A friend in a sea of enemies: traveling in Ethiopia

Ok, so other volunteers can back me up on this: traveling in Ethiopia can be a nightmare. Your typical minibus has seats for 12 people, but usually crams on a minimum of 18…on an average day.

Well, this week I went to Yirgalem for a day trip to spend some time with a fellow volunteer and I had the pleasure of being one of 25 on my bus. But luckily, I had a seat. And not only a seat, an outside seat.

I was in a row for two, which can often mean three or four (it definitely did for the other rows on my bus), but when I sit on the outside, I refuse to scoot over. I paid for this seat, why should I share it? The bus drivers over pack the buses, charging everyone the full fee, and they think I should make room? I don’t think so.

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An Ethiopian Thanksgiving: Take two

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!


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Never thought I’d say “I hate the big city”

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. Have you seen Fargo? I haven’t, but I’ve heard it’s similar (disclaimer, part of that movie was filmed in my hometown). But I always dreamed of big city life. I had my heart set on NYC, but as I grew up and got to know myself better I realized that Minneapolis would do just fine. For a while…

Shortly after university I felt the pull to hit the road and found myself joining Peace Corps and moving to Ethiopia. I thought readjusting to small town life would be difficult, but surprise, it wasn’t. That said, my “small town” has a population of about 300,000, but by Minneapolis standards, it’s still a downsize.

Well, I’ve spent the week in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s capital, population 3.5 million – and I can honestly say, I hate the big city. And I know it’s not fair, big cities in developing nations are wildly different from big cities in developed nations…but I still feel over it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still jump at the chance to live in Rome or Chicago or D.C., but right now, all I want to do is run home to Hawassa.

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