Please Read: My Perspectives on the Election

7 11 2012

This is s summary of my perspective on the election after living in Ethiopia for 18 months:

 

So Obama wins the 2012 Presidential Election. That’s fine and dandy. I think both candidates would honestly do the best job that they could to help the American people as a whole. I hope you can realize that what is best for you may not be best for the country…?

I didn’t vote. You can criticize me if you want, but you won’t hear me complain.

You won’t hear me complain, because the way I see it, I am so blessed, so fortunate, so lucky to be an American, regardless of who my ‘leader’ is.

After living in a 3rd world, developing country for 18 months, I have seen things that have made me sick to my stomach. I have heard things that make my heart break. I have realized what is really important in life. I have learned to be thankful for all that I am and all that I have.

All of our ‘basic’ freedoms have become more prevalent to me.

Freedom of Speech: Be thankful that you have the RIGHT to say what you feel, to speak out against something you think is wrong. In other parts of the world, if you disagree with the government, there may be repercussions. Some may not get a job, some may never ever see a promotion, some may be killed.

Freedom of the Press: Be thankful that you are given the opportunity to learn about your options from numerous sources. In other parts of the world, all forms of press and communication may be controlled by the government, the political party in control.

Freedom of Religion: Be thankful that you are not frowned upon because of your religious affiliation or lack thereof. Most people in America will still respect you, people will do business with you, people frankly just don’t care either way. In other parts of the world, people may take one look at the cross around your neck or the little hat on your head and may instantly be turned off to you.

Freedom of Assembly: Be thankful that you have the opportunity to gather and discuss issues that you consider to be a problem and create a course of action to fix that problem. In other parts of the world, meetings to discuss topics that oppose opinions of those who lead have to be held in secret, for fear of the consequences that can occur if they are revealed.

Freedom of Petition: Be thankful that you have the right to ask your government to do something or to refrain from doing something. You have the right to talk to your leaders and ask him or her to implement, change, or take out laws that you don’t agree with. In other parts of the world, people might never in their life have an opportunity to voice their opinion.

You have access to clean food and water. You have the right to choose a career and where you want to take that career. You have the ability to take care of your family. You have access to health care with clean facilities and competent doctors and nurses. You have the freedom to love who you want to love, to marry who you want to marry. In other parts of the world, people may not have access to water or food, people may be told what their career will be, people may struggle to take care of their families, people may not have access to healthcare, and women are often told who to marry…

People around the world die for things that we take for granted.

Regardless of how this election turned out, please be thankful for what you have. The election may or may not have turned out the way you had hoped. But you know what, you still have basic freedoms that people living in other parts of the world may never even dream of!

I am so thankful that this election is over. It has been so disappointing to read all of the fighting, bickering, complaining, disrespect and hatred! I hope that everyone can move on, respect others’ opinions and get respect in return.

Please remember: You are blessed, you are fortunate, you are lucky, you are American.

Be thankful.

 





Summer Summary

2 11 2012

So sorry! Its been way too long since I last blogged. I have been very busy, doing a lot of traveling around Ethiopia for various reasons. I wanted to let you all in on what I’ve been up to over the past few months.

My ‘summer’ started in June. We had a new group of Education volunteers come in to country to begin their Pre-Service Training. I was asked to help with their training since school was out in my community. I provided many technical trainings, sharing my experiences of working in the Ethiopian Education System and sharing resources and ideas that the new volunteers could use during their service.

During the summer, I also represented PSN (peer support network) in a few trainings. PSN is a committee comprised of peer elected representatives whose role is to empower other PCVs & trainees by supporting their emotional needs and diverse backgrounds.  It is absolutely one of my favorite parts of my Peace Corps service so far. I get to spend a lot of time with new volunteers, answering questions and giving advice during their first few months in country. I also write encouraging letters, make phone calls and go to visit other Volunteers to keep their morale up. In September, I was elected as President of PSN. As President, I will be the point person between our committee and the Peace Corps Office in the capitol city, schedule and lead meetings and trainings, ensure PSN members adhere to standard of conduct, and more. I am very excited about the opportunity to serve other Volunteers in Ethiopia.

Another big activity that went on this summer was Summer Camp. Tigray Summer Camp 2012 was held in my town of Wukro. We had 35 high school students, age 13-18, come together to learn to lead others. Me and 15 other volunteers from my region of Tigray taught kids important information on health education, specifically about HIV/AIDS, environmental education, leadership and teamwork, gender equality, and more. It was traditional ‘summer camp’ style, with the campers sleeping in dorms, being a part of a team, playing games, and having fun. And of course, we ended everything with a campfire and s’mores! We were all exhausted after the 8 day event, but it was worth it to see the kids’ knowledge, skills, and confidence shoot through the roof over the course of the week.

 

Since school doesn’t start in Ethiopia until October I took a ‘vacation’ around Ethiopia. I started out visiting the historical city of Axum. Axum was one of the first colonies of Ethiopia, dating back more than a thousand years. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in Ethiopia.

After Axum, me and 2 other Volunteers visited another historical city called Gondar. Gondar is home to the Ethiopian empire’s castles of the 17th and 18th century. The history behind the set of castles is fascinating. And it is amazing that they are still standing today.

From Gondar, we went north to the Simien Mountains, which are also called ‘The Rooftop of Africa’ because of its expansive area of highlands. It is also home to Ethiopia’s highest point “Ras Dashen”, which I believe is the 4th highest peak in all of Africa. Here, me and 3 other PCVs hiked and camped in the cold, wet highlands of Ethiopia. We saw an indigenous monkey species that were so much fun to watch and were the highlight of the trip in my opinion. Camping and hiking was fun, but its not really my cup of tea, and after three full days, I was ready to be done.

From the Simien Mountains, I went a bit south to the ‘resort’ town of Bahir Dar. It sits on the south side of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, and is the starting point of the Blue Nile River. We have several PCVs in and around the city, and I got the opportunity to hang out with some of them. We had fresh Blue Nile Perch at a restaurant on the lake.

Addis Ababa, the capitol city, was next on the list. All of the people in my group of Education Volunteers that I came into country were there for our Mid-Service Conference (MSC). MSC is a week-long meeting/training where volunteers share ideas for projects, big wigs come in and pretend like they know what its like to be out in the villages, and we go out to eat delicious foreign dinners. We had a really good time. We even got to meet some Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from Ethiopia and Eritrea that served in the 60s and 70s. I even met Karen, who served in Wukro, 30some years ago! It was amazing to hear their stories of their service so many years ago.

After MSC, I had one week before I needed to be back in Addis Ababa to welcome another new group of Volunteers! So, I decided that I wanted to go visit some other volunteers in the southwestern part of Ethiopia. This was like a whole new world! It was green and forest-like and MUDDY, the complete opposite of where I live where it’s dry and dusty. I got to see some amazing volunteers while I was out there, which is always the best part of traveling. The bus rides were long and uncomfortable, but the scenery was beautiful!

The next week, I was back in the capitol, welcoming 60 new volunteers to Ethiopia. The PSN committee I was talking about earlier puts on a ‘demystification’ trip for incoming volunteers. We take a small group of newbies out to a ‘typical Ethiopian town’ where a current PCV lives and we show them what its like and how we do it. It’s an eye opening experience for them, but it’s the reality that they are looking for after so many months of pondering what this mystery place called Ethiopia is really like.  I had a wonderful group of girls come with me. They were open minded and easy going. I don’t think we scared them tooooo much :)

Well, that pretty much sums up my summer!

Check out the next blog to see what I’m doing for my second year of service and how you can help!





Year Two: You Can Help!

2 11 2012

After a long, eventful summer, I am back in my town of Wukro. School is finally underway and I have begun my primary project for year number two! This year I am implementing an English Language Resource Center (ELIC) in my main primary school. ELICs are very common in Ethiopia, but only in Universities and Teacher Colleges, not in primary schools, mainly because there is no one to help get it started. They are supported by the Ministry of Education of Ethiopia and have a good reputation in the education system. So I decided to try to get one going in my community!

English is a huge problem in Ethiopia, and it is so important for students to learn English at an early age if they want to continue their education after primary school. With the implementation of an ELIC, students and teachers will have access to resources, both material and human, every day of school to help improve their language skills. Projected activities for the ELIC are: hosting weekly student clubs, story time for young students, teacher meetings, methodology trainings for teachers, workshops for teachers to make and use teaching aids properly and it will act as a reading center for the students to have access to and to read English books.

My school community has been great so far! They have offered a classroom, desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves and more! My counterpart, who works in the district office thinks this is the best idea EVER :) and wants to use it as a model for other schools nearby. My school principal has been very helpful in the logistics of making this a reality. We actually begin painting the classroom TOMORROW!

I have tons of resources from Peace Corps and various other organizations and have received lots of school supplies from friends and family back home (Thanks mom and Amanda (P)F). I have a few boxes of English books that my aunt had donated and sent to me (Thanks Sandy!) to share with the students that will go in the ELIC as well. Last year Seward County Community College put on a book drive for me called “Books for Bailey”. They collected a number of books for me and my community, but were unable to send them because of the high cost of shipping to Ethiopia. Below is a link to the official Peace Corps website. There, you can read all about my ELIC project and you can donate to it! The money collected will go to the shipping of those books collected by SCCC and various other items that I will need to run a successful ELIC. Your contribution would be most appreciated and utilized by my community and me.

To donate to his project, go to www.peacecorps.gov/donate and search for my project by using project code number 663-033, or search by my last name (Crandall), home state (Kansas) or country (Ethiopia).

As always, thanks so so much for your unconditional support over the past 17 months! I appreciate you all so much!





13 Months of Sunshine

21 07 2012

13 Months of Sunshine is Ethiopia’s tourism catchphrase. It may seem as if  it only means ‘alot of sunshine’, but Ethiopia actually has its own ancient calendar with 13 months. The Ethiopian calendar is influenced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which follows its ancient rules and beliefs. The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months, 12 months of 30 days each and one month at the end of the year of 5 or 6 days, depending whether it is a leap year or not. The year starts on September 11 in the Gregorian (normal?!) calendar. The Ethiopian Calendar is seven years, nine months and some days behind ours. In the Ethiopian calendar, today is the 14th day of the 11th month in the year 2004.

With all that being said… I have been in Ethiopia for 13 months!

Peace Corps world-wide has a diagram of the typical “Volunteer Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment”. The chart shows the emotional rollercoaster that a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) rides throughout their service. The top portion shows when the PCV is vulnerable to culture shock, homesickness, loneliness, frustration with lack of ‘work’ and so on. The bottom part of the diagram shows when the Volunteer is adjusting to the PC lifestyle, integrating into the community, finding productivity in work and life and generally enjoying the experience. It has been nearly spot on for me, as well as many of my PCV friends here in Ethiopia.

Starting in May, I found myself in the “Mid-Service Crisis”. Work at my site was going ok, but I was REALLY missing home. I missed my sister’s graduation, and couldn’t even skype with her due to an 24 hr power outage. My cousin got married and I wasn’t there to share her special day. I was thinking that maybe I could be doing something more productive at home. Plus, it was summertime back home… swimming, ball games, BBQs with friends and family. Being here was depressing. And it didn’t help that many of the Volunteers around me were feeling the same way. When we got together it was one huge negative vent session.

Flash forward to today: I’m coming out of the slump and am adjusting again. Currently, I am in the town of Assela, where I did my Pre-Service Training. This time, however, I am a trainer instead of a trainee. 70 new Trainees came to country the first week of June and since the Education Program is new to PC/Ethiopia, the program manager asked me and some other Education PCVs to help. It’s been a great experience so far. They’ve helped me to realize that what I am doing IS productive and important, and that I AM strong for being able to stick it out to this point. They are all so interested and amazed when I share personal experiences of work and community integration. Their energy and enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. When they ask how long I have been here, I say a little over a year, and they say “Wow!”.

Wow! is right.

I’m more than halfway through my service!

I’m ready to take on year two!





19 07 2012

bcrandall5:

Meet Me! Through the thoughts of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, Dave!

Originally posted on winging it with whitey:

if i’m going to start making extra efforts to appreciate people again, i guess i’d better bring back meet the peace corps, hadn’t i?

today, let’s meet bailey.

how much do i know about bailey?

not much.

i think, maybe, she might be religious… possibly.

not in that weird, grating way, but in that sweet, endearing way.

she’s from kansas, i know that, and she’s got the jayhawk pride and lilting twang to prove it.

bailey is the poster girl for what we used to tell the world american women were like, you know, before we started telling the world that american women were coked-out, whored-up, 14 year old disney pop singers. oops. did i say that out loud? i haven’t complained about disney in a while. i must be backed up.

speaking of backing up…

bailey is also on PSN. that’s how we come to be in…

View original 572 more words





A Rough Welcome

12 05 2012

There are always mixed emotions about coming ‘home’ after being gone for awhile. The past two weeks I’ve spent traveling. First I went to visit some friends in their site, then I headed to Addis Ababa, the capitol city of Ethiopia, to work on some trainings for a future group of volunteers, then I went down to Hawassa in southern Ethiopia to run a 7k and to hang out with other Peace Corps Volunteers. I had such a great time over the course of the two weeks (except while I was running the 7k, haha, not fun at all). So when I was heading back to my site, I was a little sad that my trip had come to an end. I even stayed the night in Mekele (the big city only an hour away from my town that I fly into), which is something I never do. I don’t know exactly why, but I wasn’t excited to come home. But I sucked it up and got on the bus and headed north to Wukro.

Just a few kilometers from my town, my minibus stopped. I looked out the window to see a huge pile of manure scattered all over the ground. Then I looked further back and saw where it came from. There was a horse cart flipped over and a mangled horse in the ditch. Beside the horse was a lady, screaming in pain, with a clearly visible broken leg… and a teenage boy who was on his hands and knees, blood gushing from his head. People in my bus started panicking, scrambling to get out to see, to help. I felt sick. I turned away from the scene, only to see two minibuses on the other side of the road. One with a crunched front end, the other flipped over on its side down in the ditch. My heart dropped.

I sat there alone in the bus, not knowing what to do or where to go. I started praying that everyone would be alright, even though the scene suggested otherwise. Finally I decided to get out of the bus. I stood on the side of the road feeling helpless. A lady that I recognized walked up to me from the other side of the road. She is a teacher at one of my schools in town. I immediately asked her if she was ok, then if the situation across the road was ok. She said it was fine, and there were a bunch of people standing around the flipped over bus, all looking surprisingly calm. I noticed a man climbing through the shattered front windshield, retrieving plastic bags of passengers’ belongings from inside.

Some women had wrapped their scarves around the head of the boy who was bleeding and walked him to the bus. Then a few men picked up the lady with the broken leg and started to carry her over. They were going to take them to the hospital, which was great! I found the driver and told him to get my large backpack off of the top of the bus but he told me to get in and they would drop me off in town. There was NO WAY I was getting in that bus with those poor injured people, just to take time to drop me off, while they are in the back in pain that I’ve never even imagined. I finally convinced him to get the bag down for me and to grab my purse from the back seat then they took off towards town. But now what?

I looked up at the sky… rain clouds, great. I decided that I was going to walk into town. I started walking, only to get stopped by my teacher friend who told me to wait, that a bus would come to pick us up. I said ok and I waited. She took off towards the crowd of people. A big bus pulled up and people scrambled to get in so they could get a ride back to town, and my teacher friend disappeared into the bus, leaving me alone.

Again, I started walking into town. I was upset, not that I had to walk, but because of what I’d just seen. I’d been so lucky to have missed the actual incident by a minute or two, but would I always be that lucky? What about my friends? As Peace Corps Volunteers, we are always taking the cheapest, most easily available ways to get from place to place, which are probably the most dangerous. There are so many hazards on the roads of Ethiopia. Horse carts, donkeys and cattle, terrible road conditions, mountains and valleys and the busses are all in terrible condition. Ethiopia is number 1 in traffic fatalities in all of the countries of the WORLD. It’s scary! But what can we do about it? I don’t know.

Its taboo to cry in public in Ethiopia, so I put my shades on and tried to think of something else… anything else. As I reached town, it started to sprinkle. I walked faster trying to get as far into town as I could before getting soaked. Finally it was raining, and I ran into my favorite supermarket and was greeted by the shopowner. He was happy to see me after being gone for two weeks. I tried to explain what I had just seen, but he didn’t get it… he kept laughing, and I don’t know why, but it was frustrating.

Finally the rain had cleared and I walked the rest of the way home. I knocked on the gate of my compound and heard someone say ‘who is it?’ in the local language. I said ‘Its me’ then heard lots of people saying “Bailey! Bailey!”. They ran to open the door and I was greeted with lots of hugs, cheek kisses, and smiles. That is always a great feeling. But then I looked to the room on the left, which is where the baby, Isaak, and his parents live(d). It was empty! They moved out while I was away!  :(  I am so sad!

On top of all of that, I walked into my kitchen, only to find lots of rat poop… They’re back. Ugh!

 _______________________________________

Frustrated with the recent events, I needed something to pick me up. One of my sitemates texted me, letting me know that I had mail and a package at the post office. I figured this would help me to feel better and to get my mind off of things. I let him know I was going to go grab the mail, and he said he was on his way to the post office as well. I met him on the road and we walked over. I got a package I’d been expecting for months now, which was great! Then I picked up lots of letters that he’d collected for me at his house. I brought them back home and had my very own mail opening party. I received a wedding invite, a graduation announcement, a Christmas letter and lots more! It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off of being sad. So thank you!

If there’s one thing that being here has taught me, it’s that I am SO fortunate. I have never lived a bad day in my life. I am so blessed. I’ll never take anything for granted. My health, hygiene, friends, family, experiences, anything that has ever brought me the slightest bit of happiness I will never take for granted.





The Stereotypical PCV

23 03 2012

The Stereotypical PCV,

The power went out, its hard to see.

Laptop computer is about to die,

The rain clouds are teasing up in the sky.

 

Its time to make dinner, such a difficult task,

Because my dishes are dirty. Why? you might ask.

We’ve had no water for quite a few days now,

Despite all the odds, we make it through somehow.

 

Peace Corps is rough, I won’t tell a lie,

It can be so frustrating, sometimes I cry.

I miss my family and friends everyday,

But there’s plenty of reasons why I choose to stay.

 

The happiness of the people, the smile on their face,

Especially from the children, no money can replace.

The landscape is beautiful, the culture is old,

The riches of this country just cannot be sold.

 

I’m here because I want to be, I want to use my skill,

of helping others who are in need, I believe that its God’s will.

I’ve learned to appreciate little things and to take nothing for granted,

I’ve learned that if you have family and friends, you are never empty-handed.

None of this is possible, if it weren’t for all of you.

So thank you for your support to help me make it through.








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