Why is it that tree nurseries in this country have to be so far away?
Saturday morning I got a phone call from my coworker saying that there is a 3 day training for the farmers on tree nursery preparation and maintenance. The agriculture office of which I often work through is trying to get farmers in the rural areas to invest in small tree nurseries so that they can either sell the saplings to their neighbors or have cheap saplings to plant as live fences or defense against erosion. Often they suggest planting Eucalyptus and Gravelia two extremely fast growing trees that are good for building, firewood, animal food, etc. My coworker called me because I have been working with the schools to get the environment clubs in each to work on building nurseries of their own. This has been quite the task already and I have nothing but a few verbal agreements to show for all the work I’ve done. My coworker said I didn’t need to go to the first two days of the training but he’d really like it if I went with him to the 3rd day, which was today. I told him that’d be fantastic and we planned on meeting at the office at 8:30 am this morning. Being the good little ferenji that I am I showed up 10 minutes early to our office (the opposite direction of the actual training) only to find out that the coworker that called me is now in Wurkro (a town 4 ½ hours north of mine) and clearly not able to take me to the training. I’ve changed a lot since coming into country, not only have my language skills immensely better but I’ve become much more assertive. Being a bit peeved that my coworker didn’t find it necessary to tell me that he wouldn’t be there for our meeting (not the first time this has happened either), I asked if there was anyone else willing to take me to the training, hoping that we could get a car to bring us there. Eventually someone said they’d go, or they got chosen to take the white girl to the meeting she won’t understand because not only is it not in English but it’s not even in Amharic. The meeting was in Tigrigna which often sounds like Amharic spoken by the cookie monster from Sesame Street.
So I got someone to show me where the meeting was (if someone had just said it was in the tree nursery I would have been able to walk there myself) but this man sets off on a mission. I’ve honestly never experienced an Ethiopian walking so fast in my life. This man could easily keep pace w/ my friend Bernard or my aunt Patti while she is “walking” through an airport, two of the fastest walkers I know. To get to the training which is at the base of the mountains and a good 3km walk from my office he decides to book it up the hill my office is on so we can fly down the other side of it. It was 8:30 in the morning at this point and still pretty cold so the first hill just about killed me and my asthmatic lungs. But I survived just long enough to defy gravity on my “walk” down the other side. As many of you know I’m not the most coordinated or graceful so imagine me practically running down the side of a big hill with loose rock EVERYWHERE. Surprisingly I stayed vertical and we “walked” the rest of the way to Wonberet which is a rural village just outside of my town. Now I just have to walk down another giant hill/drainage ditch, cross a river, and climb up the muddy bank and I’m there. Rally time Carla. Keeping pace with the Haile Gebreslassie of Korem I seem to flawlessly make it to the river cross it and only slip once on the muddy river bank (probably not falling because of my weekly visits to the river banks of Omaha for my research while in school).
I make it to the training and I’m sooo incredibly glad I went. There were nearly 40 farmers and about 12 people from the 3 schools that I’ve been talking to. They cared enough about this project that my Ag office and I proposed to them that they sent 2 teachers and 2 students from each school to this training to learn the proper ways of building their tree nurseries! I was overcome by joy and the fact that I had the opportunity to build relationships with these people in a mutual learning environment before walking into their schools. I was talking with one of the teachers from the Highschool who is in charge of their Environment club and was invited yet again on their field trips. This coming semester they want to do a day at the lake and then a trip to the wonderful forest next to my friend’s town just about a 1-2 hour walk from my town.
Overall it ended up being a productive and fun morning. But after the journey back to town (a lot less eventful and at a much better pace) with the High school teacher and a few Preparatory students I now sit exhausted on my bed w/ dirt in my pants and mud under my fingernails typing this blog.
By no means is everyday good while in Peace Corps, nor is it always bad, what I’ve learned is that if it looks like its going to be a dud of a day, make it different. Today it would have been very easy to take the excuse that my coworker ditched me and call it a free day, but I turned it around and made it a good day.
Things that I learn here seem so rudimentary sometimes, but it’s things like being assertive and making things go the way you want while still being respectful that eventually will be the lessons that I take back to America with me. No one will care that I know how to build tree nurseries, or compost, or paint really pretty animals on walls…. No one cares about that back home. What people care about is that I can manage a group of 100 students and teachers to put dirt in bags and water our nurseries. That I’m able to build a collation between government offices, each with their own agenda, to work together to better develop environmental education in our schools. It’s these hands on skills and experience that I’m getting living here, that I’ll bring home. It’s these things that I have to learn to accept for myself as successes here, and realize that maybe I’m not building a school, or doing a 20 million fruit tree distribution, but it’s these little things that are making a difference in my community. And as I learn my community is there right beside me not only supporting me but learning with me.