Have you LOST your mind?

On April 3, 2002 I tossed and turned in my bed, too excited to sleep, anticipating all the new experiences and changes that the morrow would bring. I went to bed a preteen, skipped my teen and young adult years, and woke up a grown woman! I knew what a bug a boo was (thanks to destiny’s child), I knew to say no to a scrub that ‘holla’d from the passenger’s side, and I could perform all the dance moves to ’are you that somebody.’ You couldn’t tell me nothing, I had seen it all and heard it all in my 13 years of life. Shoot! I knew more then my parents! I went to bed a sweet, loving, respectful child (or at least that’s the image I remember) and woke up a demon child that knew how to roll her eyes, smack her lips, raise her eyebrows, and snap her neck with the perfection that only a 13 year old ‘grown woman’ has mastered. Something within me snapped, and I took on a bit of crazy. My mother used to tell me ‘to fix my face’ and ‘watch my tone.’ But, I shrugged that off. What did she know? She was only my mother. My tone was just fine, if she would stop talking to me I wouldn’t have this attitude, because of course it wasn’t MY fault that I behaved this way. O no! it was the people around me who kept bothering me, that would cause my behavior to change, at least I didn’t give them a REAL piece of my mind, and tell them everything I thought. I remember one time I told my mother ‘if you heard what was going through my mind, you wouldn’t THINK I was talking back!’ I’m just surprised I’m here to tell the tale, the crazy thing was I thought that this was an ok response, that she would understand that I hold back things and; therefore, there shouldn‘t be an issue.

My mother always told me that ‘nobody owes me anything.’ I think my generation feels a sense of entitlement that things are supposed to be given to us because, heck I AM Breanna Nicole Wright and that’s how things work. I often hear parents speak about how a child hits about 13 and loses all sense, they get hit with a touch of crazy and become this child that makes you want to pull out your hair to keep from screaming. I always thought that there must be something biological within us that makes this happen.

I never realized that this is actually a cultural thing, until I came to Ethiopia. See children here do not ’lose their mind’ at a certain age. No matter how many times their older siblings, parents, parent’s friends holler their names, they do not cut their eyes or stomp their feet. Yea, I’m sure they get irritated a little on the inside, especially because they will call them for the simple thing (think back in the days-before my time thank God- when your parents would call you in the room to change the TV channel). They might be a tad bit slower to respond after the 7th time they have been called in the last 15 minutes but, they come on over and they do whatever is asked. Me? When I was 13? I used to HATE when my parents would bellow/holler my name from downstairs and make me come down to figure out what they needed. Calling my name 7 times in 15 minutes? I KNOW I would’ve had an attitude. Matter of fact I doubt I would’ve made it to the 7th time because I’m pretty sure I would’ve be in trouble for my tone or face by that point. Not something I’m proud about but, I had major ‘tude problems back then. But that’s the thing, on our televisions and at other friends houses that is the behavior that I would see. So I always assumed it was normal.

Everyone says that payback comes in the form of grandchildren. Well, I’m going to start taking lessons now from my Ethiopian friends so, hopefully, I don’t have to go through this when I have kids. Sorry parents! No payback for you guys 🙂

Other observations:
Saying you are in some mood or tired, staying home, or craving chocolate because you’re on your period does not fly here. Women have responsibilities and things that need to get done, and their periods can not stop that. On top of that it’s a man’s world here, women are still a bit oppressed. Don’t get me wrong I do believe that in the States we sometimes abuse the ‘period excuse’ and may tell a tale once or twice to get us out of something. But, there are times when it is valid. Being able to say you can’t do something or you are moody is connected with women’s equality, valuing the woman’s voice, mood, thoughts as much as a man’s. The women are expected to do their duties, and their feelings/emotions/thoughts do not necessarily count.

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Its Been A Long While-Timbaland Voice

PROJECT
I had a meeting about a week ago that had every Peace Corps quote I have ever heard running through my mind. The meeting was supposed to start at 9am, but of course there were people late, and the hall we booked was occupied by some other folks. But, shoot I’ve been here 10 months…no biggie. Didn’t even break a sweat. We started calling other places to figure out where we could have the meeting instead. Finally found a place to have the meeting, and off we went.

Just to refresh your memories, I am working with an organization called Finding Sunshine, composed of people living with HIV/AIDS in the rural area (about 120). We are trying to establish income generating activities/ a business and I have been working with the leaders of the org to work out some of the details. Well, we had decided to split up the members into two groups: urban and rural. The urban group (50 members) has some business knowledge but little land whereas the rural area has a lot of land but little business knowledge. Plus, the urban group lives up to 20km away from town (not sure how many miles that is but it’s a lot). So it is very difficult to start a business with all of them and may be easier to do individual businesses with them. Every month the org meets to discuss what is going on, so I assumed (mistake) that they had discussed this already. According to the Health Office (who helps run the meetings) they were getting ready to vote for the leaders in the rural area so that way I could meet with them to figure out how to help them with a business as well.

I want you to keep in mind a few things, because the members are from the rural area they do not speak Amharic (which is what my town speaks) but instead they speak Sudamigna. I know exactly 4 words in Sudaminga and they are all greetings. So during the meeting I understand nothing, my counterpart tries to sum up what is happening but I miss a lot of what is going on, and I am pretty much silent during the whole meeting.

I called this meeting to meet with all of the members from the urban areas and begin to write our constitution for the business.

FIRST QUOTE: This will be the toughest job you’ll ever love
Six people from the rural area had showed up for the meeting and they were NOT happy. They spent the first 2 hours arguing, my counterpart slid me a note that that they were arguing about why we split up the groups. What was frustrating for me was we had about 40 people there but 6 people were unhappy about something and so we had to spend that time talking about it. In the states, I would’ve said ‘I would be happy to discuss this with you after the meeting but as the other members are here to write the constitution we need to put this matter aside.’ I suggested this to my counterpart. But culturally, you can’t do that. You have to let everyone speak and even if they are saying the same thing over and over, you have to let them keep talking it out. At one point my counterpart turns to me and says ‘they are behaving like children’ which makes me laugh. To me, they were. To top it off I really don’t know what they are saying so it sort of looks like putting Bad Girls Clubs or Real Housewives of (any city) on mute and watching the drama unfold.

Eventually, some of the people from the rural area left (they weren’t really the people arguing about it but just wanted to know why we split the groups up). Next, they had us read the names of the people who were in the urban group that was written by their elected leaders. That’s when all hell broke loose. Bunch of talking, standing up, and craziness started happening. I wasn’t sure what was going on, I knew that whatever it was they weren’t happy about the list. One member came up to where me and my counterpart were sitting, took his wallet out, and threw out a bunch of papers. Apparently, he couldn’t find whatever he was looking for because he had to keep pulling out stuff until he found the right one. Then, he walked out of the meeting. I actually started talking in English in hopes to calm people down, but that did nothing. My counterpart was like ‘no problem.’ Not sure what situation he was looking at but there was definitely a problem to me. I think he just wanted me to stay out of it because at the point he had stopped talking and just sat back. The angry man returned and we continued on with the arguing. Eventually, some agreement was achieved and we started writing the constitution. Later, my counterpart was telling me that the guy was upset that he wasn’t on the list and that he was trying to pull out his license to show that he lives in the urban area. My counterpart thinks that there is infighting amongst the co-op which is common.

SECOND QUOTE:: Plan for nothing to go as planned
Before every meeting me and counterpart, plan the meeting and go through the details of how it will be run. But for some reason, at the meeting he always seems to forget whatever it is we talked about. At this meeting, they included a government official that helps coops write constitutions (I was not informed that he would be there). He brought sample constitutions to use as a guideline, which was awesome. I had prepared questions that were to help us write the constitution. For example, I had a question about what different positions the org would have and what were their responsibilities. Every question I asked the guy would get up flip some pages of the constitution and say it’s in the guideline. I kept getting frustrated because yes, while it is in the constitution its only a guideline. We sill need to answer the question of how we want it to be for our organization. Every question I asked he would do this and every time I would say the same thing.

THIRD QUOTE: Be prepared for things to move slower than you are used to
This was my first meeting where I really saw how much work it really takes to get things done. We walked away with little actual accomplished but this is common.

The difficult part is not having a voice in something you are trying to facilitate and things that seem so simple in the States are not necessarily simple to do somewhere else. My friend had a good point though, I am lucky people actually show up to my meetings and I get a pretty good turn out each time.

Solution: We called for another meeting with all of the members and suggested writing the constitution with the leaders as a draft and then having the members edit it. Many of them are illiterate so we will be reading the constitution to them.

Another thing I found interesting was that when we were writing what qualities we wanted the Chair, Vice Chair etc to have they mentioned things like “honest, trustworthy.”

PEER SUPPORT

I was elected by my peers to be apart of the peer support network, part of my job is to act as an advocate for my fellow volunteers, provide an ear, and help introduce newcomers to Ethiopia. Whelp! We’ve got newcomers!!

Seventy Education Volunteers came to Ethiopia in the beginning of July. Before they came, we exchanged a few emails and I answered their questions. Once they got here I felt like I graduated my freshmen year and was helping with freshmen orientation. They asked innocent questions like “Will there be an iron where we are going.” We all had to smile at that. I enjoyed spending time with them, showing them how to use a shint bet, answering all of the random questions (Can I use a tazor), and receiving phone calls that just put a huge smile on my face.

It helped me to realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve adjusted. We took the volunteers to different sites so they could get a feel for a day in the life of a volunteer. This is a new program that we were trying out (other Peace Corps countries do it). It went really well! It gave them an idea of what they will be doing and a realistic view of how volunteers live.

Another responsbilitity of Peer Support Network is to give trainings. Previously, I had been speaking on panels, but recently I had to give my first facilitation training. Panels are easy to me because I did them in college, but actually facilitating a training had me nervous. Especially because it had to be catered to 70 volunteers, they are in training from 9a-5p, and they will not hesitate to fall asleep at the first hint of boredom.
This training was about diversity, harassment, and ways to handle it. Previously, a volunteer who had served in Ethiopia for 3 ½ years and was a fantastic person to go to to shoot the breeze or for serious conversations (and is dearly missed, he just left for the foreign services)…sorry got off track…previously he had given this training and it was one of the trainings that stood out the most to me and the rest of the volunteers who came to Ethiopia with me. Out of 10 weeks of training this was the one that we mention/remember in details. So they wanted me and another volunteer from my group to give the training (since we are the only ones to have seen it). I was WORRIED, I wanted to do it justice. It meant so much to me and I didn’t want to mess it up for them.

We printed out different speeches and played the audio of it at the same time. We started off with a Malcolm X speech were he tells people to stop asking for justice in the court system but to make their own justice in the streets and calls for an eye for an eye. After playing this speech, I gave the story of when the women threw a rock and I threw it back. How angry I was and how I didn’t have any words to express how I felt to her. So I did what she did to me. The purpose of that was to show that there are times when you want to lash out at people around you for the injustice, wrongful treatment, and harassment. Sometimes volunteers experience rocks thrown, clearly raised prices because they are foreigners, sexual harassment, verbal harassment….and so you want to give it back.

After, we gave a speech were Malcolm X is calmer, its right after his house was bombed and he separated from the teachings of Elijah Muhammad (speech is called American Court System). In this one he looks at the situation differently, although they just bombed his house he is not asking for an eye for an eye. His demeanor has changed, he has visited different countries and seen that everyone who has white skin does not behave the same. This relates to us because it can become easy to focus on the negative people and forget the lady that offers you food, the kid that screams forenji at you but only wants to shake your hand.

Next was MLK’s speech, right before he was assassinated. He spoke of the little girl that wrote the letter that said she was so glad he didn’t sneezed (because he would have died). He refereed to the lady that tried to stab him as demented. He mentions if he had sneezed he would have missed so many monumental occasions. Out of all the people that wrote MLK the little girl is the one the stood out to him the most. Just like we will live here for 2 years, but there are some moments that will stand out the most to us. Moments that make us glad that we are here. We also appreciated how he called the lady demented. Although, she tried to kill him he phrased it as if something evil took a hold of her instead of saying she was evil. And just like MLK mentions the things he would have missed had he sneezed, there are many moments that we would miss if we early terminated/went home. You never know what it around the corner, so its important to stick it through.

Lastly, we finished with Viktor Frankl a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist. We took an excerpt from his book that mentions that even when you strip a man of everything, they will always have that last piece of who they are and what they choose to do. He mentions people who were starving at the concentration camps but would offer their bread to someone in even more dire need. Although they had been stripped of everything. No matter what a person does or says we have the ability to choose what we do and how we behave.

I really enjoyed giving this training, the feedback, conversations after, and surveys were SO positive. They really enjoyed the training and I think they got something out of it.

NAMELESS CAT

I like and I don’t like my kitten. I like when he’s a sleep, but when he’s awake that thing can cry like nobody’s business. It’s like having a newborn baby and there is a reason I don’t have kids right now. Its nice having the company though.

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Things PC Volunteers Should know-

Lessons learned

1 mice can eat the peanut butter from the mousetrap without getting caught. I thought putting peanut butter on a mouse trap would be a good idea cuz the mouse would HAVE to touch the trigger to get it…On fri I saw a mouse running around, so I kept setting peanut butter in a trap…but I kept noticing the peanut butter would disappear. I thought bugs ate it or it just melted or something since its hot…noppeee today, I saw a mouse licking away at it without it even going off.

2 mice can escape through the smallest, impossible looking holes

3 they don’t seem to notice the door that’s wide open, begging for them use it an escape. Instead they seem to like to make me run around my house chasing it, lifting up things, then wondering where the heck it went (which brings me back to number 2) having to go to sleep paranoid that its eating my food up or popping on my floor, and praying that it actually did go out the door and I just didn’t notice. Only to wake up and later see it running around again

4. Duck tape works for everything. Its now Monday and I have discovered the hole it disappears in. Covering that mess with duct tape and some stuff it cant chew through. Tomorrow I will tape this whole place up and put rocks on every corner, every nook and cranny
I will say that I think Im getting used to my rodent enemies…although I still cringe and do a few cries as I lift my propane tank to see if it ran under it and my arms still shake as I hold the broom and try to sweep it out from its hiding place…I am getting better. My grip is abit more sturdy.

PS I am disgusted, furious, out right angry by Stuart Little, the tale of the 3 Blind Mice and any other movie/ book that tries to make hideous, disgusted mice look like friendly cute cuddly creatures. I say we destroy them all!

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“time is money”- my student

In order to select the students that will attend summer camp, I had my 8th and 7th grade students  write a 200 word essay( their ages are between 12-15).  They were able to choose from 3 questions: 

1) What job do you want when you grow up? Why?

2) Why do you want to go to summer camp?

3) Tell me about yourself, describe your personality

Below I posted some quotes that warmed my heart, made me smile or laugh, or made me appreciate their honesty (these are direct quotes):

Tigist Age 15

In general I am extremely tidy. I get angry when other people move any of my things. My sister and brother are very touchy other wise I am peaceful with any person.

Firehweot Age 14

The main reason that I want to be a lawyer is in order to protect crime and crime acts not only that the other reasons in order to treat all people equally before the law. In addition to that to protect the right of children and to ensure gender equality. ..corruption is a hidden crime…So when I become a lawyer all those above crimes will come to an end and the main aim of me is to ensure protection of law and strongly to fight corruption. 

Freshnet Age 14

When I grow up I want to be a Astronomoer. ..I want to be like that because in my country Ethiopia there is no much Astronomers, and I want to do great role or contribituion for my country…my family gives me support. In spite of this Im not a great student but in a course of time, I’ll become a best student… It is better to die for something than to live for nothing

Abiy Age 13

When I was a kid, I wish to be a teacher. ..but after I grew up I changed my mind due to the economic problems they suffer. My second desire is to be a a doctor but I dont know what field of studies and in how much span of time it takes, and not forgetting my potential and also socioeconomic background would decide…sometimes I like to be rich merchant like those who not go far in education but become millionaire. Because, If I be a teacher or a doctor it is for better life and to get money. Then if the money brings better life, being a merchant is better but those riches are academically poor. ..these and other ideas come into my small mind and chases me with confusion…I am needing your support to show me the route to be better than I want. Because I am going but I dont know where my destination is. 

Eden Age 14

I have my own future plan.I will contribute to so many things for my mother land..I will fight against diseases, traditional practice, and all other things which are obstacles to our country. I have vision so I cant lose my hopes forever. I am sure that I want to be the most prominent scientist from Ethiopia as Galileo and Albert Einstein of other developed country. And I have a hope that my name will be written on the genius book and I will become famous ethiopian woman. 

Teklemariy Age 12

I will just introduce myself. I am 12 years old. I was born in Aletawondo. I live in Aletawondo with my family. I am kind of a pretty boy. I look like my father. My face color is black. My hair cutting style is normal. I use time properly without spending my day doing useless things because…time is precious. Work is planned by a number of hours and calculated in money too. Therefore time is money. If you are not accomplishing your task in a given time you will lose money.

Daniel Age 13

The right person for the right job [this is a peace corps quote]. First of all thank you all for this change. By the way Peace Corps officialy established in March 1, 1960 and there are more than 3150 peace corps volunteers that have served in peace corps since it was established. By the way that is enough about Peace Corps because your questions ays what job do you want when you grow up and why….I want to be a scientist

Yichwork Age 14

I wanted to work in my future career as a superstar singer….as the singers could have access to sensitive message to the people…all signers are famous and loved by the people. I started training to be a good singer and kept on doing it until I got to be 8 years old…Three days after my 9th birthday my father asked me what I would like to be when I grow up and my reply was to be a singer. “Is that possible without having a gift” inquired father. “I don’t know” I answered for him…”I think impossible so what shall I select?” I inquired him. Father responded ” being medical doctor is my best choice for you as you have no gift but you have interest only.” I accepted him though it was not satisfied me as such and their I decided to be a medical doctor. And am fullfilling the predetermined destiny of my father… since I am not gifted for music

Dagmawit Age 13

My personality in positive connotation is humble, frank, gentle and optimist. But I am negligent in all things. I like a person who got a charming behavior, generous, far cited, dedicated, and open minded. However, I dislike a person who got pessimist, cunning, cheater, pompous, conceit and so on. 

Mintesnoit Age 14

First of all I would like to thank Ms Breanna and the members of Peace Corps because it is a great opprtunity for me..I want to be an Ambassador or member of unsafe. 

Tedilaye Age 12

If Lord permits I will be a scientist…everybody knows that Ethiopia is the poorest country in the world. For many centuries Ethiopian lived with this humilation, more over the name of Ethiopia is edited in the dictionary to give meaning for poverty. Due to that, all Ethiopians including me must work hard to change the bad images from their country. 

Out of 16 students that answered the question about what they want to be when they grow up:

12 want to be doctors/scientists (not specific as to what kind of scientist)

1 wants to be a lawyer

1 wants to be astronomoer (still a scientist but he was specific) 

1 Ambassador

1 Administer to the Ethiopian people

 

I will use the essays to narrow down the selection and then conduct interviews 🙂

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Puberty in Ethiopia

Quick post I thought you may enjoy, as it just happened 5 minutes ago 🙂

Being in Ethiopia is like going through puberty again. You wonder about all the strange things that are happening to your body. I wish I could crawl into bed and have my mother read to me “What’s happening to my body.” We could switch to the chapter that says “infections, bacteria, and parasites.” I could read the symptoms and discover that the disappearing skin is only a flesh eating bacteria. My mom would tell me not to worry as many of my peers will experience the same thing. In fact some are going through it right now!

The only difference is this time I am not begging my mother to take me to the doctor to figure out when my boobs are coming in, stuffing socks into my bra to see what they will feel like, or putting butter in my bra at night because a friend said it would make them grow faster. This time, I am trying to do everything in my power to STOP puberty (or flesh eating bacteria). I wash my hands vigorously, clean all my cuts, and pray every night that the icky bacteria wont get me!

Fortunately, I have yet to have the bacteria eating infection. But, right now I am suffering from a toothache. It sent me into panic mood. I called the doctor right away to figure out what I should do. I started gargling with vodka as I don’t have Listerine and thought this would be a good alternative, flossed 10 times in a sitting because in my mind this would make it better, and emailed my mother in a state of panic since she understands how I can worry. While I waited for her to respond, I paced anxiously across my room. My tooth hurts! I may have to travel to the country’s capital to get it checked out. That’s like us going to DC for a dentist trip. What if I wait a month and my whole tooth rots? What if the dentist sucks? In the States I knew that my dentist’s objective was to save the tooth as Americans are very shallow 🙂 or at least I am. Here, I am afraid the dentist will say “take em out of there!”

Her advice? Take some pain killers, calm down, stop gargling with vodka, and see how you feel after awhile. That’s why I emailed her!

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

Random

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! 🙂

Training

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’s 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’s account balance because he was curious)
  •  Asking someone about the “strange appearance” of their skin. (not rude- Ethiopian’s 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’s 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’t 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’t 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’t really a matter of sanitation, just culture)
  •  Not visiting a sick friend (Rude, especially if you don’t 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 . 🙂 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 http://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/ET_real_2006_FGM.pdf

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.

Education

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.

Pictures

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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Warning: Overdose in Chocolate causes Headaches!

Random updates:

Bad Manners

One of my worse fears is that by the time I get back to the states I am going to be considered an awful date. Something about being in the Peace Corps and in Africa is just messing with all my good upbringing. 🙂 lol

Ex # 1: I am turning into the girl that has never been anywhere, the one that points out every minor detail in an awe struck voice. When in Addis, I went to a really nice restaurant with other volunteers. A few minutes after we arrived I had to use the bathroom. Once I returned, I told them “You have to go to the bathroom! Girl they have a toilet!!”

Ex # 2 I have become the girl that has to take everything from the restaurant home, the one that stuffs everything in her purse including the silverware. At this same restaurant I ordered a bottle of water. They came out with a glass to pour the water in. Well, before we left I realized I hadn’t finished the water in the glass. So I poured that mess back in the bottle. I didn’t even realize it until a volutneer that has been in country for a year was liked “I don’t blame you.” I was embarrassed until I looked over at the other volutneers and saw them doing the same thing. We can’t afford to let something as precious as bottled water, that is free of all parasites, go to waste!

Ex #3 I have become a toilet tissue hoarder. During training they would only pass out one roll a week. Now that is not enough! So when we would go to places I would take the toilet paper!

Ex #4 I am the girl that brings her own condiments to the restaurant. Sometimes, when I I don’t feel like cooking, I go to a restaraunt and order an egg sandwich. But it has nothing on it…just DRY! SOOO…the last time I went I brought my own mustard … I pulled the whole bottle out of my purse and put it on! If im going to pay for this sandwich I surely want to enjoy it!

 

Visitors!!

I got to see a good friend from college!! She’s Ethiopian and came out to visit her family. It was sooo good seeing a friend from home and getting a chance to see a different side of Ethiopia. Im just so thankful that she shared her family with me and included me in all of her plans, including treating ourselves to the hair shop and getting pedicures/manicures. I had a really good time with her and the rest of her fam 🙂 THANKS TIGIST!!!! 🙂 🙂

English Class
Ive been teaching English. Sometimes I wonder if I could be a teacher, because I love children and that profession gives you a chance to work with them every day. BUT after 3 weeks of it I am not sure I have the patience that it takes to be one. I enjoy when we get to play games but I dont like lecturing them. Plus, Im really a big softie. I gave the kids a test and of course I caught some cheating, one even opened her notebook during the test. I gave them an F. But, the girl came to my house, crying. What could I do? Im going to let them retake it. Smh just a big softie. I will say the cutest thing my kids do is whenever they want to ask me something they say “may I ask you one beautiful question”

I played a game with the students. Its one of those games where you have someone stand in the middle and say something like “My favorite color is green” and everyone whose favorite color is green has to run to a new chair. The last person who doesn’t have a chair has to stand in the middle and think of something that people have in common. Well I made a few modifications to this game. We didn’t have chairs so I told them to put hteir notebooks on the floor and that that would serve as a chair. Not the best idea because of instead of leaving the notebook on the floor when they ran in the middle for a new spot..they picked up their notebooks with them. So there was no way to tell who was the last person. I also wanted them to practice their English skills so I had the students ask the person in the middle 3 questions. Also not a good idea. As soon as there was a girl in the middle the boys of course started asking her if she had a boyfriend and what not. Smh I forgot that I was dealing with adolescents

Although I get frustrated with teaching, because of the lack of understanding due to language, the fact that they are immature, and that I don’t really know what Im doing…I enjoy my students.

Community Needs Assessment
I am almost 90% done with the rough draft of my community needs assessment. When I finish the final draft I will post that on here.

Care Packages
Thanks to the awesome care packages I have been able to make some pretty good meals!!
Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than carrying a 45 pound care package across my town, I instantly have a better attitude…I say hi to every single person I see with an ear splitting smile while holding that heavy package. The only thing that may make me smile more is thinking about the time the person took to send that package and the amount of money they paid to make sure it reached me. Thank you ma for my package!!! 🙂 I have already devoured the chocoalte and am actually nursing a headache from the sugar high. Even that has made me smile, because of the sheer fact hat I had chocolate to eat to give me the headache 🙂 lol

Awkward moments
Imagine going to a post office, to check your mail. All of a sudden the lady tells you she is going to take a bath. You tell her ok, maybe scratch your head at this weird request. Next thing you know she is asking you to help her. Again you say ok. You go outside and help her fetch the water. You think your job is over….but OH NO! she precedes to take off her clothes, outside, while a man walks by, during the day and asks you to pour the water over her. You are now acting as her shower head, pouring water over her, outside, while a man walks by, during the day. All you wanted to do was check your mail…

Lol fortunately that didn’t happen to me, it happened to one of my fellow volunteers… 🙂

Children
I accidentally got my neighbors children in trouble. They kept knocking on my door and I got irritated. So I yelled at them, well the neighbors heard so they asked me what happened. I explained it to them, I think I got them a butt whupping L oops! The next few days they stayed their distance from me and would only say hi. They wouldnt hug me or anything. So today I made it up to them by playing with them. Back on track!

Fighting
I think one of the best parts of Peace Corps is that it challenges you as a person. There are moments that you have to fight to stay positive. Fight to remember why you are here and why you are sacrificing comforts of home. Sometimes small things will get you down, just simply because you are out of your element. But you can’t allow these thoughts to foster in your head. You have to look past the situation you are currently in and look at the big picture. You also have to learn to be patient. Things do not work the same as what you are accustomed to. In the states you can make a meeting at 9am, everyone will be there and everyone will be on time. Or you can go to an office and ask to speak someone, most of the time you can find them or at least schedule an appointment to see them later. That is not necessarily the case here. You have to be patient and flexible to make things work. I think that’s one of the things that I appreciate, love, and dislike at the same time. I appreciate the fact that it makes me look beyond myself and my comfort to make a situation work, I love the fact that it challenges me to do things that I am not comfortable with and forces me to grow, and I dislike dealing with it because I get frustrated that things are not what Im used to. It is very easy to be negative about a situation. There are days that I have to stay in my house because I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t feel like being stared at, I dont feel like everyone asking me a bunch of questions, I don’t feel like people asking me where have I been, and I don’t feel like hearing people say things to me that I don’t understand. I allow myself to feel that way, and than I pick myself back up. I take the time to get myself back together and than I try and move on. If Ive been negative that day I try and change my thoughts to think of something positive. So today, if you ask me how I am doing, I am fighting to stay positive. The good thing, is that it is not too difficult to do, in a second a situation can change my entire mood. A child will come up to me and give me a big hug, someone will tell me how happy they are to see me, a mother will invite me in her home and fix me a plate, a friend will invite me to coffee, or my students will all get correct the new vocab words I gave them on their test.

New pics coming in about a week!

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