All of sudden it was time to go. All of sudden two years were gone. Someone once told me that everything in the Peace Corps feels like a month. Waiting for a bus in the busy, harassment-filled bus station: one month. Sitting in the office just chatting or not, trying to get projects started: one month. A week in site with good days and bad days: one month. One year in site and returning to Addis for the Mid-Service Conference: one month. Going from my house to the big market on Saturday and back: one month. Two years in Ethiopia: one month. Then, there was really only month left.
With some political tension in the Oromia region and my town, Peace Corps pulled us (other PCVs in my area and I) out of site and gave us a nice little two week, paid vacation in Hawassa, a beautiful lake town. And, although, I’m appreciative and understanding of the Peace Corps and their reasons for keeping us in Hawassa for two weeks, I missed out on so much time in my town. A time that could have been very valuable for working on research, finishing up projects, and just hanging out with friends. I got home on Christmas Eve. It was so nice to be back, felt so comfortable, but then I realized what little time I had. So began my last month at site and in Ethiopia with some wonderful family and friends that made all the difference in my service.
I started to get lots and lots of invitations to coffee and meals and holiday celebrations. I ate meat, and doro wat (chicken stew, a traditional celebration meal), I drank coffee and t’ej (local mead), I played Old Maid and watched movies with my friends and compound family. I started to pack. That was a task. I had so much stuff in my little, mud house. How did I accumulate all this stuff? I started to give things away to everyone who had done something for me. I promised to sell my big furniture to friends. I cleaned and cleaned and did laundry and did some more. I was so busy and so emotionally unsure of what I felt, I don’t know where the time went.
The last week, was one of the hardest and most bittersweet I have ever had. It started with goodbyes at my environmental club and my Agriculture Office. Then slowly I said goodbye to my friends over coffee and food, and beer. Then the night before I left, my best friend and counterpart, Tarikua came over to my house. We sat and talked and ate and watched a little bit of a movie, like any other day we would hang out. Then, she went out and got a garri (horse-drawn carriage) to take my couch, stove, and oven (now hers) to her house. We loaded it all up and then it was time for goodbye, a real goodbye, a maybe-won’t-ever-see-you-again goodbye. I kissed her three times on the check and said I would miss her and I love her and she said it back. My watering eyes mirrored hers and she walked away.
The next morning was just a bad, or worse, or not? I’m not really sure. It was so unreal. My compound mom made me breakfast and my dad and brother walked me to the bus station. My heavy, stuffed backpack wouldn’t fit in the back of the bus so I sat in a tiny, narrow seat with it on my lap, spilling into both of my neighbors. Hugs were given awkwardly, but lovingly while I was sitting the bus. As my compound dad and brother walked away, Henok (my brother) turned to wave and I could see him crying and I lost it. I started bawling in a bus with Ethiopians staring and confused, but I guess that wasn’t uncommon. I had pulled myself together by the time I got to the next town over where I met my fellow PCV, Cody, who would travel the rest of the way to Addis with me and it was over. Just like that.
Leaving this part of my life was like no other experience I have ever had. Other goodbyes might have seemed final at the time, but there was always a potential there that I would go back or see the people again because they weren’t halfway across the world. This time it was halfway across the world and, truthfully, I didn’t know if I would be back or see the people again. I never imagined how unimaginable that would feel. There’s no way I could put this experience into words, what I learned, how I grew and struggled, how much the people meant to me. I just know I was there, I lived, grew, loved, and wouldn’t trade it for anything. So thank you Ethiopia and goodbye, for now.