December 1st – January 20th
One year down and 2019 to start.
I have lived in Ethiopia for officially one year. One year ago today I was saying good bye to my family and boarding a plane to fly out of the country for the first time in my life…For 27 months before coming back.. Needless to say I was riding on waves of apprehensiveness and audaciousness. Not knowing what to expect but having a “Here we go!” phrase repeating in my mind.
Now as you all have read, I have adapted, learned, cherished, and have become a member of my small rural Ethiopian village. I now have moments where I feel timid to return to America. Fearful of how I will view American culture compared to here. However… I do have moments where I want to shut my eyes and click my heels 3 times. (Don’t worry though, that is a less occurrence though).
Regardless, It has been a top notch rollercoaster and I am hyped to see what ride 2019 will bring me.
I ended 2018 with a bang. I believe most of you know that I had a friend from America come visit me in Ethiopia.
What was it like to have a friend visit….?
Tia Welsh. My dearest friend. Made the big bad trip across the Atlantic to do what? Visit me. How blessed am I? Before she arrived I became anxious and started bouncing around on the balls of my feet. I didn’t know what to expect; John can attest for me. I was all over the place. As I waited at the airport, I saw a woman with long blonde hair strolling a suitcase and wearing a backpack. She was looking around like she was looking for someone and on repeat I said “I think thats her! I think I thats her!”
To my delight, it was. I had tears starting to form in my eyes as I embraced her in a hug. How strange and miraculous it was to be hugging my friend from America in Ethiopia.
Life is unreal.
Needless to say, it was a blast. I believe my favorite part of the trip was being able to take Tia all the way out to my rural village of Chime to show her off.
People were blown away. “Izzy has another forengie with her!”
The first thing we did when we arrived was I took Tia to our local Chime market. I felt cautious that this might not be the best idea because it was 4 pm. Which means the market was going to be a boomin and thrivin. But Tia was down to see it, so we went.
Eyes were pointed at us EVERYWHERE. I mean, I always have my own looks staring at me, but they have lessened as time has passed, but now, people were stopping, staring, and forming circles around us. Some asked if she was my sister, where she came from, etc. etc. I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness but I equally was trying to get through the crowd, get our food, and get back to home base.
While Tia was at site she was able to participate in a day in the life of Isabella Mullins.
We went on walks in each direction of town. She saw the health center. We got called in off the street for coffee as everyone wanted to know about her. She saw the school and met the teachers. She participated in making coffee and the staple injera.
(Thank GOD Tia was a fan of injera). She learned how we wash clothes and at night was able to embrace eating with the family and being “gorsha”ed (Which means someone else feeding you with their hand, I am a sweetheart and thought that she should get to experience it, so I told them to gorsha her. The family very quickly agreed giving her HUGE bites that ended up beings laughing experience).
My compound family fell in love with her, her spirit, and her willingness to learn about their culture.
As much as Tia was here learning, we were able to show a little bit more about us.
For instance, I had Tia bring jiffy pop to share with the family, that was a hit as they edged backwards thinking it was going to explode.
We also were able to share with the family tie dying. This was actually a little bit of a dilemma. They wanted the plain white shirt instead. “Izzy what are you doing? You are ruining the shirt!” They yelped as I added colors to the fabric. “Just be patient!” I hollared back.
They almost seemed annoyed with me but the next day when the shirts were hanging on a line.. I started to hear the “Oh those are pretty” comments. I wanted to rub a “see I told you” but I digressed… some. 😅
During our late night coffee shesh with the family, they asked what Tia did for work. It was a little difficult to get the point across that she is a Sign Language Interpreter but we figured it out and I asked if they wanted us to show them how we can talk in American Sign Language, they of course said yes. Tia and I engaged in a conversation that made us laugh so hard that the family started laughing along with awe. (Essentially Tia was bragging about knowing sign language and how she beats the rest of them. I had tears in my eye from laughing so hard).
I couldn’t have asked for someone better to join me on this adventure. I believe my stomach still hurts from all the full belly laughs we endured.
As 2018 rolled to a close, I was able to celebrate with Tia and other PCVs. I find my self looking back on the year and how life changing it has been. Learning a new culture and language; something I have dreamed of doing. It’s weird to think that I am actually living this dream that I held for so many years.
It’s 2019 and now I have a year and couple months left of my service. It is a bizarre combination of feelings. I think some days that I dont have enough time to finish projects and equally think that it is a long ass time to go.
Something I have realized however through my time in Peace Corps this past year…is that I love people. And people come into our lives for a reason.
(P.s Tia and I were able to see my old host family and their new baby!)
I have learned that we have to open ourselves up to meet new people, and if we do, we can learn about the amazing things they are doing and just maybe, if you are lucky enough, you can have the opportunity to join them.
The random occurrences where you take the chance to say hey and engage in a conversation with someone instead of acting like you dont see them or putting your head phones in, takes away a chance to meet some incredible people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect myself and some days I don’t want to talk to people but putting the effort in and opening myself up has allowed me the opportunities to connect with people from all over the world.
People come and go, everyone that has been in your life has been there for a reason to teach you, to love you, or to experience life with you.
So many people have come into my life and somedays when I let my mind wonder I think of these people and wonder what they are doing. I think of the time spent together and how lucky I was to meet them.
(P.s.s Haasna can now say Izzy. She will walk to my house with a big smile and yell out “Izzy!” She is melting my heart away)
We can’t stay in contact with everyone we meet forever. Everyone has their own lives and jobs to attend to and connection just sometimes doesn’t work again in our favor.
This is an unfortunate part of allowing ourselves to open to people with no destination in mind. But man, to learn how to take and appreciate that person in the time that we have. Whether it be for a 2 hour bus ride or a lasting friendship.. it has been a beautiful life lesson I will never stop using.. what stunning creatures we are.
Anywho, since most people want to post their goals for 2019….So do I 🤗
Goals for Peace Corps service include:
Building a handwashing station at the school. Mike, the PCV before me built new latrines for the school and now the second part of the project is to build a hand washing station for the students along with providing a mini camp to introduce the importance of hygiene.
Secondly, I have had the pleasure of meeting some men from Europe who work for Fairchain Foundation whose focus is on “returning production to the countries of origin.” This was one of those opportunities that I decided to go embrace the only other white people in my town. They have a coffee washing station about 6 km from Chime. (Crazy how I just now met these guys) After meeting with these amazing men, learning about their foundation, and discussing future goals, we decided to team up. I am in hopes to help their foundation by building hand washing stations and collecting data on their farmers while teaching sanitation and hygiene topics to the families. It is still in the infancy stage but I am excited to see where this project can blossom.
Thirdly, thanks to my dear friend Abraham, Tia and I were able to go to a school in Jimma that has a class for Special Education, where most of the kids are Deaf with a couple who have autism. My heart was jumping outside of my chest. They asked how I knew sign language and I was able to share that my parents are deaf and they seemed so thrilled to have me there. The language skills of the kids is pretty low but I am over the moon to start attending this school and help teach, especially because the teachers who reside there seem beyond excited to work with me which just makes me more motivated.
In addition to the Deaf school, I have been hanging around with a couple Deaf guys I met from the Deaf Association crew. They are named Anwar and Nasir and have been some of the sweetest Ethiopians I have met.
They also gave me an Amharic Sign Language book to practice. So my goal for 2019 is to learn Amharic sign language and build some resources for other PCVs to use. Such as video clips and a Deaf Community manual.
Fourthly, I hope to continue with my girls club and hopefully in this coming week have my English clubs started.
Fifthly, I and a few other PCVs plan to hold a camp GLOW in Jimma in August, more about that later but in high hopes of seeing it through.
Some more personal goals:
Become the next Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Aka becoming skilled with my Ukulele.
Study and pass the GRE and start applying to grad school.
Lastly, try to write a book…..shhhhh 🤷🏽♀️😬
A lot of projects….
A lot of ideas…..
And a decent amount of time…
“Here we go!” (Round 2)
Cheers to 2019.
Iz and Oz