small part in me adding this series to the very short list of 'Movie Adaptations that are Better than the Books.'

But back to the premier. A lot of my European classmates were excited because, well, cuz it's the Hunger Games. I sat next to a Venezuelan friend while waiting and why she loved the books just blew me away.

Democracy.

At its heart, you could say Collins's novels are about the mass uniting to challenge a corrupt government. As an American, I'm familiar with this. It's in my history. It's in the movies and books I see. To me, it's a troupe. There's nothing special.

But to her, it was a model. An idea, motivation. Venezuela is having a lot of political problems right now (some of which is drastically affecting students here and if you want to find out more/help her, please do so) and reading a book about a nation rallying together resonates with her a lot more than me.

The idea, the themes, "this is what we want to do."

I know SF/F has been used as allegories for social issues for ages and hey I've read some as such myself. But these things I take for granted - freedom to petition, to be heard, to be lead by who I want (other voters depending) - I never see them in the fiction I read. Or rather, I don't place as much as an importance on them as others. They aren't the 'meat' of the story.

No wonder international markets really are huge for American media, they have this whole new understanding that's applicable as soon as they set down the book or walk out the door. I've always known books and films to be powerful, there are some that will never leave me too, but I've never thought about it in this way before. That it could inspire the mass.

That it did in Thailand.

Seeing thing from a new perspective...I love the sense of the world shifting and changing, the feeling that I suddenly got 100x smarter. I love learning, period.

Monday, November 17, 2014

This adventure brought to you by salsa

I promised adventures so....

The other night I:

  • was dipped and twirled, lifted up and spun
  • had my toes stepped on so often I'm surprised they didn't turn black and blue
  • lost my shoe a couple of times
  • twisted at least one ankle, but I'm thinking both and really need to get a thicker ace wrap
  • learned how to salsa
  • maybe networked? I've been telling people I'm an independent brand manager, some guy at the bar was interested in that and asked for my number. I thought he was just angling to get my digits so I gave him fake ones, but now I keep wondering if he seriously needed help with promotions and I just tossed an actual freelancing opportunity out the window :/
  • learned that you really had to have a good dance partner.
  • discovered it's hard to dance with a guy more than a little shorter than you (wasn't even wearing heels) and pretty much impossible to get dipped though the poor guy tried
  • got to practice my Spanish a little bit
  • had a ton of fun dancing at a place and in a style that wasn't as sexualized as my previous experiences and that was wonderful

One of my roomies, if you couldn't tell, dragged me out to a cigar bar that has salsa dancing Friday
nights. At first I was really nervous, you're just supposed to ask/be asked by random guys to get on the dance floor? By people who all looked way more then a bit older than me (or maybe it's just my impressions, forgetting I'm 26 now and thinking I'm still the 23 year old who went to live in rural Africa. Probably didn't help that I only had a small make-up mirror that entire time).

I have never felt more like a Millennial; I wanted to take out my phone and snap pictures, maybe take a video. But no one else was doing such a thing, so I didn't, and lo and behold old, short Latinos were asking me to dance and taught me a few basic steps and then the younger guys appeared and man there was some fast spinning. 

I've always liked dancing, but have never been huge on doing it in public cuz of incidents in clubs during undergrad and how things are so sexual among my generation. It's a bit uncomfortable. But this was fun, constantly switching partners and enjoying the music provided from a live band.  You have good partners and bad ones (I had 50/50) but is was a good night, getting me out of my comfort zone and trying new things. 

Will I go again, most likely. But probably not anytime soon because my ankles really need time to heal. And I need new shoes, comfy heels, but because it's so much easier to spin on a point.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moving and Settling

I think I'm finally settling into my new apartment here in San Francisco. Which is amazing because moving is hard and doing it three times in three months pretty much killed me with a bunch of stress. Well, not the most recent move - I was so eager to get out of there.

Still, it's surprising how much moving disrupts little routines.  When I moved to my new place, I kept misplacing things because where I had gotten in the habit of putting them (table by the door) was no longer a viable option. Things had changed position, and it's funny to become of aware of how I was subconsciously setting up the kitchen. Spices were in the Ethiopia location. Condiments were placed where they are in my parents home. My bed is the same relative corner of the room as it was in Huruta, my bathroom stuff divided into drawers to match my childhood home.
Really like corner desks too.

It's kinda weird, I always assumed I would place things where they were easily accessible. Comparing what I was doing with small thing and what my new roomies were it was easy to see that what I saw as 'easily accessible' was actually just 'comfortable and familiar'.

It reminded me about one of those PC manuals I got before leaving for Addis. It's the little disruptions in your routine that make you go crazy and tire you out, because routines exist so you don't have to use all your brain power. Activities are automatic. And then you disrupt that and you have to pay hyper attention to what you're doing and you're all volatile and you blow up at an Ethiopian child trying to hold your hand.

Or in this case, try not to slam a cabinet door when you see that the spatula is in the knife drawer and harshly state the right place to a roomie.

I did mention that Peace Corps taught me patience, right?

Anyway - I feel like this is my first stable place in a while.  Yeah, I was pretty comfortable in Huruta but I also knew it was only for two years. And yeah, I don't know enough about where I'll be in the next year to the point I'm worried about getting a magazine subscription (maybe I'll get a job in SF next Fall, maybe not). But still, I can decorate the walls. I can add personal touches. I can set things up the way I want to and not have to worry about having only one outlet in a room. I can do things I want to do I haven't been able for awhile - bake, take a long shower, buy vegetables other than tomatoes.

Yet I want more. I want to start building up collections - I never truly got to replace all the books that where water damaged while I was at university. Where would I put all those books? Where would I put all the DVDs I want to buy, solid reminders of favorites and easy, big screen access to what I want to rewatch? Where can I put all the little items I want to collect, costume parts and baking pans and recipes and souvenirs? Not really here, but I'm gonna try anyway.

This is my first real (American) place to do this. I'm excited.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Attending an International School

One of the things that attracted me to Hult was its international nature. This type of diversity is hard to find elsewhere. And yet, it's hard sometimes to remember that - are differences and issues a result of different cultures or just different personality types? But maybe that's just a result of living among habasha for 27 months.

Anyway, there are issues with a international schools - and being an American in an international school's American campus - that I hadn't considered. So I bring you the pros and cons of that. And be very aware that readjusting to America plays a part.

Pros

  • English, English, English. I always knew it was the international language, but I've never really seen the advantage of it like this before. In Ethiopia, it was a skill that people wanted me to teach them. Here, it's a skill that helps me read and understand course chapters faster than classmates. It means I spend less time on essays and don't get points off for grammar - a huge benefit when classes are graded on a curve. It means in English taught classes I don't have a think delay.
  • I'm suddenly super active in class, because of the English advantage, and that helps me stick out in the minds of both my professors and fellow students. I don't speak up more than I did during under grad, but it's just harder for my classmates to do it.
  • Meeting new, interesting people. I'm learning about different cultures and building a bigger, international network that will only help me in the long run.
    My Toolbox and Mod A team.
  • Teamwork. Complicated teamwork because we have such different experiences and different outlooks on life and situations. I doubt I'll ever work on such diverse teams again once I have my degree. I mean, right now each of us if from a different country and while I'm positive I'll work on international teams in the future I'm pretty sure there'll be at least another American.
Cons
  • As the sudden smart kid, I'm getting requests to help understand assignments and to proof read work. A little bit, I don't mind. But if I've never had a conversation with a person that's an issue. And sending me things late at night for an essay due the next morning? Also an issue. 11pm is my bed time. 
  • Being American, I'm supposed to be the expert on American culture, slang, definitions, tech and a bunch of other stuff. Most people know I spent the last two years under a rock, but they don't understand the readjustment I have to go through. Classmates expect me to know things, like up and coming startups or news events. But I only rejoined this world two months ago. I don't know these things. Heck, I walked by an IHOP the other day and thought I forgot those existed. Being asked if something is an American standard half then time throws me for a loop, cuz I honestly don't know. But people expect me to.
  • Like attracts like. I saw this very often in Ethiopia when all the ferengis hung out together. You are naturally drawn to those who have similar backgrounds and struggles. Here at Hult, you'll see people bond over similar cultures and noting aspects of theses reflected here. A bar has a German beer that reminds you of home, or a tapas bar does things right. People bond over similar languages and cultural activities. (Not to mention visa issues) Latin people hang together. Scandinavian people hang together. Americans? I've meet two other ones. And neither of them have a shared issue of readjusting to America. After all, I might have been away for a while but I'm still American and am not visually having an issue. Finding my tribe is really, really hard.
  • Clashes between cultures. I thought it was interesting we have students from Ukraine and Russia, as well as Palestine and Israel, but that's not where clashes really happen. It's between cultures that view time differently, or different work ethics, or view actions as having different motivations. From my perspective, such things are odd more than a real issue (so far anyway), like how my Chinese roommate is very particular about arranging beds. They can't face the doorway or a mirror, a bit hard when one wall is a mirrored door closet. But having experience with other cultures is a huge help here.

That being said, I'm super happy I'm here right now. Classes are interesting and practical, and of course a bit intimidating but I think that will all make me comfortable in my future job. If I had to do this over again, I'd still choose Hult, but I might have not gone so quickly from Peace Corps to grad school. Maybe travel a bit before heading back to the states, work at Target for a few months, and start at school a year after returning to America. I think I needed a bit more time to settle.

Monday, September 22, 2014

This adventure brough to you by the US Post office

I figured I wouldn't be sending a whole lot of letters anymore, and certainly none for banking, but life apparently has a way of ripping plans to shreds.  So today I found myself in the public library with recently printed documents to mail out and Google telling me the closest branch was two blocks away.

Awesome.

Except I walked in and saw a sign that said 'no stamps'. There was pretty much only po boxes and a customer service desk. But the lady behind the counter pointed me to an address down the street a block so off I went.

And found myself in front of the Philip Burton Federal Building.

I remembered the little Chinese lady saying something like the post office being on a lower floor, and it was 20 min to five, so I took a chance and walked to the front door. I don't know what the doorman thought, dressed in his business suit and standing at parade rest, while I huffed in with two bags of textbooks I had just checked out.

I wish I took pictures of this place, but I didn't know if that was allowed.  I had to have my bags scanned, and then got chastised because unlike the airport where you just have to take you laptop out of your bag, here you have to take your cords out too. And your phone. And wallet. But he totally knew what he was viewing through the screen so why take it out? And I had to walk through a metal detector too. To go to the post office!

I got directions (take the elevator down a level and follow the signs) and it was a little surreal walking into the elevator alcove and seeing a wall full of 'most wanted' profiles.  And more so when the elevator doors opened and I was reminded of the basement levels of hospitals. I was staring at a vending machine and a sign for a freight elevator. The post office was down here? And a customs office?

Honestly, I thought I was following directions for a store room and not a mail counter. But there it was, tucked past all these 'for authorized use' only swinging doors (that really might need more security for a federal building). Talk about the most depressive post office ever. Only one counter, and one worker, to sell stamps and sort incoming mail for the po boxes. No windows. And no pretty bubble wrap envelops for a bit of color. I'd go crazy in that environment. Or read a lot of books. I can't imagine many people actually step foot there a day.

Leaving that place was just as weird, going from this gloomy environment to the nice open lobby above and then bright sunshine. And wa~ay to much effort for a two minute errand. I need to find a closer post office.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interesting People

Last night, walking into the dining room of my boarding house, an old man called out to me due to my UofM sweatshirt. His name was Chuck, and apparently he had been deputy police commissioner in Detroit during the riots.

He reminded of this guy I met named Ed.

I meet him the summer of 2008 on Mackinac Island. At first he was just this old guy who taught me how to drive a horse drawn carriage and drilled the history of the island into my head.

This is what I learned in.

Ed was interesting because he had a glass eye, he had lost the original during the Korean war. (Or was it Vietnam? Phaw, doesn't really matter.) But then my fellow new carriage tour drivers and I kept learning more and more.  Ed's teaching of us was a break from his normal job - bounty hunting. And not just petty people, mobsters who had skipped out on court dates because the pay was better. Ed mentioned how for most jobs he and his partner never went after the criminal, instead they went after the family for either information or to smoke out the crooks. Before he was a bounty hunter though, Ed had been a bodyguard. For Elvis.

Ed's story fascinated me. At 19 I had never met some who had done such a number of cool things. And then I realized, I want that. I want the adventures and trips, the stories to tell people. I want someone down the road to believe something similar of me - that I'm an interesting person. It's enabled me to do a couple of things I might not have, such as whitewater rafting, climbing Mt. Chilalo, or paying a shepherd to get close to his camels for the following photo.
Should have tried to pet it too.

Within the past 18 months, I've been told by two people that I've had an interesting life. And I guess I have - I've technically lived abroad twice, started and finished large scale projects, and have seen and done some amazing things. I have lots of stories to tell.

But just having been in San Francisco for less than two weeks I already have more. The weird people I've seen on the street, the crazy amount of running through the city while we illegally park to complete a scavenger hunt, and running into people like Chuck.

I started this blog to share my stories of Ethiopia. That part of my life, it's over. It's still a big part, a huge part considering how often it slips into conversations, but life moves on and I have new stories to live.  I still want to share them, writing helps me think and it helps me connect with people. So look forward to those! But these adventures will be homegrown from the streets of San Francisco, not the dirt roads of Ethiopia, and probably less frequent (though I do now have more consistent Internet...). Still, I hope to see you all around.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I flap when cold apparently

One of the things I was good at before leaving was knowing what was going on. Local events, memes, new technology, emerging bands. I was on that. Coming back, sometimes it's odd because I expect to still be at the edge of that knowledge, and some other people expect me to be there. But instead, I staring at the google search page thinking, where should I go?

Regardless, I'm trying to hop on the band wagon as soon as possible which is why I had to do the ASL challenge.
video 
Haha! I don't handle cold well.

I'll be back into the swing of knowing things soon, hopefully. Until then, I'm a little overwhelmed but having fun catching up.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The post-Ethiopian mindset

So, it's pushing three weeks since my return and I think I'm okay on American things and amenities (though I had to totally ask my sister to show me how to close the patio umbrella). But what I've been noticing more now is the mental changes.

Case in point - Target trips. I left my sister with the cart to grab an extra anti-malarial. Due to confusion as to what this drug was, and how to get payment from PC, I was there awhile. Logically, my sister should have been done looking at the rugs I left her by and was hanging near the check-out/paying. 

But my logic works a lot differently than hers.  I'm more in and out. I need this, I look at only this, and if it's not there I'm gone.  My sister on the other was more A rug for my room would be nice, this one is pretty, oh, so it that one, and are those shelves? I want some of those too. At the very least, those little stick on hooks.  

I don't look at other items. I don't think, oh, that's nice or, oh, that would be useful. I'm a lot more practical.  I used to walk into Target and meander the junior's section. Now I walk by without giving it much attention.

I know some of my fellow RPCVs find the choices at Target to be too overwhelming, one guy actually had to walk back out while his family finished shopping, and I wonder if I'm just blocking that out like I used to do all the verbal harassment I got. Too many choices for my mind to process - so it doesn't.  Or I'm just really, really aware of what I need now and only go for that. I'm hesitant to call it thrifty, I threw money around in Ethiopia like I never did here, but it seems like it in comparison to my sister's habits.

But I'm also finding my feelings towards people changing too.  A bit ago it was 4pm and a guy asked me and my sis to join him and some friends in a game of pool, offering to cover our tab and order more drinks. I kept thinking he wanted something from me, a kiss, maybe more, or at the very least to stare at my butt while I line up a shot. He had to have some sort of ulterior motive. My sister just shook her head at me and said all he wanted is someone to pass time with, a bit of socializing.

And true enough, we exchanged numbers (and I thought I learned how to say 'no' over there) and he's never called me.

In Ethiopia, that guy would have called me at least three times by now in a local version of a booty call.

Plus, consumerism. It's so odd, there's so much stuff everywhere that's not needed, and I find it kinda pitiful I know people with a laptop, smart phone, ipod, and tablet.  But then I realize you kinda need things like that because if you don't have a smart phone you're laughed at, you miss e-mails and alerts because you don't flip open your HP every three hours that your boss requires you to keep up to date with.  It's kinda crazy.

Don't get me wrong, I like having the Internet at my fingertips and able to look up song lyrics whenever I want.  But logging into Facebook every hour? Crazy.  (And a regular blogging schedule? Even crazier! What new thing could possibly have happened in such a short period of time?)

It's this thought adjustment that's starting to materialize that's really making me understand what sort of effect Ethiopia had on me.  And I'm rather glad, because for awhile there I was worried at how easily I was moving back into being here. I wanted solid proof that I had spent two years in Huruta other than those random moments when I thought I haven't had grass under my feet in ages!

Wanting proof is also why I'm going to continue to roast and grind my own coffee on the stove.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Returning

Last night, after roughly 30 hours of time spent in airports or airplanes, I slipped under the sheets of my bed in my parents home and immediately thought 'my bed is more comfortable'.  Never mind the fact that in Huruta I pretty much slept on thick foam and here in the States I have a spring mattress.  It didn't feel like my bed, my home.

And that was weird.

All day yesterday, I pretty much hung out with my sister. We saw my grandma, who is now in assisted living. Did some grocery shopping, looked at phones (man do I need one), and talked.  Ethiopia, obviously, came up in our conversations, but mainly as a comparison to our surroundings. Like the fact Panera is freezing because, hello, I haven't felt air conditioning in two year.

But other than that, it's amazing how well I slipped back into American life.  I put on clothes that have sat in my dresser for two years and they fit the same. I made breakfast, finding the cereal and milk in the usual spots. I did laundry, reaching for the Tide automatically.

I think what was really weird was driving last night. I met up with my dad and sister for dinner, and they gave me a location like I'm a local 'it's on Trenton by Eureka' and I just nodded and it wasn't until I was on my way out did I realize - I don't remember where that is. So I called my sister, got directions, and then...didn't follow them. It was like my body was on autopilot, taking me a different way, while at the same time I was hyper aware of speed limits, other cars, lights, the radio and omg why are the wipers moving?! Wait, it's staring to rain?  Automatic things are a little weird and make me anxious.

Driving made me realize I'm feeling that way a lot, that I'm slipping back into life but at the same time not.  I know where things are, I know how things are done and what most social norms and cues are here. But I'm constantly amazed by them in my head (podcasts actually downloading? cold milk? so much food in a store? a washing machine instead of buckets? decent shampoo and conditioner? traffic laws? more than three types of beer? more than a page of food choices, and they're ALL available to order? dimmer switches? does my family really need 4 cars? and so many plates and glasses? HD TV is beautiful. the network connects a call on the first try?) and feel like I'm just blocking a lot of thought and dialog because saying all that aloud and just staring at the TV remotes (why are there four?!) is weird.

When I went to Zambia, part of the amazingness was going with another PCV and just talking about things. OMG look at all the asphalt. That's a stoplight!  A mall!? I haven't even seen a Subway for a year, we're eating there. She got the crazyiness, and it was good to get that out in the open, even if the people around us I'm sure thought we were a little bit strange.

As it is now, not really able to voice that, I feel like I'm in this limbo status.  On top of that, the few people I've seen have asked me about my time in Ethiopia and it's hard to know what to say.  It's not a vacation where I can list my activities and gush over the food.  It's my life. Was. Was my life. And what I think of as highlights might not be what other people would have labeled as such. My projects, sure, but even that first Timket when Dani made sure to take care of me, when I realized she wasn't just a landlady but a sister.
Maybe that time we trespassed for views...

I think what bothers me is this ability to slip back into America.  I loved my time in Ethiopia, and just as I had to adjust to that I wanted to have an adjustment period back here that's a little rougher than it is, just to solidify the time I spent in Huruta. It was real, it happened, and now you see the world differently.  I want proof of that other than the photos on my hard drive and my dyed hair.  I want to see the difference in me, but it's always been hard to measure self change.

Maybe I'm just still in shock over the fact that I'm here with my family, finally.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gonging Out

Left Huruta a few days ago, and man that was harder and easier than I thought.  Easier, because I totally didn't expect so little tears to fall when I gave Dani a hug goodbye (probably having to do with her pulling away quickly, saying 'no crying', and dabbing at her own eyes). Harder, because I didn't realize how attached I was until I realized that I had to leave site a full day earlier then I planned, with less than 24 hour notice. Time I expected to have with people (or places, I wanted to see the waterfall one last time) disappeared.

Maybe it's all my experiences, or just me getting older, but the anxiety, expectation and other emotions about a big event don't hit me until they're in motion lately. For many habasha families I only realized just how much they made my time better and how much I'll miss them as I was giving goodbye hugs. And leaving an extra day apparently meant the mini dinner party Dani wanted to have in my honor didn't happen.

But really, a last taste of Dani's shiro and bunna, one last conversation of laughs and knowing that she could relate to my feelings a bit from her own travels, was enough for me.

Today was more goodbyes.

PC had us all arrive in country together, but we leave separately. Come August people are leaving in groups of six, but this month of early leaving dates are set by grad school and other American issues. So I'm flying by myself on July 29th (2am flight, oh boy) but have spent most of this week doing paperwork and just hanging out with other PCVs who took off this night.

I'm so glad I got to spend this extra time with them, as we were placed at opposite sides of the country and only saw each other at trainings after PST.

As a group, we all gonged out this afternoon.  It's a Peace Corp tradition some posts use, where PCVs are thanked for their service and we in turn get a chance to thank the staff. And then we ring a gong, one for each year of service symbolizing our change from Peace Corps Volunteer to Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

It's not a very elaborate ceremony, just a circle in the parking lot of the main office in Addis Ababa, but after not having a very official ending to my time in Huruta I really appreciated this one.  It's something concrete, that finial goodbye, and symbol that something has finally ended instead of a murky ground of transition.

I may be sticking around Addis for a few days yet, trying to spend all my birr and make sure my suitcases close and are within the weight limit, but I am officially done with my Peace Corps service.

Pretty sure it'll hit me on the plane.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Huruta GLOW 2014 Video

It took me ages to get this posted to Youtube, but here's highlights from this year's camp.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One Week Left at Site!

Next Wednesday, I'll be hopping on a bus and leaving Huruta forever. Well, hopefully not. People keep asking when I'll return and I don't know what to say.  I have to finish my masters, then get a job, and save up money.  People here keep telling me five years is enough time, but who knows.

It doesn't quite feel real that I'm leaving, not yet, but I've noticed that as I get older and travel more.  I don't anticipate and look forward to things as much.  It didn't quite hit me that I was coming here till my mom dropped me off at the airport, and it didn't hit me how long 27 months was till I was sitting on my bed in my host family's house. I'm expecting things to be the same way here. I'm going around to houses for final meals and saying goodbye, giving away small things like extra spices, books, and kitchen supplies. Still doesn't feel like goodbye for a really long time. But I'll probably be holding back tears getting on the bus.

I am however, very much aware of the following:

Things I'll Miss When I Return to America:

ñ  My wonderful landlady, Dani, and her entire family who welcomed me with open arms
ñ  Yigibashal, a teacher, and her daughter Beti, who were also a surrogate family.
ñ  Going to a suk for bread, being told they're out, and then ordered to wait while they bought some form a store around the corner to sell to me.
ñ Wynshit and her family, for feeding me lunch and bunna every time I stopped by and Mita, the compound child for amazing hugs.
ñ  Visiting a suk, oh maybe every three months, and having the owner ask after my crocheting projects.
ñ  The ability to skip lines, be served first, and allowed to do things others can't because I'm a foreigner. As much as I want to be treated like those around me, sometimes ferengi power is awesome.
ñ  A pretty high life style, relative to others around me.  Most of the people I visit with don't have an electric kettle. Or visit the bigger cities on a regular basis. Or hit up the internet bet every week.
ñ  Bunna ceremonies, shokola t'ibs, tagabeno and other yummy food.
ñ  Playing soccer just to play. It got so competitive in the States.
ñ  Man, the starry sky in my backyard is amazing.

ñ  Juice. It's fresh here and oh so good. More like a smoothy than anything else.

Things I Won't Miss When I Return to America:
ñ  Being asked to personally sponsor programs because since I'm a foreigner I have lots of money.  I might be able to eat out more that you, Mr. Youth and Sport Office, but my shoes are still holey and I don't have that type of cash in my bank account.  Buy your own soccer ball.
ñ  Not having a sink.
ñ  Days of no power.
ñ  Doing laundry by hand.
ñ  The creepy night noises, though to be fair I'm pretty friendly with the compound mouse nowadays when he shows up.
ñ  Confusion about dates and times because everyone will use the same system in the States.
ñ  Roosters in the latrine. Or roosters anywhere crowing all the time.
ñA lack of logical thinking.
ñ  Getting sandblasted by dirt.
ñ  Being stared at, all the time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June is karan

Karan is the Amharic word for crazy, and I can't think of anything better to use to describe this month.

The first weekend was my local Camp GLOW. It's a PC worldwide activity that stands for Girls Leading Our World and is a program that focuses on teaching life skills.  For Huruta, I really specialize it and use it as a university prep camp. Last year I invited 20 girls, but this year it got expanded to 35 campers and included boys and girls. So GLOW stood for Guiding the Leaders of Our World.

It was a hectic three days (that unexpectedly turned into four with a student program that took hours to get started) that included human knots, bus races down dirt roads, a field trip, and lots of nervous giggling. But the last is to be expected when you introduce 12th graders to condoms and pull out penile models.

I worked with a local counterpart, but also had other help with individual sessions. A PCV from another town to teach safe sex to the boys and a female health office to assist me. Recent grads who work for the government to explain their time in university.  We taught them how to set goals, resist peer pressure, resolve group conflict, how to stay healthy, and did a lot of leadership and communication exercises. Originally we were going to visit a university to give the students an idea what to expect when they start in the Fall, but plans had to change and instead we visited a farm in Assella that focuses on sustainable farming. If I wasn't leaving so soon, I'd try to make one of the solar ovens they have.

It was great fun, and then this past weekend I went up to Bekoji for a TOT (training of trainers) for a massive, week long camp that I'm going to do with several other volunteers.  Schedule planning, rule making, checking out the facility.  This camp will also be June, starting the 28th, but with a younger target than my own. 8th graders, and all girls.

I'm looking forward to it, I loved doing the big camp last year. Camps in general are great, I feel like I'm teaching skills that are needed by everyone and for everything, not just something specific like tests or preparing Ethiopians for the rare encounters they'd have with English speakers.


And then, back to Huruta on July 4th and then leaving it 20 days later!  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Daenerys would be an awful Peace Corps Volunteer

PCVs have lots of free time and as such we consume a lot of media.  A country wide favorite? A Song of Ice and Fire (or Game of Thrones if you discovered the show before the books).  I read all the books early on in my service, and now that season four is out am slowly devouring them.

But I have to say, Daenerys would be an awful Peace Corps Volunteer.


Seriously, marching into a city and forcing it to abide with your personal views is just not how it goes. No wonder she has problems in Meereen, even with an army at her back.

Things here work slowly and many times invisibly. Especially when you're not just hoping to teach kids how to read, but change a cultural outlook.  And even if you're looking to teach technical skills, it still has to be done right in accordance with the culture here.

For example, a full day training involves feeding people here three times. Not just lunch. And if it's more than one day, you have to have a closing ceremony and invite all these people who had very little to do with the program just because they're important.

You get lots of headaches here. Not just because planning things is a hassle but because it's hard to see if what you do has any impact. Ethiopians never say when they don't understand something. So you do your post assessments and learn that no one learned from you.

Or they learned something trivial, like 'torch' is UK lingo for 'flashlight'.

Peace Corps tells us to look at the small things we do to keep us sane.  The kid who smiles when you give him a book and settles down next to you to read it aloud. The girl who enjoys your English club so much she brings a friend.

Throw a stone in a pond and watch the ripples grow.

But it always seems to escape notice that ripples are temporary. They grow and spread out, but eventually disappear. I know my milklady's son, who I've known from womb to walking, will forget me.  I know the girls in my English club who slowly started speaking out more and gaining confidence, will revert back when surrounded by the Ethiopian culture that oppresses them. The girls on my soccer team might remember how to do a give-and-go, and I'm pretty sure that my teachers will remember my name only.

And that's all kinda depressing.

I'm leaving soon, 50 some days. Is all I'm leaving behind memories of my face and name, a two year span of memory that says 'a foreigner worked here for a while' ? Have I actually taught people lessons and skills that they will still have in one year? Five?

I want to say yes.  That kids now have a better grasp of English, that they now know a bit more about other cultures, that they have better self-esteem if they've attended any of my GLOW camps.  And all that's probably, most likely true, so there's that.

But Ethiopia isn't just where I work. It's where I live, and I can't help but want to make life better for everyone here.  To install ideas of gender equality, to show people how to analyze an issue to see where is the problem and how can it be fixed, to foster self-improvement.  I want Ethiopia as a whole to be better.  Or maybe just Huruta. My school. My compound family.

I'm not Daenerys, marching into a city and declaring all the slaves are free.  I can't change the education system so that those in the teacher colleges aren't those who failed 10th grade. I can't make every child born get a birth certificate, so the 'must be 18 to be married' law can be enforced. I can't force parents to have their sons help their sisters with chores instead letting them play in the street.

It doesn't work that way.

I wish it did.

No, all I can do is live my life here. Teach small, easily digestible skills, and live in a way that merges my culture with the Ethiopian one and hope some of my progressive thoughts and actions serve as a model for those around me. That yes women can go to a cafe alone. That yes they can say no to sexual advances. That they can give orders to men. That reading is a good thing. That one should always be doing something at work, not just skipping a lesson to stand in line for sugar.  That problems shouldn't just be complained about, but solved.

Maybe it works ( I hope so) or maybe it doesn't (as I suspect).

(Or maybe the end of my service had turned me maudlin.)


Still, I'm glad I came and served. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Toothless

I am now the proud co-owner of Toothless.


No, not that one. This one.

I have finally, finally, gotten my hands on a kitten. The last time there was a batch, I knew three families with kittens but they were all claimed by other people. And so when a cat had kittens I made it very apparently to the daughter that I wanted one before they even opened their eyes.

Getting Toothless home was an interesting trial. There are no cat carriers here. So I wrapped her in a piece of an old curtain. Gotta protect myself from all four sets of claws! Beti insisted on carrying her as a sorta goodbye from her house to the school and Toothless was rather reluctant to leave her for her classes. She wasn't so happy with me when I took her. I got several stares as Toothless climbed up my chest to my shoulder and then when I tried to bring her back to my chest found myself holding her around the middle over my shoulder with her claws not detaching from my shirt.

Poor kitty. It was a good twenty minute walk through strange, cold territory and the rain did not help at all.

I had a moment of panic when I stepped into the compound. Originally I had been scheduled to take a calico cat from Beti's family, but in the last week she's disappeared. So I was given a black one and Dani freaked when she saw Toothless. She wanted nothing to do with a black cat, saying she didn't like them.

People here can be very set in their ways and while I don't want to say superstitious, do believe in absurd things.

I was very worried Dani would tell me to give Toothless back.

So I took Toothless into my pair of rooms and made some lunch, eggs to share, and eventually Dani came in to see more of Toothless's body then a head sticking out from the curtain wrap.

As I'm pre-writing this, Toothless is sleeping on the top of Dani's couch, so I think they'll get along well despite first impressions. I'm glad. I'll be away for a while to start the process of leaving (med appointments and trainings on what needs to be done before I hop on the plane) and it will be good for Dani to have some company.

I can't help but liken Toothless's process of getting used to the compound to my similar one of getting used to Huruta. There's the oh-yes-the-traveling-is-over-let's-explore phase. Followed by the pitiful mewlings that come with the I'm-so-far-away-from-everyone-and-can't-talk-to-them-and-can't-stop-crying phase. And then you turn all lethargic as you hit the I'm-depressed-and-have-no-one-to-talk-to-and-don't-want-to-visit-this-new-world phase. I spent a weekend laying on a couch or my bed with a book, not talking to Dani and Tadeck at all. Toothless just sleeps everywhere. Yes, she's a cat, but she was always more active at her house when I was over.

Still, she'll get over it. I did.

It's kinda funny how the process works in reverse too. The first three months are the hard because family and friends are always on your mind. The last three months are hard too because again you're thinking of your family and friends back home (though with anticipation this time, but you still can't call to bounce giddy beams off each other) and the ones you've adopted here (and it's a million times harder than saying goodbye to your mom at the airport cuz I knew I'd see her in 27 months but when will I ever see Dani and everyone else here again?).

I can't wait to go home, yet at the same time don't want to think about it because there's still much to do here. I have camps I'm planning, a few more English club lessons, and a trip to Harrar. I don't want to think of America, cuz then I wouldn't really be here and I have to be for the next three months. It's my last chance to experience it all, to commit things to memory and try to describe perfectly the smell of rain as it fills my house or to record the birds outside my window. And yet I have to think of America cuz I gotta find a house for grad school before I actually leave this country.

Nothing, apparently, is easy.

Unless you're Toothless because then people just bring food and stoke your back all day. Ah, the life.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

X,Y,Z as promised!

X - Xeric 

Yes, I had to look in the dictionary for today. I'm sure many others did too.

Xeric means a dry environment, and Ethiopia definitely has some of those. The northern parts are reminiscent of the American Southwest, complete with rock formations, dry air, limited rain, and lots of Christmas tourists. There was a volunteer there who went six months without water at her site.

Which is why when asked what type of site I wanted during my training, I totally said I want one near water. Huruta might be surrounded by rivers (only one of which doesn't dry up) and not be very far from a series of lakes (Ziway being the closest and man is the fish there tasty), but it does also butt up against the Great Rift Valley. 9 km to the northwest, the town Dera sits in the valley. As does the city Adama/Nazerat (depending on the language).

It's usually crazy hot when I visit Adama, but there's also ice cream, fans, and a hotel with a pool. Not to mention American hamburgers, supermarkets, and wifi in hotel rooms. Not a bad place.


Y- You 

In the States, shouting 'you' at someone usually gets ignored. It's rude, and is pointless if you want to get someone's attention. Names are much better.

Not here. You, or rather anta/anci for male and female is a common form of address. And if there needs to be more a more specific address it can be amended to anta (name) or anci ferengi. People like to shout the last one to me a lot, meaning you foreigner. Again, not very polite in English but in Amharic it's the norm.

It took me forever to teach the local children I only respond to hi, hello, are you fine?, and good morning/afternoon. And my name of course. Correctly pronounced, cuz that's a sure sign I actually know the person and they didn't just pick it up.

Z- Zenab

Zenab means rain, and we're just getting into the rainy season here. There's technically two, a light one that hits in April/May and then we get roughly two to three weeks of dryness until the big rainy season hits and it lasts pretty much through to September. I'm talking lots of rain, with dirt roads becoming muddy rivers and hours of it every day.

In Eteya, where I did my training, whole intersections would be flooded into ponds large enough where if frozen kids could ice skate. Aka bigger than my entire compound.

Huruta's a good place though, its on top of a hill surrounded by three rivers so all the water goes there instead of staying around to creating boot sucking mud, impassible crossroads, and mosquito breeding farms. Two of the rivers, including the waterfall, dry up around Christmas so this is when they start rushing again. Which means locals taking river baths and stretching sheets out to try on rocks.

The rainy season is the coldest season of the year and so a lot of locals refer to it as winter to me in English. Of course, Ethiopia is in the northern hemisphere so technically it's summer, but Ethiopia is a strange, unique country who just does things it's own way.


I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

X,Y,Z

Are coming, I swear!  Power outages and then a public computer that doesn't have word and so fills my post with Wingdings, and an ill working Google Docs as a back up, are preventing you from learning about Ethiopia and I deeply apologize for that.

In the mean time, in joy a photo of me in somewhat typical getup.  Umbrella for sun, back pack full of school supplies for English supplies. The speaker is new, but I didn't feel like packing it and so just let it play while I walked home. Wearable boomboxes. It didn't gather as much attention as I thought it would.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Water

After several times were either the water doesn't come or the power is out, I have determined I'd rather be without power than without water.

Huruta's pretty lucky. The town is surrounded by rivers and while most of them dry up in the dry season one still runs. We usually have water, and if it does disappear it's never been more than a week. I've gotten pretty good at rationing and limiting my use. I can make ten liters last while, even with washing dishes and a few pieces of laundry.

It not uncommon for my compound to not get water 24/7, especially during the dry season but that time of year in the early mornings and evenings the faucet usually gurgles enough to fill our buckets. Even if, like we had to do for awhile like last month, the water only came around 4 am and we had to be awake to get it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Verbs

It is the verbs that make Amharic so dang hard to learn. In English, conjugation is simple. Very little variation in the endings. (Exceptions not included)
 Present
 I eat
We eat
You eat
You (Plural) eat
He/She/It eats
They eat

 Past 
I ate
We ate
You ate
You (Plural) ate
He/She/It ate
They ate

 To make something negative, you put a 'not' in front. (I did not walk) To make something future tense, you put a 'will' in front. (I will walk).

 Oh, Amharic. (please note, I left off the accents because they are a pain to type and not needed for this comparison)

 Present
 I ibalalahu
We inbalalan
You (male) tibalalah
You (plural) tibalalachihu
You (female) tibayalash
 You (formal) tibalalachihu
 He yibalal
They yibalalu
She tibalalach
 He/She (formal) yibalalu

 Past
 Please note, that there is an entirely different set of endings for simple past based on the stem. Both are shown below.
 I Balah (hedku)
We Ballagn (hedin)
You (male) Balah (hedk)
You (plural) Balachihu (hedachihu)
You (female) Balash (hedsh)
 You (formal) Balachihu (hedachihu)
 He Bala (hed)
They Ballu (hedu)
She Balach (hedach)
 He/She (formal) Ballu (hedu)

 You have to do a whole new conjugation, not matter what the tense, for negatives.

And simple future and simple presents are...the same. When means when someone says 'there is no bus' they could mean there is no bus now or there is no bus today at all. You learn to ask follow up questions.

Last but not least, verbs are always, always the last word in the sentence. So instead of saying 'I walked to the store' you'd say 'To the store I walked'. Yoda speech! But very few people here have even heard of Star Wars, so no one gets the joke.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Unicorn

Unicorn is a Peace Corps Ethiopia slang word, meaning that rare, mythical Ethiopian that you just connect with based on English skills and Western sensibility. I'm not saying I don't connect with the people I work with, but well, language and culture are huge barriers in forming friendships here and when you find someone whom you would hang out with in America it's a miracle.

I've meet on in Axum, who speaks English with no accent as she taught herself by watching movies and flipped out when it was discovered we like listening to the same non-mainstream bands. Most people don't know about Within Temptation and Nightwish, and to find an Ethiopian who does? Unicorn moment.

Here in Huruta, I do have my own unicorn, Dani. Who is also my landlady. And sister, as we have conversations in noises and both love chocolate chip pancakes. And mother, who knows what food I will and won't eat and rolls her eyes when the state of my room shows just how lazy I am.

Dani is, essentially, a life saver and I don't think I would have gotten through my Peace Corps service (3 months to go!) without her.

She used to be a maid for a family in Beirut, a pretty well known one considering she has a french issue of Vogue with a picture of the daughter parting, told me once she made coffee for Obama, and recently lamented about some Middle Eastern president whose event in his honor had her and the other staff members up way longer then they wanted to be. Dani came back to Ethiopia, and got married, a few months before I started my training here.

We'll have conversations about 'Papa Noel' and Easter eggs that have her husband baffled, whine about how the corn here isn't sweet, and share a kilo of strawberries while most Ethiopian's lack of tolerance for sweet things has them only having a few.

Dani will be what I miss the most when I go back. She'd my real life unicorn sighting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Twilight (and Time)

Twilight here is very predicable. Being so close to the Equator, Ethiopia's days are pretty uniform in length to the point were the longest day might only have an extra thirty minutes on the shortest day. Roughly, the sun rises at six thirty and sets at six thirty, and this is so consistent that Ethiopian time is based on it. That is, what a European calls 6 AM an Ethiopian would call 12 AM. Hour zero, and thus a new day, is when the sun is just peaking over the horizon.

Things can get confusing. Is that meeting at three o'clock three o'clock international time and thus in the afternoon or local time which would be nine am in international standard?

Additionally, Ethiopia has it's own calender. 13 months, 12 of which are exactly 30 days and the last one varies between 4,5,or 6 depending on the year. New Years is September 11, instead of January 1st, and as of right now the year is 2006. As awesome as it is to have a school year identified by one numerical year, it's a mess when I want to take a day off for the American New Years (or Christmas, those dates are different too).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Shopping

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Run

Ethiopia is crazy about runners, mainly because the country has had great success at the international level in the sport. It's not uncommon to see broadcasts of wins from four Summer Olympics ago and when these past summer Olympics were going on ETV only broadcast the running events. A big shame for someone who loves watching the gymnastics and horse events.

Most of the runners who do well come form Bekoji, a small town about two and half hours from me. Close to the mountains, it's cold there. Very cold, but it still is home to many runners for training. That, and the athletic compound in Assella. 

Source

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Queen of Sheba

Local lore says that the Queen of Sheba when to visit King Solomon and while there conceived a child – Menelik I. Menelik then later went back to Israel, met his father, and swiped the Ark of the Covenant from him and brought it to Axum. Menelik's descendents then went on to rule Ethiopia until modern times, aside from a brief time during the middle ages.

Most historians disagree with the story, the Queen of Sheba is not thought to be from Ethiopia and even if she was she lived in a time way before Menelik sat on the thrown according to popular belief. However, I am reading the Sign and Seal right now and the author so far sounds pretty sure that the story, complete with transporting the Ark to Ethiopia, is plausible.

Not that any one can see the Ark. It's pricey to just get into the church the chapel holding it is, and the Ark's space can only be accessed by a single priest. I have however gone to see Queen Sheba's palace in Axum and I can imagine it used to be quite impressive. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Public Transport

Public transportation here really is just loosely governed private buses. The government awards levels of certificates, Level 1 being the best and Level 3 being the worst, based on driving experience, and controls the prices between cities based on mileage. There is also a law about how many people can be on a bus at a time.

Buses are privately owned, they don't run on a set schedule. They leave a station when they are full of people and you may be sitting in a seat for over an hour waiting for a bus to depart. And then you have drivers who just decided to not work for a day, meaning the lack of a bus might mean standing in the sun for an hour waiting for one in the station.

Being eager for bir, it's also not uncommon for bus drivers and radits (assistants whose job it is is to find passengers, handle paperwork, and collect money) to fit three people in a row of two seats and pack the aisle and a small space next to the driver with passengers. This results in a cramped bus where you're breathing in the sweat of others, someone's elbow really needs to get out of your side, and the windows are shut tight with drawn curtains. You're hoping and praying that the police won't pull the bus over and let you get on your way.
Road near my house, the donkeys didn't move for like a full five minutes and the bus kept honking and honking.

I rather imagine sneaking into Arizona from Mexico to feel the same way.

Of course, since I've been here the cops have been better about checking passenger numbers. It's been months since I had to sit on a bit of space the size of my fist or stand smushed between people and bracing myself on an overhead rack over bumps. But I still wait over an hour at least twice a month for buses. At least the local bus stations have some semblance of order now, be it lines or ticket numbers, no more mad pushing to get on a bus!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Onions

Onions are I think one of the few things most sites have year round. Huruta, my site, is said to be the place where all onions in the country come from.

I believe it.

When the onion market comes to town after the harvest, so late September/early October, many sellers have to move because the towers of onions take up so much space. These piles are huge.

Onions here are called kai shinkirt or red shinkirt (garlic is called nach shinkirt or white shinkirt) and are used in pretty much every single meal the Ethiopians cook.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Names

Names here are super important, in that they are though out carefully. I know my mother chose my name because she thought it was pretty. Here, names are chosen because of their meanings.

My ladylady is Tegeenesh (tie-je-nesh), or sweet. (Though I call her Dani cuz I can't get the first sound right). Tadese , my landlord, is renew. Dani's mom is Balynesh (ba-lie-nesh), or more than all. Tadese's sister, who stayed with us for a summer is Tadelech or in English good chance, whose name comes from the fact that since her family had two cows at the time of her birth she had a good chance to drink milk.

Common Ethiopian female names are Tirunesh, Birtukan, Tigist, and Zanabech or you are good, orange, good conduct, and rainy. Or rather, that she was born during the rain.

Common Ethiopian male names are Alamayu, Tesfaye and Girma or future happiness as a couple, future plan, and boy.

Or at least, those are rough translations. Many are words and situations that are summed up in a word that in English would be told in many, and Dani's had trouble translating the situations. Regardless, names are given a lot of thought here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Marriage

I remember being shocked when I learned that the words for 'to marry' and 'to take' were the same, particularity because the traditional marriage (which sometimes still occurs in the rural areas) is when a man (or boy) kidnaps a girl for the sake of the rite. The criteria for a good wife in a case like this is that she's pretty.

Dani almost had this happen to her when she was twelve by a high school student.

While the concept of marriage is one that's changing very rapidly here, many ceremonies are now held for love as opposed to being arranged or forced, the idea of a virgin bride is still very strong. Strong enough that it's not unheard of for a man to force himself on a woman and to force her to marry him. Or for a couple in love to whose parents don't approve of the match to consummate the marriage before a ceremony to force the parents to agree to it.

Keep in mind, that many girls in these situations are still that – girls. As in minors. Child marriages, willing or unwilling, are common as are teachers taking their students as wives. Dani's brother got married last summer to his sixteen year old student. Her nephew hide out on our compound with his wife from her father who didn't approve of the pairing. She's an eight grade student who insisted she loved her husband and would rather stay home and take care of him and future children rather than continue school.

Situations likes these grate me, doubly because I don't like them and can't do anything about them. They are so ingrained into the culture and supported by multiple forces that I'm happy Dani's new niece-in-law is in the marriage willing, even if I think she's way to young.
At weddings, the couple are escorted by party goers clapping and 'lalala' made by doing something with your tongue I can't.