Seven Days, Seven Stops

This month has been a burst of activity, as I’m sure it is for everyone during the holiday season. Most recently, I went on a little trip. Here are the highlights:

First stop: Jimma University Preparation Camp… 167 female university students coming from all over rural Ethiopia to start college. The program is designed to help them with life skills, training on HIV/AIDS and to improve their English. A fellow volunteer and I led sessions on goal-setting, confidence building and English conversation. The girls started out shy, but ended up incredibly enthusiastic.
In the Question-and-Answer at the end, they asked us why we would come from so far away to do this training. The answer was simple: because they came. They were motivated to show up on their Saturday and Sunday evenings to learn. That’s the best reason for us to teach.

Second stop: Addis Ababa… it takes 7 hours by bus to get from Jimma to Addis. We stopped in the office to fill out some paperwork, said goodbye to a few volunteers who were closing service, then went out for a little fun. There was hardly anyone out, but the music was the best I’d heard in months. We were out until 3 A.M.

Third stop: Huruta… This is the town I trained in, and lived with a family for 10 weeks. It’s a small town and the cell phone network is pretty shoddy, so my visit was incidentally a surprise. I came home to my three sisters running the family shop while our parents were working at a nearby market. They were all so genuinely excited; the looks on their faces were priceless. Going back there really felt like going home. I forgot how much I missed them.

Fourth stop: Assela… This is where our friends Joe and Kelly live, and about 20 volunteers came to celebrate Thanksgiving. Turkey is not available here, but we had another plan. I went with Joe to his Health Office, and we took a truck over to the farm project they’re working on. The profits from this farm benefit people living with HIV/AIDS. The farm has a pack of sheep. A white one was chosen, with little horns, for the price of 1,000 ETB ($55). They loaded it in the truck and brought it to a friend’s house to stay the night.
Meanwhile, we rented out the large screen projector and watched Camel Spiders dubbed in Amharic. It was a horrible movie. We had beers and made up hilarious plot lines. Then we went to the local bar and had a traditional night-before-Thanksgiving evening.
The next day, those who were so inclined joined Joe and some Ethiopian friends in preparing the sheep. (It sounds better when I say preparing, doesn’t it?) The feast was amazing. The people were awesome. Everyone was grateful. Thanksgiving was a success.

Fifth stop: Back to Addis… You pretty much have to go through Addis to get to most places in Ethiopia. We use this as an opportunity to enjoy the food, drinks and rare high-end amenities like ice cubes and toilets. There were cocktails, good music and lots of dancing.
The next morning happened to be the bi-annual Diplomats Bazaar. Addis Ababa is a hub for almost every embassy you can think of, and each had their own booth at this bazaar. They were selling local foods, drinks and trademarks from their countries. It was like a mini travel vacation around the world.

Sixth stop: Jimma… It was night when we arrived, so I couldn’t make it home. We got a room and made the best of it. Dinner, drinks, good conversations. A little music and dancing.

Last stop: Home …I’m covered in bites from fleas and/or bed bugs, and I’m pretty sure I picked up a bacterial infection… the byproducts of travel. It feels good to be home! At least for the next four days, before it’s back to Jimma for a working weekend.

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