Tree Planting Machine!

Nov 8th, 2011

All of the volunteers went to the elementary schools to practice teaching children about the environment. Two volunteers were assigned to each classroom and our language teachers came to translate. We were told we were going to have an 8th grade class of 22 students. We asked if we would have chalk boards and were given an indirect answer that basically said they weren’t sure. We asked if the students would have desks and they were not sure. We asked them what were the ages we would be teaching and they told us it could be anywhere from 11-26 year olds. You can imagine the difficulties we had in trying to come up with a lesson plan. But no problemo! We were taught very early that we should be flexible; therefore, we planned an activity that required few materials and that most ages would like. The class ended up being mostly 10-14 year olds with 50 + students instead of the 22. There was a chalk board but no chalk, and there were 4 kids to a 2 person desk (mainly because they brought in extra students to have the forenji‘s teach). But we were not worried! We had prepared the perfect activity for little material and one that could be adjusted quickly and easily. No chalk, no problem! No desk, no problem! Because we were going outside! Me and my partner decided that we would start with an icebreaker that got the kids energized and ready to go. We would then transition into a project that has the kids pretend that they are from another planet observing Earth for the first time. They are supposed to make observations about the land and notice the diversity in the environment. The project helps the kids realize what is in their own backyard and appreciate their land. The weather has been warm the entire time I’ve been in country, but, today of all days it decided to rain. The one thing we did NOT plan for. No chalk may not have been a problem, but rain certainly was. As SOON as we stepped outside with the kids to start the activities it began to pour. We had to quickly abandon that plan and try and think of what we could do. We had no back up plan because frankly, we didn’t think we needed one (mistake number one). Fortunately, we were able to improvise. We ended up teaching students about the importance of trees and about the danger of deforestation. We started by having the students act out the different stages of a trees growth cycle. They lay on the floor, starting as a seed, gradually growing bigger, people come and chop off branches, the wind blows it, and eventually the tree dies (all the kids fall down). They really enjoyed being active and moving around the classes. We are told that the children are mostly lectured at and don’t get a chance to move around and experience interactive lectures. After the activity, we had them explain to us the importance of trees and told them about the proper ways of cutting tree limbs so that they can regrow their limbs and wont die. We received good questions like: If people need firewood right away; which is more important priority? Keeping the tree alive or staying warm and not freezing to death? We explained that it is important to cut the tree properly so that it can regrown and be there for a long time for people to use for firewood. Ethiopia also has a tendency to clear forests for economical gain such as coffee farms and flower farms. A kid asked us “If we can economically benefit from clearing a forest why should we keep it?“ We explained how you can gather economic advantages by keeping the forest through ecotourism. Plus, while it may give a temporarily economic gain, once the farms are cleared and there is no land then what? Over all it was a very successful classroom discussion.
Some of the things I noticed here with the school systems ( I am not sure if this is all of Ethiopia, but it is just merely my observations for the town I am living in now). First, they seem to have the same system that we have in that there is an elementary school, middle school, and a high school. The kids where clothing that indicates what school they belong to by the color. In this town (again I am not sure if this is true of all of Ethiopia) there is a shortage of the number of schools available. Therefore, some of the kids go to school between 8-12 and other kids go to school between 12:30-5.

Random tidbit: I’ve been walking around town and I often hear someone yell out to me “Brownie!! Salam no?” (Salam no means is there peace) Now, I’ve been walking around for the past month and a half thinking that they were calling me this because im the brown one of the group. Most of the people in my town know I’m American and will randomly call out “You are black america!” So I just went with the flow, come to find out that they are trying to say my name! Hhaha!

Nov 10th, 2011
There are a couple of clubs/ committees that I have wanted to join once I go to Peace corps, for example peer support network, training support staff, and project action plan, productive clubs like those; but there are two clubs that I under no circumstances ever want to join. As soon as I touched down in Ethiopia I was told that every volunteer joins the “s*** your pants club” and the “double dragon” club. Each refers to the horrendous sicknesses that the volunteers experience while in country just because your body is adjusting to a different diet. “S** your pants club” is self explanatory. However, double dragon is when it comes out of both ends. I am hoping to never join/ gain member ship to either one of these clubs. But if I do, I just pray that no one is around me when it happens.

Nov 12, 2011
We have culture lessons every week so that we can integrate into the community easier and avoid doing taboo things, making taboo statements, etc.

Nov 13th
I decided I would try and wash my clothes! My host mom usually washes them for me but I wanted to try it, seeing as I will be washing them for the next two years. When I went to site a couple of weeks ago, the principal of the school where I will be teaching asked me if I wanted to hire the lady that washes his clothes. I told him no, thinking “I got this! I can do it!“ One thing is for sure I have confidence in my abilities! Two weeks later after our conversation, I came outside with one bucket filled with water and another bucket to wash my clothes in. I was ready to wash! (I didn’t know that to do this properly you need 4 buckets for the different stages). My host mom sees me and begins to watch me. I try and dip my sheets into the bucket, and I have already made a mistake. Apparently your supposed to put the sheet in a bucket and pour water over it. Not dip the whole sheet in the bucket of water. She quickly takes it out of my hands and shows me what to do. She asks me if I need soap, but I had brought a bar of soap from the states (granted it was for your body but what difference would that make? Soap is soap. I had figured that should work just fine.)Well, I was trying to scrub the sheets with my bar of soap, and no bubbles were coming up. Matter of fact, nothing was really happening. I had no idea how to get the soap into the clothes. My host mom shook her head at me and grabbed a real bar of soap. She then took the clothes out of my hands and showed me what scrubbing your clothes really looks like. You basically take the clothes in one hand and the soap in the other and rub it vigorously together. Then once it is fully lathered up you take your hands and become the washer machine. That thing in the middle of the washer machine that moves the clothes together, your hands do that. It took me quite a few times to get the hang of it. Both of my host brothers came out and helped me. My host family would grab the clothes from me every 5 minutes and try and correct the mistakes I was making. It literally took 3 people to help show me how to wash the sheets. I then took out my jeans and blankets to wash and my host mom took them from me saying it will be too difficult for me to wash on my own. And she is RIGHT! I had a hard time trying to wash my underwear and sheets let alone JEANS! Shesh! I guess I will take the principal on the offer. I doubt I will be washing a lot of my stuff. Shoot, I already have to cook for myself every day here because I wont have refrigeration. Forget washing clothes too!

Nov 14th
We expressed our discontent with the environmental training we receive. Every Thursday we are lectured about the environment but most of the information is about things that we can not use. We learned that there is a rare wolf that is almost extinct, but what good is that knowledge going to do me? I am working with farmers, trying to make income generating activities. We asked for them to tell us what projects volunteers have tried that have been successful and give us basic training about the Ethiopian environment. Hopefully the training improves.

Nov 20th
Ooo! I had one of the best meals yet! My host family made kitfo (which is made out of butter, ox meat, and seasoning). It is usually prepared raw and traditionally you eat it with a bread made from banana tree. It is a VERY good dish, and although there are many warnings, a lot of volunteers eat the raw dish. The problem is that you can get a worm in your stomach. But to stop this, volunteers often take pills to kill the worms. My host mom cooked the kitfo for me, so I didn’t eat it raw. But it was still delicious!

Nov 23, 2011
Today we learned that there is a 7-8 year time difference between Ethiopia’s calendar and other calendars (depending on what part of the year we are in) . Right now in the Ethiopian calendar it is November 14, 2004. Thanks to Calita’s son (who was able to research the calendar’s difference), we were able to find out that the differences between the years has to do with the disreprency of when it is believed Jesus was born. According to his research, “They used ages mentioned in many parts of the
Holy Bible. There are 13 months in the Ethiopian calendar (Which is really the Julian calendar that the rest of the world followed until “Dionasius, a Roman monk, said that the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was 753 years after the foundation of the city of Rome. It is according to his
calculation that the world joins the second millennium, in spite of the fact that, researchers many years after him have already discovered he has made a mistake by at least four years.” The first 12 months are each exactly 30 days, and the last month has only 5 days (6 when it is a leap year). ” Their new year is in our September, so we are only about 3 months into 2004. I have now stepped back into time . They have just recently stepped into the 21st century . It is also very difficult to convert the calendars for me because depending on what month it is there is either an 8 day difference or a 10 day difference.

In the US my birthday is April 4th 1989, in Ethiopia my birthday is March 27th, 1981.

I have an assessment tomorrow. I have to be able to give directions, tell the lady that this dress doesn’t fit, bargain, tell a story, write in Amharic, and know my colors. I can pretty much handle most of it, and have decided if anyone asks for directions I will tell them Iziaber ystillin (god will provide). Forget trying to tell them go left, right, straight, when you see the shop on the corner turn! Instead, I will say “Don’t worry! You want to know where the coffee shop is? Need Directions? God will provide! Because I sure can’t!“ lol jk, I think I know enough of the directions that I can manage that part.

Nov 24, 2011
I got sick the day before thanksgiving. The volunteers wrote cars that said why they are thankful/what they appreciate about me. Which made me feel a lot better!

Nov 25, 2011
I had an interesting conversation with a high schooler today about religion. He asked me if I thought that there would one day be only one religion and if so which one did I think it would be. HE also asked told me that he wanted to marry a nice american girl. Which I had to quickly display my beautiful wedding ring that my auntie toni let me BORROW  but she will quickly forget about.

Ive received a couple of questions about what my living situation is like. Most people live in what are called compounds, they have a house with a fence around it (there are different styles of fences, here it is a wall that is taller than 6 feet and is made out of metal). The compound I live in for my permanent site (That I move in after I finish training) is a medium sized compound, The front of the compound has a small garden with corn and a coffee tree. Then I walk to the main house. There are two doors. The door to the right is my room and the door to the left is my landlord’s room. If you turn to the right there are 3 small buildings. The first building is made out of wood and is the landlord’s kitchen, the second building is the storage room. Next to that is a wooden building that has two doors. The first door is for the shower room and the second door leads to the bathroom. The bathroom is basically a small opening in the middle of the floor, with two bricks around the hole (where you put your foot). Underneath the floor is a huge hole (you cant see the huge hole) but it stores the bowel movements.

Nov 27, 2011
I came up with the idea of starting a book club. It started as an idea that I wanted to do with the Ethiopian women once I moved to site. As a way to get to know some of the people. But I realized this presented a bunch of obstacles. One, I would need to be able to read Amharic books. But, then I thought that maybe, I could just facilitate it and instead use it as a project that allows women to get together. The second issue is I have been observing, living with my host family that women don’t really have time for leisure activities such as reading a book. With watching the children, taking care of the house, doing the laundry, cooking, and working there’s no time for that. Granted some of the families here have maids to help with a little bit of the work. The concept of maid here is not the same. The mom and children still clean, cook, and wash clothes but the maid just helps lighten the load a bit. Usually she is a girl from the rural area that has come to live with a family. She usually attends school during the day and then returns to the home to help out with household chores. But, again it just didn’t seem like a practical idea. I mentioned the idea to a couple of volunteers and they thought it would be awesome to start a book club with some of the volunteers. Thus, the birth of a book club. We have 18,000 books but we noticed that we end up reading books by authors we already know and we really want to branch out and read books that we otherwise wouldn’t read. I picked the first book. Right now, we are reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It is an awesome book! I read the entire series and thought that would be a good book to start with. We had our first meeting today and we discussed the characters, plots, made predictions for the future(I stayed out of that part since I read it before). We plan on being able to include the other volunteers once we leave training by posting our thoughts on the book online. I am excited to be taking a part of the club.

Nov 28, 2011

We have had three consistent beggars that we now see just about every day. But, this one lady is a trip. She’s an older woman, that unfortunately has an unpleasant smell. When we first met her, she kept persistently asking us for money, speaking in Amharic and saying words we didn’t understand. She only knows two phrases in English. The first phrase she kept saying over and over “Give me money.” I began to tell her in Amharic that we didn’t have any money and that God will provide. She didn’t like that answer and started going off on me. But no worries, I didn’t know what she was saying anyway so I didn’t care. But she wouldn’t leave, and kept going to the other volunteers and asking for money. We kept saying we didn’t have any. Eventually we started telling her words that we learned in one of our harassment sessions. We were so frustrated that a volunteer actually took out his notebook so he could read the phrases to her “Go away, you should be ashamed, you are rude.” She got PISSED and went off on him in Amahric. She then began walking away; but not before leaving us with her second English phrase “You stupid bastard.” Hahaha two very interesting phrases! The next day she found us again and proceeded to ask us for money again. When we refused she went off on us again. I started saying things in English since shoot I don’t know what she was saying so I might as well say some things that she didn’t understand so we could even out the playing field. Two Ethiopian men actually gave her money and told her to leave us away. But she refused and instead sat by us the entire time. Today, after class while walking, we saw her again and she immediately began following us. We decided to have fun with it. Instead, of letting her catch up, we broke out into a run. But oo no! this lady was not going to let us out run her! She began chasing after us! So we ran across the street! Next thing you know she crosses the street! I run across the street again and I see my language teacher telling her to leave us alone. A group of men told me that everything was ok and that she left. (By the way I am amazed at how much I can understand, I can even write in the language. The characters are called script)

I was watching wrestling with my family. It’s funny because most Ethiopians believe that the wrestling is real; even, when you tell them it is not. They respond “it HAS to be real.” My host mom was so worried that this man was going to hit the other wrestler with the chair. She kept screaming! Lol!

Dec 1, 2011
We planted trees! WHOO! I do not work with tools often! Shoveling, using a pick, and weeding are not my speciality!

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About bnw0404

I hope to use this blog to keep everyone updated on my Peace Corps journey from California to Ethiopia Disclaimer: The contents of this page, and all links appearing on this page, do not represent the positions, views or intents of the U.S. Government, or the United States Peace Corps.
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