For years, I would get teased that I was too emotional and throughout my teenage years, I saw my capacity to feel emotions as a weakness. As an adult, I see now that it is one of my biggest strengths. During our second meeting of English Club, there were only 4 students who showed up on time and while we could discuss grammar or some lesson on the structure of the English language, I am a sucker for honest and real conversations: the types of conversations that are inspiring, gut wrenching honest and life changing. Instead, that day I decided the best way for my students to practice their English is for five people to get to know each other better by asking each other questions and practice answering them without an agenda. Some common questions: what are your biggest fears, dreams and hopes for the future, what do you want to do after high school, what is your favorite food, etc. One question that I got asked by one of my brightest 11th grade students was whether I would come back to Ethiopia. I didn’t know how to answer that question. Part of me would love to visit and get to spend more time with people that have become my family, but another part of me thinks that I will be ready for the next stage of my life in 18 months. I jokingly asked him if he would miss me and when he said, “yes” I was touched. I knew he meant it and I knew then in that second, that everything I was sacrificing by being here was worth it.
I would love to say that after my service, I was able to build a library in my community, bring English books to primary and secondary schools, bring change in teaching methodologies in my school, bring knowledge to rural women, continue CAMP GLOW in my community and improve English on all four levels in primary and secondary schools in Chiri and finally, help students find a passion for learning, both in a school and out in the world because we never really stop learning. AND maybe, just maybe I will be able to say I was able to do all that and more. But I think the little moments will matter most in the end. The moments that I see one of my brightest and shyest female students grow from someone who wouldn’t like to raise her hand for fear of being wrong in the first semester to her raising her hand and potentially being wrong in the second semester. The moments when I see my students, both male and female be willing to act silly with me when it is seen as inappropriate in a school setting. The moments when I see my teachers willing to be observed and critique on their teaching standards and even more, creating that mutual respect where they can be honest with me as well and finally, the moment when my school administration finally backs me up. The moments when my students ask me to give them English material so they can improve their reading level and comprehension. The moments when I have had a really good meeting with a local NGO about continuing CAMP GLOW and being excited to see it through. All those little moments matter.
I don’t know where I will be in 18 months but I know that I will have everything to thank to this wonderful and extremely overwhelming job. It really is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Thus far, this job has taught me persistence to start and finish a project, patience when everything is going wrong and nothing is going right, resiliency for those really tough moments when I want to quit but most importantly, it’s taught me not to give up on the things that matter most because the little moments mean the most. In hope that this school mural goes underway soon, a quote by Abraham Lincoln says it all; “the best way to predict your future is to create it.”