May 10- June 3
Last time I posted I was in back in the big town of Jimma meeting up with other PCVs (Some from G18 and some from previous G’s) all of us hanging out and simply taking a break from our communities and the overload of adjustment. We are allotted 4 personal days a month for this reason. Sometimes a break is needed. Especially when we are “on” 24/7.
When hanging out in Jimma, it consists of a lot of Wi-Fi ing, eating a lot of forengie food such as cheeseburgers, buying food for our homes that cannot be found elsewhere and ya know, having those couple of drinks here and there. 😉
Anyhow, after a wonderful weekend in Jimma I came home and found out that the compound had decided to build another mana fincanni behind my house. Whattttt?!? You betcha. The new one was built in a week or so and is about ten paces from my back door and is glorious. As glorious as a mana fincanni can become in a rural setting. Its has hay walls again but this time you cant really see through them and its spacious….so spacious it makes me feel like a queen, which is always important to feel when your squatting.. right?
Well.. At least I think so.
I have continued to keep my motto of saying “Eeyee, ani danda’aa” (Yes, I can) to most of what anyone asks me to do. For instance, the teenage girls are becoming very found of hanging with me. To the point where they sometimes get in fights, pulling my arm “No she is coming with me!” and it ends with the final decision being left to me, which I always hate… I don’t want to choose!
I have ventured out into the forest with multiple groups to break dead branches off trees to use for firewood while cooking. When I am walking back, the people stare at me and cannot believe that I went out into the forest with the ladies (little do they know I thrive in the forest). Even one time I carried the wood on my head as the girls do (balancing it without any hands was difficult but I think with practice I can make it work).
However, when people comment about me and ask if I can do it the girls always have my back, “Dhugaa! Dhugaadha! ” (Truth! Truthfully!)
One of the girls that has led me to collect wood and led me to a new part of town where the ladies go to grind up corn to make powder, had me come to her house a few times to eat lunch. In talking with her I found out she is only 15. This fifteen year old was in the “Kushina” (kitchen) cooking bidenna, soup, and running all over the place.
When her mom goes to the next town, she has to be the woman of the house and make food for her brothers which means, yes, she did not go to school that day. (These are some of the priorities that keep some of the girls from attending schools some days.) She also told me about her father who passed away a few months ago and told me “Rakon Hin Jiru” (No problem) when I told her I’m sorry. I sat watching this girl with total amazement and awe. Repeatedly, I am shown how strong Ethiopian women are.
My relationship with the two girls in my compound (ages around 16 and 22) is also starting to become stronger daily.
A week ago they had me come with them to a new (for me) water hole to do our laundry. “Kottu! Kottu!” (Come, Come) they said, so that day instead of going to work at the health center I ventured out to a beautiful little spot and had girl talk with those two and one other.
I even was able to try a new berry thing magig? They plucked one from a nearby tree. “Izzy, Nyaadhu!” I was so hesitant to try it, I seriously thought “What if this is poisonous and I die” since the girls couldn’t eat it with me because they were fasting.. They say it won’t kill me but her face says it might…
In the end, I decided to trust them and try the berry with very little hesitant nibbles but they ended up having an intriguing texture with a big seed in the middle. Nonetheless, they didn’t kill me and were quite delicious. At first parts of me were ready for work at the health center that morning but once I was there, I couldn’t help but enjoy the moment.
Everyday is truly a brand new day, I can give you the gist of how I think my day might go and 75 percent of the time, it is not going to go that way. Like I have said to a couple people… my “go with the flow” ability is increasing dramatically.
May was a big month for my American family back home, having two graduations take place one weekend after another, I had surges of sadness as I felt terrible to be missing these big milestones. However, thanks to 3G I was able to get a little video chat in (not the best quality) but I was able to say congratulations and that I loved them which might seem small, but it made the homesick feeling ease away immediately. Thank the Lord that I am able to have this technology and props to past PCVs who didn’t. I know I could be fine without it, but being able to talk to people back home every once in a while (and my sister daily, I cannot help myself) it helps keep me sane and not home sick. I am able to do this job and also stay connected with family and friends which is so important for me. I love my people back home. You guys mean the world to me.
A few weeks ago I finally brought out my hammock. It has been stashed away in a corner of my room for a while and I decided that I love this thing too much to let it grow cobwebs. Lets just say, it was a HUGE hit. The compound watched with puzzled expressions, “Izzy! Kun Maali?!” (Izzy what is that??) as I was setting it up while remaining silent with a smile on my face. Just wait. Once I finished I plopped down and people gasped. They were so fearful, but after my continuous laughter while swinging along, it was hard for people to resist. So needless to say, they overcame their fear (most of them) and they loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed swinging along to the countless laughter that took place.
I have started to venture out a little bit more to the next town of Limu on Saturdays because their markets (where I can buy food) is abundant. Here is a picture of the outskirts of Ciimmee market to help get a little idea of what the market looks like. I wasn’t brave enough to whip it out in the middle of the maddness, but one of these days I will, so you all can have a better idea.
The market is where I buy most of my food. Such as onions, tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, bananas, bread, carrots, beets, mangos, papayas etc. (I have tasted the best avocados and mangos here, I cannot even describe it..nom. Nom. Nom. ) Limu however also has a bunch of different suqqis (shops) that have clothing and other items. I even bought a couple dresses in Limmu that were a huge hit. Maybe too much so. I actually felt bashful with all the compliments. Look away! 🙂
Some people have asked what I eat on a normal basis and so… the day goes like this. In the morning after working out I usually eat oatmeal with peanut butter and banana OR bread with eggs, tomatoes, and avocados. For lunch I usually eat some kind of sauteed veggie mixture of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, onions, garlic, with pasta or bread occasionally if I have some left over from the night before and finally for irbata (dinner) I eat some kind of pasta, rice or potato with veggies again. Occasionally I will make “Shiro” that is a soup like dish made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, and a powder for thickening. (Delicious, it is) I also eat with the family every now and then which consists of bidenna and some mixture of lettuce and or onions. As usual though, I never know when I am going to be randomly invited to eat with someone, so this is a tentative “usual”.
Also! A couple weeks ago Mike (the PCV) I replaced came for a weekend to visit his friends and the school. I wont lie, I was nervous about how it would play out at first, but as soon as he was in Chime, it felt almost natural. It was actually fun being able to talk about our experiences, explore new parts of chime that he used to frequent, and meet his close friends. Even more exciting was talking about projects we want to do at the school together! So all in all a really amusing weekend. Thanks Mike!
As for work, it has slowly but surely picked up pace. I have finally taught my first couple classes at the health center. These classes were focused on hand washing and the critical times to do as such. During the lesson, I had a demonstration with turmeric that helped people realize how important washing your hands with soap is. In short, the activity included Sitina and I rubbing turmeric on our hands and then she washed with soap and I without. The residue of the turmeric did not come off with water only so my hands had a nice yellow tint to them “Germs”. After we washed we walked up to a women in the crowd and asked whose hand she wanted to shake. It is one of my favorite activities to do as I get countless gasps, chuckles, and realizations.
Every Thursday my health center gives out vaccinations to mothers with infants. So I thought it would be a perfect time to teach classes. Yes, at first I was nervous because I knew none of these women(they come from all around) but they seemed to be intrigued with what I had to say. The advantage of being an American in a small rural village. Ethiopian women are very shy at the beginning always, but as the class went on and the health center staff and I pried them more to answer they did. I wasn’t sure how the women felt about the class, but the next day some staff had let me know that they enjoyed it and it was information they didn’t know. Hearing this, makes me excited for the future. As always, I couldn’t have done it solo without the health staff helping me out. As much as my language is improving, I am still in no shape or form able to give a whole lesson by myself. They stepped in and helped clarify what I was talking about which was SO helpful.
I have also started to visit three households I have been assigned from the Peace Corps. We call these our “Household Intervention Houses”. We are to start with three and add to eight by the next two months. In these households we are to teach sanitation and nutrition to the families on a more intimate basis. I have visited each one and gotten an intake form about them and have also started these houses with the basic hand washing lesson. I truly love going to these houses not only to meet new people but to see how people live and what they are interested to learn. Most of these women have not finished school due to getting married but are intrigued to listen to what I have to say. Each of these mothers care about their children and their well being and want to listen.
A few weeks ago Ramadan had started in my site. Since my community is 90 percent Muslim it actually creates a big shift in the community. The Ramadan month consists of fasting from when the sun comes up till it goes down. Meaning no water, no liquid, no food, no medicine, nothing is consumed from this entire time. So most Muslims wake up at 4:30 in the morning to eat and then do not eat again until 7:00 at night.
Therefore, a lot of people are more tired and less active during the day. They will sleep in later and preform less jobs. So much so that a lot of the little coffee and food places are actually closed all day for the entire month. This also means that my compound family does not drink coffee all day so for the first time since I have arrived in Ethiopia I actually felt coffee deprived as I settled for only two small cups at night when they break fast. I guess I can call Ramadan my coffee detox month. 🙂
However, the cool part about Ramadan is that when they eat together at 7:00 it is a big deal and a celebration of sorts. I have actually ate with the family most nights and we all sit around an outrageous pile of bidenna and eat together and then drink coffee together. Since no one wants to miss breaking fast it is a nice feeling to have the whole family together shoving our faces with food, talking, and being happy. Another Ethiopian culture difference is they sometimes feed each other. Yes with their hands. They call this gorsha. The first night I broke fast with them they asked if it was okay with me with a smirk on their faces (I think they figured I would say no) and (of course) I said yes. I want to be immersed as much as I can, what can I say. So, the mom rolled up a HUGE ball of bidenna with the onion mixture and shoved it in my mouth. They laughed and seemed happy that I was willing to try, then proceeded to having me feed one of the sisters. It was strange in a way but in the same way it made me feel more like I fit. Like I belonged. Weird right?
Yeah, I am not sure how to explain that sensation accurately. But hopefully, you can get the idea.
A huge topic of discussion during the evenings is dancing. They really think it is hilarious that I like to dance and attempt to. One night they asked me to show them American Dancing. (Which was very difficult to do because we have so much diversity) So I pulled up one of the sisters and had her accompany me. I tried to show them the waltz (or like the slow mo dancing), I did a little salsa ing and then did some snapping Fresh Prince of Bel Air Carlton moves.. all of them cracked up because none of them really dance… Although they say they do, but no one will actually stand up and show me, therefore, I say they don’t. I won’t believe it till I see it!
Anywho, back to Ramadan, one night to break fast Sitina invited me to her house and it was absolutely delicious! She had the whole array lined up. “Shorba” this oat porridge thing, sambusas, bread, the whole nine yards. It was fabulous and I must mention, Sitina is quite the counterpart, friend, and now I can add cook. A woman of many skills! Mmmmm!
As I have mentioned previously, I am a try everything once kind of person. So naturally, I decided I wanted to fast for a day to see what it is like. Most people in my compound said that I couldn’t do it, “Isabella, its too hard” and/or “WHY??” My response every time is that one, I can do it; two, I want to be apart of my community; three, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I will do everything I can to show you that I can. 😉 So they finally let me try it after being persistent. It was the strangest feeling being woken up at 4:30 to walk over to the parents house to eat food, most of us did not talk like we do in the evenings. It was a quiet time minus the few moments they spoke and told me “Isabella you need to eat a lot”. The mom was very worried and said “Isabella at 1:00 pm you eat lunch if you are hungry!” I told her that I would, that I am just trying this out. I then went home and chugged almost a liter of water and fell back asleep.
The day flew by, I spent the morning going to my household and spent a little time at the health center and then went home after noon. I watched a movie with the compound girls and went for a walk and before I knew it it was 7:00 pm and the day was done. The hardest part for me was around 3:00 pm I started to get thirsty and a little hungry. But by that point I only had four more hours to go. Determination at it’s finest.
The compound family was so surprised that I had actually done it and that I “could” do it. It is now a bragging matter for them to tell other people that I did it. Which makes me blush because yes I did it but in the grand scheme of things, I only did one day to their thirty, but they appreciated it nonetheless.
Speaking of movie watching, it is becoming not a norm per say, but a specialty during the weeks. Especially when I am not feeling like being extroverted but still want to be involved with people. The compound family and I are becoming close enough that we now cuddle up on my floor mat, each of us every which way watching a movie. No, they do not understand the English but I try to give them the synopsis of what is happening. So far the biggest hit is Marley and Me. I explain American culture of how we treat dogs. “yes they live in our houses, yes we hug them, yes we give them kisses and receive kisses” It was hysterical for them to watch our culture. However, at the end (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it) when Marley actually dies, I could feel the group feeling sad with the movie. Which I thought was an amazing experience. They might not treat dogs the same as we do in America, but it could open to their eyes to how it “could” be.
So yes, free time is a thing, it just depends on how you want to spend it, with people like watching movies or not. I usually like to keep both my doors open so someone at some point will come along. However, in my free time when no one does for those couple of minutes, I have been practicing the rubics cube ( my best time is now down to 4 minutes…slowly but surely improving!) Also, my ukulele is becoming a new fun hobby to practice even though I am very musically challenged. We will see how much I can progress in these two years!
Those times when people come walking into my house, One of my favorite people that does is the little three year old. As her visits become more frequent, the more she opens up and talks with me. Usually it happens when I am cooking and we both sit on the floor, her saying words that I don’t understand so I nod my head and also me pointing at things asking what they are called. She is very skilled at letting me know when I mispronounce something and making sure I pronounce the word correctly. Yes teacher! One night however her parents had thought she had disappeared because she wasn’t home and wasn’t answering when they called her name. I had felt bad but they also smiled when they found her with me. I think they are now starting to assume if she cannot be found, she just might probably be in my house.
One of my other favorite people that comes to visit me is a nine year old cutie. Her kindness pours out of her smile like you would not believe. She has acquainted me in going to the market. Sometimes not even letting me hold my own bags. She always just wants to come, sit, and play with me. She is also another really great afan oromo teacher. She even sometimes translates for me when someone else doesn’t understand me. Good or bad, I will leave that up to you to decide. 🙂
I have also started to become very close with the woman who helped me move that also works at the Health Center. Her name is Abeba and the fact that she speaks perfect English makes becoming friends effortless.
I must say I feel lucky. Not everyone has this at their sites and some don’t have anyone in their sites that speak English, so, blessed I am. Truly, the friendship that is blossoming between us has been a blast, cooking together, going for walks, talking about everything under the sun. It has helped make chime feel more like home.
Chime, is slowly but surely starting to feel like home. The more my relationships build, the more work I have, the more “normal” life feels. The more I am starting to appreciate this town and all it has to offer.
I don’t want to act like I don’t have bad days, somedays I wake up and don’t feel like socializing or having people stare at me, everyday isn’t perfect and I hope that’s not what I have construed. But I’m learning how to capitalize on the little achievements of the day and those are the moments that I like to share.
This is my new home away from home. I know it’s only been a couple months here, but These people are starting to become my people and as I continue to integrate the better it gets.
Its all about progress whether big or small.
In less than a month and half I will be back in Addis for our 3 month reconnect.
If you have questions please ask!
Iz and Oz