16 February 2014

what's the joedown?

It's been some time since I made some kind of public update about My Peace Corps Life. I suppose it's because I've been so incredibly busy living it, I haven't had much time to write (or even think) about it. Here's a quick rundown... 

Friends & Family

    • Peace Corps Ethiopia Saves Christmas

      Daniel and Danielle Luttrull, Ras Dashen comrades and two of my most favorite people in Peace Corps, put together a little audio number, styled after This American Life, juxtaposing different Volunteer experiences. I am one of the story tellers. The entire program is a sheer joy, with hand-selected musical accompaniments icing the deliciously baked injera cake. Listen/download here.

    • Mom and Meg

      After much deliberation and 11th-hour decision-making, my Mother and my sister came to Ethiopia for A Very Bekoji Christmas. It was silly and delightful. The highlight for me was when we held a Christmas party at the Students’ English Club. M & M brought M & Ms, candy canes, and Hershey Kisses, along with a few ornaments; we went to the market the day prior with some of the students to stock up on local supplies. The morning of, Cam and I tracked down a Charlie Brown Christmas tree atop a small evergreen bush/tree/thing. The turnout was fantastic, and our Rudolph and Jingle Bells sing-alongs went as smoothly as could be expected (perhaps Rudolph more so). The event was very much loved by all.


    • Students’ English Club

      The Students’ English Club I started at my assigned school has been a diamond in even the roughest points of my service. It came to fruition as a result of several failed attempts to launch the Teacher Mentoring Program and a bit of improvisation on Peace Corps Day last year (psst….it’s coming up again!). I’m hoping it can maintain momentum throughout my final semester at the school, which starts this week. I hope to pick up where we left off with read-and-repeat speech practice with JFK’s inaugural address and to close out my time with these students on as many positive notes as possible.

    • Teachers’ English Conversation Club

      It felt nice to finally follow my heart and get something started at the Bekoji High School. Teachers there very much wanted opportunities to practice speaking English. Thus, the Bekoji High School Teachers’ English Conversation Club was born. It took a while to get off the ground last semester, allowing us only two meetings before adjourning for the semester break, so I am very much looking forward to gaining a bit of continuity this time around. My time there has also helped make some inroads for the school as a candidate for a Peace Corps partnership as our program moves toward direct teaching at the high school level. It’s a school with great potential and a bright future.

    • Baseball

      The effort to bring baseball to Bekoji continues! We’ve been playing some form of baseball just about every week at the Bethany Stand By Me School in Bekoji, making good use of the equipment sent over with my dad by my uncle Tim and his buddy, Danny Pearson. We are hoping to increase attendance, hold a couple “technical” classroom sessions, and possibly relocate to a better playing surface before rainy season creeps in. If we’re lucky, we might get to host some kind of baseball mini-camp and stage Bekoji’s first ever full-scale baseball game. We just watched The Sandlot with the team, and it was a huge hit! I am in the process of reaching out to some people who succeeded with baseball in other Peace Corps places, through which I’m hoping to track down more formal modules for introducing and replicating the game. If you, the reader, have any suggestions, please let me know!

    • World Map | Wando

      One of the most popular “out of the box” projects undertaken by Peace Corps Volunteers is a world map mural, typically set in a school of some kind. Last week, I was offered the opportunity to participate in the painting portion of a world map project in Wando Genet. Tatum, a fellow VAC member and Environment Volunteer, lives and works at Wando Genet University, but also teaches English at a nearby primary school. Her world map is installed inside of a classroom so that it can be used as a teaching aid.


    • Gabon

      Before Mom and Meg had landed back on American soil, I was on a beach in Gabon. It was a mini adventure that came out of nowhere, thanks entirely to the incredible generosity of my goddaughter’s grandmother. I spent time with Marc and Simone, and got to meet little miss Nalia for the first time. I also ate giant shrimps. Incredible on so many levels.

    •  Ras Dashen

      I trekked for 5 days with 5 friends to summit Ras Dashen, the highest peak in Ethiopia. It was epic. Read more here.

    • Wando Genet

      As I mentioned, I recently made my way down to Wando Genet to help with a world map mural project. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to my desire to see that place as a factor in accepting the project invitation; I had heard nothing but great things. I’m not sure what I expected, exactly, but Wando absolutely blew my mind. It was, in a word, magical, and I can’t wait to go back with Laura in a couple months. 

     Jano Band

    • Jano Band is so good that I wouldn't dare try and squeeze them into one of the nice, neat categories above. The day we arrived in Addis for our most recent website meeting, Forrest texted all of us about this concert happening in Addis over the weekend, while we'll all still be in town. The band name did not sound familiar to any of us, but as soon as Forrest cracked open a little Jano Band on YouTube, history was already being written. The website team - which also includes Schickling and OhnSoon - would soon adopt the Jano Band tune found in that YouTube video as our official anthem, and experience together an epic four hour musical event that would change their lives forever. OK. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but they did play a pretty killer rendition of "Blurred Lines," along with a couple Bob Marley tunes and a handful of other covers. It was friggin awesome!!!! Seriously, if you have a chance to see these guys (& gals), don't pass it up. No Amharic competency required to have a damn good time!

    Ba bampbananana....

    Peace Corps | Ethiopia

    • Website

      Helping launch Peace Corps Ethiopia’s first-ever, full-fledged website has been a goal of mine since the idea first surfaced in early 2013. It’s so close that I am almost ready to share the URL with you. Almost. Remain tuned.

    • Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC)

      My time as VAC chair is quickly winding down (in fact, it should be over already), and it won’t be long before I enter a lame duck phase of committee service. I’ve greatly enjoyed my time on the VAC, and can only hope I did my peoples right. Thank you for allowing me to serve you, friends.

    • All Volunteer Conference (AVC)

      Speaking of the VAC, the committee hosted and planned last year’s inaugural AVC. We’re at it again this year, with Emily from G8 leading the charge (and doing a fantastic job!).

    • G10! G11!

      G10 is here (Welcome, ya'll!)! G11 planning is happening! I can’t believe it. In case you need a refresher, I’m G7!

    • Getting Ready to Come Home

      Believe it or not, I’m starting to think seriously about what’s Next. Is it a Nick Cage movie? I’m not sure. Anyway, I’m thinking I should probably find myself a job. I’ve been here more than 20 months, which is an undeniably long time, and just enough for me to admit that the idea of coming home is a bit scary. But it’s scary because it’s so real and so close. And that’s pretty exciting, too.


    1. Amazing. Frigging. Awesome. And your Groundhog's night prognostication (yes, I realize it is not a part of this blog post) means before you know it, you'll be sliding through some rainy season and keep sliding home! Like the frog said, "Time's sure fun when you're having flies!"

    2. Can't believe you've been gone for almost two years! The SF Marathon seems like it was ages ago. Hope you enjoy the end of this great experience!

    3. Good morning, how are you?

      My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

      I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

      For all this, I would ask you one small favor:
      Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Ethiopia? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Ethiopia in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

      Emilio Fernandez Esteban
      Calle Valencia, 39
      28903 Getafe (Madrid)

      If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

      Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

      Yours Sincerely

      Emilio Fernandez

    4. I'm blown away by your documentation of this life changing experience. It's beyond awesome that your family was able to visit and contribute to the experience. I'm sure their participation has been life changing as well!