17 January 2008

places look the same, we're the only difference.

It seems the little rainy season is upon us. My royal blue rain
jacket is almost as exciting as the sight of me carrying a chicken
down the street. I've never lived under corrugated iron before, but I
could get used to falling asleep to the sound of rain falling on the
roof. Certainly does a lot to drown out the roosters! It also helps
make the hot cocoa more appropriate. The ensuing humidity is doing
wonders for my hair, however. I think I'm on my way to a charming
mullet-afro combination. Sexy. John the dog tried to come into
Candace's house to get out of the rain. I guess you can spot a sucker
in any language. However, our recent bouts with bedbugs have made us
reluctant to let a cute, but likely flea-infested, animal into the

I finally started working, sort of. On Saturday, the health center
sponsored HIV testing (Voluntary Counseling and Testing - henceforth
VCT) at the health post outside of town. I sat in on the morning
sessions and did my best to follow along with the Amharic. It was
quite inspiring to see people come in for testing. A twenty-something
couple came in together, and after they got their results, the man
thanked me for coming to Ethiopia as a health educator.

There were also a bunch of early-twenties guys who got tested, a
demographic that is usually virtually impossible to convince to find
out their status. It's encouraging to see the community rally behind
the cause - whenever I mention that I'm here for HIV education, people
are excited. Everyone seems to know the importance of prevention.
The epidemic in Ethiopia hasn't reached near the levels of other
nations, and the population seems hell bent on keeping it that way.
This is the kind of climate where it's possible to actually make a
difference, not just feel like you're standing in front of the damn
with a finger in the hole, hoping for the best.

At the bus stop in Adama, trying to find the minibus to Welenchiti, we
nearly sparked a riot. Apparently my wanting to go there was almost
as exciting as me with a chicken. A thoroughly intoxicated man who,
thankfully, wasn't our driver, showed us to the bus and promptly
plopped himself down next to us, picked up Candace's discarded juice
can, and began licking it. He then demanded a tip, but since he
hadn't done a service, we refused. His other, slighly more sober,
friend came to join us, and our drunk companion burst into peals of
laughter at his turban, calling him bin Laden, then showing us his
cross necklace, and cracking up again at the thought of a Christian
al-Qaeda leader. We didn't find it as funny as he did, but then, we
were still sober at 1230 in the afternoon. Silly us.

The Welenchiti Anti-AIDS Club carnival was more of a talent show, but
hilariously entertaining nonetheless. A handful of skits addressing
some AIDS issues (well, as near as we could figure from the Amharic),
dancers, singers, and some fierce gymnastics. The gymnasts were more
impressive considering they performed on rocky dirt and probably
learned there as well. During the freestyle dance portions, Candace,
Sinead, and I earned ourselves much admiration for spirited dancing.
After the show, the organizers passed out pamphlets on HIV prevention
and testing. All in all, quite inspirational, especially considering
the massive turnout. I'll post pictures in a few weeks if I can.
Candace and I are hoping to organize one of our own in Assela.

We spent the night at Sinead's, with Chachi the monkey quaintly
chained up next to her little house and hordes of children and people
stopping by just to peek in the door at the firenji gang. She's the
first white person to live in Welenchiti in recorded history, so the
sight of six of us was nearly mentally overwhelming. On the ride back
from Welenchiti to Adama, via deathtrap mini bus, we had a
stereotypically African bus ride. Twenty-three people crammed onto a
16 passenger van, and we denied entry to two women with chickens and a
man with a goat. We passed a white cow who'd been painted with a
diagram of the cuts of meat under his skin. We passed trucks on the
left around blind two lane curves, people hung out the sides, and we
prayed for our lives. You know, the usual.

Jess, I got your package - I forgot I knew someone in Spain - the
stories are great. Joey, you're the best!

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