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)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congrats and Good Luckto you Jess and your fellow PCVs!! I hope you find a house very soon.
Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Jess,
Can you try to get the big event filmed? We (parents/family) would love to see you all swore in.
Take lots of pictures too.
Thanks!
Mom