The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bale Trekking (Work!)

March 11, 2015

About two weeks ago I started working on a project with a community-based ecotourism program that does trekking in the Bale Mountains right outside my town and a town 25 km down the road, Dodola. I was approached by a guide, Bayu, that works out of Adaba and wanted my help. After nine months of asking, asking, and asking what I could do for different offices, giving ideas of projects I could help with and hardly anything coming of it, it was so nice to be asked. Success here is mainly decided by one thing and that is community/partner investment and by being asked, I already knew I had that.
I was so excited. Work? Real work? What is this going to be like? Am I going to be okay without my two-hour afternoon nap everyday? Oh, who cares, cause I get do something. I’m going to be useful! Yes, yes, yes. Even though there were a couple false starts in planning our first trip, it happened! And not only now do I have work, I have work where I have to go backpacking/hiking into the hills, check out some campsites, and enjoy. Not such a bad deal.
Our first outing was a three-day trek to two of the four campsites set up in the Adaba district. Hiking was mostly along dirt roads, through a mix of Juniper forests, wheat fields, and rural homes. There were always people walking with their donkey’s back piled high with food from the market or teenagers headed to/from school with notebooks tucked under their arms.

The first was a tent campsite in Harawa. The tents are canvas, set up all year round, and furnished with bedframes, chairs, and a table. Mattresses, sheets, and blankets were also provided. Not too shabby. The view wasn't bad either.

From there we headed up the mountain to the highest campsite, Duro, at 3,350 m.a.s.l. The forest slowly changed to Hygenia to Erica shrubland. The views were amazing.

Here there is a hut with bunk beds and a common room for tourists to use. In bathroom even had a western toilet. There was no seat and it definitely didn’t flush, but still there. And how did they get it all the way up there anyway? Not even a horse cart could make it all the way up to this campsite. On a donkey’s back? Most likely.


            The third day, we made the short, but steep hike to the top of the mountain and wandered around the rocky top. In several spots we saw areas that had been and were burning to clear land for cattle grazing.

Finally, we started down the mountain on the long walk back to Adaba. I didn’t realize how far it was back and after 30 km I basically crawled into my compound and went straight to bed.
While on this hike, I worked with Bayu and the campsite keepers to do some assessments of the area and facilities. The next week we went on a day hike to another tent campsite in the Adaba district and will hopefully get to the last one in the next couple of weeks.  Here a few more pictures from the three-day trek.
                           Sunset on the first night. Harawa campsite.


    A native flower, red hot poker, found in the highlands of the Bale Mountains

                                    On top of Duro, morning of the third day. 

                   Hiking on the way to Hajimajam campsite the next weekend. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Year One

February 24, 2015

Time is a funny thing. About 12 days ago, we G10ers (my group of volunteers) hit our one-year-in-country mark. As you would guess, time has flown by at periods. Times with full schedules, work, and vacations. And then there are those other spells where time creeps by, slow and heavy. Times when work is scarce, commitments fall through, a parasite dances in your stomach, and missing friends, family, and home gives you a heartache. But one year is one year. No longer, no shorter. And, even though, some days are distinct with conversations and events in my memory and others blur together with seasons of The West Wing running through them, I am grateful for all the days of my one year. Here are some things I’ve done in all those days.
            In the past one year. . .I have moved to and come to call home a town in south Oromia, Ethiopia. I have completed a community needs assessment for my town. I have eaten doro wat, misir wat, and shiro with neighbors and friends. I have danced with a little girl called Mitu behind her family’s tej’ house. I have sat at my desk in the Agriculture Office studying Amharic and Oromifa for countless hours. I have learned how to transfer African honey bees from traditional hives to transitional hives. I have dug and planted my own garden with beans, lettuce, sweet peppers, and squash (all of which were killed by a frost two months later, except the lettuce. . .). I have run 220 k through the hills of Tigray. I have taught a grade 8 Spoken English class. I have drank soooo much buna. I have missed my best friend’s wedding in Ireland. I have vacationed to Zanzibar for my first Christmas and New Year’s away from my family. I have baked cinnamon rolls and eaten kilos of popcorn. I have watched Home Alone 2 with my little compound brothers, Yarid and Henok, at least six times. I have done my laundry on Saturday mornings while listening to my audiobooks. I have help paint a mural of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror lyrics on a new school building. I have gone to the colorful market every week and now have a banana lady and a gomen lady. I have met with the Mayor at least five times over three months trying to start a waste management project (I wonder if that will ever happen). I have trained the G12s on permagardening. I have read 10 books (not really that many, huh?). The dirty arms of kids have hugged me along my street. I have planned and replanned, scheduled and rescheduled a permagarden training for my Agriculture Office (still has not happened). I have made so many wonderful friends. I have been called ‘you’ and ‘ferenji’ too many times to count. I have seen the sunrise over the Bale Mountains from my doorway. I have been crammed into mini buses and line taxis with 24 people when it should hold 15. I have grieved the loss of my wonderful dog, Dancer. I have walked in a procession of people adorned in white in a tiny town on Timket (Orthodox holiday). I have watched Ethiopian music videos, all set in a field with mountain or waterfall in the background. I have been given shots of arake (local liquor) at a church I was passing by. I have hiked into the rural areas, through forests, fields, and up to the rocky top of a mountain. I have played Uno with my compound family. I have taken day trips to Shashamene just to get a fake burger and fries. I have face planted in a bus station with everyone staring at me. I have been hugged and kissed by each new person I met. I have been named Elili by my little neighbor kids.
            I have been lonely, sad, and frustrated, but I have been happy, hopeful, and surprised. I have learned how hard it is to belong/feel comfortable in a completely foreign culture and I have adapted and settled into my place here. I have come to love injera, I even crave it. I have learned to be open, accepting, and patient when everything around you is poking at your nerves. I have grown. I have loved and been loved. And I hope to do it all again and more in the next year. 

Ethiopian Flag

Ethiopian Flag