Saying Goodbyes

As weird as it was saying goodbye to teachers and students a few weeks ago, saying goodbye to my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers has been even more surreal. Especially knowing that I’ll go back to Hawassa on Thursday and I’ll still have another two months here.

Our Close of Service Conference took place May 25th-29th and about half of us are still in Addis for our Post-Peace Corps medical check-ups. The other half finished up before the conference. It’s hard to believe this is already happening. I’ve had so many trainings and vacations to look forward to and to count down to throughout my service, but this is it. I only have one countdown left: 65 days until I fly out of Ethiopia.

The Close of Service Conference was by far my favourite “training” we’ve done with Peace Corps. We discussed our reintegration fears: Will I find a job? How long will it take before I remember I can flush toilet paper? When will I realize there’s hot water…and it will NEVER run out? What if people think I’m weird? What if I think others are weird?

We also discussed different career paths open to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs)…and got to hear what others had in mind. It was also comforting to hear how many volunteers didn’t yet have plans. My boyfriend and I plan on spending about 3-4 months backpacking in SE Asia, but my life after I set foot on American soil is still a blank slate.

Instead of spending all our time in Addis, which is common for our PC trainings, our COS Conference included a trip to Lake Langano, and not one, but two resorts – though that was due to a scheduling error. We spent our days in sessions and having our final shay/buna (tea/coffee) breaks, and our evenings down at the lake basking in the glow of bonfires. Some goodbyes were harder than others, knowing this was the last time we’d see some of these people in Ethiopia.

I may have two months left, but one of my closest friends has already left Ethiopia, and another leaves next week. And while this is incredibly sad to me, it also makes leaving all the easier. If I stayed, everyone else would leave me behind. So I definitely feel ready to move on. But even with that in mind, I’ve never been good at goodbyes…

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I recently stumbled across a line from Cutting for Stone that really clicked for me:

Home is not where you’re from,
it’s where you’re wanted.

I wasn’t sure if Ethiopia would ever feel like home, but 6 ½ weeks here in Hawassa, and it definitely does. And that’s probably because for the first time since arriving here, I feel wanted.

I’ve spent three nights this week hanging out with my compound sister Lucy – each night she was home alone and asked if I’d keep her company. We laughed over American movies, shared experiences, and the differences between American and Ethiopian culture. She even showed me how to wrap my hair in a scarf…

Each night, as her family filtered in and treated me like I belonged there, I began to feel like I was home. We’ve eaten meals together…I finally tried fïrfïr (think ïnjära chopped up, spiced up, and served with more ïnjära), which I wouldn’t recommend, as well as a number of delicious fresh breads, which I would most definitely recommend!

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Keep your t’at off my t’ut!

In two weeks I have my LPI (Language Proficiency Interview), and if you haven’t guessed from my previous posts, Amharic is ridiculously difficult. At the time of the interview we’re supposed to be at the novice-high level. Which means I have to be able to make simple statements about my family, age, address, weather, time, and daily activities: check. Be able to converse with someone using appropriate language for a café and marketplace setting: check.

Have a good grasp of the basic vocabulary for days, months, numbers, articles of clothing, body parts, and family relationships: umm no. These things may sound simple, but they are ridiculously difficult to remember. So sometimes we create songs to help us review : )

mäsïkäräm, t’ïk’ïmït, hïdar, tahïsas, t’ïr, yäkatit, megabit, miyaziya, gänbot, säne, hamle nähase, p’agume: the names of the months, set to the tune of Yesterday by the Beatles. Hard to believe, but it actually helped!

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