Monday, March 26, 2012

Plastering the Walls in Kololo

Almost a week and a half ago we starting mixing our first batch of 'gesso.' The paper mâché like viscous solution is heated, and then mixed literally by hand. The process doesnt take much time but it is messy. When the gesso hardens, it forms a smooth durable surface that evenly fills cracks in the cob, as well as providing an ideal surface for the classrooms paint. We are finishing up the last of the walls today. The process has taken nearly two weeks of constant work due to the schools high walls. There's a lot of surface area to contend with when painting a three tiered house built on a steep hill. The painting, mostly blue white and green, should be complete by Thursday.

Here's a few shots of the gesso team.

Ermius, Sallamnesh and Debebe.  Sallmensh is on mixing duty.  Note her right

The Center walls height is 4.5 meters. Our Dr Seuss ladder
does wonders for reaching the top spots.

The team waiting for the mix.  At about 190 pounds, its a
little risky helping the guys (140 pounds tops) with the
ladder work.  Lets just say I figured out with a thud on the
 last build,that I'm a little hefty for most ladders.
If you notice Tamesken's grip, you may be paint nerd, but
he is showing off solid painters form.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Serbian Sabbatical

Been meaning to put this up, but was unable to, due to fried computers and so many other project related posts.

Back in January I was dealing with a mess of visa issues. Due to various reasons, I was forced to leave Ethiopia for nearly three weeks to sort everything out from afar. My father recently moved to rural Serbia with his partner Sanja.  They are in the process of reclaiming and reahbilitaring her families farmlands. The two live a beautifully sustainable village life, and my boot out of ol' Abasynnia created a nice oppertunity to spend some time on the family farm.

In the course of a month’s time, I made my way from the green hills of Kololo, to the hazy grays of Addis, to an anomalous Serbian white winter. An interesting cultural gradient as well.  The last three weeks have been spent sorting out visa issues, drafting programming proposals, working my father’s farm, and watching a record amount of snowfall.  Since February 1st, as much as 10 feet of snow inundated urban and rural landscapes. To put it in perspective, the two and a half feet that dumped on the small northern village of Pavlovci, was more than the community expected to receive all winter.  And for that matter, the combined amount for the next three winters.  Unlike much of Southern Serbia, we had no power outages, rather our wood burning stove’s fuel consumption drastically climbed along with the surrounding snow banks.

However, fuel was not an issue.  In the weeks leading up to the freakish European chill, my father and I spent numerous days cutting and splitting meters upon meters of bagrem, walnut, plum, and a very stubborn oaks.  With two of the family wood storage sheds stocked, the unforeseen freeze was little easier to cope with.  Well actually, the constant supply of heaping piles of carbs, protein and sugar played a part as well.

I gained 12 pounds in 18 days. Both my father and I agree… I could have done better.  If it wasn’t for my daily outdoor workouts, some very Rocky III esque slogs, and adventurous walks to neighboring villages, I could have proudly waddeled into the pound a day club. All in all, the almost nightly consumption of locally produced pork, fresh bread, a variety of cheeses and cake was a delectable change in diet.

I am heading back to Kololo in less then a week. I will be sad to leave family and my white winter in years, though I am eager to see the progress in my absence.

The following photos do a halfway decent job displaying some of what I have been up to that doesn’t involve a computer.

Backyard.  Looking down on plum and cherry orchards, as well as acres of
vegetable lots.

Usual mid morning snack.  everything you see was made from products of
Sanja and Peters or their neighbors farm. Fresh bread, three eggs, and few types
of jam.

Mid evening snacks.  Locally raised pork in a variety of forms.  And some
tasty cheeses brought back from a central Europe outing.

Log cutting work station.

Chopping away for the wood burning stove.

Dad and I walking through one of the family orchards.   We were on our way
to creating a plan of attack.  There was about a full 2 acres of forrest that
needed/needs to be cleared to make way for the future grape vines. 

The first drive in the Lada after the first large storm. 

My friend Caki and i decided to walk to one of the nearest villages for a beer.
It took us about three hours to get there.  

Our path.

Made these for Sanja on one of the snow days.  Each
weight is made from a single log.  No glue, nails or screws
involved, just some power whittling.  

Neighbors fields

Neighbors winery fields.

I have a ton of other great photos that I would like to share, but sadly all others are unacceptable do to my fried netbook. If I end up getting the netbook fixed, Ill be sure to add few of the family house, and of course the family.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A light jog on Hyena Hill

The day before Xavier and I left for Addis, we attempted to record a portion of our hill running workout.  We figured that due to the amount time spent sprinting up and around the Hyena Hill, the experience deserved a video.  Not to mention, now the reading audience can get an idea of why we were sometimes referred to as crazy ferenjis.  At this point we average at least 35 to 40 onlookers/jeerers/ cheerleaders. 

* Note that Lieutenant Dan (the dog) followed along.  We kind of love that guy. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sunday Coffee Ceremony

Anyone that has spent even a few days in Ethiopia, has a underlining idea of the cultural importance of coffee.  Dating back to as early as the 900 AD, coffee beans are rumored to have been purposefully grown, cultivated and processed here in Ethiopia.  Over the centuries, coffee has become not only one of the countries largest exports, but the process of preparing and enjoying coffee has become a time honored tradition. 

At least every other Sunday, we make our way to one of the village homes to visit with family and discuss day to day life.  The week before last Ijigu, Xavier and I walked the short  distance to Temeskens.  Adorned with religious inspired paintings, and always full of extended family, his family home provides a unique background for our mostly work and soccer related banter. The following photos offer up a few images from our afternoon with Temesken's family.    

Kind of looks like Quentin Tarantino huh?

The usual fare; local produce, grains, and at least 3 cups of coffee.

Tamesken's nieces and nephews 

Father and son.  Lil' Temesken loves his avacodos

Lil' Temesken and Ijigu practicing their volleyball sets.  Volley ball is oddly very
popular in Ethiopia. 
Taking in the artwork

Temesken and his wife Kongete 

The families front entry way.  Impressive huh.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

All sorts of photos

A few photos from the last month of living and working in Kololo.  A huge thanks to Xavier for supplying the means and skill to produce these.  Plenty more to come.

Temesken and I slapping the cement on.

Some of the chicca (cob in amharic) crew 

Enjoying a mango on a Sunday.  And yes I know there is plenty of mango
on my face, there usually is.

Gazan and Sallamnesh waiting for the rain to pass.

My annoyed its raining face. I'm never too happy when were unable to work.  

Tamesken slamming the foundation into a nice even pile.

Lieutenant Dan hoping for a snack.

Tassama and Saqanesh working together to finish the final cobb coat.

Dawitt in Ijigus tattered cap.

Andreras and Ermius hoisting the scaffolding into place.

Xavier practicing his night photography.

Cababush and Ashenafee are always happy to see X with
the camera.

Front door from the inside.

Ijigu and I talking through the day.  Our water filters dangle in the background.

The hyena's view of the house.  Kinda spooky.

Morning in Kololo.

Ijigu, Xavier and I always have a breakfast of school builders on the front porch.
The dogs take care of any scraps, and the flies take care of our patience.
The sunrise over the valley is worth it  Yes I have ninja slippers on, why not.

The everyday after work, and Sunday hangout.

Waterfall fauna.

Ijigu assisting with the cement mix.

Sallamnesh and I directing the pour.

Gazan and Marko dropping off a load of cement, while I wait with the
evening board.  

Xavier's laundry audience.  He is popular with the kiddies.

Pride Rock.

Xavier greeting his crucial ingredient to our Mexican dinner.


More kiddies.

My reaction after some local moonshine.  Imagine aburnt grain tasting strychnine. 

Xavier's reaction after the the local homebrew. Ooof.