29th Birthday Celebration in Ethiopia

I’ve heard African Americans say they’ve come to this incredible continent, Africa, and have a feeling of being at home. I’ve visited several countries all of which I instantly loved and none of which I felt instantly at home.

It has sparked my curiosity of my ethnic background though.

This will not be a sad post, but I want to say this, if you are able to trace your ethnic background to your country/countries of origin that is incredible. To be able to say you’re Greek or Haitian places you in a location and it gives you tradition. It is incredibly painful to be asked where your family is from and only be able to respond with a blank stare, or my most recent coping mechanism of just picking a brown country so I don’t have to say “I don’t know”.

….but when I got to Ethiopia and walked around Addis I kinda had that at home feeling. Not just because people kept coming to me speaking Amharic, well maybe that’s part of it or because it’s a universal thought that Ethiopian women are drop dead gorgeous and I want to be too…well maybe that’s also part of it. I don’t know what it is, we just looked related and I’ve never been to a place where 1/3rd of the country looks like they could be my cousins.

The trip was in celebration of my 29th birthday and I was able to fly in on my actual birthday and might spark a trend of me celebrating my next birthdays on new soils. I went with a couple of my closest friends and fellow volunteers, in physical location and in heart.

It was a trip filled with delicious coffeer, an incredible amount of culture and some luxury. We saw Lucy’s Bones, the Lalibella Rock Churches which I’m pretty sure has made it to one of those wonder of the world lists, climbed the Semein mountain, got amazing and affordable beauty services at Boston Day Spa, visited the Yirhamne Kristos church which is carved out of a cave and is the home of over 500 skeletons of past pilgrims, ate at Ben a Beba restaurant and enjoyed it’s incredible architecture, saw the most amazing shoulder dancing in Bahir Dar and we made friends in every city we went to.

…don’t get me started on the juice. I almost want other countries to call their stuff liquid from fruit or fruit flavored beverage…juice should be reserved for Ethiopia.

I loved it there and I hope life takes me back time and time again.

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To Dry Your Fish, Hang it on the Fence

My family has suffered a lost. Similar to American funeral traditions the family is coming together to support each other and celebrate the life that has passed on and food is very much apart of both the support and the celebration.

Today I bought four beautiful fish for our family dinner.

Water and oil don’t mix so before you fry the fish you have to dry out the water. I have seen this drying process happen in several ways but never hung on the fence.

This picture came out crazy against the ominous sky. I think it may be my favorite photo of my whole service.

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I Turned 28 in Kenya

Allow me to prepare you for the forthcoming disappointment because like all epic events the exact details of my birthday celebration cannot be revealed in a public forum. What I can say is if it inspired a TV series the episodes would be titled:

Episode 1: Hugs All Around

Episode 2: Salads, Burgers and Shakes oh my

Episode 3: Replacement Mugs for you to Chug

Episode 4: All Dolled Up (The Return of the Mohawk)

Episode 5: Cesar’s or Signatures?

Episode 6: Go-Go Gadget Legs on the Dance Floor

Episode 7: He did it Twice (Incredible Hulk Effect)

Episode 8: Taxicab Confessions

Episode 9: Drink This Water

…and that was just day 1.

I have this weird luck to always be in a team with the coolest people and my Peace Corps group is no exception. I don’t question this luck but I’m eternally grateful for it. Just when I thought I met my friend quota. These guys made my birthday so much fun and in return I made the weekend…uh…memorable.

I hope this has been poetically vague. Now I’ll let the photos speak.

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One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – A Christmas Eve Story

We did what we never thought we would: got knee deep in a fish pond. Amber, Brit, and Anna came to spend the holidays with me in Western Kenya. They are coming from a pretty dry part of Kenya so we decided that this trip needed to be filled with as much water and fish (for the fish lovers) as possible.

After a bumpy ride to an interior village in my area we arrived at my favorite fish farmer cluster to witness the pond harvest. Next thing I knew we were inside the pond. Next thing after that I was completely covered in mud. We all had an absolute blast and brought home a ton of fish.

We did a quick pit stop back home to drop off the fish and change before heading to beautiful Lake Victoria to view the preliminary round of boat racing with Mike. There were tons of people and street food…so we loaded up on chips (fries), bananas, 5 Ksh popsicles that were gross and Brit and I quickly pawned off to some kids, boiled eggs with kachumbari (a kinda pico de gallo mixture) and soda and were prepared for the viewing. Sticking out like a sore thumb scored us a ride in a boat to view a round of boat racing up close and personal.

It really was a fantastic day.  Now for a ton of photos.

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The Dance of the Fish

In America, my guilty pleasure is reality chef competitions. I could spend hours watching the mastery in these televised kitchens, imagining the way the food tastes, taking notes of things I wanted to personally try and always ending each episode wishing I was a member in the audience.

I see I was dreaming and wishing far too small.

Ashley Palmer Watts, executive chef of London’s renown restaurant “Dinner”, was coming to Kenya and not just Kenya but MY AREA. WHY? To learn about organic fish farming in Kenya. And who is the master of fish farming? ME! Well I’m not I just got caught up in the emotional build up but I’m supervised and partnered with the people who are the masters of fish farming in Kenya.

And like that my dream of sitting in an audience was trumped by my reality of visiting fish farmers, learning more about fishing in the Lake and having a full out celebration with Mama Joyce and her family, Ashley and Farm Africa.

Fish Farmer & Lake Victoria Visit

Pre-Game

Food Prep

Dance of the Harvest

Dinner Served

Menu

Tomato, Potato, Ginger and Tilapia Stew

Grilled Fish on a Bed of Banana Leaves

Mango/Citrus Salsa

Chapati

The Party

Duncan: Before and After