21 February 2007

Been too long

I can not believe more then a month has gone by since I last wrote! Is that right? I am so sorry—I don’t know where the time goes. A LOT has happened in this world—I just can’t believe so much time has gone by. No wonder my mom was complaining!! Anyway—as you can imagine, more then a month means A LOT to say—so brace yourself!

Where to start is the question! But, I will just delve in and hope I cover it all. One thing about my job is complete disconnection with the outside world. At my home in Addis I do have TV with BBC and I have access to other news sources, but as I am in the field most of the time—I don’t know much. This week, when I returned home I was very surprised to hear about NY and it’s snow storms, Bill Gates suing a poor Russian school teacher, Obama running for president, Harvard has a female president, Anna Nicole Smith is dead(what!?!?), and that I was about to be deported! Holy cow! I just wasn’t expecting any of these things. But such is the world, chaos—absolute! Oh, don’t worry I’m not being deported—it’s just the founder and current CEO of our NGO is very outspoken (John O’Shea). This includes his dislike for the Ethiopian government. Well, when they can they like to make our lives difficult—so they decided our visa’s are not valid and we all must go!! BAM!! But, after waiting in the immigration offices for four hours on 2 separate days (our punishment I suppose for working for that man!), they have decided to let us apply for the proper visas and give them money. Shocking. Some of the expats were worried, but I knew it was all about annoying us because they could, then getting money out of us. To shut down GOAL in Ethiopia would be some seriously bad PR for them, and they REALLY don’t need any. So, I almost came home—but I get to stay now. Good thing, b/c I am a very busy girl. Rapid Assessments, Verification Assessments, Coverage surveys, Nutrition Surveys, etc. Many of you might of heard of the UNICEF EOS project (Enhanced Outreach Strategy). My team was called into review the EOS in three areas, and our findings weren’t good. I hear recently there was a front page article in the NYT on it—extolling how great it is and saving lives. I do not doubt that it is saving lives, don’t get me wrong I am sure it is, but it is also wasting an exorbitant amount of money while it does it. I have ruffled some serious feathers here—at UNICEF. I don’t mean to really, but it is my obligation to report what the data says—I try and say it as objectively as possible—but who knows!!

As you can imagine I am about to embark out into the field again. In the last 3 weeks I have spent four days in my own bed!! I actually was SOO excited to get back to Addis this last time. I desperately wanted pizza. Weird, but true. However, I only get 48 hours, and I’m off again. I am about to go to Duna Woreda. It’s about a 9 or 10 hour drive from Addis. I just got back from Derashe, which was an 18 hour drive! WOW!! The furthest south I have been. Duna I have been to before, I am heading back to do a survey. It’s a surprisingly dirty place. I’m not sure why, but some how it seems dirtier then the rest of Ethiopia. We shall see.

The following items are random observations on my part I just thought I would share. It’s the small things in life that make you happy—you have to find joy in everyday things—and here are some perfect examples. Spelling is difficult in English if it’s your first language, let alone your second or third—but I always love the little errors.

SIGN problems:
Weeding Shop—for all your “white dresses to wear while in the garden” needs
Fruit Supper Market—Does that mean fruit is for dinner or they only sell fruit and dinner foods?
Masager: For musel relef. – Do I dare go?
MENU issues: translating menu items proves very difficult the world over, here are some of my favourites I have encountered recently:
Margarita Pizza: tomatoes, mozzarella, and organs.—um, which organs? The scary thing is it could NOT be a mistake—ick. I stayed away.
Spices mixed for a surprising taste—surprising good or bad? I stayed away.
Sope, Friz, Rees with Veg, Fred Eag—got all that? That’s soup, fries, rice with veg, and fried egg. They are close though, close enough I got it.
FRANCHISES—another great thing about living abroad is the blatant rip off of American/European companies. Using something similar to their name and symbol to sell your product. Here in Ethiopia we have the following—Mariot (note one r and one t, it is by the airport, and they have the same font and symbol!), Burger Queen (his wife?) , McBurger (clever and it has a yellow M), McDils Burgers (close, but not as close as McBurger), Fridays (with the exact same font and sign as TGI Fridays in the US, I don’t know where they got it!) and MANGO (a European Clothing store—same font used on the sign, not the same clothes). When I find more great examples, I’ll share—but you should get the idea.

Coming up is my favourite time of year—the big fast! The Ethiopian Orthodox church has several fasts through the year as well as every Wednesday and Friday. Fasting means no dairy, beef, chicken, goat, mutton, etc. You can eat pulses, veggies/fruits and fish. Well, starting in a week or so will be the fast—almost 2 months. Basically, if it isn’t a fasting day restaurants only make meat. I have to beg them to make me something else. But Wednesday and Fridays no one makes meat, just veggie stuff and stuff with fish. It ends up Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday are my fast days as there is less available for me to eat. But, for the next 2 months EVERY DAY will be a feast of vegetarian delights!! I am very very excited. It doesn’t matter much in the capitol, as there are plenty of ferenji restaurants that serve the same thing no matter what day it is, but when I am in the field and the town has one café—it’s rough.

Now, I’d like to talk about my Dad. For those of you who don’t know him let me give you a short description (and incomplete, but sufficient for today’s purposes). My Dad was born and raised on a small farm in rural Utah. He went on to get his Master’s in Botany and was a forest fire fighter for a bit. He then turned to conservation/environmental issues and stayed there for about 30 years. This means, my dad is both a farmer and an environmentalist—on top of that he did/does all that in Utah, a desert. So—when you are raised in this environment things become normal to you, that you later learn aren’t normal at all (normal meaning average). For example, your father instigates water saving techniques from day one in his household and doesn’t wait for Utah to be in a drought. So, when you wash dishes the concept of leaving the water running as you wash leaves you nauseated. When you take a shower, anything over 3 to 4 minutes makes you nervous. I still actually start to worry about wastage if my shower is more then 4 minutes. Perhaps I should blame me not washing my hair that often on this fact, but it’s most likely laziness. When you are raised in the Barney household the sound of running water makes you stop and think, “Is that okay? Should that water be on?” You also think everyone waters their lawns at 5:00 in the morning to decrease wastage, right? It’s normal. Another big thing my father instilled in my brain and soul, the concept those who litter are of the devil. I think those TV commercials with the dog and good looking guy and car in the 80’s helped too (they should show those again, they were great!); but it was mainly my father. Every year we cleaned up the garbage on our road. When we went camping, we not only carried everything out with us, we carried everyone else’s litter too. Always leave the campground cleaner then when you found it. Because of this, to this day I CAN NOT litter. I can’t. The act of dropping a piece of garbage on the ground or out the car window leaves me shaky. I can’t even drop an apple core or orange peel without guilt. This isn’t such a bad thing in the US, but abroad the concept of litter does not exist. Meaning—drop where ever you want. The first time I had to face this was when I lived in Moldova. They just drop everything on the ground, everyone. It wholly disturbed me. But, even when I carefully carried my garbage with me until the rare and random time I would see a trash can the reality there was the garbage in the can wasn’t going to be collected, but rather burned or just dumped on the ground. What was the point of me putting the effort in? The same is true here—there is garbage everywhere. There is a garbage collection system, but barely, and not everyone uses. Basically you put organic material in one pile and burnable stuff in another—and burn it. Other then that, you just chuck it out your gate; as long as it’s not on your property. When you eat a piece of candy, you drop the wrapper on the ground, always. Everyone does it, even my team members. I have given them lecture after lecture, but it’s almost pointless—the concept is so foreign to them. I have basically settled with the fact that if they just don’t do it when they are with me, I’ll feel better. I know, it sounds awful—but it’s true.

Okay—music. Most of you know I am a music lover. In the past when people asked me what type of music I liked, I would give the universal response of “everything.” People would roll their eyes, and I would say, “No, really. I like country, rap, HipHop, rock, heavy metal, 80’s, 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, jazz, folk, blues, alternative, etc etc.” Then they would believe me a little more. But, now that I have lived in Ethiopia I have learned there is in fact a type of music I don’t like. I don’t think I had ever been forced to listen to this before, maybe in an elevator for 2 minutes, but not for 2 hours in a car—so I didn’t have the chance to learn I HATE it. I don’t really know the name of the genre of music, but I know one of it’s most famous artists, and the one who is fairly popular, Yanni. Oh, I can not explain how quickly my head begins to pound when Yanni comes on. It’s almost instantaneous, and I’ll promise almost anything to the driver to get him to change the music. For those of you unaware, Yanni plays sappy songs on the sax. When we are on a road trip, I can’t handle even one song. Not even 10 seconds of a local artist who plays Sax or Yanni. I have nothing against the sax in jazz music or other songs, but JUST the saxophone, my brain can not handle.

Okay—so I started this blog last week, then ran out of time and left for Duna, the place explained above. One day after arriving there, I was told if I needed to return to Addis b/c I have five days to get out of Ethiopia. So, after all my talk at the beginning of this email, I am being deported!! How many people can say that?! Today is my last day in Ethiopia—and I am busy packing and saying goodbyes. HOWEVER, I plant to come back. We are applying for the correct visa’s, but are not allowed to continue working while they are processing and must leave. We were even told not to go to the office, and have had to do all my work from home. I have a new supervisor, just 2 months under her belt, that will take over and I will manage remotely over email/phone from Nairobi. That’s right, I get to see another country, probably just the capitol, but it’s something. Hopefully I will only be there for about a month while all the paperwork processes. I will let you all know as soon as I can what is happening. But, for now—the next time you hear from me I will be in Kenya!!


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