20 September 2008

always a siren singing you to shipwreck.

Happy New Year! We celebrated with a reggae party in Adama until the
wee hours of the morning. Not a very Ethiopian celebration - here,
the holiday is only on New Year's day, they don't do the "countdown to
midnight" aspect, but then I'm not into the church services, so it
seemed a fair compromise. The hotel that sponsored put up tents for
those too cheap to shell out for real rooms - that turned out to be
just us, but it was a good night and the tent remained waterproof
during the dawn downpour, so everybody wins. Plus there was a pool,
and we won't even discuss how much I miss water activities. Seems the
band we saw is sort of a big deal in the Ethiopian Rastafarian
community. Quite a few people from Jamaica and the US attended, but
only a handful of "real" (read: white) firenji were there, so it was a
pretty interesting experience. I have virtually no experience with
the Rasta community, but we had a great time. In true Peace Corps
fashion, we ate before the party and smuggled in our own liquor.

While waiting to meet up with Sarah and Suzi at a cafe in Adama, a
group of guys at a neighboring table attempted to attract my attention
by playing cell phone ringtone music, making noises (and laughing in
response), and finally, by taking photos of me reading quietly with
their cellphone cameras. They forgot to turn off the fake camera
noise, so it was pretty obvious. What do I have to do to be seen as a
human being? They wouldn't do that to an Ethiopian woman, so why am I
any different? I hate how angry this makes me, but things like this
are so common, I can't just write it off as a handful of rogue
individuals. It just helps to vent, so pardon the negative tone.
It's not all butterflies and rainbows over here.

After sleeping most of the day after New Year's (some things cross
oceans and continents), I went up to the fancy Darartu Hotel cafe for
the afternoon. It's no Maude's, but it's nice to have a change of
scenery and they don't do enough business to force you out if you want
to read for a few hours while only ordering tea. While there, a man
and his three kids came in for sodas and donuts and I had fond
nostalgic memories of my brother and I going with my dad to Dairy
Queen for Blizzards or Mister Misties after playing miniature golf.
I'm not sure if we ever actually did those two things in the same
evening (Adam/Dad - did we?), but in my mind, they're associated. Or
maybe I just really miss ice cream? Probably a combination thereof.

Sarah, Suzi, and I are working together on a series of HIV seminars
for the nursing students at Rift Valley College, a private school in
Adama. We had our first session this week - HIV basics and ARTs. We
had a good turnout - about 100 people for the two sessions, although a
lot were pharmacy students instead of nursing. At least we focused on
ARV drugs, so hopefully they learned something. We're offering a
certificate program for those who attend 3 of 4, so I think that was a
big incentive. Offering certificates in Ethiopia is like offering
free food and cash in the States - everyone will show up. If the
certificate might be relevant to your career, even better.

My latest group of prisoners was exceptionally interested in HIV's
possible monkey origins. They assured me humans got HIV because
someone had sex with a monkey (cue giggles). I tried to explain that
we don't really know where it first came from because of the long lag
between infection and symptoms, but they were having none of it. I
suppose if you're going to cling to strange myths, I'd rather it be
that than "HIV is an invention of the west to kill Africans" or "HIV
is in the condoms, so don't use them." There's really no harm in
being amused that a man may or may not have made sweet love to an ape.
The following day, another group got on the topic of "double-bagging"
(using two condoms, for those readers not fluent in modern sexual
colloquialisms). I managed to get that message across (don't ever do
it, unless you want two broken condoms!), so I'll call the week a

Amisha, I got your package - thanks so much! Mom, your box and letter
arrived as well. Thanks!

-freeze dried mangoes
-original cheddar goldfish crackers
-instant broccoli cheddar soup mix
-non-refrigerated cheese products
-dried seasonings
-gummi Lifesavers
-sour jelly bellys
-baking products (chocolate chips, mixes, etc)

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