27 December 2007

i may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you're looking for.

Hope everyone's Christmas was exciting. Candace and I made homemade
french onion soup (with the provolone cheese we procured on a trip to
Addis for which we paid dearly). Delicious, if not very Christmasy.
Then we watched Southpark. I feel like all I ever talk about is food,
but that's really all we do here since I don't start working until
next week. I promise I'll soon start discussions about things more
interesting than what I eat each day.

I don't remember if I ever talked about the tissue Mafia in Jordan,
but they definitely have an active branch here in Ethiopia. For those
unaware, the tissue Mafia is a gang of street children who make their
money by shoving little packs of tissues in your face until you buy
them to make them go away. I, fortunately, have no soul and rarely
cave unless I'm in the throes of a GI emergency, but it appears to be
a pretty lucrative business. The Ethiopia branch has diversified
their product, also offering gum, and in the larger bus stops around
Addis, cigarettes. In Jordan, the tissue brand was Fine, but here
it's called Soft, hence giving us great pleasure when the kids run up
saying "Soft, Soft," and we respond with, "No, but do you have rough?
I'm looking for something to scratch my rectum." They don't speak
that much english, but it amuses us and that's all that matters. For
the record, Soft isn't appropriately named.

Four altercations on four different busses yesterday. Fortunately, we
weren't involved in any of them. TIA. The whole gang's coming in on
Saturday for a massive twenty four-hour feast with fun and games and
movies. We'll probably traumatize the neighbors, but they're already
used to the town freaks.

On the way to the internet today, I stopped to buy bananas and the guy
in the fruit stand asked me to marry him. He was very insistent. My
first Ethiopian marriage proposal - how special.

Merry belated Christmas! Joey, you made my day. Thank you SOOO much
for calling! Andy, sorry if I made little sense when we talked, but
it was equally wonderful to hear from you. It's business time. Nick,
I got your letter on Christmas Day (there are perks to Christmas not
being a real holiday here) - thanks! Jas and Jules and Grandma, got
your letters as well. Mom, box 3 of 3 made it, but boxes 1 and 2 are
still MIA. TIA. Letters are en route to all of you!

24 December 2007

you gotta bleed it first.

On Saturday, to practice for our Christmas feast, Candace and I
purchased, carried home, helped kill (okay, watched), cleaned,
prepared, battered, and fried our very first chicken. Well, my first,
since she'd done it in Swaziland, but our first in Ethiopia. I
carried him home, a sight which brought great amusement to the people
of Assela. The lone white girl in town is exciting enough, but the
lone white girl carrying a live chicken by its feet (which is how the
Ethiopians do it) was almost more than they could handle.

We were fully prepared to kill him (and by we I mean Candace), but
women don't do that in Ethiopia, so the older brother of Candace's
compound family did it for us, then we de-feathered and prepared him.
Real American-style fried chicken. And let me tell you, we certainly
know how to pick a bird - he was enormous and delicious. We made some
seasoned potatoes as a side dish and has ourselves a delicious
organic, farm-raised meal. If we only could find cornmeal in this
town, we would have had ourselves a southern feast. Alas, we had
banana bread instead, which was equally delicious if a slightly
inappropriate food pairing.

Keeping with our established weekend tradition of extravagant
breakfasts, on Sunday morning we made banana pancakes and hash browns.
Not the same as Dad's waffles, but quite delicious under the
circumstances. We'd open a diner here if not for Peace Corps' "no
outside income" policy. Cinnamon buns next weekend for the Christmas
party. Thank god the entire town is situated on a steep hill and
there's no oxygen here, otherwise we'd be bulking up appallingly fast.
There's little else to do in your free time besides cook or read, and
we don't want to run out of books too quickly.

I finally have a house - I started moving in on Christmas Eve. It's
actually at the first homestay I visited, but they're partitioning the
hallway and giving me the bigger room, kitchen, and bathroom and I'll
use the back door as my private entrance while they have the front
door to the other half of the house. The main room is large enough
for a bed and couch, so it'll function as a bedroom/living room/eating
area in the spirit of the tiny studio apartment I'll one day have in a
bad neighborhood of Washington, DC. Making up for the odd common room
arrangement, the kitchen is fabulous - it even has a sink, which is a
far bigger deal than you'd imagine. It doesn't function yet, but I've
been assured that'll be fixed soon. They're leaving the cabinet in
there, so I'll have a counter and storage space. Indoor flushing
western toilet and shower too, so life is good. There's a nice corner
out back where I envision my chickens and a healthy looking section of
soil for my garden. The kitchen even has a quaint windowsill for my
herbs. The layout is a bit strange and disjointed, but the perks make
up for it and I have a lot of ideas to liven the place up. I'm
excited. Now I get to start work next week, which is even more
exciting.

Wishlist:
-Books
-The usual
-Hot cocoa mix (with marshmallows!)
-Post-Christmas baking/food sale items (frosting, cake mixes, candy,
etc - all the stuff that goes on sale after Christmas)

22 December 2007

get behind the wheel, stay in front of the storm.

While balanced precariously in the back of a gari (park bench on wheels pulled by a horse) with our mattresses, Candace and I noticed that the bells on the horse's harness made a pleasant jingly sound. To distract ourselves from the fact that I was slowly falling off the side of the cart, we sang "Jingle Bells" at the top of our lungs, since that was probably the closest we'd ever get to a one horse open sleigh. The neighbors stared, but they do anyway, so it wasn't new. And people thought I didn't have the Christmas spirit. We listen to Christmas carols all day when we're home and I'm starting to really like them. I even sing and dance. When no one else cares about your holiday, you're suddenly quite proud of it. Sinead's even going to draw a chalk tree on the wall for our party. Maybe even a fireplace.

Speaking of one horse open sleighs, transportation in Africa just might be what hell is like. We went into Adama on Tuesday to shop for kitchen supplies and the many foodstuffs that can't be had in Assela. Little did we know, but Wednesday was a major Muslim holiday (one with which I am not familiar, but Ethiopians don't skimp on holidays), hence the entire town of Assela had traveled to Adama to buy supplies for the festivities. Come 4 PM, we went to the bus stop to catch a ride back to Assela. So did the rest of the town, resulting in a 100+ person line-esque mob snaking through the parking lot. Ethiopians have no problems waiting in lines, but when the bus arrives, all hell breaks loose and they stampede the doors, much to the chagrin of the poor old man in the puff ball hat trying to maintain a semblance of order. After an hour of this mess, we were at the end of our rope. In the meantime, we watched a bus pull away with four goats (loosely) tied to the roof. They were swaying and stumbling around the top with a look of sheer terror on their faces. I suppose they have to get from town to town somehow, and better there than inside the bus. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but it's a common enough occurrence, so I'm sure I'll have another opportunity in the next two years.

When the next bus arrived, we were towards the front of the line, but when we got there, the bus was already full of line-cutters. Fortunately, the puff ball-hatted man runs a tight ship and reorganized the line, putting me, Candace, and the nine others who'd been screwed at the front. When the next bus came. a gang of men tried to bum rush it. Led by a feisty young Ethiopian woman, Candace and I (and the rest of the line, I might add) fought the revolution and scored a victory for the rule of law. Someone got a bag of metal pots to the family jewels. Whoops. Watching the woman lead us was great - for living a life as a second-class citizen, she certainly took nicely to her moment of glory, standing up to the men. Just outside of town, an old woman boarded with a chicken. An angry chicken (given that it was probably going to become dinner, I think its anger was justified). It got loose and ran around the dark bus for a while before her kid caught it and cradled it the rest of the way. TIA.

Thursday I went to Adama again to pick up some chairs so we could have a semblance of order in the house (still no tables, beds, etc, but it's the little things). I bought six bamboo chairs and paid a nice kid with a wheelbarrow to help me get them to the bus station. At the gate, a man accosted me and insisted he carry the chairs the twenty feet to the bus, only so I'd have to pay two people instead of just the kid. Irritating, but bearable. I paid twenty birr (it's ten birr per person for the bus) to have them tied to the roof, which is too much but I was in a "pick your battles" sort of mood, so I let it slide. When we got to Assela, a man tried to convince me he was owed 180 birr for getting the chairs down (they cost 150 birr for all six) while a horde of twenty men clamored for the opportunity to rip me off while carrying the chairs to the house. I may be white, but that doesn't mean I'm a stupid walking ATM who spits out money. I'm probbaly growing a bit bitter about the firenji treatment, but they say journaling and humor are good coping mechanisms, so just enjoy the tongue-in-cheek sarcastic renditions of transport adventures.

As I shooed them all off, a handful tried to be my "savior" by telling the others to leave, then plopping their happy asses into my chairs to claim the labor. Candace arrived just as I was ready to take a chair to the ringleader's head, and the two of us waddled out of the bus station laden with chairs to catch a gari. That proved more difficult than we thought, and the guy we finally found also decided to rip us off by demanding 20 birr for the ride (standard gari rides are 1 birr), even though we loaded and unloaded our own chairs. He called us thieves, we uttered some choice obscenities that he may or may not have understood, but I think our tone conveyed our meaning just fine. But Candace's landlord family son helped us dust them off and carry them into the house and didn't even ask for candy, so that was uplifting. And John, the compound dog, is starting to like us too, so that's even better. I think it's the food we're giving him, but I've never claimed to be above bribery.

Hellish transport experiences aside, the sight of a lone tree silhouetted against the sunset is consistently one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Say what you want about the suburban-ization of America, but there's something to be said for the convenience of having everything you need in every town. Sure, you can drive to the coast for fresh shrimp or something and some fruits are seasonal, but it doesn't take three days and two towns to find something like baking soda. Still looking for brown sugar. TIA.

If your Christmas is white, I hope you enjoy it. Throw a snowball or two for me. Everyone else, revel in the pretty lights and desserts - try not to get caught up in the commercialism.

17 December 2007

dreaming of a white christmas.

It's official - training is over and we're Peace Corps volunteers.  All 42 of us made it.  The swearing-in ceremony, held in the garden outside the Ambassador's house, was actually quite nice, despite the blinding sun.  There's a picture of us somewhere on the Peace Corps website and probably an article.  Internet being what it is, we're taking the staff's word for it on that one.  We spent the evening after swearing in at a dance club in Addis, enjoying the strange feeling of being not only awake, but out of the house, until 1 AM.  Friday we roamed the city in search of things we can't buy at site (a not-hard pillow and a cheaper kerosene stove), binged on good food, and splurged at the firenji grocery stores (mmm...olive oil!).  Since we were leaving at the butt crack of dawn on Saturday, we spent Friday evening at the hotel, swapping music and watching Blood Diamond.  Probably not the best choice as we prepare to move to random small towns, but the film strikes much closer to home now that we actually live in Africa.  TIA.

We've now spent two nights in Assela.  I'm living the squatter life in Candace's living room, which makes cooking more fun but I think we're both looking forward to independence.  We christened our new electric hot plate with some Ramen noodles, seasoned french fries, and popcorn while watching Tommy Boy.  Candace, like myself, has a penchant for toilet humor, so life is grand.  Sunday morning, since nothing is open in Assela (well, Ethiopia), we slept late and made hash browns and cinnamon french toast since there's little else to do besides peel and grate potatoes.  Then the power promptly cut out for the remainder of the afternoon, along with the running water.  We wondered the streets and bought a few more things for our kitchens - like cups so we wouldn't have to drink from cut off water bottles - from the few shops that were open.  It's a classy life we're living.  We're hoarding water in buckets so we can flush during the day, since it appears we only have water at night.  But two days of hot delicious food is more than we've had in all of the last ten weeks, so there's really nothing to complain about.  Plus, there's no malaria and it's cold at night.  

While wandering the town, we had the good fortune to meet the village idiot who was apparently on vacation during our previous site visit.  Upon the sight of a pasty firenji like myself, he launched into a screaming tirade and followed us for a good twenty minutes.  He started by telling me he wanted to suck my blood because he can tell I'm a Jew and they're the best sex.  I can't make this stuff up.  The rest of his ranting isn't really fit for print.  How he learned this much English is a mystery for another day.  He apparently hangs out only on the asphalt road, so he's easy enough to avoid, but I hope he gets committed soon because I'm not sure I have the patience to ignore him on a daily basis without resorting to violence.  

My counterpart has been tasked with the urgent goal of finding me a house, so while Candace met with her boss to discuss work, I continued the search for vital household goods.  And went to the bank, which was an hour of my life that I can never get back.  I also visited the post office, opening our Assela PO box for the very first time.  It was exciting.  Rita, I got your letter - thanks!

Dad, the CD of pictures is on its way to you.  I'm sure you'll be impressed with my wrap job.  Careful cutting through all the duct tape!  Everyone else, pictures will be posted online as soon as that CD reaches Orlando and Jenna/Christine has the free time to upload them all.  There are a lot, so be patient and prepare to be amused.  Sinead likes to take photos of people making awkward faces.  You'll love it, I promise.  

Jessica Ducey
PO Box 986
Assela, Ethiopia

Wishlist:
-Books!
-Apricot face scrub
-Clothespins
-Bobby pins
-Margaret Atwood's new book of poetry
-Trivial Pursuit (we can MacGuyver a board and pieces if necessary, so even just the cards will suffice if that's all that fits)
-Usual edible goodies

12 December 2007

freedom's just another word.

In less than 24 hours, we'll officially be Peace Corps Volunteers! I've spoken my last Afan Oromo in one of the most excruciatingly time-wasting exams I've ever taken. Parroting back a random assortment of phrases hardly counts as learning. As it turns out, our language instructors aren't certified, so we can't even receive proficiency scores. It's all so much clearer now. But PC Director Tsetter (spelling? pronounced like "cheddar") is coming to swear us in, which is apparently quite a big deal among the Peace Corps. To any prospective applicants out there, try to get into a reentry program - you get some nice perks. Afterwards, we're heading out to a dance club in Addis for our first night of real freedom in more than two months. It's going to be ridiculous. I'm mailing home a CD a pictures the next morning, so hopefully they'll be online by the new year. Prepare to be amused by visual evidence of how we've all let ourselves go while here - shaggy hair, increasingly sparse make-up, saggy pants. Sinead has a penchant for awkward and/or ridiculous photos, so that should make everyone laugh.

Language woes aside, I couldn't be happier to be out of training. Everyone says training is the hardest (worst?) part of Peace Corps service, and they're absolutely right. With the perks of reentry also comes unorganized training and inexperienced staff, two factors that have combined to make much of the last ten weeks unnecessarily painful. But, 42 of the original 43 are still here, an attrition rate unheard of across the Peace Corps, so apparently someone put some extra time into selecting us. I think I'll look back on training and Wolisso the way I do Jordan - a valuable experience with some amazing people in a place for which I'll hold little nostalgia.

I was so excited for my own place in Assela - cooking my own meals, dancing in my underwear, sleeping in a larger-than-twin-sized bed - but, as it turns out, I'm back to being homeless. My landlord, most likely upon discovering that I was a pale white foreigner, tripled my rent from 500 to 1500 birr per month, which is obscene considering the Peace Corps' already-lofty upper limit is 600 birr. He may also have decided he didn't want to rent the place anymore, but I think it would be easier to turn someone down than price gouge the rent to drive them out. So, instead of spending my first week shopping, moving in, decorating, and compulsively baking Christmas cookies to send to other volunteers, I'll be trying to prod my counterpart into taking me to every remotely available house in Assela. My goal is to have something by New Year's, preferably Christmas. I was really looking forward to hosting our region's Christmas party, too. On the upside, I'll be able to crash in Candace's living room, hence saving the money Peace Corps will be giving me for a hotel room in the interim. Kayaking in Madagascar, anyone?

We had ourselves a little party at Negash last night to celebrate the end of training, which meant an extra edible meal in our lives and some last-minute firenji company. Anna and I, competitors for the title of nerdiest PCV in Ethiopia, played yet another game of Scrabble before the food came. I'm currently leading the tournament 3-1, but unfortunately, she'll be up in Bahir Dar, so we have to put the games on hold until April's in service training. We were also supposed to have an American government trivia contest at the party, but due to food delays, we postponed until this morning. Anna, Chris, Aly, Straw, and I made a valiant effort but finished second when we got an inordinate amount of colonial America trivia instead of the twentieth century I know and love. I guess Peace Corps leaves out the Cold War questions in order to reinforce its independence from the intelligence community.

At the end of the party, Yohannes brought the mail, which is always the most exciting part of our week. Caitlin, your letter made my day and I'm very excited to have something not-depressing to read! Jas and Jules, the soup will be an excellent belated Hanukkah celebration. Michael and Dan, did you two go to the post office together? Getting packages from both of you on the same day was adorable. Everyone's jealous that I have friends in England who love me enough to send me mail (Will, that goes for you too!). Letters are on their way to all of you! Thank you so much!

New Address:
Jessica Ducey
PO Box 986
Assela, Ethiopia

West Wing quote of the day: "They're not wearing wooden shoes."

Wishlist:
-Usual edible goodies
-Books!
-Clothespins
-Bobby pins
-Margaret Atwood's new book of poetry
-Trivial Pursuit (we can MacGuyver a board and pieces if necessary, so even just the cards will suffice if that's all that fits)

09 December 2007

gobez or go home.

We're in the home stretch (and not a moment too soon!)- Thursday morning at the butt crack of dawn we load up the bus for the last time and head to Addis for the swearing in ceremony at the Embassy.  The PC Director is coming, as are a host of local and international media, so look for us in the news!  Technical training is over, as is language training.  Our final language exams are tomorrow, so in 24 hours I'll be done with Afan Oromo and free to go back to Amharic, the language I originally wanted to learn and the one spoken in my town.  I know I sound bitter, but with so little of our lives within our control, figuring out what language is spoken in a town seems like a relatively simple way to make one aspect of training less painful. 

We finally made our attempt to play football after Saturday's goodbye lunch with our host families, but instead Nod, Levi, and I ended up in an hour-long game of catch waiting for other firenji to not show up.  Quitters.  The local stadium kids were enthralled by the funny-shaped ball and our constant use of our hands.  We tried to show them how to throw and/or catch a football, but you would have had better luck teaching a company of ballerinas.  Speaking as a former ballerina, I'm glad Dad also taught me how to throw a football as a child so I didn't have to embarrass myself. 

I've been reading a lot in the past few weeks and feel compelled to offer my reviews.  Robert Kaplan's Surrender or Starve is an excellent look at the intersection between famine, politics, and international aid in the Horn of Africa.  It's a bit dated, but like most things involving this part of the world, history tends to repeat itself.  Living in a nation that doesn't value the First Amendment as much as I do, I won't express my reactions in detail, but read it and let me know who you're cheering for in the region's current mounting situation.  

I finally read Guns, Germs, and Steel, and while it hasn't changed my life, it's definitely thought provoking.  Dry as all hell and a bit dense at times, but meticulously researched.  As I sat on the couch reading it and my family stared in wonder every day for a week, I understand the argument.  Coming from a society with the agricultural package suited to the development of sedentary agriculture, I have both the time and inclination to read for pleasure, while my host family can't even begin to wrap their heads around the concept that I am, in fact, relaxing with a six-hundred page treatise on the history of the world.  Although Diamond's fundamental point is convincing, I still have too much faith in the individual to believe that we don't matter.  Maybe we don't matter that much, but I believe one well-placed person can make an impact. 

For some lighter (?) reading, I just finished Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, about the 24-year-old from the DC suburbs who hitchhiked to Alaska, went out into the woods, and was found dead of starvation four months later.  I think it's a movie back in the free world?  A few of us have read it here and we all found some striking parallels between his life and our own.  I suppose there's only a fine line between finding yourself in rural Africa or the Alaskan wilderness.  Everything is just a matter of degree, after all. 

Also read, but less provoking: The Hobbit, Ape and Essence (in fact, excellent, although I now realize I'd read it before), and two Agatha Christie mysteries.  Also, Salinger's Franny and Zooey.  In progress: Naked Lunch (stressful) and The Human Stain.  I'm about to run out of books.  Please send more!

On the topic of reading, I had an evening that illustrated why I hesitate to call myself a feminist.  I was reading Ms. magazine for the first time (Thanks Ruby!), and while I found some interesting articles, particularly one about women in Gaza under Hamas, there's an underlying combative tone that rubs me the wrong way.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for equality, but I like men.  In fact, I love them and don't believe blaming them gets us anywhere.  After Ms., I picked up Cosmo for some mindless advice and hot bachelors, realizing that the staff of Ms. would probably not approve while the Cosmo editors would applaud my liberated tastes.  Hence, my beliefs in a nutshell.

Thanks Rhonda for the Christmas package!  There's a letter in the mail for you!

Ruby, now that I've read The Hotline, I'm wondering where it's been all my life.  Thank you so much!

Word on the street is Tim Tebow was the Heisman front runner - anyone care to offer a quick update on the outcome?  Ditto some Presidential primary polling data - Iowa and New Hampshire are coming up mighty quick!

Mail note:  For those not yet aware (both my readers and the friends and parents of other volunteers who've stumbled across this blog), the US Postal Service offers a nifty international service in the form of flat-rate envelopes and boxes.  Envelopes are $11 for up to four pounds, and boxes are $36 for as much as you can fill them with.  Seriously, you can send bricks if you want (although I'm sure most of us would prefer chocolate).  Seeing the postage on the boxes that have arrived here thus far, most everyone would be saving a bundle with flat rate boxes.  Just a helpful hint!

New Address:
Jessica Ducey
PO Box 986
Assela, Ethiopia

Wishlist:
-Margaret Atwood's new book of poetry.  I don't know the name, but it'll be the one with a 2007 publishing date.  I think it's been out long enough to be in paperback, but if not, I can wait.
-Books!
-The usual edible requests

04 December 2007

letting off the happiness.

En route back from my visit to Assela, we decided to stop in Addis for the day to get some not-nauseating food and have an extra few hours of freedom. Candace and I got to Adama in a record hour and 15 minutes and changed busses for Addis. That's when it all went wrong. Before we left, the driver got off to get a wrench from someone, which is never a good sign. We broke down a few kilometers outside Adama, and the driver and money guy spend a few minutes smearing paint into the engine (perhaps for lubrication? We weren't sure) and tightening things before we got back on the road.

A side note on public transportation in this country: Ethiopians have a pathological fear of any sort of fresh air entering a moving vehicle. Hence, all windows are sealed tight on public busses, and any effort to crack them for even a brief second garners angry stares and slammed windows. Compounding this problem, deodorant is an unknown concept. The women in the seat in front of me took advantage of the ride to paint their nails, adding the smell of nail polish to the general perfume of burning paint, exhaust, and unwashed flesh. Thank god there was no livestock on board. There is a near constant cool breeze blowing in much of the country, but you wouldn't know it on a bus. The siding of our particular bus was rotting away, so occasionally the breeze would enter through a hole in the metal and slip into the back of the bus through the flapping paneling. Not often enough. I never experienced motion sickness until I came to this country.

We broke down again a half hour later, this time for longer, and Candace left the bus to try to hail a passing minibus. Unfortunately, all were full, so we got back on our original bus when they finally fixed it. We broke down for a third time within sight of the city limits of Addis Ababa. Frustrations mounting, we collected our bags and started walking towards Addis, trying to hail a ride. We finally found a minibus, who took us closer, instructed us to get off and take another minibus to another destination. This continued for no less than seven minibusses to get us to the main bus station, where we were meeting Sinead for lunch. All of this with our giant hiking backpacks, which don't really fit well into vans already crammed to the brim with people.

The two hour, 175 km trip ended up taking about 4 and a half, which is actually quite good by African standards. We originally intended to grab lunch in Addis and hit the road to Wolisso that night, but the thought of getting on another bus made Candace and I want to cry, so we crashed at the house of four of Sinead's friends who are teaching in Addis. We sat around watching movies and eating popcorn all night, then devoured a box of cereal for breakfast. It was a lovely evening after a hellish bus ride.

We were going to leave the next morning, but instead decided to get one last good meal at Blue Tops and raid a firenji grocery store, finally making it back to Wolisso at 7 PM, in time to collect the massive amounts of mail that had accumulated in our absence. My family had gone on a mission to repair the television and didn't get back until 10 PM, so I had a few hours of peace and quiet to decompress and write some letters. Then the kids came home and all semblance of silence was shattered. Two more weeks of screaming and bad food, and I can live independently again! Sadly, our television has been repaired, so no more peaceful nights of reading.

We're in the home stretch here in Wolisso - a few more days of (useless) language training since PC is insisting on testing us in our original language, not the one actually spoken in our towns, last minute training sessions, goodbye party with the community, and we're out. We have a swearing in ceremony and reception at the embassy next Thursday, then we hit the road for our sites on Saturday.

After ten days of no mail, it was an exciting welcome back to Wolisso. J^2, I got your letter and am anxiously awaiting the Hanukkah package. Grandma, I got your letter as well. Responses are in the mail. Dad and Mom, got packages from both of you - firenji football game this weekend! Ruby, your package was made even better because it was a complete and utter surprise (and Rose, the Rice Krispy treats were delicious - excellent packing job, they still tasted fresh after two weeks)! You have excellent taste in candy and reading materials - a letter is on its way back to you! Thank you so much!

Happy birthday little bro! Write your sister.

Extra-special Christmas edition wishlist:
-Cheddar goldfish crackers
-Sourdough pretzel nuggets
-Butter-flavored popcorn salt
-Marshmallow fluff
-Peanut butter
-Buillion cubes
-Apple cider mix (does this even exist?)
-Matzo ball soup mix
-Ramen noodles (oriental)
-Kraft mac and cheese
-Reese's peanut butter cups
-Butterfingers
-Baby Ruths
-Brownie mix
-Chocolate-covered gummi bears
 
Non-food items:
-Books!
-Yarn (variegated bright blue and any other colors)
-Right Guard Xtreme invisible solid deodorant
-Gillette Venus razor blades
-Zip-loc bags
-Whitening toothpaste
-Home waxing strips (non-microwaveable)
-Body lotion with sunscreen
-Pantene shampoo/conditioner combo