The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Butajira Home and Family


My compound sits nestled between two others in the middle of Kebele 5 on the outskirts of the town of Butajira. The rickety wood/shrub fencing and crooked, pink, tin door hide a beautiful, multi-colored house and yard filled with papaya and avocado trees. My large, pink room is behind the main house in a separate building with the shintbet just around the corner.  The living room, filled half with a floor couch and half with a dining room table, is where my family gathers in the evenings to eat, chat, and watch TV. Leyila, my host mother, makes coffees and tells animated stories in Amharic as though I can understand and insists I eat more and more and more. “Be, be, be,” (Eat, eat, eat). Nasir, my host father, lays on the floor couch and calmly translates selected parts of what Leyila says. Haniya (12 years old), my host sister, patiently tries to teach me Amharic, while Elham (16 years old), my other host sister, laughs at me trying to pronounce Amharic and braids my hair. Hamdi (22 years old), my host uncle, helps me learn a card game called Crazy and tries to make me recite a tongue twister in Amharic. It doesn’t go so well, so I give him one in English and we are even. Finally, Nori (24 years old), my host brother, makes small talk with me in English, but goes on to spell out each word and define them just in case I wasn’t sure how to spell nose (which he spelled n-o-i-s-e, while pointing at his face) or what preparatory meant. Below, from left

From left to right: Nasir, Elham, Nori, Haniya, Asma (my aunt), Leyila
My beautiful house

Oh Butajira


I’ve lived in Butajira for about a month now  and the sounds, sight, smells of the town are becoming familiar. The streets are filled with bajajes (small three-wheeled taxi vehicles), horse-carts, donkeys, motorcycles, goats, kids with runny noses and no pants, sheep, and the noise and smell of all these things mashed into one. On the sidewalk, people sell sugarcane, oranges, peppers, and bananas and kids walk around with boxes of gum, collo (a snack food), sunglasses, and crackers to sell. Little buna bets (coffees houses) sit behind the sidewalk sellers, right in front of the line of suks (shops) that sell pretty much anything and everything (except cheese. . . . ). The sounds of call to prayer over loud speakers wake most up around five in the morning and let us know when it is time for bed in the evening. People chew chat, kids play soccer with little balls of trash with cloth sewed around it to hold it together, men pee on the side of the road and bathe in the small river the main road runs over, women carry sacks of hay on their back, teens walk home in groups with different color uniforms, identifying which school they go to. Monkeys play in the trees just outside of town. The sun sets behind clouds over the mountains in the west making for an amazing view for the end of a beautiful day. The night is filled with sounds of jibs (hyenas) and the sun rises right at six the next morning to begin another day in Ethiopia. 

The Beginning


By the time our flight landed in Addis Ababa it had already been dark for hours and my first glimpse of Ethiopia was partially lit buildings (mostly under construction) and the endless line of signs in fidel along the road. For the first week with training and sessions only in King’s Hotel (our hotel in Addis) it barely felt real.  The only thing that really reminded me it was Ethiopia was the immense amount of injera we were served at meals.
About a week in the 63 G10ers were broken up into groups to go on a Demystification trip. The 12-hour, hot, crowed bus ride along winding roads filled with goats, sheeps, cows, and people to Bonga felt real. This trip was when I first saw the incredible diversity and beauty of Ethiopia, when I first felt the lack of personal space all Ethiopians have, when I first experienced the kindness and goodness of the people, when I first learned the technique for using a shintbet (bathroom), fondly known as the Habasha (what a large amount of Ethiopians call themselves) squat. 
By the time we moved to Butajira for the rest of Pre-service Training about two weeks since arriving, I was already tired, but excited, hopeful, and Ethiopia had already started to work its way into my heart. 

Ethiopian Flag

Ethiopian Flag