Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hair Care(less).

Hair styles are varied in Ethiopia, from men to women and all the children, everyone has something different. Here are some of the most entertaining hairstyles that I've captured on camera.

If you turn a wig inside out this is what the stitching looks like.
My favorite part is the little tail coming out the crown of her head.

Rat tails are still in style for Ethiopian boys

Loomi after she took her braids out
Mituu with her Tigray region bumps

Once, I braided Loomi's hair for school. Not to bad ehh? 
Tigray girl who hiked with me, the thin cornrows are traditional,
 the dread locks are her own style.
My fellow PCVs in the Tigray region took it upon themselves to experience Ethiopian beauty salon magic.
 Yes, that is a lot of yellow weave!

I had a moment of trepidation about leaving Ethiopia, so my friend Burtukan braided my hair. It seemed like a worthy activity at the time, but obviously is not something I should have explored. It's not a look I plan on repeating, but plenty of laughs were had from it. You're welcome.

This is after I took out my cornrows. It looks like I'm a librarian addicted to prescription drugs.
 Again, it's not a look I plan on repeating or a lifestyle I will adopt, but it gives plenty of laughs. You're welcome.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to make a world map!

Starting fresh! 
All the world oceans
South America is penciled out
Recruit friends to help make the mundane work more fun

Joe starting to paint
We recruited Ibsa to help us paint, over 200 countries takes a lot of time.
All the countries are painted and our little friends approve!

Labeling, labeling labeling

Labeling, labeling, labeling...
Finished product! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bad signs

These are poorly written signs that I have seen in Ethiopia. I hope they make you laugh as much as they did me. (This blog idea was taken from my friend Stasia, who is serving in Peru.)
Turns out this organization works on food security and tree nurseries that generate income for vulnerable women and children; an ideal work counterpart for me in my town. Unfortunately, I only recently was able to read their sign and figure out what they call themselves. There are no cognates between English and Oromiifa for "Action for basic development initiatives." This is the worst attempt I've seen for written English.

I'm not much for hamburgers, but this one looks especially unappetizing.

A "perception desk" is not a bad idea.

Public litter boxes would be an improvement in Ethiopia, but alas they don't actually exists.
Birds as transportation? 

Just bad advertising. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Meet my neighbors: part II

4 November 2013

“Peaceful Fruit”

With a name like “Peaceful Fruit” one would find it hard to believe that Freissalaam is so much trouble. At 3 years old he’s asserted his dominance between the 30 meters of street in front of his house. Few cows, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys or children go unattended to. From sun up until sun down my little friend runs wild. Mostly it’s his mom that suffers from his poor behavior and antics. Fortunately for Freissalaam, he’s cute...
REALLY cute!

Along with the mosque and the Orthodox Church, Freissalaam is one of the main reasons I wear ear plugs at night. Without them I would probably average only 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. I don’t know when Peaceful Fruit sleeps because whenever I’m awake, I hear him. I hear him harassing the livestock. I hear him bossing around his friends. I hear him pretending to cry when he’s disciplined. And most of the time I hear his mother:

SALAAM, quarta mei!!” (SALAAM! Come to me)

This is repeated about 6 times before she just hauls off on him and starts yelling and screaming high pitch noises and chasing him down the street; shortly thereafter I hear him crying and hitting things to vent his frustration. From the comfort (but no peace) inside my home, I can identify all the neighbor children by the sound of their crying and tantrums. I know each of them for their unique build-up, their chorus, I know when it’s fake and when it’s real and I know their mother’s response. It is like musical theater, one that would never sell tickets or gather a gratifying audience.

Looking cool in Amanda's sunglasses

My favorite part of having all these noisy, needy children as my neighbors is not their cacophony of cries, or that they’re always sticky, snotty and pooping in the middle of the road, my favorite part of all these kiddos is how sweet they are to me. As soon as I leave my compound, no matter how discrete I try to be, I am quickly spotted.

B!!”   Shouts the first witness, then like a stampede of clumsy puppies they come running towards my kneecaps. In a remarkably short amount of time I am surrounded, as if trapped in quicksand, I lose mobility, I feel trapped. The more I resist the tighter they squeeze. At least once a week they share fleas with me, but as a lonely foreigner who doesn’t receive much affection, I dismiss any concerns about flea bites and hug them back, rubbing their small backs, tickling their necks and scratching their rough and untidy hair. Their giggles and lingering embrace lets me know that they appreciate the extra affection too. We finish our group huddle with some fist-bombs, bumping our knuckles together when I command them with “gitch!” which means fist. Many of the children will kiss their knuckles after they pull them away from mine and tap their chest. This is a version of street slang and hoodlums that I can hang with.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Awkward encounters

22 October 2013

On my way to a nearby town I sat next to a man who began to berate me with all the common questions Ethiopians ask foreigners:

“Where are you go?”                                                                     “Where do you live?”
“Can you speak Amharic?”
“What is your job?”
“Can you help me immigrate to your country?”
“How is Ethiopia?”
“Which language is better Amharic or Oromiifa?”

Finally it came to my marital status because he noticed I wear a gold band on my left hand. I spoke my standard lies: “Yes, I am married. He is not an Ethiopian. He lives in America. He has a job.” Then we moved into more linguistically complicated territory:

“Do you have children?”

I have enough language skills to say “no” or “I am too young” but because I like to subtly confuse and upset Ethiopians from time to time I sometimes enjoy lying to these annoying and intimate questions. Most of the time I say “I don’t want children. They are dirty, expensive and they cry too much.” This normally is a sufficient answer because the interrogator is so dumbfounded they can’t continue the conversation. However, this stranger with 20 questions sitting next to me was not put-off. “Do you and your husband have sex anyway?” “What’s the point of being married if you’re not going to have children?” The questions went on and on until I finally said “Actually, I wouldn’t mind having children, but my health is not good and to tell you the truth, I’m barren.” I looked down at my stomach and touched it softly as I let the words sink into his brain. When I looked up again he said “okkkaayy…” as he diverted his eyes and let the tidal wave of awkwardness hit him. Like a magical spell, my over-curious bus mate got quiet and the conversation was over. Why didn’t I think of this brilliant line 24 months ago?

It doesn’t take much time before the coin changes sides in Ethiopia and the revenge of the awkward silence found me when I least expected it. Today, I was shopping at the small corner stores around my house buying ingredients to make banana bread. As I waited for my neighbor to collect eggs a crazy man came up and asked me to buy him cigarettes. I ignored him but he lingered there as I stood, unable to leave, waiting for my eggs. I held my bag tightly, checked that my phone was secure in my pocket and prepared myself for anything. Then BAM! Without any sudden movements his pants fell down! He stood there motionless and un-phased, though he must have felt some draft of cool air. I turned quickly and faced the fence as I tried to pass time by calculating the days until I get to move out of my town.

Justice in Adaba

21 October 2013

Last week during market day there was a big commotion on the main road of Adaba. Typically that is where all the excitement happens as we only have 1 asphalt road which makes it a near constant and chaotic scene of loitering, traffic, horse taxis and young boys selling roasted barley, sugar cane, lottery tickets and shoe shines. I avoid the main road as much as possible unless I’m riding my bike which makes me faster and therefore difficult target for getting involved in nonsense which usually consists of thrown rocks, sexual harassment and awkward conversations. Never the less, I don’t need to be hanging out on the road to hear about what happens there. In a town as small as Adaba, word travels fast.

As the story goes, an Isuzu truck was parked on the side of the road, the driver was waiting in the cab. In an act of anger, a high school student threw a rock through the side window of the truck. This student was did not fit the stereotype of Adaba’s best trouble makers: a young and attractive female Muslim girl. It became aware to the local police that it wasn’t a random act, but that this young woman and the driver knew each other. At the police station authorities tried to determine who would pay for the broken window. They first asked the perpetrator to explain herself.  She elucidated that this driver had been involved with her, but recently she discovered that he had a wife and children at home. Irate at his deception and ego she took her first opportunity to seek revenge and publicly expose his shameful character. The police asked the man if her accusations against him were honest and he confessed that it was true. It was determined then that the man was at fault for the broken window and would pay for replacement as he provoked the young woman to throw the rock.

As for the young woman, I think she should get a status a-kin to that of Rosa Parks in Adaba. Hopefully the duriye (good for nothing) driver gets worse treatment from his wife at home.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Born Free

11 October 2013

During a visit home-stay family we took an excursion to the Born Free foundation just outside of Menagesha. When I lived there people would tell me “there are lions here” as they pointed off to some obscure point in the forest. I brushed them off, thinking they were re-telling fables, exaggerating or mistranslated “lion” for a smaller wild feline (People often tell me about the “tigers” in Bale, yet there are no tigers in Africa. I think they mean to say leopard, but don’t know the difference). My friend Millian, a popular tourguide, works part time there and offered to show us the animal rehabilitation center. 

Born Free is an organization which rescues and rehabilitates animals that have been taken from the wild as pets. The end goal is to re-release them into the wild again if no injury or development issues prevent it. I was struck by how serene and beautiful the compound was. I feared it would seem like a zoo, but instead it was all natural vegetation with no concrete. The confinements were spread apart from one another and the animals were given abundant space in their areas. The walk in between animal habitats was a short hike through brush and trees where Millian identified different birds, rodents and the tortoises who languidly munched away.

Most of the animals were taken from Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopia's eastern Somalie region. This area has a lot of wild animals being taken as pets because it is close to the D'jibouti/Somalie border where they are taken across the Red Sea. The animals are frequently sold to wealthy Arabs in the Middle East. Most commonly this is the case with Cheetahs, who I learned are not that aggressive, but rather sweet, enormous house cats. As Millian was telling us how this group of cheetahs were discovered, he reached his hand into the fencing where two male cheetahs walked towards him and began purring as he scratched their ears. I asked if I could also try my luck at making a cheetah purr, and he winced explaining that since they aren't familiar with me it might not be very safe. I have never seen cheetahs so closely, and even as an animal enthusiast I have never fully appreciated, until now, how gorgeous they are. If I were wealthy and without better ethics I would also be tempted to own a cheetahs as a house cat. 

We also saw 5 Abyssinian lions. Most of who will not be able to return to the wild due to the harm done from their previous owners.

One lion had striking blue eyes which I learned had been the result of nerve damage from a too-tight collar which the owners were afraid to adjust as the animals grew from a cub to an adult. The two mature males showed their stunning black manes, a unique feature of the Abyssinia lion found only in Ethiopia. Previously the original name for Ethiopia was Abyssinia, named after this rare sub-species. These lions are a national symbol known as the Lion of Judah, made most famous by Emperor Haile Sellassie and henceforth the Rastafarian community.  Like the Cheetahs, I was struck by the beauty of these creatures, but refrained from sticking my hand into the fence to see if I could make them purr.

Born Free works throughout Ethiopia to control animal trafficking and also to support the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Project. The day at their animal sanctuary was eye opening to see the commitment the organization is making to improve conservation of these precious African creatures.