September 30, 2019, Box 21

We talked to Caitlin yesterday (Sunday).  It had been a long time since we had talked in person so it was great to hear her voice.  She continues to be well and was in Metu so she could submit her semester report. The rainy season is continuing but Cait seems to be an old pro at managing it. We are sending Box 21. This is one of our smallest boxes but packed with a bunch of fun flavors. We have filled it with many spices. We know Cait will put these to good use. The other day she made home made pirogi which is amazing. She is lucky she has a love of cooking so she can prepare tasty foods. She is limited in the ingredients she has available and the facilities as she is cooking on a single burner, for which she needs to import fuel from another city.

Here is the box in all its glory. We also included cheese, salami and beef jerky along with some miscellaneous condiments.  Box#21

Sin Jaalladha! (“Love you”)

It has been too long…..Box 19 & 20, September 18, 2019

It is hard to believe it has been so long since I last posted on the blog.  I am struggling with keeping up with my commitment to post on the blog and to send a care package each month.  I can only imagine how Caitlin feels as she continues her full-time commitment to her service in the Peace Corps. I can not even express how proud we are of her and what she is doing.

As of today we have made it to box 20!! Here are boxes 19 and 20.

We are sending mostly just food now as she does not want anything she will need to either leave or to pack for her return trip home. As of today it is only 7 more months before Cait completes her 27 months of service. And although we are at box 20 (of our 27 boxes), it takes 3 or sometimes 4 months or sometimes longer before she receives a box we have sent. One of her last boxes arrived in this condition:

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Isn’t that crazy!!?? Unfortunately many of the items in this box were damaged which is very frustrating. So at this point, we have 7 boxes that will need to be sent in 3 months……I am not sure we will make it to our goal of 27 boxes……but we will be close.

Well, its not all about the care packages. How about an update on whats going on with Caitlin!?

Back in August, the volunteers in her area had the opportunity to meet with John and Patti Garamendi. They served together in the Peace Corps is 1966 and Patti was the Associate Director of Peace Corps in Washington DC and I believe John was a Lt. General. So this was a pretty cool visit.

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In August, Caitlin worked with some other volunteers to organize and run camp Glow (Girls Leading Our World). She had 39 students and they were about 50% boys and 50% girls (so much for the name haha).  Here are some other photos of the camp:

A few weeks before the camp started I talked to Caitlin and she and another volunteer were making RUMPs – or Reusable Menstrual Pads – there are so many things that we take for granted everyday…..

Well our girl continues to be healthy and happy and making a difference. We love and miss you Caitlin!

June 9 – 21st: Box #18 and VACATION

We were assured Caitlin would receive this box as we were able to hand deliver it! The delivery mostly included clothes for our trip and few other extras.

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On June 9th we loaded up a small bus with 12 of us eager to see Caitlin and enjoy our Mediterranean vacation. Our whole family, two grandmas and two of her close friends….I cant even express our excitement and anticipation as we packed up and headed for our flight to Rome where we would meet up with Cait. With the travel arrangements, Caitlin arrived a day earlier than us and she met us at the airport with a hand written sign, “Harryson”; always the comedian.

We hustled our, now group of 13, to our villa that would be our home for 2 days until we boarded the boat for a cruise of the Mediterraneanvacation-villa.jpg

During our stay at the villa we visited the roman Colosseum, cooked good food and enjoyed a few fun and games…..

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From Rome, we traveled to the port and boarded the Norwegian Epic. Traveling was an adventure as we were bound by public transportation and had to cart our overloaded suitcases while also helping the two grandmas with their bags. Although challenging we made it to each destination and on time!

The cruise was amazing with much fun on the ship:

And stops at Florence where we visited Lucca and Pisa:

As well as Cannes where we visited Monaco, and in Spain: Palma (Majora) & Barcelona, and ending in Naples where some of us visited Pompeii and some of us went to Capri:

All in all, this was the best vacation we ever had. We got to see some amazing sights but the best part was, after 18 months, having everyone together!

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Even with the great memories, laughs and adventures we shared the past 2 weeks, leaving Caitlin again was hard and reignited my feelings of missing her. But I know I have made it 18 months, I will make it the last 10 months. It was great to see her so healthy and happy and I am so proud of this brave girl who said good bye to all of us at the airport in Rome with her belongings carried on her back – All my love and Safe travels back to Ethiopia!vacation - caitleaving.jpg

May 20 – Boxes 15 and 16 & 17

 

I looked back at my recent posts and realized, I have no recent posts! My last post was in March. How crazy. I don’t even know what happened to April and now it is actually getting near the end of May. I was able to talk to Cait this past week which was great. She was in Addis for mid service training. It is cool when she has wifi because I can locate her on my ‘Find Friends’ app – which kinda makes me feel closer to her, but then I am also reminded how far away she is, 7,567 miles from home, to be exact.

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I cant believe it, but we are less than a year before Cait finishes up her service.  We sent boxes 15 and 16 this past month and box 17 is ready to go out this week! That means, only 10 boxes to go! We will have to double time it to make sure we get all the boxes sent by December to assure she has a chance of receiving them before she leaves in April. We still have some time to go but feel like we are heading into the homestretch.

Cait is mostly interested in food items and avoiding anything she will have to pack to go home. But we are still throwing in something fun here and there.

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Caitlin said she missed having a variety of flavors in her food, like Thai and Mexican so we included different flavor packages and a couple bottles of spice that might help her perk up her food in Box 15. I also included an extra egg coloring kit that we had as I thought it might be a fun activity she can introduce to the kids in her summer camp. I wonder what they will think about coloring eggs? I can guess they probably haven’t done that before. Box 16 is the beading kit which will hopefully be a nice activity that will keep her occupied and continue her creative flow. She recently finished crocheting a scarf this super cute scarf.

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Box 17 is almost all food items and one surprise of a ‘magic cat ball’ haha. One of the items she wanted was nutritional yeast. We were having trouble finding it at Stracks so Michael ordered it off the internet and it is the biggest container – it will probably outlast her stay in Ethiopia.

And now for the exciting news…..

We will be able to deliver box 18 in person!! Only 21 days and we will be meeting Caitlin in Rome and then heading off for a Mediterranean cruise!! Our family is going plus grandparents and two of Caitlin’s very good friends. It will be soooooo fun! 

March 24th: Box 14 +

It has been some time since I posted. Things seem to be pretty quiet for Caitlin. She is waiting to receive grant money that will allow her to start her project of building chicken coops. She is also working on curriculum and plans for a children’s summer camp. Other than that it sounds like she has more free-time than I think she has ever had. I am sure that has it positives and negatives.

Unlike the pace of life in Africa, things have been very busy for us here – between work and family, there are few moments that are not accounted for. And I am sure I am not the only one feeling these demands- it is really a ‘First World’ problem, isn’t it? I am happy to say that one of my friends, Jennifer, has made time in her schedule to prepare and send a box for Caitlin. She runs an in-home daycare. The kids made Easter crafts for her and the families helped contribute the items for the box. It makes my heart swell with the generosity of others  and their wiliness to take the time and money to put together a box for Cait. Here is the fun Easter box plus goodies that is already on its way. Thank you Jennifer and families!!

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In addition to this fun extra box. We also sent Box 14.

box #14

As you can see there is a ton of food – pickles, olives, capers and giardiniera. All the good stuff that she doesn’t get in Ethiopia. Since there is no refrigerator it is hard for her to keep things once she opens them so I have tried to pick smaller containers. We also sent her some watercolor paper and a cross stitch kit. She has really enjoyed doing the last cross stitch kit we sent. Here’s a picture of her last creation – pretty good huh?cross stitch

Until next time.

Box 12 and 13 plus more!

As soon as we got home from Ethiopia we started on our next boxes. One of the first things Michael insisted on sending Caitlin was a Stainless Steep cookware to replace her aluminum cookware. That was box #12 and was sent within a week after we got home. Box #13 took some time to fill and was definitely the heaviest of all our boxes – topping off at 23lbs!box 13

This was the box that just kept going. We had a tea pot – again a stainless steel to replace her aluminum pot – plus many food items, cooking oil, dried mushrooms, liquid amino, powdered coconut milk, chips, powdered cheese, candy and so much more.

My good friend Sarah and her daughter Steyr also put together a ‘Wisconsin box’ and sent it off to Caitlin. They wanted to include cheese but had to remove the spray cheese since it is one of the prohibited items! Dang! she would have loved that.

Many boxes will soon be arriving in Ethiopia but it is time to start on box #14  – which means we are past the half way mark!

Ethiopia and Back (Part II)

It has been so long since my last post and I am just now finding the time to finish the story of our adventure…..But by dragging it out, it lets me continue to appreciate the time we spent with Caitlin as I relive the memories again as I write this. At the end of my last blog, we had finished our travel from Jimma to Metu. I will repeat again how difficult travel is in Ethiopia. Not just the disrepair of the roads, the need to avoid live stock and random sink holes, but the very unpredictable nature of actual departure. I would guess that we waited no less than 90 minutes each time we got on a bus to travel somewhere. Buses/mini vans, do not leave until they are full to capacity.

Metu seems to be a spot Caitlin and other volunteers meet and enjoy spending time together. We were able to meet a number of her friends in Metu. I am so proud of all of these young people and their wiliness to commit more than 2 years to service in the Peace Corps.

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We also visited the post office where she receives her boxes!! We were excited to be on the receiving end of one of our boxes, and although we visited twice, we had no such luck. The day after we left, though, Caitlin was traveling back home and she stopped again at the post office and got Box #10, I think. Here’s the post office:

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Before heading to Cait’s we also took a trip to the market to get a few supplies. Shopping in Ethiopia is much different than what we experience for shopping in the US.

Traveling to Caitlin’s required a trip in a mini bus and then we had to take a KitKit – which is basically a large bus, like a greyhound bus, that is literally packed to the gills with people. When we made it to her house, another volunteer, Mathew, met us there and joined us for lunch with Caitlin’s landlord. Here’s a picture of Caitlin and Mathew in front of her house.

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Caitlin’s lives in a single room connected to her landlord. She keeps it neat and tidy and she has a place for her bedroom and clothes, her ‘pantry’ and her ‘kitchen’. She cooks on a single burner stove and has no electricity or running water. Very little of her life is easy. Here are a couple pictures of her home. Here is a picture inside her house, one from the front and one from the side.

When you walk down the path here, you go to the back of the house where the landlord keeps his cows at night and you also find the outhouse. Caitlin gets her water from a local well. It is a about a 10 minute walk and definitely reminds you of the privilege of we have of water available anytime we want it.

We were able to visit with one of the families Caitlin works with and we spent the day with them. It was an amazing experience. They fed us – two meals – and showed us around their gardens. Here is Caitlin with Desse and Faleqoimg_3511.jpg

Desse showed us his gardens where they grow coffee, bananas, papaya and avocado. He also showed us his watering system that he uses for his plants.

We were able to spend time in the kitchen with Faleqo as she cooked. This is a small hut set away from the main house where the family does their cooking. We were able to watch Faleqo as she made the injera for our second meal.

Injera is a staple in Ethiopia and most meals are served on a plate of injera. They do not use silverware and the injera is used as an addition to the meal but also as the eating utensil.

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Heres our meal with squash, potatoes and greens served on the injera. The farming center which is owned by the Peace corps is near Desse and Faleqo’s home and we took a little time to walk to the gardens and check out the sweet potato plants Caitlin planted and we were there as she picked her first sweet potatoes!

After our two day visit at Caitlin’s home, we started our long journey back to Addis. Visiting Caitlin and getting to experience all the sights of Ethiopia was amazing. I am so proud of what she has accomplished and her service in the Peace Corps.