Learning how to bend

1 week ago, I was surrounded among friends having just left my host family in a city that I had accustomed to and I was completely oblivious to what waited at my site. I had my swear-in ceremony on the 19th and it was a joyous time of celebration with good food, a strawberry daiquiri and some great company. I was more than ready to go to site, where I would have control of what I ate, what my day consisted of and how the next 2 years will be.

I left for Jimma on the 20th, which is about 6 hours away from site at 5:30 in the morning. I arrived at Jimma at around 1 p.m. unsure of what to do. I got a room for 193 birr (approximately $10 USD) and decided to veg. out. I didn’t leave the room for lunch or dinner, and instead relied on peanuts that I had bought in Addis. Breakfast at 4:30 a.m. in the morning would have to suffice, as well. I sat in my hotel room where I began to watch Psych but eventually the power went out. There goes my fully charged battery and the hot shower. I sat in my room contemplating what to do next and so I began to journal. I wrote my deepest thoughts in that book but what resonated most is “what the hell am I doing here? Can I do this on my own?” That wasn’t the first occasion where Ms. Doubts & Mr. Fears came to say hi, but the more time I spent writing down my thoughts, the quicker their voices were silenced. Not long after, the power came back on. I awoke the next day, had eggs for breakfast with delicious bread and was ready to take the world on.. that is until I tried to negotiate prices on a mattress when I arrived in Bonga.

The color of my skin, the color of my eyes, my hair and even my height is a dead give away that I do not belong here. I stand out as a foreigner. Needless to say, while I am learning Amharic, my language abilities are not spectacular and one word that I do not know, the store owner quickly change to English. I was not going to purchase a mattress that day but I would be back on Friday with the help of Lalmba Health Clinic to safely retrieve a bed. I was looking for a spring mattress as those last longer than foam mattresses. I was told that the price for a twin mattress was 3000 birr (approximately $157 USD) and a full mattress was 5000 birr (approximately $263). For those reading this, you may laugh and think that the prices are not too bad and I’m making a big deal out of nothing but remember I am on a budget and I do not getting paid until the 10th. I was given the first part of my allowance which turned out to 5963 birr or approximately $313, and I would receive the other 4500 birr on the 10th. I left Bonga with Lalmba staff bitter and miserable because I was getting ferenji prices and was not being recognized as a local. It did not matter that I would be living here for the next 730 days of my life.

On Monday, I stepped foot into the high school since site visit and not much has changed. It was raining so plenty of mud to go around and the grass needed to be cut. I’m not sure if school has started but I know registration is still going on. I arrived at 8 a.m. which I was not looking forward to getting up that early and was led to the directors office. The definition of “meeting” my director is to sit into the chair in the principals office while he talks to the student and registers them for 30 minutes. The VP came and got me and I continued to sit some more. I was told I would be teaching 1 class not 2 and that I could be scheduled either in the morning or the afternoon. Then, there was a lack of communication between PC and my school, so I was told I could start teaching today. Right, like that would happen! I have not taught 11th grade, I haven’t even looked over the materials and I don’t have any of my luggage, etc. The list goes on and on. I technically have a week where I settle in and then go to school the following week and begin my two weeks of co-teaching. It is after then that I can begin teaching on my own. As I was leaving my school and walking back to Lalmba, I was told by someone that I need to have ceremony for my compound family. I wasn’t in the mood so I smiled at him.

I am trying to gain my bearings being out here on my own but most days, I don’t know what I feel. It’s a combination of I want to be left alone and yet, I still want to feel like I belong in this community. Peace Corps however has done a fabulous job of teaching me lots of patience and in great diversity, how to keep calm. I’m hoping that over the course of two years and in plenty lulls of bad days, I can remember a quote from a song lyric that my best friend showed me. It goes like this: “every storm runs out of rain. Every dark night turns into day.” More importantly, “I’m still learning how to bend.” By the way, those two are lyrics from two different songs of Gary Allan. Oh, his music speaks to my soul.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    See? Simply a mater of avoiding the road & going cross-country, making your own path!


  2. So i know i may not stand out as much as you… being black and all lol BUT i feel your pain about the ferenji prices. one time in Buta i was buying some food and after paying and walking away i hear the guy in the store and like 2 other customers there start laughing -_- I’m sure i was cheated lol but my jaw dropped as i read the cost for your bed! girl i just got a foam full sized matterss and it was 1,200 birr. i got the firmest foam one they had and so far i love it.

    keep writing! i hope things work out at ur site, u get some furniture and we both start integrating 🙂


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