Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I just can't believe it. Where did the last two months go? I will have been here nine weeks come Friday, NINE WEEKS. That to me seems like a very long time, and I suppose it has been. As of today (July 7th) I will be back on Canadian ground in forty-four days.

The last few days have been really nice, as I have found out that I need space more then I think. Dave and I had been living together, eating together and working together for the past eight weeks. We get along really well, and rarely argue about anything. The last few days Dave has been away in Lalibala, and I have had some time to think, and read and it's just been different. I've has a lot of time to reflect and it's been really good for me. I've improved my outlook my time here, I'm starting to feel a little more rewarded for the work that I've been doing and I am getting much better at communicating with people who don't speak English (Notice that I didn't say my Amharic is good, because it isn't.

Some of the really nice things that have happened recently will be listed below.

#1. A French Conversation
This was probably the nicest thing that has happened to me all summer. I've always loved speaking French, and have taken many initiatives in the last few years to improve my abilities. After arriving to AC, my ambition to learn French got pushed off to the side. But it has still been there. I was walking down the street by myself at about eleven o'clock in the morning, and this really big guy comes walking up to me. I stand at around six foot one, six foot two. This guy had me by at least three inches, and had very broad shoulders. Maybe I'm exaggerating but he seemed quite big.

I was wearing a shirt that I purchased in Québec a few summers back that has a little robot on it, and below it "Energie". I think that might have been what started the conversation, or maybe just the fact that I am white and look like a foreigner. The man approached me and with a very clear accent that I was able to understand said "Parlez-vous Français?" I was so excited. We talked for about a half an hour, just walking around. He was in town working for a financial company. He was working on a long term placement and was from Senegal. We talked for about half an hour, and it was just so unexpected and so welcome that it put me in a wonderful mood for the next few days. I was caught off guard, but really surprised myself with how much French I had actually retained. My tenses are a little messy. Okay, more like a lot messy. But my comprehension was almost perfect, and he wasn't speaking slow. So that was wonderful.

#2. World Cup
The world cup is taking place in South Africa, and it is regrettable that it's too far away to visit. However, the excitement is very much here. Akon, Shaqira and K'naan blast from every radio, every store and every car. Children and adults all around town wear jerseys. Most people here cheer for European teams, Netherlands is very popular. The premier league is one of the few things on television here, so most people are fans of Chelsea, Manchester U, or Liverpool.

We watch the games either on campus at the staff lounge (though it's very crowded) or sometimes, which I prefer is watching the game at a local pension (hotel). The games are projected onto big screens outside in the evening, and dozens of locals come out to cheer. It's super exciting and a really nice way to spend the evening.

#3. Insects and Birds
I'm still not over it. It's not going to happen. Just as I think I am getting used to it, a giant ant will land on my plate with HUGE mandibles. Or I'll almost step on a five inch praying mantis. An eagle will fly out of the tree, or a tiny bright yellow bird will be calling from a tree nearby. The only insects I don't like here are the German cockroaches in my room. They're fairly big, and they take at least three hard shoe whacks before they die. They crawl under my mosquito net, and I'll feel them on my face at night. That's rather disgusting. I don't mind them being around if they don't crawl on me. But when they crawl on my face... it's war.

I killed twenty five last night before I went to bed. I left the bodies squished on the floor. I'm hoping they act as a warning for others that come near... but that's just a little bit of foolish optimism. I feel that if one multicellular, motile organism was to inhabit the earth some day it would be a cockroach. I trapped one under a water bottle cap, then put my shoe on it for six days. Today I removed it, and it ran into a hole in the wall... gross.

#4. Space to breathe

I had my first experience where I was outside and couldn't see anyone. There is a little park near the center of the town, which is gated. It's basically a horticulture area, and is very green and very beautiful. There is a one birr fee to enter the park, and I went early in the morning and was the only person around. It was so nice, I miss the space of Canada. I miss being able to take a walk and see nobody, I sat by the river for a few hours, and watched birds and read a book. I also ate my first apples of the summer. It had been eight weeks, and even though they were small and kinda chewy... they were very appreciated. It costs the same amount to buy 100 oranges, as it does to purchase a package of 5 apples. I think I will stick to my oranges (they taste much better anyway).

#5. Meeting the People

I am getting really good at making small talk with locals. On my normal walk down the hill, I have a few people who I regularly talk to. There is a compound with about eight little boys and girls who play hopscotch in front of the bakery. Whenever I walk by, they yell "WHAT IS YOUR NAME?" to which Dave and I usually respond, then ask theirs and keep walking. In the last week, they've managed to remember my name and they all come running over yelling "POWL! POWL! 'OW ARREEE YOOO" The "R's" are rolled and it's very sweet. Gordon Price left a soccer ball to give as a gift, and I've seen them kicking around a very old deflated ball with holes from a neighborhood dog. I think they would be the perfect recipients.

There is also a man at the same spot in the road who loves to talk to me. He calls me "Tom". I don't know why. But as soon as I get close he yells "TOM!" comes running out of this house or cafe or shop to shake my hand. It's quite funny.

Anyway, I am going to tie this post up and get a nice piece of maize. If you're Canadian, I'll be back on Canadian soil in just forty-four days. Yowza.


Praying mantis on a Geranium

Wonderful little nectar eating bird on a hibiscus, not a wonderful shot of the bird because they're very quick.

This is "my dog". I named him "Selam", he's not very friendly but he will come close to me as I give him bones to chew on periodically. I miss my dog back home. I want to pet him, but not as much as I want to avoid fleas.

This is a photo I took at the end of a heavy rain. The sun had just began to break through the clouds. This was taken on JUCAVM campus.

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