Last Saturday, July 7th I arrived in the small town of Sire with my Ethiopian counterpart Takele to begin my site visit. For the lack of better words – it was a little overwhelming. The bus that I rode for about 7 hours from Addis finally came to a stop in the middle of the main road and people all around hovered to greet family and friends that were returning home. Little did they know I would be stepping off the bus. Immediately, I was bombarded with “China, China, Money, Money” from children that were so excited to see me. The main road from Nekemte to Sire and all the way back to Addis is currently being constructed by a Chinese company and for this reason many children as well as some adults who haven’t had much exposure to “the ferenji” or foreigner assumes that any lighter skinned person is Chinese. This is a similar experience for my African American colleagues who get called “Kenya” or “Africa.” Needless to say it was overwhelming because although I had been warned about this reality in our previous trainings I hadn’t thought about it being something I would have to deal with at my site. Nonetheless, throughout the whole duration of my site visit I took every “China, China, Money, Money” moment as a teaching opportunity and I plan on doing the same upon my return. I would turn to the children and simply tell them in Afan Oromo, “China miti, Amerrika dha, Anthony jadhama.” This translates to “I’m not Chinese, I’m American and my name is Anthony.” This will be something I have to deal with when I return next month when I move to my site because I would walk a little further and hear the same group of children yelling “China, China” to a friend. It is a sad but humbling reality that both me and my site mate Princess have already talked about addressing with various project ideas once I move to site and officially start my work as a PCV. Upon my arrival I also quickly realized the “ridiculous” amount of mud that there was everywhere as my shoes sunk deep into the brown sludge that lined every road I walked on. Luckily, the next day the sun came out and dried it all up for the most part but next month when I return it will most likely be worse because it will be deeper into the rainy season.
Now to describe other realities and other things that I accomplished while on my site visit. There is definitely no internet in Sire but I have cell phone service (most of the time, it goes in and out) so anyone who wants to call me should check out rebtel.com because it is cheaper than Skype and email me or contact me on Facebook for my phone number. I’ll be able to use internet in my hub town called Nekemte which is located 50km west of my site on the weekends. However, until next year when the road is finished the bus ride is horrible and takes almost two hours to get there. When the road is done it will cut travel time to both Addis and Nekemte drastically, so please pray that it will be finished as fast as possible.
There is also a kid with a domesticated monkey in town. It was caught and domesticated to some extent by the Chinese and then gifted to the kid. It is pictured above sitting on the back of the kid’s bicycle. I was also able to visit the compound where I will be living. My house is still under construction but it will be comprised of two separate rooms, one to serve as my kitchen/dining area and the other to serve as my bedroom and sleeping quarters. If I understood correctly it will also have a shower (most likely cold) and a toilet (by which I figure my landlord means a shint bet, you can Google that one yourself). I also ordered my bed frame and a desk after much frustration but it worked out in the end. Had some problems with being offered the ferenji price. My awesome site mate Princess and her friend Wasi came in handy here.
I was also able to visit the Sire Primary School grounds. School is currently out so it was kind of a mess but I was assured the classrooms and everything would be clean before the students and I returned. I was able to meet with the school director, vice director and school cluster supervisor among other staff members. My counterpart Takele, who is the head of the English department, is trying to make sure I get my own office and a room that I can do trainings in and use as a model classroom. Hopefully, that works out! The first steps at the school upon my return will be to observe the current situation and gain the trust from the teachers so I can co-teach and do trainings with them. This will be difficult because in Ethiopia a person at the age of 22 is still considered quite young – “a kid” as they called me. For that reason the first few months and even year a lot of my time will be dedicated to integrating myself into my community and gaining the trust of the local people. I was also able to visit the Wareda (kind of like a county) administration office and education office, met the chief of police and set up my local bank account and P.O. Box. So friends and family can start sending me all sorts of goodies please see my address below and be sure to check out the “Contact Me” & soon to be “Wish List” page on my main blog website. Be sure to use airmail. My new address is:
P.O. Box 27
Sire, East Wellega, Oromia
So here are some things I have to look forward to: a new house, a great site mate, potentially a 3rd site mate from the new Environment group coming in October, less travel time and a new road that runs through the lush and hilly surroundings of my site, an opportunity to practice and improve my language skills, and simply getting to know my host community. I foresee many challenges but I am looking forward to confronting them head on. A couple other highlights before I wrap up are my counterpart’s son Rabirra and the random ferenji music that can be heard blasting down the road as you walk around. Rabirra, one of the first people I got to meet in Sire, after calling me China changed his mind and called me John Sina (don’t know how to spell it) because for some reason Ethiopians especially children are wrestling fanatics and they just figure I’m him since I’m a Caucasian male. Rabirra also told me indirectly through his father that I needed to get my haircut and that I should run or the police would get me. I think he likes me though because supposedly after I left for the bus station this morning he cried. And finally, I have to make a shout out to my Spring Break 2012 New York City (and Boston) crew! As I walked down the main road to my counterpart’s house last night for dinner “…so let’s set the world on fire” from the “We are Young” song came on. I continued walking as I pondered my fond memories from DePauw and from my trip to NYC as I tried to sing along lightly to the song. Well, that is it. In Nekemte tonight and heading back to Addis tomorrow, then back to little Gonde on Friday where I’ll be for about another month before being sworn in and moving to Sire. God Bless and please continue the thoughts and prayers. They are much appreciated.