I never thought that what the meaning of a name signifies can be so important but to Ethiopians, the meaning means everything. I have been asked countless of times what Andrea means and each time I say “ininja” or “I don’t know.” One day, I actually looked it up. This is the definition from the internet about my name: Andrea comes from the Latin meaning “Womanly” or “Beautiful Lady”. She is steadfast and confident, honest and reliable. A tower of strength for those she cares for and a rock to the family.” I have looked up my name in the States once and often don’t remember by the next day, but I will forever remember what my name means as I get asked so many times here. Ethiopians take pride in what their name means and so should I. I joke around with people on the street when they still ask my name and they say “ferenji, ferenji” by saying “ferenji? Yet naw?” Where is the ferenji? When they point to me, I always say “ay, ethiopiawit nañ” which translates to “No, I am Ethiopian.” Finding the humor in all things has become my # 1 job next to teaching.
My favorite part of my day is when Solomon and Asamiro come home in the afternoon at around 5 p.m. They have an ongoing battle of greeting me with a “good afternoon” and “good evening.” Asmiro says “good evening,” does his little cackle and dance and then Solomon says “good afternoon” and smiles up at me. I tell Solomon his good afternoon and then I tell Asmiro good evening and they go on their merry way. This little interaction with the boys always makes me laugh because it’s just the cutest and most innocent thing I’ve witnessed from two young children. My second favorite part of my day is when I see the three boys; we give fist bumps or high fives. Solomon gets a fist bump with an explosion, Ken gets a high five and Asmiro gets a fist bump. The people in my compound, both the adults and the kids are quickly becoming my family and I love all the laughs I am sharing with all of them.
On Sunday, January 4th, I rode a horse for the first time in my life! 23 years and I got to ride a horse in my compound in Ethiopia. I was cooking and I saw Asamiro with a saddle on one of the top pillars of a house pretending like he was on a horse. Cute J He then took me to the back, where I saw a beautiful white horse. I always wanted to be in front of a horse and eventually ride it but the opportunity never arose. He and Ken went around riding the horse, but I was okay with just petting the horsey. Asmiro wanted me to ride the horse and I kept telling him no, but one of those “no” eventually turned into a “yes.” He went inside to the house to grab a stool so I could climb on. I was then led around with a mixture of happiness and fear. I was afraid the horsey would knock me down, or I wouldn’t be able to get on the horse, etc. I felt the muscles of horsey underneath me and I clung on like a tick. When the ride was finished, I was grinning like a fool and asking myself why I had been so afraid to start with. The horsey was harmless to me.
That’s the thing about fear isn’t it? It’s terrifying not to be in control, not to know the future and often if you let it, it can be crippling. This past year I have learned more about myself than I have in all the previous years. The # 1 thing I learned this past year is that if you feel stuck, do something completely out of your comfort zone to get unstuck. People get stuck because they aren’t living a life with a purpose. I was fearful of coming to Ethiopia and starting over but I had faith. That’s the thing about faith and about letting go of the control. When I found that it was possible to start over by myself anything became possible. Life is both exciting and terrifying but one cannot be afraid of the unknown. In fact, it’s where the best moments come from. As one of my friends serving with me once said, “I don’t travel to escape life, I travel to live life.”
Christmas Day was on January 7th and it was fantastic. After one month of fasting for Ethiopians, meat was now readily available everywhere. I went to four different friends house and with each one, my stomach kept growing and growing. Ethiopians, especially during the holidays cannot comprehend “I am full. I’ve had enough.” They’re so hospitable and they just want their guests to have a good time. I kept being asked what I saw differently between Ethiopian Christmas and American Christmas and these are the differences between the two: students in America are given about two weeks of break as Christmas and New Years are tacked on together. Christmas is celebrated with a lot of booze, gifts, cookies and a lot of Christmas music. Christmas in Ethiopia is celebrated with a lot of meat and injera, juice, the local drink tej and bread. Students technically are given only one day on the 7th, but take off the 6th to the 9th. Students should have all the week off because technically, they, along with the teachers don’t show up. I still feel pretty great to have celebrated with my friends. Christmas in Ethiopia is more friend emphasis than family so overall, it suited me perfectly.
Note: On the last blog post, I forgot to add my finished ENA so I am attaching it to this weeks’ blog post. Next, I plan on tackling how to write a grant report as I will most likely have to write several over my future career. A significant amount of time, effort and sweat went into writing the ENA report. From the stress of going to places in my town and not having the information, to having overwhelming moments and finally to finishing, this report helped in giving perspective of what my community needs and how my school and local community members could benefit from me through the next two years. I hope I don’t disappoint but as Rumi once said: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” In the end, all that matters is the effort and the relationships formed with NGOs, community members and my teachers in my two years.