This is a week, sometime during PST (Pre-service training) when we go and see where we’ll be living for the next two years. (Monkeys are like squirrels here, but more destructive. And shyer.)
There are three main languages in Ethiopia: Amharic, Oromo and Tigrinya. Oromo is spoken by the highest number of people, living in Oromia – a swath of land through the middle (west to the center, around Addis) and then south east of the country. Amharic and Tigrinya are cousin languages, both using Fidel script, spoken in Amhara and Tigray respectively. (Amharic is also the main/official language for SNNPR (Southern Nations), and is the official language of the country.) I’m headed to Oromia, so I’ve been learning Afan Oromo.
My site is a tiny village near-ish Mettu, in the Illu Babour region of Oromia. (West/ Central Oromia). It is FAR from Addis. Those of us around Mettu – our regional office is in Jimma. Jimma is 65%ish Amharic speakers and 35%ish Oromo, but people who speak Oromo are always thrilled when we ferengis (foreigners) speak it, so that’s fun. Jimma is a day’s travel away, but I get to meet up with great people there, so it’ll be worth it. (Volunteers in the Keffa region of Southern nations are centered in Jimma too.)
(I found apples!!!! But they’re so so so expensive.)
Site visit was stressful, and incredibly helpful. The best part was meeting the PCVs already in the area. Because of events that happened in Ethiopia last year, everyone currently serving in Peace Corps Ethiopia was given the opportunity to go home and receive “interrupted service”. What this means for me? Everyone who is here, really wants to be. I get to join an amazing community of people.
Over the past few months I’ve felt my standards changing – for almost everything. Hotel rooms, cell phone use, coffee, clothes, restaurants… food diversity… but after coming back to our training site we all realized where we are right now is not rural. We’re all about to go through another big lifestyle change. Again. This time for two years. So we’ll see how that goes.
My home for the next two years! My land lady is a gem. She’s absolutely fantastic.
Emphasis on the “ish”. It’s officially been 43 days since I flew out of PHL with two suitcases, a duffel, a backpack and a colony of butterflies in my stomach.
It’s been a month(ish) of living out of suitcases, eating new foods and meeting new people who are crazy in the same way as me. It’s been a fantastic rollercoaster.
In honor of this anniversary-ish, here are a list of superlatives, and random facts.
And some fun pictures.
What do I miss most? My dog, Luciano. Sorry everyone.
Person I miss most? Danielle. (Duh.)
Food I miss most? Tough, but I’ve got to go with prosciutto. Salty Italian meats, oh how I love and miss you.
Text that has made me laugh the hardest? Lisa and Joe – your response to my shower in Addis. 💗💗💗😁 I’m telling people here that story and sharing the laughs. I love you both.
Best communication method? Surprisingly? Email. Letters take about a month. Text is tough for anything lengthy.
(Feel free to email me, if You’ve got my address. Feel free to ask someone if you don’t.)
Most painful thing I’ve seen? The way animals are treated here. Hands down. The US has a HUGE problems with the way animals are treated – livestock and labs (—> cosmetics testing), but here it’s blatantly in the open. And it’s painful.
Most beautiful thing I’ve seen? Lake Langano. Mostly because I was able to swim in it last week. It was miraculous.
Best thing I’ve eaten here? Freshly fried samosas. Called “sambusas”, they’re fantastic. And cheap.
Best coincidence I’ve encountered? My sister and I are 7 years apart and share a birthday. My host sisters are 5 years apart and share a birthday! Way cool.
Of the 32 days I’ve been in Butajira, it’s rained at least 25 of them. The rainy season ends in September, so until then, I’m going to keep congratulating myself on bringing my rain boots.
The tops of glasses and mugs are just suggestions here. Water tension is tested on the daily. If it’s not about to spill, the glass isn’t full enough.
An invitation to someone’s house for coffee, even casually as you’re waking home, isn’t actually a coffee invite. It’s an invite for a full meal.
Salt is though of as slightly unnecessary. Nothing here is salty enough for me. Butpepper (berbère) is in almost everything.
There is a wide array of technology here in Butajira – even flat screen TVs! But electricity is super spotty.
The Ethiopian New Year is coming up! Ironically, in my opinion, it’s on September 11th. Also, they follow a different calendar year as well, so it’s going to turn 2010 here. I get to see that happen again!
About Peace Corps Ethiopia:
Well, this section is more accurately “About Peace Corps Ethiopia G17”. I don’t know enough yet to give an overview of the program(s) here.
We are a group of 40. We’ve been split into a group of 10 that went north to Tigray and 30 that are here in the south. The 30 of us down south are split between three towns – Kela, Bu’i and Butajira.
We are called “G17” because we’re the 17th group serving in Ethiopia since the country opened back up to the Peace Corps in the 2007.
We’re all going to be teaching HS. – the odd numbered groups are education, the even number groups are health and agriculture sector volunteers.
The health and ag volunteers come to Ethiopia in January. Education comes in June so we can start the school year in September.
Our classrooms will probably have 60-100 students. Maybe more. Probably not less.
I’ve had some tough days recently – there’s nothing like getting sick to make you rethink anything, but today was good.
We started teaching a 3-week English camp, creating lesson plans from the text book for whatever grade we’re teaching. (I’m with 10th.)
The first day was anxiety inducing. But I’ve been able to draw out and connect with quite a few of my students; and despite the names being really foreign to my tongue, I’m figuring them out. And laughing along the way.
Friday’s class was excellent. I felt super comfortable, despite the fact I’m getting over being sick. Today I feel like I can do this thing.
And tomorrow is Sunday – I get to sleep in!!!!!
*about the title – there are so many meals a day. Breakfast, mid morning “shai buna”, lunch, pre-dinner snack, dinner, and post-dinner coffee.
This post title sounds like it is some beautiful metaphor, but since I’m currently reading Jenny Lawson, it’s definitely not.*
I have long felt that the best way to get to know a city is to get lost, and then find your way. This method has helped me explore Boston, San Francisco, London, Vancouver, Quebec City, NOLA, Philly and NYC (although it’s tough to get lost in NYC. Especially Manhattan. It’s a grid.) You might notice that these are all cities where google maps works and there are street signs. Butajira has neither. (Well, google maps works but only two streets show up…and if there are street signs, they’re written in Fidel script….so yeah.)
I’ve been metaphorically lost (or at least wandering) these past few weeks amidst a few new languages, new food, new cultural norms and expectations; but last Sunday I literally got lost in Butajira.
After about 10ish minutes of serious wandering; with a vague idea of the direction I should be headed and a possible direction I’d come from, I finally admitted to myself I was lost. And wandered for about 5 more mins.
When I realized that I had passed the same street 3 times, I broke down and reached out for help. (Luckily there was still some sun, because street lights are another luxury absent from many parts of the world. Although if there were street lights, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t be working because electricity is spotty…It’s totally enough if you plan properly, but not something to be counted on as a constant.)(side note within a side note: These first few weeks have been a series of rolling realizations of the things I’ve taken for granted (utensils, deodorant, emergency response and the ability to call/text) and the subsequent enlightenment that they’re not necessary after all. – Don’t worry mom. I’m healthy. They gave me enough meds to have on hand if needed to stock a small pharmacy. There might even be a “sew-your-own sutures” kit from Klutz. I’ve heard they branched out.)
ANYWAY, after wandering for about 15mins – if I’m being honest – I called my host mother because she speaks the best English. I told her that I was at the mosque by her house…because I knew that at least, and then I asked for help. Well, I tried to ask for help. Looking back on it, I definitely did not ask for help. I’m awful at asking for help. So, when she hung up, I decided to wander around some more, giving myself 20mins to find the house. I started wandering in the direction I thought it wasn’t, and I got lucky. 10 minutes into this wander, I recognized a street and a Protestant church with loud gospel music. I definitely said “thank god” loud enough for quite a few people to hear. Since most of them were staring at me anyway because I’m white….it didn’t really matter.
Now, a week later, I’m pretty sure it would only take me 5mins of wandering to find my way again.
*do yourself a huge favor and pick up her book “Lets Pretend this Never Happened”. It is f****** amazing. Seriously. Reading that book (for me) is some serious self care.
Above: a proud mama sheep. Found on my wandering. This is what sheep look like here. A friend and I decided that they should be called shoats, or geeps, because they look like half goats.
This baby was super new. And clean. And cute. (Obviously).
Soundtrack currently in my head:
Rickie Byers Beckwith – We Let it Be
And the Moana soundtrack. Because I watched it with my host sisters last night.
“Happy Birthday USA, you problem child, you.” – Amber Tamblyn
My sentiments exactly.
This was my first holiday out of the country, and far from the last. I was in Addis still, so there were still toilets, working showers, fairly decent wifi, and I could wear jeans (with a white shirt and red scarf).
The Fourth of July has always been about family of choice for me. Great food (that is terrible for you), friends and of course fireworks. A few days ago, I had two out of the three. (A shout out to New Jersey – I feel your pain). I left an amazing group of friend/siblings behind in the US; and I’ve been lucky enough to have walked into another family of choice – G17 Peace Corps Ethiopia. We all chose this amazing & crazy adventure, and found a whole group of people who feel like instant family. Celebrating the 4th with them was excellent. I still missed fireworks, but our PCVLs bought us sparklers, which were pretty great. (And dairy free cake that was amazing! If any of you are reading this – that was so thoughtful it almost made me cry. You are amazing.)
I’m currently living in (yes, living. Yes, I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. No I don’t think it will happen any time soon.) a country with a government controlled media, internet and press. This Fourth of July I have been taking time and reflecting on how deeply I value my ability to publicly talk about my discontent with the government, protest particular people in high offices, and our free press. (Yes, it exists, and facts are facts.)
I am so grateful for my family of choice on both sides of the Atlantic. Cheers and happy ‘murica day to you all.
If you aren’t a Coffee snob, maybe you don’t know that Ethiopia is synonymous with fantastic coffee. Additionally, I have found it to be magic.
The last day in D.C., a some of us took time to wander the monuments. I’ve been there a few times, but who would turn down the chance to see them at sunset?
After the monuments tour, I took a quick nap and got to the airport early for a 13hr flight…which was delayed.
For 3 hours.
After landing in Addis I was at only 6hrs of sleep in 48hrs. I would say I was totally impressed that I didn’t fall asleep during the basic schedule overview session we had, but that would almost be a lie.
After the session I most definitely did not fall asleep in, we were given coffee. Not sure why they waited until after, but it kept me up for an hour so I could eat dinner. (About a minute after I drank a cup, it I felt like I was levitating. I think my hands were shaking a bit and my head started buzzing. American coffee has been ruined forever. Come at me Starbucks.) The foam on the top of the coffee (not latte foam – its like the crema at the top of an espresso shot) is beautiful. It’s served in small teacups, and it’s absolutely delicious with or without sugar. The cup that was roasted, ground and brewed in front of me tasted almost like hot chocolate. It was amazing.
The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is about community, family, building relationships, taking time to sit down with people you love, and thenabout hand roasted beans and a brilliant drink.
I’m writing this sitting on the tiny plane taking me from Philly to Norfolk, having just said goodbye to my life, and all the people in it…
Looking around the plane, I just felt this chapter of my life close – a very visceral feeling of “holy f***”, this is all new, and this is my new normal. I don’t know anyone here. I’m not really sure of any specifics of where I’m going. I’ve never been to Norfolk. (Technically I won’t have been there even after I get to D.C. because airports don’t count as visiting a city. In my opinion, you have to leave the airport and eat at least one meal in a city for it to count. (Italian-American family, so food is the most important thing. Family too…but they really go together. And family isn’t just your blood relatives either. Soooo anyone who walks into our house is offered?/accosted by food.) Btw – Catie, if you’re reading this, mom made coffee cake. I told her you love it and I didn’t get a chance to make it before I left, so she did. And yes. I’m telling you via blog. Of all the ways of telling you this, probably the most inconvient??? And now I’ve made a bunch of other people read it too. 😊 Everyone else: if you know my family and where I live, stop by for coffee cake and give my mother a hug. She could probably use it. Thanks!!)
Well that was one hell of an off topic ramble.
The past week has been a series of good byes and their accompanying emotional rollercoaster moments, interspersed with frantic packing of my life and suitcases. I definitely forgot my toothbrush, but if that’s all I forgot, I’m set.
The non-packing part of my life this week was pretty amazing. I got to hang with a friend who has know me since I was 6years old. There’s something pretty awesome about friends who have known you through several evolutions.
The little boy I’ve been watching for the past 7 years is not so little anymore. I got to hang with him twice, and both times were super bittersweet. (Mario Kart, Harry Potter, Pikmin, Wendy’s and doughnuts for the win!)
I surprised one of my ESL students by taking him to the airport when he didn’t think he was going to see me again, and it was absolutely brilliant. He was so surprised, and it was a great ride.
Rounding it all off I went to see Wonder Woman last night with good friends, my sister and my mom. I loved it. There were tough goodbyes, more packing, a nap, more tears and hugs, then to the airport. It was a whirlwind of tears, laughter, coffee, luggage, hugs and deep breaths.
I have three piles – what I’m bringing, what I want to keep beyond my service, and the ???? pile to give away or trash. It is truly amazing how much stuff I have accumulated in only 3ish years since I’ve moved back in with my parents.
Since November I’ve been buying things here and there that I knew I’d need for Ethiopia (a fantastic backpack – Osprey Nova 33 from REI – (10/10 would recommend), packable solar lanterns, a super lightweight suitcase (I caught a great deal on that one, thank you Marshalls!)…and so many ebooks. I’ve been tossing everything into a bag in the corner of my room, and forgetting about it, so the time has now come to pull it all out and deal with it.
I guess I enjoy packing? If you ask my sister or friends, they’d probably say I obsess over packing. That is probably true, but what it really is, is that I have to spend more time packing to make sure I don’t over pack. (I have a latent tendency to stop thinking critically and just throw anything into my suitcase that I might need in a panic…it’s terrible. It’s an unfortunate habit I picked up from my mom.
In 2005 we went to visit our family in Hawaii for three weeks. Judging from the luggage she packed, you would have thought we were moving there in an incredibly inefficient manner. It was embarassingly awful. We had a full medical kit – cough syrup, Advil, medical tape, several different kinds of bandaids and gauze…..No one in our family was sick at the time. I think we had enough clothes for a month, all of us. There was a washer and dryer in the house where we stayed.
Another time we went camping for two-ish nights? Maybe three? I think we had the entire contents of our kitchen. She certainly brought a full pot and pan set, and many types of lunchmeat. (I’m definitely not complaining about the food – thats a habit I’m ok with. I always have a granola bar on me and it’s saved me more times than I can count. Sometimes I find myself lost in my to-do list for the 5th time in 20mins, and realize it’s 2:30pm and I forgot to eat breakfast.) The full “camping” pot and pan set hasn’t been used since that trip.
Anyway, I spread everything that is definitely going with me to Ethiopia on the living room floor and became immediately overwhelmed. Luciano made himself right at home in the middle of everything. I stared at the mess and tried not to panic.
And then I went on a week long camping trip and ignored it all for a week.
(Just kidding. Actually, I went on the camping trip and thought about it all week.)
So now I’m home again. Facing the pile with a clearer head thanks to being in nature all week. I have always felt at home in the woods, and this past week was no exception. I’m so grateful to the KWS class of 2017 for welcoming me along on their trip. If any of you are reading this – you are amazing, and I wish you the knowledge that following your heart is always worth it, you are always stronger than you think, and for major decisions, your voice should always be the loudest voice in your head.