12 March 2009

strange little girl.

I spent the last two weeks not-so-subtly encouraging my colleagues to get moving on our new projects (herb garden, poultry farm, dairy production, and vocational training) while I'm in Kenya (on safari!). It's one of those things I should (and did) see coming, but somehow still bothers me when I explain that I have eight months left and we all saw how long the prison took. I'm trying to step back this time and take more of a consulting role so that my presence is a bonus, not a necessity. It's going to take longer, but then the point of Peace Corps is to build local capacity, not for volunteers to take over their towns. I'm trying to ensure that I'm only actively involved with the steps that require my help (hence pushing for progress while I'm away), despite my almost-insatiable desire to run the whole project and get it done faster. The thing is, there's not a lot even I can do to influence speed. Sure, I can write or send a proposal faster, but I can't make the local government be less inefficient (oh, but if wishing made it so!), so it's still going to take weeks to get a land grant (but the disabled cooperative just got theirs and the CSWs submitted their request this week, so things are moving). I'm not sure I'll ever again be able to muster up any frustration with American "bureaucracy." Even the lines at the DMV don't take more than a day and you can be reasonably sure the post office will keep to its posted hours. Hell, it posts hours.

But I digress. Staff has decided to hold next year's pre-service training (PST) in Assela (if anyone has an invitation for group 3 already, start preparing now for oxygen deprivation!), which is exciting. They're shifting to a true "community-based" model, where the trainees will live in small groups in satellite villages around Assela and do most of their training there, only coming to the hub site once a week for big meetings, medical things, etc. I think I'll get the best of both worlds - a chance to meet them all and make myself useful while my town isn't overwhelmed with forty new firenji. Although, I suppose since I'll be leaving at some point during training, the effect on Assela is sort of a moot point for me. On the upside, I'll be able to meet the volunteer replacing me and introduce them around town, help them get settled - anything for a smoother transition. At least I'll have a lot of distractions in those last months while I'm wrapping up my life here.

Last week, Assela had the equivalent of a county fair. They took over the bus station for a "bazaar" with a handful of cultural products and a lot of miscellaneous household supplies also available in the market, plus beer tents from all the major Ethiopian brands. No rides or kettle corn, but the Ethiopian Seed Enterprise had a large booth, bringing back memories of the 4-H tents at American fairs. Gizaw's cousin ran the St. Georges beer tent ("gore-geez" - the most common, but also crappiest variety of beer in Ethiopia), so we got preferred seating and cheap drafts (that were shockingly icy, which does a lot for Georges' flavor) all week. The moment I sat down, business tripled. I think the other tents were jealous. To my great joy, Hiwot Trust, the national condom brand, also had a little tent and was distributing free condoms. I think the health center may have been in and out during the day doing HIV testing, too. All in all, an cute little event that left me nostalgic for art shows and festivals and fairs back home.

I've mastered homemade mozzarella cheese (even debuted an herb variety last week) and I think the milk woman thinks I'm nuts since she knows I live alone but keep buying several liters at a time. She's getting plenty of business though and everyone on chicken street gets to be amused, so I suppose everybody wins. She dropped a liter last time I was there and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (god is great), which struck me as an odd choice of expletive. I watched the milk meander its way through the rust-colored dirt floor and felt a sudden urge to take a trip via river boat. Alas, I'm off to Kenya next week for a safari, so look out for photos soon.

In the meantime, Bale photos: http://s251.photobucket.com/albums/gg296/jessinethiopia/07%20Bale%20Mountains/

-Cheese products of any kind (Velveeta, processed slices, squeezable, etc)
-Saltine crackers
-Sourdough pretzel nuggets
-big sugary easter egg candies