Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name...

...and then sometimes you don’t...

I recently got back to site after traveling to Hawassa (aka Awassa…note: every single town/city in this country has a minimum of 2 different spellings) to participate in a 7k race that kicked off the EveryONE campaign – a new health campaign aimed at significantly reducing national infant/child/maternal mortality within the next 5 years. It’s nice to spend time in a place where no one really cares that your farenji and you can simply walk down the street in a peaceful state, where every person who passes doesn't call out your name or Farenji/China/YOU! It was also nice to get away from site for a few days and see other PCVs! The run was SO hot and humid, but I finished (with a bit of walking thrown in the mix), and that’s what matters, right?! Part of the course went along the lake, and there were people lined up watching/cheering, while others took the opportunity to bathe, fish, and do laundry. Typical 7k Sunday morning scenery…

Other happenings as of late…The real Silence of the Lambs, aka Fasika (or Easter) was a couple weeks ago, and it definitely made for an interesting holiday. It was not my typical Easter celebration of a sunrise church service, followed by a delicious brunch prepared by my mother, and then the traditional egg hunt…trying to explain a large rabbit, tasty candies, and eggs (I honestly don’t even know why these are all symbols of American Easter…) is a lot of work, so I just sat back and observed/enjoyed the holiday in the spirit of the Ethio way. Meat is a big to-do here on holidays, so in the week preceding Fasika, there were many a goat, sheep, and chicken for sale. Common sightings included goats and sheep tied down to the top of nearly every car/bus that passed through my town, in addition to people nonchalantly carrying chickens around by their feet, or tugging a goat or sheep on a leash through town. The butcher shops all opened up again, as Fasika marked the end of the Orthodox Christian’s 55 day [vegan] fasting period. There are always oxen tied to a tree outside one of the butcher shops in my town – I think it’s kind of morbid and a way to let the oxen know that “Hey, you’ll probably be showcased in this window in the coming days!”

I spent my Easter-eve watching a chicken be slaughtered on my compound. It was definitely interesting, and I documented the occasion with my camera (pics are on my shutterfly site). Sabihi darho (chicken wat in Tigrigna) and siga wat (meat wat) were the main dishes served at all holiday celebrations, but I do not eat meat in this country – there is something to be said for knowing where your meat comes from, but non-meat dishes are so much more appetizing to me here! Word travels like wildfire that I don’t eat meat in my town, so people at all the houses I visited for Easter were very kind and made me scrambled eggs. Additionally, there’s never a special occasion without sewa (or sewage) – the local beer of Ityop’ya…it’s called tella in Amharic, and some of the locals jokingly refer to it as “dirty water”…if you can imagine, it’s just that good (and usually has some floating chunks around the top – you just casually spit those on the ground).

I have also been to two weddings in the past couple weeks. I must say that these celebrations are very different from the American weddings I have attended. Here, it is common for the groom to give his new bride a suitcase (or 2) full of “goods” – clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc…The bride opens the suitcase in front of everyone, then it is taken away, and I think the elders on her side of the family either approve or disapprove of what has been purchased for her. It’s kind of nerve-wracking in my opinion, but it’s a cultural thing!

Other interesting happenings as of late: I got vommed on by a fellow bus passenger on the way home from visiting a friend somewhat recently. No warning. No apologies. Gross! When using public transportation for more than about 20 minutes in this country, it is very common for people to vomit. Usually, they are able to do it into a bag or out the window, but not this time. The girl sitting to my right blew chunks on my right leg and foot…fortunately, most of it either got on herself or the floor, but still…it was nasty. But I guess this country has mellowed me out quite a bit, as I wasn’t really fazed by the situation. I calmly got out my “soft” (TP), wiped off her vomit to the best of my ability, and went back to staring out of the window, hoping the ride would be over soon.

It’s been raining on a semi-frequent basis, and little bits of grass have started popping up around these parts! My town is pretty desert-ish, and so this new greenery is gladly welcomed into my life! As is the sound of rain on a tin roof (minus the small leak in my ceiling!)…it’s so relaxing.

I’ve been staying somewhat busy teaching English a couple days a week to the staff at my health center. It’s extremely informal, but I do have a blackboard and chalk! My health center offers a comprehensive 17-component health extension package to people/families in the community, and these past few weeks I have been going on home visits with one of the health extension workers. It’s been a nice change of pace from my seemingly mundane life, and I’m being exposed to and learning a lot. The components we’ve been checking up on include a cover over the latrine, a hand washing station, and garbage disposal (2 separate things for solid household waste (garbage) and liquid household waste (like coffee and tea grounds)). Hand washing stations can easily be constructed out of a used plastic 2 liter oil container and the casing from a ballpoint pen – so simple! They are then hung near the latrine and voila – “running water”!

I’ll try to update this more frequently – it’s just something that slips my mind! Hope all is well out there and Happy Mother’s Day!

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