17 July 2009

beware all enterprises which require new clothes.

Monday was t-minus four months, not that anyone's counting. Pat, one of the Assela VSO volunteers in Assela, left this week, which makes me the longest-serving volunteer in town. Time really does fly. She's been here almost two years (arrived right before I did), so we had to have quite a few farewell programs. As a result, I haven't done much actual work in the last few weeks (although, one could argue, two-thirds of Peace Corps' goals revolve around cultural exchange, so I've actually been working exceptionally hard). We'll go with that.

There are lots of photos for everyone's amusement:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2835949&id=2001205&l=504cf6317b

We started with a Fourth of July "cookout" on electric stoves (but we did at least keep the door open and eat outside). An Ethiopian friend of ours who's always amazed by our ability to discuss food (even while stuffing our faces) suggested we switch to politics, so we talked about the upcoming election. He said he rather vote for a goat, so I suggested we name one Barack Obama and try to get him on the ballot. I'm confident he'd win. I was watching BBC coverage of Obama's visit to Ghana and a woman said "he's everything we dreamed in a president," which is sweet, but sad because he's not her president. I have this sinking feeling nothing he does will ever live up to the global hype. I mean, at this point, world peace and an end to global warming would just be par for the course. On the upside, maybe he'll inspire more potential opposition leaders.

The teacher's college also threw a party, at which all of us had to explain in explicit terms several times over how white people generally prefer informal parties with no speeches or special seats. Most of our Ethiopian friends were confused, but we insisted that Pat would want it that way. As a consolation, we decorated the room with toilet paper (an Ethiopian party standard) and presented her with a bouquet of garish neon plastic flowers (another tradition). Everybody wins. We also had an entertaining photo shoot with the staff of the tea house, all of whom wanted their photos taken alone or with us, but never with each other (it's a mixed staff of young people, so maybe the boys weren't ready to be that close to pretty girls?).

Finally, we were invited to another friend's house for lunch, but Pat couldn't come, so Susie, Peter, and I ate her farewell lunch at Abebe's house. This was the first family I've ever met who could compete with an American love of animals. The cats roamed the house freely and we were encouraged to feed them bread (which worked out well, since we had massive pieces of bread as an appetizer to a lunch that could have easily fed ten people... Before the three refills.). Birtukan, his wife, actually picked up the kittens and played with them, which made us feel less awkward about talking to them after we got over the shock. The chickens are also allowed to nest in the corner when it's cold, and one of the hens laid an egg on the bed during lunch. None of us had ever seen this happen before, much to the amusement of the family. Another hen threw a fit afterwards, so they gave her the egg to play with and she shut up. As we were leaving, Abebe proudly pointed out one of the cows and explained that she had given birth to twin calves. The dogs even got their bellies scratched and have names, although they're still not allowed indoors. Still, an impressive display of affection for the weakest members of the family.

On the topic of "real" work, I visited the prison farm this week to discover that they made almost 1000 birr from the sale of the cabbage crop, which warmed my heart. Tomatoes and garlic should be ready soon as well. The staff is working on proposals to build a health center, refurbish the school, and fund other improvements to the facilities. I won't be around to see them through, but I'd like to help them find some grants.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jess, Love the photos!