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.