Timket (Epiphany) is a great and colorful festival for Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia. It is celebrated on the 19 of January. The Celebration starts the eve of Timket (18 January) which is called Ketera. On this day, the priests of each church, accompanied by crowds, are carried out in procession to a place near a river/water where the next day’s celebration will take place. It is also when buses charge double per person, when all “hell” breaks loose as people try to get a seat on a bus, when businesses shut down and when dressing up in traditional clothes occur. That being said, being a non-religious individual in a secluded and religious small town makes for some interesting times. I took a note of my brothers’ service and when people ask me what religion I am, I always say “my mother is Catholic.” That seems to satisfy the masses, but for those close to me, especially those in my compound, they know and are aware that I practice no religion. I have had the religious conversation with those that I live with and it is difficult to explain that why I am not religious, I am a spiritual being. True spirituality is something that is found deep within oneself. It is your way of loving, accepting the world and people around you. It cannot be found in a church or by believing in a certain way. Spirituality is chosen while religion is often times forced. Being spiritual to me is more important and better than being religious. People do not understand being just spiritual and not religious anymore than I understand people being one or the other. I have gone to church twice during my service and of those two times, I have always felt a little uncomfortable. Do I bow, do I pray or do I stand there awkwardly? During Timket, I saw people kissing doors, walls and kissing dirty floors. It was intriguing to me because I felt no obligation to do so. I bowed when I came in but then I was done. Sometimes, I wish I could connect more with my community through religion, but alas, that will never be true so for now, I am happy giving a small part of my time during special religious celebrations to gather with everyone else.
I went to Bonga on Monday, January 26th to find out that I had two packets awaiting me: one from my sister and one from a friend, Elaine, a friend who could have been my grandmother, but is just the sweetest person. Both packages were spectacular just like any other time. I love receiving packages from people because I love that people to send me something internationally which can be quite costly. What I love even more is the wrapping that people put inside, especially if it’s bubble wrap because the kids and Atsde, my landlady enjoy popping the bubbles. We find great fun in that! Wednesday, January 28th was also Celines’ Birthday. My friend Kelsey, had previously arrived at my site the day before and I was on a mission that both Kelsey and Celine would have a good day. I made a card for Celine, we got some balloons for her, got some donuts, Kelsey made the topping, had popcorn, alcohol and we had a lot of laughter with Bob, who is another ferenji at Lalmba who has a six month contract. It was a glorious day and with the end of finals, we would soon be headed to Jimma to meet our friend Ellen and have a couple days of total relaxation in a city that weren’t our sites.
I stayed in Jimma, my hub-city for four days and it was glorious. Kelsey, Ellen and I went to the market to buy shoes, flags, jewelry and clothes. We also ate a lot of hamburgers, pizza, French toast, sandwiches and drank macchiato and of course, alcohol. We met up with G10’s around Jimma and ate delicious Ethiopian food. We went to the Peace Corps office where I was finally able to get the remaining episodes I needed of Psych and I finished my taxes. We stayed up late one night talking and with the mattresses on the floor and no bed net, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes…. none of us gained much sleep that night. Ellen and I went swimming (Kelsey left on Sunday) and while it was uncomfortable swimming with the men who were doing laps, it was overall a very relaxing day.
Most importantly, there were HOT showers… just the way I like it! I arrived to site on the 3rd upbeat and happy. Vacations in your hub-town after a very hectic 1st semester are definitely the cherry on top for a perfect couple of days. I have officially finished my first semester of my school and have 3 more to go. I was talking to Ellen one night and we were discussing the plans that we have for our sites. It was refreshing to be able to gain different ideas on how to be efficient for our remaining 20 months. It’s difficult to believe that I have lived in Ethiopia now for 7 months when I can still remember my 1st week of training. Time is flying on by!