Notes From Cien, Our Man in Kololo.

From Cien...An Update.

Since the Western new year, many of you may have wondered where the blogging has gone.  And that is for good reason.  I have gone from making weekly posts to providing merely a couple in the last month.  I offer my apologies to all the curious and possibly frustrated parties.  There  is an explanation behind my digital absence, a good one, and  it is about time I shared.

The day before the ferenji  New Year, Daniel and I packed up for a 9 day trip to Addis.  We were to renew/extend our expiring visa’s, enjoy new years celebrations, and attend a mutual friends wedding.    We were due back in Kololo on the 9th of January to finish up the build in early February.  Unfortunately, we were unable to stick to our schedule.

New Years and the wedding celebrations went as expected.  All of our weekend nights slept away in a mud hut, surely stored up an adequate amount of partying energy.  It was the visa’s that got us where we are now.  Presently,  I am taking a rest from lumberjack chores on my father’s Serbian farm, while Daniel is catching up with friend and family in the US.  Sure, the convenience of not having to answer nature’s midnight call with a crank flashlight and a dulling machete is appreciated, but we both wish we were in Kololo.

On December 29th, all structural work was complete, a majority of the roof was in place, window openings were leveled, squared and ready for frame installation.  Hay and heavy soils were blended in preparation for the creation of cob.  Construction was going soundly, and community relations were at a peak.  Daniel and I were both were discreetly offered wives.  We respectfully declined.  We left for Addis on the 30th, while build assistant manager, Ijigu, remained in Kololo.

 Ijigu,  is a trusted friend, 7 year Tesfa employee, and was my assistant manager for a similar build in Ekodaga in 2010.  Just as with Kololo, Ijigu assisted me in construction planning, ordering materials, delegating labor, and dolling out payroll.  Because of his previous experience, and the communities respect for his leadership, we decided to continue the build in my absence.  Ijigu was to supervise the process of mixing and applying the first coat of cob to the exterior of the schools 3 buildings; he is well versed in this messy exercise, and was ready.  I am very confident in Ijigu’s ability to manage a worksite.   

In country visa processing has never been a streamlined activity.   Tesfa and Ethiopia Reads in country director tells many a ghastly tale of his trips to the Ethiopian immigration office.  Every year it’s something different, and the officials responsible for processing paperwork become more and more inept. Officials arbitrarily hand out visa extension amounts, with no standard protocol, just based on your interaction, and their mood that day.  Daniel for instance was in luck, after the office lost his visa, the ball was in his court, after some back and forth chatter, he was given that days maximum visa extension.  Meanwhile the very professional gentleman behind him was provided a single day extension.  Very little reasoning was offered.  

 I on the other hand was not looking for an extension, rather, I was hoping to renew my two year business visa.  To do so, I had to fulfill a scavenger hunt of requests; proof of employment, in country banking information, a organizational information, project proposals (for those I implemented),  and many other “certified” documents, all this including a full and might I add a very thorough health exam.  In a blur of nearly round the clock activity we fulfilled all of the immigration offices requests… Only to be thwarted. Other documents were requested, while others needed different stamps of approval.  It was ridiculous. As time ran out, we worked with a lawyer to acquire a 10 day extension.  We got it.  The office visits and scavenger hunt continued.  After 9 more days of certifying original graduate diplomas, rounding up an array of stamps, visiting with countless officials, and spending a few thousand birr on cabs, we were still without a work permit, temporary residence, and of course time to figure any way out of this mess.   I am now working with Serbian consulates and Tesfa/Ethiopia Reads management to acquire a visa from outside of the country.  Oddly, the process is much tidier from a far.

While this melee was taking place in early January, I caught some sort of stomach virus, and my computer’s battery  refused to take charge.  I was sicker than I have ever been, and was without a means to watch type emails, blog, or simply watch a movie to pass the time.  Things were not really going my way.  Meanwhile, Daniel’s visa extension was gradually expiring.  We all were consumed with taking care of my paperwork, consequently Daniel’s was never finished.  Things were obviously not going his way either.  Well, except that he now is now able to attend this year’s New Orleans  Mardi Gras festivities. 

So we both, mid-build, were forced out of the country, the same country that are were trying to assist.  Uncomfortably ironic isn’t it? 

Since I left, Ijigu and I have been in steady communication.  While in country we spoke every evening to discuss the day’s progress.  Work was going as planned.  We were going to use almost all of the dirt that excavated for the school’s foundations to construct the structure’s walls.  Organic recycling at its best. I now have been in Serbia for 7 days, allowing Tesfa management to relay phone conversations with Ijigu to me via email on a regular basis.  There has been minimal complications, and right now, the first coat of cob is complete on all interior and exterior walls.  The first 2 structures second coat of cob is nearing completion.  Ijigu expects the cob portion of the built to be finished by the end of the month.  At that point, work will stop, and Ijigu will return to Addis, enjoy some family time, and wait for my return.

 When we return on the 11th or 12th of February we will finish the final phase of the build.  Laying the floors for the buildings, erecting the bathroom,  painting, the installation of glass in the window frames, and finishing the water management system, including our bridges.  We expect that the work be complete by the second week of March.  

I am very excited to return.

One note: These sort of experiences are representative of the drawn out processes involved in many developing world bureaucracies.  A delicate balance of patience and assertiveness is critical in our work.  However,  Ethiopia’s political environment is more stringent than ever, and regardless of tact, many of these such road blocks are becoming common place.  I can assure you all, our wealth of project implementation experience, and effective management communication will ensure project success.  

sketchbook drawing : lazy cat

Notes From Kololo.

 Tesfa's eighth school, the one that all of you helped build, is nearing completion. It is amazing to see the progress. Thanks again to all of you. You did this!

 Some interesting notes from our crew in Kololo:
·       Kololo is said to be established during Emperor Haile Silasse’s time
·       More than 200 family heads live in Kololo.
·       Farmers grow Maize, Ginger, Teff, Godere (potato-like plant root), Coffee, Mango, Avocado, and Banana.
·       The Tembaregna, Hadiyagna, Wolaytigna and Amharic languages are said to be spoken by the villagers but the dominant language is Tembarigna.
·       There is no other school in the village.

·       The only school relatively near to Kololo is the Debub Ambocara school which is 2.5 hrs away.  Students from Kololo go to that school and have to travel 5 hrs both ways.

Here are some future students:

The children of Andesew and Kebebush. 
The children of Molore and Tadelech.

Get ready kiddos! School is almost in session!

Have a Lovely Weekend!

I have lost my voice and have the plague that I get every year around this time, which is superstressful with a toddler.  Luckily both Grannies are here to look after him while I  load myself up with Advil Cold & Sinus.  Advil Cold & Sinus is to me what whippets and adderall are to Demi Moore.  Just kidding. kinda.  Anyway, I was superhappy to come downstairs and see The Suze had arranged pretty white flowers in vases all over the house.  I love white flowers and my mom is an expert flower arranger.  It was like a little flower fairy had come into my house and bestowed prettiness over the land of Robertson.       Hope you have a lovely weekend! 

sketchbook drawing : lay

Speaking of Color ... A Book You Need Now

Do any of y'all have this book?

Big, Easy Style: Creating Rooms You Love to Live In

The Suze gave it to me for my birthday in October and it's so fun! It's a collection of fun, gorgeous New Orleans interiors put together by actor/author/interior designer Bryan Batt (replace actor with pop star and you have my dream occupation).

Yes, that's Sal from Mad Men and my new future BFF

Edward keeps calling him "Dad," perhaps due to his great hair? Anyway, the book features tons of fun and elegant interiors and touches on the color vs. neutral conundrum that I was discussing in yesterday's post.  This book is definitely inspiring me to go for more color! 

The book has so many great tips, from his favorite paint colors to how to create a subtle mix of styles in your home. 

While most of the rooms are done by other interior designers, he does a fantastic job of describing why it works and what elements make it so fabulous. 

I love the fabric on those chairs and the pagoda tipped cornices on the windows. 

He shares his favorite haunts in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans.  I bookmarked that page, duh.  He and his partner own a store in New Orleans called Hazlenut that I will definitely have to visit next time I'm there. 

In the book he talks about his first big, boy purchase - a gorgeous armoire and there's a picture of him hugging it.  I totally get hugging a piece of furniture, especially a beautiful armoire. 

As I read Big, Easy Style, the Bachelor Ben Flajnik's voice invaded my inner monologue as I said to myself, "I like where this is going.  I like the vibe here. I like it. I like it. I like it."

Not only are there so many gorgeous and fun interiors, but I'm actually inspired to read the words.  I never usually read design books, but the images in this one have me wanting to learn more, especially with sections titled, Absinthe Makes My Bar Grow Fonder.

Basically, I'm inspired by this book to have more fun.  I mean, I'm fun.  I want my house to reflect that.  This book is a great guide for how to do that.  Now I'm off to find some hot pink velvet, clearly something I need.

sketchbook drawing : lean

A Year of Firsts- Part II

First trip to the 'Happiest Place On Earth".

Color or Neutral?

Well good morning y'all! As I was cleaning up Edward's toys last night, I found my unread February issue of House Beautiful in the bin of books so I apologize if this post isn't the currentest of the current.

Anyway,  I'm so schizo/ADD when it comes to decorating my home.  I love bright bold colors, but I find that I also get tired of them and want to paint everything white.  I have a constant identity crisis when I look at interiors.  Am I a wild fun color girl who likes to party or am I a quiet soft neutral lady who likes to relax?  Really, I'm a little of both.  I don't think I'll ever have a home in which every room is the same color palette. (For instance, this home I featured way back when Belclaire House was a wee tiny baby.  I love it, but God forbid your child comes home with an ugly red textbook that clashes with the home).  I admire people who can live like that.  They are probably very organized and have a lot of self-control.  I am neither.

So I was really excited when I saw this article detailing Lindsey Coral Harper's fun colorful updates to a 1940s home in Charlotte, NC.  I was particularly struck by the contrast between the master bedroom and the guest rooms.  Guest rooms are good rooms to go bold and fun in because you don't spend a lot of time in them.  Ok enough talk. Good talk though.




Wordless Wednesday

sketchbook drawing : red hair

Have You Seen My Phone?

Do you see it?  It's totally camouflaged, which might be a problem considering at any given moment you can find me pacing around the house frantically trying to find my phone.  But I love my new iPhone case.  I was poking around The Pink Pagoda blog and saw that she had designed one on Zazzle.  It needed to be mine.  Stat.

Blue Willow Chinoiserie iPhone Case 

Here are some more cute blue and white things from her Zazzle store (which also has other colors)

Ginger Jar iPhone Case  
Blue and White Ginger Jar Postage Stamp

Blue Chinoiserie Elephant Love Coffee Mug

I'm still rearranging all of the little tchotchkies in my house.  I have the added factor of little curious hands to consider when I style a tabletop.  Edward loves to take pictures off of the table and put them in the dog bed.  Also, in case you were wondering, the pink things in the bowl are some pink shells I found on the beach in Costa Rica.  I can't believe they made it back in one piece.  They look like rose petals in the bowl. I love their color and if I ever have a daughter, I'm going to use them as inspiration for her bedroom.  They are, of course, up high and out of reach of tiny murderous hands. 

sketchbook drawing : blue

Moodboard Monday: Coffee Bar Vignette

Dream Coffee Bar Vignette 
Ok this is slightly embarrassing, but while I was cleaning out my closet I found not one, not two, but THREE Crate and Barrel gift cards in a bag with a bunch of wedding stuff.  I mean helloo?? What is wrong with me! So in celebration of my newfound fortune I decided to go out and buy myself a new coffee maker.  I've been using a Braun Tassimo Hot Beverage System, which I really like for the variety of beverages I can make.  However, I can only get the T-discs at Target and I can't get out of Target without spending $600. Sooo if I can get coffee elsewhere I will likely spend less, and thus the new coffee maker is actually a prudent purchase (this kind of reasoning is why I went to law school people).  Plus I get to drink the delicious coffee I brought back from Costa Rica!

Here's a little dream coffee bar vignette in honor of the new coffee maker that's supposed to arrive today.  I love my coffee and I believe my coffee and the accompanying accoutrements deserve a pretty little place to call home.  This coffee bar will live in my dream house for now.  It also gives you a glimpse at the kitchen I am designing in my head.    I'm in love with that marble backsplash from New Ravenna and I'm sort of into gray cabinets. (BTW is it grey or gray? Is gray the Whiskey Tango way of spelling the posher grey? Which will make me look fancier and more sophisticated?)

In other news, I can now cross two projects off of The Big Clean list! I still have so much more to go, but it's better than nothing.  I'm going to try to tackle something small today.  Hopefully, by Friday I'll have a couple more projects crossed off.

Laundry Room Cabinets 
Utensil Drawer 
Junk Drawers 
TV Shelves 
Under the Sink 
Spice Cupboard 
China Closet 
Guest Bedroom Closet 
Playroom Closet 
Coat Closet 
Linen Closet 
My Closet 
Edward's Closet 
My Nightstand 
My General Side of the Bed Area 
Make-Up Bag 
Master Bath Drawers 
My Dresser Drawers 
Den Bookshelves 
Edward's Cabinet in the Kitchen 
Edward's Dresser 
Edward's Changing Table 
Bed in Edward's Room 

sketchbook drawing : Super

Gentle Indeed.

In October we went here with the kids. Ever since then, Melese has been begging us to take him back to see the animals. I decided to search through the archives of a couple of the local online moms' groups to see if I could find a farm closer to LA, where the kiddos could pet some farm animals. The first one I saw was The Gentle Barn. I briefly scanned the website and saw they were open to the public on Sundays. We went today.

 All of their animals have been rescued. My Capricorns were drawn to the other Capricorns. Hugs ensued.
 Meazi found a turkey who had been 'rescued from Thanksgiving."
 Llama, llama, smiling llama.
 Pig scritching...
 Here piggy piggy...

 "High on the hill was a lonely goatherd"...
 Horses rescued from Disney...

Horses rescued from Premarin production...
 Would you place children ???

 Meazi groomed and hugged a sweet cow...

 Steven found just the spot on this one...
 She seemed sad....
 It was a sweet, sweet, gentle place indeed.
I did some more reading about them when I got back. If you want a good cry,  'like' their Facebook page and scroll down to find the video about the cow reunited with her calf. Boo Hoo city.

Then I found a video on the Ellen Show.

We finished off our visit with a yummy vegan lunch, and a cupcake. Today was the owner's birthday. Meazi has hay in her boots, and Melese has that happy sleepy look about him. I am pulling out all of my dusty vegetarian cook books and swearing off bacon.

Local friends, please tell us when you visit. We'd love to go again.
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