Making Hawassa Home

Some of you may already know this about me, but I actually enjoy moving. I’m not the biggest fan of packing up my things, but I love unpacking and decorating a new home. Which is why I was so excited to move to Hawassa – I knew I’d miss my host family in Sagure, but I couldn’t wait to create a space that was all mine.

Well I’ve been living in Hawassa for three weeks now and I have yet to put a single picture on the wall. Why, you may ask, especially when in the past I’ve had my new places fully decorated in at most two days after I moved in. Well, it’s different here in Ethiopia. Mostly, because I’m not sure that I’ll be staying in this first home that they placed me in.

At first I really wanted to make it work…now I’m not so sure that’s the best idea. It’s placed in a really convenient location relative to the places I go in Hawassa, but a coworker recently saw my place and told me that apparently I’m in a really sketchy section of town. It doesn’t help that I live across the street from a cemetery ha ha but at least there are high walls surrounding it, so I’d be able to hear a zombie attack in advance.

The space is incredibly small, but I like to think of it as cozy. My bed, wardrobe, and kitchen cabinet fit perfectly, and since there’s no room for a table and chairs, that’s just money I could spend elsewhere! Plus it has cement walls and tiled floors, which helps to keep the bugs out. But there’s a leak in the roof and I’m pretty sure my ceiling is molding. Not to mention I have a rat living in that same ceiling…I’m just hoping it doesn’t find the weak spot and fall through!

And then my šint bet/shower (two separate rooms!) are both tiled and pretty clean, but neither have doors with locks, which also means neither door will close completely. Which is a little awkward when you’re using a shower that’s shared by everyone in the compound. No uncomfortable run-ins yet though, thank God! And the shower only has cold water, but that’s not really an issue since the weather gets pretty hot here in Hawassa!

And finally, my compound family is lovely. My landlady teaches Amharic at the main primary school I’ll be working at, and she’s offered to help me practice the language. Plus her sons were really sweet when I first moved in. They helped me assemble my bed and put up my mosquito net. The downside…the family has two dogs. They’re cute dogs, but I’m about 99% sure they have fleas, so I try to keep my distance. They also like to bark at all hours of the night. When I talked to my counterpart about this, she said, “At least they don’t bark during the day.” Which is true, they don’t, but I’d prefer it if they did! At least I’m not trying to sleep during the day! (Most days that is ha ha)

And I suppose I shouldn’t feel bad about looking for a new place – this wasn’t the home I was initially supposed to have anyway. I was supposed to have another volunteer’s old place because she moved in with a fellow volunteer, but at the last minute, the landlord decided he didn’t want to rent to Peace Corps any more. So the place I’m in was just a last minute replacement, but I still feel like I shouldn’t be complaining. Some volunteers live in mud huts, many don’t have even a cold shower, and there are some with no running water or electricity. All in all, I don’t have it that bad. I just don’t want to die from killer mold or a rat gnawing my face off.

Oh well, here’s hoping I have a new home in the next month or two – or that the issues at the current place are resolved. Mostly I’m just upset that I can’t decorate until things are decided! I had to stare at blank walls for three months in Sagure, and I don’t want to have to do that for any longer than necessary here in Hawassa! So for now, keep your fingers crossed that my compound family doesn’t walk in on me in the shower! And that the dogs let me sleep at night : ) The good news about all of this: no matter where I live when I get back to America, it’ll probably feel like a palace!

On a final note, I think this photo provides a good illustration of why I don’t want to move all my stuff again. A mattress on a bajaj – you’d think there’d be an easier way, but there’s really not!

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