On the week that I had to go to Addis for my COS [Close of Service meaning I completed my two years] medical, my wallet was stolen from my purse. I was on my way to eat lunch at the house of Yordanos so I was in a rush walking in the rain. Because I had been in a rush, I missed two crucial steps: I didn’t take out my line taxi money in my pocket to be handy and the outside of my purse wasn’t facing me, meaning that my purse is easily accessible as this particular purse just flips open. [The purse that I use most broke which is why I was using this other one]. I got into a line taxi headed to Mexico, which is the main stop for taxis to transfer to other places around the city, and someone behind me starting to “throw up.” The person who collects the money said for me to open the window and when I was unable to, he “helped me.” Somewhere along this ruckus, with being drenched from the pouring rain, to trying to help out another person whom I believed to be sick, to being told to open the window, to trying opening the window – my wallet was stolen. I was asked where I was headed, told they weren’t going there and was told to get out and was dropped off.
When I realized what had happened, just a few seconds later, I was livid. There I was, just 3 weeks shy of being able to go home and one of the important documents that I needed to get my exit visa [my red id that says that I am a resident living and working in Ethiopia, some birr, Euros that my mom had sent me, and my favorite heart necklace that my sister gave me] was taken from me. I had to walk back to the office in the pouring rain to report what had happened. For two days, my emotions ranged from anger, to sadness, to embarrassment, and back to anger. I chose to be here for two years to serve the people in this country, and how was I repaid? I was angry that someone had chosen to take advantage in the most despicable way – trying to help another person. The next day, I sent a text to Yordanos when I was waiting at the bus station, and I explained to her that none of it would have happened if I wasn’t trying to be nice. Being nice and concerned for another person got me in that particular mess in the first place. She responded with “things like this happen. It shouldn’t take your good personality, you are a good person and you should keep on that. Forget about yesterday as it is already past. Think about the future because you can’t change it.” As soon as I started leaving Addis, I started to feel better… I was going home to people who loved me and appreciated me.
I returned home to Chiri for a week and a half to pack and say goodbye to my family. As a way to say goodbye, I decided to end my service by planning an American tradition: a water balloon fight! Everyone in my compound got excited and with 80 water balloons a team [boys vs. girls], it was bound to get messy.
On the last day that I left before Butajira to visit host family, Imme tried to remain strong but couldn’t. As the bus was approaching my house, she started to cry so I went over, hugged her and then proceed to cry myself. She must have been embarrassed because she hid behind a tree and I got on the bus still crying. I cried all the way to Bonga. It is insane how much I care for that family and how much they all impacted me. In a small village in the Kafa Zone, 260 miles away from Addis, Chiri became my home and the people there hold a special place in my heart.
I decided to go to Butajira as well to say goodbye to the family that I stayed for the 3 months of training. I spent five days there with my family and it was nice to go back and remember all the places I visited as a young, lost and naive trainee. It gave me time to reflect on how my service went and how different I feel compared to then.
I also had my “gong out.” You hit the gong for however many years you completed in your service and everyone in the office joined to celebrate. Some of us made a speech, but I couldn’t keep it together during mine. I spoke of how my family is a Peace Corps family and how I always knew I was going to do Peace Corps. But when I found out I was going to China, I sent an email to Peace Corps HQ at the advice of my sister-in-law, Emily, and wrote how I would do anything (teach or be a health volunteer) but I was set to go to Africa. I thanked the staff for the work they did and for making my group the first ones to teach in a high school. While I didn’t always love it, I loved being a teacher. I loved seeing the growth of my students from year to year. I loved feeling like I was part of the community and they respected me as a teacher. I don’t think I would have became so close to the people I did without living like the locals do.
Although I was set out to do many projects, I completed about half of them. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but things just take a little longer in Ethiopia. The friendships I formed and the kindness that people showed me is how I will remember this place. I loved my time in Chiri and in Ethiopia. I absolutely fell in love with the people and the scenery. I leave Ethiopia and my family sad but content that while being here, I helped to change the lives of young men and women as much as they all changed mine. I came into Peace Corps expecting to change the world but I am leaving with a new found love and appreciation for service, public health and the people of Ethiopia.
** Note: RPCV = Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Also, stayed tuned for the next post — All about transitioning back to the USA and most likely, culture shock!