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Send me some love, just in time for the holidays

The holiday season is right around the corner (as well as my birthday at the end of January) and I know you have all been thinking about me. In addition, knowing that it takes sometimes a couple months for care packages to arrive to my little village I thought this might be a good time to post this. Some of you may even be worried because you have seen pictures of me recently and think I have gotten excessively thin. Rest assured, I am doing fine and eating plenty but I will never refuse goodies from my homeland or other parts of the world for that matter. Give it your best shot if you want to try fattening me up. With that being said, I have written this blog post just in case. See below for an important message from yours truly:

From the Desk of Mr. Anthony, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Mizan Teferi (Aman) SNNPR, Ethiopia

“I live in the jungle, on a mountain – in Ethiopia.”

***

To whom it may concern:

I have recently checked my food pantry ‘basket in the corner/pile around said basket’ for supplies from homeland America and goods are running low. The following are urgently needed to keep me from going crazy (too late?!):

•Canned Chicken (if you fill half of your box with canned chicken you will be forever loved; 5-6 oz. cans work better than the bulk cans do since I usually only cook for myself)

•Cheese (The cheese that does exist here is ‘past its prime.’ (Grated parmesan and blocks of Velveeta hold up well enough to ship; feel free to send others that you know will last a while without refrigeration. Muggles (in this context, non-Peace Corps folk; (sorry I am currently re-reading the Harry Potter series audio addition) simply cannot understand the happiness that cheese brings to my life here.

•Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s, Kit Kats and Hershey’s with Almonds (a bad day can be turned instantly great by being able to come home and get a frozen piece of chocolate out of my mini-fridge)

• Anything that tastes like pumpkin and the holidays (first things that came to mind was Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte singles or mini holiday snack pack with summer sausage, cheese and crackers)

•Scented candles (my house sometimes smells too much like ‘man’. When I notice I know it is time for my weekly shower; and the candles here just seem to melt away in the blink of an eye and with all the power outages lately extras could come in handy)

Read on for instructions and other items with which you can fill in any extra space!

***

Many folks asked me while I was home in the states on vacation and others more recently about sending care packages my way.  Quoting a fellow PCV, “There is absolutely no excuse for me to further delay mass shipments of vacuum sealed burritos, Doritos (Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch, etc.), Peanut M&Ms, Kit Kats and cheese (grated parmesan, blocks of  Velveeta, Kraft singles, anything processed, etc.).” With that mouthwatering sentence typed, I will not make you wait any longer: here’s my mailing address, along with some suggested care package items and very important packing/shipping tips compiled with the help of some fellow PCVs. Please read everything before putting a package together, and absolutely do not hesitate to contact me (or my mother who has sent various packages; others too of course) if you have any questions or issues along the way.

OK. Where do I send all the vacuum-sealed Chipotle burritos and pizza?

Father Anthony E. Navarrete

P.O. Box 516

Mizan Teferi, Ethiopia

What is the best shipping method?

United States Postal Service Flat Rate is generally the best way to go. The only exception to this would be if you wanted to send me anything that would not fit into a flat rate box, such as a year’s supply of Oreos. The absolute best bang-for-your buck is the largest available size. The costs just jumped from $60 to $78, but the happiness you will add to my life has no price tag, right? The medium flat rate box is now $60. The weight allowance for each is 20 pounds. If you just want to send a few things, you could go with anything from a large envelope (for, say, a few books) to one of the smaller flat rate boxes (five or six bags of peanut M&Ms, perhaps), but at $24 with a 4 pound limit, the value is much less than the medium flat rate box. Whatever the rate, USPS is far better than, say, UPS, where you would cough up a slim $640 to send a 20 lb. box. If you want to check on updated shipping rates of various sizes and varieties offered by USPS, go here and enter Ethiopia.

So what should I send you?

So glad you asked!  I am going to break this down into two parts. Part I will be items that can/should be included in any and all care packages, with absolutely no concern about quantity. I can never have enough of these items. Part II will be “optional” items that are always welcome, usually a good idea, etc. Sending any or all of these items will earn you lots of extra brownie points.

Part I (a.k.a. “the staples”)

Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s, Kit Kats, Hershey’s bars (Yo queiro CHOCOLATE!!!)

Cheese (It doesn’t exist here.  Grated parmesan and Velveeta block hold up well enough to ship; feel free to send others that you know will last a while through the long shipping process. You will make my body tingle with joy when I see cheese from America the Beautiful.

Canned chicken (This is amazing because otherwise I would have to go barter for a chicken and come home and slaughter it myself which even after a year and a half in Ethiopia is just not my thing)

Mac & Cheese (LOVE Velveeta, but there is nothing like the good ole powdered variety)

Cereal bars (I usually don’t eat breakfast but would if I had these; haven’t had them in a while but a variety would be nice; anything you personally find delicious)

Cookies (Chewy Chips Ahoy or Oreos; anything home-made would rock)

Trail Mix, Dried Fruits (especially apples or oranges or maybe even a mixed tropical selection)

Tasty spices (black pepper grinders, etc. I’m open to whatever, but quality garlic-based spices go good in everything I cook and are hard to find/really expensive here.)

Sausage and/or bacon (if you can find the varieties of these that do not require refrigeration/will not go bad on a trip to Africa.)

Drink Singles (the kind you can put in a 16 oz bottle and just add water, any and all are welcome; also great space fillers; if you can find an iced tea version that would be fantastic)

Hand sanitizer (Large bottles are good. I have a small one I refill regularly. Like cheese, it doesn’t exist here, and I shake lots and lots of dirty kids’ dirty hands)

Any kind of yummy snack food that you can think of that will probably make the trip (mostly) intact. I am open to more than what is listed here, and certainly don’t want to limit your imagination.

Wet Cleansing Towelettes (Come in handy between my sporadic showers)

Part II

Buttermilk Pancake Mix (only add water)

Hamburger/Chicken/Tuna Helpers (opening the boxes & putting the contents in a zip locked bag is a handy way to save room; I can buy meat from the local butcher, canned chicken if I have them and tuna can be found at local souks; again the ones you find most delicious will probably appeal to me)

Sloppy Joe/Chili/Fajita/Taco Seasonings

Flour Tortillas (can make from scratch but it is nice every once in a while to have some good ones)

Chewing Gum

Just add water muffin/cookie mixes (I can get my hand on eggs and can make milk out of powder if necessary;  I have recently made a Dutch oven and would love to make something more extravagant)

Incent sticks (I have the holder; can be bought locally but quality stinks)

Something candle like or that I can sit around my home for mosquitos, flies and other random bugs

Scented candles (specifically the short, fat ones)

SPAM (Great for Fried Rice)

Dry black beans (they’re hard to find here, and they are yummy)

Crossword puzzle and/or word find books

Toothpaste (I fancy the kind that has baking powder and peroxide in it for teeth whitening purposes)

Quality AA batteries (Duracell/Energizer; I have a couple items that run on AA that I would hate to have to go without)

Bic lighters (lighters don’t exist over here, and the matches suck. A good lighter every now and then would be helpful; do not declare on any customs forms, mention to the post office peeps and hide in something)

Bouillon cubes (Veggie or Beef flavored)

Flavored Mashed Potato Packets

School Items: Crayola Washable Markers, Stickers/Stamps for Kids

Can I send things you did not mention?

Absolutely! I am open to your love in any form you choose fit (Doritos and burritos, pretty please with sugar on top!)

Any other advice?

YES! Please read each of these points and mind them closely when preparing/sending your packages.

–          Don’t Waste Space – One of the greatest frustrations I have heard expressed by seasoned PCVs is when there is unused space or unnecessary packing fluff, such as packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Pack the box wall-to-wall and nothing will move around. Remove excess/unnecessary packaging from materials entering the care package and open packaging to release air; when possible on both accounts, of course.  If you find yourself with “extra” space (really, there is no such thing…), please refer to Part I or Part II of what should I send you?, above.

–          Airmail! – Be sure to write “Air Mail / Par Avion” on anything you send, and see to it that the post office adds the official stamp indicating such elevated status.

–          Cover the Box in Religious (Christian) Symbols, References, Quotes, etc. – I know this sounds silly, but it really works, hence the “Father Anthony Navarrete” in the shipping address (not kidding).

–          Write “Educational Materials,” “Used Goods,” “Household Items,” etc. on Outside of Box – Writing things like this should help the package clear customs.

–          Minimize Value of Customs Declarations – Try to be as vague as possible and avoid declaring anything of real value on the customs slip. You may have to put up a bit of a fight at the post office, but it’s worth minimizing the chance of a package being pillaged en route.

–          Avoid Sending Items of High Value, Cash, etc. – Electronics, cash, airplane tickets, etc. are generally discouraged for mailings. PCVs regularly visit the States, so it’s much easier to try and make arrangements to exchange materials at such a time.

–          Ziploc Liquids (or other items with easy open seals that may come open en route) – Liquids are technically not allowed/frowned upon, but usually tend to make it through. In either case, it’s a good idea to contain any and all liquids in a good, sturdy Ziploc bag. That way it won’t ruin everything else in the box, and all the other cute little care packages it will be traveling with, if it breaks.

–          Let Me Know it’s on the Way – Surprises are nice and all, but it’s actually much more fun to know something is coming. It’s also good to let me know something is on the way so I know when to stop by the post office, since it’s not something I do every day.

What about letters? Postcards? Pictures?

All of these are most welcome, and go a long way in boosting my morale. Letters should follow the same course of religious symbols and red ink. It’s a good idea to number the letters (i.e. Letter #1), in case something gets lost en route. Postcards should travel in an envelope; otherwise, they are likely to end up on the wall of some random post office. Pictures are best sent in a well-sealed small manila envelope.

What do I get in return?

My unconditional love and gratitude.  In addition, hand-written thank you notes which may also include random trinkets from my daily adventures and lots of really cool stamps on the envelope.

###

This blog post is a compilation of personal needs/wants as well as ideas from my colleagues that are also serving here in Peace Corps Ethiopia. Always keep us in your thoughts and prayers and definitely over the coming holiday season. It is always a rough period for PCVs that are far from home. God Bless!

 

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“Full of mobile bacteria”

“Full of mobile bacteria,” a phrase that I’ve heard way too often in Ethiopia. This morning I finally broke down and went to the clinic after being sick for the last few days. Being sick in Ethiopia really takes a toll on you definitely if you are already in a mood and trust me I’ve had plenty of experience with being sick here. Luckily for me this time I was in better spirits. I’ve had quite some luck the last week at school. My classroom I use for my ELIC (English Language Improvement Center) was painted and I also sandpapered and repainted my blackboard. Might not seem like much but that is a major accomplishment. Once I get the room set up again I will post some pictures. For now I want to go back to this sickness thing. I thought it might be interesting to share with you the difference between going to the doctor in the USA to going to the doctor here.

While I was home in the states in August I went to see my doctor for a check-up and some other issues. First, I had to call the doctor’s office, press in the extension of the nurse for Dr. Ryan and then explain my situation.  Just like that I had an appointment after we settled the insurance and payment process for my Peace Corps ‘coverage.’ The next day I go in for my appointment, fill out a form to make sure my contact information is up to date, the receptionist makes copies of my insurance information and then buzzes me in so I can go to the back to Dr. Ryan’s waiting room. After waiting 10-20 minutes since I arrived early my nurse came in and called my name. The nurse took all my vitals after checking my weight and height. Then I waited another ten minutes or so sitting in one of Dr. Ryan’s cozy examination rooms as he cared for another patient. Finally, Dr. Ryan comes in and greets me and this last time introduced me to a medical student from UMKC that was helping him out. Dr. Ryan gets out his fancy little tablet and goes over my history and asks me my symptoms plugging in notes as we go along. We decide lab work is necessary. So after getting all my lab work approved by Peace Corps I go to the lab, they take blood, stool samples from both ends and then they send me on my way. A few days later Dr. Ryan’s office gets my lab results in and everything is fine but they are required to send me a copy of the results to my permanent residence. So basically, that’s what going to the doctor in America is like. I had a follow up appointment while I was home but you get the drill.

Now for the more interesting doctor experience. First off, in most cases I am supposed to call the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) on the duty phone who is stationed at our Addis Ababa office. It doesn’t matter if the Peace Corps office is closed someone is always on the duty phone. For example today is Columbus day and tomorrow is the Muslim holiday Eid Arafa so the PC office is closed but the duty phone is always a go. The same goes for our safety and security coordinator’s phone and a couple others. However, today the network has been extra horrible so I couldn’t get through to the medical duty phone so I went ahead to the clinic without talking to the PCMO first. There is the Mizan-Aman Hospital at the end of the Aman airstrip but it is always so busy and when I’ve had to go before I was there for about 3 hours minimum each time. Unless I have to have blood work done to test for malaria or something more severe I will go to a clinic across the road from the hospital. It is usually pretty busy but the owners know me so they usually try to rush me in as quickly as possible ahead of any other waiting patients. Sometimes that makes me feel bad in other situations but at the doctor’s office I quickly accept and go right in.

So the process at the Meherat Clinic in Aman usually goes as follows: I go in and point to the door of the doctor’s examination room and say something along the lines of “I need to see her, there is a small problem.” I don’t think I’ve ever waited longer than five or ten minutes to get in to see the doc. Note that there is no need for an appointment. You just walk in and let them you know you are there to see the doctor. This morning I waited about 5 minutes while the doctor (I forget her name) saw another patient. Finally, I went in and did the “salam naw, tafa, dehna nen, exhibir yistiling” greeting for the doc which I hadn’t seen for a while. Translated that means something like, “is there peace, you have been lost, I am fine, thanks to God.” Then the doctor asked me what was wrong and I told her I ate something that didn’t agree with me. She then asked me if I had been eating at home and I told her not for lunch because I am too busy so I usually go out. She then got onto me in the nicest way possible reminding me that she told me not to do that. Well, sorry but I will continue to eat out in risky places because that’s just how life is here. The most common and ritual lab work here is to give a stool sample. Unless you have to check for malaria or something worse a stool sample usually will suffice. Anyways, I told here that I brought my own stool sample from home. I usually don’t do this but I didn’t feel like dealing with the nasty shint bet (urine house) at the clinic so I took care of business in my shint bet at my house, wrapped it up in an empty toilet paper role and brought it to the clinic. A little weird and gross but, that’s life. The doctor asked me how many minutes ago did I get the sample and I told her about 10-15 minutes. She said that was fine. So she filled out an order for the stool test and sent me out. I went to the front desk and paid 10 birr (about .50 cents) for the stool exam, then I followed one of the nurses to the back to the lab area. I waited a couple minutes as a baby was having some lab work done (poor little guy) and then I walked in and the lab technician greeted me and asked me how I had been. Surprise surprise he remembered me because I’ve been there way too often. He looked at the lab order and started to grab a little piece of cardboard and a little plastic stick so I could go to the shint bet and take care of business and bring back a little bit. I told him, “I brought it with me, I could not wait.” He smiled and said, “ishi” which means ok. Then I was sent back to the front to wait for the results. About ten minutes later my lab results were in. I was summoned into the doctor’s office to go over the results. She smiled and said, “we know the results, they are the same as always.” I glared down at the scratch paper they had scribbled the results on and saw “Full of mobile bacteria.” I smiled because I figured that’s what it was, that’s what is usually is. Anyways, the doctor said, “you should take Cipro, your favorite.” I gave her a slight grin and said “well, thank you, I just wanted to make sure before I started taking the medicine.” I said ishi and waved good bye. That was that. I have cipro on reserve here at my house so I will begin treatment tonight. After getting back home, I sent a text to the med duty phone to let them know I had been to the clinic and what the results were. Dr. Ayal one of our three PCMOs text me back and said she tried to call but the network wouldn’t permit it. She asked me my symptoms and everything via text but since I replied haven’t heard back from her. Oh how I just love the cell reception down here.

So there you have a little comparison of the doctor’s office in America and the doctor’s office in Ethiopia. You decide which is more efficient. I do have to argue my lab results were a lot faster here and cost nothing compared to the almost $1k Peace Corps had to shell out for my doctor’s visit and lab work in the US. Have a nice week!

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Africa, Culture, Ethiopia, Food, Peace Corps

 

Back from America & Year 2

Image

Dubai skyline from the plane on my flight back to Addis on Sept. 1

It’s been over three months now since my last post and a lot has happened. I’ve been back in Ethiopia for about three weeks now since my vacation back home to the good old USofA. I spent most of August back home in Missouri with family and friends. On August 9th, my second night home for vacation I went with my mom to the Missouri State Fair to see Starship and Foreigner in concert. All I can say is – amazing. Also while I was at the state fair I chowed down on some delicious deep fried Oreos. Again, amazing. Apart from the Foreigner concert, I had a BBQ with my friends from high school, took the GRE, took a road trip to Indianapolis to see friends and to take a quick trip to DePauw. Visiting DePauw was nice but made me feel very nostalgic. A pit-stop at Marvins was deemed necessary. I had been craving a GCB (Marvs’ famous garlic cheeseburger) for some time. I had tons of great food, saw a lot of friends and family and really just got to relax and take in everything beautiful about America that I had missed during my first year in the Peace Corps. 

DePauw Friends in Indy!!

DePauw Friends in Indy!!

On September 1st, I got back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to begin my Mid-service conference (MSC) with my fellow G7 PCVs (the group I came into country with, June ’12). It was great to reconnect and experience share with my fellow G7ers as some of them live on the complete other side of the country and I barely get to see them. After a week in Addis for MSC I headed back to Aman to enjoy the Ethiopian New Year with my friends back at site. Ethiopian New Years ended up being a little strange since the holiday fell on one of the traditional Ethiopian Christian fasting days where no one eats meat. For that reason I missed the main feast with doro wat (chicken wat) and the works that I guess took place on the Tuesday before the Ethiopian New Year that coincidentally enough falls on September, 11 almost every year. Nonetheless, I did get to visit with friends and I ate some really good food and drank plenty of coffee.

Over the past couple of weeks since being back in Aman I’ve had time to reflect on my first year and my trip back home to the states. Going back home really helped put things into perspective. Living in Ethiopia and life as a Peace Corps volunteer in general can be challenging. There are days that you just feel like you are going crazy or you feel like nothing is going right. There are days that cravings for good ole American food are so strong that every time you see someone talk about or post a picture of what they are eating on Facebook or Twitter makes you just want to never talk to that person every again in your life. Then there are the days that being called ‘you, you, ferenji, ferenji’ or even ‘China, china’ will make you want to choke someone. However, there are these little moments that are hard to explain that just make the whole experience worth it and going back to the US for vacation really helped me realize how lucky I was to be having this experience. Yes some days are hard and I have to admit there were some days over the past year that I just wanted to give up and come home. However, I powered through and now I’m excited about year two. I know how things work for the most part or at least what to expect. I have about 10 months to go and a lot of great ideas for activities to do at my school for the 2006 (Ethiopian calendar) academic year. I just have to think back to what I told my recruiter in Chicago when I had my interview for the Peace Corps. “Even if all my projects fail, if I can just put a smile on someone’s face and inspire them in some way that will make me happy and feel like I’ve been successful.” Ethiopia is a beautiful country and I’ve been lucky to see a lot of it over the past year. I hope to see more of it in my final 10 months. I’ve learned a lot from my Ethiopian friends and colleagues and I can truly say I’ve grown as a person. So here is to year two!!

Kids on the Aman airstrip 9/19/13

Kids on the Aman airstrip 9/19/13

Now I’m at a hotel in Mizan Teferi and I’m headed to Addis tomorrow (IN A PRIVATE CAR!!!! YAY!!). On Monday, I have my mid-service medical check-ups. How exciting!! Not. I’m lucky enough to be getting a free ride with an organization that one of our superstar 3rd year extender PCVs works with that just happens to be in Mizan. WooT! Once I get back from Addis for my medical check-ups school will hopefully start soon after. If I remember correctly from last year normal classes didn’t really start until mid to late October when all the teachers and administrators got back from summer university programs. So we will see what happens. Well, that’s it! Will try to write again soon! Best wishes from Ethiopia!

 

Happy Easter weekend!!

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Peace Corps/Ethiopia Volunteers & Senior Staff, All-Volunteer Conf., March ’13

Greetings from East Africa! It’s that time of year and I almost forgot. It is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter, well my Easter. Ethiopian Easter aka Fasika is actually at the end of next month. Those belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox church are on a long fast of no meat leading up to Fasika next month. For me, that means very limited meat intake for a while. Oh how time flies when you are having fun. Anyways, I wish all my family and friends a very Happy Easter! I only got a couple cards but they were from someone very special. You know who you are. Thanks.

I’ve been back in Aman about a week now following Peace Corps Ethiopia’s 1st All-Volunteer Conference in Addis. The conference was a lot of fun and it was great getting to visit with old friends and other volunteers I hadn’t met from the Peace Corps Ethiopia team. This week has been quite a success. As I may have mentioned in my previous post I finally got my own classroom. Upon my return from Addis things moved very fast and I got my room cleaned, furniture moved in for the most part and I’ve started decorating what will soon be the Aman Primary School English Language Improvement Center (E.L.I.C.). The E.L.I.C. will be one of my main projects for my remaining time here in Ethiopia so I’ll have plenty of time to hopefully reach a lot of students as well as teachers and help them practice their English and encourage them to do their best and study hard. The E.L.I.C. will be stocked with donated children books and other language games as I collect resources or make them. Once I get the center up and running I’ll post some pictures. The center will potentially have regular hours where students can come in and read, play language games and more. I’ll also use the center to facilitate my teacher trainings, student and teacher English clubs, model teaching, etc.

As for this weekend I’m headed to the Bebeka Coffee Plantation right down the road from Aman. I’m going with my friends Diana and her housemates Uday and Munjela as well as the Filipino professors John, Res and Jun all whom live in close proximity to me in Aman and all work at the local Mizan-Tepi University in between Aman and Mizan. We plan to have quite the feast including lamb and chicken. Expect pictures sometime next week with a recap of my adventures to Bebeka. Happy Easter and God Bless!

 
 
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