This year, there was no training to bring all of us together. So instead of having 70 volunteers swarm Addis, we were left to our own devices.
I decided to take part in a Peace Corps Ethiopia tradition – an Assela Thanksgiving. Assela is the hub town all of our training sites were based around, and I hadn’t been back since I left, last August. So I caught an early minibus and began the trek.
Only the first 30 minutes were done solo. I was soon in Shashemene where I switched buses and joined up with a fellow G7 volunteer. We made our way to the next bus station – in Assasa. Another quick transfer and we were finally in the home stretch, only another two hours to Assela.
We arrived, joined some other PCVs and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in the lobby of the hotel that hosted all our trainings a year ago – they had gotten wifi and were seriously moving up in the world! The food off the menu was even tolerable (I don’t think I ate much more than bread and bananas on the days we were forced to lunch there).
That evening we all joined together (there were probably 15 of us) to watch the traditional awesomely bad sci-fi film. This year’s gem? Sharknado…classic. From the moment it started I knew we had struck gold, but what really solidified it was when *SPOILER* Lauren (from Make It Or Break It – don’t know her real name) was pulled out of shark after another cast member had been swallowed whole by the same shark and had used a chainsaw to free himself from the inside out. Awesome.
That night we all went to bed quite content, seriously looking forward to the spread of food we’d have before us the following day. A few of the volunteers used the morning to slave away and cook the food. That, however, included slaughtering a sheep, so my boyfriend and I decided to go for a hike instead.
Miraculously, we managed to find our way back to this tree, a good 30 minutes uphill from Assela proper. You’re probably wondering why it was so important we find this tree specifically. Well, this tree happened to witness our first kiss, and Chandler, being the more romantic of us two, wanted to hike back up to it. It was an incredibly sweet moment.
Then began the hike back down – much easier : ) It was filled with waves of amber…something we didn’t notice on our way up, due to our preoccupation with finding that tree!
Then it was back to Laura’s host family’s house (they had graciously offered to let us hold Thanksgiving there). There was some football, some beer, and still a lot of raw sheep. Not exactly my dream Thanksgiving…until Lisa came out with her masterpiece. The largest pan of eggplant parmesan I have ever seen!
We also had grilled veggies, mashed potatoes, two different kinds of stuffing, and, of course, the sheep. I ate so much I could barely move. And then came the dessert. We had homemade peanut butter and chocolate bars, banana bread, chocolate pecan pie, AND SO MANY PUMPKIN PIES! Hands down this was better than the Mexican food I consumed last Thanksgiving.
We went around saying what we were thankful for. Some of those things aren’t appropriate for this blog! But then it was time for an impromptu talent show, starting my dear friend Nora. Nora has this gift for creating dance moves/actions for just about any song she hears…that night’s treat? Call Me Maybe. Other volunteers joined in, and you know they mean business when props are added!
A couple hours later (plenty of time for group photos to be taken) and we were all ready for bed. I however, wouldn’t get to bed for another couple of hours, thanks to the time difference between Ethiopia and Minnesota. But I had some lovely chats with my family back home.
The following morning, Chandler and I visited my old host family in Sagure, 30 minutes away. My mom, sister, and younger brother were out of town, but no worries, I got to hang with my favourites – my big brother and dad : )
After a not-so-delicious, but oh-so-typical breakfast of pasta, we said our goodbyes and were on our way to Hawassa. With a couple of stops in Bekoji, Assasa, and Shashemene, we successfully made it home – or at least, to my home. Just in time to pick up my new propane tank that I had been suffering without for the past week.
All-in-all, I’d say this was a Thanksgiving that’ll be hard to forget.