6 Months In Country

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June 17th 2009
Published: June 17th 2009
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Its 9am, I just finished the free breakfast buffet with the eggs that seemed way too yellow. This is the last day that all of us, PCVs, will be together until Mid-Service Training in nine months. Some left on buses early this morning and our group in the south will most likely leave around noon. I have to say that I am grateful that our group has gel-ed as well as it has. We truly are like a giant family. We know when people are lying, we know everyone’s mannerisms, and we put up with everything. There have been no big fights, no big disruptions, and I hope it stays that way. This whole trip started two weeks ago whenever we caught a ride up to Addis Ababa from an American Doctor doing a malnutrition project further south. The project will be scrapped because he didn’t do any research about whether or not malnutrition affects children in the south. It doesn’t. There is actually a problem with obesity in the south. Generally speaking, the further north and east you go, the harder the populations are struck by malnutrition. Anyway the doctor was leaving and asked if we wanted to ride in on his contract bus. There is no way I can recap the entirety of IST so I am just going to throw out the skins game. One of the best times of IST was everyone seeing everyone for the first time in 3 months. Enough hugs to stop the fighting in Somalia. So we went out to this resort town called Sodere right near Adama, or Nazaret. The Peace Corps staff did a great job regarding site selection; no phone cards, no internet, and expensive beers. It was pretty much agreed by everyone that the classes got in the way of our vacation. The schedule for the past two weeks was as follows; 7am breakfast, 8am Session 1, 9am Session 2, Coffee Break, Session, Session, Lunch, More Sessions, then dinner and free time. There was quite a bit of useful information presented to us. The first three days was on Permaculture, which is pretty much the breakdown of all aspects of gardening to get the best results especially in areas where it is considered impossible to grow things. I really enjoyed this session. We made our own compost pile and watch the process as it started to breakdown and release heat. I don’t know if it is the same for all compost piles but our pile heated to just over 150 degrees. The recipe you may ask? Mark off 1 meter by 1 meter. 6 inches of dead matter, 1 inch of green material, and two good handfuls of rich, dark soil. Wet it down and repeat until it is one meter tall. Put a stick in the center, so you can monitor when it is time to flip the pile. The reason why I liked this so much is because of the applications of a project like this. Teaching PLWHAs about this and having them grow their own gardens, helps to fight the worthlessness that often affects PLWHAs as they reach the later stages of the disease. They can make this garden which will provide fruits and vegetables to help feed their family. There is also the sense of accomplishment of doing something worthwhile and meaningful. When I get back to Awassa, I think I may try and set up a training for the regional PLWHA organization. There really wasn’t any other topics that we went over that we haven’t been over twenty times. Actually there was a session on ROSCAs (Rotating Savings and Credit Accounts). Pretty much this can be done anywhere with very little preparation and resources. Pretty much the way it works is a group of people bring a sum of money to the group. The first day, person number one takes it home. Second day, person two and so on and so forth. There is no interest but it does help to create large sums of money in short time periods. It is too easy to spend small sums of money instead of saving them. So this helps to provide people with an easier way to gather funds to make sound purchases or investments. Ok, so social activities. The kickball game was a smashing success. We turned it into a game of sloshball, where everyone has to have a cup with some liquid in it to play. This helps the people who didn’t want to drink to participate without feeling pressured. The south team lost and as the team captain I will not make excuses. In fact, I wouldn’t have to make excuses if the game was called fairly (2 very bad calls by our boss, Dee Hertzberg). Anyway everyone had a great time and Dee said that if we were only so organized in our work lives. I do have to agree with that. OK, I cannot believe I haven’t said this yet. Sodere is on top of a natural hot spring, which sounds really cool. Except that everything was hot. First, Sodere is super hot. In the heat of the day, it is sitting right around 95. Then all of your normal places of refuge were somehow tainted. Showers were so hot you couldn’t stand directly in them. The sink water came out steaming. The toilet water complicated things quite a bit. Also, the toilet would also run constantly so the room would heat up because of this constant running. The pool was filled by the spring and took 3 days to go from Jacuzzi temperature to pool temperature. Right as the pool got to the perfect temperature, they would drain it. That’s something I cannot get over. Some areas of Ethiopia have no access to potable water and other areas like Sodere will refill their Olympic sized swimming pool every week. I wish there was some sort of International Pool cleaning outreach program. To recap, Sodere is Hottt!!! It was hilarious seeing our hotel rooms get cleaned out. I would go back to my room at coffee break and you would see local wine bottles, local gin bottles, local ouzo and chaser bottles all down the entire floor. We got to Sodere and found there was nowhere to buy booze so we had people bring it in for us. One girl was send to pick up 2300birr worth of 35birr bottles of wine and 60birr bottles of gin. I found that I actually really like the taste of Gin. Does that mean I am getting old? I have been playing the cd, Silent Alarms by Bloc Party, over and over this week. What else happened this week? We performed a mock wedding for kyle and bonnie who have been making everyone sick with their antics. Buzzword Bingo was a big hit during presentations. It actually helped people become more interested. Mostly because you were allowed to ask leading questions to get them to say the word but you couldn’t say it yourself. No real shocking hookups for the group or anything. The ambassador came and talked to us and without saying so, told us he is taking a new position in Washington. So we will not have an ambassador for the next 6 months to a year. What a crazy time and place to do Peace Corps? You have Eritrea to the north which has shut down the border to Ethiopia, Somalia has the fighting in Mogadishu, Sudan to the West, the Kenyan duel government is apparently falling apart, and in the middle you have Ethiopia who right now doesn’t like the American Government because of the latest Human Rights Report it released in March. It contains all the bombings, wrongful imprisonments, murders, and other crimes of notoriety from last year. I couldn’t believe it when I read it. The government said they were not contacted to provide their story (they were, and they declined). I heard some pretty crazy statistics about Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s Economy would have to grow at nearly 30% growth every year for the next fifteen years to provide for the population. Another one was that the telecommunications company in Ethiopia, ETC, is used by Oxford University as the prime example of how not to run a telecommunications company. So if you were wondering why you can’t get through sometimes that is why. Ethiopia is the only country in the world that has coffee flavored condoms. The buna ceremony is huge and Ethiopians take their coffee very seriously. So last year, a social marketing company called DKT, packaged the first coffee flavored condoms. They have done surprisingly well. It happens to be the best seller for that brand, Sensations (Coffee, Honey, Ribbed, and Original). I have to say I think I am falling in love with Ethiopia. Being with everyone and venting about the little things that drive us insane to each other was very therapeutic. So all-in-all it was a very great weekend. I even think that due to the social activity team, we are going to actually get scheduled blocks for Mid Service. Also, I have no idea what is going on about my blog site. I hope everyone can read this. Well, I have been writing for two hours, I think my hangover is finally lifting. I will talk to you guys later. Let me know if you have any questions.

Random Notes not worth inserting in the body

We had 6 people leave the Peace Corps Ethiopia Program in May.
My newsletter has inspired Peace Corps Ethiopia to make their own.


18th June 2009

missing youu johnyboy!
hey bubba! we miss you lots! glad to hear you're doing well. i need your email, we went to MD this week for Aunt Barb's memorial service and i'd like to send you an updated picture of the fam. Oh yeah, i got a picture of uncle rick playing beer pong!! hahaha i hope everythings great down there, i've tried callin a few times but it always rings and rings.. oh wel it must have been when you were out of range! We are so proud of you and miss you all the time. ilove you so much, you're always in my heart as well as in my prayers.

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