04 January 2008

democracy in action.

Well, not in Ethiopia, but Iowa voted.  I knew my boy could do it.  

Florida lost.  Kelly P and I will be wearing Michigan colors at in-service training.  Don't know what those are yet, but I'm confident Shaun will brief us.  Let's hope Gator basketball season goes better.

My landlord can't seem to get his mind around the concept that in America, I am, in fact, an adult who's been living alone for several years now and was selected by her government to work in Africa partially on the basis of that independence.  He keeps trying to feed me (injera, nonetheless) and woke me up at 7 AM for tea.  I declined.  The final straw came when he refused to let Candace leave my house after sunset on New Year's (although she stayed with me that night, we still didn't make it to midnight).  

As the workman was fixing my kitchen sink Tuesday, my landlord continued to linger and make conversation about how I was his daughter.  I tried to explain that I'm not a child but the message wasn't getting across.  Ethiopians live at home until marriage, but I'm already strange here, so why can't my insistence on sweeping my own floor and cooking my own food be one of those eccentric quirks too?  

Earlier that day, I found broccoli in Adama (hallelujah!) and was in the process of preparing it during said conversation (Christine, that hollandaise sauce was a godsend!).  He turned to discussions of Americans' diets and was utterly appalled by the notion of vegetarianism (last weekend's organic, locally-raised chicken aside, the amount of labor involved in meat is incentive enough to avoid it).  Ethiopians have three vegetables widely available here (potatoes, carrots, onions) and availability doesn't necessarily entail eating.  The shopkeeper in Adama was bewildered as to why the sight of broccoli, zucchini, and bell peppers sent us into a frenzy of excitement.  Think getting kids to eat their vegetables is hard - try Ethiopians?

But I digress.  It's hard enough to explain the environmental ramifications of meat production to Americans, let alone non-native speakers of English.  I think I at least got the message across that very few Americans are vegetarians.  It's funny - every balks at any inadvertent stereotypes of Ethiopians on our part, but seems shocked to discover that all Americans don't think, eat, dress, or even look alike.  Candace and I walking together is enough to provoke utter amazement.

Moving entirely off the topic of food, I received not one, but two, anonymous notes in the last three days.  On Tuesday's visit to the post office, the nice man who handles the packages gave me a note from a mysterious woman with a phone number.  Turns out there are four VSO (Volunteer Service Organization - the British Peace Corps) volunteers in Assela.  One of them saw my name in the package ledger and assumed I was probably a foreigner.  We're meeting with them next week - new friends!  Jolly British ones.  We're very excited.

The second anonymous note was a bit more absurd.  The servant girl on my compound brought me a card and note someone left at the front door for me.  This means they know where I live.  It was from a 14-year-old 9th grader who is a clever student and whose favorite subject is math.  They left their phone number and nothing more.  Except a musical birthday card, re-gifted from the mystery student.  If one of you is lucky, you may get it in the coming months.  Every move I make seems to attract a crowd, so I suppose this was only a matter of time.

Returning to the topic of food, we've discovered how to get cornmeal in this town.  And ground anything else we see fit.  Took an hour and a few dozen observers, but it cost a whopping 15 centimes (1.5 cents) to grind a kilo of corn.  I picked up a tail in the market - a little girl followed me while I waited for my corn, stopped to pick up a mug, purchase a small stool, and check every souk between the market and my house for powdered milk (only sold in limited stores, it seems).  I feel like a celebrity all the time.  I see why people snap and start fights with paparazzi.  We made cornbread and ate our feelings while hiding in the sanctuary of my new couch.  

I killed two enormous spiders after Candace left last night.  Electricity and running water aside, this is starting to feel like Africa.  I may asphyxiate myself on the insect killing spray I bought, but I will win this war.  

Strolling through the market in search of eggs Friday morning, the little old lady who sells grain and sometimes hoards eggs under her bags called me over because she knew the white girl usually wants eggs.  The souk on the corner by my house, which rarely sells eggs, also knows that I typically want them.  She's still never had them, but when I approach looking for something else, she always asks.  It's nice to be remembered for something besides looking funny.

Monday is Ethiopian Christmas.  We'll be having dinner with my landlord and his wife.  Should be an evening to remember.  Well, since Candace will have to be let out before dark, an afternoon.  

Grandma, I got your package - thanks so much!  J^2, the religious tracts made it through the watchful eyes of Ethiopian customs.  You two crack me up.  Dad, got your letter as well - great to hear from you.  

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