Tuesday, May 20, 2014


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.