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Published: January 18th 2009
Wow... it has been quite a while since we last talked to each other. So much has changed since then. Let's see, where to start? Ok, site placement. Well, I was aiming for either in the Tigray region by the Simien mountains or Awasa near the Bale Mountains. The day of placement was a huge ordeal. The country director made an appearance, which I didn't think was a big deal because she only has 69 volunteers in-country and 40 were with me. Anyhow, there was this huge map, roughly 10' by 10', of Ethiopia and when our names were called we had to place our picture up on the map. Names were called and pictures placed. I was number 33 in the order. I wasn't sure if I was excited or if I was going to vomit. After I got up to the stage, Dee, the country something-in-charge, said I was going to Awasa. Now Ethiopia has a very conservative culture so I think I freaked everyone out when I screamed. Oh well, I did pretty good about not being culturally insensitive for long enough. Every streak has to come to an end. So right now I am in Awasa doing a site visit. My counterpart is showing me around and meeting key players in the HIV/AIDS movement. Oh, there are more reasons why I wanted Awasa. One, its right on Lake Awasa home to some awesome bird life and hippos. Second, its the second largest city in Ethiopia. Thirdly, there are a lot of foreign-based NGOs in the area, so the "forengi" harassment is fairly minimal.
Esaiyas, my counterpart, works for PSI, Population Services International, and he is awesome. PSI just got approved to start a 100 million condom distribution in Ethiopia. They focus on condom distribution and the training of the correct and consistent use of condoms. If I had that information from the beginning it would have made my first meeting with my counterpart a little less awkward when he handed me two penile models and a box of a hundred condoms. For the most part though, PSI seems really cool. They are based out of Addis and everyone works in general areas. Oh Eric, my counterpart's boss, asked the other two volunteers who will be working with PSI in different areas, if they had computers. They said yes. I said no. Without hesitation, Eric said,"Well, I will just have to get one for you." I immediately turned as red as a cherry. Christina, who is going to Adama for PSI, pointed it out. So let's see... yes, PSI does all of their work out of Addis so I am to be hosted by another counterpart organization called Interhealth International. I don't really know too much about them but I will let you know.
Another different reason I am so pumped about Awasa is because my little group of friends that I am closest with are all around me. My city is the biggest (and best) but Travis from Barre, Vermont is 45min North, Bonnie from NYC is 4 hours south, Kyle from Colorado Springs is 2 hours south, and Brad from Louisville is 5 hours west. I also have two other volunteers in my town.
Power goes out in Awasa on Saturdays from 6pm to 10pm, which is great to know if you spent an hour typing up a blog and then are going to post and then the power goes out.
My house is a 10 minute walk from the Interhealth office (where my office is!!). I actually have a pretty nice two room guest house in a pretty beat-up compound. I am really excited about that because our house is our secure area. We are advised that if you just can take any more of your city just go back to your house and recharge. So if anyone wants to send pictures and things that would remind me of the states or just calm myself, I will post a new PO Box address this week.
My last thing is I saw an amazing Ethiopian Jazz band play in Addis. They were so incredibly awesome. At one point the drummer blasted a 8 minute drum solo that didn't get stale at any point in the slightest. Addis is a gorgeous city and if anyone wants to come out here I will play personal chauffuer? to them. Man, I really screwed that last word up but oh well. I am in Africa.
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