30 June 2008

just because i couldn't say it doesn't make me a liar.

Barack '08! And I found broccoli again, twice in one month. To put
that in perspective, it's a bit like finding a hundred dollar bill in
the gutter...twice. And since I'm probably the only person in the
country, and definitely the only one in the greater Rift Valley area
who gives a damn about broccoli, it's dirt cheap. Unlike the
cauliflower, which was 12 birr/head. I've never watched inflation
happen before my eyes like this. I did notice that US postage
increased - thanks to everyone who loves me that 4 extra cents.

After a crappy day involving both screaming children and the town
lunatic chasing me down the road while raving about what a good lay I
was (as bystanders just laughed), I went to a night school english
class run by a former student of my Amharic tutor. What a day
brightener. The students were nervous to practice with a native
speaker, but you could see how excited they were that I was there.
One guy thanked me for being there, saying that there are big
populations of Ethiopians in America and everyone he knows wants to
go there, but I'm the only American in Ethiopia. I felt loved, and in
the good way, not the sex object way that is the norm here. I'm
starting them on a weekly debate club, which should provide fodder for
an endless supply of amusing anecdotes.

Week 1: "Is it easier to be a man or a woman in Ethiopia?" One girl
got riled up and passionately explained how even if women are going to
school and wearing pants these days, she's still expected to come home
and do all the chores while her brother keeps the couch warm in front
of the television. Then one of the guys used the word 'revolution'
unprovoked, and I was smitten. This is going to be great.

A Swiss organization toured the Assela Biofarm last week, and I met
this amazing American woman who's on their board but also runs an
educational exchange in Mongolia. Perhaps something to do in that
lull between my close of service here and grad school eight months
later... She also spoke German and is basically my hero, thus
bringing me closer to committing to applying for a year-long
fellowship in Germany at some point in the near future.

Wednesday through Friday last week, I went to Welenchiti to
theoretically break ground on Sinead's vegetable farm for reformed
commercial sex workers. TIA. Like Eeyore, I managed to bring the
grey cloud that perpetually hangs over Assela to a desert town that's
seen three days of rain in the last month. It rained all three days I
was there, someone attempted to steal our land, no one told us to
plough, and the trainers showed up late for the program. Needless to
say, we weren't as productive as we'd hoped. For some reason, after 9
months in Ethiopia, that still frustrates us. But the land is
ploughed and ownership is clear now, so hopefully we'll plant later
this week. We also watched the movie North Country, which was great,
but not such a good idea for Ethiopia because it puts you in a sort of
zero tolerance for harassment mood.

Edit: Tuesday we were scheduled to plant, but it seems in desert
towns, you have to plant the day after it rains. It didn't rain all
weekend in Welenchiti and the phone network was down, so SInead
couldn't call to tell me not to come, so I showed up in Welenchiti
only to find no one at the land. Fortunately, the town is tiny and
Sinead's the only white person to have ever lived there, so everyone
(when they weren't confusing me with her) could tell me she was back
at her house.

I read David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and had
to restrain myself from laughing hysterically in public. I was a mess
reading "Nuit of the Living Dead" in my house - "I was on the front
porch, drowning a mouse in a bucket when this van pulled up, which was
strange." Anyone wanted to send some more Sedaris my way, I'd be
eternally grateful.

Perhaps the most awkward moment of my life: Gizaw, my 50-something
counterpart at Alliance for Development, after the lengthy Amharic
greeting process, asked, "What are sex toys?" Somehow, he'd gotten
his hands on an HIV prevention brochure printed in the US that, among
other things, urged you not to share your sex toys, and if you do, use
a fresh condom each time (good advice, in case you were concerned).
These things aren't available in Ethiopia (at least not as far as I
know), so he was utterly baffled even after I explained the general
notion. He didn't get why people would have them, which led us into
the touchy subject of female masturbation. I decided that was
probably traumatizing enough and he wasn't ready for discussions of
homosexuality. He's already appalled that I don't go to church, have
divorced parents, and have no immediate plans for marriage, so one
step at a time. On the upside, I now feel confident in my ability to
discuss any aspect of HIV and sex with any person - bring on the

Thanks to the wonders of rental VCDs (a technology that completely
bypassed the United States in our transition from VHS to DVD), I've
started watching 24. I don't understand how people handled watching
it with a week delay between episodes. But rentals are 1 birr each
(about ten cents), so at least I'll stay more or less up to date on
film and television while I'm here.

I went to Addis and now have two balls of mozzarella cheese and black
olives to my name. Life is good.

Pouya, Gordon, Krzysztof, Kimberly, Nick, WIll, Claire, Mom, and
Grandma, got your mail - thanks!

-Vanilla frosting
-Gummi LIfesavers
-Non-refrigerated cheese products
-Original cheddar goldfish crackers
-Kraft mac and cheese
-Dried fruit
-Low rise athletic socks!
-Right Guard extreme stick deodorant

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