Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saturday May 17th, 2008: Hanni in the Finote

6:30am- Hanni snooze #1.
6:35am- Hanni snooze #2.
6:40am- Hanni gets up. Washes 3 days worth of dishes.
6:45am- Straw awakened by emergency tekemat program (don't ask). Is laughed at by landlord's wife.
7:00am- Straw washes 3 days worth of dishes. Makes eggs in non-stick pan (what an invention!)
7:30am- Hanni to Selihome's (best Ethiopian food this side of the Gorge)- tea and eggs for only 4.75birr.
7:53am- Hanni encounters crazy man in bus station. Selam nesh? (Are you at peace?) Dehna nesh? (Are you fine?) I love you nesh. (Are I love you.)
8:00am- Hanni on bus. False alarm on actual departure.
8:07am- Hanni gives spontaneous HIV education on methods of transmission.
8:30am- Hanni actually departs Bahir Dar.
10:00am- Straw heads to market. Poked by approx 10,000 little old women;typical for market day.
- Hanni sitting in Injebara for unknown reason.
10:45am- Straw goes on wild goose chase all over the Finote for peas (current food obsession)
11:15am- Hanni takes excursion to Burie, the blackhole of West Gojam.
11:30am- Straw leaves house, concerned about lack of cell phone service and Hanni being unable to find her house. Informs everyone on street to be on the lookout for "layla ferenji." (another foreigner)
11:35am- Straw at post office. No sign of Hanni.
11:40am- Straw hangs out with internet guys. Tells them to watch for Hanni.
11:42am- Straw goes to bus station for 1st time to look for Hanni.
11:44am- Hanni exits bus in front of internet shop. Pointed in general direction of Straw's house by internet guys. Abandoned on side street.
11:46am- Straw receives sketchy handshake by creepo, informed that bus tickets for Addis (Hanni needs to go the next day) will be available at 1:00pm, and is urgently beckoned by internet friend to return to shop as Hanni is waiting there.
11:47am- Hanni is picked up by friends (??) of Straw's who inform her that Straw is from Oklahoma and very sociable. People Straw has never seen before yet know exactly where she lives.
11:48am- Straw at internet shop. Told Hanni has gone to her house.
11:49am- Hanni walks past Straw's landlord's sister's (Marta) shop. Is told to wait there by Marta, but Hanni decides to go to house instead. Is told by children at house that Straw is not home. "She has gone to look for friend." Hanni responds that she is friend. Returns to Marta's shop.
11:50am- reunion in front of Marta's shop! Overjoyed and relieved. Return to Straw's house.
12:40am- bus station visit #2 to "pick up ticket." Told to find Tsigay… if only we has realized how important this would be… instead get caught up in angry mob waiting to put names on a list. Watch a woman pound a man with her fist. Wait.
12:50am- discuss Miss Kim (Peace Corps volunteer in the Finote 10 years ago) from Washington, as predicted by Straw, with Sophie's teacher. He helps get Hanni's name on list.
1:00pm- name on list. Told to return at 2:30pm for ticket. This is very important as all the tickets will be gone by 3:00pm. Do not be late.
1:05pm- Walk to Extrim Hotel.
1:15pm- tasty and delicious shiro.
2:00pm- bus station visit #3. We wanted to be early.
2:05pm- told to come back at 3:00pm. Straw decides to surprise Hanni with exciting discovery.
2:20pm- arrive at discovery: waterfall. Beauty. Scary bridge, vultures, and excessive amounts of trash. Less beauty.
2:45pm- bus station visit #4. Followed by 11 children.
2:45pm-3:15pm- wait. Confused.
3:15pm- Straw departs for emergency tekemat program. Hanni feels stares of people intensify 10-fold.
3:30pm- Straw returns, bringing a small child of unknown origin who seems to know Straw very well. Hanni has moved 30 feet.
3:35pm- sit on log.
3:40pm- ask official-ish looking man about possibility of ticket. Confusion. Lookers-on confirm 'wait. Bus has not yet arrived from Addis.' Skepticism about "system" grows.
3:45pm- Begin to play hangman. Attract large and uncomfortably close crowd. Small child of unknown origin hangs on Straw. Hangman words reflect desperation: inefficiency, inside my comfort zone, Djibouti.
4:00pm- Ato Kassahun shows up. Straw wonders how long it will take Hanni to notice world's longest fingernails. Hanni notices immediately. Kassahun begins incomprehensible exchange about looking for a carpenter. Kassahun then becomes the enforcer.
4:05pm- Kassahun brings us Tsigay. Told we may "order him as a brother." He is "manager of bus station system." Wait.
4:10pm- shay/bunna (tea/coffee). Offered eggs. Sit next to pant-less boy in deck chairs that have 2 legs. Propped up on logs.
4:12pm- false alarm. Bus arrives from Jiga. Sit back down.
4:15pm- Straw threatens to go buy bread and bananas. Hanni refuses to allow her to leave. Girl of unknown origin returns. Says bus is now in Jiga. We are doubtful of her authority. She now hangs on Hanni.
4:23pm- bus arrives, in all of it's crimson and yellow glory, from Jiga. Girl of unknown origin was right. Hundreds of people make mad dash. Do not think to lose sight of Tsigay.
4:25pm- general chaos. Wait. Shamagely (old man) is almost crushed by falling suitcase.
4:26pm- notice that boy standing immediately to Hanni's right has made interesting decision to grow out left hand fingernails and paint them metallic pink. Wait. Chaos.
4:29pm- Tsigay moves away slightly. Crowd leans forward. Choas. Uncertainty. Wait.
4:30pm- bus turns around. Tsigay boards.
4:30:30pm- Hanni beckoned, "come on." Receives "nay" (come here) gesture. She runs. Straw jumps ship, fearful of being crushed by angry mob. Hanni, at steps of bus, is only one for whom ticket is cut- much to dismay of mob which continues to tighten around her.
4:32pm- Triumph. So glad we got there before 3:00pm.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I'll tell you one thing: Ethiopia is a huge country. During the past four weeks I think I've seen most of it. How is this possible, you may ask? Public transportation is always going to be the answer and it will never be pleasant, but it's worth it. I think. [Did you know that Ethiopia has the highest per capita rate of car fatalities in the world? 190 deaths per 10,000 vehicles. Newsweek teaches you all sorts of things you'd rather not know. This explains the ridiculous number of wrecks I've witnessed lately.]

Travels began by going down south to Oromia region for our two-week training. I learned many valuable lessons such as:

· Do not "violet" the rules (compliments of safety and security officer)

· Safety never takes a holiday (he really has some great one-liners.)

· Do not think to cross the river (unless you and friends find a hidden Huckleberry Finn raft and have always had secret dreams of traveling the Mississippi… then you must "violet" the rules and think to cross the river. Just beware of man with gun on other side.)

· They meant it when they said there are hippos in the river. Apparently that's why you're not supposed to cross it. Hippos are big and kind of intimidating when they aren't in a zoo.

· Always close the balcony door lest the monkeys get in and eat Nehemiah, Psalms, Acts, John, and a large portion of the concordance out of your Bible. They will, however, leave the Ayn Rand book right beside it untouched. That has to mean something, I'm just not sure what. Demon possession?

· When you and your roommate are fed up with sitting through redundant meetings, decide to skip, and get away with it- be aware that your "friends" will be jealous of your freedom. Do not leave room key lying around. You will find all the contents of your room, including bedding, stolen and the beds shoved against the door so that you cannot enter said room. You will then have to climb over your third floor balcony (safety was again taking a holiday) in order to find a note written in Amharic denoting the whereabouts of your belongings. This will, naturally, set off a week of pranking in which the honey in the shampoo bottles may make an appearance once again. People love that one.

Umm… so training was lame. But Sodere, the resort it was at, was awesome. It has natural hot springs and much swimming was had by all. Seeing everyone again was a lot of fun. Community is just great. A few of us had a girl's only weekend that involved guacamole and was really refreshing. Another good thing that came out of training is that I was elected as an advisory committee member for my zone. This means Peace Corps will pay for me to come into Addis every three months. Knowing that I can eat Mexican food and ice cream every three months might just be enough to keep me sane.

After training seven of us left the hot, dry south for a five day hike through the Simien Mountains in the north. One may assume that because it is dry season and you live close to the equator that it will not be wet and cold in the mountains. Do not think to accept this assumption. Always pack socks. The Indiana sweatshirt saved my life and now has a funky smell that may never go away. Sorry about that Patty. It was an incredible experience though and absolutely beautiful. We had a great little scout whom we affectionately refer to as 'Scouty.' We carried walking sticks. Scouty carried a gun. We stopped approx every 30 minutes for water and snacks. Scouty was fasting most of the week before Ethiopian Easter and thus was hiking 7 hours a day at an altitude of 4400 meters on an empty stomach. Scouty also had a working knowledge of the English language. His favorite phrases were "upupup,' 'downdowndown,' and 'no problem!' Interesting thing to note about the way Ethiopians hike: they don't believe in switchbacks. It's either straight up or straight down. I mean, why waste time meandering your way up the mountain? We suspect that Scouty may have been trying to kill us. About two hours into our hike the first day we realized that Scouty wasn't really taking us on a defined trail but rather through people's backyards. We think Scouty was using the opportunity to catch up with all his old buddies before the holidays. Scouty was also a pro at the 'hollerback conversation'. We'd be half a mile away from whoever he was talking to last and he'd still be yelling back at them. We believe that Scouty has the gift of communication. No problem!

This trip was the first time that we've done something fun just as friends. Not peace corps related… not a training… just fun. It was so necessary. I'm convinced that if you ever need to be reminded of the bigger picture, that things will work out, that it's ok not to have enough strength to go on alone… the Simien Mountains is the place to go. Plus there are Gelada Baboons and Walia Ibex. They're just cool.

So I made it back to the Finote and it's apparent that it's been awhile. It's been good to see everyone though. Spirits are high since the two months of fasting before Easter are over and everyone is eating meat again. It has been one non-stop holiday (Worker's Day, Patriot's Day, I-ate-too-much-injera-so-I'm-not-going-to-work Day) since last Sunday so there's not much work going on. I have, however, consumed more goat than I had ever hoped to in an entire lifetime. It's also started raining. A ton. With hail. I live under a tin roof. This will wake you up in the middle of the night. The compound I live on has turned into a swamp. When I walk to town I sink three feet into mud. I was excited about rainy season and getting rid of some of the dust… now I'm realizing how wet, cold, and muddy the next few months are going to be. It's really nice to watch everything turn green overnight however… you don't realize how dry and dead everything was until it's bright green and very alive!

Umm… If you guys could pray for my landlord, I'd really appreciate it - he's been sick for about a month and has been at the Addis Ababa hospital for about three weeks now. He's pretty miserable and hasn't been able to work for most of the month. With the rising price of food, it's been rough on the family. It's weird seeing global economics affecting real people. I don't know that I've ever been so aware of it. Also… Ato Asmamo, the leader of our PLWHA/ one of my favorite people in the Finote, is very sick and in the Bahir Dar hospital. On top of that, my nearest peace corps neighbor/good friend has decided to go back home and is heading out this week. And my house has become home to rats again. It seems that re-entering reality after a month of ignoring it can cause what some refer to as a downdowndown.

In conclusion, I checked my mailbox for the first time in a month today. Dang. You guys are awesome. Much love.