Thursday, December 13, 2012

My long lost blog...

G6 MSC... preparing for Capture the Flag.

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I've written last; I know I’m pretty bad on keeping up, but this is an all-time low!  So much to say, I don’t even know where to start!

I guess at the beginning.  Life has been a roller-coaster ride of emotions, work, struggles, and frustrations.  The day that I looked on line and saw that my Peace Corps Project funding was full was one of the best on my service so far; a couple weeks later when I walked into the education office to discuss implementation only to find out that EVERYONE I had worked on this proposal with had left for other jobs or school and when I asked the head of the office when we could start, he replied with, “and who are you?” was one of the worst days in my service.  But, what goes up must come down, or I guess vice-versa in this case, and the project (after re-assessing everything, compiling a new budget, and starting from scratch with these new partners) moved forward. 
The location given to us for our Environmental Club
The education office handed me off to the water and sanitation bureau who agreed to supervise my project and do all the hiring and contracting for the well.  We brought their experts to the area to look over the space to determine a location and the probability that there would be water under there (every expert said “most likely, but we won’t know until we dig”…so comforting) and then we sat together and drafted a lengthy contract and final budget.  The office hired the local youth association (designed to give unemployed youth and drop outs in the area a chance for employment through small projects such as this) and after a dramatic signing session of contracts, designs, and budgets, an initial payment was given and construction began.
The beginnings of our project... why it had to be so BIG is beyond me, but I was told that's just the way it's done here...
 At this point I ran off to Debre Zeit, near Addis Ababa for a Mid-Service Conference, all the while crossing my fingers that that found some water down there (our other alternative was to turn our big hole into a water catchment system- not a bad idea, but not exactly helpful for starting environmental club projects this year…) and when I returned, I got another one of those roller-coaster highs: WATER!  It was a relief and an exciting day to see a project going right. (update, a week later we discovered it wasn't ground water, but run off water- so we have changed the design to be a water catchment pond; not quite as effective as a well, but still will get the job done.)

A little pause from the project, our Mid-Service Conference was great and just the break we all needed.  With only 18 of us in our group, we are probably more close-knit that other incoming groups and as a result, we get along.  On the one side, we spent the week grafting and pruning trees, talking about our projects, and discussing ideas and advice; on the other, we played sardines, capture the flag, did a gift swap and even voted on “superlatives” for each other (I won the coveted "most likely to be an extra in Harry Potter", and "most likely to become a crazy pony lady"... I think I can live with both of those.). 
Learning 'budding' technique on Avocado trees
Teaching Ethiopians the art of pie baking- they were really impressed with canned pie filling: so t'urum!
Another great day during MSC was Thanksgiving Day; our APCD, Heywot, had gone the extra mile and got us a spot in the culinary school to cook our thanksgiving feast.  The way she managed this was presenting it as a teaching opportunity for the culinary students to learn some ‘ferengi’ cooking, and we had a great time teaching them everything from stuffing, sweet potatoes, and chicken, to chocolate chip cookies and apple, cherry, blueberry, and pumpkin pie.
It was a crowded kitchen.
This day was a dramatic high-low in itself with great experiences teaching and baking, and one sour experience at the end of “who broke the blender”, in which the students vs. the volunteers all claimed the other did it (I watched the whole thing, and one of the students did indeed knock it down, though I understand why he wouldn’t want to fess up as it would probably come out of his pocket), thus making a rather upsetting end to an otherwise perfect day.  Grr.

Back to my town:  MSC ended, we all spent a few days in Addis Ababa getting our mid-service medical exams done (my doctor was surprised to see my file as one of the healthiest PCVs in country with only a dog bite reported, well, and two cavities) and spending far too much money on eating out and going out dancing; so I flew back tired, happy, and broke to my small town in Tigray.  With only three days to spare before turning around and heading back to Addis for a Volunteer Advisory Committee meeting, I checked up on my project, took some pictures, and listened to my well contractor go on about how the budget wasn’t enough, they weren’t getting paid enough, and he needed another payment.  I had this sneaking suspicion that this might happen (it happens a lot here) and the realization that contracts and budgets mean very little slowly set in.

Back to Addis, had a great VAC meeting, and was asked to head down to the town of Assela for a few days and give a presentation on the world map project to the new PC trainee group. 
Presentation on Peace Corps "World Map Project"
Fast forward, I am now back in my town after basically three weeks absent, and trying to gather myself and throw myself into my work again.  Yesterday the well contractor, office supervisor, and I met together to discuss the second payment for the well: I (shamefully) became that rude ferengi that insists that things have to be done her way and demanded that the project had to follow the pre-agreed budget and made everyone sign a new contract describing the payments received, and the remaining balance of the budget that would be paid at the completion of the project.  I am usually a very relaxed and easy going person, but I felt like the contractor was trying to take advantage of the foreign girl who ‘undoubtedly has tons of money and can afford to pay us more’ and lost my cool.  It happens to the best of us.
The project continues, and soon we will be starting on our mini gardens and tree nursery with the students- then the real fun begins!  In other big news, I just got the go-ahead to commence project “rebuild the irrigation system” at the tree nursery site!  With two projects underway, Christmas and New Year’s, some traveling planning in January with my brother, an all-volunteer conference and a trip to India planned for March, It’s going to be a busy few months! 
Kept it simple and planted squash, cantaloupe, and egg plants in the garden- out of the three, squash apparently love Ethiopia..
Squash dominating my garden
The two extremes of holiday food:  above, the pre-holiday feast of "dulet"; everything BUT the meat (all the little intestinal bits and pieces)  and below, the post-holiday feast: my favorite dish of "Ta'halo" a spicy meat sauce eaten with yogurt and barley dough. (Most holidays include 3 feasts... )

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful experiences you are having. I am amazed at all of them, especially making the contractor live up to his contract. Keep up the good work! And make Eric stay out of dangerous places. (You too)
    Love Grandma