On December 10th, a day before my birthday, I decided to write in my journal while I waited for the power to come back after being out for 3 days. In my journal, I wrote everything down: the fact that it was my last birthday in Ethiopia, that I was almost to the finish line, I asked myself how I was going to pay back all the people who have opened their hearts and homes to me and I also questioned how I was going to give back to a country that had molded me into a different person. I got up, gave a hug and a kiss to Atsede and the kids and then started bawling. My face got all red, I babbled like a two year old and I hugged the kids trying to calm myself down. Asamiro wiped the tears away with his sleeve but the tears decided to roll down my face anyways.
On my birthday, I had a spectacular day, filled with laughter, love and happiness. During that day, I reflected back to my birthday a year ago and honestly, my 24th birthday was incredibly better than my 23rd. Why? I had learned to be present and in the moment. In Ethiopia and in many countries around the world, it is very common for birthdays to pass by without celebration and so, the only way to gather people together, at least in Ethiopia, is to have a bunna (coffee) ceremony. It is a time where people come together, have delicious Ethiopian coffee (in my case with a lot of sugar), and some type of snack. Everyone in my compound, my language tutor and some neighborhood kids that I invited over because they looked hungry came and celebrated with me. For two hours, people conversed and laughed together.
Two weeks later, Susan (a friend from the clinic) and I took a journey upwards to Addis and headed to Bahir Dar for a few days. Originally, we were supposed to have headed to the mountains but due to some issues, we had to sporadically plan for a different trip. On the 9 hours to Bahir Dar, I beat my record of throwing up by 1 (up to 6 now) and by the time, we reached the hotel, it hurt to breathe. We met up some wonderful people from the Netherlands and from Beijing so we spent the first two days of our journey with either groups. On the first day, we hit up the monasteries on the island and the second day consisted of the Blue Nile Falls. As we were headed to the Blue Nile Falls, Susan and I tried bringing holiday cheer by singing Christmas Carols. It was a wonderful day to be had and fun was had by all.
When I first came to Ethiopia, I was afraid of what was to come and how I was going to be affected. In the States, people constantly badgered me and told me I was too shy but only the few who really knew me know that being an introvert is not all that defines me. Would Ethiopia and my community accept my introvertedness and my weirdness? Would my town learn to love my tendency to make facial expressions, my love for dancing during random times but most importantly, would I be accepted for everything I am and everything I am not? Absolutely. I love walking down the street, hearing people call my name, making faces and fist bumping me. That’s what my service is about. We all want to make a difference in this world, but ultimately what I’ve learned is that while I have made a small difference in my community, so many people in Ethiopia have made a difference in my own life. From the woman sitting next to me in the bus giving me a lemon to smell as the nausea passes, to the neighborhood kids calling my name as I walk by, to the person in the hotel who let me crash on the couch after my trip from Italy because I had nowhere to sleep at 1 in the morning, and even to the generosity of my neighbors bringing hot food over after a long day of travel. Ethiopian people and others around the world have not only accepted me but they have embraced me with open arms on several occasions. With this in mind, I’m learning to do the same.
I’m learning to embrace the obstacle course I have to get through to do any type of training, learning to roll with the punches when everyone is tardy or no one shows up, laughing past the comfortableness of not being able to communicate well and learning to relax when so many things are out of my control. Something wonderful happens when you let go and let the unexpected happen… when you let go of that tight grip of control, people show you how wonderful they can be and by doing so, they’ll show you how wonderful life truly is.
End Note: Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year! See y’all in 2016! Happy holidays. 🙂