04 November 2008

election day!

Happy election day! Tomorrow morning, I'll be parking my behind
at the Darartu Hotel and forcing the staff to leave the TV tuned
to BBC or CNN, whoever has better return coverage. It'll be
strange not to stay up all night - somehow
celebratory/drowning-of-sorrows drinks don't seem appropriate at
noon. Alas.

Last Tuesday night, we had a going away party for Jenny (of the
anonymous letter at the post office fame), the VSO volunteer who's
leaving. As has become tradition, I made a chocolate cake
(layered - I'm trying to master the skill so I can produce
aesthetically-pleasing cakes by the time I go home) that proved
popular among the Ethiopians. There's definitely a market for
cakes that don't suck in this country - Betty Crocker and
Pilsbury, are you listening? Then I took over the music selection
for a bit and we had a dance party to the Beatles, Simon &
Garfunkel, and the Police. Ethiopian men have no qualms about
dancing in general, but after a few beers, they were out of
control. I guess in a culture where men hold hands and often rest
their hands on parts of the inner thigh I wouldn't let a lover
touch in public, not much else is sacred. I impressed the wait
staff/buna ceremony girls (we went all out and had the party
catered) with my ability to pick up on Oromo dancing from the
music videos. I didn't want to spoil it by telling them I'd been
here for a year and had had plenty of opportunities in which to
practice. But I'm still a pretty quick study for a foreigner.
Not that I don't look ridiculous - the dances involve a lot of
shoulder and head-shaking, so I think everyone looks at least a
little silly.

The next morning, I went with Peace Corps staff south to Bekoji,
the next city (I use the term loosely) down the (dirt) road for a
site development visit. I dearly love my freshly-paved road. I
wasn't taking it for granted or anything, but I definitely gave it
an affectionate little toe nudge when we got back. It'll be nice
to have another volunteer nearby, but I think I'll be pushing them
to visit me instead of vice versa. They don't have internet in
Bekoji, so that's an incentive. The staff insisted on driving all
over the town of 15,000, instead of walking, which serves as a
vivid illustration of why they had no idea what any of our sites
were actually like when we moved here (case in point - they speak
Amharic in Assela). That's a bureaucracy for you.

Last week, we were all in Addis for our mid-service conference,
which turned out surprisingly well. Nice presentations from some
organizations with whom we can possibly work and an excellent
session on the nature of the food crisis from the World Food
Program. I've never taken economics and I was enthralled. Would
have been nice to know about some of those organizations earlier,
but now we're pushing the staff to invited them to the inservice
training for the new volunteers, which comes three months after
they move to site. A woman from the US Embassy came to talk about
their grants, one of which comes from the "Democracy and Human
Rights Fund." If the new Ethiopian law restricting foreign aid
passes, the fund might be squashed, but if not, I'm ridiculously
excited about applying for one.

Continuing our tradition of staff exodus, our country director
resigned as of the end of October. No comment.

Gizaw, my counterpart, and I went to Adama to buy seeds for the
prison farm. I've subtly suggested an experimental plot of
cucumbers to "test the market" (or so I can eat them, whichever.
I'll be paying for them, so it wasn't an entirely selfish
suggestion). We're going this afternoon to set a planting
schedule with the administration, so hopefully we'll be planting
by the weekend. Finally!

Happy birthday Jason! Nothing personal, but I hope tomorrow's not
as celebratory as it could be...

Claire, Kimberly, Jolene, Mary Ann, Gordon, Caitlin, Sinead, Dad,
and Mom, I got your mail - thanks!

-reese's peanut butter cups
-freeze dried mangoes
-original cheddar goldfish crackers
-powdered drink flavorings (gatorade, crystal light, etc)
-non-refrigerated cheese products
-sourdough pretzel nuggets
-sour jelly bellys

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