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Friday, August 19, 2016

Having a pet in Ethiopia - Tiger the Cat

Having a pet in country is difficult. About a month ago, I finally got a cat, and I named him Tiger. I had been wanting a cat for awhile, and then one stormy night my compound brother knocked on my door and said here’s a cat for you. He’s probably about 3-4 months old. His hobbies include sleeping on my bed, drinking milk, walking on my keyboard, chasing his tail, and scaring the chickens. He loves cuddling and sitting in my lap, very sweet kitten. But he’s also super playful and is going to make a good rat killer one day, which I definitely need.  Overall, he’s a great companion! 

Except for the part where he keeps running away when I leave. I’ve tried keeping him on a leash or in my house, but he finds a way to escape. The most recent time he’s run away is when I left to go to Hawassa for a 10k trail run, and he escaped from my house when my neighbor opened the door to feed him. What's worse is that he ripped open the plastic bag of milk powder and sprinkled it all over my bed, and then took the bread my neighbor gave him, ripped it up into little pieces, and left that all over my bed too. 

Due to transportation and travel concerns in certain areas Ethiopia, I was advised not to travel to the race, and ended up spending the weekend in Addis. And then when I was on my way back to site, I got a phone call saying I needed to head to one of the regional offices for a Peace Corps program. So I went home for less than 2 hours to pack and eat lunch, and then make my way back to Dessie and catch a bus. So imagine coming home after the day before was a full day of traveling on 3 different mini buses to travel 400 km from Addis to Dessie, to find that you have to clean up after the cat you no longer have. 

It's been a week since I've been away from Gimba, and Tiger was sited at the compound yesterday. However, who knows how long he'll be around this time, and due to the difficult transportation routes and limited buses in Ethiopia, I'm not exactly sure when I'll be able to return. Long story short, having a pet in Ethiopia is difficult. 

Friday, July 1, 2016


It sounds cheesy, but reconnect was just that: a time to reconnect. With friends and colleagues, with goals and intentions. It reminded me why I came here in the 1st place and helped realign me to my goals and what I want to get out of my service, after a very confusing time (as adjusting to site and trying to figure things out has the majority of us feeling lost).

A recap of some of the cool things we did/talked about:

·      Working with disabilities
·      Volunteer committees (I’ve decided to apply for the Abilities Committee, to help other volunteers find creative ways to work with PWDs (People with Disabilities) at their sites)
·      Made RUMPs (Reusable Menstrual Pads)
·      School Clubs
·      IGAs (Income Generating Activities)
·      Malnutrition Case Management
·      HIV Case Management
·      Combatting open defecation
·      Nutrition Activities
·      Involving men in MCH (Maternal & Child Health)

Agriculture volunteers made soaps and an improved ‘tippy tap’ (handwashing station) so a nearby agriculture volunteer and I will be working together to improve WASH in our kebeles.

I’m back at site and have some projects on the horizon:

·      A reusable pad washing and drying station at the high school, along with pad construction workshops for girls
·      A WASH and Nutrition program for mothers at the health center
·      An application for an optional Peace Corps GIS training, to do projects involving mapping, which would hopefully improve spatial awareness and increase health center visits
·      Murals at the health center, health posts, and schools, promoting awareness of healthy behaviors
·      Rain water collection
·      Summer English club for kids
·      Posters at the market with nutrition facts to encourage community members to purchase nutrient dense foods

Feel free to leave comments and/or questions and I’ll keep you posted on site life!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

My Birthday Month

It’s been awhile since I posted, but I finally have Internet on my computer so I’d thought I’d update you. Some things I’ve been doing lately:
1.     Cooking. I have an electric 2-burner stove, and I’ve been trying to be as creative as possible with the limited pantry that I have. One of my favorite things to make are rice bowls with the vegetables that I have at site (swiss chard, beets, carrots, onions), and I top it all off with a fried egg. I’ve also been making Indian inspired dishes with curry, ginger, potatoes, and lentils. And I love making macaroni and cheese with powdered milk and laughing cow cheese. I’ve also been forced to use my charcoal stove a lot lately, as the electricity is frequently out and life is hard.

2.      Buying things for my house (room). I have quite the setup, with a bedframe, thin mattress on the floor that functions as the “couch”, and 2 tables: 1 for cooking and 1 for a bedside table. This may sound small, but it’s often difficult to buy furniture and have it transported to my town, but I finally got around to making it happen.
3.     Working on my Community Needs Assessment. I ended up generating a conceptual framework that describes nutrition status in my community, so I’m pretty excited to share it with community members. A lot of people here are very smart and know a lot but only about one aspect, so it’s been cool to put all that information together and fit the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s also a reminder that undernutrition is really complex and is rarely caused by just one or two reasons (nerd alert). I haven’t started any projects yet or done any real work, but I’m taking my time getting to know people and developing relationships, so that one day my projects will be successful and have a strong impact on the community.

I turned 25 this year, so I went to visit my friend in a nearby town, and then we spent the weekend in Dessie, the capital of South Wollo.

Some things about my town, Gimba:

·      It’s so cold here it’s basically part of the culture. Kids don’t go to school if it’s too cold, and everyone is always wearing this thing called a gabi, it’s basically a white/off white blanket with a decorative trim that they wrap around themselves. If the trim is faced down, it’s a normal day. However, if the trim is faced up, meaning that you would see it wrapped around their head, it means that someone has died and they’re in mourning.

I took this picture at my compound at sunset

·      Ethiopia organization: Region – zone – Woreda – kebele

·      Peace Corps places education volunteers at the Woreda level and kebele level, while environment and health volunteers are just at the kebele level. They do this so we can be in the smaller towns and more rural areas, which is part of the Peace Corps model. My town, Gimba, is actually a cluster of 4 kebeles: 018, Chulekie; 022, Korkora; 023, Senyo Gebeya, and 024, Merkemcha.
Since Senyo Gebeya (which means Monday Market in Amharic) has the most main road access, this kebele is the most populated, and it’s where the Gimba health center and primary school are located. Since children come from multiple kebeles to attend the Gimba primary school, there are almost 1200 students, which enables the school to have a special needs class. Which is really awesome because I know sign language, and the school director loves that I have an interest in working with those students. Many students live in an isolated part of the town and before joining the class were not able to feed themselves, so it’s really cool that the school is able to offer a special needs class.
 One of my compound sisters Leylaham on our homemade rope swing, and my 2 year old compound brother Esmi behind her

That’s all for now, as I’m back in Addis for our 3 month conference, and off to take a hot shower.

Care Packages

Many friends and family have been asking for care package ideas, so I’ve put together a wish list. Some of these items can be found in Addis Ababa and large cities, but such items are quite expensive on a Peace Corps stipend (I’ve put a star next to these items). If you prefer, you can save a lot of money on shipping (shipping to Ethiopia is very expensive!) and send money(cash) for me to buy things in Ethiopia instead. $1 = 22 birr, so even just $20 goes a long way. Right now I’m attempting to live off of $120 a month.

Send mail to:

P.O. Box 29
Akesta, Ethiopia

remember to write par avion on all envelopes and boxes. 
Sometimes boxes will randomly get opened, so if you put a couple of tampons on top it will prevent the Ethiopian postal system from rummaging through. 

Dietary Needs:
Siracha Sauce
Chipotle Peppers in adobo sauce
Protein Powder
Cheese (hard cheeses can be shipped!)
Speculoos cookie butter
Olive Oil*
 Spices (curry, chili, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, etc)*
Trail Mix
      Skratch sports drink powder
      Fruit leather snacks
·      Nuun tablets (regular and nuun plus) (sports drinks are perfect for rehydration after diarrhea, and the stuff the PC doctors give out tastes disgusting)
·      Nutella*
    Coconut Oil

   Berger Cookies
     Baking items (chocolate chips, cocoa powder, etc)
      Snack bars (clif, luna, etc)
    Chia Seeds

g    iPhone 5 cords (the ones I have frequently stop working and my phone doesn't charge)
      Portable charger for phone
     Solar charger

     Knife sharpener
      Fitted sheets (size full) (the ones here aren't fitted and they're scratchy) -- and preferably flannel, it's very cold here
      Essential oils (and mini spray bottles for making blends)
·       Norwex towels (vegetable towel, face cloth, dish cloth) (my mom sells these)
·     Lotion*
·    Pushpins/tacks
·      Kid Items for camps and school clubs:  stickers, stamps, etc