Friday, March 28, 2014

Nab Maychew

Today I'm on the road to my site: Maychew, Tigre, Ethiopia.  Unfortunately it's only for a couple days visit.  We landed in Mekele at about 8.30 this morning.  After a quick brunch, we found the bus station and started on our way.  I'm joined by my friend Chris, who will only be 30 minutes south, Abigail who's site got cancelled and is joining along to get a feel for Tigre, and Chris and my community liaisons.

Community liaisons are intended to be, as I put it in one session, our social lubricant.  They're tasked with holding or hand through introductions to our professional communities, setting up bank accounts, post office boxes, etc.  More or less they are our ticket to integrating into the community, both as a professional and a general community member.  If, during this initial trip and through our first three months at site, they continue to be helpful, they will become our counterpart, who would be tasked with helping us in community assessment, identifying potential projects, and implementing those projects.  My liaison's name is Hagus.  He is roughly 32, has a young wife and five year old son.  He's an expert at the local agricultural office.  He seems enthusiastic, but also sounds busy.  That makes me worry he may not have time, after I move to site, to be very involved in my service.  Time will tell, but it sounds like having a good, understanding, and involved counterpart can really make one's service.

Tigre is much more dry than the parts of the country I have seen to date.  However, it is also mountainous.  It us absolutely beautiful.  Parts have looked like what would be considered national park back home.  We have mostly followed a river, I use that term loosely at least at this time.  Along the river, a green oasis exists.   Tigre is an interesting place.  They get significantly more annual rainfall than the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but are constantly struggling for water.  That is due to the fact that nearly all of their rainfall comes in a two to three month period.  I'm more than confident that I shall have more to say on this come the rainy season at site.

We almost just hit a camel.  A real, one-hump camel.  He walked out into the road, and stopped; looked at us, and waited for us to stop.  Luckily we did, but it was a pretty aggressive stop.  There were a few packs of camels just south of Mekele.  Interesting. 

My house is nice.  I have two rooms of decent size.  Included is a private hot shower and western toilet.  The lone downside is there may be only very limited space for a garden. 

Maychew itself is set in a beautiful valley, surrounded by high mountains.  It's mostly green, but cacti are also prevalent. Strangely, agave is widely grown, but not put to use.  I may have a good diy project on my hands! It seems like a nice town, much nicer than Addis or Butajira.  Some of the roads are paved, and others are in the process of being paved.  It's hard to believe this will be home for two years. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I'll start with contacting me:

you can send cards, letters, or packages to:

Jake Reedy
C/O Peace Corps
P.O. Box 7788 
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Phone Number:       +251 940354200

Life is settling in here.  It already seems fairly routine.  I wake, eat, and go to class.  At lunch I either eat at home or the hotel where we have non-language classes.  Then I come back at the end of the day, hang out, do homework, or go use the internet ;) depending on what I've got to get done.  I'm back before dark, we eat at 8.30 or so, then watch tv (mtv tonight), and I go to bed.  I feel so normal.  I understand practically nothing my family says, but between gestures and a few words either side of the divide, we get by and have some laughs along the way. 

I live with a family of four, but there are older children in the capital and one other living in here in town.  She speaks the best English, but it's still pretty limited.  I have my own room with a padlock.  I only use it when I'm out or if neighborhood kids are coming in and out of the compound.  The toilet and shower are on the side of the house, and both are pretty nice with cement floors and lights.  I've used one toilet that simply had waist high curtains on two sides, so for solid walls, lights, and a proper floor are luxurious :)  Also, I use the word toilet liberally, it's a hole in the ground, no seat.

There are a couple coffee bushes in the yard, along with a mango, papaya, and two avocado trees in the yard.  They also grow their own green tea, so the tea is awesome!  Unfortunately nothing else has ripe fruit currently.  The family has been loving to me thus far and I'm pretty sure the youngest, a boy of about ten, idolizes me.  He's always hanging around, trying to tell me things (often with theatrical motions and sound effects), and taking me places. 


How is the language training coming along?

Learning Tigrinian (spoken in the northern region of Tigre and also Eritrea)  has been pretty fun.  The hard part is nobody around here speaks it, so we're at a disadvantage comparted to those who are totally immeresed in the language.

What language does your family speak?

Amharic.  I do try to communicate with them with the limited Amharic I got before we moved here, but mostly its non-verbal communication that gets the point across.  

Internet at home?


Laptop useful? 

Yeah, right now i'm at the internet cafe, using it.  Before this, I'd mostly just used it to transfer stuff from other people.

What do you wish you would have brought with you that you did not?  

Food stuffs (Cholula among other things), seeds, and one world balls (one of my soccer balls already popped, and these are indestructible)

What has been worthless?

Sweaters and jackets

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bonga, not the drums, the home of coffee

After just two full days in the country -- which felt like an eternity -- my colleges and I were broken into small groups to go on 'demystification' trips to visit current volunteers at their sites.  We were accompanied by another PCV (Peace Corps Voluteer; I am considered a Peace Corps Trainee PCT until the end of training, May 2).  Erica was our guide for the trip.  My group consisted of Michael from Norfolk, Nebraska, Maggie from Eastern Kentucky, and the married couple of Evan and Kristen Craig of Wisconsin.  It was a fun group.  The trip to Bonga, which is located to the Southwest of Addis Ababa, took almost eleven hours by bus.  Luckily for us, they have been paving the road between the two cities.  Unluckily, they have not quite finished a few of the bridges.  This meant at a few points we had to deviate from the road and use a rough, one lane dirt path that had been hastily constructed over the ravene or creek.  Only a couple weeks earlier, Sally, the volunteer whom we were to visit, had been involved in a bus tipping over at one of these points.  She escaped with a significant scar on her forehead, just below her hairline.  Luckily, neither she, nor her boyfriend Adam, who was in the midst of a six week visit, were seriously injured.  The bus voyage, while long, was incredible.  The change in scenery along the way gave me a good look at a few of the various ecosystems in Ethiopia.  There were massive plains, huge canyons, and mountainous regions.

We got into Bonga later than we had planned, and were met by Sally, Adam, and the two other volunteers stationed there, Lisa and Katrina both education volunteers.  Bonga is seated in the rainforest, one of the few left in Ethiopia.  It is seated in the region of Kafa, the home of coffee.  The views were excellent, although they were apparently much more hazy than normal, as slash and burn is the main post harvest practice.  We ate dinner, and went back to the hotel for a convesation over a couple beers.  The following day, we hiked into the rainforest to a waterfall above Bonga.  It was beautiful and nice to finally get away from constant go-go-go of the first few days.  We relaxed there most of of the day and went over some of the questions we as trainees had about life as a volunteer.  That evening, we went to the home of a friend and language tutor of Sally's.  It was a quaint home, a mud hut with a tin roof, but the hospitality and food were both first class.  We had dinner and talked about the Peace Corps, life in Bonga and Ethiopia.  After, we made our way outside where we danced (I mostly watched) local traditional dance.  We were out until almost dark.  The children were entertaining, and the company was great.

On Monday, our second full day in Bonga, we got to see what a day in the life looks like.  We followed Sally to her main office with NABU (not unlike a German version of the Sierra Club) who are responsible for the two bio-reserves in the region.  Sally's main interest is in conservation and stewardship, and so she spends a majority of her time with NABU.  We also took a tour of the local prison where she was preparing to start a gardening project.  Our tour ended at the local Ministry of Agriculture office, where, sad to say, we were unable to come accrossed anyone Sally was aquainted with.  Both Sally and Erica were very knowledgeable, and answered most every question we could think of.  The few that could not be answered, focused mainly on more indepth agriculture, as Sally is more into conservation and Erica is a health volunteer.  We had dinner at Sally's and played games until after dark.

Our trip home felt much longer, but was about the same.  Towards the end, I started to feel ill, and soon after our arrival at the Kings Hotel in Addis Ababa, I really came down with it. The first five hours was horrible; after, I fell asleep, and missed the first session of the following morning.  That day, I was not myself, and ate only a quarter sandwhich at dinnertime.  Finally, on Thursday, I was back feeling more like myself. We were stuffed with more knowledge (technical, medical, saftey, and a quick crash course in Amharic, the language of government and about a third of the people).  Saturday we were bused to Butajira, about two hours South of Addis Ababa, and our homes for the next three months.

Thus far, Peace Corps has felt like an intense educational experience.  Other than the little downtime in Bonga, it has felt like there was never time to rest and relax.  Hopefully that changes some in Butajira.  I will be sure to let you know!