Originally, I was nervous for an All Volunteer Conference. There are about 200 volunteers in Ethiopia now: more than double the number here when I arrived. I spend almost every day surrounded by local people or alone in my house. The thought of suddenly being dunked into a pool of hundreds of farenji was intimidating.
As it turns out, the event was remarkable. Overwhelming, yes, but also exciting. Names and faces and regions and group members all started adding up. More than anything though, it was the first time all of the people I arrived in country with (minus those we’ve lost along the way) have been together since we swore in as volunteers almost 2 years ago. Catching up with them was amazing. It’s hard to believe that our G5-ers have only one more group event together before we all leap from our Ethiopian nests this summer.
As for the conference: Friday night was a dinner at the Ghion hotel. The U.S. Ambassador of Ethiopia joined us. We were all dressed up. (It’s amazing what PCVs can look like with a hot shower and some clean clothes.) The Ambassador gave a brief talk on the state of development in Ethiopia, and how Peace Corps fits in with that.
Saturday was a full schedule of events designed to help us meet each other, learn about the cross-benefits of working with different sectors (environment, education and health), and get information from different committees.
Saturday night, the talented members among us took the stage for a talent show. It sounds a little juvenile, but the show was wildly entertaining. (Who knew we could save the world AND bust out rap?) Even our country director participated with some folk songs he wrote himself.
After the talent show, the bulk of us wandered out to the nearest club and stayed out way past our 9 o’clock bedtimes.
Sunday came far too early. None-the-less, we learned about PEPFAR and Food for the Future: Two initiatives that sponsor HIV/AIDS related programs and food security. Afterwards we broke into regional groups to plan this year’s summer GLOW camps. Almost all of the volunteers I worked with at the Nekempte camp last year have decided to participate again, which is awesome because we had an amazing group. We’ve also got some new G7 and G8 members I’m excited to get to know.
And finally, we gathered for closing remarks. They weren’t your average closing remarks. In fact, they’re hilarious. Check out the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auBHtyTYcYw&feature=youtu.be
I went to dinner Sunday night with eight or so friends to a local Indian restaurant. Six of these friends had recently been to India and continue to make me more excited to go. After a long and delicious family-style meal, we met up with the rest of our crew. From India to Ireland, we went to celebrate St. Patty’s Day at our favorite local beer bar. One of the volunteers had gone all-out in decorations: Green glitter, green coasters, green everything. There was even green beer. The Ethiopian staff not only accomodated us, they full-on participated in our greeness. It was a great cultural exchange, even if it wasn’t entirely our culture to exchange.
Monday was supposed to be our departure date, but a change in the bus schedule kept us in Addis an extra night. Thirteen of us filled the bus on Tuesday and we shared one last dinner in Jimma before arriving to our own beds Wednesday night.