a quick apology for the sheer volume of text all at once.
boru has no internet access and so i have plenty of time to write, but very few opportunities to post.
this has been a double edged sword. on the one hand i have time enough to polish, proofread, and edit my posts. on the other hand, i am holding each post to a higher standard now, so while there is plenty going on or about to be going on, the events you are about to read about are not going to bring you all the way up to speed as in as of this weekend.
i also want to apologize for the fact that blogs post things sort of backward, chronologically, whilst i write forward, chronologically. so if you want the real experience, peek over at the pull down table of contents on the side there, and click on the oldest post you haven’t read yet, then as you read through, simply click “next post”.
in just a couple of weeks i will be eligible for visitors, so now may be the time to drop some deets.
until november i can have visitors, but i can’t stray very far from my site. my site, you may recall, is three days drive from the nearest airport. so, while i am still extending a blanket invitation to anyone that wants to brave the journey, i would ask that you read and reread my the kingdom beyond the castle walls post before you decide three bus transfers in ethiopia is no big deal. to save those who didn’t make the cut, i will not name names, but i have a mental short list of people who might stand a chance against the jimma loop trip without a guide. for your own safety, if you don’t think you are on that list, wait until november.
due to my distance from addis, i also advise that you rereread the kingdom beyond the castle walls, as well as meet the peace corps: the home team, alphabet soup, and the jimma loop before you decide you want to come to masha at all.
that is not to say, however, that you should shy away from visiting me altogether. i simply don’t want you to spend 5 days each way, traveling to a place where there isn’t a whole lot to do, best leave those visits for people who think that braving three bus transfers in ethiopia is something to do (and believe me, it will be something to do with me as your guide). a better idea would be to check out travel in ethiopia, and pick out some things you would like to do and see, and i can be your guide/travel companion.
some options to consider:
the shashemene fork:
shashemene and the bale mountains. shashemene is the city that was gifted to the rasta movement, and well, it’s a rasta oasis in the middle of ethiopia complete with all that that entails. the bale mountains are an amazing national park with camping and hiking to beat the band. branching off in the other direction at shashemene finds one at hot springs, crocodile markets, and wildlife preserves. camping and hiking can be found here as well. at the far south end of the southern route live the “lip plate tribes”. if you want to see some national geographic type stuff, the type of stuff you think of when you think of africa, this is the perfect apex to an ethiopian vacay, and if you’re interested in eco-tourism, most of the environment volunteers are hosting eco-tours throughout the south.
the addis hub:
this is the “i didn’t think they had this kind of thing in the middle of landlocked africa” trek. north of addis are lakes and larger cities that lend themselves to the luxurious traveler’s wants and desires. lounge by the lake, sip cold drinks, and enjoy western amenities in an unmistakably african way. this would be a good way to go if you were interested in staying near addis. brief excursions in all directions find this sort of attraction, while addis itself has a wide array of not quite western culture, and the largest outdoor market in all of africa (await photos from “last ferenji standing day” after swearing in before you picture what this market might look like. i’m pretty sure right now you’re picturing it as much more quaint than it is. i’ll say this: it’s not so much will you get robbed, but will you be left for dead afterwards. ok maybe it’s not that bad). this is the most expensive way to see ethiopia, in that enjoying western amenities can often cost western prices. if, however, you know where to look, who to ask, and what western amenities can be foregone for african ones, you will still have a dirt cheap good time (with the equivalent of 50 cents being expensive for a beer, you do the math).
the far north:
if you like your africa hot and dusty, then this is the trip for you. you can fly from place to place. you can see the nile complete with waterfalls. you can peruse the camel market, and purchase some badass swords to weild while riding the camel you just bought, and you can visit massive churches and temples carved into the mountainsides.
the girlfriend experience:
so called because i really only expect one person to express real interest in this trip (though i can think of a few that might enjoy it if they attempted it). if you want to know what peace corps looks like when it gets rough, the jimma loop is for you. lots of long cramped bus rides, lots of cities that get real boring, or real dangerous, outside of the two blocks around the bus station. lots of sleeping on the “extra mattress” at other peace corps volunteers’ houses. let me tell you something, though. if you want to see third world done right, this is the loop for you. the jimma loop volunteers include alyssa , celeste, and myself, which means that peace corps ethiopia cuisine at its best will be found on this loop (in addition, the hotels in walkite and jimma have very fine dinning of the ethiopian and western varietals). our one luxury is a hotel with a swimming pool in jimma, which is day one of the trip out my way. if you want the best produce, coffee, honey, and tej that ethiopia has to offer, the southwest has got it. if you want monkeys, and jungles, the southwest has got it. if you want to know what pcvs do with so much free time, the southwest can show you. if you want to know what hanging out in ethiopia is like, the southwest can make that happen for you.
summing it up:
if you want the rasta, crocodiles, and half naked tribesman experience, i’ll take you to the south. if you want a “vacation” like none other, we can do an addis based adventure. if you want desert, nile, and indiana jones, the north is for you. if you want nothing more than a roughin’ it beyond the comfort zone for the sake of adventure adventure, i can show you how the jimma loop lives. if you want to visit me, but avoid ethiopia altogether, pick a country, and maybe we can work it. i already have designs to be in kenya, tanzania, ecowas (togo, benin, ghana, burkina faso), and morocco at some point during my service, and eritrea, djibouti, egypt, and beyond immediately following my close of service, but i think you know i’m always down for an adventure, and i can always make it work.
or you can just send a care package to: po box 101, mahsa, sheka zone, ethiopia with a letter detailing your excuse as to why you couldn’t bring it in person…
paul and i were standing in yet another never ending line one day in addis, and i was relating a story about my adventures in pumping public pit toilets for the state parks department. long story short: a freshly dead rabbit, an empty bottle of jack daniels, and a full bottle of mustard.
we couldn’t even stand straight, we were laughing so hard at the various possible permutations and scenarios that might have ended in the situation that i found myself in that day.
as the events of our lives unfold and prove to us that we will be experiencing things out here that just won’t happen anywhere else, the squares of our peace corps bingo cards start to fill up.
of course there is a disease category, and there has to be a hook ups category, and probably a random events category, but above all else, there must be a shint bet category.
i honestly don’t think you can call your service a success unless you have lost a cell phone or wallet down the hole of a shint bet, but (shint bet for toilet) you can do this quite easily anywhere in the world. therefore we must lay some groundrules. i think it is fair to say that you can’t start punching your peace corps bingo card until you have experienced the merkado bus station bathroom, and you can’t cash out of peace corps bingo until you have lost one or more important personal effects down the hole.
current pcvs have already set a pretty high standard by falling through the floor of the shint bet right down into the big steaming bet of shint below, as well as needing to rescue a cat who suffered the same fate.
don’t count g5 out, though. remember what i said about counting things out?
i for one, have recently acquired a skylight in my shint bet, and so glorious is this shint bet now, that i almost want to move my bed in. the amount of caffeinated drinks, and water my host family has me drinking before bed would certainly make it a practical choice as much as a comfort choice.
some say, however, that there are no original ideas.
so it is with living in the shint bet.
a coffee shop in iteya has a shint bet complete with live-in goat who watches you use the facilities. this wouldn’t be so bad if he would just put on a tie, and maybe offered you a mint or a hot towel when you were done.
tiggist has a shint bet with the hole placed so close to the wall that leaning on the wall would be unavoidable if the wall weren’t lined with barbed wire for some insane reason. perhaps to keep wayward volunteers and voyeuristic goats from moving in. i don’t know who would want to live in tiggist’s shint bet anyway. it’s so, how shall i put this? it’s so aromatic that it doesn’t so much have a smell as a flavor. it stings the eyes, and lingers on the clothes. tiggist’s shint bet is a full body sensory offense.
if tiggist has the most impractical hole placement then brittany takes the cake for smallest shint hole. the target in her bet is scarcely bigger around than a medium sized log (you know what i mean), and there is no dugout or “ramp” to guide things toward the void. in her favor is the very existence of that void. audley is not so lucky.
audley’s shint bet is far and away the shallowest pit, perhaps in all of ethiopia. each use brings new fear that you could be the lucky one to top it off. i employ no hyperbole when i say that his pit may have less than a few inches of clearance left before overflow.
on the subject of shint bet size, i can’t imagine that the men in this country pee standing up (except on the side of the road, which i see quite often) because i have come across no small amount of outhouses that are 5 feet high, or less. this forces either a squat pee or, like celeste’s neigbor, a standing pee, from outside the room. in his case, so far outside the room is he that he is not actually using the facilities so much as marking the doorway as his territory.
speaking of not making it to the hole, there are those among us who’s shint bet adventures didn’t quite make it to the shint bet, if you smell what i’m leaking (sorry, i had to do it). as someone who has (in the past, and not in ethiopia) had experience with serious third world gi issues, i can totally relate, and so i cast no dispersions on those members of g5.
sometimes it’s not about the shint bet, or the shint. sometimes it’s about what else is going on in there. one of us (who shall remain nameless as the events of this story are still hot off the presses) blacked out in the shint bet, fell and broke her nose. good grief! the comical possibilities of this have our creative team working overtime on the peace corps movie screenplay, but for now we will hold off on the jokes until everyone is healthy and regular… let me rephrase that: until everyone is back to business as usual.
on a lighter note, the shint bet at my house in masha was once a giant hole, but has now been repaved to be two regular size holes placed with ramps back to back. the purpose of this is beyond nikki, alex, and myself, but the girls have already workshopped the idea of using the facilities simultaneously while leaning back against each other, just to say they did it.
hey, why not? this is the peace corps, afterall, and the first thing you learn to share out here are shint bet experiences.
recently deanna pointed out that we know more about each other’s poop than anybody should be comfortable with. we’re family now, and poop is thicker than water…
it is if you didn’t eat the pizza at the king hotel that night, otherwise you might not be so lucky.
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stay tuned for our next episode:
it’s just… like… a naked cowboy falling from space, and in the background is flamenco sketches, by miles davis, for some reason.
think the ethiopian time thing is confusing (right on time)? how about the calendar?
ethiopia has thirteen months.
it’s not that simple.
these months start and end approximately a week and a half after the months that are recognized by the rest of the world. how is that possible? you might ask.
if they are only staggered then how do they fit another month in there?
simple. they make every month exactly 30 days long, instead of some 30 some 31.
i’ll give you a moment to do the math and call me on that statement…
ok, so not every month is exactly 30 days.
the thirteenth month, which is also my favorite ethiopian word, is called p’uagme, and so far it seems like you have to shout it and explode that “p” much harder than your everyday run of the mill explosive “p”. henceforth i will be spelling it p!augme!.
by the way, “explosive p” was the original title for this post, but i never got around to tying in a shint bet reference (that’s a first).
anyway, p!augme! has 5 or six days, depending on whether or not it’s a leap year. this would make p!uagme!’s monthly reports a real bear, if they actually did paperwork in this country.
so here’s the breakdown: new year’s is on september 11th. every thirty days afterward, a new month starts. when you run out of months, it’s p!augme!. about a week later, it’s new years again.
get it? good.
oh yeah, also summer is when it’s cold and rainy, winter is when it’s hot and dry, and it’s 2003 out here.