Sunday, October 30, 2011

Waterfall Tigers

After a long day of community meetings, and exploring the reaches of Kololo and its neighboring villages, the waterfalls are a refreshing escape. We rarely, if ever, are able to escape curious onlookers; yesterday 50 villagers (mostly children) stood in constant vigil as we rested in the cascading water, and upon the sun-warmed rocks. Upon leaving I asked one of our audience members why so many people were interested in watching us, and one nervously replied that they were actually worried for us. It seems that the community has a small population of large cats that live in Kololo’s valley, the same valley where the final waterfall crashes down from roughly 35 meters above. Behind that cascading waterfall hides a large cave, which most in the community fear even to go near, concerned that the supposed tigers that call the cave home will lay chase to them as they do nightly to the communiy's free-range live stock.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


In Kololo comfort surely has a nemesis; the relentlessly swarming common housefly (zimb). Inside or out, sun or shade, body cleansed or reeking, we are engulfed in an unwavering buzz of bacteria-laden insects. We are only able to relieve ourselves of their constant presence by running or taking refuge under our insecticide-treated bed nets. It is quite reminiscent of the constant bouts with horseflies during my summers spent canoeing through the Boundary Waters, though thankfully without the welts (those are bestowed upon us nightly by the fleas). We newcomers do have a distinct advantage over our nemesis; our ability to swat the things. And seeing that the community is accustomed to the ever-present annoyance, and rarely if ever bother to momentarily rid themselves of it, our reactions are much more timely then the flies ever see coming. To put it into perspective, the three-for-one, is actually somewhat common occurrence. Community members, especially children are accustom to the pesky, public health nuisance, but I doubt Daniel and I will ever allow three to nestle themselves comfortably in our tear ducts (don’t worry; public health tutorials are coming). Let alone allow them to rest even for a moment on the desk that my computer presently is perched on. Splat!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We are here

We're here, with a car full of goodies – less than planned, but we are certainly here. Equipped with three foldable cots, 7 rolls of duct tape (one roll was used to fix one of the two cars it took to wheel us down here), a couple machetes, solar panels, water filters, suntan lotion, hot sauce, amongst a few other things: plenty of wherewithal. Since arriving, we discovered the wireless EV-DO sadly does not service much of the rural south, including Mudula and its surrounding townships. So this post, though written under solar powered light at my Kololo home, is being delivered by Tesfa Foundation founder Dana Roskey. So though I will continue to generate posts, I will only be able to upload on average every two weeks. Picture a hose with a severe kink, that will flow freely, when finally unbound.

Since Wednesday, Daniel, Ijigu and myself have spent our time gradually asserting ourselves as new members of the community. Tattoo-clad, white, and twice the size of most, Daniel and I are finding our way a little more gradually than Ijigu. But we will be just fine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The shopping has begun

        For the first time in two years, I ventured into one of Bole’s (one of Ethiopia’s wealthiest neighborhoods) supermarkets.  Crowded with chin high shelves stocked with Heinz, Nestle and Proctor and Gamble products, I was taken aback by the assortment of materials available.  Yet somehow powdered drink mixes (pretty crucial when your drinking only water and home brew for months on end) were unavailable, though there were 8 different garlic presses to choose from. We made the most of it, and found a majority of the bulk staple items we were in search of. Though a store clearly for the wealthy, the incandescent lighting, stark all-white d├ęcor, and array of foreign products, gave a feeling of being back in a freshly stocked Family Dollar.  It was an odd experience in Ethiopia.

        After 30 minutes of zigzagging through the aisles, we left with our first purchase for the Kololo project.  The food, and home necessities will fuel our swinging shovels and cleanse our sweat salted clothing.  Not to mention, offer a few comforts along the way.  Kololo is currently between harvest seasons.  Other than avocados (which we will be gladly eating by the dozen) and potatoes, there is very little home grown energy laden food available in the village.  In a month’s time, many other fruits and vegetables will be ripe for picking.  For the time being, we will largely be relying on rice, kenche (a tasty barley like grain), white oats, peanut butter, powdered milk, and pasta to provide the 4,500 or so calories a day we will need to sustain ourselves.  Over time, the initial diet may become  monotonous, though as the season changes, a potpourri of local foods will emerge.  Believe me, we are all exited for Mango’s with hot sauce, mountains of bananas, and bakolo (when dried, local trail mix) by the kilo.  

      We leave for Hawassa on Saturday and Kololo Tuesday.  While in Hawassa (Ethiopian Southern Nations capital, and 3 hours from Kololo) we will making the brunt of our tool and living material purchases, as well as add to our food stores. By Monday,  we will have small truck stocked with everything we will need to contentedly live in Kololo for the next 3 and half months. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting acquainted

These are a few photos from Ijigu and I's first trips to Kololo. We had a chance to meet a number of the soon to be students, as well as agree on land for the build. As you can probably tell, these photos were taken at the end of the dry season. You will be surprised to see the same plot of land next week. It will not only richer, but the community has been volunteering there time to begin leveling the the land for construction. I am very eager to see their progress, and start getting dirty.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A place to lay my head

During my last trip to Kololo, the community determined to donate a family home to Tesfa for the duration of the build. It was a very humbling experience. Many offered their residence, but because of the proximity to the construction site, and a waterfall (our ivory springs like shower) the community determined that this home was the best fit.

Regrettably during my last visit, I did not have a camera equipped a flash. I’ll be sure to share photos of the living quarters in a couple weeks. Other than the remarkable view, the house has high ceilings, a large living space with a built in bench, two bedrooms, a storage space, and is located only a short walk to the communities out of order potable water source. The house is a gojo bet or mud country house, and beautiful one. The home is a great example of the type of construction we will be using to build the Kololo school. -I’ll touch on this in a later post.

The family who graciously donated the home, will be living with extended family just a short walk from Tesfa’s rental. The family and the rest of the community will always be welcome to stop by and chat, and I am sure they will, especially the kids. Considering that there is usually 30 children following me wherever I go in the community, I imagine we will have an array of constant company. Might be a little much at times, but in all, it should be rather awesome.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The next project: Kololo

As I first bumped along Ethiopians southwestern roads, I watched out a rattling window as cattle grazed plains gradually transformed into an undulating landscape. A Fern Gully like place, thick with forest and groves. Weathered suspensions and over confidant drivers made for an unsettling journey, but my focus was transfixed on the regions sheer beauty. Kambata, Ethiopia is a 6.5 hour (16-24 via public transport) winding drive southwest of Addis Ababa. The region is on the cusp of Ethiopia’s central plateau. Kambata displays much of southern Ethiopia’s rich flora, and central Ethiopia’s towering topography. With the assistance of a variety of partners, the Tesfa Foundation has been preparing to build a school and library within Kololo, Kambata since partnering with adoptive parents in early 2011. Thanks to well executed fundraising on the part of Kambata adoptive parents, On The Ground, Ethiopia Reads, Mudula Water,and a wealth of individual donors, cumulatively we have raised enough money to build a school and library.

Over the last 5 months, I have visited with the village and local government officials numerous times. During which, Ijigu (a Tesfa Foundation senior manager) and myself worked to forge relationships with officials, community leaders and elders. Without a strong coalition of support, even small development projects within a reticent population can be difficult. The importance of making a genuine partnership was increased by a failed previous development project within Kololo. In which a large religious group invested thousands of dollars worth of materials into a variety of water projects, that in the months following failed, and have since gone unrepaired. The process of earning Kololo’s trust was challenging, but after spending the greater part of three days with community members, discussing previous Tesfa projects, and development philosophy, we were honored with a cooperative agreement from a the committee of village leaders.

In nearly two weeks, I will be moving into Kololo, Ethiopia. The community’s roughly 700 cob constructed homes are sprinkled throughout five square kilometers that make up an awe-inspiring landscape. The village is spread across a flourishing valley. Hundreds of compact farm plots are perched on rolling hills amongst two waterfalls and land teeming with wild growth. These homes rest seamlessly, and with a sense of grace. Each is woven into its environment, and is positioned to allow for privacy while remaining an air of openness to the rest of the community. A blend of palms, coffee, banana, mango, and papaya trees envelope most residences, leaving only glimpses of the earthen structures until just meters away. Yet when the flora veil is lifted, passerby’s are welcomed with kind eyes and cheerful smiles. I feel comfortable, and reassured, as if I have walked these village paths numerous times before.

I’ll wait to share more. I got to move in first....