21 November 2007

what's the meeting about? farting, i think.

Firenji movie night was a success, although I think our counterparts may have been a bit scarred by some of the choicer examples of stoner-toilet humor (see post title).  Such is American culture - high and low.  The staff even gave us permission notes to take home to our families the day before explaining that we would be with PC staff until 830 PM.  That was the latest most of us had ever been allowed out, so when the movie ended at 730, a group of us stuck around and had a dance party at the hotel to take advantage of the unprecedented level of freedom.  Probably frightened the hotel staff, but we're already stared at like freaks anyway, so it's about time we started earning the whispers and stares. 

On Saturday we all went into Addis to learn how to use public transportation.  They bussed us all into the city en masse and turned us loose in small groups to explore.  Addis reminds me of Amman in a lot of ways, although significantly less developed.  It's dotted with small enclaves where foreigners can go and not be treated like zoo monkeys on holiday from their cage.  Steph, Levi, and I, under the expert guidance of the hilarious Ato Mokonen (choice quotes: "That dog is ferocious.  He will devour us" and "It's so windy today you should put rocks in your pockets so you don't blow away."), went to a firenji restaurant called The Blue Tops where we had delicious homemade pasta and banana splits (plus a milkshake appetizer...don't judge).  As I learned in Amman, the true marker of a good firenji establishment is a menu entirely in English with no traces of the native language.  Better still if the name is in English - the Blue Tops meets all these criteria.  Since we discovered this place via Lonely Planet, we also ran into approximately half of our PC group during the course of our meal.  The promise of ice cream sundaes is hard to resist - we're easy, what can we say? 

After lunch, Mokonen led us on a whirlwind tour of the city, of which we remember precious little, but perhaps it'll come back to us when we're abandoned there alone.  We rode public transport, better known as blue donkeys or service taxis - they're little death trap blue and white vans that careen through the streets of the city, stopping only to unload or cram in a few more people at quasi-designated stops.  We visited a firenji grocery store, which leaves much to be desired after the Safeway and Cozmo of Amman, but at least carries peanut butter and cereal, if lacking a refrigerated section and hence cheese.  Supposedly there are others around the city, so I trust that in time, I'll find a way to MacGuyver some mozzarella cheese sticks.

Since we were told to be at the bus station no later than 4 to catch public transport back to Wolisso, you can imagine that all of us clung to every second of freedom and bombarded the bus station precisely at 4 PM.  As a result, we were able to pack an entire bus full of firenji, thus losing much of the experience of public transport (chickens and goats, anyone?), but giving us a fun end to a day of freedom.  Levi and I frightened my former Amharic teacher by (not-so?) silently rocking out to an iPod mix featuring such classics as Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and Buckcherry's "Crazy Bitch."  Guess she thought I was a bit more sweet and lovable than that.  Funny how people make that mistake. 

I gave Zacharas and Sarah (plus a random neighbor kid wearing an Orlando Magic sweatshirt - cue "It's a Small World") a small squishy ball to play with the other night.  Myself being an American kid raised on football and baseball (I've been a St. Louis Cardinals fan since birth - ask Dad for pictures), my instinct when thrown a ball is to catch it and throw it back.  Not so with Ethiopian children.  Granted, my two are a bit young to be expected to have the hand-eye coordination to consistently catch a ball, but the ten-year-old was just as inept.  I suppose spending your childhood watching a game where you're not allowed to touch the ball with your hands really ruins the instinct to catch.  I still don't like little children, but I'm making an effort. 

Burdette, our medical officer (and perhaps the greatest member of Peace Corps/Ethiopia staff, and not just for the candy she always brings) came into town on Monday for an entertaining presentation about sex in Peace Corps and thankfully fewer shots than anticipated.  Seems our influenza and HPV vaccines are held up in customs.  A side bar - although Peace Corps may seem illogical and disorganized at time, I salute their HPV vaccine policy.  They're paying for the vaccine for volunteers through next spring since it wasn't approved recently enough for most of us to have been in country long enough to receive the series (and save the money since most insurance companies won't pay for it).  Hooray for Peace Corps medical services! 

Parents entertaining naive notions about your little babies' innocence may want to skip this paragraph.  Speaking of sex in PC, apparently only 30% of sexually active volunteers always use condoms.  Since most of us work in fields at least indirectly related to health education, that's more than a little frightening.  I hope the married couples are skewing that statistic.  Forty percent of PCVs will have sexual relationships with host country nationals, and 90% are sexually active by the first 20 months of service.  I'll leave that for your pondering. 

After a day's delay for the ultimately non-existent shots, we finally discovered our site placements in an elaborate afternoon "Price is Right"-themed ceremony involving a map and pushpins designed solely for the purpose of torturing poor volunteers with little else to do in the past weeks besides wonder about our placements.  They did throw in a celebratory party at the lodge (with an 830 curfew again!) to pacify us, so life isn't all bad.  Anna accidently stepped on a cat, who retaliated with a small nip on the ankle, which means she gets to go to Addis for rabies boosters, just in case.  Nice to know they're looking out for us.

I'm going to Asela (the town I mentioned a few posts ago with the FGAE branch!), along with the lovely Candice (who loves children and will hence spare me all of the OVC projects).  It's about 3-4 hours south of Addis Ababa, up the mountains lining the Great Rift Valley and chain of lakes region.  Candice and I will both be paired with the local HAPCO (HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office), the federal agency overseeing all HIV/AIDS work in Ethiopia.  We don't have a lot of specifics yet, but there are quite a few local NGOs operating in the area, so I imagine we'll be doing a lot of networking between different programs.  Candice is a returned PCV who served in Swaziland before this, so I'm excited about having someone with a ton of experience with which to work.  Apparently Amharic is widely spoken in Asela, which isn't doing much to help my complete lack of interest in Oromiffa.  Three more weeks and I can hire a tutor to learn the language I wanted to learn anyway, and as it turns out, will be using. 

Sinead's about two hours north of me in Welenchiti, a small town that doesn't appear to make it into any of the guidebooks but is quite close to Addis.  Levi's up in Bahir Dar and Steph is in a small town about an hour around Lake Tana from it, so at least it'll be easy to visit my favorite Amhara region volunteers (well, easy in the sense that Ethiopian Airlines has cheap domestic flights - 15 hours by Ethiopian bus is pretty much everyone's definition of hell).  A couple of people are way out in the sticks - two days by bus from Addis and several hours from internet or cell service in the case of Tikil Dingay (the only consolation is the sheer fun-ness of saying "Tikil Dingay"), so I'm pretty content with my site.  Can't wait to see what I'll actually be doing! 

After Friday night's Thanksgiving/Christmas party at our country director's house in Addis, we leave on Saturday for a week at our new sites.  Most of us should have our housing arranged, so we'll be able to start setting up our new homes.  Our future supervisors will babysit us as we explore the town to set up banking services, PO boxes, furniture, utilities, etc.  We'll all be having electricity and some form of running water - if not pipes in the house, than a spigot on property.  A far cry from the rural mud huts most of us were expecting (hoping for, perhaps?).  The verdict's still out on whether or not we're actually disappointed.  I'll have a new PO box next week - I'll post the address here, but the Addis one will still get to me (eventually) as staff make visits to our sites during the first few months.  Feel free to send to Addis in the meantime, but then switch to the new one. 

I'm not sure how much time we'll have for internet during site visits, so don't expect an update from me for a while.  I'll do what I can, but you'll probably not hear from me again until the first week of December.  Mom, I got the box - not sure at what point you got the impression I liked pumpkin pie, but several others were excited!  Thanks for the UF news!

Hi Anna's mom!  Hi Straw's mom!

Wishlist:
-Cheddar goldfish crackers
-Cashews
-Sourdough pretzel nuggets
-Crystal light packets
-Books!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jess, the pumpkin pie was for sharing at the Thanksgiving feast. The cherry pie filling was for you!
Love, mom

Anonymous said...

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