Archive | July, 2013

A Quick Preview – Camp GLOW

25 Jul

I have been busy this week with girls from all over West Amhara at Gondar’s Camp GLOW (the longest running in Ethiopia!). Here’s a preview of some of the activities we have been doing and how much fun the girls are having learning about everything from health to environment to leadership.

Picking up litter for collages

Picking up litter for collages

Making salves with oil and beeswax

Making salves with oil and beeswax

Reading her "I'm a strong woman because..." statement before hitting the pinata

Reading her “I’m a strong woman because…” statement before hitting the pinata


Hitting the pinata to show that we are strong women!

Hitting the pinata to show that we are strong women!




What IFS?

16 Jul

Using software algorithms to predict the future, the good people at IFs (International Futures System) sent me some Ethiopian themed fortunes.  Actually, the good people at IFS is my friend from the Pardee Center at Korbel, and Ethiopian themed fortunes are a combination of fertility rates, HIV prevalence, education, and infrastructure data that are mathematically calibrated to give you pretty graphs:

Ooh, multiple population scenarios!

Ooh, multiple population scenarios!

The IFS software is used in some of the world’s most influential documents (lips are sealed) and works very similarly to the United Nations predictive algorithms, though we at Korbel like to think IFS is more accurate (more factors go into the system). It is a long-term predictive software that has been used on research from national security to rate of water conflict, to just a great source for international big data. Just for funsies, and because I’m a nerd, I asked my friend to pull up some Ethiopian data to give you all a broader look at the country, where my work fits in, and more international and sub-Saharan African trends.

As most people in this field know, the population of Africa is set to grow at the highest rate than any other region in the world over the next 5o years. That means that by 2050, 1 in 4 people of the world’s population will be African. What drives this growth? A myriad of factors, but mostly high fertility rates on the continent, with sub-saharan Africa having some of the highest in the world. Interestingly, the correlation between fertility rates and female education is clear (more education means less babies), and as these nations (Ethiopia included) work towards the Millennial Development goals you will see fertility rates drop:

Fertility rates through 2009

A significant drop over the past decade

Of course, right now, all these babies mean a pretty sizable youth bulge in the population distribution. And for anyone following the news, youth bulges, especially unemployed youth bulges, tend to be the foundation for revolution (see Egypt, Tunisia, Syria).







It also means that the largest segment of society will in theory be at their most productive age over the next few decades. The question is whether that talent will be wasted in a one-sided economy (agriculture makes up 85% of the workforce here) or if innovation and job creation will be fostered.  The private sector is one of the smallest in Africa, with stringent national laws allowing only majority Ethiopian owned enterprises to be registered. That’s one of the reasons that even in a big city like Addis you don’t see worldwide chains that you might see in Nairobi or Amman.  It’s the “import substitution” mentality of 1980s Latin America applied to small business growth… and it’s a bet I wouldn’t have made. We will see if it works in the long run, though history tends to say otherwise.

Ethiopia’s infrastructure is also leaps and bounds behind the rest, and the communal good is really slowing down growth. Rainy season all but kills export in some areas of the country when the roads are impassable. Though Chinese investment, specifically in road construction, has been ramped up over the years. It’s a tenuous relationship, the local perception of the Chinese investment here is less than positive even if the photo ops say otherwise. Though Addis Ababa is slated to be home to Africa’s tallest building soon with help from a Chinese construction company.

But that’s enough graphs for now…  the broad trends are interesting even when I’m working at the most rootiest of grassroots levels.

Texts From Last Habesha

9 Jul

As awkward and cringe worthy as ‘texts from last night,’ I bring you a compilation of the various unwanted attentions we get sent to our phone numbers from known and unknown numbers alike. I’ll keep it anonymous, but these are real text messages sent to me, my sitemates, and other volunteers from a variety of sources. Keep it together people!  Mostly we ignore, sometimes we have nice un-creepy guys answer our phones for us, and other times we have a good laugh. My thought is if you didn’t want me to put it online, you shouldn’t have sent it in the first place… I think we all deserve a little giggle after these.

A full conversation:

–          Hi mis ____ hw u doin and ma name is miracle. We meat some where on earth.

–          Mis ____ did u eat us breakfast.  if u don’t i will text u a hot dog

–          Whr r u know?

–          I don’t know how and i don’t know when but u stole ma heart and it is inside of u. plz give it back.

–          Hw do you treate if a guy loves u wz out a reason. and also u don’t know who is he. But he want to be on a date wz u.

–          Hi miss _____ how was ur day?

  • PCV Reply: Who is this?

–          Meracle from god

  • PCV Reply:  Your name

–          Im Meracle A.K.A. the awesome

  • PCV reply: How did you get my number?

–           God told me

  • PCV reply: Stop texting me. I don’t know you and I don’t want to date you.

–          Why don’t u be on a date wz me. Don’t act u got a husband.

–          Wht do u know abt love… *tried calling*

  • PCV reply: Don’t call.

–          Sorry im just mistaken ur not the right girl. And Im sory for wht i did.

(at least he was sorry! Haha)

Some random tidbits:

–          Why u no answer my calls? You know me, I am your friend from ____ and I say good nite baby

–          Let’s make love and enjoy.

–          Let’s enjoy 2gezer

–          I know your friend ____ also, I am the FBI. Do you know FBI?

  • Male PCV Question- How do I get an Ethiopian woman to dance with me?

–          Habesha response: Yeah ther is. Make sure she’s alone i.e. no male wiz her. Smile 4 her & make her smile too & surprise her in Amharic & appreciate her. After a while u’ll see her dancing wiz u. and am sorry 4 being late to text u back.


And there you have it. Ethiopians and Americans can equally embarrass themselves with a crazy text message, oh technology.

The Volunteer Life Cycle

5 Jul

So the joke is we are officially one baby down (9 months in). Dodged the first bullet, only two more babies to go. Of course, 27 months is a long time, and the amount of emotional roller coaster climbs, dips, and loops can make a volunteer go a little crazy from time to time, or even from hour to hour.

But it’s all been done before, recorded, documented, lamented, and praised. When we were first presented with the “volunteer life cycle” diagram, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. How could they know what challenges each of us would face? How could they know when our hardest or most exciting moments would be? But so far, they, the ephemeral Peace Corps staff around the world, have been spot on. My highs and lows and pretty much swung very closely to th

It's upside down, dips are good here.

It’s upside down, dips are good here.

Now, at nine months in, I’m supposed to be feeling more adjusted (check), more comfortable (check), at a language plateau (double check), overzealousness (yup), tend to compare with other volunteers (meh, my site is so different, I try not to), and frequent frustration with host culture (depends on the day, but harassment bothers me less even though the problem of consistency here bothers me more than before).

What this means is that as I pack my schedule with projects I’ll never be able to keep up with, I’m starting to make better Ethiopian friends, planning trips for the future, and for the first time I’m thinking 27 months is too short to do everything I want to do. But of course, talk to me in 3 months, when I hit a “mid-service crisis”… I’ll probably need to stalk up on chocolate in preparation.