About a month ago – (already??!!? Sorry, lack of connectivity – so bad I can’t even use data for anything other than messaging and if I’m lucky, email – has pushed this post back.) – we became official PCVs. Peace Corps Ethiopia G17 has sworn in! For those of you confused about the 2-and-a-bit year commitment, the 2 years start now.
Three of us got to give a speech at the embassy during the ceremony. I got to speak for the group. If you know me, then you know how much I love public speaking. I really love the speech I wrote, so here it is:
Your excellency, …. and fellow trainees, thank you for allowing me a few minutes to speak.
And thank you to the Government of Ethiopia for inviting us to come here and work along side local teachers and administrators. We are all honored to be here.
We are here today to witness and celebrate the next step in a dream that many of us have worked towards for years. Countless internal debates, essay revisions, application submissions, medical tests, packing decisions and goodbyes led us to D.C. in June, and then Ethiopia. where we committed to three months of pre service training.
We have been in Ethiopia for only three months. Three months of eating new foods, drinking too much coffee, living out of our luggage; wading through rain, mud and new cultural norms…(for my friends in Tigray….water shortages, walking through dust and around rocks? I’m not sure, sorry.) We have had three months of homework assignments, sweat, tears, vomit, diarrhea, upset stomachs, fevers and overall not enough sleep to land here today.
Over the past three months we have waded deeper into the waters of the Ethiopian culture, making shifts and finding new norms that have woven us into the tapestry of Ethiopia at a deep level – creating ties that have already changed us forever. Our service will only weave us deeper.
I believe we represent the best ideals of America – that love is stronger than fear. That hope and truth will always win. That equality is worth sacrificing for. That every human deserves respect, and the freedom to live a life they choose.
We have chosen to surrender our old lives and blindly jump into the world armed only with our intention to be a force for good, and our friends to support us. To quote President Obama; inherent in the fabric of America – the tapestry we came from – is “the idea that for all our cultural differences, we are all in this together. That we all rise or fall as one.” It is this belief that has led us here, to help where we can, if we can.
There will be many days where it will be difficult or even impossible to see the changes we are making, but the truth is that simply by being present – wherever we are – we are changing the world around us. So let’s just take a breath, lean on each other, and celebrate the small victories we can find in each day.
I am so grateful for all the volunteers before us who have built this program, for the staff who are our bridge between cultures and the behind-the-scenes support; for our LCFs and PST team who have graciously answered every difficult question, and welcomed us into their culture; for the programming team and administration (Nancy, Brannon, Caroline and Dr. Dan), who believe in this program and support us tirelessly, and to Jules, Andre, Madeline, Bennet and Alyssa – PCVs and PCV Leaders- thank you so much. We wish you the absolute best as you head out. Thank you for supporting us through the blood, sweat, tears and vomit of the past three months. We love you.
To G17 – here we go!
[It’s important to note that I was asked to take the mentions of vomit and diarrhea out due to it being a formal, official occasion. This, however, is my favorite version.]
Because this is posted so late, I’ve been living at my site (a tiny village outside of Metu, in the Illu Babour region of Oromia), for about three weeks now.
School started this week, but it’s a slow rolling, sometimes nonexistent start. Additionally the coffee harvest season is coming up soon, which will keep many kids out of school in a few months. Not that I didn’t know this going in, but I’m learning to be flexible. Again, and again, and again. In new and fascinating ways and areas.