Thursday, July 31, 2014


Last night, after roughly 30 hours of time spent in airports or airplanes, I slipped under the sheets of my bed in my parents home and immediately thought 'my bed is more comfortable'.  Never mind the fact that in Huruta I pretty much slept on thick foam and here in the States I have a spring mattress.  It didn't feel like my bed, my home.

And that was weird.

All day yesterday, I pretty much hung out with my sister. We saw my grandma, who is now in assisted living. Did some grocery shopping, looked at phones (man do I need one), and talked.  Ethiopia, obviously, came up in our conversations, but mainly as a comparison to our surroundings. Like the fact Panera is freezing because, hello, I haven't felt air conditioning in two year.

But other than that, it's amazing how well I slipped back into American life.  I put on clothes that have sat in my dresser for two years and they fit the same. I made breakfast, finding the cereal and milk in the usual spots. I did laundry, reaching for the Tide automatically.

I think what was really weird was driving last night. I met up with my dad and sister for dinner, and they gave me a location like I'm a local 'it's on Trenton by Eureka' and I just nodded and it wasn't until I was on my way out did I realize - I don't remember where that is. So I called my sister, got directions, and then...didn't follow them. It was like my body was on autopilot, taking me a different way, while at the same time I was hyper aware of speed limits, other cars, lights, the radio and omg why are the wipers moving?! Wait, it's staring to rain?  Automatic things are a little weird and make me anxious.

Driving made me realize I'm feeling that way a lot, that I'm slipping back into life but at the same time not.  I know where things are, I know how things are done and what most social norms and cues are here. But I'm constantly amazed by them in my head (podcasts actually downloading? cold milk? so much food in a store? a washing machine instead of buckets? decent shampoo and conditioner? traffic laws? more than three types of beer? more than a page of food choices, and they're ALL available to order? dimmer switches? does my family really need 4 cars? and so many plates and glasses? HD TV is beautiful. the network connects a call on the first try?) and feel like I'm just blocking a lot of thought and dialog because saying all that aloud and just staring at the TV remotes (why are there four?!) is weird.

When I went to Zambia, part of the amazingness was going with another PCV and just talking about things. OMG look at all the asphalt. That's a stoplight!  A mall!? I haven't even seen a Subway for a year, we're eating there. She got the crazyiness, and it was good to get that out in the open, even if the people around us I'm sure thought we were a little bit strange.

As it is now, not really able to voice that, I feel like I'm in this limbo status.  On top of that, the few people I've seen have asked me about my time in Ethiopia and it's hard to know what to say.  It's not a vacation where I can list my activities and gush over the food.  It's my life. Was. Was my life. And what I think of as highlights might not be what other people would have labeled as such. My projects, sure, but even that first Timket when Dani made sure to take care of me, when I realized she wasn't just a landlady but a sister.
Maybe that time we trespassed for views...

I think what bothers me is this ability to slip back into America.  I loved my time in Ethiopia, and just as I had to adjust to that I wanted to have an adjustment period back here that's a little rougher than it is, just to solidify the time I spent in Huruta. It was real, it happened, and now you see the world differently.  I want proof of that other than the photos on my hard drive and my dyed hair.  I want to see the difference in me, but it's always been hard to measure self change.

Maybe I'm just still in shock over the fact that I'm here with my family, finally.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gonging Out

Left Huruta a few days ago, and man that was harder and easier than I thought.  Easier, because I totally didn't expect so little tears to fall when I gave Dani a hug goodbye (probably having to do with her pulling away quickly, saying 'no crying', and dabbing at her own eyes). Harder, because I didn't realize how attached I was until I realized that I had to leave site a full day earlier then I planned, with less than 24 hour notice. Time I expected to have with people (or places, I wanted to see the waterfall one last time) disappeared.

Maybe it's all my experiences, or just me getting older, but the anxiety, expectation and other emotions about a big event don't hit me until they're in motion lately. For many habasha families I only realized just how much they made my time better and how much I'll miss them as I was giving goodbye hugs. And leaving an extra day apparently meant the mini dinner party Dani wanted to have in my honor didn't happen.

But really, a last taste of Dani's shiro and bunna, one last conversation of laughs and knowing that she could relate to my feelings a bit from her own travels, was enough for me.

Today was more goodbyes.

PC had us all arrive in country together, but we leave separately. Come August people are leaving in groups of six, but this month of early leaving dates are set by grad school and other American issues. So I'm flying by myself on July 29th (2am flight, oh boy) but have spent most of this week doing paperwork and just hanging out with other PCVs who took off this night.

I'm so glad I got to spend this extra time with them, as we were placed at opposite sides of the country and only saw each other at trainings after PST.

As a group, we all gonged out this afternoon.  It's a Peace Corp tradition some posts use, where PCVs are thanked for their service and we in turn get a chance to thank the staff. And then we ring a gong, one for each year of service symbolizing our change from Peace Corps Volunteer to Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

It's not a very elaborate ceremony, just a circle in the parking lot of the main office in Addis Ababa, but after not having a very official ending to my time in Huruta I really appreciated this one.  It's something concrete, that finial goodbye, and symbol that something has finally ended instead of a murky ground of transition.

I may be sticking around Addis for a few days yet, trying to spend all my birr and make sure my suitcases close and are within the weight limit, but I am officially done with my Peace Corps service.

Pretty sure it'll hit me on the plane.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Huruta GLOW 2014 Video

It took me ages to get this posted to Youtube, but here's highlights from this year's camp.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One Week Left at Site!

Next Wednesday, I'll be hopping on a bus and leaving Huruta forever. Well, hopefully not. People keep asking when I'll return and I don't know what to say.  I have to finish my masters, then get a job, and save up money.  People here keep telling me five years is enough time, but who knows.

It doesn't quite feel real that I'm leaving, not yet, but I've noticed that as I get older and travel more.  I don't anticipate and look forward to things as much.  It didn't quite hit me that I was coming here till my mom dropped me off at the airport, and it didn't hit me how long 27 months was till I was sitting on my bed in my host family's house. I'm expecting things to be the same way here. I'm going around to houses for final meals and saying goodbye, giving away small things like extra spices, books, and kitchen supplies. Still doesn't feel like goodbye for a really long time. But I'll probably be holding back tears getting on the bus.

I am however, very much aware of the following:

Things I'll Miss When I Return to America:

ñ  My wonderful landlady, Dani, and her entire family who welcomed me with open arms
ñ  Yigibashal, a teacher, and her daughter Beti, who were also a surrogate family.
ñ  Going to a suk for bread, being told they're out, and then ordered to wait while they bought some form a store around the corner to sell to me.
ñ Wynshit and her family, for feeding me lunch and bunna every time I stopped by and Mita, the compound child for amazing hugs.
ñ  Visiting a suk, oh maybe every three months, and having the owner ask after my crocheting projects.
ñ  The ability to skip lines, be served first, and allowed to do things others can't because I'm a foreigner. As much as I want to be treated like those around me, sometimes ferengi power is awesome.
ñ  A pretty high life style, relative to others around me.  Most of the people I visit with don't have an electric kettle. Or visit the bigger cities on a regular basis. Or hit up the internet bet every week.
ñ  Bunna ceremonies, shokola t'ibs, tagabeno and other yummy food.
ñ  Playing soccer just to play. It got so competitive in the States.
ñ  Man, the starry sky in my backyard is amazing.

ñ  Juice. It's fresh here and oh so good. More like a smoothy than anything else.

Things I Won't Miss When I Return to America:
ñ  Being asked to personally sponsor programs because since I'm a foreigner I have lots of money.  I might be able to eat out more that you, Mr. Youth and Sport Office, but my shoes are still holey and I don't have that type of cash in my bank account.  Buy your own soccer ball.
ñ  Not having a sink.
ñ  Days of no power.
ñ  Doing laundry by hand.
ñ  The creepy night noises, though to be fair I'm pretty friendly with the compound mouse nowadays when he shows up.
ñ  Confusion about dates and times because everyone will use the same system in the States.
ñ  Roosters in the latrine. Or roosters anywhere crowing all the time.
ñA lack of logical thinking.
ñ  Getting sandblasted by dirt.
ñ  Being stared at, all the time.