Going, Going, GONG!

30 hours left. 30 hours in the country that has been my home for the past two years.

A home that has frustrated me and amazed me. A home that has made me cry and made me sick. A home that has built me up and made me strong.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now. A last post, a post about leaving and goodbyes and last times.

I left Goba two weeks ago, and in my whole two years of service in Ethiopia, I never experienced carsickness- except on my last bus ride out of Goba, while winding through the mountains, lurching up hills and weaving around the potholes that were not there when I started out.
Emily says it’s necessary to have all the experiences, even the ones you want to avoid.

I went to visit my host family three days ago. My last trip to Huruta. My last time to see the family who cared for me selflessly for 2 and a half months- who taught me to make bunna and who played with me in Amharic. And they had made up my old room for me, so I could feel a sense of home, like things truly have never changed for them, for me, for our relationship. Even on the last time.
Shito says the last time must be like the first time, and like always.

As a training group, G7 has been through many ups and downs. For the majority of us, the only times we got to see each other were for various conferences and events scattered throughout our two years. With all of the coming and going to and from conferences, we have always experienced many hellos and goodbyes. And even through all the goodbyes, we knew they were not our last. Yet now, at the end of two years, its time for last goodbyes. Some have been missed, and they do not quite feel like lost opportunities quite yet. Some are not goodbyes, but only see-you-laters. Some of them are fast and loose and rough and its all you can do is walk away and not look back, because they are uncertain. Some of them may be true last times.

Up until now- things have not seemed like lasts. It feels as if there is another trip home to take- home to Goba, to my compound and kids yelling my name as I walk up the hill to finish my journey. It feels as if there is another bus to ride and conference to attend and another night to be all together. There’s still another bucket of water to fill, and another propane tank to lug on my back. Another thirty minute walk to school and another bucket bath to heat water for. Another meal at Mitu and another morning walk out of town, to the end of the asphalt and up towards the mountains. Another breakfast to sip coffee and to talk about apparating to America and to shoo away the crazies.

But now those things have finished. They have seen the last of me, and I of them. Things don’t seem final. But where I am, what I am doing, what I have experienced, is final. It is finished, and these lasts have a very real possibility of never coming around again.

And what better way to acknowledge and celebrate than to gong out.

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To gong out Bale Style, 2x.

DSCN1667with no chin. please enjoy…

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& hugging Daniel made me cry.
in the words of AMS, murrrr.

But having these lovely G7 ladies with me made it all better.

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Peace out, Peace Corps!
See you in 30 hours, America.

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For the Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

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Power outages are a big part of PCV service.
While I have grown accustomed to their frequent occurrences, they still annoy the hell out of me.  Here, there’s normally not much to do when the power is on. And when it’s out, those few possibilities shrink.

For starters, I keep my door open as long as possible to get any scrap of light from outside to brighten my house.
Note: This tactic does not work when it’s raining or freezing out, which is basically all the time. Regardless, it’s always pitch black by 7.

So at this point, I tell myself I only need to occupy myself for at least an hour because at some point during my service, I arbitrarily made 8pm an acceptable time to go to bed when the power is out. Yes, I know many would argue going to sleep at 8 is nowhere near acceptable, and in America, I would agree with this belief. And like I said before, it’s a free for all when there’s normally not much to do.
Power outage, I guess I can deal.
And I find myself doing the following:

Not conserving my computer battery like a smart person would*
I always am in the mentality that the power will magically come back on when computer is about to die.
Number of times this has actually worked: 2/100

*Unless it’s the weekend and I have a Skype date

Talking to myself
This has become a more frequent power-outage activity. I think PC has made all my inhibitions go out the window when it comes to being perceived as off-my-rocker.

Making cat noises at the cat
Rawwwwr.Roooowwnnnn.Hiss.Grrrrr.Arwarwawr.
Man, do the cats here make weird noises, or what?!

Attempting to read/journal/letter write by candle light
This normally doesn’t last for long, as my eyes are already bad from using old glasses and contact prescriptions for the past two years. I like to tell myself that not pursuing these activities in the dark keeps the progress from getting any worse.

Coming up with blog ideas on my phone
Hello! Or we never would have had this beaut!

Staring at the power switch on my multi-plug and sing ‘Power come back!’ to the tune of ‘Baby come back!’
This happens intermittently throughout the entire power outage, but can happen multiple times in succession. However, I only know the one phrase of ‘Baby come back!’ and I feel this tactic is less effective than it could be if I actually knew the whole song.
Number of times this has actually worked: 1/200

Thinking about all the things I could make in my toaster oven if I did have power
Yes, I know this is self-torture, but I just can’t help kicking myself when I’m down when I should clearly have made my banana bread/muffins/baked goodness earlier in the day.

Trying to call people
Try being the key word. If the powers out, you can practically guarantee that the network is down too.

Using a flashlight to scan all the walls and corners of my house for fat, naaaasty spiders.
Number of times this has actually worked: 20/100
Yeah, this statistic is not in my favor for actually sleeping, nor is this a good practice to do right before I go to bed during a power outage. The darkness brings them out.

Pretending to go to sleep
This one is like the restaurant rule. You are waiting for your food to come, decide to go to the bathroom, and while you are gone, your food comes. Well in this version, I get all ready for bed, snuggle under the covers, close my eyes, and pretend to sleep for a bit, then roll over and try the light, hoping the power has come back.
Number of times this has actually worked: 2/100

Actually going to sleep
This one is the last resort, but I mean seriously, once I’m all snuggled in bed from pretending to sleep, its just the natural next step. I’ll admit it- I’ve broken my 8pm rule once or twice just because I exhausted all other options and there was nothing left to do by 7:30 except sleep.
All hail Granny Nora.
Dear Lord, thats the real terror.

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Things from Ethiopia That Need to Come to America

Names for people based on names for foods
We have an Apple already, thanks to Gwyneth, but what about some Lemons, Limes, Peaches, and Pears?! I’ve met my fair share of Lem Lems, Lomis, Atikilts (vegetables) and Shinquorts (onions) over here. Lets bring this trend home, folks.

Loez shai. Peanut butter+milk=deliciously thick and creamy peanut tea
How is this not a thing in America? I mean, seriously, we are all so obsessed with peanut butter, that practically every PCV/prospective PCV I’ve met thinks they need to pack a two year supply of peanut butter because they cant imagine not having it in their lives for two years. Yes, the entire world is equally in love with liquid peanuts, and they have even one-upped us by making peanut butter drinkable. Come on America!

The ‘I’m-eating-right-now-I-can’t-really-greet-you’ wrist extend and shake
Because nothing says, you’re-cool-nice-to-see-you-but-I’m-otherwise-preoccupied-stuffing-my-face right-now more than an extended wrist for the interrupter to shake. No, I will not clean the BBQ sauce from my Cowboy burger off my hand to greet you, sir. Accept my wrist or nothing at all.

People asking how the air conditioning is
Because sometimes, I’d like to say, ‘Well, you know, you could actually bump it a lil bit. I’m slightly sweaty over here.’ Especially in restaurants. There is nothing worse than getting all cute for summer and wanting some serious AC and find it just a tad toasty when what you really want is frosty.

Hugging/cheek touching from not best friends or family
I love me some good hugs and affection. When I came back from Italy, I tried to convince my friends we should greet each other with double cheek kisses. That it was so normal and a proper way to greet each other. Yeah that didn’t catch on. But in Ethiopia, it’s a free for all! So lets all just pass on a little sugar! To our frenemies, our coworkers, our neighbors, and even the people that always annoy us even though we know they mean well. Everyone deserves a little lovin erryday.

Wearing the same outfit multiple days in a row and still being socially acceptable
Some days I put together a bomb outfit, and I want to wear it again in the same setting! Sometimes I just don’t want to wait at least 2 weeks to repeat an outfit without being shunned for being unclean or unfashionable.

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Can I just fit these things in my backpack?!

 

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We’ll Always Have Ethiopia

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The countdown is growing smaller and smaller and I can’t help think about when the countdown was so large, I couldn’t even put it into actual numbers. The thought was just too daunting. So I gave myself months at first. Just make it through each month.

And not that each month was a struggle, nor was each day just something to get through. They were frustrating, certainly, especially at the beginning, when I still was not cool with the idea of wasting my time. As if my time was so valuable and worth something.

It’s a funny thought now.

Now I don’t mind the waiting. The unknowing. The not having everything figured out. Which is an interesting state of mind, compared to the other side of it all, the side where I am now just waiting, somewhat impatiently, to get going. To get home. To be met at the airport and to go eat Potillos. To have 4 days to get my ducks in a row and start a job. A job I already have figured out. My world of flux and my world of structure are butting heads right now, and I can’t decide which one I want to commit to. I have to keep one foot in both camps. Its the only way to come through the transition with as few scrapes as possible.

America is coming up so quickly, and that world, that life, demands attention and knowing and plans.
Ethiopia is slowing dwindling, but its still here, still present, and I need to be in flux, in calm patience, to keep keeping on.

Ethiopia and America. I can’t live with one and not the other.

Even when I go home, I’ll be living the American fast-paced-working lunch-constantly connected life.
But I’ll still have Ethiopia. For calm in the storm. For patience in the midst of frustration. For ready-for-anything adaptation and adjustment.

So bring on the changes.

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Dear Ethiopia, We Need to Talk

Don’t upset, my teachers tell me. Don’t upset, we support you.

But don’t upset is just not possible right now. Upset is happening. Upset is a growing discomfort that has started in my stomach and has climbed up to take over my lungs. Upset is here and it’s hard to breathe.

Sorry folks, but don’t upset just don’t cut it.

It doesn’t cut it when for the second time today, a rock has been thrown.

Once this morning was already enough, when a rock hit me on the back of the legs. It was enough when Emily and I found out the boy’s name and school. He was not going to escape me. I made that clear when I called up my director and counterpart, told my landlady, and rallied support to get the kid found.

It was enough when I had dealt with that problem and that boy would learn his lesson.

 

But upset returned with a force when the second rock was thrown. It was thrown on my school compound, where all the kids know my name, where the kids have learned that I’m from America. Where the kids have learned that mock-Chinese is never acceptable, and where the kids have taken the word ferenji out of their vocabulary.

Upset started in the middle of my grade 9 English club. Club was happening, and 8th grade boys missing a teacher were outside playing. They were being loud and playing but I let them be, choosing instead to not draw attention to my club so that we would not be interrupted at the window. But it happened anyways. I told them to go hang out somewhere else so I could have my club in peace. That they could come on Tuesdays during their specific club time.

And then it happened. The second rock. The BIG rock. And it flew through the open window. Thank God it didn’t hit anyone.

A rock came into my classroom. I went out to deal with the kids, to find out who it was, but no one would give me an answer, so it was time to get the director and my counterpart involved. By the time I got them and explained what had happened, the boys were back in their class. We pulled out all of the boys and said it was time to fess up.

Guess who fessed up? One of my English Club regulars. Regulars. A good student who knows me and listens to me and loves coming to club to talk and participate.

I had a talk with him- but the energy and rage was sapped out of me, because it wasn’t a rude student I didn’t know. It was my student. My student. All I could do was muster out a small scolding and accept an apology.

But the whole time, upset was happening. Upset was growing and an apology just could not cover it.

In a country that throws rocks at wandering dogs and goats and cows getting into places they shouldn’t, or just out of pure boredom at passing animals, how could it ever be acceptable to throw a rock at a person? How could it ever be acceptable to throw a rock into a classroom with students and a teacher inside of it? How in the world do you think I would not be upset and angry when a rock is thrown at me, a human being, a volunteer trying to help develop English language instruction in your country?

Yeah, it happens. Yeah, we chase kids and deal with it. But how can I not be upset when a student I have worked with for the past two years thinks it’s okay to throw a rock into a classroom to get someone’s attention? I get upset and I get angry and I get emotional. & I can’t even handle it when grown adults see or hear what happens and vocalize that throwing a rock at a person is a shameful action yet they do nothing to help. And when I try to ask them to do something about it, I get choked up and can’t get my words out. And even when they see I’m upset, all they have to say is ‘Don’t upset.’

Don’t upset? I had a rock thrown at me. I had two rocks thrown at me. Two rocks in one day.
Don’t upset?
Your children are equating me with a bothersome animal and you tell me don’t upset?

Yes, I’ve had rocks thrown at me before, and yes, I know it’s from kids trying to get my attention. But sweet.baby.jesus. Don’t upset is just not an option. Upset is happening. Upset is a growing discomfort that has started in my stomach and has climbed up to take over my lungs.

Upset is here.
Do something about it.

storm

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Confessions of a Has-Been Packrat

My friend Ashley said in a blog the other day that PCVs are often considered resourceful, but that really, that’s not the case. Really, we’re just packrats.

Ain’t that the truth.

I went from having a suitcase and a backpack to having a house overflowing with stuff.
I’m wrapping things up here, heading home in the next 3 months- and slowly slowly, I’ve been trying to give away, throw away, and otherwise rid myself of the all of the junk & stuff I’ve accumulated over the past 2 years.

Pretty much every week, I find a new store of old jars and bottles, cardboard boxes and random broken headlamps and other trinkets. Putting them outside my door is a free call to my neighbors, Hey, come sift through my junk and take what you want. And they rejoice. An old tequila bottle with no lid is even enticing. They could not believe I would get rid of it- with so many possible uses. And its true- I wouldn’t have hung on to the bottle for so long if I hadn’t thought, ‘Well, I just might be able to use this for something.’

The same goes for old oat cans, jelly jars, macaroni boxes, and pretty much everything else. No matter how much I get rid of, there’s always more that can go.

And not only do I have junk to dole out, I also have clothes and tools and books and kitchen items and just stuff. Within the first 3 months I was at site, it was time for the previous 3 volunteers living in the area to head home. Which meant I inherited oh.so.much stuff. Not necessarily things I needed, but once again, things I thought might be useful down the line.

Especially when it came to clothes. And you what? At the end of it all, what I wear is what I brought with from my wardrobe at home. No, not the Goodwill wardrobe I got for myself because it was a good ‘African teacher’ wardrobe. No, not the piles of new-to-me clothes from leaving volunteers. I could easily have done without all of that.

Because now I have to get rid of it all. And all my site mates and neighbors are constantly leaving my house with bags and loads of things. But they only have until December. They will only take so much.

I went from an empty house and a mattress on the floor to living the high life.

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Borrowed chairs, borrowed stool, borrowed blankets.

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I was legit scared of this room when I first moved in. Spider haven. nosirnothankyou.

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But it got better.

 

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and better,

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and even better.

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And this isnt even at the peak of my accumulation of stuff.

 

And still, I have an ever changing and ever growing give-away box for people to rifle through, a suitcase full of clothes needing a new home, and plenty of furniture for my new G10 neighbors in 2 months time.

Its a never ending process.
But bring it on. It means I’m coming home.

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Can’t Stop til’ I Get Enough

It just makes sense that my last few months would end up being my most productive of my entire service term here in Ethiopia.

In regards to work, I have 3 currently running student clubs, and with this past week, have added in 2 teacher trainings a week. Yeah, okay, maybe the first teacher training didn’t have a big turnout, but they came, and they learned, and they were talking about what they learned to the arriving 5-8 teachers after we had finished. Even my hard to please director came to visit and liked what he saw so much, he wanted me to give the same training to the 1-4 teachers. Hence, 2 trainings.

In the non-work realm, not only have I been waking up early every morning to ‘do sport,’ in the words of AmharEnglish, I’ve also chosen a graduate program (Johns Hopkins MA in Museum Studies!!), applied for scholarships and jobs, been helping out with various odds and ends of the All-Volunteer Conference, and have just been cranking out an impressive number of books read and art pages produced.

Yes, I may have spent my afternoon today in a very vegetative state due to a strong need for a nap and/or some bunna after the busy morning I had, but man, am I gonna finish strong programmatically and personally.

Proof that I might be losing it, but I’ll make it in the end!

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