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…