Peace Corps 2018

Change is Hard.

April 1st- April 14th

I wonder if I will want to start every blog post with…

“I cannot believe how fast time is going”.

Truly.

It boggles my mind.

Since my last post, I feel like SO much has happened in the past couple weeks.

First, on April 5th I had my “big” language proficiency test which consisted of a conversation in Afanoromo and a scenario question. I did my best to “study” and came to a point where I decided that it was enough. I knew what I knew and was going to do my best.

However, naturally, right before I walked in, I became extremely nervous. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted a high test score. When I came home I showed Ababo my pit sweat. No joke. Maybe the shirt I was wearing just soaked it all up… But I had pit sweat LITERALLY to my elbows. No freaking joke. We got a good chuckle from it. 😁

After the test, our Terre families hosted a big lunch for all the trainees and language teachers. It was a bitter sweet day, we all could feel the combination of relief and sadness that PST was over.

The next day the new prime minister let the internet (3G) back on everywhere in Ethiopia which made all volunteers ecstatic. Now we can use Whats App to communicate with family and friends back home instead of fighting and searching for WiFi. That night I tried to video phone my parents at my host families house in Terre. The video was blurry and it was difficult to talk, but it did what I wanted it to. My American parents and Ethiopian Host parents were able to virtually meet. Wes was ecstatic, jumping up from the coach and saying “Oh! Tell them we send our love and peace and God bless them!!” as my parents responded with “Thank you for taking care of our daughter!”

How freaking cool is that?

Technology is cool. Making the impossible possible. Who would of thought I would be able to do that?

Two nights before I left Wes took me on a walk around Terre, just like he did the first night I arrived three months ago. Although this time, we talked only in Afanoromo. When I arrived back home I was stunned at myself. It hit me. As much as I get frustrated with thinking I don’t know a lot, I have made some huge leaps.

On Sunday April 8th, it was Fasika, The Ethiopian Easter day. Ababo had her two sisters come to visit who were VERY shy around me. At first it was a little off putting because I just wanted to yell “I promise I won’t bite!” However, I always have to remind myself that they probably haven’t seen a forengie very often, so for them to be a little hesitant at first is normal. After a while with Ababo’s help I think I finally broke the ice with them.

Fasika, I found out quickly, entails eating meat. Not just one meal…But every meal….all day….ALL… DAY.

The reasoning for this is because the people of the Orthodox religion fast and do not eat meat for around 55 days. Therefore, when its over they go for it.

The day was a great one…hopping from house to house eating this and that. However, I think I over did it. No…I know I over did it. By the last house I visited with my family, I had to put the plate down and announce that I needed to use the mana ficanni. My stomach was going to explode. It was so fully and gassy…(Really not a good combination). So for the first time in the three months they stopped telling me to “Nyaadu” (Eat).

Humorous Ethiopian culture that you just have to love; they say “Nyaadu” when your plate is served, when you stop eating, and even when you are actively putting a piece of food in your mouth. “Nyaadu, Nyaadu, Nyaadu!” However, Even though they stopped telling me to eat, they still wanted me to “Dhugi!” (Drink!) coffee, soda, or milk…As long as I was drinking something, we were in the clear. Haha, it makes me laugh and shake my head as I am falling in love with this culture.

When we reached home that night, I pulled out a letter that I wrote in Afanoromo (thanks to my teacher for helping me translate it) and gave it to my host parents. The letter entailed me saying thank you.. Many times.. As I sat next to them while they read, I couldn’t help the tears that welded up in my eyes. These two had become my people, they had become my family, and now I was to up and leave all over again….I wanted more time.

Change is always hard.

The day of departure was a mix of emotions. From stomach cramps from over indulging in food to nervousness about traveling back to Addis Ababa to sadness of leaving my family. I felt like I was all over the place…

The inevitable came and it was time to head to the center of town to be picked up by the charter bus. Ababo was going to stay at the house with her sisters and Wes was going to walk me to the bus. I pulled out one of my Kansas necklaces and gave it to Ababo, I told her it was so she can always remember me. Then I quickly walked back into my empty room with my packed bags and paced back and forth as I tried to keep my tears from flowing over my eye lids. I hate goodbyes. Yes, you can always say see you later but just like the trail…I want to say yes I will see them again, but life happens and the truth is… you just don’t know where life will take you.

I hugged my family bye and other PCTs families as we loaded the charter bus. I tried so hard to hold it in, but I am a sucker when I see others cry as well. Needless to say, there were tears from every which way. Such loving people that did everything they could to take care of us while teaching us their culture and language.

What an outstanding three months.

Once in Addis I had a new calmer sensation than the first time I was there. Things seemed more “normal”, such as not drinking from the tap, seeing the different buildings and cars, the crazy amount of people, all of it… It felt more like “home”. It felt usual…and this…was a nice feeling.

But a not nice feeling was my stomach… It still wouldn’t let up the first part of the week and I became a new member of the “poop in a cup” clan. They do this to see if we have a parasite or bacterial infections since these both are very common for PCVs to get.. Props to my gut because it came back clean and before I knew it my stomach healed itself.

Self high-five for that one.

The week in Addis consisted of more lessons , eating “forengie food” such as this burger that seriously tasted like heaven,

shopping at “forengie grocery stores”, drinking more than I should, prepping for the swearing in ceremony and meeting my counterparts.

The Swearing in ceremony…was glorious. I could not of asked for a better day. Plans got a little jumbled but you learn with Peace Corps Ethiopia to just go with the flow more than you could imagine. Take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour. The day consisted of sleeping in and getting ready to meet our counterparts and having lunch with them. “Counterparts” meant people that lived at our sites that would help us get to our sites, get settled, and work with us on our projects during the next two years. Therefore, we all wanted good counterparts, people who were willing and wanting to work with us.

We arrived around noon at a hotel in our regional clothing and played a little game to find our “other half”. I walked around in about ten circles looking and then thought “oh shit” my counterparts didn’t come. Then as everyone else was leaving and heading to lunch, a younger man and woman came walking out with my teacher who were my “other half”.

“Oh thank you sweet baby Jesus.”

Lunch with them was nerve wracking at first and then quickly simmered as the health center director (the male counterpart named Zelalam) had amazing English and the female counterpart (named Sitina, who also works at the health center ) radiated sincere sweetness and also knew some English. Both are around my age so I felt like we got along great..

I was so happy leaving lunch and traveling to the U.S. Embassy. I was dressed fancy (which never happens), I had a great lunch (Happy Belly, Happy Life), I had fantastic first impressions of my future counterparts (Heck yes), and was about to swear in and become an official volunteer.

Life felt Unreal.

The US embassy was beautiful. It is its own little oasis in Addis Ababa. The ceremony consisted of taking a lot of pictures, having three different speeches by the three different languages we all have learned, and speeches from the program manager, program trainer, country director, and lastly, the US ambassador to Ethiopia. Each speech gave me goosebumps and but a smile on my face. It was the next boost I needed. After a long three months of training, it was the reminder of why I am here and why I signed up to do this. They talked about the hard moments, the rewarding moments, they made us laugh and some of us cry… It left me with a huge smile as I walked up to receive my certificate of completing PST.

Finally, we did it!

After the ceremony and eating appetizers with our counterparts, it was time to head back to the hotel where the remaining celebration was to take place.

Needless to say…

I had an absolute blast. Good people, tasty drinks, and happy souls makes for a good night.

The following day consisted of a couple sessions and some free time to explore Addis Ababa and get those additional materials we might want for our house that we cannot buy else where. I had a lot of what I wanted already but bought some spices, a few cooking materials, and decided to wait until I reached Jimma to get the rest. My suitcases were already bulging as it is. Honestly, I was fearful that I might bust my suitcases open during the travel.

Today we spent half the day with our counterparts at a “Counterpart Workshop” where we played some ice breaker games then talked about the next three months and most importantly how we were traveling to our sites. Today was extremely frustrating for me because from having a slight cold and not sleeping much…I ended up losing my voice. Literally, you had to put your ear right next to my face as I was screaming to get an inch of sound out. My counterparts were still great with me, they listened as best they could as I tried to apologize as much as I could. I did my best to keep my frustration levels down but after a while, not being able to talk just got old.

This afternoon and night was filled with getting those final materials and hanging out with friends for the “last time”. We found out today that some of us including me, are to depart tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM to catch our buses, so staying up late tonight is not an option for me. I vividly remember the “staying up all night” in D.C. And how terrible I felt coming to Ethiopia.

Definitely, not repeating that.

As I repack my bags and get organized I feel sad, insanely nervous, and excited for the adventure to come. It’s crazy to think that I will be embarking to a new town and living by myself in a town I have never seen or been to before.

I keep trying to keep my nerves at bay by thinking, “What an amazing adventure this is going to be”. Instead of worrying about the changes that are going to be taking place.

These huge, huge changes.

No matter what… here I go! Last time for Ozzy to travel for a while. Bout time, he has become rather dirty… 😀

Heres to embracing the new adventure to come.

Iz and Oz

2 thoughts on “Change is Hard.”

  1. My name is Jim (Lance) Nichols..I’m the brother of Sharon Nichols Balocca..Julie’s mother. My wife (Barbara) and I live in Dodge City, Ks. We have become interested and amazed at your adventures. Hope you do not mind but I have shared you adventures with our Church class We love your mother so…that we send our love through her to you. Oh, don’t mind us. We are just two “old” people having a good time. Be safe…with “Love”JIm/Barb”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This comment just made my day Lance! How nice to virtually meet you! Please share my adventures as much as you want, I’m so happy to hear you enjoy them! I am sending the love right back to ya! 🙂
      Be well, Izzy

      Like

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