November 28, 2012
the day before peace corps ethiopia’s first ever regional meeting.
what’s so scary about jimma anyway?
the addis staff practically wets themselves at the very mention of jimma. as mark and i try to push our jimma regional meeting pitch past the higher ups in the PC hierarchy, we’re getting emails every ten minutes –
don’t go out in jimma after dark – don’t go too far from the central hotel – don’t go near the bus station for any reason whatsoever – don’t approach strange dogs when the moon is full – if you find yourself in the vicinity of any habesha, move to a well lit area where other ferenji can witness your impending assault, robbery, and possible rape – be wary of anyone who attempts to engage you in hand to hand martial arts combat, they may be highly skilled ninjas – anyone in jimma dressed as batman is an imposter who works for darth vader, do not trust them – most of all, during the regional meeting in jimma, remember: do not go to, toward, or anywhere near jimma for any reason at all.
the ever changing, impossible to comprehend, policy handbook
i’m sorry, i’m gonna need chapter, page, article, and item numbers for those policies, and let’s be clear in which edition, under which of our many rotating country directors, this policy was enacted. i swear our policy handbook has more interpretations that the second amendment to the US constitution, and the handbook is written in some hybrid of management speak, legalese, habesha english, and esperanto.
i motion to form a PC supreme court for interpreting handbook policies at the highest level, please.
in the ongoing case of the US peace corps v common sense, some new information has recently come to light regarding a few of the staff’s hesitations toward jimma. initially they insisted that staff treats jimma like chernobyl circa 1986 simply because a female volunteer who was out drinking late at night was almost assaulted there, but that can’t be the whole story. can it? i mean, before one of the volunteers in the east was nearly gang raped in desi, the volunteer who was stationed there had filed over a dozen formal safety and security complaints about that town, and guess what? there’s a volunteer in desi, again.
admin, you got some ‘splainin’ to do! (i love lucy? desi arnaz? no one here but us crickets, eh?)
so why is jimma such a big scary town? hard to say. the loop PCVs love it there, as does every habesha in the loop. well, not every habesha. rachel rhetorically asked me if i knew why daniel, our education sector program director is so adamantly anti-jimma. i guessed that it’s the freakishly large aggressive looking dogs that roam the streets all day. of course that’s not it. daniel, it seems, grew up in jimma, and he recalls that wushu (think karate) was a very popular pastime for children in jimma during his childhood. thus he has concluded that the nocturnal criminal element in jimma is composed of evil geniuses, masterfully trained in the east asian martial arts.
ninja thieves, he says…
because kids in jimma take karate classes.
i guess it’s a good thing, then, that i’m the one pushing to lead this regional meeting, as i also took karate classes as a kid, and I take wushu classes in masha from a guy who calls himself both “the tae kwon do dinosaur”, and “son of lee”, which i guess in daniel’s eyes makes me chuck f—in’ norris. then again, this may all have been lost in translation. after all, the amharic word for “i have no idea” is aninja (i kid you not). so maybe it went something like: “daniel, why don’t you like jimma?” “aninja.”
or maybe jimma is in fact some kind of drunken fist kusosawa film. that’s actually more cool than scary. unless it’s worse than that, even…
i say why stop there?
as long as we’re assuming that jimma is rife with killers and thieves skilled in the ways of ninjitsu, let’s assume that the dogs in jimma are abnormally large, hearty, and ever-present because they are reverse werewolves, only turning back into humans during the full moon. and while we’re pulling paranoid delusions out of our asses, let’s go ahead and assume that people are so rarely accosted by these ninja thieves because they are the reverse werewolves, and are only active in human form once every lunar cycle.
this partially explains why we’re not supposed to go out in jimma after the sun goes down, at least.
reverse werewolf ninjas, i says…
reverse werewolf ninjas.
so imagine my surprise to find out that staff was not only planning to place a regional office in jimma, but was also going to allow a jimma loop regional meeting… in jimma!
regional meetings are something i’ve been working on for a while as a way for volunteers to better network, exchange resources, and be more active in their regions without having to travel to addis. perhaps it was something of a pet project for me. not everyone understands the pain of traveling to addis. most people to the south have well paved highways, and quality bus service to their doorsteps, and anyone more than five minutes north of addis only has to put on the “poor me” face to get the office to fly them in at PC’s expense. meanwhile we westerners have to take real busses, on real crappy roads, and stop in weal scawy bus stop towns, stay at real grungy hotels, and arrive in the big city smelling real rough, kinda like we’ve been sleeping in the back of a diesel garbage truck and pissed ourselves to keep warm, which isn’t too far from the truth, sometimes.
personally, i think volunteers not only need more opportunities to exchange ideas, resources, and skill sets, but i think it’s ideal, for many reasons, to keep those opportunities close to home.
lucky me, staff agrees, and it’s that agreement that makes me think that i was the best pitchman for this job (not just my theatrically improvised jackie chan style kung fu skills). i mean, staff has a conniption every time they find out i’m leaving site, even if it’s for peace corps work, because if i’m leaving site and going to addis (or beyond) it’s going to be a six day round trip (or longer) plus the time for work (or play). if there’s a five day training in addis that i have to attend, i’m not out of site for five and a half days, i’m out for eleven. while staff doesn’t quite seem to grasp the cause and effect in relation to my total time out of site here, it at least weighted my argument for the regional meeting with personal experience.
in the end, reverse werewolf ninjas aside, this project i had been working on was a go. staff has its complaints about me being out of site, but i found a way to use that to my advantage, and get the job done.
of course, i can’t be foolish here. the staff still had complaints about my time out of site, and in my efforts to push this project through, i drew their attention back to those complaints. i had achieved a minor victory with the staff back in the capital, but in the end, the house always wins, and my life still exists between the hard reality of ethiopia and the detached delusion of addis, somewhere on the road to masha…
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stay tuned for our next episode:
as it happens, i saw that same shooting star, and i wished for you to drop dead.