Site Visit Part 1

My liaison, Tekle. He's vice principal at my school and has been an English teacher for the last 30 years.
My liaison, Tekle. He’s vice principal at my school and has been an English teacher for the last 30 years.

We all received our site placements on Saturday and therefore were in Addis Ababa until Tuesday with our community liaison, or the person who would help with our integration process in the first three months at site. Sunday and Monday were days of workshops where each trainee got to meet their liaison and talk about the needs and challenges that our future school faces as well as the strengths of the school. 

On Monday night, three of my friends and I were walking back from dinner around 8 at night (where our waiter just tried to jist my friend and I out of 60 birr, saying there was no change) when we were swarmed by kids. The kids came out of nowhere, they must not have been more than 10 years old, it is in a dark part of town and they were singing. One kid tries to show me a magazine but my instincts told me to bypass him. Chelsea and I are in front and we aren’t being bothered by any of the kids, but I look back where I see Leroy and Sam bombarded with the kids. Leroy shakes off the kids so they turn to Sam. They want to show him what they have, they’re singing with instruments being all innocent but they keep coming closer to him. I see that Sam is about to fall down as there is a pile of something behind him and as I am about to warn him, he falls. The kids leave after that, and we check to see if Sam is okay. The previous night, another of our people was robbed out of his phone so remembering this, I ask the guys to check their pockets. Leroy is fine but Sam is missing his wallet. Sam has his id, his visa and other valuables so he needs that money. We all start running after the kids, yelling at them and we see that the kids start running and bypassing the people on the street. Sam and Leroy are in front, and Leroy yells at me to go back to the hotel with Chelsea and stay there. Chelsea and I are heading back, when we stop by the spot to check for Sam’s wallet. A local comes over to us and tells us that he found the wallet and I check the contents. The valuables are there, but no money. Little pricks took the wallet, took the money from the wallet and then threw the wallet less than a couple of feet away. I call Leroy and no answer. I text him to tell him we found the wallet, to come back and that PC will reimburse Sam for what he lost but we still get no answer. Chelsea and I are standing in our lighted spot unsure of what to do. Chelsea wants to go look for the guys, but I want to go back to the Hotel. It is not safe for two girls to stand at 8 p.m. and be completely alone but nonetheless, we continue to stand there when our friends come back without finding the kids less than five minutes later.

What did I learn from this experience? It is completely frightening to be put in that situation and your senses are definitely heightened. I was in the middle of an adrenaline rush and in the middle of trying not to cry. You also feel completely and utterly helpless in situations like those. I watched everything happen, knew what was going on and I still could not act quickly enough. That could have been me lying on the floor with my valuables taken from me. It could have happened to anyone and no one is invincible. When you’re in a third world country, your guard has to be up all the time and although it can be tiring, look at the surroundings. All people really need is an opportunity. We walked back to the hotel, I took a hot shower, but that didn’t seem to help much. The 5 a.m. wake-up call and the 12 hour bus drive that follows to my site are sure to be fun.

We finally made it to “Coffeeland Hotel” after a very long and gruesome 11 hour bus ride from Addis Ababa to Bonga and I am still 1 hour away from my site. During my travel, I managed to see monkeys, lots of cows, got called a ferenji at Bonga, managed to get motion sickness and with the altitude, I ended up throwing up my lunch. I kept asking the man next to me to open the window, but alas, he kept shutting it close. I knew when I was going to get sick, so I asked for a bag and threw up into the bag. A nice Samaritan asked for the bus driver to pull over for five minutes so I could collect myself. I was thankful for that man when my own community liaison didn’t do anything. With what had happened yesterday, I was knocked out for most of the ride, but I swear I walked off that bus feeling like I had no butt.

It wasn't me.... okay, maybe it was!
It wasn’t me…. okay, maybe it was!

I paid 180 birr for a hotel to spend the night in Bonga. I was informed that there was no water. Great! I had to pee so I had to use the toilet. There was water in a bucket next to the toilet so I thought I could open the lid and pour some of the water in. What happens? Well, the lid had already been broken into a big piece and someone had put it together. When, I opened the toilet lid, it shattered into pieces into the bucket of water, and into the pee water. I took the lid pieces out, cut myself on the lid, cursed and flushed the toilet. I was awarded with dirty black water. With the long bus ride, the toilet, the desperately wanting a hot shower but couldn’t take one, the throwing up my lunch, I wasn’t feeling down for dinner. I tended to my wounds by writing friends episode and loving every minute of it.

On Wednesday, I ended up meeting Sally, a G8 Enviornmental Volunteer who will be leaving in 3 months and Lisa, a G9 English Volunteer at Bonga. I was welcomed and overall, I left feeling happy. However, what should have taken an hour drive to Chiri ended up taking three as we were all left waiting for 2 hours while the driver took his lunch break. I finally arrived to Chiri. My site, Chiri otherwise known as Awrada is in Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) and it is located on a mountainous ridge but the town itself is relatively flat. It overlooks the most beautiful mountains and its annual rainfall is approximately 181 days of the year with the temperature ranging 13 to 25 C. There are also a lot of NGO’s in the area which I am excited about as I plan on utilizing the NGO’s for my secondary projects which will be related to health.

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I first went to my little house and next school. My house is two little rooms inside a compound and I am quite lucky to have cement floors. The school is only 10 minutes away from my home so the small walk will be nice. However, the school is under renovations and so it isn’t looking in the best shape right now. I am not sure if I will be teaching 9th or 11th grade yet but I should know within the first couple of days of actually moving here. The people here are very hospitable and welcoming, but turns out in addition to Amharic, I will also have to be learning Kafenono, as both languages are commonly spoken here.

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I met Teddy, my site mate who helped relieved some of the anxiousness and nervousness about living in such an isolated place. Teddy is well known here and he is very loved by his community, so I have the honor to be compared to him. When we went to the dinner, I told him it was a little intimidating because I felt like I had to live up to the community’s expectations and if he flourished, so would I. Teddy also helped set up my living arrangements so I wouldn’t stay in the hotel in Chiri which he mentioned can be known for prostitution. I ended up staying at the clinic close to my house for a couple of days and was invited to come back anytime. Chiri does not have internet, a post office, a public library and it does not have a bank. I was a little troublesome to think I would have to travel to Bonga just to get internet every once in a while. With that being said, I will most likely only be checking my mail and going to the bank maybe once or twice a month. It’ll be nice to get away from my site, but overall I want to stay in my community and learn to integrate.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ruth says:

    hum hija, looks a little difficult, eh? But I like that you continue on, even though the problems. I think all this experience is going to serve you later in life.

    Like

  2. Dennis says:

    Sorry to hear about the misfortunes. The capital city is usually the worst when it comes to safety. You’ll be safe with your community, once they get to know you.
    Sounds like you’ll be in a fairly rural community. The conditions (especially the latrines, in my case) are hard, but the people around you do it–so you’ll adapt too.
    Congratulations, you’re learning what living like a PCV is like. It’ll get better! This stuff will seem trivial soon.

    Like

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