A Stick in the Road

After a successful working weekend in Jimma, two volunteers and I caught a mini bus back to Agaro. It usually takes an hour, but this mini bus made an unusual stop. There was a giant branch-like contraption sticking out of the road and several people standing around staring. My gaze soon shifted to the left, where a giant power line was half tilted, ready to fall at any moment. I almost knew before I asked… is there power in Agaro?

No, they said. It disappeared.

There’s no telling how long a situation like this will take to fix. As an added surprise, both the water and phone network went down with it.

So Dave, Marissa and I arrived in Agaro with limited options. Our days went something like this:

   Go to the market, come home and use the remaining water I have stored to wash and peel veggies for dinner. Slowly.

  Pull down the small box of Christmas items from last year. Set up a mini tree, hang a few stockings. Stand back and admire.

  Take quizzes from Oprah and Cosmo magazines. (Turns out we’re all romantics, and can keep our cool under pressure.)

  Prepare dinner by headlamps and candlelight. (Part camping, part alluring ambiance?)

  Explore Cosmo for all the new fashion, culture and beauty trends we’ll never be a part of.

  Discover a million and one tricks to do with matches.

  Visit the small local library… Read the Encyclopedia Britannica circa 1981, The Babysitters Club and several books on Karl Marx.

  Find someone along the road selling coffee they made with a charcoal fire.

  Do crossword puzzles from a book published sometime in the 1990’s.

  Sit around listening to my iPod until the last of it’s battery is drained.


  Read some more.

  Discus options.

Agaro is really hot this time of year. We can buy bottled water for drinking, but as for washing our bodies, our clothes, our dishes… you begin to understand what a serious commodity water is. Going weeks without water, you feel hot and dirty. Your dishes pile up. You dream of cold showers and clean clothes.

So… our options: Stick around Agaro and go through the whole experience we’re all too familiar with. OR. Get on a mini bus back to Jimma, share a hotel and take a shower.

Call me a cheater, but that shower was amazing.


6 responses to “A Stick in the Road

  1. Wow, I can’t even imagine the things you are experiencing over there! I just looked on a map to see where you even are! =) How’s the coffee there? National Geographic channel is featuring Ethiopa on a show this Monday, it’s about coffee. =) I’m taking my finals this week, I’m done on Wednesday, then I’ll work on my Christmas newsletter! How much longer are you going to be there for?

  2. Ooh, I hope you watch it! As I’m sure you’ve read, Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee. My region specifically is centralized on coffee production. It’s a HUGE part of the culture here. They have a whole process involved in making it. Coffee ceremonies involve washing the beans, roasting them in a pan over a charcoal fire, pounding them with mortor and pestal, putting them in a jebanna pot and boiling three rounds. The coffee is always served with some sort of snack, usually popcorn or ditfo dabbo (cultural bread).
    Good luck on your finals honey! How much longer do you have left of school?
    I have 8 more months left in Peace Corps.. then I’m headed to India for 6 weeks to get my Yoga Teacher Training Certification.Then I’ll be home!

  3. Wow! India to get your yoga cert!?! That’s ligit!!! =) I have at least 1 more year of community college, and then the BSN program is about 3 years. Blah.

  4. Hi Katie……….I get a bonus of 3 extra midnights once again! Our newest employee of 1 and 1/2 years quit in December so we all get to share his shifts. We just found out that they are not going to replace him so now we go on 4 week rotations instead of 5 week rotations. That means that I get at least 2 more sets of midnights per year. I know………..that is nothing compared to having to catch a bus to find water to bathe in! We Americans have a nasty habit of taking water for granted, at least the generations following the greatest generation of your grandparents. Now you know why grandpa and grandma have always been water concious. When you get to pump water by hand or dip and carry all of your water you do tend to develop a healthy respect for it. Americans have a tremendous grand awakening coming on the not so distant horizon. If the national drought continues this coming summer we could very well take a giant step back towards the dust bowl days. It is going to be 20 below zero tonight and it was 25 below on the 21st. Our water did freeze up the morning of the 21st. We also had a 20 to 30 mph wind which is absolutely harsh with cold temps. Aunty was without water until I figured out the exact location of where the line was frozen. That didn’t happen until I got home from work about midnight that day. It is indeed very nice to have water available at the turn of a knob or push of a lever. Fortunately the daylight hours are getting longer each day and we should start our gradual warming. It is supposed to be in the 20’s again early next week. Wow, a 40 degree temperature increase…………that is downright balmy! Now is the time to start daydreaming about this summers garden……it is time to start buying some of the seeds before they are sold out. It is also almost time to prune the apple trees. We might do some grafting this spring. The deer came into the yard the week after Christmas and ate up all of Aunty’s yews……………..the dirty government goats! We will have to see if they will come back or not. We have very little snow cover so I suppose that we will lose alot of her shrubs to winter freeze damage. Did someone tell you that a bobcat helped itself to about 39 of my ducks, chickens and guineas starting in July. It was going right into the coop and taking them off from the roost. It is always something. Well it is time to go back to work…………take care and keep your stick on the ice. We’ll try to keep the campfire burning back here at the lodge! Love ya,

    • Thanks for the update, Uncle! I really enjoyed hearing some news from home 🙂 Hang in there with the midnights.. I’ll try to give you something good to read. Give my love to the family. Miss you guys!

  5. Our first house in Agaro had no water on the compound. There was a new water pipe just outside the gate but the town would not turn it on because no one would pay for the water. Our students brought us water from the SIM mission up the hill and we had a year of bucket baths and skimping. There was a public shower at Armando’s at the bottom of the hill and he made pretty good spaghetti and italian bread. Often the showers were little more than a trickle but it was something better than the bucket. Then we moved into a house that had a water source, toilet, and bathtub. We just had to remember to turn the lever to fill the water tank. That was luxury. I suspect Armando’s place is gone. The town seems so much bigger now than in 1972. Be well and you will soon be home.

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