27 August 2008

no alarms and no surprises.

Jenny, one of the VSO volunteers in Assela, started a community
library at the teacher's college. I was in her office (also the
library) last week talking to her about the private school plans for
Assela when a group of kids crowded the door, waiting for her to open
for business so they could get more books. Apparently our meeting had
run past opening time. It's the only time since arriving in this
country that anyone besides me objected to an establishment opening
late. It was pretty cute, and I don't even like kids.

Nod and I watched the Olympic men's 10,000 m finals last week in
Assela. It's pretty exciting to watch crammed into a satellite TV bar
with fifty other people, many of whom probably know or went to school
with the Ethiopian runners (who took gold and silver, with Kenya
taking third - shocking, no?). I'm still backing the Americans in
every other event, but after watching the white guys get lapped in the
10,000, I'm comfortable rooting for my temporarily adopted country in
long-distance running.

Someone at the prison filled in the holes on the path to the classroom
I use each week. It was formerly a muddy obstacle course, but now
it's relatively smooth. I felt loved.

During English class last week, we somehow found ourselves on the
topic of "dating," which proved amusing. It's a basically nonexistent
notion here, so the students were thoroughly amused. And intrigued.
Seems they'd like the opportunity to get to know people before
settling down for marriage. That's odd. One kid asked if I was
married, and when I said no, asked what I thought of the teacher.
Contrary to popular belief, Ethiopians can, in fact, blush. They had
a hard time understanding that finding a husband is not a priority for
me. Another student suggested that since women outnumber men in the
world, men should be allowed to take multiple wives so the women don't
have to go into prostitution. I explained that not being married
doesn't necessarily mean you have to sell your body to find
fulfillment in men, but he wasn't buying. To each his own, I suppose.

In a related discussion, Hiqma, my favorite student, said that she
wants to make encouraging Ethiopian women to stand up for their rights
her life's mission. I love Hiqma. Another kid wants to study
computer animation so he can make movies about Ethiopia's long
history, which I thought was interesting in a country where the
ability to use MS Word makes you an expert. Then on the walk back
home, a random guy asked if I wanted "the fucking" with him. I wish
we'd export more romantic comedies and less pornography to the
developing world.

The week before, we were talking about Ethiopia's historic sites
(specifically the churches at Lalibela) - one student asked why I
though Ethiopia formerly had advanced civilization and was now one of
the poorest countries in the world. I said that although the churches
are beautiful, all I can see when I look at things like that is the
time, labor, and resources that could have been put into schools or
hospitals or other considerations of the future generation. I think
that plays a large role in the collapse of civilizations (thanks Jared
Diamond) - expending resources on venerating gods or kings that (I
believe) could be put to better use elsewhere. Worship as you want,
but put the cement and labor towards a school. Ethiopian culture is
still very religious, but they were all silent for a bit pondering
this idea. I wonder if god would really care if you became a doctor
while worshiping him in a field instead of a gilded church. And if he
would, is that really a notion in which you can find salvation and

We had a three car accident at the intersection by my house.
Unremarkable, except that area generally sees about ten cars per day,
so three of them attempting the turn simultaneously is pretty strange.

I just read Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides) and everyone should do the
same. It's in the running for best/favorite book I've read thus far
in Ethiopia, an honor I don't imagine Orientalism will achieve (still
suffering through that one). Adam, thanks for indulging my need for a
properly organized iTunes. You're my favorite brother.

Invitations are starting to go out, so howdy to any Ethiopia invitees
who've stumbled across this blog. See you in December, but feel free
to email me with any questions/concerns/etc you may have in the

I've outsmarted the computer and am now capable of compressing and
emailing the volunteer newsletter on the excruciatingly slow dial up.
Email me if you want copies.

-mac and cheese
-freeze dried mangoes
-Gillette Venus razor refills
-original cheddar goldfish crackers
-instant broccoli cheddar soup mix
-non-refrigerated cheese products
-gummi Lifesavers

1 comment:

Claire said...

Funny story: One of my friends was in Russia all summer (Moscow, then teaching English at a camp in Siberia) and managed to explain the concept "friends with benefits" to her teacher, in Russian. I thought you'd approve.

Love those stories. Letters/cheese products are coming soon, just as soon as the first week or so of school stops kicking my butt.