23 November 2007

Teddy Afro

I know what you are thinking. If I’m writing so soon after a letter something must be wrong. Oh ye of little faith, I write these letters for more reasons then to just complain, though I can see how you would get that impression. However, I mainly have interesting, funny, and down right exciting things to share this time around.

First, a bit more about the US wedding. It was great fun to see so many people I haven’t seen in a long time. In particular, I want to thank two of my personal heroes for making the trek to Utah to be there. Have you ever met people that you realize that is what you want to be when ‘you grow-up?’ For this, my grams comes to mind first—and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be worthy of being her granddaughter. However, outside of family—that’s Judy and Paul Sochat. I first met Judy and Paul in the Peace Corps. They were volunteers and living in my same village. What’s so amazing you ask? Just that Judy and Paul joined the Peace Corps at the age of 72!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How many of you will have the energy, desire, health, and courage to leave your home at 72 to live in a RURAL place for 2 years working for nothing (money I mean)?!?!? Even as a former volunteer I can’t guarantee I’ll be too chipper about signing up at 72! Paul and Judy, I just want to thank you for coming out to Utah, helping with the wedding, and being great examples in my life, (My mom put them to work the day of the wedding!! Such good sports)

Life here is going well. I don’t know if I told you before, but I have become a swimmer. I hurt my back in the Peace Corps, and then it really got bad in grad school – I was told by many many people to take up swimming. I absolutely HATE swimming. I have ever since I was kid. I even worked at a water park for 7 years, and got in the water less then 7 times in those 7 years. Plus, and this may make some of you uneasy, I don’t wash my hair that much. I have long hair and it is very dry. I don’t use ANY hair products outside of shampoo and conditioner, so I only wash my hair every 7 to 10 days. That’s all it needs. Well—my back started bothering me, again. I have tried yoga and weight lifting, my favorite forms of exercise, but I always re-injure my self b/c I push too hard. I LOVE yoga and weight lifting and I go at it full force. It’s hard to keep my self back. Finally, I have decided to try swimming. There are no YMCA’s or public pools here outside of hotels. So, if you want to swim you have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to a hotel. On top of that, laws regulating hygiene in pools are lax—so you can’t go with the cheaper ones or you will, not maybe, you will get a skin disease. Ick. So, I go to the Hilton. That’s right, I swim laps at the Hilton. It’s crazy—and I hate it and my hair really hates it, but I’ve been going for 2 months now and unfortunately have to report my back is a ton better. I think the trick is I hate it so I don’t push myself as hard as I would with other forms of exercise. I only increase my weekly laps by 10% (as I read on a ‘beginning swimming for adults” website. So, my hair—being washed at least 5 times a week is NOT making it happy. I don’t know what to do!?!? Eek. I know, it’s just hair—I need to chill out—but, well I’m weird about my hair. All of you who know me well know that. It’s a long story as to why, just trust me. I brought back special swimmers shampoo and do all sorts of other little tricks, but my hair is not happy.

Okay- I need to get off the stupid pointless topic and fill you in on life in Addis Ababa. My husband and I while still living with his family, bought a 2,000 birr (over 200 dollars) water filter. It looks like a water cooler with the big plastic container on top except that the container has a water filter and you just dump water in the top as opposed to getting refill bottles. It’s nice. I personally, am and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, against bottled water. The ONLY time I would use it is when I was abroad in places without a filtration system. Other then that, I must say I am 100% against it—but that’s a rant for another day. My point was my husbands family thought we were NUTS!! There is perfectly good water flowing out of the tap. They think a lot of what I do is nuts, so nothing new. So, we have now moved away and I came home the other day to two jerry cans in my kitchen.
“Wow sweety, are these for emergency water supply?” I ask my husband thinking he’s such a planner! Water is often shut off in the city sometimes for a day sometimes for 3 weeks. So storing water is not just a good idea, but necessary.
“No, my family.”
“Is there water out again?” It had been off for 2 weeks when we left!!
“No, its’ drinking water, from our filter.”
So—turns out there is an outbreak of giardia in the city water system and now they don’t think I am so crazy!! Vindication, on one point anyway. J For the uninitiated, giardia is common in the US too and is NOT fun. I had it in S. Sudan. Ick.

Garbage—the main reason I am against bottled water is the MASSIVE amount of garbage it produces, plastic bottles. It’s so disturbing—but the amount of garbage we Americans produce is disturbing no matter what. Even here, the amount we (Henok and I) produce is a jillion times more then his whole family. And, our new landlords produce nothing either—but we have serious garbage output. And, compared to you all it is still nothing b/c there just isn’t as much to buy and use here. But, I buy boxed milk (UHT for you food people) from Italy. It’s the only way to get skim milk. It’s one liter, which I burn through in 2 or 3 days, thus in the garbage. Plus, I buy tins of oatmeal, about one a week—in the garbage. Plus Plus Plus. I don’t understand and to be honest I’m embarrassed. I’d do the re-use thing if that was available (kind short on the fancy organic supermarkets here). But instead, we toss a ton. If we ever by soda (I actually get a local sparkling water I LOVE called Ambo) it’s glass bottles we have to exchange. Fruits and veggies come not in plastic bags, but in net bags you take back with you to get more veggies. I do all this, but somehow still produce an inordinate amount of garbage and I think my neighbors think I’m crazy. Not a new thing.

So my job. I am still working as a consultant for the Micronutrient Initiative. I am working closely with Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture in Ethiopia, along with World Bank, UNICEF, and World Food Program. I sit at a computer or in meetings most days and it gets really annoying. I miss being in the field with my GOAL job, but you gotta do what you gotta do. We are creating a national nutrition plan for Ethiopia. It’s really exciting, overwhelming, and challenging. I am very passionate about nutrition and health—and I am NOT good with politics. I hate side stepping issues, renaming things just because the one word will upset someone, just sitting there when people are making bad decisions for their benefit (e.g. not in the best interested of Ethiopia’s children). I am bad at it all. I just say too much and am too blunt. Luckily, the Minister of Health and his State Ministers can handle it a little, but the other Ministers, not so much. I am waiting for the day I get kicked out of a meeting. I just can’t handle decisions made b/c of money or sheer laziness I can’t. It drives me crazy. Grrrr. But, overall this project is going great and has INCREDIBLE potential to do GREAT things for Ethiopia. I really hope that war doesn’t break out here and just ruin all the development they have experienced over the last 10 years.

War you ask? Well—to the north we have Eritrea. Once part of Ethiopia, now its own country there is a border dispute; where exactly the border should be. The UN has drawn what it feels is a good compromise, but we shall see if both parties take to it. I wouldn’t worry about war, as I don’t think Ethiopia can afford it and they know the possible damage to their fast growing economy, but, and this is a HUGE BUT the US might be pro-war. Why you ask? Well, currently to the East is Somalia. I am assuming you know all hell has broken loose there and it’s in a state of chaos. Not that it was stable anytime in the last decade, but things have escalated. This is also happening in the Somali region of Ethiopia and Afar region (where those British tourists were kidnapped). It is assumed/understood/speculated whatever you want to call it, that Eritrea is supporting the wars in both regions as well as in Somalia. This matters for the US b/c Somalia is seen as part of the ‘axis of evil’ (e.g. harboring terrorists and Al Quaeda). SOOOOOOO—taking out the rebels and ‘evil people’ in these areas would be in the best interest of the US government. SOOOOO—this is why Ethiopian troops invaded the Somali capitol a few months ago overthrowing the Islamic regime and putting back in power an interim government supported by the US. SOOOOOO—the question is, on November 27th (the deadline for the border dispute to end) what will happen? I really hope sanity prevails, the border is agreed upon, and no war starts—but I feel the world is short on sanity these days. For those of you following this story, I realize this was a simplified version—but I was trying to be succinct.

In closing, I must tell you about a GREAT experience I just had!! For those of you close to me in high school and college you know I am OBSESSED with concerts. I love to see my favorite bands (or any bad for that matter) play live music. There is nothing better then seeing live music. My parents know all too well of my love for concerts secondary to a few (plus) ambulance rides from said concerts when I passed out or broke something. But, taking up my new lifestyle of living abroad and traveling I had to walk away from that life. It was actually really hard. It truly was my favorite thing in the world to do—go to a concert. I can’t explain, just understand it is one of a few things that I actually miss on a regular day to day basis living abroad. It’s not that there isn’t live music abroad, there is—sort of. I have been to small clubs to see local bands and what not play. But this isn’t the case in every country I’ve lived in. Here in Ethiopia I quickly fell in love with several Ethiopian artists. Many of them do not play shows here as there lyrics are political in nature and the government won’t let them. They actually play regular shows in DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston where there are a lot of Ethiopian immigrants. Well, FINALLY my favorite Ethiopian artist played a show here. I am so impressed—with everyone involved I can’t tell you. This artist, Teddy Afro, is quite political. The government here is NOT a fan of his, but despite all that they let him play a live show, at a government venue, and he got to play even the songs that are banned from the radio!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You have NO IDEA what a huge step that is—just huge. I am still in shock about the whole thing. Anyway, I of course went. And, if you know me at all, you know I was front and center. It was open-air no seating show—just some barricades at the front. I of course was in the center of that barricade less then one meter from stage, being squished, and LOVING it. It was a great show and he played my favorite song, Jah Yastesereal. It means ‘god will forgive you’ and refers to some of the government practices here. It is of course banned from the radio. I walked away with just one injury, are you impressed mom? It’s just a bruise on my leg from banging into the barrier. That is NOTHING for a concert.

Well, I’ve rambled long enough. Thanks for listening/reading—Hope you who are in the US (or consider yourself American) had a great Thanksgiving.



MeysawKassa said...

Wow! What a nice blog!!! I was just searching for articles written about Teddy Afro and ended up with this blog. I just finished reading this post. I am in a hurry to read the other posts too. I am sure I will love the rest posts too.

Jessica, thaks a billion!!!!

JKCMoldova said...


I am writing from Moldova, where I am the current Peace Corps Country Director. A recent cleanout of an office uncovered some belongings of Paul and Judith Sochat, and we cannot find any current contact info for them. In googling them, I found a reference to them on your blog which put you in touch with them, I believe, last year. Can you either send me their email, or a phone number, or forward my email to them?

Thanks very much. I hope you are enjoying your time in Ethiopia.

Jeff Kelley-Clarke

Natacha said...

hi Jessica!
I found this blog by accident as I am related to Paul and Judy Sochat and it was interesting to see you comment. don't know if ur still blogging..but i will say hello and nice to 'meet' you.
Natacha Sochat