Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blog Move

Hey everyone, because I am having problems gaining access to this blog, I have moved to Please head over there and check out my new blog post.  Hopefully this new sight will prevent any further delay. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sweet Sixteen (again)

    According to the government, I have a driver's license in this country. Never mind that I can't drive a stick shift (which is all that there is here) and never mind that I have no clue what any of the traffic laws are here (not that there really are any). I have a driver's license and that makes it all okay. It only took a day and a half to go through the process to get the license and that was without having to prove anything other than the fact that I once had a driver's license from North Carolina.
    The process started on Tuesday with me going to the US Embassy all the way across town (which meant contracting a taxi) and showing them my driver's license from NC and paying $50 (that is a LOT of money for here!) for them to authorize it and say that it was real. From there, the documentation had to be taken to foreign affairs and another stamp placed on it. Someone did that for me yesterday, so I didn't actually have to be present for that, but apparently he waited most of yesterday afternoon and a good portion of this morning to get that stamp. We got to the driver's license place this morning and went to about 5 different counters and paid a few small fees before they took our 6 pieces of paperwork and disappeared with them. Mind you, there is no such thing as a line here, you just shove your way up to the front and sling the paper in front of the person's face or snap your fingers at them and they will take care of you. Fortunately, we had a local who was an expert at doing this for us, because there is NO way I would have ever done those things in a culture where I still can't speak the language. Sounds like a good way to get your tires slashed to me! Well, by the time they took our paperwork it was lunch time and the whole office shuts down, so we were told to come back after lunch. Luckily for me, there was a cafe place right there on the premises serving all the injera and wat your heart could desire. My heart didn't desire any, so I ordered spaghetti, which still left a little to be desired, but it went in my stomach and I was no longer hungry and I didn't have to eat injera. After lunch, we braved the crowds and made stops at two more counters and it was all official, I have a license. Granted, I have absolutely no clue what the license says (feel free to help me out) and apparently it is only 2003 here (they use a different calendar which I definitely don't understand).  Heck, I was barely legal to drive in the States in 2003!
     After the Driver's License, was the Power of Attorney. Never mind that my last name was spelled wrong on the paperwork, just a minor detail. Within one building, we went into literally 6 different offices (I counted) and again waited in line (or shoved our way forward) and got an official stamp in each office. They love their stamps here – not sure what it really means, but it got stamped. Everybody and their mother in the government has now verified that I have a passport and a Power of Attorney! Just in case they were wondering.
     So, moral of the story is: Those of you in America - DO NOT complain about the DMV. Be very grateful, even for the annoying driver's test that they make you take. Cause if you could see the traffic system here, you would appreciate the one we have! I was always accused of being a reckless and aggressive driver by basically anyone who rode in my car and I am petrified to drive here. That should give you a clue of how crazy it is! I have got to get a video for you guys to watch of one day in traffic! Anyways, that is over and done with and it only took all day today and part of the day Tuesday. The local who was helping us said at the end of the day, “We got many things accomplished today.” Really, only two things, but who's counting? (Besides me)

(Written Thursday, January 13th - unable to post since then! Sorry! More to come soon!)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

First Glimpse

Here is a video of my first days in Africa.  Sorry if it is incredibly small, my upload capabilities are SLOW! And I can't see it, so I have no idea what it looks like.  Oh, and the song really has no meaning other than that it has the word "Africa" in it....don't judge :)


I thought Christmas came and went while I was in the States, but I was sadly mistaken. Turns out, it was this past Friday – here anyway! The Orthodox people here celebrated their Christmas on Friday. For me, that meant having the pleasure of riding the minibus (taxi) with live goats and chickens as people purchased their Christmas chicken or Christmas goat and took it home. You haven't ridden in a taxi until you've ridden in it with a live goat tied at your feet. I went with another American family here to their housekeeper's house for the Christmas meal. By house, what I really mean is room. That was what their house was, one room. The lady, who was widowed, and her 10 year old son shared a bed and a very small space in the room and that was the totality of their house. They shared a “kitchen” and a “bathroom” with three or four other families. I put the words “kitchen” and “bathroom” in quotes because both rooms were about a 10 x 10 space outside that no one in the States would recognize as a kitchen or bathroom. Nevertheless, the lady and her sister graciously served us a meal large enough for 25 people and refused to eat it with us (which is the norm for this culture when you have a guest at your house), but instead continued preparing and serving us while we ate. The big deal for Christmas was duro wat, which is like a spicy chicken stew (bones in). They usually only eat meat on holidays because they can't afford it on a daily basis, so to have meat is a special occasion. I ate my first injera and drank my first coffee since day two here and managed to keep it down, so that was exciting news :) I also got to participate in the coffee roasting ceremony which included bringing popcorn out before the coffee. The popcorn was of course cooked on a griddle over an open fire and it was delicious! The coffee is served in a four ounce cup and will knock your socks off if you aren't careful. It would be fairly equivalent to drinking a cup of espresso in the States. It was all I could do to get down the small cup I had. Perhaps with a little milk it would have gone down easier, but milk is only for those who can afford it, and these people couldn't.

Speaking of small rooms, I moved into my very small room this weekend. Although, seeing the lady's house, puts my “small” room into perspective. While it is small for our standards, it is very cozy and is all that I need. Once, I get it entirely set up, I will include a picture of it – not that it is that exciting. What is exciting, is that I have a space that is my own. For two weeks, I was living in other people's houses and living out of suitcases (I spent most of my time trying to remember what I had packed in which suitcase), so I am thrilled to have a spot to put my stuff and a room to call my own. Looks like I will be living in this room until April, when a new family will move here and they will get this house. The house we are currently living in is a house for families, so all the single people will be moved to different apartments that are more suited (i.e. smaller) for single people. I will enjoy it for now though :)

I am including pictures of me with the lady whose house we went to and her son. She is wearing the traditional “holiday” clothing and I think that is henna on her neck – not sure though. Somehow, despite dirt everywhere and no proper facilities, she managed to keep her white dress spotless. I am also including a picture of the room that was her house – you can't see it too well, but it will give some idea of the situation.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to the City I go

I apologize for not writing these past few days – it has been a whirlwind of activity, sickness, and exhaustion here, so I was trying to rest and recuperate when I wasn't getting oriented to the area. My supervisors and I left the village on Sunday and came back to the capitol. I have moved into my house here in the city and will be here at least until the end of May. I have two young American girls here who are my roommates and they are also here learning language (not the same as mine). By our standards, the house is fairly mediocre, but by their standards, it is extremely nice. If you can afford to do so, it is standard here to have a cook and/or housekeeper as well as a guard. At first I was appalled at the idea of paying someone to cook and clean for me and a guard (think more like a butler or concierge and less like a guard) just seemed a little extravagant, but since it is expected, I guess I will oblige :) It is certainly nice to have, but honestly it is still a little weird and I feel a little bit like a ridiculously spoiled American.

Now that I am in the city, I am sure that the blog posts will slow down some as things aren't quite as different here as they are out in the village. For now, I am settling into my house, taking care of all the logistical stuff (registering with the embassy, etc), and trying not to fry all of my electronics when I plug things into the outlets here! I officially start language learning next Monday and am excited/nervous about that. A girl from my people group will be working with me one on one teaching me the language. I will be one of 3-5 other Americans with our company that have ever learned this language and I am the first to be learning in the city, not the village (which is supposedly better because of access to resources and language helpers). The language is central to the “work” that will be done in the village. To them, their native language is everything, so to be able to communicate Truth to them in their native language is of extreme importance. Until now, most of the workers have been using the national language to communicate in the village, but only the town people know that language. The people in the rural areas and those involved in the goat project can only speak their native language, not the national language. The difference here between the village and the city would be equivalent to the difference between Ellenton (for those not from my hometown, just think of the most boondock town you know) and Atlanta – huge!

We were driving on Saturday and came across a shipment of camels. I took a picture of them transferring them from one truck to another for your enjoyment. Don't ask me any questions – I don't really understand what was happening, I just took a picture of it until a guy came running up to me and told me I couldn't do that....ooopsie :)

By the way, I am unable to actually see my blog due to slow internet, so please forgive me if something looks weird or pictures are too small – I am only able to post, not view!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

I think I win the award for being in a country the least amount of time before getting sick. I made it two full days (almost exactly) before I woke up sick. I felt queasy when I went to bed Thursday night, but told myself I wasn't sick and just needed to sleep. I woke up at midnight knowing without a doubt that I was definitely going to throw up. By 3:30 the worst of it was over, but it definitely left me wiped out today.

We made a visit today to one of the women's homes who is in the goat program. It was my first time inside one of the huts and I must say they are quite impressive. They are much larger inside than they appear outside, which is good, because the whole family (to have 6-8 kids is not uncommon here) as well as all of the livestock sleep in there together. I'll call the lady Sarah that we were visiting. She was cooking bread in between corn husks on a giant griddle over a fire in the middle of the hut (see pic below). Apparently, the smoke keeps out the mosquitos and flies so it is welcome with the fire. She also fixed and served us tea. Due to my still queasy stomach, I declined both the bread and the tea. Sarah only had 4 children and you could tell that they were all fairly well fed and taken care of, however the youngest, who was one, was sick with malaria and was such a pitiful sight to see. Sarah started out with three goats a little less than two years ago and now has 8 goats, so she is a success story with the program. Once they have a small herd built up, they can use the milk to help feed their families or they can sell the goats for money to support their families.

Before we left, I took a picture of the 20 or so children who had found their way inside the hut to watch us. We seem to be quite the novelty around here. Anytime we drive through a village, little kids run out to the street from every direction and cry out “money, money” “money, money.” Not sure who got that little saying started, but it is both funny and sad to see and hear. Anyways, when I held up the camera at Sarah's house, all of the kids rushed together so that they could be in the picture, but when I stepped back so that I could get them all in, they followed me. They didn't understand what I was doing. After I took it, they all crowded around to see what it looked like and excitedly pointed themselves out in the picture on my screen (see pic below). It's pretty safe to say that kids are kids everywhere!

Well, it is New Year's Eve night and no where close to midnight, but I am going to attempt to sleep so that tomorrow is a little more smooth than today!

I have included a picture of one of the baby goats from our project as well as a picture of one of the young girls (note the baby arms and legs you can see :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

She's Gone (to a new) Country

Day two in the village and I'm still kickin' :) Actually, I really like the peaceful, slow pace of the village. I've always loved living in the country, and this is certainly the country – just a little different than I've always envisioned it.

Some of the highlights from today:

I learned my first three words in the language I will be speaking. First word learned today was coffee or Cawa (sp?). This is a very important word to learn since they drink lots of it here! Second word I learned was one of their words for God - Goshta (sp?). I would say that this is also an important word to know :) My third word learned after my third cup of much needed coffee for the day was akdulen, which means “of the finest quality,” as in, “that cawa was akdulen.”

A surprising highlight of the day was found in the food I ate for lunch. I had lamb tibs, which is lamb fried with onions, pepper, and egg and it was yummy! No more injera for me - this stuff was good :) As it turns out, they cook much of their food with lots of butter – so much for losing weight! My appetite has certainly been good since I've been here. Good thing I get to wear elastic waist skirts, huh?

Not only is the coffee here good, but it is also cheap! The four of us drank a cup at a restaurant named Dallas (yes, Dallas) and our total bill was less than 60 cent! Coffee here would be called espresso at home and it is very strong and served in espresso size cups. We ordered macchiatos which as far as I could tell was espresso with cream and sugar. It would rival anything ordered at Starbucks, and at 15 cent each, I think they've got Starbucks beat!

I also got to use my first “squatty potty” in country today. We had the opportunity at training to use the one available, but I somehow managed to evade that opportunity :) No more evasion here. Nothing but two spots for your feet and looking down into a concrete hole (and those are considered nice ones). I hear that there is a skill to this, but not sure I have managed it just yet. Although most would consider me to be a “country” girl, I really never did pride myself on going to the bathroom outside....thankfully. I am sure I will learn the tactics quickly and will be a pro at it in no time – not that I really have a choice either way :)

I took more pictures of the grass huts and what I like to refer to as an “African hayfield.” I would post them, but the internet is not really cooperating. Hopefully later!