Sunday, December 16, 2007

PCV Induction Press Release

Post from Mom: In the group photo, Kristen is in the second row from bottom, 3rd in from the left. Click on the picture for larger view.

"The air-conditioning… how do you find it?"

I have yet to figure out a good way to answer this question without laughing. What you are tempted to say is: "I don't find it. Have you ever seen an air conditioner here? No. Didn't think so. I believe what you mean to ask is 'How do you like the weather?' Why don't we practice saying that?" If you reply in this manner however, you will only receive blank stares. It's best just to say, "the air-conditioning… it is beautiful." Just keep that in mind for when you come to visit… as you all should.

So much has happened in the last few days… it's really just incredible… that I feel a timeline is the most effective means of communication.

Sunday, Dec 9th: We celebrated my host sister's 10th birthday. Mind you, her birthday is not until sometime in January. She just wanted to celebrate with the white people. Imagine your tenth birthday party. Now throw in 5 foreigners twice your age. Now imagine them making up a birthday song in your mother tongue that sounds absolutely ridiculous and does not make much sense. Then, invite the town professional photographer who has a camera from the 1970s and doesn't know how to use it to document the occasion. Be sure to get both indoor and outdoor shots and put the foreigners in poses that make them laugh so hard that they pee their pants. Literally. And after the guests leave, be sure to have your own personal foreigner participate in family dance time. Even if she can't dance, it'll be good for a laugh.

Tuesday, Dec 11th: final language test! The main thing we were supposed to know were the three goals of peace corps. I decided I will never use that in real conversation and thus made up my own goals. All three of them were 'to be a good HIV/AIDS teacher'. I can communicate this very well. Forget promoting peace and sharing cultures. Who needs it? Surprisingly. I still passed. Incidentally, the day before the test they decided to tell us that the language teachers aren't accredited yet… so we can take the test again in two years and get some paper that makes us official Amharic speakers. This made staying up until 2:00am watching 5 episodes of the West Wing more appealing than studying. That's right… one of the girls brought every single episode of West Wing.

Thursday, Dec. 13th: Swearing in! Incredible day. Everyone should live at a US Embassy, I've decided. They're just so neat and clean and have toilets that flush with a real handle and people who do cool things work there. And they have turkey sandwiches. And these little egg roll type things. And- you'll never believe this- I ran into the country director of Food for the Hungry! I had met him when I interned with FH two summers ago and he remembered me! And he invited me to meet up with a team that's coming over from the States in March, which will be led by one of my FH friends! And I'm just really excited. And 10 Things I Hate About You was on tv when we got back to the hotel… it just doesn't get much better.

Friday, Dec. 14th: When your day begins with CNN, you know it's going to be a good one. Not only did I find potholders and Raid to take care of my ant problem, but we found Kaldi's Coffee! I promise- it's almost like being in Starbucks. It even smells like it. And they have Chai Tea! It's pretty terrible, but just the fact that they're trying is amazing.

Saturday, Dec. 15th: we decided at 8:19am that this day needed proper documentation. So here's what we came up with:

5:00am: wake up. Immediately turn on CNN for one last viewing.
5:30am: breakfast false alarm #1
5:45am: breakfast false alarm #2
6:00am: breakfast, complete with firfir (if you don't know, you don't want to know). Incidentally, this is the time we were told the buses would be leaving.
6:30am-7:42am: watch luggage get loaded.
7:42am: buses actually left the hotel.
7:53am: 1st stop- man boards bus to say "hey guys! Safe journey." He then exits. We decide that, upon returning to the states, we will do this to every foreign tour bus we see, provided we know how to say, "hey guys!" in their native tongue.
8:05am: realize we're going the wrong way. No worries. We'll just perform an 8-point turn in the middle of the road and block traffic in both directions for approximately 5 minutes.
8:15am- 2nd stop- police
8:19am- sideswiped a donkey. No lie. We think he's ok.
8:45am- blaring music incident. Fortunately, we were not on public transportation this time, so we were able to get the situation sorted out.
9:34am- 3rd stop. Police man boards bus. Bus driver almost gets a ticket for not wearing a seat belt, but manages to talk (bribe?) the cop out of it. I can respect that…
9:40am- 4th stop. We are not sure why this program took place.
10:27am- 5th stop-police.
10:58am- 6th stop- police.
11:17am- 7th stop- police.
11:28am- begin descent into the Gorge.
11:49am- violent bump results in C. Smith's bloody nose.
12:23pm- cross the Blue Nile and begin ascent.
1:08pm- 8th stop at a stop sign- the first of it's kind that I have seen here… even in Addis there are no stop signs. This one is just hanging out in the middle of the Gorge highway. There does not seem to be a reason for this program either.
1:09pm- violent jolt #2. I was standing. Death seemed imminent.
1:30pm- lunch stop. Drop off 3 people at their site, not to be seen again until in-service training in April. Weird.
2:31pm- back on the road.
2:45pm- 9th stop- police.
3:20pm- near sheep slaying. Sheep escaped with slight glaze.
3:26pm- 10th stop- pick up 2 police officers and machine gun.
3:36pm- police officers and machine gun disembark without incident.
4:30pm- drop off two more. And then there were 11.
5:12pm- near baby cow slaying. This cow should not still be alive.
6:08pm- arrive in Finote Selam! Home sweet home!

So, tonight is my second first night in my own house! My landlord and his family are great… they had me in for dinner and bunna. His wife, whose name I really need to learn but feel awkward about asking at this point, and I have a date to go buy house wares at the market on Tuesday!

Hope that everyone is having Happy Holidays and enjoying time with friends and family ! Miss you all and hope to talk to you soon! Much love!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Stuff Legends are made of…?

Lessons Learned during site visit:

1. When it's 5:00 am, still pitch black outside, and your supervisor disappears into the surging throng of people at the Addis Ababa bus station who are pushing, screaming, and hollering in an attempt to find their bus, leaving you lost, completely alone, and vulnerable with half of your worldly belongings strapped to your back- the best way to keep from panicking is to remind yourself that you're not in mortal danger, you're in Ethiopia, and this might be funny… someday. Not yet.

2. When rescue comes in the form of tall, dark, and handsome peace corps driver, be grateful. Even if he is accompanied by the slightly out-of-touch training director who reassures you by saying, "this is the stuff legends are made of." Really? Can you please give a single example of a legend that resulted from bus station chaos?

2a. When you're waiting for an hour for your supervisor to reappear and your worldly possessions get too heavy, don't set them down behind a bus. The bus may decide to back up, resulting in a near, true Catan-strophe (Catan was in the backpack… could have been so much worse than it was).

3. When looking at the route to site, you may be tempted to get excited about driving through the Blue Nile Gorge. Resist. The Blue Nile Gorge is strikingly similar to the Grand Canyon, except green and grassy. There is a reason there isn't a highway running through the Grand Canyon. It would be miserable. There is, however, a highway through the Gorge. It is frequented by overcrowded buses full of people who are convinced that opening the windows to allow fresh air in is the source of all disease. Bodies crammed together combined with winding roads with steep drop-offs combined with blazing sun combined with no ventilation combined with no opportunity to relieve yourself for 8 hours combined with a bumpy dirt road…. Delightful.

3a. If you must ride Ethiopian public transportation, which should be avoided at all costs, don't sit directly underneath the stereo speaker. Unless you like blaring Ethiopian youth group music. Then, by all means… knock yourself out.

4. Upon arriving at site, before agreeing to speak in front of "a few classes" about the importance of being tested for HIV, a few things you might consider: A) You hate talking in front of people. It makes you nervous. B) A class consists of 2,000+ students. C) If you tell approx. 6,000 students to 'temermeroo' (test yourself), they will then know you as 'temermeroo' and all 6,000 of them will yell it at you every single time they pass you on the street. Think carefully before you decide what name you want to go by for the next two years.

5. If you enter your house for the first time and see the only electrical outlet dangling from a wire from the ceiling and think "that could be a safety hazard…" do yourself a favor and keep that in mind. Don't just grab the socket. You'll touch the wrong wire, giving yourself an electrical shock akin to the one you received in the 4th grade when you poured water on an electric fence while holding a metal pan. You don't forget those shocks.

6. Once ascertaining that the bananas are the reason you must run to the latrine every half hour with the worst intestinal problems you've experienced thus far, don't keep eating them. It's not worth it- even if you bought a kilo of them and don't want to waste them. Even if you're craving fruit… learn your lessons the first 3 times. The 4th will strike in the middle of the night and it won't be pretty.

6a. Always keep a roll of toilet paper with you. Always.

7. After spending a week speaking only broken English with a few Amharic phrases thrown in, you may start to think to yourself in this way. For example: "Now. What you do? I am… how do you say… tired? Pajamas. Where? Have not seen in bizuu kenoch (many days). Sleep just in clothes? Ishee (ok)." Don't freak out. I think this might be normal. It helps to rejoin an English speaking community. If this isn't an option, perhaps reading a book would help.

So site visit went well…. Interesting, but good. I'm working in an office that is part of the city administration complex. Not only is the HIV Prevention Office there, but also the Women's Affairs Office, the Youth and Sport Office, and the Microfinance Office. I should be able to find something to keep me busy. I have a quaint-ish two-bedroom house on a compound with my landlord, his wife, and two kids. The city is green, I saw rain for the first time, and there are lots of trees. It was awesome to see more of Ethiopia - it's beautiful. The gorge really is incredible… though I would recommend standing on the rim rather than descending into it.

Things to pray for: that these last 10 days (weird) in Wolisso would be full of good fellowship and community. That we would be protected from attacks of doubt, home/friend-sickness, and loneliness… That the Holy Spirit would prepare and strengthen us for the changes that are coming.

Thanks for the prayers and much love! Miss you guys…

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Address

Kristen has visited her assigned town and opened a new PO Box - see new address at right. She'll be moving there in mid-Dec and mail takes about 3 weeks to get to her. Best not to mail to previous mail box, as she'll be gone by the time mail reaches it.

quote: "Here in Finote Selam! things are going good... getting introduced to the whole town, it seems. Just bought a bed and a dresser for about 60 bucks a piece... 1200birr. not too bad."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Listen salmonella head…

Hello. After an excruciating day of intrigue, mystery, and a game of "the site is right!" we have finally been given site announcements! For the next two years, I'll be located in Finote Selam. I wouldn't bother looking for it on a map if I were you… the best explanation I've gotten is, "you know, it is on the main road from Addis to Bahir Dar. Past Debre Markos. Chigur yellum. No problem."
(from Mom: shows a topographic illustration)

I shall now commence to list the reasons why this is an incredible site:
- it is nestled in the lovely Choke Mountains
- they say there are waterfalls
- to get there, you must pass through the Blue Nile Gorge. That just sounds exciting.
- On my site description it says the climate is cool. In Ethiopian, this means 75-80 degrees. Lovely. Other site descriptions say "hot." People going to those sites are scared.
- Population is estimated at 40-45,000. Not too big, not too small.
- Guaranteed cell phone reception
- The town has had a peace corps volunteer before and he/she was "very happy and popular with the community."
- Only 5.5 hours from Addis. Some sites are 18 hours away.
- Cool job description: working with HAPCO (Ethiopian HIV/AIDS government organization) to address needs of orphan and vulnerable children, HIV/AIDS education training, training on how to keep records and being accountable with resources…
- I have housing secured. There is electricity and running water on the compound.
- And, most importantly, the sites directly north and south (hour or so in either direction) of me contain 3 girls who I've gotten close to. More good friends are in Bahir Dar, which isn't too far. In other words, I have a great cluster.

Reasons why this site makes me nervous:
- and I quote from the site form, "I think a PCV could really do well in this town, but the English of the staff is virtually non-existent. A PCV who displays strong language skills would be best for this location." This is not me. Not at all. You may think I'm just being humble, but I'm not. This language is hard as crap.
- They need someone who can help with accounting and computer skills. My math skills, or lack their-of, are well known. I fear they are going to be disappointed.
- When I go to Finote Selam on Saturday I must pay rent, open a bank account, set up a PO Box, buy a bed, set up a town hall meeting to introduce myself (what the heck? I don't even know how to say 'town hall meeting'), get introduced to trustworthy people (hi. What's your name? Are you trustworthy? Pleasure to meet you), and buy a bike. I've never done/ don't know how to do these things in America. How am I supposed to do them here?
- Nearest PCV will be at least an hour away. Could get lonely.
- I'm tired. I feel like I've already done it, you know? I've moved to the foreign country, I've adapted to the culture, I've gotten comfortable in a new town, I've made friends. Now they want me to start all over? This time alone? It seems like a bit much. I realize that this is me attempting to act on my own strength and that I'm not trusting that God's strength is sufficient… I'm learning a lot. But I'm tired.

All in all, I'm really excited. It'll be good to get to work. Nice to have a quasi-permanent living situation. My host mother, on the other hand, is inconsolable. She is distressed at the thought of me leaving and is handling her grief by buying me things: food to take, presents for my 'America mom,' a teapot… This is just making me feel guilty that she is spending money on me. I tried to comfort her by showing her the cookbook that peace corps has provided. I tried to tell her I wouldn't starve. This was a mistake.

Mom: "Kristie. How to make injera? Where?"
Me: "uhh… that might not be in here."
Mom: "Ki wot. Where?"
Me: "umm… yeah… I don't think…."
Mom: "not good. You no eat."

I'll admit, the cookbook is a bit lacking. Excerpt from the "how to fry an egg" section: "listen salmonella head- it is cooked when there are no runny parts at all." The sarcasm seems a bit unnecessary. But it contains recipes for granola and cornbread, so I'm happy. You know, I think my goal for this post was going to be to not talk about food at all. I'm not sure how I ended up here.

So that's the update for now… I hope everyone is enjoying Thanksgiving!! I miss you all! Much love!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ohh… wind is dangerous. You eat.

Host mom is always trying to find new, inventive ways to get me to eat more. This week's most creative: insisting that the wind was going to blow me away if I didn't eat. It is windy season, you know. In the mornings it sounds like the roof is going to blow off and the power has even been knocked out a few times. I don't think I'm going anywhere though. Another interesting tactic: telling me I eat like a small boy. I don't even know how to take that.

Things here are still going well. When it got to the point that we felt like we absolutely could not take one more language class or technical session, we got a break! Last Saturday we went to Wonchi Lake for a day trip. It's set down in a crater with about a 4k hike to the water. There is an island in the middle with a monastery and we rode in canoes carved out of trees to it. We had the option to ride horses back up the mountain at the end of the afternoon, but for some reason I thought it would better to hike it. I always forget about altitude. It was like death, but peace corps had watermelon waiting for us at the top! Seed spitting wars abounded. I did not win and have a watermelon juice- covered shirt to prove it. It was a really fun day and felt great to be outside for once.

While at Wonchi, I had the opportunity to ask about property ownership in Ethiopia. I had been curious for a while and I know you are too, so I'll share. People don't own property in Ethiopia. In cities like Addis and Wolisso, people pay the government to lease the land and also pay taxes on it. Occasionally people get kicked out of homes because someone else wants it and is willing to pay more to lease it. In rural areas, like Wonchi, where families have lived on the land forever, they are usually exempt from leases and just have to pay taxes. This is good, because I doubt they could afford the lease anyway. Mr. DeSoto would advocate for reform. It's easier to turn assets into capital when property is fungible.

People have started receiving packages from home and with them have come the highly coveted DVDs. This weekend's feature presentation was Elf. We're now all ready for cold weather, Christmas trees, syrup, gingerbread houses, Christmas songs, family, and snow. It maybe was not a wise movie choice. We've decided for next weekend that Zoolander would be a better idea. "Francisco! That's fun to say! Francisco. Francisco. Francisco."

Sunday's great adventure was cooking an American dinner for the family. It was almost like a real family dinner!!! Except without the Wal-Mart run in the Mini, a stove, oven, refrigerated food, or the true family…. My friend Christen came over to help and we decided hamburgers and mashed potatoes were the American way to go. I realized that this dinner would never amount to anything that would make Sims or Wardo proud when we went to the butcher and watched him cut the meat off of a hanging slab of cow. This was quickly followed by the realization that we would have to turn this into ground beef on our own. We also forgot that we had never seen a grill here. In the end, they turned out great for hamburgers that were made in a skillet. Saving factors: Mrs. Dash and ketchup. I'll be honest, when my mom made me pack the Mrs. Dash I thought to myself, "In my four years of college I have never once used Mrs. Dash. Why the heck would I need it in Ethiopia?" A better question would be, "how do moms always know?" And I cannot over-emphasize this ketchup. We were dubious at first (sketchy packaging), but it was just like Heinz 51. I will now be putting it on everything. Everything. Lessons learned? Don't trust Ethiopian butter. It'll ruin your mashed potato experience. But a good dosing of ketchup will almost fix ruined mashed potatoes. My family now thinks all Americans eat potatoes with ketchup, but I'm ok with that. [edit: came home from school today and learned another valuable lesson- Don't leave ketchup with the family. They don't know how to use it responsibly. My spaghetti sauce was made of ketchup. I retract my statement about putting it on everything.]

We had Bible study again Sunday morning. It's been great getting close to this group of girls and God is really using us to support, encourage, and challenge one another. I really can't express what a blessing this is. And the group is expanding, so that's exciting. It's going to be weird leaving these people in a few weeks, when I feel like we are just getting to the point of being comfortable and open with each other.

This brings me to the fact that training is over halfway done. This week we do practicum in Wolisso (I'm doing one at a church that works with orphans and vulnerable children- I'm excited), next week we find out our site placements, on the 24 th we go to our sites for a week to see where we'll be living the next two years, then we only have two more weeks of training until swearing in and being sent out on our own. It has the potential to go really fast.

I have a midterm language test tomorrow. I am obviously procrastinating.

It's kinda weird sending these one-sided conversations out. Anytime anyone wants to send an e-mail detailing their current life, I wouldn't complain. In fact, I'd probably be really excited about it. No pressure though. Also, if you feel there are topics that should be discussed, please let me know. Often when I don't know what to talk about, I talk about food. This could get old soon.

I love you all and miss you a ton. Still reading the letters from the packet… you guys are incredible.

Monday, October 29, 2007

First area of reform: establishing a FDA

So, since learning that I will be moving to the Amhara region in December and away from her watchful care, inatey (host mom) has become concerned that I will not survive on my own. I'll be the first to admit, this is a legitimate concern. Thus, she has made it her mission to make me Ethiopian. This week's lessons: food preparation and laundry.

Food prep 1: woofcha

On Wednesday we went to the mill where all of our normal looking food is ground into mush, which we eat two times a day. It's an intense place, with lots of women, grains, and spices flying everywhere. Burburrey, a spice Ethiopian is known for, is ground up here and when you breathe it in, it feels like your whole head is on fire. And I meant it when I said women were flying everywhere… three fights broke out in the hour that I was at the woofcha. I only caused one of them. I thought it might be a good photo opportunity, what with all the heavy machinery and colorful foods. I asked inatey if it was all right first, but apparently the lone male machine operator didn't think it was a good idea. The women stood up for me, but then got angry when I put my camera away. I really couldn't do anything right at this point. In the end, I got some pictures and the man and I held hands. I guess that means we're on good terms? The other fights involved women cutting in line and subsequently getting beaten with whatever was within arm's length: sticks, large bowls, wicker baskets…

Food prep 2: bunna

I hate coffee. I hate the smell of coffee more than coffee. Not only do they make me drink it, but last night I was in charge of the bunna ceremony. Apparently I am a good student and make a delightful bunna… it tasted like sewage.

Food prep 3: duro

On Saturday we only had a half day of training, so I came home in the middle of the day thinking it would be a good opportunity to do some laundry and clean my room. What awaits me as I round the corner of my compound? A chicken, splayed open and bloody, displaying it's innards for all the world to see. I think I must have turned a bit white because inatey, with her bloodstained hands, looks up at me and says "Kristen- sick?" For some background information on this chicken, it was the first thing that I demonstrated my competency in the Amharic language on, pointing and saying "ki duro" (red chicken). I hadn't seen little buddy in a while, but had noticed that the door to the "shower" (this room I don't understand- we're supposed to take showers there, but the room is made completely of dirt. Were one to bathe there, they would just get muddy. I stick to my bucket baths in my room…) had been shut for a few days. The "shower" room is right by the bathroom and every time I was taking care of business I could hear him clucking for freedom. I could have saved his life. So, inatey uses his death as an opportunity to teach me the names of different body parts, none of which I remember because I was trying to keep from getting sick. I hate dead things more than coffee. She even cut open the heart, so I could see inside, which was nice of her. Fortunately, I watched her feed the intestines and maybe kidney (liver?) to the dog, so I know they weren't mixed into the duro wat I've been eating the past two nights. Who knows what happened to the heart. I don't even want to talk about the fact that I did my laundry in the same bucket that I watched her clean the blood off the chicken in… and I'm pretty sure it was only rinsed with water.

In other news, we've been learning more about what we're going to be doing once we're done with training. It sounds like a huge, necessary, exciting, impossible job. There is no way we're going to get done what they want us to in two years. Apparently there are all these different government, non-government, international, and grassroots organizations working on AIDS prevention and treatment throughout Ethiopia. The system is ineffective and inefficient (Jen- don't even start), people are getting overlooked, the right people aren't targeted, and people who should be getting treatment are slipping through the cracks. Our job is to fix it and develop strategies for all these people to work together. We're all kinda unsure of how exactly we're supposed to do this, but a lot of people are interested in helping us, so that's cool. This past week representatives from USAID, PEPFAR (The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), HAPCO (HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office), WHO, Save the Children, etc. have all been in to talk to us. One or more of these orgs will be at all the sites we will go to and we'll be working with them. It's been great making connections and getting to talk to people who are out there meeting the needs of others… I'm just not really sure where we fit in.

Today was Sunday, the only day we get off, and it was delightful. I swam, showered, had Bible study with some of the girls (awesome), and read most of the afternoon. Swimming at high altitude is a new challenge and people have me freaked out about some water parasite that eats your brain or something, but it was worth it. This evening, some people came over and we listened to a sermon… not as much of a cultural experience as the last two weeks, but it was great to discuss and pray afterwards.

That's really about all that's going on… most valuable lesson learned this week: don't let laundry day coincide with chicken killing day.

I miss you guys and I'm starting to get desperate for contact... I'm working on getting a calling card, so if you see a strange number, you should answer it. Much love.

(Copied and pasted by Jen, who is intensely excited to be given the task)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Aye Konjo

A post! I will find a way around internet blocks! Ha. (from the editor: emailed to Mom and cut/pasted from there).

So, here is the update after a full week in Ethiopia… things are going really well! The group has settled into out host families and consensus is that everything is much nicer than we expected. I went to a friend's house today and she even had a real flushing toilet! I am staying in a house with electricity and a tv! It gets one channel, ETV, which plays either the same three music videos or news that I have no hope of understanding. But don't worry… my host sister also has a dvd of music videos that offers some variety. Can't beat traditional Oromo music videos... I made the mistake of introducing UNO my second night here. We play a lot of uno now. Every night. For hours. And hours. I'm really good at numbers and colors in Amharic. This week I plan on pulling out the Frisbee to put some options out there. Anything but uno.

Our days are long and structured. Rooster and call to prayer around 5:00am. No going back to sleep after that. Running from 6:00 to 7:00. Breakfast. Language from 8:30 to 11:30. Lunch. More training from 1:30 til 5:00. Back home. Tell family what I learned today in Amharic. Dinner. ETV. UNO. Debate how badly I need to use Shint Beyt (squatty potty). Collapse in bed. Watch mosquitoes fly into net. Ponder how bad malaria is going to be when I get it. Fall asleep to the sound of howling dogs tearing each other apart. Repeat.

My family is great… I live with a woman and her 10-year-old niece. My inatey (mother) speaks good English, so I have communication easier than most. They are both great at speaking to me in Amharic though and are teaching me new words constantly. It's awesome and exhausting. I think I am the difficult child, however, and amuse my peace corps friends at how often I get in trouble. I can't possibly eat enough to please inatey, my room is constantly a mess (Schloppy comes to Ethiopia… who knew?) so my sister feels the need to help me clean it, my hair won't stay in the braids they put it in (they act like this is my fault), and I'm never home on time. Classic phone conversations:

Sister: Kristiana! (this is apparently my name)
Me: yes… hello.
Sister: come to us!
Me: I'm on my way.
Sister: yes. Ok. Hurry.

I haven't had this much supervision in years and it's funny sometimes. My sister is also brutally honest. I haven't been able to wash my hair consistently and it's gross, so yesterday I finally pulled it back in a ponytail. When sister saw me, she made a disapproving clicking noise at me (she does this a lot) and said "aye konjo" (not beautiful). Thanks a lot, sis.

Sunday I went to the Orthodox church with inatey. It was an incredible, overwhelming experience. Before we left for church at 6:00am, she put the Orthodox head covering on me. I thought this would help me blend in. No. As soon as we enter the church, the priest spots me and beckons me to the front where the men sit. Inatey shoves me forward and when I look back she is lost in a sea of white head coverings. Panic. Fortunately when I get to the front, cool married peace corps couple, Chris and Liz, are already there. I am handed a walking stick that everyone else in the front was holding… still no clue what that was about. Two hours of worship followed with an incredibly old, wise looking Ethiopian man poking me and saying, "sit" or "stand." I liked him a lot. We soon found out that this was no ordinary Sunday. It was the 81 st anniversary of this church, which means hours of celebrating, preaching, and worship. It also explained the cameraman who kept getting us on film (cynical church-self was thinking "seriously? Cameras in church here too?"). We are constantly the objects of excessive attention, but it was especially difficult during worship when focus should be on the God of our salvation. I struggle with feeling like I am in the way most days. The service was an experience though- lots of incense, drums, chanting, kneeling, praying, children drinking holy water… It was a humbling experience, realizing that we are all part of the same body and worshiping the same God in different ways. After the service we all hiked up a hill to the site of the original church for some more singing and chanting. We were overlooking all of Wolisso and it was beautiful.

Since Sunday was filled with new, interesting, and sometimes unbelievable (a few people wound up at the charismatic church) experiences for everyone, the subject of faith is openly discussed among the group. It's awesome and Providential. Liz and I were talking about church today and it turns out that she and Chris are reformed Presbyterian… we're going to start listening to Tim Keller sermons they have on their computer on Sunday nights. Incredible. I have also made good friends with an MK from Kenya, Becca, who is great. I'm now praying that I am posted relatively close to the people I have grown closer to. It's also been a good opportunity to hear what other people believe and why they are here. Pray that I have the ears to hear and words to speak when necessary.

Tonight was another great night… Liz, Becca, Nicole and I went out to Nagash Lodge, a resort on the edge of town for tourists. We had run into some white people who turned out to be teachers at a school for missionary kids in Addis (Providential?). They were in Wolisso for a few days of vacation and invited us to come have dinner with them. Now the lovely thing about the lodge is that you can take a shower for 5 birr. The most satisfying 50 cents I have ever spent. I hadn't taken a shower in 6 days… bucket baths do not count, I've decided. This will be a weekly occurrence. We also ate food! Real food! No wat! No injera! Meat! I hadn't had meat in a week! Tuna! Ice cream!

Pat- I'm stirring up interest in Catan. People want to play. I'm nervous… I've never been the one explaining how everything works. And as much as I mock you for your horrible set-up technique, I'm not sure I know how to do it any better. I'll keep you updated.

Em, James, and Kara- the headlamp ties with the iPod for absolute necessity… thanks so much!

Uhh… sorry this is so long… I'm typing it up before I go to the internet place giving me too much time to think and be wordy… I miss you all and find myself wishing you were all here! Much love.

p.s. The best time to call would be 9pm-12pm central time. it's early in the morning here, the rooster has already woken me up, and the phone network isn't as busy (fewer dropped calls).

Friday, October 12, 2007

phone number for Kristen

Kristen has not been able to access her blog, but she did get a phone number. She asked me to post this info(which is a new experience for one who is a non-blogger!) so that ya'll can contact her (on Skype).

251 91 311 0068 (251 is Ethiopia country code)

She is now in Wolisso and is in language training; "things are good... learning a lot! making friends!"

Kristen's Mom, Velina

Friday, October 5, 2007

heading out...

After three intense days of training, i finally know exactly what i will be doing in Ethiopia, who I will be doing it with, where we will be doing it at, and just how high speed the internet is. ok, so really... none of that is true. but i have met the people that i'm going with and learned all about peace corps values and goals! our group of 43 is really interesting, diverse, intelligent, and hilarious.

A few group specifics:
- the majority of people in the group are named Kristen (3), Christen (1), Christie (2), Christina (1), or Chris (1). they're already calling me Straw and i love it.
- most of us are around my age, but we do have some 50+ and they're spunky.
-8 out of 43 are guys. the ratio is worse than samford.

Apparently it's a pretty big deal that we're going back into ethiopia after 10 years with no pc presence. Over the past few days, we've met with the director of the pc, the deputy director, the african director, a congressman, and tonight i shook the hand of the ethiopian ambassador to the united states. our team was invited to the ethiopian embassy for some tasty food samples and words of encouragement. people tell us this is a unique event and that we're special. it was like a pep rally! everyone seems ready to go now and excitement levels are high. could just be from our first round of malaria pills though....

We've also found out that our first 10 weeks will be spent training in wolisso and we are told that it is a land of internet and honey (reston/heaven anyone?) after officially becoming peace corps volunteers on december 15 (there is a big swearing in ceremony... you're all invited. it's a saturday...) we will be sent out to who knows where.

So things are good. I am good. People are good. Good. I would really appreciate prayers... tonight has been full of intense goodbyes and it seems like tomorrow will only bring more. Pray that I would rest in confidence and trust, not in my own abilities but in what God can do. Also, pray for friendships... there are many random connections and people with similar interests, so I'm excited to get to know people better. Pray that i am able to see the needs of my teammates and that i am willing to be a servant to them. Thank you for your prayers.

i feel like this is scattered and that i'm rambling, so... i'll practice and get better at this blogging thing. love you guys, appreciate the phone calls and encouragement more than you know, and i'll be in touch soon!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

this makes me self-conscious... and i don't like it.

in an attempt to avoid mass e-mails (which i can only write with jamie's guidance) and also share pictures that i feel may be of interest to some people (mostly my parents), i have resigned myself to starting this blog. it will undoubtably be cheesy (note the title). my apologies. the nice thing about this is that you don't have to read it if you don't want to, unlike mass e-mails! really, i'm doing you a favor.

i am now going to attempt to post a picture to make sure i know how:

this is my roommate. she is neat.

these are my friends. i like them.

i know how to post pictures now.