The New Year brought about many changes for loved ones. My best friend got engaged and asked me to be her maid of honor, my mother will be visiting me in Ethiopia after a year and a half, my niece will be born, my sister got married to her long-term boyfriend, my brother got a house with his beautiful wife, and Eddie got a job that he’s both happy and proud of having. With all the changes that have occurred in my absence, I can’t feel anything but joy for them. In a way, their achievements have taught me to be hopeful in my future.
Ethiopian Christmas coincided with a posting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a two-year opportunity aimed at future public health professionals who want broad experience in day-to-day operation of public health programs. The goal of PHAP (Public Health Associate Program) is to attract exceptional candidates, with a minimum of bachelor’s degree into careers in public health. “As a global leader in public health, CDC is the nation’s premier health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency. Whether we are protecting the American people from public health threats, researching emerging diseases, or mobilizing public health programs with our domestic and international partners, we rely on our employees to make a real difference in the health and wellbeing of people here and around the world.” There have been so many times that people have asked me “why the CDC?” For the last few years, my answer has been the same: Because I care about public health issues and the best way to effect change, is by doing so at the best public health agency. I am highly qualified for this job but I have also prepared myself if it doesn’t work out. One thing that I thank Peace Corps for is teaching me to relax and let things come as it may.
I was anxious to get my application in, but I was also happy to be enjoying Christmas in Ethiopia with cherished loved ones. We started off Ethiopian Christmas (Jan 7th) the right way; the males kill and skin a goat and the females gather in the kitchen to prepare a delicious meal varying in tibs and doro wot.
During the two or three hour cooking preparation, the females have innovating conversations and the one I enjoyed most is the broken English and broken Amharic conversation on why it is so important to save. It first started off by Solo coming into the kitchen and saying that he is saving his 10 birr (.50 cents USD) and that he always saves it. His voice then dropped a little and he said with great emphasis that his sister, Betty, did not save. If she had 5 birr, she would spend it on two buscuits and 1 šay (tea). Betty defended herself by saying that she loved her stomach more than saving. We came to a compromise that if she had 5 birr, she could spend it on 1 buscuit and 1 šay which would leave her with a remainder of two of the five birr she started with. Next, came the gurshas (feeding others) and the juice and finally, the tella which is the traditional beer made from teff, barley, and wheat. I went over to a friend’s house to see my counterpart Bri since she had moved houses with Solo, we ate some more food and it was in that house that the dancing happened (one day I’ll video tape myself dancing but in the meantime.. let the professionals dance).
It’s difficult not to over-eat during the holidays. People are so hospitable and they want you to feed you. Everyone is joyous and happy with their tella, their juices, their dancing and all the meat in the world. I consider my lucky to be around people who are different from me in all aspects: values, thinking, education and even, the importance of traveling. As Solo and I were eating what I considered our last meal of the day, we suddenly got depressed, put our heads on each others shoulders and continued to eat veryyyyyy slowly. Alas, I made it through Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) without tossing my cookies. As Solo says “mission accomplished.” Another successful holiday filled with great food, good drinks and even better company.
P.S. Stay tuned for the arrival of my mother to Ethiopia!!!