Enough with my meandering epiphanies and thoughts. Here is what I’ve been doing…A day in the life
The asterik represents the folly of writing about an average day. There are no average days in the Peace Corps. Every day has unforeseen obstacles and inspirations. Most days I wake up early. Some days I can stay in bed until noon, writing, reading or surfing the web. The best part of Peace Corps is the freedom and the opportunity to do as one pleases. Nevertheless here is my best attempt at an average, yet productive day. This is an actual day that occurred last week.
6:30: I wake up, normally to the sound of priests chanting, cows mooing, roosters crowing, and goats bleating. Eating meat is sometimes an act of revenge that I take a sick pleasure in.
7:30 I’ll drag myself out of bed. I’ve likely spent the last hour talking on the phone with Carly, reading a book, or watching a show on my laptop.
8:00 I step outside my house and am greeted by the aforementioned animals. There is also a puppy that I’ve fallen for. She roams free, but has attached herself to me. I’m not allowed to have pets so I try and discourage this behavior. Nevertheless, “jibby” (translation: my little hyena) waits by my door for me to leave. She’ll run up to me and smother me with attention. We also just bought a 3 week old kitten to train as a mouse killer.
8:15: I’m heading to a nearby restaurant. Outside my door there is giant tree where monkeys often play. Just behind my front door is a small garden. Here, forest coffee dominates the space, save for some fruit trees; Avocados, bananas, papayas. To my extreme delight, the mango tree is starting to bear fruit.
I exit my compound and am greeted simultaneously by 30 people. My house is at a crossroads. Some of the greetings come from college students walking to their first class. They ask if I am at Peace (Salaam no?) and offer me a good morning (dehna derk!) Women are sitting under a grove of trees to my right. They sit there all day with big baskets of Injera that they sell. A storeowner yells out, “Na Bunna Teta” (come drink coffee). Other hello’s come from a group of kids who have a shoe shining operation right on the street. They tell me to come join them while they shine my shoes. The Ethiopians who own shoes are oddly paranoid about keeping them shined. Other kids stop playing soccer and shout “Mykil! Mykil! Na! Techewot? (Michael, Michael! Come and play!)
This dance that is Ethiopian greetings can last minutes and I try and shorten this process. My breakfast spot is just a few blocks away, and I’m cranky when I’m hungry.
8:30 My absolute favorite food in Ethiopia is called Fule. It is considered the food of the poor, but it tastes incredible. It costs around 15 cents and is the one dish that doesn’t use Injera. French loaves are dipped into a sauce of onions, garlic, spices and refried beans. It tastes positively Mexican and I eat it often. Otherwise I’ll make hash browns and eggs in my house with an avocado, banana and fresh milk.
9:00 – I’ve started my walk into town. I have two options. The quick way or the long way. The long way is preferred as it bends through the eucalyptus forrests, the sheta river, and offers great views of the forest. It is quiet, but tiresome, about 4 km into town.
The faster way presents the opportunity of catching a bus into town. If not, the road is dusty, hot, and filled with Kids who are still yet to call me by my name. They shout out for money, at their mothers’ request.
9:30 I have an appointment with a local leader. These meetings are often a social occasion. It can be frustrating, as meetings, in my opinion, is the main opponent of work. In life, some people meet, but I want to do.
So far, I have had several of these appointments a week. I’ve met with the education department, the priests, the development office, and local NGO’s. The day before I met with a principal to hammer out my teaching schedule. Starting mid-february I will be teaching English a couple hours a day. I’ll split my week between the kindergarten, elementary school and high school. I’ve already started at the Kindergarten and the kids are AWESOME. I make up games and try and teach them as much as I can. In turn, my Amharic is getting a lot better.
But today I’m meeting with the tourism department and I’m relatively excited. We meet over Shay-Bunna (A coffee/tea ceremony) and discuss possible projects. There is some promising stuff here. I tell them I am working on some brochures and a website (with the help of Carly) to promote the area. They tell me some rangers are coming for 2 months to train in Bonga and ask me to teach the future guides how to cater to tourists and speak English. That would be an awesome project. We discuss the need to facilitate communication with the local hotels, to create the type of infrastructure needed to become a tourist destination. I tell them my plans to train a couple orphaned kids to lead small groups of tourists to the waterfall. They like this idea. The meeting ends.
11:00: I’ll stop by my main office, the Honey cooperative and talk to Wasihun Benti. He is my counterpart and a great man. He has helped me so much so I feel obligated to help him where I can. Again I am using my more skilled girlfriend to create a website to promote his honey—so I’ve been working to complete the photographs and the text for his website. After lunch we are traveling to a nearby town so I can photograph the bee keepers. On my way to lunch I stop by NABU, a terrific german NGO run by a great Ethiopian man who will help me with lots of projects. However, his office is closed.
12:30 I grab lunch with Dave at a local restaurant. I order shekela tibs, which is slices of meat caramelized in a clay pot with oil, onions and peppers. Its really good, and costs about 80 cents. After Lunch, me and Dave always go next door to the fruit stand. Here you can get bananas, pineapple or avocado and papaya smoothies for 35 cents. Life is good.
2:00: I meet with Wasihun and we head to the small town of Wush-Wush, 9 miles away. The drive there is INCREDIBLE. We pass through the bonga forest reserve and vast fields of tea. The tea leaves are bright green and built along the slopes, rivaling the beautiful rice fields found in Asia. Wush-Wush is also home to a few packs of lions but I don’t see any on this trip.
2:30: We arrive in Wush-Wush. We hike up a hill to some local farms. Here 3 different farmers teach me the elaborate process of creating honey. This consists of forming hollowed logs and coating them with Eucalyptus leaves. The logs are wrapped in broad leaves and hoisted, sometimes 60 feet, into the trees. Here they attract the bees. I take tons of pictures, but I get too close. The bees attack me and I run a quarter of a mile slapping my face as the locals laugh hysterically. I counted 20 stings. It sucked, but I got some great pictures and spoke with the local farmers who really enjoyed showing me their lives.
5:30: We make it back to Bonga. I head home where I have the whole afternoon to myself. I work on cleaning up my room. I can be kind of anal about making my room look good, but it helps when your house feels like a home. On this day, I rearranged my furniture so I can watch a movie from bed.
6:30: I force myself to work out, against my will. I’ve now lost 40 pounds from when I first got my disease. I need to fatten up and bulk up. I look like a pussy.
8:00: I make popcorn with some melted peanut butter that my Grandma sent me. I watch a movie called “What Dreams May Come.” My friend Ben recommended this movie a long time ago. It is a relatively strange, but awesome movie. Its a tragedy of a movie that pits Robin Williams in a heaven made from his Wife’s paintings, searching for his deceased family. I love Robin Williams. The movie makes me think about Carly way more than I’d like to. I can’t wait for her to come here and paint Bonga.
10:00 I think about going for a run. I’ve always loved running at night. Its cool, quiet and the stars are ridiculous. I talk myself out of it. I fall asleep with the lights on. It was a good day.