But that’s what it’s been.
I have to start off by first saying I’m sorry, I know that people did enjoy reading the crazyiness of life here in Ethiopia and I feel like I just dropped off the face of the world. I especially felt guilty when a new volunteer told me that I inspired her, she was reading my blog before she came to Ethiopia(I must admit I get amazed when people really read this thing). I can think of a thousand excuses, things became mundane/normal to me and so weren’t as exciting to write (true), I had no time (uhh not as true as I had to be home by 6pm, but come on I do enjoy having my dance parties by candlelight), I don’t enjoy writing, the longer you wait the harder it is to write (true but not an excuse)…but regardless, I should’ve wrote. As I have already appreciated the love and support I get, I forgot to update those who were supporting me. So let me start from where I remember, hopefully someone will remember to check this thing 🙂
South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe…
WOW!! I was able to see the place where Mandela was born and grew up, the apartheid museum, a lion (that almost ate us!), and meet women who had started their own business and most importantly inspired me for a project back home in Ethio. It was completely amazing to see where Mandela was born, to learn about a history so similar to ours (apartheid) that I had no idea about, especially now that he is no longer with us. It just moved me, the stark contrast between Johannesburg and Soweto. Parts of Soweto reminded me of my town in Ethiopia, rural, but with pockets of sadness that comes with so much history and continued unequal treatment; while other parts were closer to cities. I was fortunate to see the town during a bike tour, and it was amazing, unforgettable and indescribable. I must add that I was TERRIFIED before we started our tour as I haven’t ridden a bike in at least 12 years. I remember thinking “they say once you learn you never forget, so it must be true”, ten seconds later “they also said you step on a crack you break your mom’s back, I’m going to kill myself.” But, I made it ok! Didn’t even fall off!
Later, I even went on a safari. Do you know this was a bucket list thing for me to do? I’ve done so many things on my bucket list that I thought I would not be able to do until I was 45 or so, and I’ve already done them (skydiving, living in Africa, learning another language, going on a safari, parasailing)! Have to add more things, the pressure is on!
Anywho, went on a safari first on foot and later in a jeep. Saw antelope, buffalo, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, elephants! If you want to feel like you are in nature, go on foot! My goodness the elephants would smell us from so far away and they would run! From little ole me! But then, as we were standing on an termite mound, which are stark white so you know I stood out with my luscious brown skin, a LION comes running around the corner (uhh are there corners in the wild? Well maybe it was around the bush)..anyway, she is chasing the group of giraffes and zebras and was able to separate 3 from the herd (Thanks nat geo wild for the terminology). As she circles them, she comes like 100 feet from us! I did NOT need to use my binoculars to see her. One of the people on the tour, gets so excited he yells out “LION!” We promptly shush him, not helping the situation, it was like the library. The guide tells us to freeze, which you know for me meant slowly open my camera case so I could get a picture. I mean he kept saying ‘you will get a good picture’ I figured that must mean I need to get the dang thing out. Then the guide keeps whispering in our ears “he is so hungry, soooo hungry.” Uhhhh excuse me?? I don’t want to hear ANYTHING about a hungry lion in the wild, and wait a minute! You don’t have a gun? O no! Everyone knows I can’t run! They tell me I run like I have a purse under my arm! Plus, there were no trees, even if there were I can’t climb trees anyway! They seek out the weakest link, that was me! I quickly sized up the others and just hoped like hell they were slower than me. Thankfully, the lion went to another termite hill and sat and stared at us. After, awhile we finally got the courage to slowly walk away.
We also got a chance to see one of the 7 wonders in the world, Victoria Falls, locally known as the Smoke that Thunders. I brought my poncho, knew that thing would come in handy, and was still drenched! It was breath taking, made want to see all the wonders of the world. Just so amazing to be a part of nature.
Later, I met women who were local business owners in Zimbabawe, they each had their own nick and were able to sell their goods, from hand woven baskets, jewelry, and mats. They were hustling. It was something about these women and talking to other Peace Corps Volunteers that really inspired me and gave me the motivation to try another project. This time I decided to focus only on women. This trip really rejuvenated me, opened my eyes, and refocused my mind on why I joined the Peace Corps. I know I mentioned this before but I really just had to overcome myself and stop thinking about the boundaries that I felt were keeping me back. Instead I had to think of the things I could change within myself and ways that I could overcome any hurdles. With a new attitude I came back to Ethio.
After a bold attempt at an unrealistic project that involved 120 people who were supposed to benefit from an income generation activity, I licked my wounds, gathered the lessons learned, and attempted another project.
My counterpart and I went home to home interviewing divorced and HIV + widowed women. We explained to countless women that we didn’t have funding, but we would help give them training and seeds that would help them feed their family and diversify their nutritional intake. While not every single person was receptive to not receiving money, many women smiled and told us not to worry. They opened their homes to us and shared information about their family background, finances, gardening information, and challenges they have. After gathering the information, I called a PCV and together with our counterparts we again went home to home and gave a garden training and seeds to help them start their own garden.
One woman’s house stands out the most. Her husband is no longer around, for reasons she never revealed, and she is raising four children on her own. She has no family in town, not enough money to buy teft (used to make injera, a staple pancake like material eaten in every household with meals), and her children are constantly sick, but she has such a positive spirit and a tough soul. During this project, she became one of my closest friends. The day of her training it began to pour raining. Typically, programs are cancelled at the first drops felt, people run to the nearest cover trying to avoid the rain. But, she was so eager for the training that she grabbed a jacket, said “no problem”, and dove right in. Seeing someone that enthusiastic about the project, evoked feelings that I still struggle to explain. Gratitude, fulfillment, peace, love, acceptance… these words are just not enough.
So, I completed my 2 years (yes I did!) which was a huge accomplishment that could not have been done without the support of family and friends. It was sad to move, as I made a very close friend, Kidist, her and her children were just a big facet in why I enjoyed living in my town. She taught me how to make friends with people who don’t share the same language, if you really want to communicate with someone you will find a way, even play charades just to communicate with that person. I would see her just about every day, her kids would come play in my house, watch films, poop/pee (they didn’t have diapers), and the biggers ones would play uno and goldfish! One day I had an absolute terrible day and I told her about it and about 30 minutes later, she was knocking on my door handing me a plate of food, telling me not to mind those people as I have people here who care about me. It was always nice to return home and have her kids run up to me, give me a big kiss, and have flowers hiding behind their back. It was just these actions that really made me love her and her family.
About 3 or so months before it was time to leave, I started getting the wild idea to stay another year. And here I am. It was very difficult to see the people I came into country with, leave without me. As that really wasn’t the vision. Christmas was also a really tough time, and another low point in my service. It was difficult to feel surrounded by people and still feel alone. Especially for Christmas, I decided I’d rather stay at home by myself than spend it with people I didn’t really know. Christmas is for those close to you, and unfortunately, I couldn’t spend that time with them. The other tough situation lately is the sexual harassment. The loss of language (I don’t have the vocabulary to educate someone as I do in English) coupled with the bluntness of their remark, cuts. I remember walking down the street while a guy walks close and tell me “nice breast.” I screamed “Rude! Dog!’ in Amharic, trying to shame him, but the damage was done. I just wanted to cover up inside myself and crawl in a hole to hide. Then, I wanted revenge. I wished I had ran after him and beat him down until they had to pull me off that dog. (Not for kids—>)Wished I told him his mother raised a dirty %$*%@# and his %$)%! was so %*$)%$ that he couldn’t %*%$ I cried, cursed, and cried some more. While I do not regret calling him a dog and shaming him and had every right to be angry, I realized how so many people lose themselves in moments. A situation can cause you to react in ways that you never wanted to, can cause to become a person you don’t want to be. I love Ethiopia, but I refuse to let anyone, thing, or place change me for the worse. I am trying to work on these moments, as I think I am tested more here because I’m more out of my comfort zone, I don’t want anything anyone does or says to me to every change who I am or how I react. They can say anything but they can’t take my right to decide who I am and who I will be. These moments are what help me grow, teach me who I am, and how to help myself through difficult situations. I also try and remind myself why I stayed. There are so many opportunities for Peace Corps Volutneers to work with NGOs/non profits here and I knew I could really grow professionaly in the nonprofit sector, as well as determine if I could live abroad in a professional career. I have extended as a third year volunteer as a Program Quality Officer focusing on gender, disability inclusion, and capacity building in Ethiopia’s Development Food Aid Program. They are working on improving the nutritional status of severe drought/food shortages and create opportunities to help communities provide food for themselves (some farmers are only able to provide for about 6-7 months out of the year and the rest of the time they resort to selling pertinent assets to sustain life that they need for the next year’s harvest, like their ox, which continues the cycle). It is amazing to be involved in these programs and I am really appreciating the work I’m doing here.
Now photo time(captions are below)!
My birthday lasy year, top left was my friend taking me out to breakfast, top middle flowers Kidist picked for me, top right a long time friend joined us for food; middle left my students (we played volleyball), middle my friend’s son coming up the stairs to my house, middle right coffee ceremony prepared for me!, bottom left kidist and her son made lunch, bottom middle gifts and drawings from friends, bottom right students finally posing
Preparing the traditional coffee ceremony
The lion scared them !
My friend bunjee jumped, I decide to do the bunjee swing (off the victoria falls) instead,meaning I wasn’t upside down like her.
Interviewing the women for the home gardening project
Planting seeds and designing the garden for my closest friend (the one that grabbed the jacket that I mentioned earlier, during the rain, and said let’s do it!)
Some of the women participants getting technical training