Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jungle Living

My job in Kololo is pretty simple: immerse myself in the work the Tesfa and Ethiopia Reads are doing to build schools in the Kembata region of Ethiopia and survive while doing it. I am immersing myself so that I can eventually create a captivating and motivating video and project resume for their efforts here in Ethiopia, to drum up support to finish 3 more schools. To immerse myself, I spent my first week working with the crew. This entailed:

  1. Hauling boulders: using either a barillo (a sort of all-purpose carrying tool made of two long wooden sticks with a flat surface nailed in between to rest some object(s) on top of the surface), or by hoisting a rock on my shoulder and scurrying it over to the school building. We hauled boulders because there is no heavy machinery out here, and we needed to create a floor for the school rooms, so each stone (easily over 20,000 in total) had to be carried individually by a worker/volunteer. The drop site where the trucks left the boulders was on the top of the hill the school sat on, and we would carry them down to either of the three buildings. This lead to very dusty clothing, sweaty faces, strained muscles, and tired knees each day.
  2. Breaking rock: using makeshift hammers, we break down the hauled rocks into tinier pieces to create a more level surface. We had to raise the mud floor 30cm, so this meant bringing in enough large boulders and breaking them down to create a level plane covering a roughly 12'x15' room 30cm deep in rock.
  3. Digging: We had to dig down to create a level surface to lay the boulders. This was the toughest part since the ground was dry, making it very difficult to rip it up. This is how you build up them there arm muscles!
  4. An excavated room before boulders are brought in.
  5. Loafing: I'm a lazy American. I figured I should spend at least half the day in my hammock back at the hut reading and broadening my worldview through literature :)
The work is tough, for sure. And I realized after the second day of hauling rocks that I was perhaps not being considerate of the local workers. The guys who would carry the other end of the barillo with me often ended up carrying the biggest rocks, since I put into the contraption what I could carry, not factoring in that I was about twice the size of every person there. But they were quick to forgive, and everyone was always in good spirits. 

I usually spent the second half of the day rocking in my WONDERFUL hammock. Its a ENO Doublenest hammock, so its made to fit two people...or this leviathan who loved to curl the sides up so no flies would get in, put on some Jack Johnson music and read for a few hours while munching on a mango or a couple local cookies. 

As for food: we eat mostly the same thing each day:
  • Breakfast consists of a few avocados smothered in the Cholula hot sauce I brought for Cien, a mango or two, and maybe a few scrambled eggs and dabo (bread). Top it off with a glass of tea and we're off to work. This is typical if we dont have leftovers from the previous night  (which I don't entirely trust since they are just sitting out on the table all night where the roaches and ants commune and plan their big attack on the fruit basket, which is thwarted by the courageous Lt. Dan).
  • Lunch is simple: mangos and avocados and lots of water. 
  • Dinner is usually pretty fancy: It includes cooked food like rice or gomen (what we would call "Greens") or potatoes, bread or injera (the local crepe like, sourdough tasting bread that I dont really like), and tea. 
You can only eat so many avocados before you flip out. I did eventually, especially when the Cholula ran out and I tried to pour water in the little bottle to make it go further. This was a horrible substitute. You can only have so many bananas, and so many mangos before you go mad. 

This lead to an interesting investment over the course of two events involving our only episodes of meat consumption. One day where I snapped, which involved Doro (chicken), and one involving a homemade stove that nearly killed me from smoke inhalation and a bag (yes a bag) of beef. To be continued.....

My main man Ermeus hauling a boulder on a barillo.

A quarter finished!

Andiso moving rocks around
I do my part too!
A lot of the ladies did mud work 

Temescan hauling a massive rock to lay it on the barillo.

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