27 October 2007

bananas and monkeys.

My family's TV went on the fritz last Wednesday (two neighbors, my dad's brother, and my flashlight determined that it was a blown fuse), so we've been without evening entertainment for a week now.  Not such a strange situation for me, but my family's had a hard time coping.  At least I'm less freakish for going to bed at 830.  With nothing to watch, so does everyone else.  Without the functioning TV, I'm also temporarily off the hook for more traditional dancing. 

I made friends with some of the neighborhood kids by playing ball in the front yard last week.  We started with soccer, but with the fat American as the goalie, the game was less fun for the kids, so we switched to volleyball/monkey in the middle.  We were playing with a long-deflated soccer ball, so I borrowed another volunteer's pump (brilliant thing to pack!) and became a hero the following day when I re-inflated the ball.

As the day-to-day routine of training, sub-par food, and awkward silences at home settles in, we've taken to the Negash Lodge, the fancy hotel/restaurant/hot springs/swimming pool in Wolisso.  After several frightening lectures on the myriad diseases we can catch from African freshwater, we're avoiding the pools, but for 5 birr (~$0.50) you can take a hot shower, which is virtually orgasmic.  Plus, there are two species of monkeys running loose on the grounds, which makes for endless amusement.  A few people were having lunch there last weekend, stopped eating their pizza for a brief moment, and a monkey leaped on the table and stole a piece.  This is Africa.

Training is a tedious process, but we got a break from powerpoint slides and AIDS information on Monday and Tuesday when our future counterparts and supervisors came into town for a visit.  Sadly, it was badly organized and we each only got to meet a handful of the twenty or so representatives from each region.  Regardless, it was nice to finally talk to people in the specific towns in which we'll be working.  They're all much larger than we thought - seems we'll be in small cities and towns in the neighborhood of 50,000 people up to almost 200,000.  No tiny rural villages, which I consider a major disappointment, but we'll still be working in them and by living in the towns, we're more likely to have electricity and/or running water.  Win some, lose some.

I didn't have to go to church on Sunday, so I spent the morning knitting and reading.  I got two bananas when Simret's sister came over for a visit, which was the first time I'd seen fruit inside the walls of my house.  Then we went to Grandma's house for two hours of Orthodox choir music videos, interspersed with energetic commentary about the beauty of the Orthodox religion.  Simret's been confused since I told her I'm not religious, so I think she's hoping to swing me over to the land of icons.  During the videos, however, I did get a third banana, which helped ease the awkwardness.  I feel like a pet being rewarded for good behavior. 

Last week, I traded my friend Levi a deck of Florida playing cards for a wind-up toy airplane since I live with babies and his siblings are too old to be living at home (by American standards, anyway), let alone playing with toys.  I gave it to Sarah and Zacharas Sunday night after the music video bonanza.  It was like I'd turned them loose at Disney World after hours.  Sarah was so excited she peed all over the floor.  Then she removed her pants, left them in a wet pile, and continued chasing the plane around the living room.  Seems Ethiopian children don't wear underwear.

I learned to make firfir (or fitfit), a classic Ethiopian dish we've dubbed "injera with a side of injera."  It consists of chopped up pieces of injera (the spongy bread) mixed with oil, berbere (the ubiquitous Ethiopian spice), onion, and more oil.  Then, you eat it with injera.  It doesn't really qualify as good, but now I can make it.  Simret and her sister were amazed at my ability to chop an onion and saute it.  After surprising everyone with my ability to handwash my laundry correctly and make injera, I'm apparently well on my way to becoming a proper Ethiopian wife.  My family keeps introducing me to various Ethiopian men my age, but I think I'd rather join a convent than spend my life in a kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, I love cookie dough as much as the next person, but I think I'd also enjoy policy making. 

My host father accidentally walked in on me while I crouched naked on the bathroom floor, trying to shave my legs during my bucket bath.  I'm not sure he'd ever seen a naked firenji before.  He seemed pretty traumatized.

A short anecdote to illustrate the thrill of mail days:  I stopped by training HQ at the hotel on Wednesday to check for mail since our medical officer had come in from Addis (to give some of us the tetanus shots we'd missed, which was a day ruiner).  I didn't have any mail, but my friend Sinead (shin-nade, like the bald singer) got a letter from her boyfriend.  She'd bolted after lunch to beat the internet crowd and hadn't seen it, but by the time she went to the hotel two hours later, no less than eight people had sent her text messages to tell her about the letter and a dozen more had told her face to face.  News travels just a hair slower than the speed of light.  So does the gossip, which also keeps everyone amused.

I'm posting via email, so respond with comments so I know posts are making it.  I'd love a Gator football and/or electoral politics update, in addition to those much-appreciated letters and/or care packages. 

Wish list:
-Cheddar goldfish crackers
-Chewy chocolate chip cookies
-Sourdough pretzel nuggets
-Dried fruit
-Peanut butter anything
-Gummi candy
-Kraft mac and cheese
-Ramen noodles (oriental flavor)


Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,
I sent a package with letters for you last Tuesday, so hopefully it will be there soon. Christine

Nick said...

Hey Duce,

I'm incredibly jealous that you get to hang out with monkeys. I swear at times that people here want to steal my pizza, but they can't swing from trees or hang from their tails.

Also, I don't think you're going to want much in the way of a Gator football update...things aren't so pretty these days.


Robin said...

Great post ... am putting together a box for you. Enjoy teaching Africa about the magic and glory of Halloween!


Anonymous said...

Jess, I sent out a box today stuffed full of the necessities of life including news on UF-Nick's right tho'.
Let me know when you get the box, the other package and at least 3 letters-love, mom