Thursday, June 18, 2015

Durame Leadership Camp Invites!

We’ve had a great response from our students concerning the Durame Leadership Camp. I think some of them don’t really know what camp is, but they still want to come and learn from us, which is so heartening!

Together Spencer and I got over 100 applications to fill just 32 spots.  I chose 16 of my students (8 girls and 8 boys) and Spencer chose 16 of his students (also 8 girls and 8 boys). Spencer’s students are finishing up grade 11 and my students are finishing grade 9, so we are planning to give each student a mentor/mentee to help ensure everyone understands the material and can complete the tasks during camp.

I made the invitations you see in all the pictures to give to each camper. Since this week is finals week and we won’t see the students again until camp (over a month away), we wanted to give them something tangible and special to remember to come to camp. We also got their phone numbers so we can remind them the week before.

We still have a lot to work out, but things are coming together nicely! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hawassa, The Capital of the South

Hawassa is where we go to escape our tiny town, to buy things, to drink alcohol in public, and to eat foreign food. It’s the capital of the southern region of Ethiopia (the region we live in), SNNPR or Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region.

The city is built on a large lake, Hawassa Lake, and there are boats you can rent to go out to see hippos lounging in the water. There’s a small wooden walkway along the lake with small restaurants selling deep fried whole fish, beers, sodas, and coffee. The lake also supports a large population of massive birds with wrinkly reddish/black/flesh colored necks. They are quite large and frightfully ugly, but harmless. They hang out at the end of the boardwalk in a sort of park and also in tall trees near the water.

There are a few nice restaurants we like to go to when visiting. In our town we can only get Ethiopian food out at restaurants, but in Hawassa there are two Italian restaurants (both owned by Italian men), a burger joint, an ice cream parlor, and many of the hotels have great restaurants, as well.

Honestly, the food and atmosphere of a restaurant in Hawassa, just makes me so happy. Anytime I go to Hawassa (or Addis), my number one thought is, “Where are we going to eat first?!” It’s nice to be able to go out, eat with silverware, and eat pizza, fish goulash, Spanish omelets, chicken shwarma, ravioli, burgers with pineapple, and wash it all down with two scoops of ice cream. It’s like heaven.
Another big item on the Hawassa to-do list, is shopping. We can buy a lot more things in Hawassa than in Durame. We usually go to the supermarkets and buy olive oil, bottles of wine, cocoa powder, brown sugar, jars of olives, condiments (mustard, hot sauce, ketchup), Nutella, and anything else they have that we want. Things can be random according to what their supplier can get their hands on. Last time we went, we got whole wheat pasta, pretzels, and name brand Nutella, three things I hadn’t seen before. (I had been really craving pretzels, so I was stoked!)

Hawassa is about 3 hours away from Durame by bus, but it feels like a whole other level of living. We stay at a hotel, usually with a hot water shower (hot water shower!!)and wifi. We eat out at yummy restaurants, and we get to just relax, drinking cold beer (cold being the key word here). It’s glorious and it helps keep me sane in this crazy Peace Corps life.   

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Little, New Things Around

Rainy season is here, and with it, a few new things have arrived at the High household in Durame.

Two chill dudes to steep tea with...

Our compound family got two new cats, and one of them is positively teeeeny! 

Colorful and fun new clothes pins came in a care package from my mom. 

She also sent us some colorful, solar powered twinkle lights, which make power outages way more fun.


Introducing Durame Leadership Camp

Summer camp has been a meaningful part of many of our childhoods as a place to learn, grow, and have fun. There are Peace Corps volunteer-run camps throughout the country this summer (Camp GLOWs or Camp GROWs, mostly), but they entail many volunteers coming together in a larger city and bringing only a couple or even just one kid from their town.

I wanted to do something on a smaller scale, and with a smaller budget, but that’s in Durame and would be affecting many more than two of Durame’s young adults. Thus, the First Annual Durame Leadership Camp was born! Spencer and I have been planning this for a long time, but things are starting to come together in a tangible way and we are getting really excited.

the huge poster I made to get my students excited about camp
Durame Leadership Camp will focus on leadership, life skills, and community service. We’ll teach things like how to make good decisions, how to set meaningful goals, and how to create an action plan for a community service project. At the end of the two week camp, the students will execute a community service project in Durame. Not only will this camp give them valuable skills they can use throughout their lives, but it will also give them self-confidence and show the community that young people can make a meaningful contribution to the town.

application questions
We’ve collected applications and will be choosing camp participants next week. We plan on making each accepted student special, individual invitations. I think it will get them excited for camp and be a good reminder of when the camp is, since it will be over a month after school ends.

The camp starts at the end of July and I’ll be sure to update the blog about how things get on! 

schedule planning, still a work in progress! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Life is Hard

Life in the Peace Corps is not easy. There are days when nothing seems to work out well and when those days stretch on into a week and then a month, it can really wear on you.

The guy on the bus who is taking up way too much of your personal space can seem like a massive problem when you already haven’t showered for a week, all your devices are dead because the power has been out, no one came to the training they said they wanted and you meticulously planned, the rat in your ceiling is keeping you up at night, and if you have to eat another bowl of soup for dinner, you will scream. But remember, you represent the United Stated of America 24/7, so don’t lose your sh*t!
It can be physically and emotionally draining. Sometimes, we need a break. Sometimes, we just need to get away from our rural town and into the big city. Sometimes, we need a little more help and want  to go see the counselor/therapist the Peace Corps works with.

I've had a hard time over the past few weeks. It’s hard for me to write this post, because I am admitting to everyone that this is hard and I need help to make it through. However, I do need help and I don’t want people to think that it’s bad and weak to go see a therapist if they need it, especially other Peace Corps volunteers.

Every Peace Corps experience is different, but I know that we all have some things in common and one of those things is: “Peace Corps life is hard.” We all knew this signing up, and maybe even most of us wanted that hardship, but that still does not make it easier. Thinking about living in hardship and actually living in hardship are two very different things.

So I went to see the therapist and she really helped me a lot. I have some new strategies and ideas to try out at site and I’m feeling a bit better already. This is a hard journey, but I’m hoping with a lot of hard work and focusing on one day at a time I’ll make it through to the other side of Peace Corps service stronger and more capable than ever.   

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Eating in Addis Ababa: Sishu and Natani Cafe

There is one thing that every Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia looks forward to when coming to the capital, and that's eating! In Addis, we can get the best foreign food in the country, with so many options. In our towns and villages, restaurants can be very limited (read: only Ethiopian food) but in Addis we can get burgers, cheesecake, salads, pizza, bacon, tikka masala with naan, four cheese pasta, cupcakes, cold beer, and so much more. It's like heaven. Ask any Peace Corps volunteer what they miss most from home and "food" will most likely be in the top 3. I know many people who say it's the number one thing they miss after their friends and family.

The best burgers in Ethiopia are definitely found at Sishu. The food is great (although expensive, especially on our measly budget) and the place is very cool. It's an old warehouse and styled with a mid-century vibe. All that, and they have clean bathrooms with toilet paper, soap, and paper towels to dry your hands(!!). (Paper towels are a big deal.)

Another favorite is Natani Cafe, where they have amazing cheesecake (and probably other desserts but I always get the cheesecake because it's that good!). Oh yeah, one time we got lunch and it was delicious and reasonably priced (for Bole). 

There are so many other great places to eat in Addis, but usually I'm too busy talking with friends I haven't seen in months and then feverishly eating that I don't take pictures. I've decided to just share these two restaurants now, and I will add more as I have more photos.

What are your favorite restaurants in Addis?? I also love MK's, Lime Tree, Cupcake, and Ifoya (not sure on the roman character spelling of that last one).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tie Dye!

Since we’ve been bouncing around the past few years in terms of where we lay our heads, our beds have all been uncomfortable. In both Korea and Australia, we didn’t choose our bed, it came with the place. And during pre-service training, we had a tiny bed with a footboard, so Spencer didn’t fit at all and had to lie sideways, which left me curled up in a corner. It was awful.

When we finally got to move to Durame and had to choose a bed for the next two years, I didn’t want to skimp. I wanted a huge bed with pillows and pretty blanket. It was the one thing I really wanted: a nice bed. The biggest size mattress they have available here is about a double, which was not up to par, so I had this idea to put two twin mattresses together to create a king size. We found a set of very expensive king size sheets in Addis and the only color they had was white. There were only two sets on the shelf. We bought them because we had no other choice. But remember, we live in East Africa, where half the year is incredibly dusty and the other half is muddy. Also, we shower about twice a week. White sheets are not ideal.

So I asked my gorgeous mom to send us a tie dye kit! I had tie dye sheets in college and I thought it would be a fun project. A couple weeks ago, Spencer and I finally got around to it and now we have fun, colorful sheets.

I’ve said this before, but it’s really the little things that can make or break a Peace Corps service. For me, I love reading a good book with a nice cup of tea, getting care packages (especially with food and magazines), making arts and crafts, and my bright tie dye sheets on my king size bed. :)