beyond my front door

Administrative materials:

For the next 2 months my address: But it will be changing when I go to my site

Michael Waidmann

C/O Peace Corps Ethiopia

PO Box 7788

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

My phone number is

251 921400360

 

If I know you, call me on skype. You will likely hear a ladies voice. This only means that the line is busy and you should keep trying! For real. More than anything I miss people.

 

Things to send because you love me so much.

 

Soft caramel candy, Swedish fish, and dum dums.

Deflated soccer balls

Letters

Pictures

MOVIES

 

Getting outside

I like to think that when you, sitting at home with a mug of hot chocolate, eating chicken pot pie and hot fudge sundaes, preparing for a hot bath while watching friends re-runs, picture me, your vision differs from my reality. You might picture me in a yellow hut in a yellow wasteland, surrounded by hyenas with little to no comforts readily available.

Part of me wants you to continue this notion, allowing you to idealize what I’m doing here. And honestly at the rate I’m uploading pictures, you may never realize what its like here. But I will spoil the fantasy for a moment. My house is modern, I eat very well, and at the local store I can get everything from Coke and bottled water, to power cords. Also, everything here is green, and for the first time since I got here, I’ve been able to appreciate it. This past weekend was so cool, that class went a little slower today. For the purpose of this post, I would like you to imagine that the places I’m describing are in Oregon, or Costa Rica, that’s how green and lively it is here.

On Saturday we went to Wenchi Crater Lake, a two hour drive from my town. The place was incredibly stunning, even more amazing when I realized that its not even located on most maps. It is a glacial lake formed in a hollowed volcano. The rim sits at 11,500 feet and the lake sits at 10,000 feet. (did I mention its hard to breathe here?) Surrounding the lake are banana trees, wild horses, tropical palm trees and pine trees. Sprouting out of nowhere, a few circular thatched roof huts offer their residents a pretty unbelievable view. We hiked the 2 miles to the bottom, and 3 of my more daring friends and I went for a swim. The water was surprisingly cold, and the altitude made it almost impossible to swim/breathe.

After our quick swim, we headed back up the hillside. At the top, our country director offered us a ferrero-rocher chocolate. I haven’t had chocolate in years due to my disease. I gave in. I can still taste the sensation of chocolate giving way to hazelnut on the roof of my mouth, my tastebuds demanding an answer for years of deprivation. Immediately I was 12 again and standing in the kitchen of the Deane’s house, trying my very first Ferrero Rocher. I almost cried. (Ok, I cried)  It’s the simplest things in life that we often take for granted. (Miss you Ben and Pat…Pat your posts were hilarious. Ben, sorry my blog is so emo. Call me)

Our director then said that many in our group will be going to places similar to this, working to find income generating activities for locals, and promoting tourism to the parks. Amazing how I had to come to Africa to actually use what I learned in my major.

 

Menaagesha.

On Sunday, I met my friends Johnny and Chase in a town called Manaagesha for some Tea (and sympathy). Later, we were joined by Seth, Scott and John and we set off to hike Menaagesha Mountain. On the way, an older man stopped us and showed us a shortcut. Just past a colorful church and the priests’ graveyard, we were treated to an unforgettable show. Giant spider monkeys were showing off their skills for us in the trees above. They jumped up to 10 feet through the air, landing on the branch of a neighboring tree. I could have spent hours watching them, but they disappeared into the forest.

Just then we realized that our new friend was expecting payment for his services. He asked for 200 Birr (about 13  dollars). We offered 20. We settled at 40. Welcome to Africa.

At the top of the mountain, we made Ethiopian Hot Dogs—a split bun with a full banana and peanut butter inside, and enjoyed the view. I’ve come to realize that the people here are incredibly like me. I’ve made friendships that will last forever It is such a unique experience that only these few people can understand. I am the youngest person here, and I look up to a lot of the older volunteers. But when I look at the people my age, it’s a lot like looking in the mirror.

For instance, as we hiked, I was telling Seth about my girlfriend back home. I explained how good of an artist and photographer she is—how she can find beauty in anything, and can tell a story with a picture. He said that’s what he most wants in a girlfriend; someone who can inspire you to get more out of each day. Sure enough, that is the one thing that has really enriched my experience here. As I walk to school or hike, I try and see things as she would, noticing how a simple door is really a microcosm for the way of life here, or how an individual tree can capture the beauty and isolation of Ethiopia.

So armed with my camera, I’ve spent a lot of time taking pictures, trying to tell the story of Ethiopian life. I pale in comparison to Carly, but I try to duplicate what she can do with a camera and a computer.

I can’t wait for her to come and show me the ropes.

 

 

An Awesome Day

Today was an awesome day. When I was a baby, we had a babysitter from Ethiopia named Guenaye. Over the years we lost touch, but before I came here, my mom tracked her down on facebook (Yeah, Anne Waidmann is tight like that). She gave me great advice before I came. In Addis for a wedding this week, she drove over an hour to see me, bearing gifts from home—a perfect example of the kind of courtesy that Ethiopians are famous for.

So the care package was awesome, complete with soft caramel candy, glow in the dark bracelets, a leatherman, a cd drive so I can actually play movies, and a  PILLOW (the one’s here are literally bricks).

After this I was off to Holeta, where I learned how to make a stove out of concrete mix and water, and then practiced my Injera making skills. Back at home we watched “The Patriot” as a family before I passed out on the couch.

P.S. I’ve put all this stuff to great use. Thanks mom! I literally feel like tom hanks in castaway, opening packages and finding uses for them. I use the leather-man (a fancy pocketknife) for everything. I used the caramels, some sugar and butter to turn popcorn into caramel corn. My family thought it was the greatest invention ever. I showed the kids a couple more war movies, upon their repeated requests, including braveheart.

Its been hilarious narrating movies with the little Amharic I know. I spent about 10 minutes this afternoon translating, “you can kill us, but you can’t take our freedom.” The kids love the movies, but are very upset that Americans make movies where the good guys always die. Americans need to learn how to make a proper movie, they say. After the movie, I gathered my favorite 2 girls from the neighborhood, Kidest and Meheret, (3, and 5) and gave them the bracelets.

Love and thanks are words that are rarely ever used here. When they are used, it is supposed to carry A LOT of weight. As I went back in the house, the girls told me Amasayganalo, Iwedawalu: “Thank you, I love you.” Mom, I think I might be adopting two ethiopian girls.

 

My project

The greatest thing about the Peace Corps is the flexibility and freedom we are given. The Peace Corps mentality is basically that they will give us language, culture and technical training. (I am spending the next two weeks learning how to start a self-sufficient family garden.) However, it is on us to do whatever we can, using whatever experience we have, to help our village. Some environmental volunteers end up teaching English. Some education volunteers end up doing HIV work. In the end, nothing is demanded of us; we are supposed to just do what we can to help others.

My mind has been preoccupied with what I plan to do in my village. Coffee here is out-of-this world good, and abundant. However the market is often regional at best.

So here is what I want to do: I hope to start a coffee co-op at my site. The profits could be shared among the community, and be saved for local projects and investment. I have been daydreaming about potential markets as well. Finding one large customer can cause more damage than good. Having the co-op become a large operation can lead to initial profits but if it fails, as they often do, it could harm the makeup of the village and cause political strife. Therefore, I need to make this project on a smaller scale: a supplemental source of income and a job creating mechanism that could bring about economic development without altering the way of life in the community.

Here is where I need your help. I need to find a few local coffee shops willing to purchase small amounts of Ethiopian Organic Coffee. They could purchase small quantities each month, enough to run a weekly or bi-weekly special on the coffee, advertising the positive effects purchasing a cup will have on a small third world village. If three stores bought 30 dollars worth of coffee each month, this could create jobs for up to 10 people here.

For now this is just a pipedream. Perhaps my village won’t even have coffee trees. I would also need to fully research customs issues, packaging, find an importer, and actually produce and process the beans first. I’m excited about the opportunity. Call or email me if you have any ideas or resources.

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4 comments on “beyond my front door

  1. Mom says:

    Hi Mike, I am glad you liked your stuff. I am SO GLAD Guenaye was able to see you. I think she is flying back now, and I can’t wait to meet her to see how her trip went, and how you are! I just got home from Utah…had a business trip and got to spend a couple days with the DeTemples. Babysat Wesley Fri night-whew! Such a Cute baby, but they are lots of work. Actually, I just watched his grandma take care of him. Fun. I walked a bunch and saw Moose, red-tailed hawk and porcupines. Andrea and Josh are doing well, Alisha and Danny also. Tell Pat Deane I am NOT racist. It is true that I run into Ethiopians everywhere. And I am proud to tell them about you. Pat, on the other hand, hmmm. Not sure he should quit his day job at PwC to become a poet. Yikes!
    love, mom

  2. Mom says:

    PS. We are trying to figure out Skype and gchat. Hope to talk to you soon.

  3. Birgit says:

    I was thinking about your coffee shop idea. I am not sure if a coffee shop would interested in purchasing coffee in small quantities but I bet families would. Michael & I easily spend $30 on coffee a month and would be interested in having a steady quality supply, instead of having to run over to Starbucks for our next pound. I wonder if others would feel the same way? This could start as a small direct to home import business and grow from there – if you could build the necessary infrastructure in your village, I am sure we could figure out something to work here.

    🙂 Birgit

    • Donnell says:

      Michael you seem to be having a good time I’m glad to hear it I’m going to send you something for Christmas when I get the chance. I hope all is well.

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