In my fifteen months since being here, I have missed many birthdays, multitude of holidays and many special occasions. Most often, it is during those times when I yearn for the comforts of home and miss those I have left. Sometimes, I wonder if my own selfish needs should bypass the needs of others. As always, my wise older sister on one of our talks reminds me that change is good.
Going into my second year, while even more challenging, has rewards. Currently, I am teaching one class (grade 11) with 50 students. The teachers here joke that I am taking it easy but without realizing the effort it requires to do other projects. Besides my one class, I have a conversational English for teachers on Wednesdays, a weekly teachers training on Monday, a weekly English club for students on Wednesdays and now, we’re in the process of resume building and having elections. I really want the students to take over the club so I can step back but it’s been crazy thus far. I also have English Saturday for 2 hours so that students who want a little more practice in English can have so. During Saturdays, where about 16 students attend, we do questions from national exams for grade 10 and entrance exams for grade 12. I also do English club at the primary school as well on a bi-weekly basis. In addition, I am working with the health office to have programs running on HIV, gender and environment. On Fridays, I will begin outreach with the clinic to try to get some more experience in Public Health. Finally, on Sundays, I have my language class which means that Thursday is the only day where I teach and have the rest of the day off.
With so much going on, it is the people around me that help keep me sane. A new volunteer, my site-mate Ashley, arrived to Chiri in October and it’s been nice having someone to share the joy and the burden of being here. Since Ashley’s arrival, I have taken my usual role of the mom and I can honestly say that it’s nice to feel needed. Ashley is a 25-year-old from Missouri and she’s pretty laid back. She has heard a many of my stories when I just need to decompress and I have heard hers.
When you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer, no matter how much you try to fit in, sometimes you will stick out. When you do, it’s alienating and lonely. It’s in those moments when the silence is deafening and it’s on those moments when the fear wins. Fear of not being enough, fear of not doing the best you could do in two years, fear that you missed out on opportunities to be there for your loved ones and most importantly, fear that maybe you made a mistake in joining the Peace Corps.
It’s in those moments where I spit in the face of fear because I am exactly where I need to be. While I have missed many birthdays, multitude of holidays and many special occasions, others have missed just as much. There’s no telling until the day comes just how much I have changed and how much things have stayed the same. It’s funny how much a person can change within a matter of months and not really change at all. (I will write all about this on my next blog post).
Today, a couple of my friends and I did the Great Ethiopian Run. It’s a 10k held in Addis and it is the largest run in Africa with 40,000 participants this year. At the end of the 10k everyone gets a medal. Those who reach the finish line first (1 to 14,000 participants), they receive a green medal. Next is Yellow with 14,0001 to 28,000 participants. Finally, the remaining from 28,001 to 40,000 receive red. I was lucky to enough to receive yellow and coming in the first half of the participants. My friends, Austin and Chelsey both got green medals. When I left Chiri, I was depressed and hopeless. Having set up so many programs that for the most part have turned out great, it is still draining and exhausting. Having been at site for over a year, I am able to notice the things that need some fixing, but when it comes down to it, while everyone asks for help, not many are able to back up their words with actions. It’s frustrating feeling so out of control when I wake up early for a training and only one or none show up to it. It’s overwhelming trying to set up projects by myself and most days, I am tired of motivating myself. After this race, I felt refreshed and ready to take on new obstacles. With 8 months left to go, the battle isn’t over yet. Just like a 10k, whether you receive a green medal, a yellow medal or a red medal, you made it to the finish line.