And the adventure begins: Integration in a foreign community

I’ve lived in Ethiopia 79 days. Which is such a crazy thought. Sometimes I feel exactly the same as the day I left Minnesota, and other times I realize nothing in my life will ever be the same.

I’ve irreversibly changed in so many ways, many small, but some big. I might have fleas…or bed bugs, I can’t really tell and somehow I’m not concerned. I can kill a spider without crying. I almost, almost, look forward to my cold showers. I really have gotten used to constantly being dehydrated. I’m in a relationship for the first time since high school – and let’s face it, those relationships only barely counted anyway. I’ve realized that by coming here I won’t change the world, but I can have a huge impact in the lives of a few individuals.

That’s probably the biggest difference between when I left and now: I now know I can’t change the world. I had all these grandiose ideas about the good work I’d do here and the impact I could make, and I still plan on making an impact, just on a more personal level. I’m helping the girls in my compound with their English. I’m showing my community that there are ferengi interested in learning their language. I’m being friendly toward the street children without giving them handouts.

And over the next few weeks I’ll begin my projects in the schools. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in the primary schools, because I’m supposed to spend these first three months observing classes and learning what skills these teachers need the most help with. I plan on doing a lot of co-teaching over the next two years. But my role in the Teacher’s College is much more defined. Stories have been collected from nearby villages and are currently being translated into English. Once that’s finished I’ll help copyedit those stories and design the book. We’re also creating audio files for each of the stories and I’ll get to help bring those characters’ voices to life.

My goal for today and the rest of the week is simply to continue trying to integrate into my community. It’s harder than it sounds, especially since I live in a city with 160,000 inhabitants. But hey, I’ve forced myself to leave my house every day so far, and I feel like that’s something to be proud of.

My room is also starting to feel like a home, now that I’ve filled it with a bed, wardrobe, and kitchen cabinet. Now I just need to add a comforter and curtains and get to work on putting up the wall decorations. So I have plenty to do before the school year starts in September. I can’t believe that summer is already coming to a close, but here in Ethiopia, it’s the rainy season that’s ending. And with that ending, comes the heat, so really, my summer is just beginning, and with it, the beginning of this two-year adventure.

I’m officially the girl with the purple door.

Day one: no furniture but a whole lot of bags.

Then I got a bed…

And a new friend.

And finally, the last of my furniture.

The room may look tiny, but I prefer to think of it as cozy. I can now officially call Hawassa home.

August 24, 2012

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