05 August 2009

in your world my feet are out of step.

It occurs to me that group 3 of the PC Ethiopia program has probably received all of their invitations by now and are panicking as they attempt to fit their entire life into 80lbs in the next two months. If you've stumbled across this blog googling "peace corps ethiopia," feel free to email me if you have any questions, concerns, whatever. That's what we're here for. You'll all be training in and around my lovely town of Assela, 2600-ish meters above sea level in the shadow of Mt. Chilalo (4139m), where the weather and scenery are gorgeous and there's no oxygen. A great place to start running, if you're given to such silly notions - Assela is the capital of Arsi Zone, birthplace of all of Ethiopia's marathoners. One lap around the stadium track and you'll understand why. A free word of advice - don't bother with solar anything. Your house will have power, and electricity cuts are most common in the rainy season, when there's no sun anyway (13 months of sunshine, the national tourism board slogan, is a misnomer at best).

I've been reading Huxley's Point Counter Point and find myself thoroughly entertained by that generation of literature's assumption that readers speak several languages. Latin and French references are never translated, and although I don't actually speak either language, I enjoy the nostalgia for a time when English speakers weren't necessarily monolingual. Ditto for references to classic literature - one brief line, and the reader is just expected to understand all that Morley or Proust encapsulates (if wishing made it so). Those were the days. I also love the way he talks about sex and love in a poetic, roundabout way - somehow it's sexier than the more explicit, direct descriptions of modern literature.

On that topic, I recently had a fascinating discussion with Eshetu about homosexuality (and sex in general - after all, I AM an HIV educator). Like all Ethiopians I've met, he's repulsed by the idea, although less condemning than most. For him, it's more of a lack of experience than anything else. Anyway, we've danced around this topic a few times in the past, so this time he took the plunge and asked about the mechanics and purpose of homosexuality. I made the argument that in today's world (well, in non-genitally mutilating cultures at least), sex is more about pleasure than procreation (and hence penetration). Why else would we need and have bothered to invent contraception? If it was only about babies, then there'd be no need to prevent pregnancy. Eshetu himself admitted that he and his wife have had sex more than their two children would require. From there, I think it's a small step to suggest that homosexuality isn't any less "normal" than foreplay or sex with no goal of procreation. Not to mention that it's absurd to suggest that it's a choice - even in the most liberal cultures of the world, who would honestly choose to be treated that way by parts of society? Eshetu pointed out that my explanation ignores all religious opinions, but that's hardly new for me. Religion doesn't have to account for the opinions of non-believers, so why should I?

This led into a discussion of the wrath of the God of the Old Testament (I'm into Lamentations now - I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!) and my belief (I won't say "faith," because I have evidence) in science eventually providing an explanation for all of life's little mysteries. Historically, mankind invented a god with a chariot to explain the sunrise and a few seeds of a pomegranate in the underworld to explain winter, so I think it's only a matter of time before other things follow suit. I was also halfway through Dawkins's The Selfish Gene, so maybe that explains it (highly recommended). I think hanging out with three science-loving atheists is really pushing Eshetu to question blind faith and decide if he truly believes in his religion or if he's merely following what his parents taught him.


Janet said...

Jessica, I have been reading your blog since it was a blog of note a good while ago. I enjoy your insight, applaud your service, agree with you on most topics you have discussed. I hope that you will continue to write once you get home. Do you have plans upon returning? I have two daughters who are about your age--one is in Teach for America and the other is teaching special education.
Your life's experiences so far are so amazing.

Janet said...

Now that I think about it, perhaps I found your blog because of a gardening link. Either way, it has been great to read.