Hawassa is getting another volunteer. Not another Peace Corps volunteer, but a VSO (Volunteer Services Overseas). She found this very blog you’re reading and thanked me for sharing some of the experiences I’ve had here. But I realized I haven’t been giving you much insight into Hawassa lately. I describe my travels and my projects at school, but not my town, not really.
I don’t tell you about the guy who drives a gari in my neighborhood (imagine the sketchiest horse-drawn carriage ever), who likes to give me free rides to work – even though this is how he makes his living – as a way to say thank you for the work I do in my school.
Or the neighborhood kids who run out to greet me on the days that I walk. Bumping fists if I’m running late or shaking hands and stopping for a “selam naw//indet naw//are you fine//yes I’m fine” greeting if it’s a more leisurely morning.
There’s this little café I walk past every day. And every day, there’s someone inside who invites me to coffee. And yet I’ve never been inside, I’ve never taken anyone up on their offer.
There’s the new(ish) hotel in piazza where I go to get wifi, partially because it’s the most reliable in town, but also because I love the staff there and I end up spending just as much time catching up with them as I do actually going online.
Hawassa has many homeless residents, but there’s one in particular who gives me a hug every time I walk by. I’ve never given him anything, but one day I stopped to greet him and we’ve somehow been fast friends ever since.
Then I go to another friend’s shop – birthday supplies only – and we make hand gestures at each other, because let’s face it, my Amharic is still terrible and she can’t string together a full sentence in English. But I still find myself at her house at least once a month, eating eggs and drinking mirinda and smiling awkwardly…I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s the view by the lake at sunset that’s breathtaking and always makes me feel like I’m back at home – though by now, Hawassa is home too. Since I’ve officially lived in this house longer than any other house other than the one I spent my childhood in. Thirteen months, that’s a long time for me.
And there’s my landlord’s granddaughter who comes to visit every couple of weeks, who’s currently screaming. She’s too young to know English, she can barely speak at all, but she likes to waddle around the courtyard repeating “Ashley,” or sounds that closely resemble that. We like to play ball together and peek-a-boo and she likes to knock on my door just as I’m starting to watch a new show.
These are the moments that make up my time here in Hawassa. The moments I hope time doesn’t force me to forget. Right now, these moments are my favourites.