October 23rd to November 30th
I just finished taking a bucket shower in a little mud room section in my house. Currently now sitting on the floor, listening to Nathaniel Rateliff that I downloaded in Addis, as I reflect on this past month.
Even seven months in at site, my days are still as unpredictable when I first came. Being a health or agriculture volunteer, our days are made up by what we want them to be. We make our schedules unlike the Education volunteers who have a more stern schedule with the school system. (Pros and Cons to both sides no doubt). I plan my week as much as I can, but life here is just unpredictable, some things go according to plan, some things happen maybe two hours after planned, and sometimes things don’t fruition as our imagination thought they would. After being here for seven months though, I have been learning to have a celebration when things happen as I thought, to go grab some coffee with a neighbor if I find myself waiting, and when things don’t happen, I find myself reviewing my plans, and planning for the next time I can try it out again. It’s the beauty of this Chime, Ethiopia life.
To be in the holiday spirit, I thought I would share about how we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Ethiopia last week and share what I am grateful for… Cliche no?
So… Enjoy my friends!
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
In Ethiopia, most of us volunteers coagulated in our big hub towns; Jimma, Addis, Mekelem, Hawassa. Since some volunteers are Education volunteers, they were unable to make it on Thursday as they had classes to teach. The rest of us decided to still go ahead and make the trip into Jimma and have a smaller Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday and then a larger one on Saturday.
Thursday mid morning most of us headed to the Peace Corps office and began the cooking festivities. There are no turkeys to be found so we decided a chicken and chicken tacos will satisfy us just fine. SO…Jacob brought a fat “forengie” chicken from his site to Jimma and I joked with him about having me kill it. (Parts of me wanted to experience this and equally parts of me said run away). Jacob of course said “Yes!” And well… next thing I knew I was holding a knife in my hand standing next to a hanging chicken.
I WAS TERRIFIED.
I had come to this dilemma that if I am not willing to kill it, I should not be eating it and I for one used to eat chicken in the states ALL the time. I wanted to be able to learn the process of preparing a chicken from beginning to end.
After minutes of having Jacob repeat the same instructions to me over and over, and freaking out, I finally held up my shaking hands and knife and with the assistance of Jacob and the “You can do it!” from fellow PCVs… I killed the chicken and we began the feather plucking process. (Although, I did have to take a minute hunched over at first to let my shaking hand settle itself.) Was it as bad as I thought, no. Could I do it again, Yes. To simply answer the pondering questions.
The rest of the day was spent cooking, dancing, singing, calling family members, and just simply enjoying each other’s company as we celebrated this American Holiday. The power would turn off on us occasionally for a short stint and we would pull out our cell phone flash lights and continue on cooking, dancing, and singing. How fun it was to spend this holiday in Ethiopia surrounded with people who are going through the exact same thing as you, who understand the struggles and highs just like you. I couldn’t of asked for a better turn out.
Saturday was more chill as we had to take some turns in the kitchen as the kitchen is rather small and some others needed to get things done before they headed back to site. For dinner however, there was about 20 of us and let me tell you… I had a very very happy, full belly.
Needless to say, I missed my family and not being able to celebrate with them of course… but I had a wonderful time celebrating with these new friends of mine. It was a Thanksgiving different than I have ever had, but it will be one I will never forget. During these holiday times it is hard to not think about how different life is right now, how my perspective on simple things have shifted, how much more grateful I have become for things I didn’t think twice about in the states.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”
The things I am grateful for:
Nothing will ever replace my family. EVER. However, I am beyond grateful to have been placed in a compound with a family that has opened their arms to me. Seven months at site, I feel like I am literally part of the family. The girls feel like my sisters and the boys feel like my brothers. I literally fight/wrestle with the younger girls when they won’t give my phone back. I venture out to play soccer with the brothers and other town boys. (That caused a huge ruckus in town, as I was the first girl to do as such). The mother now introduces me to other strangers as “Mucca Koo” (My Kid). I help out with household chores more because I enjoy feeling like I am equally contributing to the family. I one day will borrow salt from them and the next they will borrow some of my oil. I will have the younger sibling go buy biscuits as I make tea and the mom and sisters sneak into my house as we shut the doors and have tea time with just us girls. We sit, whisper, and giggle at the people who come by and have no idea about this mini party going on inside. I have been blessed. I know that this compound will have my back if anything was to arise. We look out for each other and I could not ask for better people to support me. Not everyone gets placed in a compound who is so welcoming and I am beyond grateful that I have been placed here, this compound, this town, this region of Ethiopia.
Nothing will ever replace my friends. EVER. However, being place in Peace Corps, it has made me branch outside of myself even more. I am a social person, don’t get me wrong, but here if you want to make friends, you have to put in the time and effort more than in the states. It would be so easy to lock mysel in my house and live the hermit lifestyle. But, I don’t really think that is my cup of tea. I am grateful for the friends I have cultivated. The ones that are host country nationals, that have taken the time to get to know me and are not scared to sit and have actual conversations. The friends that are other PCVs who have accepted me and my obnoxious ways, the ones who have taken time to meet up in the bigger towns and spend time getting to know me. These friends are the people I hold very close to my heart, these friends are going to be apart of my life for a long time and I thank each and every one of you.
Nothing will ever replace a nice Hersey’s dark chocolate bar. EVER. However, it has been intriguing to realize how much sugar we use in the States. Ethiopia’s chocolate/ sweets scene is pretty non existent. Most “sweet” things that we have in the states is not available here and if it is, it doesn’t usually compare to the sweets in the states. While being here it has been nice to take a step back on the sugar and just enjoy the food that is present. Most of the foods I eat here does not have sugar in it unless I purposely add it to my coffee. I am grateful to have this time to step back and realize our/my obsession with sugar in the states and to have well.. a break from it.
Nothing will ever compare to a Wal-Mart. EVER. However, it has been such a great learning curve to only eat what is locally grown. To go to the market on market day and have foods that are from around where I live. It is always interesting to remember that oh yeah, if I didn’t have something I could run right to Wal-Mart and pick it up no worries. Here, I either wait until next week or I have to ask a neighbor for it. For this, I have been grateful to learn how to eat locally. To learn how to eat what is in season, to learn how to ask my neighbors for something if I run out. I am grateful for this culture and their sense of community.
Nothing will ever compare to buying meat that is ready to cook. However, it has been amazing to realize that I don’t need meat every day. Meat in rural areas only happens on holidays or a special event. If you want meat on a daily basis, at least in my town you would have to go into the next town of Limmu and eat it at a restaurant. Preparing meat at home takes too long to perform it every day. You have to kill it, clean it, cut it, cook it, etc., etc, none of that can be done in less than one hour like it would in the states. You can drive to the grocery store, pick out already cleaned, cut meat, drive home, cook it on an electric stoves, and eat it all within an hour if you wanted to. Here, things don’t move that fast. I am grateful to learn not to eat meat everyday. To learn, that my body doesn’t need it every day and most importantly, I have learned to have a different relationship with meat. If I cannot kill it as I said earlier, I should not be eating it. It has become more than ever incredibly important for me to know where my meat is coming from, that it was living a good life, and that if it came down to me having to kill, cut, clean, and cook it, that I could.
Nothing will compare to a HOT shower on a daily basis. However, I have learned to be grateful for water. Hot showers are slim pickings. At site, I use a big basin, filled with water, and use a pitcher to pour the water over myself, mind you, this is usually COLD ass water. Additionally, when I go into Jimma there isn’t a 100 percent guarantee the showers will have hot water. However, through all of this, I have learned how to conserve water in case our tap/pump turns off (as it does frequently) I have learned that having the capability to turn a knob and have hot water come out everyday is a privilege. I have learned that turning a knob and having copious amounts of water run for as long as you want, is a privilege. I have been so grateful to learn the true importance and sacredness of water.
Nothing will ever compare to a gym set up with all the fixins’. However, I am grateful to learn how to stay fit without a gym. Without the easy step on elliptical or all the machines that give you that extra boost to go. I have been grateful while living in my rural village to learn how to use my body weight to exercise. I have learned how to make/create “weights” out of tin cans, cement, and pipes. I have learned how to continue to stay motivated without all the extra supplies. I am grateful for this experience even as my body changes from what it was in the states, I am grateful to become more self reliant with my workouts.
Nothing will ever compare to a constant, reliable network. EVER. However, I have learned to appreciate the days where it works crystal clear. For instance, some days, I can have. A face Time call with someone in the states and the quality is over the moon. Other days, I cannot even have a continuous phone call with someone who lives 5 hours from me. In these moments, frustration is inescapable. Therefore, I am grateful for those moments when it does work. I have become more of a phone call person than ever before because hearing peoples voices is that much more sweet than just a text message. I have learned to take the time I have to commmunicatie with people to heart. It is not something to brush off because I am not sure I will have good service in the futures. Unreliable service has made me grateful for technology and the capability that I can still reach out to someone in the states, even if the call is glitchy. Even more so, I am grateful for the folks in the States that put up with the lagging and put up with the late responses.
Nothing will ever compare to a washing machine. EVER. However, hand washing my clothes has made appreciation of the clothes I wear. Explaining how we wash clothes in the States is easy and hard to explain. “We use a Machine” is all I say but sometimes I wonder if they really realize how easy washing clothes in the States is. I mean… you dump clothes in a machine, press a button, and walk away. How much easier could it get? I have actually begun to enjoy washing my clothes by hand even if it takes hours. It has become a mediation sequence for me. I have learned to enjoy being outside and processing through the clothes. I have learned to not “waste” clothes by wearing them once and putting them in the dirty pile. I have learned to wear clothes for a sequence of days just like every one else here. We have to be more selective with what we wear because we know we will have to wash it by hand, and plowing through a huge amount of clothes would be dreadful.
Nothing will ever compare to Coffee Shop Lattes… However, I am grateful to learn the process of it all. I have always enjoyed indulging in copious amounts of coffee at home and in coffee shops. Coffee that I drank with no care where it came from or who was busting their ass on their farm for minimal money. I drank it out of habit, out of a need for caffeine, with no appreciation for it. But, while living at site, I have watched the community spend their days picking coffee beans from the bushes, drying it out, picking the beans out, cleaning the beans, roasting the beans, grounding the beans, and finally boiling the powder to make that tasty, tasty cup of coffee. Coffee that is the root of this country. Coffee that is a social gathering. No one here drinks coffee by themselves. It is a social matter. Any one that walks by “Come drink coffee!” Is shouted. It is symbolic for community, it is a ceremony, it is a family, it is beautiful. I have been so grateful to learn about the beauty and pure ness of coffee in this country.
Nothing will ever compare to reliable electricity. EVER. However, I have been blessed to learn that reliable electricity is a gift. It is a privilege to live somewhere where the only electricity problems are when a horrible storm occurs. I am grateful to have learned that life will still go on when the electricity is out for three days and some of my electronics die. I am grateful to realize that electricity isn’t the most important thing in the world, candles and flash lights work just fine. Maybe not the best, but they work. Electricity is a privilege, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity in this life to realize that.
“Be Satisfied, Be Grateful. For what you have, for this love you receive, and for what God has given you. That is it.”
I had one of the strangest experiences recently where I was sitting in my house in the evening and the mother of the compound yells out to me through my mud walls “Izzy you are home?” And I holler back “Yeah, I am home!” And she yells back “Ishi, Beradu dha” (Okay, beautiful). I sat there smiling and then tears came to my eyes. (I guess I was feeling emotional). And I thought, man….how I am going to miss this. Being able to yell at each other through the walls of our houses. This sense of family, community, of simplicity. I know I still have a long way to go and I shouldn’t think of such, but I couldn’t help my self. Don’t get me wrong…man…
oh man…. do I miss my American home, family, and friends.
But holy smokes….
If someone was to say Izzy you have to leave tomorrow. I think I would lose myself in tears.
I am grateful most of all….
For this experience. For the laughs, the struggles, the highs, the relationships, the frustrations, the learning, the failures, the successes, the beauty…
For this once in a life time experience.
I am so, so grateful.
Iz and Oz
“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it fearlessly.”