Today I arrived back to Aman after being out of site for a little over two weeks. Taking a quick look at my calendar I reminded myself again that G7 (the number given to my group of fellow PCVs that arrived last June) is getting ready to pass the one year mark in Ethiopia. It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year since I arrived on June 6, 2012 in Addis Ababa. Some days seem like they drag on forever but then I travel or something and get back to my site and realize time is flying. I was reading a couple of my fellow G7 PCV’s blogs and they were trying to reflect on our first year in country. An important similarity is that we all kind of feel like we’ve done nothing. We’ve worked effortlessly to get trainings for our teachers put together, get English clubs up and running at our schools and although not all has failed, this first year was more of a test run for year 2. Getting teachers to absorb and actually use information you give them or getting them to even show up for a training is sometimes beyond frustrating. Students on the other hand (although they usually come in flocks of 100) are more open to learning and being around the ferenji teacher that speaks weird English. All in all, looking back over this past year I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and Peace Corps staff warned us about this from the beginning. You don’t know how true this is until you are stuck in a remote village staring at your ceiling hours on end trying to figure out how to make a difference or some sort of impact on your community. I guess what I’ve learned is to take every challenge like a grain of salt. Some projects I do just aren’t going to work out, some more than others. Something else I’ve realized is that this experience is not just about having successful projects in my host community, it is about me growing as a person. PCVs have a lot of free time and a new challenge to myself for my second year in Ethiopia is to learn more about myself and to have more self-reflection time. My Peace Corps service should be as much of a teaching experience as it is a learning experience. Instead of worrying about what lies ahead so much I must slow down and try to live in the moment and really appreciate the little things. If I can do this I think there are many things I can learn about myself and about the world from my host community and from the Ethiopian people as a whole.
Now, looking back on the past weeks and new projects for year two. As I mentioned I just returned to my site after being away for a couple of weeks. I was able to travel to beautiful Hawassa, the regional capital of the Southern Nation’s region to help out with a half-marathon that was held on May 12th. Getting there was a hassle. On the way into Jimma on day one of the three day journey to Hawassa I was with my fellow G7 PCV that lives up the road in Mizan and our bus broke down – completely. We were forced to walk to the next village a couple kilometers down the road where we had to wait for a couple hours for a minibus to arrive to take us on to Jimma. Well, it actually took three minibuses but we finally made it to Jimma, then on to Addis the next day and then to Hawassa. After spending two nights in Hawassa hanging out with fellow PCVs who had also traveled long distances to participate in the race, I made my way back to Addis.
On May 14 I woke up really early to catch a Selam Bus to start a long journey to Bahir Dar, another beautiful city in the northwest of Ethiopia. Lucky me, I guess I brought bad luck to the group of PCVs I was traveling with along with our counterparts because our bus broke down about 40 minutes outside of Addis. We waited for four hours until a new public bus arrived. We weren’t to happy about this because we knew we had to travel through the big gourge located on the road between Bahir Dar and Addis. We made it safely through the gourge but then the issue was that our bus driver decided it was smart to go 105 kph instead of the posted 80 kph. The driver finally got a speeding ticket but that didn’t stop him. We continued up the road and hit a bump cracking the windshield of our bus into many different directions. After watching the bus attendants hold the window in place as we barreled along for quite a while we finally came to a stop. This time in a small town called Finote Selam. We were all told to get out and to find another minibus to make it the rest of the way to Bahir Dar. We were rushed into a minibus by our counterparts and finally made it to Bahir Dar late in the evening. Nonetheless, the rest of the week was a great success and I think for the most part we all tried to put the horrible bus ride from hell at the back of our minds. In Bahir Dar, a group of 20 PCVs and their counterparts participated in a training of coaches for the Grassroots Soccer “Peace Corps Skillz” program to teach kids about HIV/AIDs. Our two training facilitators that flew in from Cape Town, South Africa were awesome and really got us pumped for Grassroots Soccer and its new partnership with Peace Corps Ethiopia. I’m really excited about Grassroots Soccer and I plan to start the program in Aman at the start of the next school year in September. After the training was over it was time to head back to Addis. For all the trouble we had to go through on the way up Peace Corps thought it would be nice to fly us back to Addis. It was quite pleasant and instead of a 17 hour journey it took us about 50 minutes to get back to Addis. Before leaving Bahir Dar I did go for a swim and took in the beautiful views of Lake Tana, the source of the Nile River.
I spent this last week in Addis visiting the Peace Corps’ doctors and taking care of some stomach issues as well as a bad sun burn. Anyways, I’m back in Aman and the school year is wrapping up. Headed to school tomorrow with the main task of getting campers selected for our Jimma Camp G.L.O.W. (Girls Leading Our World) that will take place in mid-July. Camp in Jimma will be the last big project before I come home for vacation to the US. I’m beyond excited!! I will fly into Kansas City on August 8th and depart August 30th to head to DC for a day before making my journey back to Ethiopia to participate in G7’s MSC (mid-service conference) in Addis the first week of September. Well, that’s it for now. Remember to breathe and live life in the moment!