Tuesday, March 4, 2008


You know those days when you see really old men wearing hot pink pants and you think, "oh… he's color-blind. That's sad" and then he asks you if you like his pink pants and you realize that he was fully aware of the decision he was making when he woke up that morning? Those days happen a lot here. I like them. They make me happy.

Additionally, you know that saying that every village has their naked guy? I'm finding it to be true. I've been hesitant to bring up naked guy in order to avoid causing anyone (read: parents) undue concern. However, having encountered him on numerous occasions these past two months in the Finote, I've ascertained that he is harmless. Our village naked guy's favorite pastime is hopping on public transportation at one edge of town and riding it to the other edge (maybe a mile? Probably less...). He then walks back, hops another bus, and repeats. What's interesting about this, other than him violating all public decency laws, is that it's obvious that he has no money. He has no pockets. The only thing he carries is a large stick. So these people are just letting him on the buses? That seems odd. But on any given Saturday, you know where naked guy can be found… just don't run into him as he is making his trek back across town. It's awkward.

Speaking of transportation… I think before this time in my life it would have been difficult to identify a form of transport that I did not love. I love to travel. Planes, trains, automobiles, undergrounds, canoes, paddleboats… love them all. I have now identified a means of travel that makes me want to stay at home for the rest of my life: any type of Ethiopian public transportation. It's horrendous. I have to mentally prepare for days before going even an hour away. Five minutes into it I wish I had never left home. Three hours and twenty minutes into a trip that should've taken two hours (30 minutes by car… two hours by ethio bus…), I was actually eyeing my bench mate's rifle and wondering if I would get there any faster if I shot myself in the foot. I envisioned getting whisked away in an ambulance with flashing lights. I've never experienced this form of transportation, but it sounded nice. Then I realized I've never seen an ambulance here so I'd probably have to stay on the bus in additional pain. Then I started wondering why dude had a rifle on the bus and if it had a safety. Then my knee caught on a protruding metal bar and ripped a hole in my pants.

There are few things that can convince me to make the 8 hour 49 minute and 42 second bus ride into Addis Ababa (don't worry. I timed it)… but if Andy Sisk is in town I will go. And he was, so I went. It was incredible. Great people really. They let me tag along to old Orthodox churches on hills that overlook the city, took me shopping, and introduced me to a Mexican restaurant. Mexican food in Ethiopia… who knew? Cheese also brought a map of Birmingham that Sarah Wolf (who I stayed with and is amazing) poured over for quite some time, locating the homes of just about everyone we've ever known. It's difficult to explain the impact of this past week on my life. Cheese is just great and it was just so refreshing to have a bit of the family here. Just to warn you… Cheese has taken up handholding and wearing man-skirts. Ethiopia does that to some people I guess.

On the way home I had one of the most disturbing experiences of my life. We came around the corner and came upon an absolute slaughter of donkeys. It was so strange. No exaggeration- at least 20 dead donkeys and some very large birds scattered all over the road. They had been there a while but showed no indication of what might have killed them. I could go into greater detail, but it was gross. A few of us were in the PC car and when asked the driver suggested that perhaps it was a "seasonal disease." He was not sure though as "this was his first time." Yeah. Ours too. What kind of seasonal disease drops donkeys and birds dead at the exact same time in the middle of the road, I ask you? I blame the bunny doctors. I've never been a fan of them.

We will now commence a series of posts in which I introduce you to people in town that I like. We begin with my landlord and family. Ato (Mr.) Genanow is 41 years of age and is a veterinary assistant. Sometimes he comes home rather bloody. I've learned not to ask. His English is very good, so he can tell you all about the breeched baby cow that he had to remove from an uncomfortable mom cow. The stories don't usually have good endings. He tells me that he respects me and that I am as a daughter to him… thus if I am not home by 8pm, he can be found wandering the streets with a flashlight searching for me. I'm very safe. Asenaf is his wife and she is awesome. She has an incredible sense of humor and is not easily fazed. They have a really good relationship and treat each other like equals which is a big deal in a society where many wives are still treated like servants. Sophonias (Sophie) is nine. He stands on the main road in the evening and acts like he's not waiting for me to come home from work… but he is. We both arm ourselves with rubber bands and race home trying to snap each other. The people we pass like to make an "errrah?" noise in the back of their throats at us. It translates as: "Why is that boy not respecting the ferenge?" or "What is the crazy ferenge doing now?" Rebkah is six and is constantly dirty. You've never seen a dirtier kid. She also likes to walk around without anything but a t-shirt on. She knows how to turn on the tears in order to get her way, which I suppose is a valuable skill if you have an older brother. She cries a lot. We're really good friends because I team up with her against Sophie. The rubber band wars get intense.

Umm… in other news, work is good. I'm getting to go out into the rural areas a bit more. I love it. I think I might just move out. Except for the lack of water, electricity, and food that I know how to cook. We are trying to start doing more testing for HIV out there but have run into some pretty tough obstacles… mainly lack of education and willingness for farmers to get tested for a disease that they know nothing about. You'd think this could be easily resolved but… who knows? I'm discovering that I'm pretty impatient. If you could pray that I would resist the temptation to give into frustration at the slowness of everything here, the lack of structure, and feeling like I'm wasting time, I'd appreciate it.

Much love.