There are times in Peace Corps when I can sit in my room and listen to the mosque calling, the birds chirping, and the music blaring from the café across from my house. I can stare at my wall, write, read a book, do yoga, and stare at my wall some more.
Then there are times when I’m swooped up by a whirlwind of projects, events and what we so frequently refer to here as ‘programs.’ The last four months have been part of that whirlwind.
It all started in April with the celebration of World Malaria Day. This yearly event was celebrated by the Ethiopian government in a small village near my house. One of my Program Assistants traveled down from Addis to attend. We spent the first day in Jimma, listening to research results and project outcomes from organizations around the nation. Then we traveled to a rural village for a tour of a local health post and to learn about the process of residual spraying. As we drove up the road, hundreds of kids lined the street clapping and cheering for us. It felt like the welcoming of royalty.
After the tour, the local people had tables set up with a variety of traditional foods to taste. It was a huge event for the rural women, and it was fun to see their excitement.
On the last of the 3-day celebration, chairs were lined under a tent in a field, and numerous people participated in music, speeches, dramas and acrobatics to spread the word for anti-malarial efforts. We came home with a T-shirt, and a small container of locally-made mosquito repellent.
The next big event was in May. A few volunteers and I designed and led a 5-day facilitation workshop for 29 female lecturers from 3 universities. The training was part of the University Preparation Camp project that I’ve been working on over the past year, helping to support first-year female university students. Originally, two Peace Corps Volunteers and I were in charge of leading student trainings. Our new objective was to give teachers the skills and confidence to facilitate discussions on their own. The training was centered on 11 topics, including self-esteem, leadership, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.
I came to the training expecting a group of shy, reserved Ethiopian women. Instead, I was met with a group of engaged, thought-provoking leaders. The women were inspiring.
Next was our Close-of-Service conference, which started May 27. Close-of Service. That means that the 5th group of Peace Corps volunteers who came to Ethiopia two years ago are preparing to go home.
Our group came in with 69 volunteers, and lost about a third of them along the way. The surviving members met in Addis and proceeded down to Lake Langano for one last week of memories. Our sessions focused on job searching and readjusting. Our free time consisted of Whiffle ball, beer pong, massages and relaxing by the pool. On our last night, we celebrated with a bon fire and sheep roast, a guitar around the fire, and sharing all of the embarrassing and hilarious experiences we’ve had.
Directly after COS, I traveled with 8 spectacular volunteer friends to visit The Once-Forbidden City of Harrar.
After Harrar, I had three days to kill in Addis while I waited for my friend Amanda to fly in from America. I thought perhaps I would use these days to take it easy and rest up. Instead, I stayed with a friend and had two adventurous nights at big parties, and re-visited a lesson I learned too many times in college.
Amanda flew in Sunday morning, and we went straight from the airport to Mercado. (Mercado = sketchy, crowded bus station) She jumped right into the Ethiopian experience by having to bum-rush a bus and fight for a seat, then sit for hours while the bus stopped a hundred times along the way for ch’at. We made it to Agaro by nightfall.
The next three days were spent touring my little town, trying the food and participating in a coffee ceremony at a local teacher’s house. It was everything I loved about Ethiopia, and it was fun to be able to share it.
The last part of her trip included a visit to Hawassa, a beautiful lake-side city in Ethiopia. It was a 15-hour journey from Agaro, and we made it all in one day. (She’s a total champ.)
In Hawassa, we visited the fish market, hand-fed some monkeys, laid out by the infinity pool and ate a lot of good food. During her stay, the Ethiopian soccer team beat South Africa for a spot in the World Cup Tournament and the whole city paraded in excitement.
Her 10-day visit was over far too soon.
I’m back in Agaro now, and it’s been non-stop camp-planning mode ever since. Tomorrow I leave for this year’s Nekempte Camp GLOW. (Camp GLOW 2012 ). And yesterday I found out I have amoebas.
There’s certainly never a dull moment here.