Last night, I stayed up with my family and exchanged gifts. I got my host brother a book about different African Americans that have played huge roles in our history and a book of pictures of California and I gave my younger host brother candy. For the past week, I was sad because the gift I was originally going ot give my host mother was focused more towards politics, but as I had gotten to know her I realized that she really liked things that smelled good (perfumes, shampoos, lotions). I had another friend who didn’t get anything for her host dad and she had Bath and Body lotions. I was so excited to have the opportunity to give her something that I knew she would want. So we traded. After, I was a little down because I was dwelling on the fact that the political gift was a gift that my older host brother would have loved and I wish I was able to give both. But, in perspective I am glad that I was able to give the gift that I really wanted to give my host mother and my host brothers really appreciated their gifts. My host family gave speeches about how much they loved us and how thankful they were that we came. They also want to throw a party for me before I return back to the states. In the morning, I boarded the bus to head to the capital. My host mom and my little brother began crying. It touched me so much to know that they came to care about me as much as I care about them.
For the past few days we have been in Addis eating forengi food preparing for the swear in ceremony that was held today! The ceremony was at the Us Embassy, I was officially back on US soil for about 4 hours. Three of the volunteers gave speeches in Amharic, Tigranya, and Oromifa. I am not sure what they said but they sounded awesome! After the speeches, we then stood, raised our right hands, and swore to protect the US from all enemies both foreign and domestic. That was pretty intense to me! We then walked up one by one(similar to college graduation), shook the US Ambassador’s hand, and received a certificate. Which reminds me, earlier I mentioned how everyone in Ethiopia is supposed to join the ‘s*** your pants club. Well, the president of this club attained his position because, during his swear in ceremony, right before they called his name he pooped on himself. LOL! He had to then walk up to the stage, shake hands with the US Ambassador, AND the Ethiopian president! So I think he earned this position. After the ceremony, we mingled with other organizations that are here in Ethiopia. I met a man who was in charge of a German volunteer organization that is very similar to the Peace Corps. I look forward to finding volunteers in my area from this organization. I was chosen by Peace Corps to do an interview with the Ethiopian journalists that were present. WHEW! They asked a few difficult questions, but I think I got through it ok.
We moved to our sites (the place where we will be living for the next two years). I am now in Southern Nations. Peace Corps was kind enough to provide vehicles to take us to our sites. I can not imagine taking 4 bags plus the things I bought in Addis (stove, propane tank, etc) on public transportation.
During training, I googled my town and discovered an organization named Common River that works in my community. The cofounder was born in my town, later in life he moved to the bay area, and is now back in my town. The organization has opened up a primary school, library, and a bathroom for the market place (previously people would just pee anywhere because there were no bathrooms which is extremely unsanitary because food is sold in the market place). Common River teaches first, second, and third grade. They feed the children ( they have their own cafeteria) and provide them with medical care when needed. They also have a program that allows women who had to drop out of school for various reasons when they were younger, go back to school and study math and English. They invite the leaders of the community to come in and teach the youth about skills that they have and create a dialogue between the different generations. This year they are going to work on water sanitation issues. To help teach people how to properly clean the water. I met with them today and saw their beautiful campus. I look forward to working with them on projects. They actually asked for a Peace Corps volunteer to be in this town.
I have gotten a couple of questions about what exactly am I going to do in the Peace Corps.
So first let me explain how the Peace Corps works. Peace Corps basically assigns you to a community and pairs you with a person from the community/organization that is supposed to help you integrate into the community and will hopefully be a good resource to work with. They are basically a resource that the Peace Corps gives you and hopes you will be able to use. I have been paired with the Agricultural and Rural Development office. However, I do not have to work with this organization and I am not limited to this organization. I can work with many different people and organizations to get projects accomplished. During a volunteer’s first three months at site (which is after they complete training), volunteers are expected to complete a community needs assessment. In this assessment we are supposed to meet with people of the community, determine the needs and wants of the community and think of possible projects that we may want to work on in the community. Many NGOS/ nonprofits are unsuccessful with projects that they implement in communities because they do not take the time to decipher what the community wants and needs. Even if the people really NEED the resource if they do not WANT it, the project will be useful. Therefore, it is my job as a volunteer to determine what they want and need, and then find resources/ ways to work with them and help them achieve the goal. A goal is also to make sure that are projects are sustainable and run by the community, That way when we leave the project can keep going. The Peace Corps does not give you as specific job (as they can not know what all of the community wants…the only way to really find that out is to live with them). Instead what they do, is give you an area that they want you to focus on (mine is the environment), give you training to help you succeed, and provide resources when needed.
My official title is Conservation of Natural Resource Management Specialist. I am an environmental volunteer. I was surprised when I originally received this invitation because I have little experience with the actual environment. But, the environmental sector (similar to other sectors in the Peace Corps such as Health and Community Development) is a very broad category. There are many ways and areas for a environmental volunteer with a business background to help. For example, I have been learning that some farmers have poor budgeting skills. During the harvesting season (When they have the most money) they tend to spend it all. Prices go up, because they know the farmers have money, and the farmers spend most of the profit that they have made. Then, the rest of the year they are struggling to make ends meet, because they do not have any money. A possible project for a person with a business background is to teach classes about budgeting. Sixty five percent of the country is involved in agriculture. This means if there is a bad harvest, they families are struggling to survive. Therefore, another possible project is to create alternative income generating activites that help supplement farmers incomes. I am not sure which area I will work in. Those are only a couple of examples, but the opportunities are truly endless. I have even thought about trying to work with the women who have gone back to school or the homeless children and teach them income generating activities. Right now, I am focusing on doing my community need assesments and learning what different organizations are in my town. I must figure out what they want and need so I can begin to look at projects.
Items are very expenisve in Ethiopia. To give you an example today when I was on the bus, we stopped to get gas. 25 LITERS of gas wa 449 burr. FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE! The average monthly income is $200 burr. I ordering a bed frame today and it was 2,000 burr. One kilo of meat is 70 burr. One egg is 2 burr. Inflation is also crazy here, its about 100 percent inflation.
I love the kids in my town. I have the cutest little kid that always comes up to me when I am walking in town and holds my hand as we walk around. He helps me bargain, shows me where things are, and teaches me Amharic. He only had one shoe, but today he found another one. I call him Lije (it means my chuld).
Dec 24th- 26th
I left for the nearest town, Hawassa, for Christmas. The little kid came on the bus with me and wanted to go to town with me. The people were asking him questions about me. He told them where I lived. I get upset because the adults have begun to ask him to ask me to take him back to America with him. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I get annoyed because thye do it to tease him. I found out today that his partents died of AIDS and that is why he doesn’t have a home. He is the sweetest child. Today he used his money to buy gum for me and him. I tried to get him to keep it, but he refused. He insisted that I take the gum. Although, he has little, he still shares with me.
In Hawassa, I met with the volunteers that live in the southern area. A volunteer opened up his home to us and let us stay with him. He cooked for us and was just an awesome host. I m There was meat loaf, ham, mashed potatoes, salad, and string beans. For desert we had a chocolate chip cookie cake, pumpkin cookies, and I made a fruit salad. We also had a white elephant exchange. I got a box of cholcate chip cookies. JIt was nice getting away from my town for a bit and reuniting with the volunteers from my training class that live in the area and other volunteers. I stayed in town for a couple of days and went to a few foreigner restaurants. I had delicious pizza!
Last week, at night I would wrap myself in my mosquito net like a cocoon. I havent had a chance to hang up my mosquito net and I didn’t want bugs biting my while I sleep. I also saw a huge spider and although I killed it I was worried of more coming out and climbing all over me. But, I just found that they dip the mosquito nets in some poisonous stuff to kill the bugs when they land on the net. And that it is prob unhealthy for me to do this. I guess I need to hang it up.
O NO!!! while typing this blog I saw a mouse run across my house(I am back home)!!!! I thought I had saw something earlier run under my stove. But I moved the stove around and nothing ran from it. But just now I saw the mouse sprint across from oven to the other side of my house. It darted into a hole in my house and now Im jus hoping that it went out of my house. My walls are made of mud and straw, and I have some holes/cracks. Im so nervous now. O MY GOSH!!! Bugs Im ok with…I can step on them or spray bug spray. BUT A MOUSE!!! I have nothing to kill that with. YUUCKK!! Plus I don’t want to smash it. I sprayed bug spray for now in the hopes that it wont come back because of the smell. But, what am I going to do while I sleep??? What if others come??? YUCK!!!! Please send me rat poison, the powder kind. I can not take the rodents!! I may have to wrap myself in the mosquito net again!! To top it off the dang lights just went out so I cant even see to be able to tell if the mouse comes back!!!
Update- please dont send rat poison. I talked to a volunteer and he said that the poison is not recommended because then they will die in my walls and make my house stink. Instead, I am going to get a cat. Please send flea repellent for animals.
Below are pictures I have taken around town. There are pictures from a bunna ceremony (the lady siting outside), my younger host brother, a church, Lake Wenchi, Lake Hawassa (where i went for Christmas),my house (not the picture of the huts by the lake) , my host mom making injera, and cute kids