Thursday, July 17, 2014

Time Marches On

Hey all, I was online and realized I had not written in quite a while.  I wish I could say it was because I have been so busy, but that would be a gross misstatement.  That is not to say that I have been doing nothing; I am continuing with language training and have started a garden.  A normal day consists of me going to breakfast, where I get the special ful (think refried beans, but with fava beans and local spices with egg and yogurt) and a macchiato.  I am aware of the oddity of me drinking coffee, for those of you close enough to me anyway, but I’ve become quite the connoisseur.  In fact, I’m afraid I might be something of a coffee snob when I’m done here.  After breakfast, I would go to the district ag office and see if they’d prepared a desk for me yet, which, I can now say, has been accomplished,  more than two months after it was supposed to be done.  After a normally disappointing attempt to procure a desk, I would either go home or to a coffee house where I would read.  In the afternoons I meet with Dawit, my language tutor.  He is an English teacher at one of the local primary schools with whom  I’ve played soccer, gone hiking, and hung out with him quite a bit; he’s also agreed to help me with my community needs assessment, so that will be really nice.  After language, I return home and read, watch shows or movies, listen to podcasts or music, and cook dinner.  Mixed into a normal day are bunna (coffee) ceremonies and run-ins with children, both inspiring and uplifting, and annoying or upsetting.  Kids more than anyone else seem to be really interested in foreigners.  Most just want a little attention, a head nod or shake of the hand, but some of course beg for money or food, and a small minority just wants to annoy me, or at least so it seems.  I’m slowly trying to teach all the children of Maychew my name, so that instead of "ferenji, ferenji”, “you, you, you, …”, “money, money”, or “china” the kids will yell "Jake".  It has worked with some of the kids, and I must remember, as the saying goes “kas bi kas”, step by step.

Most every day is positive in its own right, but going to the office across town was getting disheartening when all I would hear was no one that can help me is here or that there is no time to give me a desk or there is not a desk to give me.  Over the last two weeks though, I have been in contact with a representative of an NGO (non-governmental organization), ACDI VOCA, based out of Vermont, who work with farmer’s co-operative unions in rural Ethiopia through USAID.  They sent a team up to Tigray from Addis Ababa to introduce me to the local co-op, or FCU, and look for ways I could help both the co-op and ACDI VOCA.  On the same trip, they visited a friend of mine an hour south of me for the same purpose.  Those meetings were very fruitful, and I believe I will probably be spending the vast majority of my time working with the FCU rather than the district office that could not find a desk for me for over two months.  It feels good to be excited about working here again, rather than just being excited about being here as I’ve maintained throughout.

Maychew remains beautiful as the hot, dry months turn into the rainy season.  It might be hard to believe, but while you all are enjoying the sweltering heat of summer, I’m buying an extra blanket.  It has cooled off a little, and it rains more days than it does not.  People tell me it will begin to rain daily, and the farmers are complaining about the late rain already, so I’m preparing myself.  It feels oddly familiar, which of course has made the transition here easier.  Maychew has a temperate climate.  The only thing I might start to struggle with is the roughly eight months without rain.  I start to get nervous if I do not see rain often enough.  I can’t decide if that’s due to where I’m from, or am I from the Willamette Valley because of this nervousness. 

Anyway, life is good here in Ethiopia.  I continue to meet amazing people and am inspired by their work, talents, and intellect.  The one worry I might have expressed a week ago seems to have vanished as new opportunities have arisen.  I could wax philosophically about my time here, Ethiopia itself, or what-have-you, but that just does not seem to be what this is about.  I mean, I got in trouble in philosophy class for bringing anthropology into the mix, so maybe philosophic prose is not my style.  Either way, I hope you enjoy reading my blog.  I appreciate it.  Take care for now!