Forget Lions, Tigers, and Bears- I saw Hippos!


I think my neighbor’s were playing We Be Clubbin- Ice Cube…just when I think I’m in the middle of nowhere they surprise me! ūüôā


I have been away from my town for quiet a bit of time!

We were in training (in service training). This training covers a variety of topics, how to write grants, develop projects, teach English, start income generating acitvities, and work on env issues. The training tries to cover a variety of topics that volunteers have found useful and areas that many of the projects volunteers tend to work on. Our counterparts from the town came with us to take. During this training we furthered developed our projects. While it was stressful trying to work on the project together it really did bring us closer together.

One of our trainings had a lesson plan that was about different perceptions of what is considered rude/not rude in America and in Ethiopia. The scenarios that I found interesting are (I will be answering these from my understanding of the Ethiopian culture.. not whats rude in America):

  • Wearing a knee revealing skirt in public¬†(rude- considered inappropriate in most of Ethiopia…but not in the big cities)
  • ¬†Seeing an acquaintance while eating and not inviting them to eat with you- it¬†is rude to eat, whether at a¬†restaurant¬†or with others and not invite them to sit with you. This is because (esp if your on the bus) you may pull out your food and the person next to you may be starving. You never know people’s situations…they may not have eaten for a long time. I really enjoy this part of the culture, as it helps you to get to know people and its a nice gesture.
  • ¬†Cutting in line at the bank teller window and looking at people‚Äôs account/transaction information-¬†(not rude- There are no lines here, people are often standing next to you as you make your withdrawal and as you receive your money. One volunteer experienced a stranger asking the bank teller to announce the volunteer‚Äôs account balance because he was curious)
  • ¬†Asking someone about the “strange appearance” of their skin.¬†(not rude- Ethiopian‚Äôs generally have little variation in skin color. If you have freckles or pimples Ethiopians will point them out and ask questions.)
  • ¬†Being critical of someone‚Äôs work during a workplace meeting¬†(depends-common and varies according to context)
  • ¬†Interrupting someone who is in the middle of a conversation to say hello¬†(the interrupter is not rude, but if you don‚Äôt stop your conversation immediately and respond to them then you are considered rude)
  • Picking your nose¬†(not rude- I see this often, no matter what age. Often Im in the middle of the conversation with them and all of a sudden I will see their hand moving towards their face and ¬†before I can blink their finger is in their nose digging out a full grown booger that is apparently deep in there)
  • Insisting that the window on a bus stays open/closed¬†(not rude- Ethiopians think that you can get sick (TB/common cold) from fresh air on public buses so they prefer the windows to be closed and will close your window if you don‚Äôt fight to keep it open. Even if they are sweating profusely or someone becomes sick on the bus they will not open the windows)
  • ¬†Clapping your hands at a restaurant to get the waiters attention¬†(Not rude and often the only way you can get the waiter to give you attention. The waiters don’t make eye contact with the people as they walk by, and they don’t come to check on you)
  • Remarking about weight gain/ asking why you’re so small¬†(Not rude)
  • ¬†Not washing your hands before a meal¬†(Rude, Ethiopian food is finger food so its important to wash your hands…but often people just rinse their hands without using soap so it isn‚Äôt really a matter of sanitation, just culture)
  • ¬†Not visiting a sick friend¬†(Rude, especially if you don‚Äôt visit a family after a death)
  • Not allowing your neighbor to borrow cleaning supplies¬†(Rude, things should be shared and value over people is higher than assets)
  • Not introducing others before you begin conversation¬†(Not rude, even if you are walking with your spouse failing to introduce them to an acquaintance you meet is not common.)
  • Asking how much items cost/how much your salary is¬†Not rude¬†I get this all the time, they want to know how much I pay the lady who washes my clothes, how much my bed was , how much the scarf I bought for my mom is…than they tell me if I paid too much for it. I try to avoid these conversations and act like I dont understand…
  • Asking Person A to tell you Person B’s name while Person B is standing there (not rude, in fact it can be rude to ask that person directly. Or if they want to know questions about person b -ex where are they from, what is their job- they would ask Person A instead).

During this time we had a bunch of birthdays- we went to see hippos. I was terrified of being killed by them because I hear they are very territorial and will knock humans into the water. But, I hear they are more territorial on land than in water. Luckily, nothing happened. It was cool seeing how big they are and their skin. I was surprised that they are really pink and brown, for some reason I expected them to be more gray. For my birthday we had a homecooked meal night. We had been eating out for the last two weeks, so I asked a volunteer if we could cook at his house. We had a Mexican themed food night and it was delicious! We had chips made from scratch, salsa, guacamole, meat, taco shells, spanish rice and just so much food! 

I also was one of three voted by my peers to be apart of the Peer Support Network (PSN). My responsibilities include, being available and ready to offer peer support, give trainings about different topics (ex diversity, cultural expectations), calling volunteers to check on them, and greeting/welcoming the incoming volunteers. They are also starting a new program where incoming volunteers are partnered with PSN members. So I look forward to that!

Ethiopian Easter (april 15th)

Yesterday, as soon as I opened my door I ¬†noticed a chicken pecking away at the grass. This was my first sign that the family was preparing for Easter. Normally, we don’t have any animals on our compound and I had been told that during the Easter celebration families buy tons of chickens to make dorro(chicken) wat…a dish made from chicken. Next thing you know there were 4 chickens and a sheep in my yard. I kept wondering “How many people are COMING!? This will be a lot of food!” It was crazy knowing that these animals would be my dinner. I noticed that I could hear roosters cock-a-doodle-dooling from all of my neighbors houses too. It became like a roll call, our roosters would start and than the other roosters would respond. I actually couldnt wait for them to start the slaughtering process, they were getting on my nerves. Too much noise. Even the sheep sounded like an old man that had been smoking for 50 years and was close to losing his lung. Our roosters were very territorial . They kept fighting and even the sheep got into it! He started ramming the chickens with his head. The family was very amused at my interest in the animals and all the pictures I kept taking. I eventually went inside, but the family called my name. I ran outside to see what they wanted, and saw that it was time to begin the slaying of the animals. I watched them (only so I could say I did). The chickens death was a slow process, as the knife was not sharp. It was more like sawing their heads. After they cut them enough they threw them under a bucket so that they couldnt run around. ¬†(only men do the actual killing of the animals). I than watched the mother pluck out all the feathers, and peel the skin off. The next day was the goats turn. After they killed it, I watched them clean it out. It was a pretty intense process, but I am glad that I watched it. I enjoyed the food, and I dont see me becoming a vegetarian because of it. I just kept thinking dinner couldnt get any fresher than that!

Personal Space

I have become¬†accustomed¬†to the loss of personal space. On the bus, I even let a random guy sleep on my shoulder without being bothered by it. When he woke up, he rewarded me by telling me that the bus driver was overcharging me and made sure that I got my correct change . ūüôā Always good to lend a shoulder.

Summer Camps

Every Peace Corps country, has summer camps for kids. Its up to the volunteers to organize them, traditionally the¬†camps are girls¬†only and are called Camp GLOW (Girls leading our world). But, some of¬†the camps have started bringing guys in them too.¬† . The Ethiopian camps are sectioned off by what region of the country you live in. The camp I am taking apart in includes both boys and girls and has¬†a Health,¬†HIV/AIDS, Leadership, and Environment focus. Im trying to add a¬†women’s empowerment component too. I’ve thought of a few activities that I hope to incorporate, one is about the different gender roles ¬†and has the kids do a role play. I’ve also thought of some self reflection and self esteem activities. Some have the children write down their goals, another one has them write down what they like about themselves/what defines them. Of course its a bit more interactive than the way I am describing it. For ex: The kids would draw themselves on a big piece of paper and than either draw or cut out images from magazine that illustrate who they are. Im also trying to bring a speaker who has undergone female genital mutilation surgery and is now against it to speak to the campers. The most recent data I have found (2005)¬†¬†indicates that 74 % of girls and women nationwide have ¬†been subjected to female genital mutilation. The¬†practice is almost universal in the Ethiopian regions of Somali,¬†Affar and Dire Dawa, in Oromo and Harari (refer to the map I pasted below) more than¬†80 % of girls and women are affected. FGM is least¬†prevalent in the Ethiopian regions of Tigray and Gambela (refer to map pasted below), ¬†where¬†29 % and 27 % respectively of girls and women are¬†affected.

If you get a chance read this article

We want kids that are 11-15. Im bringing 2-3 from my town. One year they had a camp that also brought in OVC- orphaned vulnerable children (also called street kids). Unfortunately, we can no longer do that because of the lawsuits that came from it. First the OVCs kept fighting with the kids who have families. Than one of the street kids broke his leg, and so Peace Corps took him to the hospital. After camp, the kid had learned that if he took off his bandages and showed his leg on the street he could get more money. This of course led to infections, and the Peace Corps would have to keep taking him to the hospital, volunteers would have to keep finding him to make sure he was ok and they had to keep going to court. Now, if the kids do not have a parent that can sign a consent form, they can not go.

African American or Black American

The principal of my school asked me if I was African American or Black American. I explained to him that in America I refer to myself as African American but in Ethiopia I call myself Black American. I went into the history of the United States. I asked him if he knew that people were brought as slaves to the States and that we are from Africa but because of the structure of slavery we don’t know exactly where we are from.¬†Therefore, we refer to ourselves as African Americans.¬†¬†He said he knew it, but from our conversation I could tell he didnt know the details. I told them that my family has been in the States since the 1800s. In Ethiopia, I refer to myself as Black American. For two reasons: 1- because thats what htey call me and 2- if I say African American to them it means my family recently came over to the States and therefore I should know where I came from. He was shocked! He said the person he was talking to said that I am “like Obama.” But he explained to them that my grandparents lived in the US and that Obama’s father is from Kenya. They consider Obama to be African American and me to be Black American.


Textbooks here are very small. If the students even have them, they are the size of a children’s book (think the size of captain underpants or any other book you would find in the children’s section of barnes and noble). Therefore, there are little details. I picked up one of their books, they went through the details of World War II in one page (Ethiopia played a role in it.) There own history they skimmed over, very few details. I learned more about Ethiopia on the internet than I did from their textbooks. It’s not even the controversial stuff (which I expected them to leave out), even the good parts of their history are rushed. All together the book was maybe 35-45 pages. I’ve looked over quiet a few textbooks, math, english, history, I’ve tried different editions, but they are all the same. Few details and brief discussion.

Where do you live??

I live in Aletawondo, Sidama Zone, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR).¬†Aletawondo is the name of my town, Sidama Zone is¬†similar¬†to a county, SNNPR is the state or area.¬†SNNPR is the most diverse of all the regions with more than half of the different languages spoken here, and 45 different cultures. Many tourists come to the southern area to visit the different places and see the different cultures. I live in the Sidama Zone, so in my area I live the Sidama people and the langauge spoken is Amharic and Sidamigna (Su-da-mean-ya).¬†Today, the Sidama area has only a small number of schools, and inadequate health services, though primary education has increased recently,¬†Nearly 95% of the Sidama live a life centered around¬†agriculture. ¬†Other crops are also grown and they breed¬†cattle. Perhaps the most important source of income is¬†coffee, and the area is a major contributor to¬†Coffee production in Ethiopia, producing a high percentage of export coffee for the central government, second only to the¬†Oromia¬†region. The Sidama farmers have been affected by hunger caused by declining world market prices for coffee, despite supplying the popular coffee chain Starbucks with the majority of their coffee products from the region.


Map of Ethiopia and the dif regions, the animals before their deaths and after, the bucket that held them from running around, the pic with my dog and Lije (finally got a pic of him), on the boat ride to see the hippos

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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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