Before it’s too late – a day with the hippos

My countdown began the day I set foot in Ethiopia, but the end is finally starting to feel real. Which made me realize – there are still things I haven’t done here.

You could live in one country your entire life and still not do everything there is to do. But after 26 months in Ethiopia, I want to be able to say I did everything I wanted to do.

Which is why Chandler and I got up on Sunday and after a late breakfast with some fellow Peace Corps and VSO volunteers, we met up with some friends of mine for a boat ride to see the hippos.

Now this trip isn’t exactly cheap when you’re getting paid in the local currency, but it’s something you can easily save up for. That’s my excuse as to why it didn’t happen during my first two years in Ethiopia: cost. But when a friend and her family were going and invited us along, I realized my chance had finally come.

After waiting for about half an hour down by the water, our boat arrived. My friend, her husband, their two kids, Chandler and I all pulled on our life jackets and hopped aboard. Another 15-20 minutes later and we had crossed Lake Hawassa and were in hippo territory.

I quickly realized going out to see the hippos can be a bit anti-climatic, because you only see the tops of their heads. But the scenery, as well as imagining their size beneath the water, was incredible.

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And an awkward Genna to you!

It’s fun having two Christmases is in the span of just a few weeks…but Ethiopian holidays are always filled with awkwardness! And this one was no exception.

Last year, I received a grand total of one Christmas invitation – from the compound family I live with. This year, the number jumped to eight. But, of course, the one I accepted was once again the one from my compound family…since they have loved me the most this last year : )

But this year’s Christmas story actually begins the day before Genna. A friend of mine had just returned from the states and she brought back a gingerbread train for us to decorate. I know what you’re thinking: Awesome.

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You’re probably looking at that photo and thinking you missed out. Well you did, but there’s always next year! We spent the afternoon creating our train, listening to Christmas music, and getting serious sugar highs.

The following day, Genna, was spent like any other holiday – me hanging out with my compound family, almost wishing I actually knew Amharic. Usually, my lack of language isn’t an issue because my landlord has impeccable English, but that morning he was absent.

So after giving the seratanyas (two female servants on our compound) their gift-wrapped gifts (with very little explanation, I might add) I spent the first part of the day watching an Ethiopian game show with five grown men while the women cooked lunch. This year, I had the foresight to refuse the first glass of tella, because once you say yes to one glass, they don’t let you say no to any other. Which means this year, I avoided being drunk before noon : )

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Happy Holidays

Last year, I spent Christmas in Yirgalem with 10 other volunteers, and then I traveled a day and a half to spend New Year’s Eve in Bedele with my boyfriend and a few other friends. This year, my holidays were pretty chill.

I went to Fiche for the first time to see Chandler’s new site and we spent Christmas Eve/Christmas holed up in his house drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas films. We only ventured out to buy supplies like bread and eggs – because Chandler had thought everything through except meals…sort of important, right? : )

The day after Christmas found us a couple of miles down the road at a bridge carved hundreds of years ago. But it was the surrounding scenery that was really captivating.

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Gorgeous, right? We got ourselves a coke at the little cafe perched on this lookout and spent a good while enjoying the view.

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And then we were off exploring. There were hundreds of these little puddles as we made our way down to the lagoon just below.

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Chandler claims this was an actual waterfall when he first came a couple of months ago (instead of the water trickle it had become) – but I guess that’s the difference between rainy and dry season. Either way, it was incredibly beautiful. Though we did nix our initial idea to go swimming due to the stagnant water – no one wants schisto.

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And today was a day just like any other

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.

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Lucy, I’m home…

A week and a half away from my one-year mark in Ethiopia, and I’m finally ready to show off my house : ) Keep in mind I’ve only lived here the last seven or so months…and yes, it did take me all seven months to purchase all of this furniture!

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My beautiful entryway, complete with a rug and a darling flower pot given to me by Jackie…I killed the cilantro she had planted and am now trying my hand at grapes. Or weeds. I’ll let you know when I find out!

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My lovely entryway, with a bench (an idea I stole from Amanda), a calendar, a plethora of scarves, and far too few shoes.

3And now on to the living room…make sure to take off your shoes : ) I chose mattresses instead of chairs/couches because they are cheaper and they hold more overnight guests…I think nine is the most we’ve fit in here so far.

4And finally, all the way on the other side of the room…my bedroom! My biggest luxury: a queen-sized, spring mattress – worth every birr : ) Plus my wardrobe, nightstand, and brand-new bookshelf!

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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…

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Reflections in sepia

As our IST (In-Service Training) approaches, I’m blown away by the fact that I’ve been living on my own in Hawassa for three months now. And that I’ve been in Ethiopia for five months. Cliched as it sounds, the time really has flown by! So I started looking through my pictures and reminiscing about where I’ve gone and what I’ve seen.

This was my view of Addis Ababa from the hotel room I shared with Jazmin our first few days in Kings Hotel.

Donkeys quickly became my favourite animal in Ethiopia. I took a picture of this guy in Hosanna on our “demystification” trip.

Joel, leading our adoring fans in a chant on one of our afternoon walks in Sagure.

Me and Kerry, standing above William’s (Sagure’s) Gorge.

The lovely tree where many a Hawassan drunk has apparently slept. Not gonna lie, I went inside…and minus the insects, it looked quite cozy.

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