23 November 2006

Thanksgiving Ethiopian Style!

Hello! It has been a long time since I have written, but to be honest there hasn’t been much to say. I have been based in Addis for TOO long now only doing managerial/administrative work. It has NOT been fun. I don’t like being stuck at a desk bogged down with random things to do—ick. I don’t mind writing up reports on surveys/assessments I’ve done, as at least I was out and did something, but spending 2 ½ weeks at my desk (what has happened) has NOT made me happy. Plus, I think my body doesn’t like the pollution in Addis. It’s fairly high, and the longer I am here—the worse my symptoms get. I have a stuffy nose and slight sore throat, for no reason. The same thing happened in New Delhi, so I believe its air pollution. When I am often in the field, I get the fresh air and my body cleans out, so to speak. I have a VERY long trip coming up in 1 week, so it will be nice. But, I must survive one more week in Addis. Eek.

I am writing this on Thanksgiving Day. Doesn’t really feel that way to me, as I’m not on break from school, not crowded in a house full of nieces and nephews, and the weather is gorgeous. The sun is shining with a slight breeze that cools you off, absolutely fabulous. My Thanksgiving plans are GREATLY hindered by the fact that I have to work, and though my boss said I could take extra lunch time, I don’t really have time, as I have meetings all day! Some friends of mine invited me to a Thanksgiving Feast at their home, they work at the US Embassy—but alas they are eating at the EXACT time I have my biggest meeting—so a no go. The worse part is, the wife is a professional baker!!! I am MISSING OUT!! I might pop over there for a few minutes on my lunch break, to at least talk to some Americans on an American holiday. Get a break from the Irish, British, and Ethiopian accents I hear all day. Not that they aren’t lovely, just a break. I RARELY see Americans—I feel like there are so few here. I’m just not in the right circles I suppose (or maybe I am in the right circles, depending on your point of view!). To make myself feel better, I have ordered pie for the office. A restaurant here, The Lime Tree, specializes in baked products. They aim directly at the firengi population (ex-pats) so are having a Thanksgiving Buffet and making pies. I can’t go to the Buffet, and shouldn’t to be honest, but I ordered 2 pumpkin pies and 2 apple pies for my office. There are about 25 of us. I have told them all about the pumpkin pie, and in general they kindly respond, we’ll try it. They have pumpkin here, but they eat it boiled with spices, not sweet. They are all a little nervous, but appeasing me. I even found heavy whipping cream to whip up. Granted, I have to do it with a whisk (by hand, remember those days), so we shall see how ‘fluffy’ it gets. Apples are not really available here. If you see them at a market, they are imported from South Africa and VERY expensive. They are not the greatest of quality, but I have succumbed to cravings and bought them. For 5 apples it is 25 birr. To put that in perspective, a little over 2 pounds (1 kilogram=2.2 pounds) of Avocados is 3 birr, Oranges 2-3 birr, Mandarin Oranges 2-3 birr, etc etc. So, not generally in the diet of the Ethiopian. I am worried about the quality of the pies, as I haven’t had them from there—but hopefully it will be decent. I wanted to make pies, but as I have to make it all from scratch—including cutting up and boiling the pumpkin which takes FOREVER, I don’t have the time or patience. Tomorrow I am having a meeting/party for just my staff (9 people), and I have decided to make them Banana Cream Pie, as it is WAY easier. I’ll let you know how the pie went over!

Moving on, thought you all should know, I officially know what ring worm looks and feels like. It’s true, I have ring worm. I am embarrassed to admit, I thought you could only get it from animals. The only person I ever knew who had it had gotten it from her cats. But, seems you can get ring worm from ANY thing the dermis touches. For me, we are guessing it was one of the dodgy hotels I stayed in with an unwashed pillow case, as the ring worm is located on my neck and face! You heard me, neck and face!!! For those unaware of ring worm, it is not actually a worm. It is called that because the symptoms are round bumps (like a donut, generally the size of a dime) on your skin, and it sort of looks like a worm crawled in under skin and set up camp. But, in actuality it’s a fungus. Yummy. It’s completely treatable, not really an issue, just not that pretty. You should see my neck; everyone is making fun of me or just staring. I have taken to wearing scarves wrapped around my neck for the duration of the day, no matter the temperature. The pain is, you have to put this cream on it for 3 weeks—one week to get rid of the symptoms, then 2 more weeks to ensure the fungi is dead/gone. It’s this white pasty cream that just adds to the beauty of my disease. Lovely. LOVELY.

My team is currently down 3 members. The top two people on the team resigned shortly after I arrived. No, it wasn’t because of me, they got better job offers. So, I have been struggling to try and keep things a float, learn what I am doing, and seek out candidates. I FINALLY was able to schedule interviews, but must say—I HATE INTERVIEWING PEOPLE!! The whole process is so painful and depressing. You just remember a time when you were desperately looking for a job, and you went to all these interviews trying your best to prove to these people you can do the job, then getting shot down and having to start over. Ick. It’s so painful—so, when I am responsible for doing that, I just feel evil. I had three positions, and received a total of about 100 applicants!! I had to comb through all their CVs and letters, and shortlist those who I wanted to interview. That was extremely difficult, as each stack of papers represented a person in need—someone asking me to help them. Then, I have the power to say, “No, I’m not going to give you a chance to better your life, sorry. I’ll give it to this guy/girl because….” It’s so arbitrary really, like you can tell what a person is from their CV. These jobs generally pay better then what they are already doing, so it’s all about money and survival. These people don’t want a pay raise so they can get that fancy new car, rather so they can afford to live. Just depressing. Then, the interviews, when I actually get to see their faces—how nervous they are, how hard they are trying to impress me, the firinge, how many of them there are! Ick. But, today I officially finished and have picked my candidates, and need to move on. I know, it sounds so melodramatic to be this upset by interviews, but it just is. If you’ve never been without a job and had to hunt for one, constantly getting shot down and feeling worthless because no one chooses you, you can’t understand. Its something you can’t take personal, but of course you do—because it’s your life. It’s you they are judging, qualified or not. Good or Bad. So glad it’s over, now I just have to train the newbies.

There is one very amusing story from the whole bad experience. Last week, during my interviewing time period, our compound was inundated with ants. It was like over night all the ants in Addis decided to have a party at our office. The grass was black with ants, they were in the building, and especially in the guard shack. Our cleaning lady spent most of the day sweeping them away from us, but stragglers would get through. Most of us spent the day brushing ants off our legs and arms. So, I’m sitting in the conference room interviewing one candidate. Suddenly, I have an itch just at the base of my hair on my neck. Then, it didn’t itch so much as HURT. I actually let out a yelp and put my hands up to investigate, at which point I felt several ants crawling around in my hair!! I jumped out of my chair, knocking it backwards onto the floor. Of course, my hair was pulled up in a bun with a hair-stick (chop stick). I yanked the stick out, and flipped my head over to begin shaking my hair. The entire time, the little buggers were still biting me!!!!!! My colleague realized what was happening as I was screaming ‘Ants Ants!’ and began picking at me like a monkey, looking for the ants. The guy I was interviewing jumped in to help, and they got three BIG ants out of my hair. Only three, I was very disappointed, as it felt like an army, but they were huge. HUGE BLACK ANTS. I’ve never had an issue with ants before, just afraid of spiders, but now, I will be more cautious. The guy will NEVER forget his interview.

Just a few more things and I will leave you. First, to prove what a SMALL world it is—a story. I attended a meeting in Awassa. A city I have talked about 275 kilometres south of Addis. It’s a GORGEOUS place I could settle down in. Awassa is the regional capital for the area, SNNPR, which is essentially a state in Ethiopia. I was attending a regional meeting about all the nutrition programming, crisis, and needs in the area. In total about 15 people attend. I was waiting in the hall for the room to be ready when coming up the stairs was a familiar face. There on the stairs was my friend Rose, from Tufts!! Rose is from Kenya, and was at Tufts my first year doing the one year degree in Humanitarian Assistance. She now lives in DC and works for World Vision. She is in Ethiopia for one week, and happened to be in Awassa the day of the meeting. Her World Vision colleagues suggested she attend the meeting, to get an idea of what was going on in the region! RANDOM!! It was great to catch up.

This Sunday is “The Great Ethiopian Run.” Which to be honest I don’t know too much about, but will fill you in on what I know. It starts in ‘famous’ Meskel square and is 10K. Hundreds of thousands of people run in it. It is sponsored by a variety of people, but generally the main theme is from a health organization—HIV/Aids, etc. GOAL is one of the sponsors and pretty much EVERYONE who works for Goal will be participating. The front of the T-shirt has names of airlines, restaurants, etc. But the back of the shirt merely says GOAL. Nice. I unfortunately will not be participating, which really bums me out. I’ve seen pictures of last years and it really looks cool, but I am otherwise engaged at church.

Lastly, just a heads up on my coming schedule. Starting December 3 to February 28, I will only be in the office for 12 days total!!!!!! No joke. Those 12 days do include American Christmas (25th) and Ethiopian Christmas (7th of January), but that’s about it. I will be in the field doing surveys the ENTIRE time. It’s going to be great! Love my job. For some of it I’ll be camping, but unfortunately for most of it I’ll be in guest houses. And, now with ringworm experiences under my belt, I’m not too happy about that. I am trying to convince the powers that be to let me camp. I’ll let you know what happens.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it that is. Eat lots of holiday food for me!!


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