Utopia (How Ethiopians pronounce Ethiopia…cool huh?)
I haven’t had internet access so I’ve just been keeping all entries on this running document. Every line is a break between entries, obviously. And hopefully I will have internet in a few more weeks, so I’ll keep another document going. But here are my entries and pics will come when I have reliable internet to upload them. Also, I decided that I’m not going back to read through these and edit. So, what you see is what I felt/thought at the time. Enjoy!
My Host Family
We all piled onto different buses to go to our prospective towns. My group has 5 people and we are at the smallest town and are actually the smallest group, most have 10 people. Either way, we had multiple towns in each bus and just dropped them off along the way. Our bus ride was great, windows down blasting some awesome Ethiopian music and some pop American music. Great experience. The scenery was so different every few miles. We started with the city views and then went to the rural country views of farms and herds of cattle and donkeys walking across the street and making everyone stop. (By the way, in Ethiopia if you run over cattle or someone’s animal then you have to pay for it.) There were rolling hills and lush greenery and it was beautiful. Then we transitioned into what you would think of when you think of Africa……the huge tan fields full of African trees. I kept waiting for a giraffe to walk by. But all we saw were normal cattle and donkeys.
We dropped off a couple of groups and then ended up in a larger city where we were going to have lunch with our host families and then we were all going to our homes. We all got off the bus and hung out for a little bit and went into this room that had food ready set up potluck style and we all sat down and waited for the families to come. Before we knew it, they announced that our host families were here and then they said “Brittany!” and I turned around thinking they needed me for something, not realizing my family was the first in line. I turned around and then they said this is your family and it was just my host dad standing there and I walked up and took his hand and did the traditional Ethiopian greeting and he went in for a more casual and comfortable greeting and the funny akward….oh, ok…..moment made everyone laugh and then we sat down.
While the other volunteers were greeting their families, I tried to start up conversation with my host dad .Now let me put this in the right perspective….this is the expectation: you are about to live with this person and his family for a while and you want to make a good impression, know more about them and ask about Ethiopian culture and such. You expect they have questions for you and wonder what they are going to look like, what they will be wearing, how they will look at you and such.
Reality: We sat down and I whipped out a traditional Ethiopian greeting from my arsenal of 4 hours of language training. It sounded great, the accents and delivery were amazing and his response was flawless as well and coupled with a huge smile! Score 1 for Brittany in a great first impression! Now, time for the next question….again flawless in every way from me and him! Score 2!! Now he decides to go off script and says something that I haven’t learned in my intensive survival training that includes like 3 questions…… and my blank face was the first point in our relationship that reality hit and we both realized this was going to be a long 3 months. So I smiled real big and said “Ishi” which means “ok” in Amharic. We both laughed and then tried to think of how to communicate or what to do now that we couldn’t really talk.
While we were thinking about what to say next, we got to look around and realized that every other volunteer had greeted their family and then were out of words too. So we had an epiphany….greet each other’s families!! Brilliant! Use more words we know!! So we did just that. Then one of the other dads asks me a question in Amharic and smiled real big and looked around a little obviously showing that I had no idea what he said and all the other volunteers are looking at me like OMG what are you going to say…..so I said the magic word………”Ishi”. Everyone starts laughing and it was the perfect comic relief and then our language barrier became fun and interesting. My dad started trying to teach me the Amharic script and wrote my name for me and his and kept telling the other dads that I was learning Amharic script as if his white foreigner was better than the others. Haha!!!! Hilarious!! We finally ate lunch and then we all danced. Once again dancing in Ethiopia is huge! It was just the volunteers and the moms dancing but it was fun. They did the shoulder dance that’s hugely popular and we all clapped and it was a big event. It was finally time to pile into a van and head to our super small town and leave the other group behind.
Our town’s family members that came to our lunch were just the dads. So each of us piled into a very small van with our dads and headed to our town. Now the ride was interesting because the scenery completely changed. It went from kinda bland/ unattractive surroundings to absolutely beautiful scenery. It became lush and green. We went up in elevation a little and there are tons of rolling hills with trees and farmland on them and it is absolutely gorgeous. We turned off the main road and onto a dirt road that led to our town. It was definitely a small town and very rural, but it really is absolutely beautiful. We dropped Deanna off first and we couldn’t really see her house or anything, which was really disappointing because we are looking for any kind of expectation. Next was me. We pull up to this really muddy road with tiny tiny houses / shacks along the sides and then the road narrows a bit and they couldn’t go any further and had to drop us off there. I’m not going to lie….I started to get really nervous. We grabbed my bags and walked a little ways along the path and came to this tall aluminum door that opened to the courtyard of the house. There was a brick porch and the house itself was brick as well. There was a metal door and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was greeted by my host mom and her kids / grandkids and came into the house and it was feeding time.
PAUSE______ Now before I go any further, I need to give my first impressions of my family and house:
First my Dad. He is wearing kakis and a button down shirt and a leather jacket and of all the dads that were at the lunch, he was not necessarily the best dressed, but was definitely the best looking and is tall. He is in his 50’s and has a calm, warm face. If you were to line up all the dads and I was asked to pick one….he would have been my choice, hands down. Also, at the lunch one of the PC staff came up to me and told me that I was lucky to have him because he is well known in society and the community. I asked why he was so popular and was told that it is because of his lifestyle and his reputation as a wise man. Apparently he is great at handling disputes and problems. SCORE!
My host mom. She is 43, but looks a little older. She is slim and wearing a faded dress and has her hair covered in a scarf and is wearing a shawl around her. She is also relatively reserved but warm…..I can’t describe it very well…..but she is very maturely calm and warm. Now, most of the time when people are like this, I feel like a spaz around them but she doesn’t have that effect. It’s comfortable. But her best feature is her voice….it’s deep and calm and probably the most calming female voice I’ve ever heard. Amazing……
Host Family. This family is huge. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding. These are my siblings:
• 4 yr old sister – Kalkidan-the instigator. She is super cute, easily entertained, hilarious, will hit her brothers because she can and they won’t retaliate, basically everything you would think of in a baby sister. HAHA!
• 8 yr old brother- Barakat – this one is protective and I had to break up a fight between him and some kid because he told the kid to leave me alone and go away and the kid wouldn’t
• 8 yr old brother – Yared
• 11 yr old cousin – Elias
• 10 yr old brother – I call him my brother, but honestly I think he’s a cousin – Dougm
• 15 yr old brother – He speaks a little English and is proving to be really helpful and fun. – Zelliliam (but I call him Z, because I can never remember his name)
• 17 yr old sister – Lamlam- it’s interesting to compare her to my sister but She is nothing like my sister (and I don’t mean that in a good or bad way….just different) . She has grown up in a society where the women do all housework and serving so she is constantly preparing or cleaning things and are quiet and not really heard. She is smart and has a little edge to her and a good sense of humor. I like her. It’s harder to get her to warm up to you, but I do like her and she speaks a little English too.
• 20something yr old brother- Abraham-He is my hero. I’m not sure how old he really is, but he acts like an older brother. He is very polite and accommodating but is also very edgy and protective. He went to hero status when he killed a spider in my room the other day and when he stood up for me when his parents were trying to get me to eat dinner when I was clearly sick and running to the bathroom every minute and not hungry. He’s my Boru hero.
• Another 20 something yr old brother –I don’t know his name- this one comes around only very rarely, I’m not too sure why, but he makes an appearance occasionally and is my brother.
• Aunt – She is over all the time, it is my dad’s sister. She is hilarious and wants me to take her back to America with me. Haha! Love her!
• Grandmother – She is so calm and warm, also my dad’s mother. She has serious wrinkles but definitely from smiling. She is almost always smiling and is always over for Buna (coffee).
• Uncle – he has been around once or twice, man of few words and I don’t know much about him
The house – There is a large common room with couches and a dinner table and then there is a hallway off to the side that has my room and then the kitchen and another bedroom. Then you take the hallway outside and there is a mud building in front of you and the bathroom is to the right and then the place for the cows and the their feed is on the other side.
The family- This family gets together all the time for buna (coffee) and so we will have 15 people all in a small room and everyone speaking to each other in Amharic. Now, you would think this would be disorienting, but it’s actually comfortable. I may not understand everything they are saying, but I get a few words here and there and am able to figure out the topic. It’s kinda fun actually. I don’t need to understand Amharic to understand when someone is upset, happy, making fun of something or anything else. It’s comforting to know that everyone is the same. I’m in Africa, forever away, and people are people. They think the same, talk the same, and have the same ideals. It’s amazing. The only difference are the words.
UNPAUSE______________ Back to the reality of the meeting—– So we are greeting each other and walk into the house. Now, keep in mind that I just ate lunch 30 minutes ago with my host dad and other volunteers….so I’m definitely not hungry when I get into the house, but I have to eat…..it’s my first meal with them! So I sit down with the whole family and am given lots of food. I eat as much as I can and say that I’ve had enough and then of course they push more on you….it’s an Ethiopian thing….well it’s how they show hospitality. So I ate just a little more and then had to stand my ground. In the mean time, they are starting to get out the coffee and my dad comes up to me and tells me that he has a friend for me…..I start to get a little nervous….. The door swings open and it’s Dave!!!! Oh Dave!!! I am so happy to see you!
Now what is hilarious about this moment is that Dave is apparently my next door neighbor, one of the other 4 volunteers in my town, and it was so good to see him! But what’s funny about this is that before we met our families the volunteers who have lived in Ethiopia a while did a skit for us about meeting your family and how they will find each other and make you eat together and it was just a hilarious cultural skit and OMG it came to life. They found Dave and fed him, after he had already eaten for the second time at his own place and then was forced to eat again at my house….he’s a good sport. Anyway, it was hilarious that we were literally living out the skit piece by piece but it was a great day. We all ate, hung out and then went to bed. Here starts the real homestay process. _________________________________________________________________________ Lost in Translation
So I met people in my town today with the other volunteers and was introducing myself in Amharic. Let me set this up for you….there are 5 volunteers and our 2 language teachers and one of our host dads and our city coordinator. We went around to the police station, health center, admin offices, mayor’s office etc. and met everyone we need to know in town. See, in these small towns and in every town in Ethiopia foreigners need to know these people, and it has been the case many times that knowing these people and having them on your side has proven useful.
So to say my name is Brittany in Amharic, you say “Brittany ibalalahu (sounds like e-bal-li-low)”. So, I kept saying this to people and everyone started giggling a little when I said it. I thought they were just thought it was funny that a foreigner was speaking Amharic and because I was always the last to introduce myself it was just funny that they had to hear it 5 times…..apparently not.
So in language class the next day we were talking about our intros and I asked why everyone was giggling. My LCF (language teacher) giggles a little and says that I wasn’t saying (e-bal-li-low), I was saying e-bel-li-low and that I was saying “Brittany, I ate”.
Now what is so funny about this is that honestly it’s the perfect introduction for a foreigner anyway because Ethiopians are always trying to feed you once you meet them so by saying…my name is Brittany and I already ate…..it’s kinda perfect. HAHA! But that wasn’t all…..I guess I was trying really hard to say it right and accidently put emphasis on one syllable more than the rest and said to one person…”Brittany, I eat you”!!!! OOPS…..lol!
But she told us about the funniest language mistake she’s seen and it was hilarious…..so to say I’m a health volunteer you say “yetena bagofikidnya nine” but this volunteer was saying “yetena bagofikirnya nine” which means “I’m a volunteer lover” …..haha oops! I’m sure this is just the first of many hilarious slipups that I’ll make.
Site Visit (we had a week visit to our permanent sites to see our housing and meet everyone then go back to our training sites and finish training)
So I’m writing to you sitting on top of a mattress on the floor in 1 of my 3 rooms! I have a bedroom, common room, guest room, kitchen and I share a bathroom with my neighbor and there is a toilet and a hot shower!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not to mention, the compound is beautiful and so is the city!!! We are on a huge ridge that overlooks this incredible river valley. This area has the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen! Huge rolling hills, farmland, trees, flowers……incredible!! I hit the jackpot for sure!
My neighbors are amazing too. Apparently the owner of the compound has a home in my city, in Addis, and is frequently in the US and is retired. The manager of the bank in the city lives in the main house next to me and there are 2 dogs, a few hens, and a guard that comes at night. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but that’s just the cherry on top!
Oh, and I didn’t even mention my amazing counterpart! So every volunteer has a counterpart in the city they will be living in that we will be working with and that is assigned to show you around town. Well, my counterpart is the counterpart for the previous volunteer in this city who was 63 and she still talks to him too! We met at the counterpart workshop and it was unanimous among the volunteers that my counterpart was the best. Lucky!!!! Some of my friends have counterparts that aren’t very good and don’t speak any English, so we would go over and help them figure out logistics of travel and Dereje (pronounced De-re-jay) (my counterpart) is such an organizer and is super social. He’s about 26 and amazing!!!!!! I don’t know how I got so lucky to have an amazing site, counterpart, compound, and neighbors (who let me borrow a mattress while my rooms are completely empty)! I’m on cloud nine. This is the first place I’ve had of my own and it’s amazing! I can’t wait to furnish and decorate it!!!!! So if anyone dares to visit Africa, you will have a room of your own!
Site visit Day 2
So my compound is the best, period. Last night I had dinner with my next door neighbors (Bank manager and his wife) and love them! They have a 1 and a half year old son who is a big baby and super strong. He will land face first on the pavement and then jump back up and go running around. He is real mischievous too and likes to do things himself and run around and doesn’t like being confined. Oh, and his name is Kaleb (pronounced Kaa-lib, after one of the Ethiopian kings, King Kaleb). Super cute. My neighbors are great too. They are real relaxed and easy going and let me borrow a mattress and sheets because my room had absolutely nothing in it. They are also from Addis originally. I have found that those who are from Addis (the capital) are more America-like with regards to modernization and general views than others. I’m really glad they are next to me! The husband used to go running with one of the VSO’s (British version of the Peace Corps) that lived here and was looking to get a running buddy out of me but I told him about my bad knee and we settled on walking buddies. Haha.
My landlord is the sweetest older man ever. He has 4 kids and one lives in Addis, and the others live in America and are well educated. He has two compounds in my city and one in Addis and spends most of his time there and is retired but is the sweetest person ever. He gave me some furniture to use during my stay and says that his kids were protected in America because they were away from home and so he will protect me because I’m away from home too….awww! We have a guard too. He is great! He is my bug killer and my shopping buddy. He won’t let me be overcharged and knows where to get everything and loves to cook too (unusual for a man to cook in Ethiopia) and has agreed to show me how to make injera. He is great! My counterpart is by far the best of all the volunteers. He is very social and knows everyone and knows tons of PC volunteers in other cities too. He has his bachelors in economics and wants to get his masters in health care administration. He is incredibly supportive and helpful. I really lucked out.
Site visit Day 3
So today I met pretty much all of the town administrative staff in about 3 hours. I met the Police Commander, heads of the health center, women and children’s program directors, the City Administrator and his staff, and tons of other coordinators and their supporting staff as well. Everyone is so nice and the city is quite efficient and modern. Every office has computers and printers and such, most of the staff speak English (even though I’ve told them we have to speak in Amharic so I can learn), and everyone is so warm and welcoming. So my counterpart apparently was introducing me as a psychologist. I had to correct him and tell him that I have my bachelors in psychology, but that I do not have that title because I haven’t been to grad school for psychology. He understands but is quite excited that I have a background in psychology because he says their center and programs need psycho-social support. Basically, he says there need to be support groups and such for PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS) and for other groups as well, which I am happy to set up; however, I fear that he expects quite a bit from my psychology background. While I know all of the principles and theories and academia associated with each of them, the real life practice is not included in my training. My training is more on a social level. I know the principles of influence and how to use psychological and social theories that are best applied for marketing, general business, and daily use. So I’ve got to study up on best methods and take advantage of the Peace Corps training materials if the community wants some support groups. But first, the CNA (Community Needs Assessment).
The CNA is an intensive report of each volunteer’s final site that is composed of 3 months of research. The first 3 months of every volunteer’s stay in their city is spent understanding and integrating into the town. The CNA includes resources, demographics, city layout, health concerns, general operations, capital, etc. This is basically a full report of your town where you can assess what the needs are for the town and then prioritize those needs and come up with ways to address them. This is then presented to the Peace Corps in a report and then presented to your town where you can work together to come up with solutions. The next three months of the volunteer’s stay is spent still integrating into the town. PC doesn’t want volunteers to start any projects until after about 6 months. Then you can hit the ground running.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there was a 63 yr old volunteer in my town before me that started a few projects. One of the grants they applied for was to build a girl’s dormitory for orphan children in the area right next to the high school. The max allowed for the grant would have only covered 1/3 of the cost to build it, but they applied anyway and I assume are still looking for ways to access additional funding. I think this is something they are going to want me to help with as well. So here I am, day 3 in my town and already am making a list of things the community wants from me. The only frustration I have, is not being able to get started on anything for some time…..I’m ready to just jump right in!
My agenda for the rest of the week is to meet everyone, get a feel for the town, then on Thursday leave to go back to my host family in my training site for another 6 weeks of intensive training. Then swearing in and back to my final site! I don’t want to go back to my training site….I love it here so much! And I have a shower and toilet here too……why leave?!?!
Site Visit Day 4
So today I realized that Africa is no where near what people generally think. The health system and general runnings of this city are quite smooth from what I have gathered. Most of the professionals that I have met have at least a bachelors and many have their masters or are working on their masters in different areas. I am surrounded by very educated, well spoken, good natured, English speaking people and love it! These people are amazing and so are the things they do!
My counterpart (who has his BS in Economics and is waiting to take the GRE’s for his masters in Health Economics) asked me if I was going to take the GREs while I was in Ethiopia……um…how do you say I don’t exactly know what I want to do and so spending the money to get a masters in something I’m not passionate about is not really on my list right now. But I sufficed to say…..”no, I haven’t planned on it, I haven’t decided what I want to Master in”. He seemed a little surprised that someone who has graduated from college is not continuing their education and actually told me that if I want some reading material, that he enjoys psychological reading as well and has a few textbooks I can borrow. Ya….this is going to be a challenge, but I love it here!
I can already tell…..he is going to keep me on my toes and it’s been a while since I felt so challenged to work harder….but I’m up to it. He has already told me that once I master Amharic, he will teach me Oromifa (a large regional language). I can’t wait!
So I’ve mentioned the previous volunteer and he just loved her and so did everyone else and he speaks about her often and so there are already comparisons. However, the one we keep hearing is that the previous volunteer only spoke English and never spoke Amharic and while I’ve been going around town meeting all the department heads and administrators I have been introducing myself and meeting them in Amharic. They are all very excited that I have welcomed learning their language and that I’m actually using it and they think I will master it soon…..I hope so! Needless to say this will be an amazing experience and I am going to learn a ton! Like I said, Dereje is going to keep me on my toes for sure but I’m game.
Think Clown Car
So let’s talk about traveling in Ethiopia. First of all we had our counterpart workshop in Addis and after our counterparts (coworker in our city that is supposed to show us around etc) took us to our city. Now all the volunteers had to travel by bus. So we went to the main bus station in Addis called the Mercado. This place is off limits to embassy workers and rightly so….it’s flat out dangerous and a little scary.
So our small subgroup hops on a bus to the Mercado with our counterparts. The counterparts then tell us that they are going to figure out what buses we need to take and that we should stay in the bus while our hotel bus is sitting in the middle of the Mercado. As they get out they are all visibly nervous and then proceed to LOCK us all in the bus while they figure out what to do…..can you say OMG! So naturally the volunteers are a little nervous too. So after a couple of minutes my counterpart comes in and says let’s go and my friend and I hop out and haul to a bus and get in.
Now the rest of the journey to my site is unimportant except to say that the bus we took was pretty much a VW van and was supposed to seat 11-12 and definitely had 18 in it…..this is typical bus travel in Ethiopia. Now, the return trip from my permanent site back to my training site is another story.
We were told to take the buses ourselves and if we were close to our training sites then we should go straight there, otherwise we should go to Addis and spend the night and then keep going to our training sites and all of this was going to be arranged by ourselves. Ok so I’m not an idiot and am fully capable of traveling by myself but when we just went through that experience at the Mercado…..we were freaking out a little. So like normal adults who are freaked out…we decided to all go together so we overnight in various towns of friend’s sites and then take a bus together to a big town and wait for others and then go together to each of our training sites. This ended up being a couple day journey once you overnight and wait for others in cities. But now the bus system is significantly less scary but we can totally travel like pros!
Well it’s time for me to go…..I was shown how to perform the Buna Ceremony (coffee ceremony) and am having everyone over and am making buna the traditional way. Wish me luck!
I am being eaten alive by fleas! This is ridiculuous! They itch so bad! I can’t stop scratching and so I end up with bloody legs….not pretty. I was talking to another PCV who told me that she has zero bites because she has been taking garlic supplements. Apparently fleas and bedbugs hate the smell of garlic in your system. I haven’t been able to research if this works or not, but I don’t care…she is not getting bitten and her friend who goes everywhere with her is and she swears its because of the garlic and right now that is enough for me….I’ll try anything ….so whoever sends me something, please send me garlic supplements. Look at the pictures of my legs……you would be asking for them too……..
So Monica is a close friend that lived at a compound that has a dog. Now this dog bit her and she had to spend a few days in Addis taking anti rabies meds. Now, after her bite, we find out from the neighbors that this dog has bitten 4 other people! So naturally, Monica is terrified of the dog and PC told the family that it has to be tied up. Well, these people are pretty crazy and don’t tie it up. Monica complains and is moved to another city, but our Language teacher remains on the compound and is terrified of dogs and was assured by PC that the dog would be tied up…even though she kept telling them that it was loose.
So today in class the dog, cleverly named Kujo within our circle, was loose and pacing in front of the classroom door. Our Language teacher asked them to tie it up and they said they didn’t know where it was. So I texted our PC head honcho and told him that it still wasn’t tied up and that we were scared to walk around. He said that he would get back to me ASAP but thanked me for the info. He then called the language teacher and she told them everything that happened and they started to take it seriously and keep our language sessions somewhere else. Now while this is being taken care of, I come home and tell my family at lunch about the situation and my host dad in all of his amazingness gets upset that it’s still not tied up and walks with me all the way to class to talk to the family and get them to put up the dog, but they weren’t there and instead he told my teacher he thought I was getting sick and was worried about me….awww! Either way, he probably went to their store and told them to lock it up because we were scared of it. I told him that the language teacher was scared to go to the bathroom on the other side of the compound because of the dog too and I think he decided to take care of it. Go host dad!!!!
Oh ya….another example of Ethiopians taking care of you…..my bank account. I forgot to add my middle name to my bank account like instructed and my counterpart and I went to the bank to get it fixed quickly but oh no…..they said I had to close it and open a new one. Well, my neighbor is the bank manager so I called him and asked if he could fix it quickly and he said yes that it was no problem and fixed it for me over the phone and asked how my host family was and how training was going and was super friendly. Love it! My counterpart told me that his family was going to be like my host family in my permanent site and I love them! They take good care of me! Love this place!
Today was a bad day…..it’s about time I had one of those.
So up til now, I’ve been the support for quite a few friends who are having breakdowns. Now, remember these are strong people who have decided to go live in Africa for 2 years and leave everything they know. These are very strong people. However, when you are getting sick, bitten, forced to eat things you don’t want, take a dump in a tiny hole, have cold showers and treck to class in the rain…..it’s only a matter of time before you have overwhelming moments. Today I had mine.
Now I’m not someone to get overwhelmed easily by any stretch, but today it was really hard to keep it together. So I briefly mentioned my flea problem. I’m being eaten alive by fleas…..i mean really really really bad. My legs are torn up from my scratching them, now I have bites on my arms and stomach too. I’m spraying the crap out of my room and clothes twice a day and am trying my best to nurse my wounds but don’t have enough bandaids. Furthermore, I am fighting a cold…..well I was. I have had a consistent cough for a while and the past few days I have done zero studying because quite frankly I’m too tired.
Let me run through a typical day briefly…..I wake up, get dressed, go out to the common room for breakfast where I do my best to eat everything in front of me all while trying to politely tell my host mom that I don’t like eggs (I’ve tried a few times to tell her and honestly it’s hard to eat them, especially when they are cold and I have to eat them with my hands). Then I run to class. It’s the rainy season in Ethiopia so it rains a bunch at night, so I am literally sliding and using every ounce of balance in me to keep from falling on the way to class. Then I sit and learn Amharic for 3 hrs, have a small break, then learn more Amharic for another few hours then go home for lunch. Here I am forced to eat more than I would like and once again with my hands eating something that is usually cold and then have 3 cups of coffee and then off to class again. Then I do more Amharic until 5 pm where I go to the café with my friends and we sit for an hour and vent, gossip and just enjoy the down time then we go home at 6. Here my family tells me I’m late coming home (even though I told them I was going to the café after class) and am forced to eat a snack which is the size of a large meal. Then everyone comes home and eats dinner, another huge meal….and I am forced to eat all of this as well then have another 3 cups of coffee. Then out of pure exhaustion from eating and everything else, I go to bed and then start over the next day.
Well, I’ve been fighting this cold and have been trying to get plenty of sleep, so I’ve been napping the past couple of days and going to bed early to keep from getting sick. Well I woke up this morning feeling like I had been hit by a bus. And to make things worse, it was raining. So I walked through the rain today and in the worst mud so far to get to class (a 10 min walk turned into a 18 min walk). I got to class and was still itchy, coughing, weak, tired and cold. Then our language instructor decides to test us on everything (without warning) and when I couldn’t perform she scolded us. I almost lost it. I felt like shit and was still pushing through and was trying my hardest to just stay in one piece and then having to recall everything we’ve learned when I’m so tired and barely functioning and then being scolded for not studying was just more than I could take.
At our break I called our PC Dr. and told him that I was sick and my symptoms and what I had been taking and he told me that I have the flu. Great……. After I told my teacher, I think she felt kinda bad….but I went home to sleep only to have everyone in the house yelling and they kept coming in my room to tell me to eat. I know they are trying to help, but I don’t want to eat anymore….ever. lol. So now I have to sleep, and study like crazy for a test tomorrow….awesome. It’s not enough to have Amharic from 8-5 everyday….then you have to study at home too or you get in trouble…..only a few more weeks left….ahh…… AHHHH…………….I see a flea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DIE!!
I’m in bed with the flu and feeling much better than I did yesterday. That was just a bad day and I needed to vent. But to be fair, the communication between my family is much better…..I explained to them that in America we eat 3 times a day and not 4, so they have been skipping the huge snack for me. I’m not getting anything for breakfast except bread and tea, amazing hot tea with milk and cinnamon. YUM! And I’m eating more than I was at the beginning and my stomach has adjusted to Ethiopian food. Honestly things are going great….yesterday was just a bad day.
I’ve been thinking though and being in the PC is like being in a fraternity or sorority. Everyone is close, and you treat other PCV’s like family and you are family. They are my family away from home. My friends text me to see how I’m feeling and to hang out. They are there for me and I’m there for them. We are also very open with each other…..one of my friends has had some serious GI issues for a while and has had solid poop for 4 days in a row now, we couldn’t be happier! We know who is irregular (relating to GI issues), what everyone is eating, how often people are showering, etc. We are a family and Ethiopians call PCV’s sisters or brothers. I’m asked if other PCV’s are my sibilings, and I say yes every time.
I always listen to music when I am writing to everyone and I think letting you know what I’m listening to is a better indicator of my mood and with that in mind…..I’m always going to tell what I’m listening to…..right now it’s “Beautiful” – by Damien Marley. I highly recommend listening to it while reading this…..and if you are in my immediate family…..it’s mandatory lol, because you of all people know that we, as a family, love music and what we listen to literally explains our moods. So please google it, now keep in mind…I have no idea what the video looks like so just keep it in the background and just listen to it.
First of all, let me say that I love my friends in my town. I’m sick and at home with the flu and they are texting me asking how I am and seeing if I want a change of scenery or if I want them to come over to give me company! Love these guys!
I was thinking at lunch, that there are so many things that I haven’t mentioned yet. Let me just say that having spicy ethinic food when you are sick is actually really good. Lol. But I’ve used the universal haggling techniques with regard to meals, especially when sick. My host mom comes in my room and wants me to eat and yes I’m hungry, but only want a little. So I tell her I don’t want any food and she insists that I eat something and I insist that I’m not hungry and then eventually “give in” and she “wins” and I eat a little…..which is exactly what I wanted. But asking for a little is completely out of the question…..there is no such thing as a little. This is the necessary two step that you have to go through when sick. Lol.
But here are some cool things about Ethiopia I haven’t mentioned yet: Culturally when someone agrees with you or wants to say yes, the person will inhale big. Imagine being a little scared and breathing in sharply, not loud, just sharp. This means they agree. The first time I heard this, I thought I had scared the poor kid. Lol.
All Ethiopians believe they are sons and daughters of King Solomon. Very cool.
Buna Ceremony is the coffee ceremony. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and I’m not a coffee fan, but let me just say….it’s amazing. I am the only one of our town’s group who likes it. Most foreigners think it’s too strong and need lots of sugar and milk. My family makes it very strong and with tons of sugar but no milk and it’s so good! So the actually ceremony station pic is below but basically here is how it goes.
The person performing buna ceremony sits on a little stool in front of a little stool with a tray on top that has small teacups and does everything from this position. First you take the raw coffee beans and over a small charcoal pot you put a metal tray on top and roast them by moving them with a fork over the fire. Then you take the roasted beans and put them into a metal cup and with a big metal rod, you pound the beans until they are powder (crazy hard work by the way) and then put it into a black thing that I don’t know the name of and then put that on the coals until it boils then add lots and lots of sugar then pour into the teacups and serve. Now the serving is important. The most important or respected person is served first and then on from there. Usually the oldest person, then older males, then respected family members, then immediate family, then siblings. I have been served first most times….because I’m the guest. But when I am served is a great indication of how the family sees me…..now I’m served first less and less and am considered a respected family member.
Ethiopians are very religious. Everyone is either Ethiopian Orthodox or Protestant or Muslim. Ethiopian Orthodox people are fasting right now and it’s common that if someone is fasting and they are your guest that you serve them according to their fast. Everyone is accommodating and accepting of religion and most of the homes in our town have Jesus posters. Interestingly enough, we are in Africa and they are posters of white Jesus….a little funny.
Food. I’m not sure what I’ve said about the food so far but we have injera. Injera is like a spongy burrito with a distinct sour taste. You have a plate and then take a roll of injera and roll part of it on your plate and plop different foods on the injera and with the unused injera you pull it apart and eat the food with your hands and use the injera like a scoop and holder. Then you end up eating the injera that had all the food on it. Now, they won’t let you stop eating until all of the injera is gone. So you have to control how much you eat based on how much injera you get. They will make you take a whole roll and I was doing good to eat one roll and now they are getting me to eat more by making the injera rolls bigger…..clever huh. Lol.
Music. This culture revolves around music. They love it. My family has the tv going all day long on the Ethiopian music video channel. They crank it up and do whatever they do around the house. They are always listening to music and dancing. I love it! In the US, I started out every morning with VH1 Jump Start (back to back music videos). I totally get it and love it! Oh and everyone knows and loves Michael Jackson here. I mean I hear him everywhere I go. Oh and Dave’s host brother asked him the other day if he knew Tupac and Biggie. He said he knew of them and the brother was confused and thought they were friends and was really asking if he knew them personally because Dave and Tupac and Biggie were all from California (well the host brother thought Tupac and Biggie were from there) Hilarious! Dave thought this was funny and told them that he talked to them last week…..HAHAHA! (it’s way funnier to not tell them they are dead……)
“Where the Streets Have No Name” – U2
Stop and listen to the above song while reading this. Seriously google it now. This is a must for this type of blog…
My brother came in and told me that I had someone here to see me and it was Dave! Told ya…..great friends and he wanted to see how I’m feeling! Now, he is so bad to have conversations with and let me tell you why……because he has been everywhere and makes me want to do nothing but travel forever and ever amen. He’s lived in Napal for a while, taught English in Thailand and India, visited a friend in Morocco, another friend in Germany, another was getting their masters in Scotland and I’m totally jealous…..One day I’ll write out my bucket list but I’ve got a good mental list going. But living in Africa is making it all seem possible. I should clarify, when you are in the US, people talk about traveling romantically and never really do. But I’m living in Africa…..I’m traveling and don’t want to stop. Oh what the hell…..here’s my bucket list and includes what I’ve accomplished and in no particular order ….I don’t need any order…I’m going to do all of them…..
• Save a life – Accomplished
• Own a Ducati Monster 696
• Drive on the best road in the world, in Romania
• Ride an elephant in Thailand
• Climb Kilomanjaro
• Pet a white tiger
• Have a beer with Bono
• Take a boat down the Nile
• Make a positive change in my community – In progress
• Be a great mother
• Memorize the We Didn’t Start the Fire song
• Learn Arabic – Partially accomplished, Still in progress
• Travel for an entire year
• Hijack the Freed sound system in the Auditorium and blast the “When I think about you I touch myself….” song during the Dean’s first day of class speech
• Own a wolfdog (it’s embarrassing how much research I’ve done about wolfdogs….lots of psychology involved….amazing animals)
• Fill up a wall with concert pics I’ve taken
• Own a car where I made all of the updates, modifications, upkeep, etc.
I’m sure the list will get longer with time but that’s it so far and none of it seems out of reach….the only thing that seems hard is the Bono one, but it can’t be that hard…..right? lol
Adam Sandler – “Ode to My Car”……(there is language in this….fyi)
PC let all of the trainees go into the bigger city today to check email and have normalcy. Well to get from our tiny town to the big city we have to get on a van at 8:30 am. Now the bus system In Ethiopia works differently depending on what kind of bus you get, but the minibuses (aka vans) won’t leave until they are filled and when I say filled I mean we will wait an hour or two to fit 18 people into a 11 seater van.
So there is one minibus from our town to the big city and all 4 of us get into this van and wait and wait til it’s filled and then we leave. Now this particular bus is quite old and falling apart. Let me list a few things:
• The roll bars on the roof are not bolted at all
• There is fur around all of the pieces of metal that are welded so that you can’t see that it’s falling apart (shag is the ultimate camouflage)
• The only door that opens is the sliding door and the rubber around the seams is falling out
• The seats are ripped and torn
• The windows don’t move because there is gunk between the pieces of glass
• The whole thing creeks and feels like it is literally going to fall apart…..I mean someone please just take it out and shoot it…..put it out of it’s misery! Now while we are waiting there is a particular guy who wants to get on….he’s number 15 and has 3 chickens. He is holding them upside down by the feet and the driver makes him put the chickens on the roof. Yes…..they actually strapped 3 chickens to the roof by their feet. Now while he is doing this I’m looking out the window and looking at the chickens and one BLINKS AT ME!!!! I thought they were dead! Well….those were some really pissed off chickens when it was all said and done. So we fill up and get going and the road out of our town is dirt and I seriously thought we were going to loose a tire. By the grace of God, we made it to the big city.
We had a great time and then headed to the bus station and got back in the death van. We are all squished in and the only door that isn’t welded is jammed. No joke they can’t get it to open and are dropping off people and they are climbing out the window to get out….and it’s a small window. Eventually they pull over and try to get it to work. They whip out a handy dandy wrench and a big piece of rebar that they fashioned into a crowbar. While there are 4 people working on this door, Dave was looking through his Amharic dictionary and finds prison and decides to make a joke. So we are sitting in the back conjugating verbs to say that we are prisoners and are not getting out. We figured it out and he said it and everyone laughed. Go Prison Jokes!! After a while, they get it open and now it will open but won’t close. Let me just tell you….the next time we are on that bus I promise you, the door will be gone and there will be a random cloth curtain there. Welcome to Ethiopia.
Well I thought I was better…..
Citizen Cope/ Santana – “Sideways”
After going into town with everyone I felt great. It took a couple of hours and then I had a high fever, was freezing, skin was burning up, shaking and felt really weak. I called the PC dr. and my symptoms could be anything and since I took a Benadryl before I talked to him, he wasn’t able to diagnose anything because the medicine was taking care of things. So, today he told me to not take anything and see how I feel and if the fever comes back. If it does, it could be an upper respitory infection or something viral. He said I might have to get blood work done too…..ugh. So I’m sitting here with a million bandaids on my legs, itchy with new bites, head hurts, really weak, and super tired. It’s pretty pathetic. My host sister felt bad for me and went to get me a Fanta and some cookies. Love her! It did make me feel better! And love my friends…..texting to see how I am….:) _______________________________________________________________________________
Getting Really Mad
Flyleaf – “So Sick”
So today my teacher decides to scold us for asking one word….literally. She then decided that she actually had to remind us that this is our job and then scolded us for asking one word. Now under normal circumstances I would have jumped all over it and yelled back, but I’m too tired to even care, just rolled my eyes at her and moved on….we are all in survival mode right now….you just roll with the punches. Until I woke up this morning, I got furious thinking about what she said yesterday. I had a great night sleep and am not going to let her talk to me like that! I’m furious. I’m even more mad that I didn’t say anything, it’s very unlike me. But if she even thinks about saying it to us again I’m going to be administratively separated if she reports what I’ll say to her. I don’t need someone to tell me that I’m not studying enough. That tells me that she thinks I’m not trying. Ya ok……I’m being eaten by fleas, having stomach issues, getting the flu, taking a dump in a super tiny hole, never get a minute alone, eating cold food and food I don’t want, “working” everyday, can’t sleep, can’t breathe, speaking a different language all day long, and the list goes on and on. But oh, no….I’m not trying hard enough. She forgets….I VOLUNTEERED FOR THIS SHIT! I can go home whenever I like and she WILL NOT talk to me like that again. I’m doing fine in class, not struggling, I understand everything…it’s not hard….I get everything but miss one word and you jump all over me…..well just try it again…..
Day to Fall Apart
I called home crying this past weekend. I have never done this before……ever. I am not a crier, don’t need to talk to my parents when I’m upset, and definitely don’t feel the need to do both at the same time. However, this past Friday was just horrifying.
I have had a continuous cough for a while now and all of the spraying in my bedroom trying to get rid of flees leaves a residue and irritates my cough. Well, this particular Saturday morning, I woke up and couldn’t breathe because of coughing. I then went to eat breakfast and was coughing until I gagged and was unable to eat anything. Then I went to class and because I’ve been sick, I’m a little behind and I’ve mentioned how our teacher is ridiculuous.
Well I’ll explain a little more… she is that girl who has lived in a big city all her life and orders everyone around her to do things for her (seriously she told us this) and is now having to cut it in the super rural area and is having a hard time and is in a town with the best teacher ever and is constantly comparing notes with her and feels she is lacking and her students are behind so she takes it out on us. But there are no excuses.
So I was a little behind in class, and we are in a new classroom and it had bugs so she sprayed it heavily. This left a residue and I once again couldn’t breathe and was coughing until I gagged and was itchy too. I went home for lunch and took a nap and accidently set my alarm for 1:35 and should have set it for 13:35 so I overslept by about ten minutes and ran to class. I get there and still feel like crap, coughing and eventually have to run out of class because I’m gagging and so I go into the bathroom and it smells bad, so I’m standing outside of the bathroom dry heaving, can’t breathe, I’m behind in class, itchy because of my flea problem and have torn up legs for the same reason, now gagging at the thought of injera and cold misera wat, have a migrane, and start to cry. I keep bending over and then standing up thinking I’m going to throw up and my friend comes over to see if I’m ok and sees me crying and comforts me. She told me that most people have fallen apart over one thing coming at them in a foreign country already and I’ve got lots of things coming at me and that I deserve a cry. I felt so much better. I pulled it together and went back to class.
About 30 min later, I had a small tear come out and my teacher saw it and told me to go take some time and I said quite harshly that I didn’t need time. It has always bothered me when people say calm down, or tell me that I need some time. I understand that they are trying to be sympathetic, but I am in control of my emotions and if I think I need time, I’ll take it. If I think I’m out of control, I’ll fix it. I don’t need you to tell me how to take care of myself mentally. Either way, I kept it together until I got home. I told my family I was going to sleep and as soon as I shut the door, I started to cry. I stopped and realized that I had to call the dr. I took my temperature and then called. I told him I had a fever, miagrane, coughing til I gagged, nausea, couldn’t breathe, and felt like crap. He said I’ve got an upper respitory infection and started me on antibiotics (by the way this is the second fever I’ve had and ongoing symptoms). So I got in bed and called home crying. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m not proud of it either….but I want everyone to understand that this experience is hard, very hard. Good days as well as bad days….it’s pretty much a roller coaster and I’m sure you can see how I’m going from ups to downs. But I feel like I have to be honest in this blog….so I had my day to fall apart.
“Sweet Home Alabama”
PC arranged for all the trainees to go to a resort for some swimming and RNR the next day. I asked Dr. if I was able to go and he said as long as I felt ok, then yes. Well my close friend, Deanna, texts me to see how I’m feeling and if I’m going to the resort in the morning. I said I probably wasn’t going to feel up to it and would probably just sleep. Well, I woke up the next morning thinking, DUH….sleep in my nonbreathable room or in a resort…..hmm decisions, decisions. So I got dressed and went with them. Well Deanna knew what a hard time I was having the day before, so she arranged for her friend in a bigger city to buy a Snickers to give me at the resort. AWW! It was perfect. And it was so good to see everyone too. This resort turned out to be an Olympic size pool with diving boards and lots of people. There were also monkeys everywhere and you had to watch your things or they would take them. PC arranged for us to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with banannas, cheese, and watermelon. It was perfect. We were also right next to a river that we couldn’t go near because of crocodiles but were able to go to the hot spring that was nearby. So some friends and I decided to go and half way there we ran into other friends who had just come from the spring and told us to turn around because it was a bust. Apparently it wasn’t very warm and just had naked Ethiopian men bathing in it. We turned around. We had a great time though. Apparently most Ethiopians don’t know how to swim so the huge deep end was full of white people and the shallow end was full of Ethiopians. Quite segregated. There was a DJ at this pool though playing both American and Ethiopian music and we rocked out, danced around, and sang along to lots of different songs. It was a great time and I’m so glad I went.
Alien Ant Farm – “Smooth Criminal”
I’m pretty sure I’ve explained I have trouble breathing in my room. My solution to this was to sleep with my window open, notice the “was”. After our resort trip I crashed into bed with my window open. My window is a hole in the wall with inside shutters that lock and a plastic sheet over the hole with holes in it. My shutters were open and all that divides me from outside is the plastic sheet with holes and my sheer curtains. Being a Saturday night, I know that early Sunday morning, at 3am, the church prayers start. The town church literally puts their prayers on a loud speaker for all of town to hear and it continues until about 6 am (sunrise). Around 2:30 am I hear our gate moving and then hear footsteps and slight panting outside my window. Oh, there must be a dog trying to stay safe from the hyienas (I could hear their calls). Then I hear coughing and realize it’s definitely human and male.
Hmm….maybe it’s the neighbor. So I listen a little more and realize this guy has sat down and is trying to sleep. I can hear him fart, cough, move around to get comfortable and everything. Now, there are many thoughts going through my head. The first is….go running to my host dad asap. But I catch myself and think about it more. If I get up, I have to grab my flash light, turn it on, unlock my door and open it. If this guy sees in he will see everything that is in my room with the light, see that I’m a foreign white girl, and be gone by the time my host dad comes out. This would be terrible because he would know where my room is and could come back. Right now, he is just looking for a dry place to sleep and doesn’t know whose room it is and what is inside let alone that a person is inside. So I try my hardest not to move or cough and keep quiet and listen. He falls asleep and right as it gets light outside he packs up his stuff and leaves. As soon as I hear him leave, I close my shutters, lock them and go to sleep.
The next morning, I tell my host mom and sister what happened. They tell me that it’s the neighbors and it’s ok. Well at dinner, I tell my host dad what happened and that it wasn’t the neighbors. He speaks very little English and so he signals around his head (talking about the surrounding area) and then takes his two index fingers and hooks them. This means to me that he knows everyone in the area and they are all close. I say ok, but if it happens again that I’m going to wake him up. He says ok and laughs and that’s it. So he leaves and runs to his shop and comes back in 20 minutes with his rifle. Apparently the two fingers hooking looks like pulling a trigger and represents a gun to Ethiopians. What he was saying was that he would go around the house with the gun to make sure it was ok for me….AWWW. That’s an awesome host dad right there!! Luckily he didn’t come back, but I feel real safe now.
Best Day EVER!
Dave Matthews Band –“Ants Marching”
Stop reading any further. Google Dave Matthews Band –“Ants Marching”.
First of all, if you don’t know this song, we are fixing that now. It is universally a great song and sound. Just do yourself a favor and put it on while reading this. So my friends went hiking this morning and I didn’t go worried about my cough and respitory infection but we met for coffee after. We hung out and decided to go exploring our town. We start walking down this road and find shops we didn’t know existed, saw tons of houses, and realized that our town is actually pretty big. We kept walking and came to the top of a hill and saw at the bottom the most beautiful brook, bridge, and farm land imaginable. We are talking green screen for movies material. We rush down and hang out at the bridge. It was amazing. There was a local washing his horse in the stream and others washing their clothes. We watched and relaxed. It was great. We headed back, and I have a small story to accompany our trip back that I can’t tell now, but remind me on non-public-blog areas and I’ll tell you.
Either way we got back and headed home. I ran inside telling my family about the bridge and river that we never knew existed and they thought it was hilarious at how excited I got. Everyone that came over that night was told to ask me about the bridge too, and they loved watching my eyes get all big talking about how beautiful and fun it was. The other amazing highlight to this day was what my host brother did. As I was walking inside, my host brother calls my name. I turn around and he tells me that in America my name is “Brittany” but in Ethiopia my name will be “Betelam”. I just got my habasha name and didn’t even ask for it! I couldn’t be happier! But wait….what does it mean? He says he can’t describe it but that it’s good. I said thank you and ran to my host sister to find out what it means, she loves the name too but can’t explain it. I finally run to my host cousin and he says it means “Jesus born”. Well that’s awesome. Love it. Then I went to class today and asked my teacher what it means and she said it’s the city where Jesus was born. DUH! I should have put that together, Betelam sounds similar to Bethlehem. Either way, everyone says its awesome and loves it…me too!
So my new Ethiopian name is Betelam.
Get to the Reality
Timbaland – “Oh Timbaland”
Two topics today…..volunteer health and community health. This is where I’m actually going to talk about the job of health volunteers in Ethiopia and the difficulties that we are having and learning about our own health. I’ll start with our health and go into what we are overcoming in order to make a positive change in these communities and what exactly that entails…
I’ve adopted two rules about living in Ethiopia and was the first and quickest to adopt these and it has benefitted me time and time again and I think others are jumping on board. Rule Number 1 : Do not eat meat in Ethiopia, except dorowat (chicken in super spicey sauce). Rule Number 2: Never trust hotel food. During our 2nd week in Ethiopia I was having some dihreea and was not the only one. Our group has 69 people and many people had stomach issues with the hotel food. Then the hotel threw us a party and made us pizzas…..11 out of 69 people got amoebas and another 17 had bacterial infections and were vomiting and sick as dogs, at least 20 or more had dihrea and other stomach problems from that pizza. Also meat in Ethiopia is not usually eaten cooked. Kitfo is a common meal and is literally raw meat. Well, we obviously can’t eat it and will almost certainly get a parasite or any number of things, however it is common for different places to not fully cook the meat. Many volunteers experienced the hourly vomiting after eating partially cooked meat. Also, most cooked meat in Ethiopia is commonly eaten with lots of fat and they actually cut up the bone too and have pieces in the meat too. But remember, these are all just occurances when we are together as a group. Individually everyone, and I mean everyone, has had dihrea at least twice. Most others have vomited from any number of things, had nausea, fleas, bedbugs, the flu, upperrespitory infection, parasites, amoebas, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention we are eating food that we have no control over, no control over our schedules, working 6 days a week with 8 hrs a day of language and our day off is difficult to do what we want, many are having problems with their host families and others love them. This is the hardest thing most of us have ever had to endure. It’s intense and grueling both mentally and physically. I’ve venture to say that most have cried too. There is a quite masculine guy among us who told us that he can count the number of times he has cried on one hand and in Ethiopia is one of them. This is rough for the strongest of us. Period.
Aparently PC Ethiopia is one of the top countries for early termination (voluntarily saying I quit) among volunteers and I totally understand it.
Now let’s get to the bigger picture…… The Community Health Based solely on our training, we have learned a great deal about the places where we can help and already have a good idea about the challenges we are going to face….and we have a ton of work that can be done and honestly we are all thinking that 2 years is not long enough….. Very brief and very quick look in list form of potential working areas among health volunteers:
OVCs (orphan vulnerable children)
Infant mortality rate / Deaths during Delivery
HIV / AIDS
Transportation to health care
Reproductive and Sexual Health
Challanges….very very briefly
• Cultural taboos
• Cultural norms(….I will discuss in detail later but this is a very male dominated society. )
• Religious beliefs (also the case in the US, or was the case, many religions teach abstinence until marriage. While this is great, you have to face the realization that in today’s society, having no education except abstinance is not acceptable. Like it or not, teens and most of today’s youth are going to have sex before marriage and to not teach about how to protect themselves or how to prevent pregnancy, etc.. is just impractical. Period. Agree with what’s going on or not….speaking about reality, they need the education and due to religious taboos proper sex ed is not widely taught.)
• Lack of education
Every site is different and mine has a very involved community and a large HIV/AIDS awareness, from what I’ve seen and I’m very excited. My community needs assessment will help me determine what is most needed in my community, but I’m very concerned about the infant mortality rate and deaths during delivery as well as OVCs, but I want to help in any way that I can. Some of the ways we can help include writing grants for PEFAR funding and many other types of funding, educating, organizing groups, set up income generating activities, and the list goes on and on…… So when we have our bad days and go through all of this grueling training, we remember that we are doing this so we can use our skills and knowledge to do something positive. If my endurance of fleas, the flu, an upper respitory infection, and lots of stomach and bowel issues, serious scars, etc….saves one infant by having the mother deliver at the health center due to the education I provided, then it was more than worth it. Period. See, the small things we know and can educate others about can literally save a life. I’m not here to save lives or save the world. You just can’t see it like that…..it’s overwhelming and impractical. But one life is worth everything and is practical. I frequently think back to the reason I joined the Peace Corps and get re-energized. I’ll explain this reason in detail another time…probably after swear-in and it might surprise you why I joined…., but thinking about what is ahead of me and the work I will be doing is energizing too.
There goes a 17 yr record…..
Foo Fighters – No Way Back
So let me tell you about my first vomit experience since I was about 6 yrs ol, on an Ethiopian bus….. So my dad tells me that his brother in another town also has a ferenji (foreigner) and we are going to see them on Sunday. Awesome! Wait….who is the ferenji? He calls his brother and hands me the phone and I asked to talk to the ferenji. It was Gene! I have a real life habasha cousin! Haha! Sunday rolls around and my family tells me we are leaving at 4 (10 am). I come out right at 4 ready to go and my mom takes one look at me and laughs. Apparently it is hilarious at how prompt I was. She, however, was not on time and we didn’t leave for another 30 minutes. We finally get into our bus and then get to a hub city and take another bus to their house.
We get there and I notice a few things immediately: 1. They are loaded. 2. Something is wrong with these kids. 3. Gene isn’t there. I am greeted at their large compound and the youngest daughter runs up to me and shakes my hand. This child is staring at me, no expression, and her demeanor implies she is pretty smart. But believe me when I say this child is evil. I’m serious, I’ve never looked at someone and thought OMG until I saw this girl. I honestly was worried that when I turned around she was going to kill me, seriously…..chills and everything. Needless to say, I gave into her every whim out of sheer terror. All of the children are girls and the oldest are sweet and smart; however, as the children get younger there are problems. One is autistic, one is evil, one has vision problems, and the list goes on. But all of the issues definitely come from the father….. Meanwhile, my mom, dad, brother, aunt and myself greet our family and sit down. Our “uncle” who I think is a distant cousin come to find out, is a unique character. He is quite intelligent, speaks English well and is very welcoming. However, every alarm in my body was going off. That’s all I’m going to say about it. But we had lunch and found out that Gene was out hiking with the other PCV’s in the town. When she got back we talked and she was so glad I thought her family was off too, because no one believed her. I saw it immediately. But we ate and then her host dad insisted that we head to a graduation. Our parents fought a little about it and gave in and we went. It was a huge ordeal for this girl’s graduation and it was so cute to see the mother come up and give her a necklace and everyone claped and it was just so personal and endearing. Half way through, my brother grabs me and tells me to come. I follow him and he says we should hike to the river. Haha, ya right! Not with my knee! By the way this is my 15ish yr old brother. Gene and I took advantage of this and went to talk outside. She had refused to sit down at this graduation because she said she didn’t want to be there….so when my brother grabbed me, I thought something happened to Gene. Either way we talked and then my dad comes out and says we are leaving. I think he was sick of being there and annoyed that we went to a random graduation. My mom comes out, we thank them for lunch, say goodbye and we leave to go to the bus station and Gene leaves and comes with us.
Gene parts ways and heads home, and we went to the bus station only to find that our bus wasn’t there yet. My dad leads us to the hotel next door and we all sit down for drinks. He asks me what I want to drink and I answer, “Coke”. He tells me that I should have a beer. I said no that I want a coke and he says no, that I’m going to have a beer and he orders one for me and one for him and then cokes for everyone else. So here is how my host dad works….quite similar to my real dad. He is the sweetest person on earth with guests and if things are going south, will typically keep quiet out of respect unless something really needs to be said to the contrary, and has no problem telling what he thinks. My host dad is the same way. My host dad is also not a drinker, except on special occasions and when he thinks one is needed. My real dad is not a drinker at all, but if he were I can imagine it would be the same way. Either way, my host dad wanted to drink and get me a drink for 3 reasons: 1. He forgot how weird his family was. 2. He was thankful that our relationship was great and that I was so well behaved all things considered and wanted to buy me a beer. 3. You just can’t drink alone. Needless to say I drank the beer and half way through it he ordered us another one. I said no, but was too late. Our bus started to come up too and so I had to hurry up and drink. As we are leaving, I realize that my stomach is messed up. I totally feel sick.
We get on the bus and I am inching my way past tons of Ethiopians to the seat in the very corner of the back of the bus and my family follows me and we all squish in. This bus is hot, smelly, and squished. We get going and this bus is another death bus that is about to fall apart and is speeding over dirt roads and huge bumps. I sat there staring out the window while telling myself that I wasn’t going to throw up. I thought I was over the worst, only to think….”Crap!”. I started to cough and up it comes. I immediately unzip my bag and throw up all in my bag. My family is giving me toilet paper and I clean myself up but I still have a wet shirt. We get off the bus and onto another one and I kept it together. As soon as we came home I stayed outside for fresh air and then cleaned up and went to bed. I felt so nauseous.
For purposes of dignity I need to clarify, I was 21 once and have been there and done that with alcohol and throwing up after 2 beers is something that I’ve never done. Keep in mind I haven’t thrown up since I was about 6, so I’ve always thought I had a stomach of steel. Either way, I’m horrified that I broke my record in an Ethiopian bus after 2 beers. Totally embarrassing.
Why I Joined the Peace Corps and My Blog Dedication
July for Kings – “Believe” – listen to this!
I thought I would wait until swear in to talk about why I joined the PC, but I’m feeling it now…..so I’ll start with a story (and you have to see the whole picture to understand…..so I’m going back a little…..)
At the middle of my junior year of high school, my family told me we would be moving to another state before the end of my junior year. I had attended a private religious school since childhood and was going to be thrown into a public school in another state. This was a slight culture shock, but I learned to love it. I went to a public university for a year and started to miss my home state and the conservative , religious bubble I was used to, so I transferred to a notoriously conservative religious school (one that I most likely would have attended straight out of high school if I hadn’t moved). Now, I’ve always been sort of an idealist and like most idealists, I was excited about college. I had the world ahead of me and was back where I felt most at home and was surrounded by other idealistic, religious people like myself…..or so I thought.
On our first day of mandatory chapel, that has attendance accounted for by staff taking your picture in the audience from the balcony, we were given our welcome speech by the dean. This speech is supposed to set the tone for the entire year and give newcomers a feel for what to expect and inspire us to use our oncoming education and our common beliefs for great things, to go new places, and do things never done before. Instead, our dean told us the things he wanted us to take with us from the school year: 1. Be a better Christian 2. Be a better student 3. Become a great spouse 4. Be a great parent. He further told us to look to our right, look to our left, look in front of and behind us because we could be sitting by someone we are going to marry. This was our welcome speech. Turns out I attended marriage farm.
While waiting for one of my classes to start, I engaged in a conversation with a Bible major who was planning on becoming a preacher and has a family history of “respected” preachers. The conversation was about something political and he was upset and the way things were being handled in a certain situation and what should be done instead. I jokingly suggested that he run for office and fix it. He very seriously told me that Christians shouldn’t be in office. Stunned, I asked why. Apparently there is so much corruption in politics that the person would be corrupted. Interesting. I told him that was ridiculuous and that it’s more of a reason for the person to be in office….to clean it up and who better than a strong moral person. He said that it was impossible for the person to not come out without being corrupted and as Christians we should stay away from corruption. While this heated conversation was starting, other students start to pay attention and pipe in agreeing with him……
I can keep telling stories for days but these happened within the first week and are the ones that made me the most mad within that week, but the life changing story happened at the dorm that same week….. My best friend and I were roommates and were in a common room talking with the other girls on our floor. It was the basic, what’s your name and what’s your major. Well I asked one of our neighbors what her major was. She said, “I’m an education major, but if I don’t get married I don’t know what I’m going to do”. This moment my life changed. At that very moment, the first thought that came to my head was, “OMG, that could have been me!”. If we hadn’t moved and I had gone straight to that school right out of high school, I could have been her and married someone like the moron preacher student.
Naturally after a semester filled with these types of stories, I freaked out. I lost faith in fellow Christians, saw just how weak the “conservative” sect was, and saw the bubble for what it was, a bubble. I seriously thought about publically making a point and getting kicked out, and if I wasn’t worried about what my family would think of me, I would have. Needless to say, I transferred back to the public university and loved it. I’m mostly over my freak out, and it took me a while, but you just have to remember that some people are stupid and if the stupid people want to stay in a bubble and breed, that’s fine with me. Just stay there, out of the way. The rest of us can make up for the bad name you give us. Back to the point, my complete fear of what could have been is why I joined the PC. I could have gotten married right out of school, had kids and felt like that was all I could do. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you want a family that soon and just want to settle down, more power to ya! But this particular girl didn’t know what to do and was settling for this. That could have been me. I want to travel, do something meaningful, and do something never done before. I’m working towards that goal. But my life changed because of what DS (Dip Shit) said and what I could have become and I think it’s only appropriate to dedicate this blog to her. I spoke Amharic today to my host Ethiopian family of 13 while living in Africa and learning how to prevent the spread of HIV and save lives using health education. What do you think DS did today?