Monday, April 14, 2014

A Peace Corps Baby

Dear friends and family,

I have been in Ethiopia for a little over nine months now and I've come to realize something, Peace Corps is a lot like being pregnant. (As I've gathered from listening to other people tell me what it's like to be pregnant.)

In Peace Corps there is a lot of vomiting. Weird foreign agents grow inside one's intestines and really mess with one's pee and poop schedule. (You never know when it's going to blow.)

I myself, have craved food I never liked before and have eaten the weirdest combinations of things.

I'm sleeping a lot and my back and feet ache constantly.

It's strange, full of bouts of explainable depression, and you find yourself counting down the days until this horror will end.

Despite all this, it feels rewarding, beautiful and you find pride in the miracle you are a part of.

The only difference is that, instead of being pregnant for only nine months I'm 'pregnant' for 27 (18 more to go guys) and what I'm gestating is not a whiny mini-me that poops a lot. It's a fully grown new-me (that quite frankly poops a lot.) We just have to wait a little longer to see what exactly this new iteration will be.

Love, Julia

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Spider Chronicles, A Spider Victory

As my war rages with the arachnids I have always stayed ahead. I have, at times, been impressed by their tenacity and creative endeavors to claim my home as their territory but, as the superior opponent I have earned victory in all our encounters. But all goliaths will fall. Last night's battle proved a victory for the enemy.
            They waited months for my guard to go down and then attacked as I was cleaning up my modest meal of the evening. It scurried fast, sticky legs hugging the wall as it raced along the slightly uneven surface. I let out a startled cry and swiftly backed away from my counter. Suds and water dripped from my fingers as I braced myself for a fight. It must have scouted the perfect location for this attack. It positioned itself by my food so I couldn't use my bug spray for the risk of poisoning my rations and it was safe behind large, bulky water buckets so I couldn't get a good angle with a shoe. I decided I had to try anyway.
            Yet the spider countered every move I made. I took one step towards my shoes, it scurried a little closer. I took another step and it scurried closer. I lunged for my shoes and it dropped out of sight. I let out another shriek. At this second shriek I heard the cries of my anxious neighbors. I beat a retreat from my home. The spiders had won.
            I was saddened and ashamed at my loss. It was a dark night.

            The spider was not victorious for long. Reinforcements soon came and evicted the disgusting creature in only a matter of minutes. Zed forced the spider from under the table with a volley of bug spray and quickly smashed it with a shoe, sweeping it out of sight and into a rain ditch. My ally was strong and fearless when coming to my aid. I thank him and send this blog as a tribute to his strength.

The spider from the first installment of this saga was twice as big.

Monday, March 31, 2014

An Observation in the Wrong Frame of Mind

It was such a delicate touch.
Barely a soft caress.
Like a lover flirting with a kiss
Softly brushing an eyelash.
Are you a lover?
A magnificent black and tan beast,
The oil on your hide shining in the sun.

You stand larger than the shops lining the street.
Your flat nose bent down
Sniffing at something.

The not yet sun-bleached skull
Of one of your fellows
A small patch of hide
Still fastened between the horns.

Do you recognize the smell?
Is it a friend?
Or a vague memory of a friend.

Maybe it was a brother
And the smell of what's left
Of him evokes memories.
Sad and beautiful in their pain.

Or is it a stranger? Someone you never knew,
Never loved
And you are merely exploring the morbidity of your own death when

Your skull will join his in that ditch.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Importance of Soft.

Dear Past Me,

Thank you so much. I am extremely grateful that you had the foresight to hide little pieces of toilet paper in random pockets of our backpack. As we all know, I can be a little forgetful at times to bring my soft with me. When I was struck with the need to use the facilities today I had what I needed, all because of you. You truly are a lifesaver.
            I will try to remember to replace what I used so future us will not be without (we both know she's an airhead).


            Present Us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

YeWubalem Megibet (Wubalem's Restaurant)

This is from my favorite restaurant in town. They always present coffee on a little tray. It has all the fixings for a proper buna ceremony. There's even an adorable little mini-stove for the incense (itan, I like it better than sandal). I can pour as many cups as I want in my own time and put as much sugar as I want. No more, when I say "sikwar yellem" (no sugar) will I get looks that plainly say "are you crazy?!"

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Students Are Awesome

Here is a traditional Ethiopian dance from the Amhara region as described by a few of my students.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Spider Chronicles, Arachnid Colonies

I was understandably excited when called upon by my superiors to attend a two week training session. I was not unaware of the potential hazards that accompanied such a long excursion and subsequent absence from my home.
            Before leaving I made certain to secure my domicile and belongings from the enemy. Locking my garments in their suitcase and tucking every corner of the bug net under my mattress were among my chief concerns and preparations.
            It was not enough.
            Upon my return home, a swift survey of my surroundings proved that the spiders were emboldened and took advantage of my long absence. The fat bodied and fuzzy legged arachnids that were my sole tormentors have allied with their cousins who are much the same as daddy long-legs. They have taken up residence in the far corners of my ceiling where I am unable to reach them save with a broom – an unreliable weapon in this war if there ever was one. And even despite my efforts, my foes have penetrated my security and made their way into my garments and my bug fortress.
            One such foe escaped impending doom. When I first discovered it crawling on my clothes I was startled. It took advantage of my momentary lapse of composure and scurried into hiding. I was unable to locate it. Its friend, who was caught crawling up the headboard of my bug net, was not so lucky. I noticed it as I looked up from my documents. With my foot clad in a sandal I aimed but in the half light of my flashlight I missed my mark. The spider escaped the crushing blow and crawled over my open toe and dropped to my mattress. At this point I lost what little composure I had struggled to maintain, and let out a shriek at the touch of the creepy, crawly creature. I startled my neighbors who rushed to my aid. However, I did not need them. I rallied and smacked the spider with my shoe and then snatched up his still twitching body with a tissue so as to dispatch its corpse far from my place of residence.

            I am afraid that my confidence has been shaken. I am startled by the shadow of a piece of lint or the slight brush of a loose strand of hair. Even now, as I write this in the small glow of my flashlight I imagine them crawling towards me just outside the circle of light illuminating my pen.