Peace Corps Ethiopia Challenge

I talked to current and past Peace Corps Volunteers before I joined, including a number who at the time called Ethiopia home. But despite all of those questions and answers, I still never could have prepared myself for what life here would really be like.

Enter some current volunteers who had the inspiration to create a Peace Corps Ethiopia Challenge so that friends and family back home could get a better grasp of what our lives are like here. I made some slight changes to better fit my life in Hawassa – because each site in Ethiopia is still wildly different from any other.

So if you want to take the time to walk in my shoes, here’s your shot. I don’t recommend that everyone (or maybe even anyone!) attempt everything listed in the challenge. They’ll make your life inconvenient and not always particularly pleasant. But some of the challenges will also be rewarding, so I dare you to give some of them a try.

The time frame of this challenge is one week. Some of the challenges will only happen once during that time, though you can repeat if it’s something you’d do more often. Others are activities that take place over the entire week. These are marked with a 1W.

Point values are assigned to each challenge item, depending on the difficulty. For 1W items, you may only get the points if you do the item for an entire week. I’ve been told that the maximum points you could possibly get are 770. If anyone actually accomplishes everything on this list within the one week my mind will absolutely be blown.

Even if you don’t get 770 points I’d still love to hear how you did. I know how tough this is…I live it every day of my life. But I don’t have a choice, short of returning home. You live in a place where these activities will be much more difficult to accomplish because you do have a choice. So it’s up to you, accept the challenge in its entirety or even a small slice or write me off as a girl who’s probably spent a little bit too much time living abroad…

The Challenge

  1. Do not use your personal vehicle. Options allowed: hitching rides from others, bicycle, public transportation, or by foot. 5 points per day
  2. 1W Do not leave your house after 7 pm unless you will be staying at a friend’s house for the night. 10 points
  3. 1W Wear only 3 outfits. Rotation, rotation, rotation. 15 points
  4. Spend an entire evening after dark (minimum 5 hours) without electricity. Headlights are allowed, but candles are preferred. 15 points per day
  5. 1W Spend no more than $5.00 USD per day. If you had food in your fridge and bring a sandwich to work, you’re in the clear. 15 points
  6. 1W Only watch TV channels in a language that you are not fluent in. However, you are allowed to watch any previously downloaded TV shows or movies that are already on your computer – in any language you prefer. 20 points
  7. 1W Do not go online for more than 15 minutes a day for at least 6 of the days. *Other volunteers have a bigger issue with internet than I do, though my connection in town is really slow and becomes non-existent come rainy season. 20 points
  8. 1W When you have to go to the bathroom, first go outside of your house/workplace and close the door, then walk back inside. Then you may go to the bathroom. 30 points
  9. 1W Only use water from a bucket i.e. fill the bucket from a tap and only use water from the bucket. You may refill the bucket as many times as you like. 40 points per day you do not use your indoor tap (you may wash your dishes directly in the outdoor tap)
  10. Do not bathe for at least 3 days (washing of face and feet are allowed). Three days is the minimum. *I usually bathe every two to three days, but sometimes more time will elapse…and I’m one of the cleanest volunteers. 10 points for 3 days, an additional 5 points for each day added, and 100 points total if you go the entire week
  11. On bathing day, heat water on the stove and crouch in the bathtub, pouring water over your body. Or, if you’re like me, you’d prefer the simplicity of a cold shower, so that is also an option. Not a luke-warm shower, mind you, ice cold. 5 points per bucket bath/cold shower
  12. Wash an entire load of laundry by hand and let the clothes hang dry. 20 points for wash; additional 5 points for dry
  13. 1W Your only food options are the following:
    1. You’re in luck…I live in a large town and luckily have access to a lot more variety than my fellow volunteers, but even I have my limitations…
    2. Your only veggie options are carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, chili peppers, potatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and corn on the cob—unless they come from your own garden.
    3. Your only fruit options are bananas, oranges, mangoes, pineapple, and limes.
    4. You may only supplement them with white rice, lentils, beans, pasta, injera, or bread.
    5. The only dairy products you are allowed to have are margarine and milk.
    6. The only canned foods you are allowed to eat are beans and vegetables.
    7. You may not eat meat.
    8. But you can eat all the eggs you want.
    9. 40 points
  14. 1W Your only drink options are the following: water, Coke (not Diet Coke), Sprite, orange soda, tea, and coffee. You may have a glass of juice once every other day; it’s all you can afford. 20 points
  15. 1W You may not use your oven (stove top is okay), microwave, nor your dishwasher. 20 points
  16. 1W Do not open your refrigerator. How to survive: store foods/leftovers in a pot or container on the counter. Be sure to reheat thoroughly each time you eat (on your stove). 30 points


This is my life.
Take the challenge.

    1. Volunteers can buy meat when going out to eat, but it isn’t common to buy meat and bring it home to cook (though there are some volunteers who are exceptions to this), because you normally have to buy it in large quantities and most don’t have a fridge to store extras in. As a result, not a ton of meat is eaten in the volunteers homes, except special occasions!

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