16 June 2009

tell it like you still believe.

I will always envy those who can dance like no one's watching even when they're well aware someone is (although life here has brought me much closer to a genuine ability to overlook what others think of me). I love those who play instruments as thought they've filled a stadium, even when the stadium is a pub the size of a living room filled with friends. I wish I could sing. I like country music because it reminds me of home and the people who taught me to appreciate the South. Flaws and deep-rooted social problems aside, I wouldn't trade my origins for anything. I completely reject the notion of "out of sight, out of mind" - absence really does make the heart grow fonder. This applies to everything from people to traffic laws to fried mozzarella. I don't think race should matter. Ever. I'll never again criticize consumer culture because it means the freedom to choose, and I'd rather face seemingly absurd choices than lose the ability to control my own life. The word "firenji" (or nech or kayo, its other incarnations) invokes in me the same visceral reaction a lot of people have to the word "cunt." I'll never find it quaintly amusing. Old couples who still hold hands and dance together give me hope that maybe love really can last forever, despite all the evidence to the contrary. I believe the creation of religion has been mankind's tragic flaw.

"I want the cultures of the world to blow freely through my house, but I refuse to be swept off my feet by any." - M. Gandhi

I have exactly two photos from my Peace Corps experience in which all of the subjects are still volunteers. This, coupled with yesterday's t-minus five month countdown (!), has left me contemplative. This honestly has been "the toughest job I'll ever love," emphasis on the job aspect. A 50% attrition rate is considered acceptable (although hardly desirable) for a first year program. We're at 55% and quite possibly still falling. Ethiopia's been a valuable experience, but I couldn't live here forever. I don't want to live in the ex-pat Addis bubble, driving between enclaves of Western culture while turning a blind eye to the 80 million people in this country, but neither can I make a life of being a spectacle in a small town. I'm an American. A curiously worldly and restless one, but I know where home is. Above all else, I treasure the uncompromising American individualism that I think defines my country more than any other single trait. I miss just being Jessica, without that having to represent any greater notion of white or female or liberal or young or any other adjective I'd choose to describe myself. The people who've remembered that I'm here and taken the time to keep in touch have done more than they'll ever realize to keep me sane. I'll never be able to repay you or even make you fully understand how much that has meant to me.

On a lighter note, I've been watching Scrubs and I think I'm a little bit in love with Zach Braff. My landlord built a souk next to our compound. Now we all know where I won't be buying my household supplies. The fabled bagel shop in Addis really does exist and it's delicious. And it only took us two hours to find it (which is honestly impressive in a town with no street names or numbers).

05 June 2009

i've seen too much/i haven't seen enough.

I've officially set my COS (close of service) date for 15 November, which means I should be flying back to Orlando on or shortly after that day (in time for Thanksgiving!) - five and a half months left! Time flies... Start making party plans now. My only request is ungodly amounts of cheese and decent wine. I think I've lost interest in traveling after I finish (save perhaps a quick stopover in Europe) - it'll be the holidays, I'll have a ton of luggage, and I think I'll be pretty burnt out on traveling Africa-style - riding in 12 passenger vans with 20 other people.

In other news, we've submitted our application to fund the poultry farm, which is exciting. If all goes well, this could be up and running by late summer and wrapped up before I go home. That would make the rainy season feel more productive. On that note, the textbooks being brought in by the group of RPCVs, among others, are due to be shipped any day now and scheduled to arrive in Addis sometime in August. Also exciting!

Recently, I took the plunge and visited Christian Horizons in Assela, which already sounds like a poor match for me. They focus entirely on projects involving children (including "Christian & moral education," two adjectives which, in my experience, are often mutually exclusive), so this was definitely outside my comfort zone, but unlike the last time I volunteered my services to a faith-based organization (a Gainesville youth group that shall remain nameless), I wasn't brutally rebuffed. Christian education aside, they're also interested in HIV prevention and life skills, and having read much of the faith-based literature on the topics, I'd rather those lessons came from someone who believes in scientific, comprehensive education. Yes, I'm biased. Sue me. Abstinence is a personal choice, but I believe everyone has the right to accurate information regardless of their sexual behavior. Scare tactics only ensure that people are unsafe when they do decide to become sexually active. But I digress.

Among other things, CH runs 25 schools in the extremely rural, isolated areas of Arsi zone (an excellent project in and of itself) and are bringing in the teachers next week for a refresher training. Susie's doing English teaching methods and I'm doing HIV prevention/life skills training, using my own materials. I must say, I'm impressed thus far with the organization - I haven't been asked about my religious views and most of the staff are (Ethiopian) volunteers, which was refreshing after that girl's education project imploded last month at the prospect of teachers having to donate an hour a week of their time. I'm also working on some HIV-related English conversation materials. All in all, a positive experience with a religious organization.

On the topic of things surprisingly positive, I had my wallet stolen on the Jimma trip two weeks ago. We were some of the last people to leave the bar, so I assumed a staff member had probably picked it up at closing and wrote it off as a stupid mistake on my part. As luck would have it, one of the guys we were with is friends with the bar owner, who then spent a week tracking down my wallet. Successfully. It's in the mail on its way home! Not sure if the money's still there, but replacing a resident ID in Ethiopia requires filing a police report, so I'm just happy to avoid that probably-joyous experience. Naturally, Birhan called me shortly after I got the emails saying my credit cards were cancelled and new ones were on the way, but it's not like those were useful here anyway, so I'm just glad to get it back. A very nice, heartwarming moment for me.

While in Addis for Steph's goodbye party, we discovered Rodeo Addis, a restaurant run by an Ethiopian who lived in Texas for a few decades. They feature "The Best Frozen Margarita in Addis," (among a breathtaking six-page cocktail list) which is a bit of a misnomer since it's the only one, but it was still delicious. Took us forever to drink them since we haven't really had ice in 20 months. Apparently tooth resistance to cold is NOT like riding a bike. Later that week, I was at the in-service training for group 2 for a "permaculture/bio-intensive gardening" training. Our trainer was so excited about composting and double digging that now we are all too. Who'dve thought that a profound love for rotting leaves was contagious? Not sure if I'll be able to actually get a garden started, but I'm hoping Christian Horizons will be interested and Susie and Peter can see it through for me. Maybe I'll actually attempt to compost and grow things at home. He made it seem so easy! I suppose Peace Corps Volunteers can generally be expected to be saps for eco-friendly initiatives. Don't judge me.

Wishlist:
See 14 April Post
-Burned/bootleg AVI files of the following TV shows:
+Weeds - Season 4 & 5
+The Office (US) - Season 5, episodes 16-end (or any part of the UK Office)
+30 Rock - Season 3 & 4
-Man deodorant (sheer roll-on)
-Cheese in any form