See What I See #7

The Roadside Vegetable Stand

After 19 months in Ethiopia I can take for granted the fleeting scenery viewed from the window of a mini bus. I catch glimpses of the incredible beauty of this country on bus rides, and it’s a necessary contrast to the dust in Dodola. This is a picture of a roadside vegetable stand on the road between Shashemene and Addis Ababa. 

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Grassroot Soccer

In October I attended a weeklong training held in Mekele for Grassroot Soccer. GRS is a program based out of South Africa that Peace Corps has partnered with to teach 12-19 year olds about HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and gender inequality. My counterpart, Kassahun, attended the training with me, and there were 19 other PCVs with their counterparts. I was expecting a typical Peace Corps training (yawn) with redundant sessions and explanations that leave me more confused than before. However, this GRS training was led by two trainers flown in from South Africa and was hands down the best training I’ve been to in my Peace Corps life. The trainers were energetic, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and patient. The sessions were all useful, engaging, and interesting. I surveyed the room each day and noticed that everyone was present and on time, which is quite an unusual occurrence in PC trainings. More important than any measurable outcome from a training, I was inspired. I was excited to implement this program, and actually felt prepared and like I had all my questions answered.

 

Shortly after returning to Dodola, Kassahun and I began our first GRS Intervention. We signed up 27 students from Dodola Primary School for the 11-session program. Kassahun already had an Anti HIV/AIDS Club in place at the school and most of the students were selected from that, with the remaining spots filled from my Student English Club. We decided to do a session every day for 11 school days. I didn’t have much else going on, so my freedom allowed for the ambitious schedule. Don’t let the name fool you, we were not playing soccer everyday, but using a soccer ball for drills to teach about HIV and AIDS risks. A few of the sessions don’t call for the soccer ball at all. A few kids dropped out immediately, a couple more stopped showing up at the second half, but 19 ended up graduating! I am so proud of that bunch for sticking it out to the end. They have to attend 8 out of 11 sessions to graduate.

 

GRS encourages creating a safe space for students to feel comfortable asking questions and having discussions. Kassahun and I had the best questions when we talked about the 4 bodily fluids that can transmit HIV. They are; blood, breast milk, vaginal fluid, and semen. The students asked about saliva, sweat, and all sorts of unique and unlikely situations in which they believed HIV could be transmitted. There is a huge stigma against HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, and I feel like this program educates the students without influences from local myths and misinformation. The 19 graduates are encouraged to share their new knowledge with peers, family and friends. The students had a fun graduation ceremony. They arranged a drama and a lovely coffee ceremony for the guests. Kassahun and I invited people from the different town offices, a few of them showed up. The students received certificates and we took a group photo. I look forward to continuing this program at other schools in Dodola!

 

For more information visit, http://www.grassrootsoccer.org

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See What I See #6

Special Fuul

I am a fool for special fuul! It’s my favorite breakfast dish to order when I eat out. I like it so much I try to order it for lunch too! It’s fava beans (sometimes with a red sauce), scrambled eggs, onion, peppers, and hopefully avocado. You mix it all together and scoop it up with bread.

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Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home. Returning home is always a cheerful day. For months I was looking forward to my vacation to the U.S., only to arrive and feel out of touch, confused, and overwhelmed. I missed my simple life in Dodola. I missed my house. I missed dirty birr and my mountain of pillows. I didn’t understand how so many people spend their days watching reality T.V. and referring to my home as Africa. Africa is a continent. Ethiopia is a country. Dodola is my city. I guess when a place is far away and so foreign it’s easier to generalize it. It seems I spent much of my trip home scrambling to find something to wear, at the dentist, and sick in bed.

Of course there were many highlights, the best being meeting my 13-month-old nephew for the first time. He is even more precious in person and I treasured the time we had together. I received overwhelming support and love from my friends and much of my family. It was nice being back and enjoying iced lattes, tex-mex food, and wearing shorts. I caught up on Duck Dynasty and downloaded Here Comes Honey Boo Boo so when I move back in 10 ½ months I won’t feel so left behind on the reality T.V. topic. The trip concluded with my best friend’s wedding. It was more beautiful than I ever imagined and I was so honored and happy to be there. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world!

When I returned to Ethiopia I went straight to Group 7’s Mid-Service Conference (MSC). I got to see everyone and re-adjust in Addis for a few days. Everything was just as I left it when I returned to Dodola. I was thankful no mice moved in and there wasn’t a flood while I was gone. My host family welcomed me first thing with a plate of doro wat, coffee ceremony and lots of hugs. All my friends around town are asking where I disappeared to and are happy to see me. They ask how is America and my family. What’s the weather like, and when I told them it was very hot they smiled pridefully and said “Ethiopia is better”.

I’ve been back to Dodola almost two weeks and am looking forward to school starting in the near future. I have lots of activities I want to do this year and hope it’s more successful than last year. I will be continuing the Student English Club and Teacher Mentor Programs. I will introduce a computer class for teachers and Grass Roots Soccer program for selected students.

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Flying Emirates

I highly recommend it.

I flew from Addis Ababa to Dubai where I had a 12-hour layover. I spent the first few hours with two Peace Corps friends who were on the same flight from Addis. My friend went to the Emirates desk and we got meal vouchers since our layovers were over 5 hours. The airport is incredible. It was clean, new, and had a waterfall. Walking through the main terminal could be confused with an upscale shopping mall. I had Pink Berry frozen yogurt and my friends had Starbucks. I settled into a chaise lounge chair in a row of 50 and tried to sleep. I ended up watching all the passengers walk by, people from all over the world traveling to places all over the world.

As my trip to Texas came to an end, I called Emirates to check on their “Dubai Connect” program where the airline provides a hotel, meals and transportation for passengers with layovers between 8 and 24 hours. When I purchased my ticket online I did not qualify for the program, but my return layover was 16 hours and I wasn’t about to spend it in the Dubai airport (as nice as it is). I had a hasty conversation with a customer service agent who emailed me my hotel reservation and urged me to not forget to pick up my hotel voucher in Houston. I was dubious.

I picked up the voucher in Houston and had a pleasant 15-hour flight to Dubai as I had checked in online and moved my seat to an empty back row. When I got to Dubai I asked where I needed to go to get my hotel reservation information. I walked around, went up and down escalators, passed the waterfall twice, and after an hour I found the Emirates desk I needed. That desk directed me to another desk where I was given my hotel vouchers. I did not have to pay a Visa fee and had a nice conversation with the guy at customs. He told me a story of how he went to Houston for two hours and came back because he didn’t have a Visa. I hopped on an Emirates bus with a bunch of other travelers and was taken to the Copthorne Airport Hotel. I checked in and had a decent room with a hot shower. I found a two-hour city bus tour in the lobby and signed up for 9:00pm. With my boarding pass buffet dinner and breakfast were provided.

The tour was fast paced and we stopped at a few spots to take pictures. The tour guide told us about all the hotels we rode by, “ ____ hotel, has ____ rooms, has ____restaurants, and is in the shape of ____”. In Dubai, a building is worth mentioning if it’s the shape of an airplane, palm tree or pyramid. We stopped at Jumeirah Beach where I put my feet in the Persian Gulf.
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Posed in front of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
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And took a few minutes in front of the architecturally unique Atlantis Hotel – Palm Island, with 1,539 rooms, over 20 restaurants, and is located on the Palm Jumeirah, an island in the shape of a palm tree. Driving was a unique experience on the island because all the streets are named “palm” or “frond”.
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I didn’t see Dubai during the day and can’t say that I would take a special trip to return there, but if you are curious or dream about the thrilling city then you need to go and find out for yourself! Just be sure to be bring plenty of money.

See What I See #5

I was waking to school and passed this picture perfect moment on the streets of Dodola.It’s planting season, but this tractor rooted itself in the wrong place! It must have just happened because so few people were standing around it. I left school an hour or so later and two more tractors and a dump truck were there to help pull it out.

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