13 May 2009

so much for the showdown.

Sorry for the long delay - with my computer in a coma, I didn't have the opportunity to ramble on in my usual fashion. But I'm back and promise to make up for lost time. It's been an interesting month. Peter, Susie (the Assela VSOs), and I all have birthdays within a two week span, so there was a lot of cake, much to the delight of some of our Ethiopian comrades. FYI, if you forget the baking soda in a chocolate cake, you end up with a fudge-esque brick, which is less tasty than one might hope.

We threw a party for the staff of the teacher's college and crammed 50 Ethiopians into Pat's house (which is
larger than the three of ours combined, features a water heater, and costs the same as mine. But that's neither here nor there). In keeping with the slightly-absurd features that have become normal toany gathering here, one of the guests ran down the street to get his TV and VCD player so we could continue the dancing when our speakers died. The dancing went until 10 PM, which in US terms is probably comparable to the 4-5 AM range. I'll put some pictures up soon. I then watched one of the funniest films I've seen in a long time - The Incredible Zohan (maybe not the precise title, but it's an Adam Sandler movie and Zohan is definitely in the title). It features Adam Sandler as an ex-Mossad agent who moves to New York to become a hairdresser and gets caught up in Israeli-Palestinian rivalries in the US with a former terrorist who wants to sell shoes. Hummus plays a prominent role as a very versatile substance. A cameo by Mariah Carey and a Hezbollah terrorist hotline further add to the comedic genius. I almost soiled myself. Highly recommended.

Sarah and I also had the last of our HIV seminars at Rift Valley College in Adama, plus a final "health fair" to squeeze in a bit more prevention education. We brought in Salam, a woman from PSI (an international NGO), to do an HIV discussion in Amharic and are now convinced we'll forever be useless at this language. She had students volunteering to demonstrate condom use in front of a classroom full of people - we have to battle to get people to name the four fluids that transmit HIV. In a brilliant refutation of most anti-condom arguments, she also had the students stretch and blow up the condoms to demonstrate how strong they actually are (photos of that also coming soon - hilarious). Fun (well, perhaps not if you're an American or Asian man) fact: condoms produced for Africa are two mm wider (in diameter) than those for the US and Europe, and those are in turn two mm wider than their Asian counterparts. I'll leave you to some silent reflection on cultural stereotypes.

I found a possible grant to fund my disabled poultry farm, which is exciting, and am still searching for one to fund the rehab center's vocational training program (thanks Jennifer for all your help!). Karen, the PCV in Agaro (or Sudan, as we affectionately call the region), and I are working on a partnership between health workers in her zone (approximately two days by bus from Assela) and the ARC. We're going to train people in her area to identify and refer patients to Assela since the ARC staff doesn't have a budget to travel out there for recruitment. I'm making the journey tomorrow, which will mark my first multi-day bus journey. On unpaved roads. I'm spoiled living four hours from Addis down a newly paved road, I know.

Peace Corps staff came to Assela for the initial pre-service training visit and met with all the zonal administrators. It was a wild success - Girma, our beloved training manager (who once told us that he wished he could write to everyone so we'd all have mail every day in training), is a few more positive experiences from just up and moving to Assela, I think. But the town is excited and there are lots of possible training sites and villages, plus cafes and things to do, so I'm looking forward to it. Sarcasm and rough days aside, I really do love my town. Seven volunteers have left since my last post, plus our medical officer (who is basically the reason those of us who are left are still here). Two of the volunteers are going to China to serve in the new English teaching program, which is exciting, but not doing much for morale.

In non-work news, I've recently emerged victorious (well, almost) from my month-long battle with the mouse who moved into my home. She could sense my inability to harm anything cute and furry and repaid my generosity by giving birth to two garlic clove-sized furballs. Sensing that this could easily spiral out of control, I started hunting for a cruelty-free way to evict them. While obviously waiting for the babies to grow up a bit so they'd have a fighting chance in the big cruel world, naturally. After I balked at the suggestion of a mousetrap, my landlord's back-up plan entailed luring a cat into the compound, a notion that, after the turd-in-my-sheets incident last year, I wasn't eager to repeat. So, I baited the bottom of a cardboard box with peanut butter and sat there while I waited for a mouse to crawl in, then stood the box up and released the mouse outside. Time consuming, but lower-risk than chasing them around my not-spacious house. I caught both babies and am now waiting for the mother to either leave to look for them or smell them in the box so I can take her to where I released her babies, thus reuniting the family. Everybody wins