May 1st was Easter in Ethiopia and after 55 days without any meat, it was a joyous day for my tummy. Everyone awakes at 12 a.m. on Easter to slaughter their chickens, goats, or sheeps and by 3 a.m. the food is ready where there is an abundance of doro wot (spicy chicken dish with boiled eggs) with tibs and dulet later on through the day. I had every intention of being up for the feast but once my two alarms woke me up at 3 and again at 3:10 – I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I went back to sleep and awoke at 8:30 a.m. to 3 missed calls from my landlady and when I walked out of my house to greet the day, I was told by landlady and the kids that they had been knocking on each of my two doors and window at 3:30, but that I never woke up. Whoops! However, I did have doro wot for breakfast and lunch so it wasn’t a total failure.
My best friend and counterpart who recently moved to a different region came back to Chiri and visited some friends. Nothing could explain the joy I felt when she entered my home nor could I hold back my enthusiasm or my tears as I saw her. Brihane is a biology teacher who helped me for a year and a half on projects such as Camp Glow, joining me on trainings with Peace Corps and overall, just being a kick ass best friend. I was invited many of times to her home for meals and coffee and I invited her into my home to watch movies and share experiences together. She was the one person I was completely honest with in my town; from religion and spirituality, to sharing experiences about our lives and even about marriage and babies. When she left in early February, I was happy for her as she was closer to her family in Tigray (the northern region of Ethiopia) and she was in an area that she could succeed in but I was also deeply saddened because I was losing my best friend. I hadn’t really thought of how much I had missed her until she was standing in front of me and all I could do was scream, jump up and down with joy, hug her and cry simultaneously. “You met thousands of people and none of them really touch you – and then you meet one person and your life is changed forever” (Love & Other Drugs).
When you are in a new place though, sometimes it’s not just one person who changes your life but many. In one of the many bunna ceremonies that I attended over Easter, I started to really look at the people who I was sitting among. As I looked around, I started to become emotional and I had to hide the fact that I wanted to cry. These people, without asking for anything in return have shown me kindness and humility. Even with the little that people have around here, Ethiopians in Chiri can be so giving. So many times, I have had neighbors come bring me food to my house or invited me over for some coffee. After a long day of traveling, I know to expect a hot meal from my landlady, Imme. Best days are when I get my favorite Ethiopian dish kocho (a type of bread made from false banana trees) and meat.
In one of my conversations with my brother Dennis, we spoke of our differences in our service. While he spent most of his time out of site and with his friends in Panama, I have done quite the opposite. Instead, I have had to rely on the locals to be my friends as I don’t have the luxury to see those who are in my group due to the fact that they are placed in regions farther than mine. By doing this, I feel closer to my community members and I am very well assimilated in Chiri, especially to those in my compound. There is something to be said to have found a family among people who are so different from me. People whom I struggle to have conversations with because we’re either speaking broken English or broken Amharic, but still manage to communicate with some laughter involved.
At the end of my service, what I know will stand out the most will be the memories I made here with my family and not the times where I struggled and became frustrated due to language and cultural barriers. At the end of the day, it was my family that I could rely on to bring me back from the pits of despair and loneliness and into a place of love and of laughter.
Note: I didn’t really take photos during Fasika (Easter) as I was enjoying meat and living presently among friends.