Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where did all the Ethiopia go?

Took a look at a calendar today, and Dave and I have been away for almost eight weeks. It will be officially eight weeks come this Friday morning. So, we have been here for more than half of our placement already. It's gone so fast that we will be back on Canadian soil before we even know it has approached.

It's been an interesting few days since I've posted last. Several members of the NSAC faculty have been here, and Dave and I have been helping them with whatever they need. So we do prep work, attend their lectures, drew a few things for lab, photocopy papers and take attendance. It's been really great to spend some time with people with similar humour, and sharing the culture. I didn't realize how important it is to interact with people who have the same culture, but you really don't notice it until you're completely removed from your comfort zone. It's great to be a part of subtle jokes, as the jokes that we are accustomed to here are funny but just a different way of humour. I can't really describe it, but the faculty from NSAC have kept us laughing. It's been really nice.

We've had to say goodbye to several good friends who are leaving for Europe, which is tough. They were here on a medical project at the hospital, in the last week we've said goodbye to two (Ben and Charlotte). We had to say goodbye to another friend (Linda) about two weeks ago. Anyway, several more are here for a few more months. So we still have some other farenjis (foreigners) who are going through the same sort of changes we are dealing with to hang out with every once in a while.

A few neat things that I have done recently.

Last Sunday, we travelled to Gibe Falls in Seka for the second time. Heavy rains had really swollen the river, and the current was very strong. Solomon wouldn't let us get within three feet of the water as a few students in the past have drowned by swimming underneath the water falls. It was a really nice time with the Canadians, and we stopped to buy some oranges from some sweet little kids on the drive back.

On Monday, I went for a little tour of a local school ABFM Academy. The kids were very pleasant and sang us many songs to welcome us, as well as the national and regional anthems. I have a couple of videos, but I can't get them up due to technical difficulties. Photos have stopped working periodically too, so I'll try that later on today.

The kids aged 3-14 speak three languages at school; Oromic, Amharic and English. All students write exams, even the three year olds in kindergarten. I have an invitation to visit whenever I like, so I'm really excited to go back.

We're still waiting for avocados to be ready so we can do some drop height experimentation on microorganism growth rates. Hopefully they are ready in about a week or so, because I am getting really anxious to get going with it. I've been thinking about it all the time for the past three or four weeks.

I've been watching a fair amount of the world cup, I sort of pick and choose the games I want to see. It's super exciting to watch here, because everyone is really into it. Everyone seems to know each player who plays in the premiership, there are Chelsea, Manchester and Arsenal stickers/flags/keychains/shirts absolutely everywhere.

I'll get the photos up later once things start to function a little better.

See you in 50 days Canada.


Charlotte and I with kids at ABFM

View from the Roof of Honeyland

A wattled ibis flies at night. I was trying to get close and ending up getting this creepy shot.

This is such a nice colour combination. Unsure of the flower name though.

Monday, June 21, 2010

CV's and Acacia Trees

So it's been a little longer than usual since writing my last post, but I hope this one will make up for it. I have had an incredible week, filled with some incredible memories that I know I will never forget.

The week got off to a strong start on Monday, when Dave and I gave a presentation on CV's, finding post secondary funding and how to succeed in job interviews. I worked really hard putting together the presentation, and finding information about scholarships. It was a long process with a lot of googling, and seemingly no results in the beginning. But after refining searches, we got together an excellent list of resources. We had the presentation compiled for about a week and a half, before we presented it, as we were waiting on the return of a staff member contributing to the project. When he returned, the notice was approved by the dean on Saturday for the presentation to be Monday. Three posters were put up. I was quite discouraged, thinking that nobody would show up. So on Monday, when we arrived at the venue there was already a presentation going on. They had double booked the auditorium. Our presentation was moved to a lecture hall elsewhere on campus. At ten minutes past the scheduled start time, three people had shown up. Not too encouraging. But little by little people began to show up, and eventually we had 71 students.

The presentation went for about eighty minutes, and many students stayed after to ask us questions and ask for help. It was really nice to finally have some students approach us, as I think it was easier to do in a setting so public and open. We have a few students coming to us later this week to edit resumés, conduct mock interviews and help find job listings online. So that should be a productive way to spend the week.

On Tuesday, Dave and I got to go all around the Southern part of Ethiopia. We travelled from Jimma to Addis Ababa. The next day from Addis Ababa to Sheshamene, and the next day Sheshamene to Hawassa, back through to a small town about 70 kilometers from Addis called Mojo. The next day we travelled back from Mojo to Addis to pick up other project members from NSAC (Dr. Gordon Price, Anne Lelacheur and Anna Fitzgerald). We looked around a bit for accommodations in Addis, but then retreated back to Mojo just because it was safe, and inexpensive compared to Addis. On the final day, we drove from Mojo to Addis, picked up the project members and drove back to Jimma.

Though driving took up most of the day, it was really my favourite part of the journey. I couldn't keep my eyes off the beautiful scenery everywhere.

The Great Rift Valley, is without doubt one of the most beautiful things to see in the whole world. Mountains appear from flat fields, Lakes are hidden by jagged cliffs, there are beautiful prickly pear cacti left right and centre. If you picture in your mind the African Savanah, with the beautiful flat topped trees... that's what we saw everywhere. There were way too many references to Lion King made, for example "Look at that Lion King tree!", "It looks like Rafiki will pop out any minute." etc, etc.

The most interesting thing for me though, was the ornithological life observed along the way. Even the tiniest birds, were so becoming. There were birds of every size and colour. There was a beautiful spot breasted plover I spotted near Sheshamene, yellow fronted parrots, black winged love birds, abyssinian long claw, giant white pelican, maribou stork. Those are just the ones I was able to identify later on, if I had a book... I would have been able to get so much more out of it. But, I think I am doing fairly well all things considered.

Some other highlights included delicious food including tegabino (shiro {from dried yellow peas}, chili peppers, and butter) which is eaten with injera, checla tibs (goat meat, chili peppers and onion) served on a small grill with burning coals, hot mustard and chili paste, as well as delicious egg sandwiches (egg on wheat bread with chili peppers and onion). I'm defiantly getting used to hot peppers, as I can eat them straight up. At least in little pieces, I haven't tried with an actual pepper eating bites yet.

Today I attended Anna and Anne Marie's (Fitzgerald & Lelacheur) lecture on standard operating procedure. It went really well with about 35 people in attendance. Anna and Anne Marie kept the audience interested with a humorous example of putting on a lab coat, and the associated precautions and risks. It was too funny.

I'm going to try to do a food post later on this week, of some of my favourite dishes. But, I have to say... I like them all.

Keeping happy, and healthy. Enjoy the longest day of the year, for everyone back in Canada. It's 7:00 here, and already quite dark.

If you're reading this GP, still looking for Kurtz.


Typical mountain in the Great Rift Valley

Salaam Mountain - Enroute from Addis - Jimma

Great White Pelican - Lake Hawassa Fish Market

Some rocks from a lake enroute from Shesheshamene to Mojo. Does anyone know what the peculiar black mineral is? I thought maybe manganite or osbadian... it looks igneous. I'm no geologist, but I brought a bunch back in my pocket so I can figure it out later on.

Maribou Stork, very beautiful but about 4 feet tall. I was scared they'd fly off with some of the smaller children. Taken at Lake Hawassa

A "lion king" tree. Actually a type of Acacia Acacia tortilis of the Fabaceae family. It is very common throughout the drive, we drove through HOURS and HOURS of savana with millions of these trees. Very beautiful

Great White Pelicans fighting over a piece of rotten fish. Taken in Hawassa

Some sort of weaving bird makes these beautiful nests. It wasn't uncommon to see thirty or forty in a single tree.

My favourite bird of the trip. It's unidentified at this point, but was catching flies on Lake Hawassa. I wish I could go on a bird tour there with a good guide, there was so much to learn. He was about the size of a chickadee.

Finally, this is my favourite photo of the trip. Two little boys running around, near Lake Hora. I know this isn't Lake Hora, but it was one next to it. I'll double check the name w/ Solomon later on.

Friday, June 11, 2010

1/3 Through: Reflections

So today, when I had a look at the calendar, I realized that I had completed one third of my placement. I was a little bit shocked. Five weeks in, with only ten more to go. Time is flying by, I'll be back in the valley before I even know it. Speaking of the valley, I had one very special treat brought to me by a friend which was... an apple. My first apple in five weeks, which was probably the best tasting apple I ever ate. Just because I was craving one so badly. I had to peel it, which was sad but necessary due to food safety. And it was ice cold because it was in the fridge. And it wasn't very crunchy, but it really hit the spot and I was very thankful that it was given to me. It was a very thoughtful and appreciated gift.

Dave and I have had a fairly uneventful week, we've continued to work on a presentation for graduating students and put the finishing touches on today. It's a presentation on how to find a job after graduation, improving your CV, finding financial aid and scholarships to continue education and how to do well in interviews. It's a pretty simple, presentation but we tried making it a little humorous. Hopefully it goes over well, that is taking place on Monday.

Dave and I had a chance to play veterinarian the other day with 400 two week old chicks, we were inoculating them against some sort of parasite. We got to mix the vaccination and then, administer each one to the patients. The chicks were so small, you could pick up four gently with two hands cupped and they wouldn't scratch or bite. Very sweet little things, after they were finished we moved on to the Rhode Island Reds which were also quite nice, but not as fun as the little chicks, as they had developped talons (Dave and I both avoided scratches luckily) and really negative attitudes about having someone putting medicine into their eyes. We did all of them in about two and a half hours, it was most definitely a valuable experience to have.

I've started a new thing, where I draw whenever I am waiting for people who are late. It's just a way for me to calm myself down, because I still get antsy and annoyed when people are late, without excuse, and without apology... for every single thing. It's the way time works, and I knew it would be my biggest struggle in Ethiopia, as back home I crave structure with time, and like to plan and organize. Here it doesn't work so well, Dave is more like the Ethiopians and has no trouble just sitting back and waiting. But, it really irks me. I am getting better with it, but I'm still not over it. So Drawing is a new way to calm myself down, and chill out so to speak. It's teaching me to be more patient, and I think that's a good thing. As I had no patience for people being late back home, now I feel that I am becoming a lot more tolerant.

This weekend Dave and I are hopefully/potentially touring a palace in the hills outside of Jimma with two local teenagers ( ages 18 and 19). Their names are Samuel and Isaac (two easy names to remember for once). They approached us last week at a pool in town, and surprised us with very clear, very natural sounding English. I'm excited to hang around people my age, as my only friend close to my age is Dave (three years older), everyone else for the most part is 10-15 years older than me. I've been able to get along with people older than me, very naturally. But it will be nice to hang out with some people my own age again for sure. The whole "just starting university age" everyone else has a degree and a career and they have that whole thing that I really don't understand yet.

When we met Samuel and Isaac, the first few things they asked were "What are your favourite movies?". They're big into anything English, and I think watching movies has really made them strong speakers. They also must practice speaking English with each other frequently, as they speak better English than most of the faculty here on campus. They also were asking about slang, they go to school at a Catholic school where a few Americans come in the summer and teach kids slang. They were trying some lines like "How's it hanging" and "Wuzzup". It was too funny.

I've found myself getting VERY tired of the same four foods here at the cafeteria (kai-wut, egg sandwich, pasta with onion and tomato and baiyonet). So I've been eating a lot of avocados in replacement of lunch or breakfast to try to change things up. Dave and I have also done a little cooking, mostly eggs. We have two burners on a hot plate to use, and limited groceries. We usually just do omelets with lots of vegetables. We are getting really used to spice, and usually put multiple jalapenos into them. I had a scare the other day with jalapeno and eyes, I was cutting one into fine pieces and got a squirt into the eye. So I ran to the tap with my eyes closed, as was just about to rinse them out. When I remembered that I would likely get an infection from pouring untreated water into my eye. So then, I ran back to the room and got a bottle of spring water and flushed my eye for a few minutes. It stung like a lemon in the eye but ten times as intense. Luckily, David had a bottle of contact solution that worked like an eye rinse as well. So I got it all under control after a few minutes. I recommend to anyone cutting jalapenos to keep their face away from the cutting board, it will save a lot of discomfort.

Anyway, I am going to get a bite to eat.

Attached are a few photos. One of a few chicks we vaccinated, one of the hens, one of an omelet we were cooking and one a very small praying mantis I found while washing my hands this morning.



Friday, June 4, 2010

Four weeks in

So today marked four weeks since my departure from Canada.

I am doing very well here. The food is finally agreeing with me all the time, I've made lots of friends, and the climate is just right. We've been experiencing some AMAZING rain storms, which feel like the end of the world is coming. Truthfully, it's a little bit scary at times. But it's so neat.

David and I have been hanging around a bit with some European surgeons, medical interns and registered nurses. They're very kind, and really refreshing to talk to. It's just such a nice thing to have someone else who's first language is also English. You can make subtle jokes, and it's just nice to hear some opinions from other "farenjis". (foreigners). I even get a couple of words in in French here and there.

Dave and I are doing well outside of campus now, and we enjoy taking walks around town to the merkato, or to the Variety Café, which serves delicious fresh juices.

As far as work goes, we've been doing a variety of things from writing and narrating a documentary, to designing a device to minimize dropping impact for avocados. We've also edited papers, marked exams, reformatted a course calendar, been interviewed for Ethoipian television, created a presentation on preparing resumés and job interviews to name a few.

A few funny things have happened, that have really made me realize that I'm in a different country.

Taking public transport to the bank, someone hopped on the bus with a rooster tucked under her arm. That just cracked me up, because the "bus" (basically a glorified van) had already about 25 people in it. And here this woman was, bringing on livestock.

The other day a group of kindergarten kids came to campus for a tour. I got mistaken for being of Chinese descent, which was hilarious. The kids all started yelling "LOOK! CHINA! LOOK CHINA". I never really considered myself to look Asian, but apparently to those little guys and girls I did.

Also with younger kids, Dave and I were hanging out in the garden before supper and some of the faculty's children approached us and began rehearsing their English lessons from school. Here were two of my favourite ones, you'll have to imagine these tiny little girls maybe five years old and three feet tall talking in robotic english back and forth. Too cute.

The Phone Conversation

Girl 1: Hello is Meron there?
Girl 2: Yes this is Meron.
Girl 1: I need your help
Girl 2: What do you need my help for?
Girl 1: I lost my grammar book
Girl 2: Where did you lose it?
Girl 1. Yes, I left it at the academy
Girl 2: Oh, you can borrow mine
Girl 1: Thank you so much
Girl 2: You are welcome. Goodbye
Girl 1: Goodbye.

Situation II - Birthing

Girl 1: Where were you today
Girl 2: I was at home
Girl 1: Why?
Girl 2: My mother has given a birth
Girl 1: What is the sex?
Girl 2: Female
Girl 1: Congratulations
Girl 2: Thank you
Girl 1: Good bye
Girl 2: Good bye

Often walking through the town, we hear these situations being played out again and again. Obviously, a big class that practices the same dialogue.

Oh, and I'm going to have some photos added later.

Keep Happy and Healthy,