Sunday, August 31, 2008

Finote Selam is the place where you survive

You know what's great about Ethiopia? Two birthdays. On the first one, your American friends come to the Finote, you hike out to the local waterfall, do some exploring, play cards while drinking mango and avocado juice, sing birthday songs and blow out large '2' and '3' candles at the Extreme Hotel (pronounced "X-trim"). On your second birthday, 6 days later, the internet guys throw you a legit Ethiopian birthday party complete with coffee, popcorn, oranges, small cookies that are made without sugar, and of course the required large '2' and '3' candles. More singing is had by all, however, this time when they don't really know the tune or all the English words… improvising is best.

You know what else is great? The Olympics. You may not know this, but I am kind of a fanatic about the whole thing. This is the first summer Olympics in 8 years that Carney and I haven't made iron-on t-shirts of our favorite athletes. I've made up for it by wearing red, white, and blue every day for the last week as well as sporting my awesome Ethiopian beanie. Ethiopians don't mess around with their Olympics, especially when it comes to track and field. They won a few gold medals and went crazy each time- yelling in the streets, waving flags. My office took field trips every afternoon to watch the races on the big screen in town. An experience that will go down in the top 10 best Ethiopia experiences: watching Tirunesh Dibaba school everyone in the 10,000 with my friend Anna at a café with tons of Ethiopians. The café erupted when Tirunesh crossed the line, including Anna and I. The Ethiopians fell silent when the cameras switched to the American who finished third… but Anna and I kept cheering. Loudly. At first our friends didn't know what to do with us, but then they started cheering too… more for us than for the girl who placed third. Another good experience that has come out of the Olympics- teaching the Finote the proper use of the verb "to school." Ex: The United States schooled Angola in basketball.

Peace Corps mission numbers 2 and 3: Sharing American culture with Ethiopia and sharing Ethiopian culture with America. If the Olympics hasn't made me an ideal volunteer, I don't know what would.

In other news… it's still summer here and that means it's still cold and rainy. With going on foot being the Finote's only mode of transportation, rain tends to shut everything down. I've learned to seek shelter when the thunder comes and to settle in for a cup of tea. Or two. Also, I never leave home without reading material. Who knows how long you'll be stuck? The rain also means that not much is getting done. Say you want to go talk to someone about a project… you could go, but you'll get covered in mud and the chances that the person is actually there are slim. So mostly people just get to a place and then stay there during rainy season. It's interesting.

Another volunteer, Christen, was in town last weekend to watch the closing ceremonies and we took advantage of a rare sunny morning to get outside and do some more exploring. We headed out to the hills, which are exploding with crops, and wandered around the farming trails for a few hours. We would get lost in the maze of towering cornfields and then be dumped suddenly into an open field full of cattle. We shocked quite a few farmers when we just appeared out of nowhere, I'm sure. I love getting out of the Finote just a little- amazing how different life is for people just a 15-minute walk out of town. Amazing how different the people are just a 15-minute walk out of town. Amazing how much greener the valley looks and how much closer the mountains seem. It's a good way to get your bearings and remember where you are.

By noon the clouds were becoming ominous and we were in a rush to get back to town, which involved crossing a river. I will confess - being here sometimes leads me to do stupid things that I would, under different circumstances, think twice about. But instead I think, "I'm in the peace corps, I'm in Ethiopia, and I'm wearing Chacos. I can cross this river even though it's swollen to twice its normal size and is moving rapidly." False. More like 'I can fall into this river -soaking my jeans, t-shirt, and cell phone- have to be pulled out by a farmer boy who is scared the white kid is drowning, and walk back into town dripping wet because the river is swollen to twice its normal size and is moving rapidly.' That's not embarrassing.

In conclusion, I shall share a story that gives me hope for the future and also serves as watermark for how much I have grown in the past ten months. One morning -on a recent weekend trip to Anna's house- as we were getting ready for our day of accomplishment, the cat the Anna has quasi-adopted wandered into her house. I noticed that it was particularly interested in something behind the bookshelf. Anna has also been afflicted with rats, so we pulled the bookshelf out a bit to see if cat was onto something. As it turns out, the rat was just chilling behind the bookshelf all morning. Nice. Mama cat goes crazy, attacks, and much painful squeaking is heard. Rat manages to squeeze completely under the bookshelf, ticking Mama off. Anna and I eventually decide that eradicating the rat is worth whatever mess Mama is about to make of it, so we pick up the bookshelf allowing Mama to grab the rat by the neck in one fell swoop and cart it outside. As we stood on Anna's porch analyzing the technique Mama was using to strangle the life out of the rat I came to two realizations:
1. Hope for future - I too can eliminate my rat problem if I find such an effective and efficient cat.
2. Watermark of growth - Ten months ago I would not have been able to watch such a brutal death without becoming nauseous or at least repulsed. Now I can unflinchingly appreciate that at least it won't be eating Anna's food or waking her up at night.

Miss you all! Much love!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Currie Way meets Ethiopia


roommates in Africa!

Jen and Kris helping to dig
a well at Lake Langano
with Water is Life

Jen's favorite food. You tear off a piece
of the pancake-like base (injera), hold it in your
fingers, and scoop up some of the topping
(mashed veggies & meat)

in Zanzibar with Alisha
feeding turtles

this is my road in rainy season!
we are trying to make habitats
that are pleasing for the malaria mosquitos.