Monday, July 21, 2014


Most of the time my life involves lots of sun and dust (You should see my epic tan). Sometimes it rains, which means I either read in my room while drink apple cider or sit quietly in my classroom with my students because it's really hard to hear anything with rain pounding on a metal roof.

Every once in a while It hails . . .


Snow in July.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Techie Fair

The Techie Fair

There is a technical school behind my house in Deneba. This school teaches trades to young people from word working and metal shop to IT and automotive mechanics. They threw a giant fair to display what their students were learning.

And then there was light.

There was a raffle for the bedroom set made by one of the woodworking teachers.

Not just the bedroom set was on display . . .

My friend Jeff and I got a tour of the facilities.

There were even games.

No goal.

You can pay 2 birr to play the games. You see the tiny pot hanging out on the right? The guy with the stick on the left has to whack it. Whoever hits it gets all the money in the pot. It's like a little clay piƱata.

It's really hard.

I didn't come close.

Monday, July 7, 2014

4th of July

Yes I am aware it is not independence day today.

That doesn't matter.

By the time you read this I will either be on a plane to America or actually in America eating a burrito or drink a beer or taking a shower. It literally doesn't matter what I'll be doing because I'll be home and that's all that matters. So in honor of my vacation home, here are some pictures of what I was doing on my country's birthday.

After my training we all went for chai-buna. My treat.

And then my counterpart's wife made me coffee and lunch and I watched her crochet like a boss.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Making Injera

Injera is the food of Ethiopia. Oh, there are other things Ethiopians eat but it is all eaten with injera. 

There's firfir, which is just injera mixed with burburay (the main spice of Ethiopian food). There's 'tibs, tagabino, wat, shuro, kitfo, pasta, etc. All of these foods are eaten by taking a square of injera in your right hand and picking it up to then drop in your mouth using gravity as your main means of food transportation. Or at least, that's how I eat because I haven't fully mastered their scoop method.

Making injera is a rather involved process.

The first step is to mix the injera.

The batter includes tef (the grain that makes the injera flour), yeast, and water.
But then you have to let it sit for a while. After it is all mixed you need to make it. This is the giant injera stove that they use. My landlady, and in extension myself, is very lucky to have an electric stove. Traditional injera stoves are heated with giant, serving platter sized patties of cow crap.

Note: it does not work to make tortillas.
This is me trying to pour the injera.

This is what it's supposed to look like.

This is my finished injera.

It still tasted good.
This is what it's supposed to look like.

And then Bayinesh takes it off the stove and starts all over again.

You have to make several dozen in one night if you want to survive the week.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Light Goddess

I'm taking a break out of my regular blog posts to pay tribute to a dear friend of mine. A week and three days ago, Sarah Le, my partner in musical crimes against under classmen, passed away. It is hard going through a loss but it's even harder going through one thousands of miles away from the people you want to give you hugs. I've been doing a lot of hanging out with friends here in Ethiopia to keep myself sane, but her death is a hard thing to accept. And not getting to see her one last time at the viewing or attend the funeral is not making it easier. 

Here's to you, Sarah Le.

The Light Goddess

Sarah the Light Goddess
Sarah Le who doesn't bake cakes.
Sarah who plays with light and makes robots.
Sarah who lived in a world of fuses and wires.
I, in my world of syntax and diction never understood
    When the words you used tried to invite me to your passion.
You were my friend. 
    Since seventh grade, you've been my friend.
I've sat with you to make music.
I've watched you make beautiful sets on stage all the more beautiful
    By the colored lights you set.
You've struggled for as long as I've known you
And yet you smiled through it all.
Such a beautiful smile.
Maybe it's ironic you could make so much light
     When you had so much darkness inside.
I'm sorry I lost you.
I'm sorry I missed the last seven years.
I never thought I'd miss everything
And I am so sorry.
My friend -- Sarah Le -- The Light Goddess
May God grant you the reigns to the celestial catwalk,
     Because your sunrise will be beautiful.

Monday, June 9, 2014

If you love dogs don't read this

Dear Friends and Family,

Last week I experienced the very worst and the very best of Ethiopia.
            I was walking to the school when I noticed a man playing with a bit of twine and that this twine was tied to the back leg of a dog. There was something wrong about the dog and as I watched the scene unfold I noticed what it was. The dog's leg was broken, the leg that was attached to the twine, the twine by which the man proceeded to yank and drag the dog across the road.
            It was a reflex, I couldn't have stopped it if I wanted to, but I yelled "hey," as loud as I could and charged at the man. Peace Corps tells us not to involve ourselves with Ethiopian on Ethiopian crime, that we need to report it to the proper authorities, but there are no authorities for the protection of animal rights because animal rights is not a thing here. And like I said, I couldn't have stopped myself if I wanted to.
            They say that passively seeing animal abuse is one of the hardest things a volunteer encounters, and I can say that from my point of view it's the hardest thing. It's watching men at market overloading the bearing capacity of a donkey. It's watching them get whipped. It's seeing the horses walk funny because something's wrong with their legs. And it's seeing rocks, twigs, and kicks thrown at the dogs and cats that make me want to get a ticket straight home and hug my pets.

            After I yelled, the man smiled and laughed. It took him a while to understand how angry I was but I think he got the gist because he disappeared so the ferenji with the ferenji power couldn't get him into trouble. I stood shaking with anger and shock, standing over the dog, not knowing what to do. If I walked away, what would happen to him? He was now in the middle of the road and couldn't move. Leaving him would mean he would just get tortured more and eventually starve to death.
            And this is where the best of Ethiopia came in. I called my landlord and my counterpart. It took all that I had not to burst into tears as I explained what had happened while more and more Ethiopians came to surround me and the dog. My counterpart came, along with several other people from my school, hearing that I needed help. They called in the animal vet (who works with livestock, not pets) and they helped me load the dog onto a makeshift stretcher and then four men, taking a corner each, carried the dog to the clinic.
            This story does not have a happy ending. The dog had a broken back, a mangled face, something yellow and pussy leaking out of his penis and, as if that wasn't enough, had bitten straight through his tongue. There was nothing they could do for him. I paid 38 birr to have him humanely put down.
            The truly sad part is that this dog was amazing. Despite his injuries, the fact that he was being tortured, and all the painful movement to get him on the stretcher, he did not bark, snap, or even growl once. He just laid there passively and let me hold him so he wouldn't fall off the stretcher. If I could have, I would have paid anything to have saved him. But this is not America. This is Ethiopia. He was not an ox, or a donkey, or a sheep. He was a dog. He was not sick with some kind of worm or bacteria. He was mangled.
            All I can hope, is those who saw, and those who helped, will take away something. If all I have achieved is that one less rock is thrown at a stray dog, then I have that at least.



(The countdown begins: 29 days until my vacation to America)