I have officially been serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia for one year now (actually, one year and one month). I tell my sitemate all the time that it’s so weird to be able to say, “One year ago this happened in town…” or “One year ago we did this.” It’s even weirder (more weird?) to see my newest sitemate, Annie, who is also a health volunteer to begin her service and think of how I was in her shoes a full 365 days ago.
Over the past year a lot of people have asked where I have been, why haven’t I blogged, why don’t I keep anyone updated. Well the answer is because I didn’t want to – betam yikirta (excuse me very much). The truth is my first year as a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) was bitter sweet. I’ve never had high highs and low lows that I never even imagined possible. There were days I wanted to invite every person I knew to come experience the magnificent land and culture of Ethiopia. And then there were days I was convinced this place was hell on earth (Sorry Ethiopia!). These ups and downs led me to spend much of this past year evaluating my purpose here, what I should be doing with me life, and overall who I am as a person.
During this time of self-exploration I just couldn’t bring myself to find the energy to write something tha accurately reflected how I felt. I couldn’t paint a false picture of my service being completely wonderful. And I couldn’t let people wrongly believe that I detest it here all the time. I wanted to let people know how I was doing but I felt guilty complaining and venting when most people assume the stereotype of Peace Corps beginning an amazing adventure and opportunity to change the world – it’s not! I didn’t want people to judge me. I didn’t want people to pity me. So I kept silent.
I apologize for my absence. I love my blog. I love to share with my family and friends and the amazing random people who for some reason follow this mess. But I love my sanity even more and keeping silent was the only way to (or at least attempt to) keep it. I can’t promise regular updates for my upcoming second year but I can assure you I am now mentally ready for you all to be a part of it.
So to welcome you to my second year of service I’d like to share some of my favorite memories from my very long, frustrating, rewarding first year of service – in no particular order:
*Please excuse the lack of photos – it could possibly take another year to upload images with Ethiopian “internet”
- “Delia tries to cross the river.” My wonderful and creative sitemate decided to make an amazing English documentary about our town with her students. At one point we had to cross one of our town’s rivers – of course we took the route without the bridge (or as I refer to it – the death trap). Delia was scared to cross so her loving students jumped in the river to hold her hand and cheer her on as she crossed.
- “Gobez (excellent) students celebrate the holidays!” To say we don’t play favorites with our students here would be a flat out lie. Delia and I have a group of seven students that are beyond wonderful in everything they do. They have been with Delia since her beginning and have welcomed me with open arms. For both Thanksgiving and Christmas we invited these seven students into my home for American style holiday meals. We cooked American-ish foods that we enjoy and knew would be a new taste for them (potatoes, Spanish rice, salad) and ate picnic style on floor. The boys were such troopers in trying a new style of food and dining. They loved it so much they even helped prepare the food – a task normally left for Ethiopian females.
- “I will protect you… and I will surprise you” Once upon a time Delia and I had a third sitemate (we no longer have him…). When he came to visit the town for the first time a random man on the street greeted him by saying, “Sir! I will protect you… and I will surprise you!” Living in Ethiopia for as long as we have we have grown to know random protection by strangers and surprises are not things that should go hand-in-hand (and certainly are not safe!).
- “Ethiopia Catalog hits the big time.” That one time my Packing List post was featured on the official Peace Corps blog, Passport, was pretty cool. Check it out here!
- “America takes on Ethiopia.” I have had two visitors from America since coming here… okay, technically only one. My best bestie Emmy visited me for a week in March 2015. We didn’t go see any big historical sites but being able to show her my town and my oh-so-mundane daily routine was pretty amazing. She never complained once about the dirt, bugs, or smells! Back in October an Ethiopian friend (and my previous employer) from the states’ husband (who is also Ethiopian) came to the capital for business. I had never met him before but he was such a sweetheart to find me in Addis, bring me a gift, and have a great conversation over dinner. Although he didn’t come to Ethiopia for the purpose of me, I consider him my first visitor and am forever thankful for him.
- “Robe, Bahir Dar, & South Africa” No, I didn’t visit South Africa. In October Delia and I attended a training for an HIV-focused soccer program based from South Africa. The training took part in Bahir Dar, one of Ethiopia’s tourist towns. We were both able to invite an Ethiopian counterpart so we took two men from our town that are good friends of ours and even more amazing support for youth in our town. It turns out that this was also their first trip to Bahir Dar (even their first air plane rides, how cute!) so we were able to explore the town together! We visited the Blue Nile and had an amazing time. Training was awesome also.
These are just a few of the moments that have kept me going throughout my service. Most days I hit a low spot but I think back to the experiences that have made fall in love with this place and I bounce back. Here’s hoping my second year of service will be filled with as much adventure and challenges as the first.