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Happy Peace Corps Week!!

A Dusty Sunset in Aman

A Dusty Sunset in Aman

Obviously I’m still trying to catch onto this whole idea of blogging. I’m starting to catch on though. I promise. Anyways, I’m sorry for not getting a post up for a while but here it is:

Happy Peace Corps Week from Ethiopia! February 24 – March 2 is Peace Corps Week and Peace Corps is celebrating its 52nd birthday. Neat to think that I’m part of an organization that has been around for so long. In honor of Peace Corps week I hope everyone back home enjoyed all the¬†chaotic wintry weather that has hit the mid-west especially back home in Mid-Mo where it seems to have hit pretty hard. If you were one of those lucky people that had no power for some time – welcome to my life. ūüėČ Just this evening my power has been off and on numerous times. Luckily tonight I had leftovers so I didn’t have to cook in between power outages. As a Peace Corps volunteer I’ve learned to appreciate all the little things. I thought I did before but I really had no idea. Reliable electricity, cellphone reception, a hot shower, a variety of delicious food¬†is all a distant blur to me at this moment in time. I’m surviving just fine but as a Peace Corps volunteer I’m learning to live with little, if I get something in a care package I treat every item like gold. What I do have I use it wisely and in creative ways. I don’t consider my current reality a sacrifice but rather a learning and humbling opportunity to realize all the things that many of us from the developed world take for granted everyday.

As for my work in Aman it was slow over the past month. 1st semester came to end as I mentioned in my last post and students and teachers were busy with final exams and what not. Then I was supposed to spend a week out of site in¬†Jimma the main town up the road for my group’s regional in-service training. Well, I ended up only staying in Jimma for one night for the training. I ran into a slight health concern (a new pastime of mine) and after speaking with the Peace Corps Medical Office in our Addis office we decided I needed to go into the capital. I was having chest and back pain that was really starting to bother me and we wanted to make sure it was nothing too serious. Lucky me, since I was in Jimma there was an airport. I got to take a flight into Addis. This is special because PCVs usually aren’t allowed to fly into Addis from Jimma. ¬†It was nice considering I hadn’t been on a plane or almost any non-cramped form of modern transportation since June of last year. Anyhow, I got to Addis and after various tests including an ultrasound on my heart (it is fine and dandy) we discovered that the pneumonia I had a week back and all the coughing I did resulted in a tear in a muscle or piece of cartilage that just so happened to be in the same area as my heart that was causing me a lot of pain. So with that realization my Peace Corps medical officer sent me packing with muscle relaxers and strong pain killers in hand. The next day I was on my way back to Jimma to see the other volunteers off since I had missed the majority of our training program. Oops. Health first. So needless to say last week was a bit hectic but it was nice to get a little vacation from Aman. Now I’m fine and just dealing with the normal stomach issues probably because of something weird I ate.

At my primary school this week I got my English clubs back up and going for 2nd semester and today and yesterday I hosted the International Creative Writing Contest for Aman High School students and the 6-8th grade students at my school. Next weekend I’m going to host the contest for the Mizan-Tepi University¬†students¬†with the help of the lovely card playing VSO volunteer Diana¬†(check out her blog).

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Tomorrow morning I have my 2nd teacher training. I had to change the date for it numerous times already and today when my principal said we have another meeting tomorrow and you can’t have yours I “went off” in the nicest way possible as to not offend anyone. So as far as I know I’m good to go in the morning and the English teachers will be excused from the other meeting. If they would give me my own room I wouldn’t have to take the space they need. However, they’ve known about my training program for a while so I’m not sure why they double booked the venue. As far as getting my own classroom it is still a work in progress. I submitted today a proposal and action plan for my English Language Improvement Center (E.L.I.C.) which is the reason I really need my own classroom. Giving the ferenji, white man who speaks perfect English a classroom of his own is proving to be quite the task. I now have the Mayor’s office, the town administration’s education office, teacher’s association and others on board or at least aware of the situation. So I hope with my proposal and my continuing begging I will have a classroom of my own to start putting my ELIC together soon.

I’ll be in Aman for the next week and a half then I’ll be headed back to Addis along with all of the other 200+ Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia for our All Volunteer Conference (AVC). I also get to stay a few extra days for a short training of trainers since I was elected to be on our Peer Support Network (PSN) in November when my group had our IST in Ambo. ¬†I’m pretty excited for our AVC not only to get another vacation from site but also to see old friends and to meet new volunteers. We’re all spread out all over Ethiopia and with me being in a location at “the end of the road” I don’t get to meet many new volunteers or volunteers from other sectors so it will be nice. Will write again soon”ish”. Be safe and stay warm to all of those back home. God Bless!

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Africa, Culture, Ethiopia, Peace Corps

 

As 1st Semester comes to an End…

English Teacher Training - "Making Changes" Group Activity

English Teacher Training – “Making Changes” Group Activity

1st semester is quickly coming to an end for the 2005 (Ethiopian calendar) school year. Next week final exams start and around the beginning of February the semester will be over. What does this mean? That means for the next couple of weeks I will get slowly less busy. With exams both teachers and students only think about one thing – exams. “Extracurricular” activities such as mine will be put to the side and deemed inappropriate for the time being. Then after exams are over there is a two week break. I will actually get a 3 week break because I have to head to Jimma 6-9 hours up the road for a week-long training.

Anyways, even though the semester is coming to an end I have just finished rolling out a couple new projects. I had my first teacher training for the English teachers in my main school in Aman and its three¬†satellite schools this past Saturday. Attendance was lower than what I had wished with only 8 teachers showing up but for the first training session I think it went very well. I led the 8 teachers in group experience sharing about their English teaching and then we made a list of different things they wanted to change or improve about their teaching. We went over the old as well as the new teaching methodologies that the Ethiopian Ministry of Education would like all to teachers in Ethiopia to start using. Finally, we ended by talking about pair and group work and we had a couple of model activities the teachers could take with them and use in their classroom. At least that is my hope. After my next training session I’ll be observing their classrooms to see if they’ve made any changes.

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1st Teacher’s English Club Meeting!!!

Today, I began another one of my activities – the Teacher’s English Club. I’ve been struggling trying to talk teachers into coming but finding a time to make everyone happy and available has been a nightmare. Also, I’ve been told the teachers for the younger grades are afraid of the big white ferenji man (me). So with that and a general lack of interest because they don’t get paid extra to stay at school after class or to come beforehand I only had four show up this morning. Meaning none of the teachers from the earlier grades. Nonetheless, the 4 that showed were very enthusiastic and even better none of them were English teachers. Well, good in terms of showing this club is for all teachers not just English teachers like everyone at my school thinks. I had them play a “speaking game” today. I thought it was going to be easy but the most difficult part was explaining the concept of how to roll the dice and how a board game worked. These are things that they’ve never really been exposed to and know nothing about.

With the first semester coming to an end and still trying to figure out exactly on what day it does end I’m being very flexible and open-minded about my upcoming programs. Flexibility and a sense of humor in this job is crucial otherwise you will go bat sh!t (excuse my language) crazy! Anyways things are moving slowly but that is the nature of this job and part of the culture I’m working in. It is all a learning experience, frustrating at times but an opportunity to learn so much about yourself that you never knew was possible.

Other good news:

iPhone Media 023

“Remodeled” Kitchen space

Last Friday as I was sitting up the library at my school for my teacher training on Saturday morning I finally talked my school director into letting me borrow one of the desks to use at my house for my kitchen. He said yes and although I said I’d be happy to carry it home by myself he quickly sent the vice director with me to find the exact desk I wanted and then found a pair of students that lived near my home and were headed that way to carry it home for me. Quite nice of them! Now, I have counter space and no longer have to peel and cut my vegetables in my lap and I even have room for a mini fridge that I’m hoping to buy with the next couple of weeks. ūüôā Thanks for reading, please like this post or leave a comment below.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Africa, Culture, Education, Ethiopia, Peace Corps

 

Extended Holiday Season – Happy New Year & Melkam Gena from Aman!

Christmas Decorating Committee - Me & Uday

Christmas Decorating Committee – Me & Uday

So the holiday season has come and gone but not in Ethiopia! Yep, that’s right! Tomorrow is Ethiopian Christmas “Gena”. Ethiopians follow the Orthodox Julian calendar so their Christmas falls on the 7th of January. It is kind of strange just having done my best to make it feel like Christmas a couple weeks ago and New Year’s and now all the local shops and restaurants are putting out their Christmas trees and decorations. Christmas trees and such are not typical of Ethiopian Christmas but have come to be due to western influence. Too bad they didn’t put out the trees before my Christmas, maybe I would have splurged and bought one. Oh well! Anyways, it has been a while since I’ve last posted anything. My Christmas and New Year’s was nice but nothing like I would normally experience in the US. I spent Christmas Eve celebrating with a very diverse group. We had 3 Americans, a Brit, 2 Indians, 4¬†Filipinos¬†and a handful of Ethiopians at our local get-together in my village of Aman. Most guests came from the local university but since I am in town as well as a couple of other Peace Corps’ volunteers up the road we were invited since we recently met some of the other local “ferenji” professors and volunteers at the university. We had a nice feast and then spent the remainder of the evening playing games, visiting and singing karaoke. Christmas Day was a little less than eventful but I spent the day playing cards and drinking coffee with the British volunteer in town while her housemates were away at work. New Year’s Eve was spent doing something very similar as well as actual New Year’s Day with a couple other friends.

Now, I’m shocked because Christmas is suppose to be over but just today I spotted a couple of restaurant owners putting up a Christmas tree on their balcony. Quite interesting definitely considering the fact that it has continued to get hotter and hotter in the local Mizan-Aman area and we haven’t had rain except a few sprinkles since a week or two ago and it feels nothing like Christmas time.

So, as I mentioned Ethiopian Gena, their Christmas is tomorrow. This means preparations are underway for Christmas feast, get-togethers, etc. Since this is my first Gena in country I’m not sure what to expect. I haven’t gotten any invites yet but I’m guessing by 7am in the morning my neighbors will be knocking on my door begging me to come eat with them. More invites for lunch and possibly dinner. No school tomorrow because of the holiday and I’ve been warned some students and teachers may be absent on Tuesday too.

Aman airstrip when school gets out

Aman airstrip when school gets out

Even though Ethiopian Christmas is tomorrow and I have the day off I have a busy week ahead of me. A new year means new projects at my primary school. Currently, my student English Club will be entering its 5th week and this Tuesday (hoping people show up) I am planning on starting my Teacher’s English Club. Also, this Saturday will be the first meeting of a six session training I’m doing for the English teachers in my four primary cluster schools. I plan on having a 3 hour training during the second Saturday of every month until the end of the academic year in June to introduce new teaching methodologies, improved lesson planning and assessment techniques. This is my first training so I’m a little nervous but I’m excited at the same time. I finally feel like I might be able to do something here and help at least a little bit. Also, planning and programming are underway to host a local competition for Peace Corps Volunteers’ International Creative Writing Contest that will take place over the next few months. Well, that is it for now. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and I wish all my family and friends and loyal followers a very Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you peace and happiness.Oh and by the way this is just a little bit of self-pride but I hand washed three weeks of laundry today in an hour and a half. Uncommon Success as we would say at DePauw! hehe ūüôā God Bless!

 
 

Happy Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and People’s Day!!!

Today is the 7th Nations, Nationalities & People’s Day in Ethiopia. To celebrate, yesterday at my primary school in Aman a program was held highlighting many of the traditional dances of Ethiopia. The videos below show some of my favorites. I’m not sure which region or area most of the dances come from except for the local one which is from the Bench people where I live here in southwest Ethiopia. According to my favorite reliable source for information Wiki states that, “The SNNPR (Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region; where I live), being an amalgam of the main homelands of numerous ethnicities, contains over 45 indigenous ethnic groups.” Being so diverse, the celebrations that were held at my primary school yesterday were very intriguing and taught me a lot about the different traditional dances common to many of the ethnic groups here in Ethiopia. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Peace Corps

 

Gastronomy in Ethiopia

Traditional Ethiopian Bayanet

Various people have now mentioned that I look much thinner in recent photos. Well, it’s true. First and foremost, ¬† ¬†the food here is healthier. By this I mean, it is not fast food, college cafeteria food, etc. but rather yummy Ethiopian food. Unfortunately, every now and then there are the¬†occasional¬†parasites and other things that find their way into my dinner but the mix of flavors in any Ethiopian dish is quite tasty. See my picture above of a traditional Ethiopian Bayanet. A bayanet is a tray of mixed foods served with injera. Typical Ethiopian dishes are usually some sort of Wat, a thick sauce served with a variety of vegetables or legumes. I typically eat this 3-4 times a week for lunch. Other Ethiopian dishes I enjoy are Special Fool, Tegabino and Doro Wat. Fool is a dish served ¬†for a breakfast/brunch like meal. It can be described as something like¬†re-fried¬†beans with onions, egg and depending on location cheese and avocado. It is usually served with bread. Tegabino is a thick wat with onions, green pepper and a lot of berbere ( a typical¬†chili¬†pepper like spice that is used in most wats). I like to think of it as thick re-fried beans in bigger portions and a different flavor. I normally eat it with injera. Doro wat is a very popular dish among Ethiopians. Doro means chicken in the Amharic language. Doro wat is wat made with chicken, berbere and hard boiled eggs. It is usually brought out specifically for holidays but you can find it at other big events and celebrations as well. There are plenty of other Ethiopian dishes I didn’t name but these are the ones I like and usually eat. Below is a picture of one of my favorites. A customary treat in Ethiopia is fresh juice. The one pictured below is combined of avocado, mango and guava. On a hot day in the Ethiopian jungle, it is quite refreshing.

Juice

Usually, I will eat lunch out 3-4 times a week while cooking the other days for both lunch and dinner. If I eat breakfast it is usually comprised of a couple of snacks or Special fool if I’m in Mizan the town up the road to get supplies. I have been experimenting with different foods for dinner. Luckily, there is a suk (word used to describe one of the many small shops that line the streets of every town and village in Amharic) in Mizan where I can purchase ferenji migib (ferenji = foreigner and migib = food). It is not exactly what I crave for but I have found a Ramen noodle like item, tomato paste,¬†margarine and a recent find soy sauce. There is also tuna and canned fruits but I have to be careful because it is kind of expensive on my Peace Corps budget and buying fresh fruit, vegetables in the street is usually cheaper. For dinner over the past couple of months I’ve eaten tons of the local version of Ramen noodles with tomato sauce (sphagetti-ish?!) and fried potatoes and onions. However, with recent finds at the suk like Soy sauce and having other goodies that were sent along in my one lonely care package I’ve received ūüėČ I’ve tried some new recipes. For example, last night to celebrate Halloween I made fried rice using summer sausage. Slowly but surely I’ll expand to a greater variety of food I hope. Available ingredients are limited but I have found great pride in creating new dishes with what I have. Right before I eat some of them, I stare at my plate and whisper to myself, “I sure hope this tastes decent.” It usually does, but I figure after two years I will have perfected new and exciting recipes. And there you have it! I hope this posts sheds a little bit of light on the gastronomy of Ethiopia as well as what I’ve been eating. Thanks for reading.

Please be sure to check out my newly re-designed blog website. Also, take a quick peak at my Care Package Wish List page and my Contact Me page to see my updated mailing address. Christmas and my birthday is right around the corner. ūüėČ Thanks for reading!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2012 in Africa, Culture, Ethiopia, Gastronomy, Peace Corps

 

Lions and Amoebas oh my!

Cat fight at the Lion Park Zoo in Addis Ababa

I apologize for not being on top of my blog. My goal I set coming into Peace Corps was to update my blog once a week. It has been almost a month now since my last post but I do have an excuse or two. Anyways, I’ll be trying to post at least bi-weekly if not weekly from now on. Since my last post I have continued trying to integrate and settle in to my new community. However, I hit a few bricks in the road. A little over a month ago I started getting really sick and come to find out I had more going on then what was determined on September 10th when I initially went to the hospital. I had parasites galore crawling around inside me as well as amoebas. I wasn’t getting better and after doing blood work, etc at the local hospital in Aman I had to make a trip into Addis ¬†to see the doctor. I was in Addis for about a week and a half as I was being treated for amoebas as well as severe migraines. I was having horrible migraines and we didn’t realize it was the medicine I was taking to prevent me from getting malaria that was causing them until after I saw an internal medicine specialist, had an MRI done on my brain (they also offered me the option of drawing fluid from my brain, that idea didn’t work out) and an eye exam. It was a joyous adventure going on my clinical tour of Addis Ababa. In the end I had to switch medicines and my head no longer feels like it is going to explode and for the time being (knock on wood) I think I have cleared my system of all parasites and amoebas. Although I didn’t feel well most of the time I was there, a perk to being in Addis during the time was joining a small group to see the Lion Park Zoo as well as doing some shopping for decorations for my house in Aman. I finally got back to my site at the beginning of this week and I ‘ve been hard at work since. ūüėČ Hard at work Ethiopian style. By that I mean, things move very slowly.

Mmmmmm Ferenji migib!

My IST (In-service training) is now less than a month away and I’ve been hard at work trying to do my research for my CENA (Community Education Needs Assessment) report that I have to turn in at that time as well as continuing to introduce myself to people in Aman and the surrounding area. This next week on Thursday, one of the Peace Corps program assistants for Education is coming to my site to do an installation meeting. The meeting is to let people in my community know about Peace Corps and more¬†specifically¬†to help them understand why I am here. So my counterpart, a local English teacher and I have been running around inviting community leaders and local education officials to next week’s meeting. I will get a chance to speak at the meeting as well but with my limited Amharic I will most likely just be doing a basic introduction and a quick speech about where I’m from, what experience I have and what I hope to gain from the people of Aman. Well, that is it for now. My future posts will include more information about the local culture, the food I eat, etc as well as an update on the work I’m doing. Thanks for reading. Oh and I got my first care package a couple days ago. For those wondering how long packages take to arrive, this one took about three weeks. Don’t forget to check out my Care Package Wish List Page. ūüėČ

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Ethiopia, Peace Corps

 

Settling into my New Home, 2005 take two

Happy New Year from Ethiopia!

Happy New Year from Ethiopia!

It has now been a month since I was sworn-in as an official Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia. I’ve been in my town of Aman for about three weeks since arriving around the end of August. For the last few weeks I’ve worked to introduce myself to as many people as possible in my community definitely to my colleagues at the Aman Primary school where I will do most of my work. My community integration has been helped along by many things, predominantly a countless number of Ethiopian Coffee ceremonies¬†and the recent celebration of Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year on September 11th.¬†¬†New Year’s in Ethiopia is mainly celebrated on actual New Year’s Day unlike in the U.S. and many other countries that celebrate the holiday with festivities mainly being held on New Year’s Eve. Another fun fact to know is that according to the Ethiopian calendar, September 11 marked the first day of the year 2005. Can you say flashback? My New Year’s day was spent drinking a lot of coffee, eating a lot of delicious Doro wat (a chiken like stew with hard boiled eggs), drinking some sort of traditional barley juice that I never figured out what exactly it was called other than “juice” and the rest of my time was spent in bed recovering from my first disease here in Ethiopia. Yep, that’s right. On September 10, New Year’s Eve here in Ethiopia I spent the afternoon in the Mizan-Aman General Hospital doing lab tests and waiting for results. After giving a blood smear, urine and stool samples what they first thought to be malaria actually turned out to be two random parasites that found their way into my body, one being Schistosomiasis, a lovely disease caused by parasitic worms. Lucky for me, treatment was fairly simple. A couple pills and two other medicines, one to minimize the pain that came from the main medicine I had to take and a second for the other random parasite I had supposedly did the trick. As one of my fellow PCVs said, I have my first token down on my PCV Disease Bingo card. Not fun but definitely an interesting story to tell for the rest of my life.

My New Bamboo Furniture Set!!

Now that the new year has begun here in Ethiopia, that means school is soon to start. I say soon to start because I’m still trying to figure out the exact date. Things move a lot slower here and what I thought to be the first day of school last week supposedly is this Wednesday. So we shall see. The teachers and staff at my school have been preparing for the new school year by registering students for classes from Aman and other nearby villages. Some teachers and staff are still finding their way back to town after spending the summer away studying at different universities. This morning I found myself on the campus of the Aman Primary School along with what seemed like a million little Ethiopian students. It was a little overwhelming but I couldn’t help but laugh as I tried to make my way through the crowd as the children stared in amazement and shock and whispered and giggled to their friends at this amazingly strange being that just walked onto their school campus. Some kids ran up to shake my hand while others tried to say something in English as I walked by. The only clear thing I heard one boy say was, “I was born in Ethiopia.” After various teachers tried to get the students to go on their way, many decided to surround the little hut like house a group of teachers and I were in. I finally took it upon myself to introduce myself to a few of them saying that I was a teacher and what my name was. Slowly but surely they will get used to my¬†presence.

As I’ve waited for school to begin, I’ve been hard at work trying to find furniture and other furnishings for my home here in Aman. Above you can see my new bamboo furniture set I was lucky enough to buy from a Russian missionary that will soon be moving to England after spending about four years here in Ethiopia. She had many other things that I was able to buy to not only get out of her house as she prepares to move but also to set up my house and make it feel all nice and cozy. Here is a link to some more photos of Aman and my home which is nestled at the bottom of the mountain in the jungle. Well, that is where I will end for now. Tomorrow I’m going to my school to possibly attend my first PTA (Parent Teacher’s Association) meeting. I’m hoping to be able to introduce myself to some more of the teachers as well as some parents. Oh and another piece of exciting news from the Horn of Africa is that a new group of about 57 new Peace Corps Volunteers are scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia to begin their pre-service training on October 3rd. That means I won’t be the newbie anymore. ūüôā Be sure to check out my new Care Package Wish List page and you can find my new address on my Contact Me Page. Thanks for reading!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Ethiopia, Peace Corps

 
 
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