Archive | March, 2013

Women First – 5K Down Bole

29 Mar

While everyone back home has been talking about marriage equality, here in Ethiopia us Peace Corps women lended our voices to a call for gender equality. While I’m feeling a little like I’m missing out on some big news and change back home, I feel priviledged to be part of the movement for women’s health and education out here in sub-Saharan Africa. Though it makes me sad that these are still issues here. Poverty can be blamed for many things: no access to a health center, no time or incentive to get an education, malnutrition. But it can’t be blamed for those times when women are not seen as “worth it.”

"No woman should die while giving life"

“No woman should die while giving life”

When people say gender equality in America they usually mean equal pay for equal work. When we say gender equality here, it means that, but it also means equal worth of life. A daughter should be educated because she is worth as much as son. A mother should be taken to the health center to give birth because she is worth more than her ability to give birth. A sister should not have to be harrassed on the street because she is more than a walking sex object. Changing minds is harder than changing laws. The laws exist here already.

But one of the ways to change minds, is to show the world that women care. They will stand up for themselves. And when they do, they can be a pretty powerful force.

Nearing the finish line together

Nearing the finish line together

A sea of solidarity

A sea of solidarity

So in mid March, around International Women’s Day, the women of Peace Corps joined in with the women of Addis Ababa and ran a 5K through the city to show that women can, and will come out in droves for themselves.

Representing Peace Corps Ethiopia

Representing Peace Corps Ethiopia

Pumping everyone up as we went.

Pumping everyone up as we went.

Staying stylish as we ran

Staying stylish as we ran

It was one of the best days in country so far. To see that many women come together and know that we were able to cheer them on as they fight for gender equality in their own country was a really inspiring experience.

Making a spirit tunnel near the finish line!!

Making a spirit tunnel near the finish line!!

Ethiopian colours!

Ethiopian colours!

The Peace Corps Ethiopia group!

The Peace Corps Ethiopia group!

But it wasn’t just about the women. The Peace Corps men came out to cheer us on too (and brought beer- good on them!). It was great to see support from our menfolk too.

Empowering Women

Empowering Women

 We are hoping to lobby Peace Corps to sponsor us to bring girls from our towns to Addis next year to run in the race, maybe tour Addis Ababa university, and speak with some inspirational women. Fingers crossed! Because let’s be honest, it isn’t about the race (I barely ran it), it’s about the movement and the solidarity and being surrounded by women who want change. For a young girl, that can be powerful.

The sponsors who do races all over the country.

The sponsors who do races all over the country.

Video

PC Ethiopia Harlem Shake

27 Mar

Because you can dress us up, but you can’t take us out. Jumping on some YouTube bandwagons. I’m G8 Health (you’ll spot me around 1:15 or so I think).

IST Reflection

24 Mar

IST. In Service Training. The point where, after three months at site, everyone is going a little crazy. We have been researching, interviewing, data mining, drinking copious amounts of shay/buna, meeting new people, and forgetting our Amharic. We have been getting sick, getting harassed and getting to be known. We have been missing each other.

So Peace Corps brings us all together, with our Ethiopian counterparts, sticks us in 9 hour days of training, and then lets us loose in Addis Ababa at night. Sounds like a good time, and for the most part it is. I actually learned a few things about composting and food security. I visited the National Aids Resource Center and got a little jealous of their resources. I discovered my counterpart really likes his sunglasses. But most importantly I got to catch up with the family of volunteers I came in with. The volunteers who are going through the same emotional cycle as me. The volunteers whose support I couldn’t do without.

IST is also the time when I got to know better those volunteers I only said a few words to before. Whether because we never had the same trainings, they lived in a different village, or we simply didn’t have much common ground, we certainly do now.

Nobody’s experience is the same. Some of us are in small villages, some in towns, and some in large cities. Some of us speak Amharic, some Tigrynia, some Oromifa, and some are picking up second and third tribal languages down south. Some of us are working with health centers, rural outposts, English learning centers, agricultural offices, and tree nurseries. But what we have in common is the day to day trials and small victories that come with living in communities where we both belong and do not belong. Where we represent change and hope as well as materialism and charity. Where we live in a fishbowl, yet no one really know us.

Three months in site, six months in country, coming back together gives us the chance to reevaluate. Are we still here for the same reasons? Have our expectations changed? What does success look like now? It is still early enough in our service to shape these things.

Coming in to IST I was worried about the changes I was seeing in myself. I was more blunt, curt, quick to assume and ignore people. And while many of these are coping mechanisms for the day to day barrage, what didn’t bother me 4 months ago was getting under my skin 4 weeks ago.

I didn’t want to come back to site, or America for that matter, a bitter jaded expat worker. But everyone is struggling. What is rude? Where to set boundaries? How much Doctor Who is really normal to watch in one day? And I realized I wasn’t doing too bad. And then I had a small incident that was a little scary, and I realized I wanted to go back to site. I was actually excited to go back to site, to start work, and see the people I hadn’t seen in three weeks.  And it wasn’t about getting out of Addis (well, a small part of it was), but getting to Gondar.

So IST did it’s job. It got me out of the funk. It shook me awake to the bitterness that was sowing seeds. It gave me a jolt of ferenji food, and sent me back ready to create relationships, get shit done, and separate my self worth from the times when I don’t get shit done. The show must go on, as they don’t say here.

Extreme Home Makeover

21 Mar

Now that I’ve lived at site for about three months I’ve finally put my house together. A mishmash of donated furniture, locally bought items, things I made myself and a classy plastic “marble” floor have made this cement shelter into something I actually felt was home when I walked in after 3 weeks away yesterday.

Welcome to my humble abode:

The entrance, with pretty iron work

The entrance, with pretty iron work

Home improvement projects still abound, but I’ve basically put together a space I can call my own. Here is the transformation.

BEFORE:

Priority 1 - set up bed

Priority 1 – set up bed

Living off the floor

Living off the floor

cement floors

cement floors

Step one was getting flooring and furniture in:

Living Room/Kitchen

Living Room/Kitchen

Step 2 was getting my cooking off the floor. That was a good day:

Kitchen set up - propane stove, water filter. I can get pretty creative.

Kitchen set up – propane stove, water filter. I can get pretty creative.

Step 3 was extra life furniture (wardrobe, bookshelf, malaria net etc.) I was really proud of myself for getting unfinished wood and varnishing/painting things myself. Take that ferenji prices!!

 

Bedroom - No Malaria for me!

Bedroom – No Malaria for me!

The bookshelve I made out of veggie crates. Probably killed a few brain cells with that varnish

The bookshelve I made out of veggie crates. Probably killed a few brain cells with that varnish

Shelf after paint

Shelf after paint

Step 4 was adding some homey touches and wall decorations:

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiam" Winston Churchill

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiam” Winston Churchill

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

A little slice of home

A little slice of home

Keeping track of my service

Keeping track of my service

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh

 

So all together:

colourful walls!

colourful walls!

So that’s where I’m living for the next two years. Not too shabby. Water is outside the compound and the shint bet (bathroom) is shared with everyone a few doors down. There’s a western toilet (what. up.) and a cold shower. I’m hoping to get a bamboo weaved basket to put random things in and I’ll probably put up another quote above the counter (suggestions welcome!). Future plans also include putting up my favorite photos that I’ve taken here around the Ethiopia map on the wall.

Sorry for the lack of posts these past few weeks, I didn’t realize I would be without internet during my conference so I’ll back on it soon!

 

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