13 February 2009

remember to remember me.

Happy National Condom Day! Wrap it up every time!

It's also Valentine's Day, for my more prudish readers. Our new trainees swore in yesterday and are moving to site today (so now our program officially has 67 volunteers, which means additional computers at the PC office!). I'd feel bad for them, except they get to spend the holiday road-tripping with each other and we moved to site just in time to spend Christmas alone in our houses (if we were lucky - some of us were still in hotels or squatting with other volunteers).

Last week, Steph and I went to Ambo for the much-anticpated cooking lesson. Ethiopian food not being renowned for its diversity, they were looking forward to new flavors. The "real food" lesson was fun, but I wish I had video of the dessert session. Steph and I made three cakes and a banana bread the night before (because what kind of heartless, cruel people would we be if we expected 40 people to share one cake and one banana bread?), so these were sitting on our demonstration table during the entire lesson. I'd estimate that half the trainees spent the session staring at the cakes and scheming ways to innocently be standing next to the table when we actually let them eat. It was like lions on a wounded antelope. I found it very heartwarming - I liked this group already, but now they've endeared themselves to me. Absolutely no shame in smearing chocolate across their faces as they licked clean a piece of aluminum foil. The last cake was finishing cooling as they devoured the first ones, so a few enterprising trainees circled the table, picking up trash and bringing it to the trash box one piece at a time so as to stay within striking distance. The more creative stood directly in front of the dutch oven, asking me inane questions about topics we'd already covered. "Where can I buy baking powder?" "Can I lick the frosting bowl?" "So you've brewed your own beer? How do I do that?" "Can I have a piece of warm, gooey cake?" Fortunately for them, a handful of these guys are quite adorable and charming, so I couldn't resist sharing. I'm a sucker for a cute smile, I know.

Steph (the former dental hygienist) also gave a hilarious lesson on dental hygiene and proper flossing technique. "Not flossing is like taking a shower but never washing your armpits, butt crack, crotch, or feet." 'Nuf said.

Regarding my actual job (as opposed to overtly buying the affection of the new group), I met with GTZ (the German aid organization), who's running a program to improve the vocational training school network in Ethiopia. I want to start a vocational training program at the Assela Rehabilitation Center, so that might work out splendidly. The program director is also going to set me up with GTZ's HIV officer, so there's another potential project (mainstreaming HIV education is becoming part of virtually every development project, but it generally falls to people who already didn't have enough time on their hands, so maybe I can help fill that gap). And my love of Germany (its efficiency, beer, pretzels, and cleanliness) is no big secret, so maybe these contacts can help me find a way to spend some time in Berlin actually earning money, not just spending it.

The Chilalo HS improvement project is also moving forward - making contacts with groups in Addis who might help us out with funding (particularly for a computer lab) and we're anticipating delivery of a bunch of textbooks in March. We've officially formed the Assela committee of education and government leaders (plus me!) to oversee the fundraising for the "community contribution" and we'll be having our first meeting next week. It'll be my first time participating in a bureaucratic meeting, not just keeping a chair warm and being eye candy - should be interesting. I have exactly nine months left here, a fact about which I have increasingly not-mixed feelings. It's been (and continues to be) a valuable experience, but I'm looking forward to being home for the holidays!

To illustrate how much more emotional I've become in this country, I offer the following anecdote. After lending out much of my collection, the early disks of The West Wing recently came back to me, so I embarked on a nostalgic reunion. I'm sure most of my readers aren't as well-versed in the series as I am (you should be - start renting/downloading it), but I was watching the season 1 Christmas episode, where a homeless veteran wearing Toby's coat is found dead by the Korean War monument (and then he uses his influence to get him a proper funeral and a burial at Arlington) and Mrs. Landingham reminisces about her twin sons killed in Vietnam, and I cried like a baby. Granted, I was finishing off some of my homemade moonshine, but the point remains that I cried during a television program. That I've seen before, many times. I also sometimes get misty-eyed when my mailbox is full of mail that's not from Peace Corps.

Aly, Stephanie, Dad, Nick, and Erin, I got your mail - I love you guys!

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