I share this blog’s title with the title of one of my pastor’s sermons. In it, he mentioned that thankfulness is the best cure for when you’re feeling down and out. His recommendation for when something’s really bothering you: Write five pages of things that you’re grateful for…about the thing you hate or stress about the most.
And while I don’t hate Ethiopia, this country is constantly causing me stress. Now more than ever, from the small to the large aka I practically have to wear rain boots inside my house, it’s flooding so much to the riots breaking out in Ethiopia because Addis wants to expand into Oromia.
So I decided to take my pastor’s advice. I wrote five pages about why I’m thankful to be in Ethiopia. Some of it’s silly, but most of it reminded me of how incredible the time I’ve spent here has been. And with less than 100 days left here, I figured I’d share what exactly it is I’m thankful for:
People here are insanely generous. Whether someone is making a special vegetarian holiday meal for me, paying for my bajaj ride, or buying me tea…some people always make me feel appreciated // While I may not have much variety in what I eat here, what I am eating is organic. I’m happy about how little processed food has gone into my body these last two years // Speaking of food – mïsïr wat, tagabino, ïnkulal fïrfïr: yum! My friend Selam makes the best eggs I’ve ever eaten – anywhere // And on to the friends I’ve made here, the age-range for my friendships varies more than I could have imagined. My landlord is like a grandfather, which makes his granddaughter the cutest “cousin” I could ever wish to have. I love having a Barbie playmate/read-along buddy. And Tigist, the servant on the compound is so sweet – I share my popcorn and she shares her dried chickpeas. Suddenly our language barrier doesn’t seem so significant. I have teachers at my schools who have invited me into their homes for holidays, and while they don’t always attend their trainings, I know they genuinely care about me. Then there are some wonderful older men working in my education office. We have lovely šay/buna breaks together. I have co-workers who have become close friends, like Tesfahun at the CTE…I couldn’t imagine having found my way in Hawassa without him. And friends I met here who are long gone…Fiorina who moved to Canada last spring. Far away, but never forgotten // I left out one of the most important groups in my life – my students. Always eager, always interested. My biggest joy from these last two years has been watching them develop a love of literature through my reading program. We play the silliest games in my English Club, and no matter the students’ ages, they always jump in whole-heartedly // Through Camp Glow I’ve gotten to know some of my students even more closely. I treasure the week I spent in Wondo Genet last summer with Zelalem, Salem, Tekalegn, Ashenafi, and Amanuel, as well as all the other students from around SNNPR and Oromia. I look forward to getting to know some new students just as well this coming summer // Speaking of summer: travel! I’ve always loved to travel and my first summer here I was able to return to my true love, Italy. And I was able to show it to my mom and sister. I also got to explore South Africa and Dubai for the first time. This year I made my way to yet another new country, Djibouti. A place I never would have visited had I not lived in Ethiopia. And had I not gone to Djibouti, I wouldn’t have gotten to experience overnighting on a deserted island // Not to mention all the traveling I’ve gotten to do in Ethiopia. All over my region of SNNPR to Yirgalem, Shashemene, Dilla, Wenago, Yirgacheffe, Wondo Genet, and, of course, Hawassa. Then over to Adama, Dodolla, Bekoji, Sagure, Asella, Ambo, Bedele, and Jimma in Oromia. And that’s just Southern Ethiopia. Last fall I made my way from Addis to Kombolcha and then on to Lalibella, Gondar, and Bahir Dar. The stone churches, decrepit castles, and Blue Nile Falls all reminding me of the beauty I’m surround by here in Ethiopia // I’ve also learned about the generosity, not just of Ethiopians, but also of Americans. This year I participated in a book fundraiser using Better World Books. I hate asking others for things but I wanted my students to have access to books more appropriate than the romance novels that once lined our school library’s shelves. And the response was overwhelming. Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years, family members who had already done so much, strangers – especially the RPCV community in Minnesota. I received around 200 books and felt so blessed // I’ve also been able to participate in incredible programs I never could have imagined…volunteering in the Hawassa Race, being a recurring guest speaker on the Hawassa English Language Improvement Center’s radio program, giving English trainings at a conference that saw thousands of participants // Travel here is horrendous, but no matter where I am, the look outside the window of the minibus is always breathtaking // Life is so much simpler here. My life is rarely dictated by a clock. Instead, I’m allowed a much more leisurely life. I have an incredible amount of free time. I’ve been able to read well over 100 books. I’m about to start watching AFI’s list of the top 100 films. I’ve learned that 2 out of 3 times, I’d rather rewatch an old TV show than dig into a new one – I find it comforting. Thank you Alias, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, and Once Upon a Time // I can wear anything I want. Yes, there are cultural standards, but I don’t have to be anyone else’s version of stylish. I can be me. I can walk out of my house in Little Mermaid leggings and a long tank and feel awesome // My biggest thanks? My fellow PCVs. I have met the most incredible people through Peace Corps – I even started dating one of them! We’ve been together almost two years now. These people are so strong and encouraging. I know any one of them would have my back in any situation. We can joke about who’s gone the longest without showering, who’s eaten rice for the most days in a row, who’s gone the longest without water or electricity. These people have been with me through more good times and bad than I can count. They have made me feel at home when everything I knew felt so far away // There are other foreigners living in my site whom I’ve gotten incredibly close to due to our shared lives here // I’ve learned who’s most important to me and who I’m most important to through my communications with those back home. For some, absence has made the heart fonder. I’ve rekindled friendships that had fallen to the wayside during my last few years in the US, and I’ve strengthened others that had always been close // This has been an incredibly eye-opening and humbling experience.