It first takes one person doing something different, doing something strange, and suggesting something unfamiliar. It takes time, but eventually someone catches on and they begin to do that “something different.” Others follow, and soon everyone is doing it and has forgotten that it was ever strange in the first place. This is how change happens. It’s a slow but steady progress.
I, alongside five over Volunteers, recently trekked the Simien Mountains in Gonder for three days. The 12 hour bus ride was ultimately worth it for the view, for the friendships formed and for the personal obstacles faced. It was three days of breathlessness, excruciating pain in the lungs and knees and after three days, some blisters on my feet that made it hard to walk properly and therefore, I was left to waddle. The first day was a 2 hour hike, the second day consisted of a 5 hour hike and the last day consisted of a 7 hour hike hiking up a mountain and eventually down it to the campsite. We didn’t even make it on the optional hike on the fourth day.
Throughout my hike and many conversations with my walking partner, Ally, I kept asking myself “why am I putting myself through this?”. During my time of hiking, I remembered a quote my brother, Dennis and his wife, Emily quoted during my departure for Ethiopia. “Enjoy Ethiopia while you can. It’ll all be over before you know it. Get what you need. The answers you want, though, will always be inside you.”
Trekking and summit-ing mountains are crucial in challenging oneself, showing perseverance and letting your stubbornness come out, and it teaches us to enjoy the process of life, while we are waiting to get our “dream” whatever. So often, we get caught up on the future and imagining what it would look like, or on the past and imagine all the different mistakes one would fix had they had a second change, but we barely stop and enjoy what’s happening in the now. I made an effort to stop and enjoy what was present, and even with the exhaustion, I enjoyed trekking through the Simien Mountains. It was my personal hell but it was mine to overcome. In reality, there were only two options: stop moving and never go anywhere or get my ass in gear and move the two feet that someone up there gave me.
Change is a similar concept. It’s a slow but steady progress but eventually, once you reach the end of the invisible line, it’s amazing how much you realize was accomplished. On the 12 hour bus ride back to Addis, I was speaking to Katie about how much change I see in myself and how I owe it all to Ethiopia. I have grown and developed more in the past year and a half in Ethiopia than I have anywhere else. This job, this at times crummy but wonderful job, has taught me who I can be and I thank Peace Corps Ethiopia for that. Through that, I have been able to affect change in the lives of some Ethiopians and that would not have been possible had I not accepted my invitation to Africa. It hasn’t always been easy, but with some perseverance, a dash of stubbornness, a drop of fun and crazy combined, teaching in Ethiopia is fun and enjoyable. Together, we can impact the lives of individuals abroad and through this action, change ourselves and come out better Americans; more caring, devoted, understanding and loving of the world and the vast variety of people living in it.
Note: This trip proved how out-of-shape I was and if I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail and summit Mtn. Kilimanjaro, I needed to be more fit, but also, needed to keep my kickass mentality of “I can and I will do this.” Therefore, along with buying a bike and skates, I will be taking classes to be more active, be eating healthier and alongside Eddie, we will be going camping to prepare myself for these wonderful adventures once I am back in the States. I’m writing this down to hold myself responsible and give permission for others to do the same.