After graduating college, I took a trip to visit a friend in Mexico for two weeks. One evening, my friend, her boyfriend and I were watching a phenomenal Spanish movie that brought us all to tears. This movie was called “No Se Aceptan Devoluciones” or “No Instructions Given.” This movie is about Valentin and his baby daughter who gets left on his doorstep by the mother. Valentin leaves Mexico to go to Los Angeles to find the baby’s mother and Valentin ends up finding a new home for himself and his new-found daughter, Maggie. As Valentin struggles with his new role, he ends up finding that in the end, life doesn’t care if you’re ready.
I have been thinking about that movie a lot. Since being here, I have gotten: 1 marriage proposal, 2 “you’re beautiful and I love you,” 4 people kissing my hand, 1 person asking for a visa, 3 people telling me that 22 is old enough to be a mother, 3 people telling me I should take an Ethiopian boyfriend and I’ve heard about a thousand “Hello, how are you, my name is.” Nothing could prepare me for the rollercoaster of emotions I would feel while serving my community but nothing could ever prepare me for the liberating feeling of making it on my own in a developing country. My house is coming along nicely and I call it my own colorful fun house. Why? Maybe these pictures will help in seeing through my eyes.
My house is mine to keep and maintain. It is my safe haven when people are cruel and the world seems most bleak. Over time, with hard work and sweat this house has become mine. This place in Southern Nations has become my home. It may not be perfect, but it is where I am now. Reflecting back on the movie, I am grateful to be here. The support of loved ones back home keeps me going strong. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for those that I’ve loved and who have loved me along the way. Some have taught me how to face life head on and others have taught me how to face life when I am least prepared.
To keep myself occupied, I have started to go to the primary school and help the students in practicing their English. I am to go every other Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. For one hour, I am to get them excited to speak the language and want to learn more by games, by reading, etc. I don’t seem to mind Wednesdays as it’s my busiest day and time flies by when you’re having fun. Plus, I get to see this amazing view at the top of the hill on the way to and from the school. This is where the market is held and every Thursday and Sunday, this place is bombarded by people, but every other Wednesday, this area is my heaven. Nothing can hurt me here: no cruel words, no stares, no fereneji and I definitely don’t need electricity there.
It’s ironic how much time I spent wishing I was somewhere else when I was back in the States. Nowadays, on my really hard days, I wish I was anywhere but in Ethiopia. It’s funny how humans are never happy with what they have. It also makes me happy to know that none of us get a how-to guide and we’re all kind of winging it. Being in Ethiopia, I’ve had to learn to fight for my sanity because no one can give that to me. I am responsible for my happiness. I am the only person who can make me feel better. The people here are curious, the living conditions are difficult and there is not enough entertainment. It’s easy to remember all the ways that the two cultures are different and yearn for the comforts of home, but I’m still very grateful to be here.
After graduation from the University of Delaware, I got stuck. I was working multiple jobs where I found that working three jobs could not only give me a really great paycheck but also great anxiety. It was overwhelming and if I wasn’t working one of my jobs, I was trying to relax. It got really hard to spend time with my boyfriend, my family and my friends before heading off to Ethiopia. I got multiple complaints from people telling me I was always working and too busy to hang out. I missed out on adventures and making memories with those I cared about because I was constantly working trying to save for the next stage. It all seems so pointless now. Being here, I’ve taken a new perspective. I am working one job and that one job is satisfying and helps to maintain me with plenty to save. I am learning how to live in the present and not think of two years down the road. I don’t want to miss all amazing things that are happening now. Life often doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would but most times, things turn out better. For the first time since graduating, I feel such peace and a true productive member of society.
I hate rollercoasters. I often find that I do not enjoy them, I get sick and I always close my eyes. But this time, I’m doing it a bit different. I’m learning to throw down my expectations, throw up my hands and enjoy the ride of being a Peace Corps Volunteer.