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!