February 24, 2015
Time is a funny thing. About 12 days ago, we G10ers (my group of volunteers) hit our one-year-in-country mark. As you would guess, time has flown by at periods. Times with full schedules, work, and vacations. And then there are those other spells where time creeps by, slow and heavy. Times when work is scarce, commitments fall through, a parasite dances in your stomach, and missing friends, family, and home gives you a heartache. But one year is one year. No longer, no shorter. And, even though, some days are distinct with conversations and events in my memory and others blur together with seasons of The West Wing running through them, I am grateful for all the days of my one year. Here are some things I’ve done in all those days.
In the past one year. . .I have moved to and come to call home a town in south Oromia, Ethiopia. I have completed a community needs assessment for my town. I have eaten doro wat, misir wat, and shiro with neighbors and friends. I have danced with a little girl called Mitu behind her family’s tej’ house. I have sat at my desk in the Agriculture Office studying Amharic and Oromifa for countless hours. I have learned how to transfer African honey bees from traditional hives to transitional hives. I have dug and planted my own garden with beans, lettuce, sweet peppers, and squash (all of which were killed by a frost two months later, except the lettuce. . .). I have run 220 k through the hills of Tigray. I have taught a grade 8 Spoken English class. I have drank soooo much buna. I have missed my best friend’s wedding in Ireland. I have vacationed to Zanzibar for my first Christmas and New Year’s away from my family. I have baked cinnamon rolls and eaten kilos of popcorn. I have watched Home Alone 2 with my little compound brothers, Yarid and Henok, at least six times. I have done my laundry on Saturday mornings while listening to my audiobooks. I have help paint a mural of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror lyrics on a new school building. I have gone to the colorful market every week and now have a banana lady and a gomen lady. I have met with the Mayor at least five times over three months trying to start a waste management project (I wonder if that will ever happen). I have trained the G12s on permagardening. I have read 10 books (not really that many, huh?). The dirty arms of kids have hugged me along my street. I have planned and replanned, scheduled and rescheduled a permagarden training for my Agriculture Office (still has not happened). I have made so many wonderful friends. I have been called ‘you’ and ‘ferenji’ too many times to count. I have seen the sunrise over the Bale Mountains from my doorway. I have been crammed into mini buses and line taxis with 24 people when it should hold 15. I have grieved the loss of my wonderful dog, Dancer. I have walked in a procession of people adorned in white in a tiny town on Timket (Orthodox holiday). I have watched Ethiopian music videos, all set in a field with mountain or waterfall in the background. I have been given shots of arake (local liquor) at a church I was passing by. I have hiked into the rural areas, through forests, fields, and up to the rocky top of a mountain. I have played Uno with my compound family. I have taken day trips to Shashamene just to get a fake burger and fries. I have face planted in a bus station with everyone staring at me. I have been hugged and kissed by each new person I met. I have been named Elili by my little neighbor kids.
I have been lonely, sad, and frustrated, but I have been happy, hopeful, and surprised. I have learned how hard it is to belong/feel comfortable in a completely foreign culture and I have adapted and settled into my place here. I have come to love injera, I even crave it. I have learned to be open, accepting, and patient when everything around you is poking at your nerves. I have grown. I have loved and been loved. And I hope to do it all again and more in the next year.