July 29th- October 4th
Wow Wow Wow Wow Wow Wow
Stories about life in the past two months condensed into a hopefully not outrageously long blog post….
Since my malaria training and learning that Malaria is most prevalent in September an October, it made me realize it was perfect time to start doing some presentations at the health center and at my households. The mommas took the lesson very well and seemed intrigued with what I had to say. Some of the staff said that my Afan oromo was getting better and the women could understand me better than before. (Hip Hip Hooray!) Malaria is relevant in my community since we are at a lower elevation but prevention techniques are not taken by most individuals at my site. Meaning, they do not use the bed nets that have been distributed to them and they leave open containers of water (great breeding sites) around their house. This topic proves to be a difficult one however because most individuals do not see malaria as dangerous. Something for me to continue to work on during my service.
After a week or so back at site I had the great pleasure of having Abel and Solomon (the two Deaf gentlemen from Jimma) make the trek to my hub town of Limmu Genet. They decided that i was close enough where they could come spend the day visiting without having to stay the night.
I cannot explain how excited I was to have them come my way. However, rainy season proved it to be excited and the cats and dogs continued to unleash their rage. Once we found each other through the rain we made out way quickly through the accumulating sip and slide mud test and stopped at a coffee house to let the rain pass. As soon as we sat down…
Everyone, EVERYONE was staring.
All eyes expressing a very clearly “WTF is going on” look. Deaf people and sign language is less common in the rural communities. Even more so, here was a Forengie signing with them and now she is speaking Afan Oromo to the waitress.
Bewilderment was the aurora.
Normally, the eyes would get tiring and annoyance would build up inside me. However, this experience proved to be a bit different. I think it might have been the fact that I have been used to people staring at me when I would sign with my parents back at the states. So this time while walking around Limmu signing away with copious amounts of eyeballs staring…
I was thriving.
I could of not cared less if people were staring at me.
I walked with pride like I had just won a hot dog eating contest.
The situation made me feel closer to home in a strange distant way and I wanted to bask in it forever.
After the rain let up we decided to visit the market so I could buy some food. The mud was relentless as I almost fell on my bum bum more than one time. Each time I would slip I would let out a “Whooop!” Holler as the boys would reach out and keep me up right. I then would laugh away because well.. I find almost slipping and destroying my clothes a laughing matter. 🤷🏽♀️
The day was passing and the two men decided that they wanted to come to Chime for a short bit, a quick visit to see the life I was living. I was over the moon about this because then my town could see me speaking the “strange other language” that I said I knew, so of course I enthusiastically said “YES!”
I introduced the boys to a couple of the compound members and we proceeded to my house to chat for a bit. The boys didnt have a lot fo time to stay and hang out but enough time for the father of the compound to come stand in my doorway, not saying a word, but exposing the widest grin I have ever seen and a magnificent sparkle, shining from his eyes. He was blown away and loved seeing me beaming.
Once they left my compound most of the family had a glaze of amazement and a true understanding when I said, “This is how I communicate with my parents”. And that, that true sense of understanding between all parties made me feel like I was soaring through the clouds.
And also, naturally…the girls thought the boys were cute and that I should marry the one that didnt have a wife yet. The girls in the compound are set on having Isabella marrying an Ethiopian and staying in Chime with them for the rest of my life.
..I wonder if this is why they are adamant on having me learn the womanly chores…?
I had felt a weird sadness that followed a while after they left. There is just something about the Deaf culture that is like an addiction. No matter where I am, it gives me a sense of belonging and a homey feeling, that I always want more of. I knew it was going to be a while before I saw them but..
Time always goes faster than I think and before I knew it Cassidy (PCV) and I headed to Addis Ababa for a Deaf Christian Conference that the two boys invited us to. It was a weekend event where they sung songs and held lessons about different parts of the Bible.
Walking though the doorway into the compound was heart warming. No voices, only hands moving about.
The excited grins could n be erased from either of our faces. Needless to say the time spent in Addis was phenomenal. We were able to meet many deaf individuals which can help me tremendously in getting some future projects done that I have been thinking about.
Side note: Peace Corps Ethiopia has different committees one can apply to be on. For instance, Gender Equality Committee, Malaria committee, Abilities committee, etc. In these committees you can work together on side projects to help other volunteers, communities, and yourself to be successful.
I am sure you all can guess which one I applied for..yes the Abilities Committee that works with and empowers individuals who are seen as “disabled” or “less than” here in Ethiopia.
Therefore, going to this Deaf conference was HUGE for me to network and figure out how to be helpful in the Deaf community. If you are all wondering, yes they spoke mostly in Amharic Sign Language but quite a few individuals knew American Sign Language and fo true most part I could get by understanding most of what people were saying. The beauty of sign language. My goal for the next year however is to continue to study and learn Amharic Sign language so that I can better communicate with individuals.
Not only was the conference amazing but so was the food selection in Addis that I knew little about. All the hidden restaurants that had GLORIOUS food kept in the shadows (not really but to me Addis is big and monstrous). Thanks to a PCVL John who lives in Addis and could tell us all the secrets! Addis doesn’t seem so big and bad anymore. You da best John John!
A few days later one of the compound brothers and I decided to hike to a town called Limu Seka where a fellow Peace Corps volunteer lived (Sharon). She was getting ready to finish her service and wanted to give me some of her things. Since there are trails we can take to reach there, I decided why not, it might be rainy season but I was up for the adventure. So off we went.
We walked, talked, slipped some in the mud and then ran across a river that held a man and his canoe.
Yes, I said canoe.
Even if the crossing of the stream was small, my internal bubbles of adrenaline started to release as I squatted down in the middle of the long swaying wood canoe as we roads across the river.
We hopped out and continued on until we reached Limu Seka. It was a unique feeling to think that it didn’t matter how I acted because it is unlikely that I would be there again. No I did not then go streaking done the main road, but I let the giddiness from the canoe carry over into my interactions with the community. Playful I was with the staring eyes that asked who is this new forengie.
Spending the day in Seka was a blast but equally a feeling of somber arose as we G18s have started to say goodbye to the G15s ending their service. Friendships that had just started to cultivate are now ending abruptly because of time. The strange beauty of Peace Corps as the continuation of volunteers who come and leave. As goodbyes were said, new Hellos were vocalized as the G19 crew has made their way through PST and started to replace all the old volunteers. It is a constant motion of meeting new people and saying “See ya later” to others.
I am also very enthused to announce that Sharon from Limmu Seka was replaced by another female volunteer named Jess.
Jess and I met up in Limmu genet after her first week at site and I am beyond excited to have her so close to me. (She is also from Missouri?!? How cool is that) We spent the day with me showing her around and helping her purchase new things for her site which solidified the feeling of “I am no longer the newb”. It was fun to be the “Older and Wiser” volunteer that could help out even if I really was only a few months older. Jess had actually made a friend from her training site (The same as mine – Terre) and her family lives in Limmu Genet and she happened to be there while we were. So we spent the rest of the afternoon eating lunch, drinking coffee, and getting to know each other.
Needless to say, I am beyond stoked to have this friendship begin. It’s nice to know there is another Forengie close by.
As I have been continuously saying goodbye to the G15, i unfortunately had to say goodbye to Abeba. She decided that it was her time to go back to Addis Ababa (her home town) to be with her family and find work there. Our time was short but oh so sweet. I am sure that her and I will keep in touch as time moves forward.
While away from blogging, I have embraced three holidays here in my town. The biggest and first was Arafa.
August 21st was a huge Muslim Holiday called Arafa. Little work was done the week before (as everyone was preparing for the holiday) and little work was done the week of (as holidays linger for 3 to 4 days).
Arafa was all anyone could talk about and I was becoming excited with my community. Holiday is coming! Holiday is coming! Arafa is the holiday that everyone gets to indulge in meat, and mind you, not just one meal kind of deal. but EVERY, DANG, MEAL is going to include meat. Whether it is the meat of the legs, stomach, or breast, ya is gonna be eating meat.
The day started with an early wake up call and heading down the street to an open field where a prayer ceremony was to take place. I took a seat on a stump in the back and let the rest of the family members continue on. Each person had a tarp, rug, o some kind of material to sit on. The men went to the front section, the younger boys behind them, and then the women and babies in the back section. Watching everyone rush in to celebrate and pray together in unison was truly a remarkable moment to be apart of. There was a sense of gratitude and pure happiness that filled the aroma surrounding us, like we were cultivating a happy bubble shield around us.
From there, we all walked back to our homes and the butchering of the last took place all over town. My compound and ten other men contributed to one cow and yes.. I want to experience everything while I am here. SO, you bethca bottom dollar I trucked my behind to the back of the corn field and watched them play tug of war with the cow until they ultimately won. I was proud of myself, I only squinted my eyes a few times at the action of it all happening and no it did not make me want to be a vegan…?
I hope that doesn’t say something a bad about myself?
After the first one was killed, a group of younger men and kids told me to follow them (Izzy come on! Hurry!) to watch the next one down the road. We briskly walked down the path to the next house. The cow here though was HUGE and put up a hell of a fight. I literally started to get worried that they weren’t going to be able to get him down, as I took a few steps backwards. but more men jumps in and finally brought him down.
After that one, I said I had seen enough of the killing of cows and was ready to head back to the compound. In doing so I decided to plant a chair in the back yard and watch the men divvy up the meat and also…eat the fresh raw meat.
A cultural difference here in Ethiopia for sure. Straight from cow to mouth with no cooking in between. Nom Nom…No?
During this time the wonderful Mike showed up and was going to spend the holiday with the compound family.
That day and the two following consisted of eating a lot of bidenna with a garlic, oil dressing, eating meat, drinking butter coffee, and chatting with family and community members.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself..
The second and third Holidays was the Ethiopian New Years and Mekele that was celebrated by a few households in my town. Mostly only the Orthodox families celebrate these holidays and since I am forengie I have the back stage pass to everything. Needless to say the day started with Sitina and I heading to a household to set up a New handwashing station. (I will say, it is probably our best one yet!)
After that we both headed to a co workers house to indulge in some yummy bread, popcorn, and a honey, sugary sweet drink called Birrzi. However, once at one house, it is almost inevitable to not be called to another house, and another house, so I spent the day house hopping eating a variety of foods, especially meat and had to call it quits before my stomach exploded. I am learning and feeling more comfortable these days to tell people “No thank you, I have had enough” even if they continue to press me to eat. These holidays are especially some of my favorites because I get to meet new people and make more connection sin my town. For instance I met one teacher who came back from the summer off and told him about how I wanted to start a girls club and English club at the school and he let me know that he thought it was possible and seemed excited for me to do it.
A little less than a week later I was unfortunately hit with the rumble stomach, bubble guts, liquid poos kind of deal. The bad kind where you are too scared to fart for fear it might let out something you don’t want… Great picture I just put in your mind huh?
You are welcome. 🙂
Needless to say, I thought I was on my death bed. One of the compound brothers came to get me for the usual morning coffee and getting up from my bed and walking to the door left me sweating and nauseous as I answered the door hunched over. “Maal Taate” (What is wrong?) he piped as he grabbed on to me. He took me to the health clinic where I had to take yet another stool sample and this time…which I knew already, it came back wih a it bacterial infection. That explains the knife stabbing pain that pulsed through my stomach. Luckily, I had antibiotics to help cure me. I walked slowly home and laid on my bed for the rest of the day.
A cultural difference between Ethiopians and Americans is that in America when you are sick, we are usually left alone. Maybe a dad comes in to take your temperature or give you food but most the time while sick you are left alone.
However, in Ethiopia, if someone is sick you go and sit with them. Also, everyone in the family must at some point go in and ask “Wayya Qabda” to see if they are doing better. If you don’t ask, it is almost seemed as rude. So, while I was sick I had a knock on the door and one of the sisters came in, followed by one of the wives, followed by her kids, followed by one of the sons, followed by well.. everyone else. A one point in the evening I had everyone in my house sitting and talking around me. Initially, I thought I would of hated it, but, first off, I was too sick to care and I could just lay there without being told to talk every second (which was kinda nice) and second off, they still made me smile even if I had to hold in the occasional toot while they were present.
I truly felt loved, as they continually wanted to make sure I was okay. It was a beautiful cultural difference that I appreciated more than I would have ever thought.
Work continues to move slowly, however, each step is a foot in the right direction. Recently Sitina (My counterpart) and I went to Addis for a project management training. It was a great few days to spend together and work on our ideas for a girls club at the school. Sitina has proved to be one of the best counterparts at a training and at site. She is beyond helpful and I feel so blessed.
We have continued to visit households and teach mothers about sanitation and hygiene which eventually will turn into nutrition lessons, and after a culmination of 10 classes each mother can then graduate and receive a certificate from us to post on her wall.
We have also engaged with the school director about a girls club which seems very doable and I am beyond excited to get this started as school is slowly becoming up and running again.
One of the most exciting news though that I have to share is one of our compound moms had a new baby boy! It is an exciting time for the family and now my baby fever just continues to increase…🙈🙈
And baby Hasna is starting to walk!!!
In just a short week Cassidy, Kiya, and I will be taking a couple weeks vacation to explore the northern part of Ethiopia and I am beyond excited for this adventure. Site is great but some times getting out and exploring the country can do us some mental good.
Thank you all for reading and staying tuned even though my posts haven’t been as frequent! Keep the positive juju’s coming! ALSO, ask me your questions! I am curious what you guys are curious about!
Can you believe on October 15th I will have been at site for 6 months already and will only have a year and half left?!
I wish I could understand how fast time flies.
Iz and Oz