reflecting

I’m officially an RPCV. I made it. Done. Leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.

I’m sure that in some point in the future, I’ll be able to think more clearly about what I’ve accomplished here. Until then, a few random reflections:

I never fancied myself a tan-by-the-pool/massage kind of gal, but I guess I can be in the right circumstances. While I didn’t spend much time there in my last year, the Kuriftu pool was a welcome get-away on many days, especially early in my service. And, yes, I know how lucky I was to have it.

Ahhhhh, Kuriftu.

Ahhhhh, Kuriftu.

I’m going to miss waking up to the sounds of coffee being pounded, onions being chopped, and the local peddlers announcing their presence in that distinct guttural cry.

It’s gotten so easy to tune out people. I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get out of that habit. How will it be when I can understand everyone?

I’m hoping any negotiating tactics I’ve developed here will transfer into American life. I’m going to need a car eventually.

I rarely ate candy in America (I’m more of a savory lover), but in Ethiopia I eat chocolate on a fairly regular basis. I hope I drop the habit when I get home. In the same way, I hope I can give up soda again. I had given up soda for 10 years before coming to Ethiopia, but I started to drink it again as a treat. I mean, there are so many things we can’t get here, I figured I’d allow it. I’m crossing my fingers that I can quit cold turkey.

I’m not one of those people who drink the tap water here. Why risk it? I rocked that water filter.

On the subject of possible GI issues, I’ve had my share of bacterial infections here (though no known cases of giardia or amoebas), and I think I’m a pro at puking these days. I used to dread the act, and in my adult life had only thrown up a handful of times (two or three, maybe). Now? I can upchuck with the best of ‘em and shake it off.

Yes, I pooped my pants. Once. In the process I broke my nose. Or maybe vice versa. Either way, it was epic.

I never used my hammock. That’s disappointing.

Am I going to feel a loss at the fact that people won’t be screaming at me as I walk down the street? Will the anonymity be a bummer or a welcome relief? I’d like to think the latter, but weirder things have happened.

Compound life is strange and in some ways wonderful. People walk into your house if your door is open. Neighbors tend to share stuff, though some might also call it stealing. I’ve lost brooms, towels, and other assorted household items only to find them in a neighbor’s house. I’ve been invited to coffee countless times, and other times neighbors (especially kids) parked themselves in my house while I was trying to do stuff (ok, ok, watch TV shows). I tend to love or loathe these interactions, depending on the day.

Living in Bahir Dar was great for the most part, but I’d be lying if I said it’s what I expected out of my Peace Corps service. It was certainly challenging in its own way, but part of me really wanted to see if I could hack it in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity, no running water, etc. Maybe when I retire… Ha.

IMG_8277

Visiting my host family one last time.

I suck at Amharic. The end.

What did I do at site? Honestly, not as much as I would have liked. That’s my fault, and it happened for a variety of reasons.

I will miss the rain at night during summer. There’s nothing like curling up in bed with a book every night knowing that the rain is coming if it hasn’t already arrived. It makes me feel at home, comfortable.

I’ve grown to love, love, love the dancing in Ethiopia. All of it (except maybe Tigray…). I can’t do any of it, but I like watching it.

I’ve worn Chacos almost every day since I’ve been in Ethiopia. My feet are going to be so confused.

I’m going to miss bulk avocados for cheap. Not that I’ve bought them in America, but I’ve heard that they are expensive, and I’ve become accustomed to a certain amount of guacamole in my life (Thanks, Sarah and Aaron!).

I’ve met some amazing people in the last two years, both Ethiopian and American. Without them, I definitely wouldn’t have made it through this experience. I can’t thank them enough.

Packing up two years of life is quite a chore for a hoarder like me. Naturally, my bags are bursting at the seams. I really should have thought through this travel after PC thing. Oh, yeah, we’re still going to Egypt. J

A final reflection: Every day, I walk by orphaned street kids peddling their wares (usually gum and tissue), people with disabilities that would have been easily fixed in a more developed country begging for change, elderly people on the streets with no family to help them, mothers making their small children hassle foreigners and others for a birr or two. I’ve learned to mostly ignore it. It’s the only way to stay sane.

Peace Corps!

Peace Corps!

As I got closer to leaving, though, it really started to affect me again. I can only say that it has made me be so grateful that by chance of birth, I was born in a country where people have fought so that I and everyone else can enjoy social safety nets. By chance of birth, I’m from a country that, despite its deep and many flaws, seeks to protect its most vulnerable, even if it doesn’t always manage it. By chance of birth, I’m from a country whose citizens have the ability to voice their grievances to a government elected by the people. A country that is by no means perfect, but has the potential to be so, if only we work harder, work together, care about each other more.

And I so clearly understand that in another life, I could be a street kid in Ethiopia, a person with a disability that has no other choice but to beg in order to eat. I could be an Ethiopian child whose mother can’t take care of me or a child orphaned by AIDS. By chance of birth, I am American, and that is a privilege, it’s luck. It’s not something to lord over others. We have something pretty great, and we should share it, should want to let others partake, not hoard it for ourselves because we think we’re special, that we deserve what we have.

I’m proud to have served my country in Peace Corps, by sharing culture and sharing knowledge, by fostering peace. It was difficult and at times I hated it, but ultimately I am the lucky one for having the opportunity to live in Ethiopia.

If that’s corny or preachy, I don’t care.

Cheers.

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2 Responses to reflecting

  1. Nikki says:

    I can’t believe your on your way back and it’s been two yrs already. Congrats on being a Peace Corps volunteer! I’m going to miss reading your updates/thoughts/reflections, you always seem to put things into perspective for me without knowing it, but I’m glad that we get to have you back! Safe travels.

    -Nikki

  2. davidkassa says:

    Welcome home and thanks for keeping us well informed of your adventure.

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