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Reflections

An easy way to sum 2012 up for me would be to call it the Year of Goals. I’m a planner by nature, keeping lists and lists (and lists) of anything and everything. But I think a better description would be to call it the Year of Change. I declared that I needed to change my life, so I did. I stopped making excuses for myself, I faced my fears head on and I lived.

Last January, I wrote:
I hope that a year from now, everything has changed. I hope that I’m debt free. I hope that I’ve travelled. I hope that I’ve lead a healthier life. But most of all, I hope that I’m leading the life I want instead of the life that I’ve accepted. I hope this year has radical changes in store… and I’ll make sure it does.

Everything changed.

The following week I started an online course that set the tone for the entire year. Jenny Blake’s Make Sh*t Happen (affiliate) is easily one of the best things I ever did for myself… leading me to reach deep within myself to figure out what I really wanted. The scariest and most difficult part was accepting that at that point, I was still “figuring it out.”

Five top moments of 2012:
  1. I figured it out. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia.
  2. This girl (who is terrified of heights) jumped out of an airplane 12,000 feet above the ground.
  3. After discovering I actually enjoy running, I finished a half-marathon distance run (and have a full marathon in my sights someday).
  4. I paid off all of my consumer debt.
  5. I met some really cool people at #WDS2012 and the MSH Weekend of Genius.

What were a few of your top moments of 2012?

Becoming a PCV

Swear in was over two weeks ago… and it’s taken me about that long to collect my thoughts. I’ve been at my site since then, working on making my house a home and finding my way about my new community. As exhausting as PST’s strict schedule could be, the unstructured days I have now can be just as exhausting… but I make it a point to do one thing that scares me every day. Whether that be having a buna ceremony at someone’s house to going to the market with my new 8th grade best friend, I push every day.

PST Reflections

Since arriving in Ethiopia, I wanted to write at least one meaningful post a week. But over the past three months, that was fairly difficult for me to keep up with the strict PST schedule that had us booked all day, every day.

While researching the Peace Corps and reading current volunteers’ blogs, one thing I never managed to catch was the fact that despite the ten weeks of PST being a seemingly short time over the course of one’s service, it’s actually pretty difficult. I’m sure people told me, but when everything is still “sunshine and rainbows” in your mind, it’s hard to imagine that a mere ten weeks will be difficult. Future trainees take note: It will be difficult. But on the flipside, PST was really amazing… having been on my own for the better part of two weeks now, I’m immensely grateful for my host family who took me in and showed me the ropes of living in Ethiopia, for the LCFs who taught us language and culture and for being around other fareng every day.

Addis Days

Upon arrival in Addis, we played “Jeopardy” over the PCV Handbook we’d been given the previous Saturday. The trainees were split into the four areas that volunteers are placed: Amhara, Tigray, Jima and Bale. It was a tense showdown, but in the end, Team Amhara rocked it and won a box of candy (plus bragging rights).

The following day was the (in)famous “Addis Day,” where we were finally released into Addis Ababa to learn our way around and taking line taxis to various destinations. It’s also a time to do any shopping we may have wanted before heading to site, but since I fly through Bahir Dar—another large city—to get to my site, I picked up an electric water kettle and not much else. We also got to visit the Peace Corps office for the first time, which was pretty exciting to get to go inside.

It’s Official

Swear in took place two weeks ago, on a sunny Friday afternoon in mid-December at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa. Three trainees gave speeches in one of the languages the 52 of us learned—Amharic, Afan Oromo and Tigrinia—before the ambassador gave us the oath that changed us from trainees into Peace Corps volunteers.

There is something incredible about joining the thousands of men and women who have taken the same oath over the past 51 years. That moment made our commitment seem so much bigger than just ourselves… this long, rich history of volunteers all over the world, working and living with the people we strive to serve.

1 IMG 7715 Becoming a PCV1 IMG 7723 2 Becoming a PCV1 IMG 7758 2 Becoming a PCV

Wanderer

hold me fast, hold me fast
cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
and I will learn, I will learn
to love the skies I’m under
- mumford & sons

Five years ago, I graduated from university. Since then I’ve held a handful of different jobs, lived in three countries and had a smattering of adventures that have completely reshaped and redefined the girl I was then: the girl who wasn’t afraid to dream big, but was afraid of everything else.

In those five years…
I took the the biggest road trip of my life, spanning ten states and one province.
I moved to a city where I had no friends, no job and no place to live.
I spent over 50 hours on a train… one way.
I went dogsledding in the coldest place I’ve ever been.
I saw the Aurora Borealis under the winter sky.
I watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.
I rappelled down waterfalls in Costa Rica.
I jumped out of an airplane.
I started and fell in love with running.
I have met so many amazing people who have inspired me in more ways than I can count.

Now I’m a Peace Corps volunteer.

It’s hard to imagine that this will be one of the most epic adventures I’ve ever undertaken, yet I know that it will be. My life has already changed in more profound ways than I can comprehend and will continue to transform in ways I can’t yet imagine.

I recently found a five year plan I had to draw up for one of my university courses. The three things on my plan? Peace Corps, corporate job and promotion. It’s funny to see that I pretty much followed my plan… only backwards. As much as I might want to deny the path I’ve taken, never imagining myself where I am today, the truth is that this is exactly where I thought I’d be at some point.

It hasn’t been an easy path. At times, it’s been downright scary. As a fellow PCV put it, “I was going to be scared to death, but I was going to do it anyway.” Now, sitting here in my small home on the Ethiopian highlands, I feel fulfilled and at peace. I feel as though I’ve located the piece of myself I buried deep inside me. These past five years have been good to the adventurer and the wanderer in me.

Here’s to the next five.

Melkam Genna

As the first Christmas I’ve spent truly away from home, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do so. I was able to spend the day with my Peace Corps/Bahir Dar family, for whom I am immensely grateful and blessed to know. We cooked amazing meals (everything from Mexican food, to cookies, to a whole chicken), exchanged Secret Santa and White Elephant gifts and shared much laughter and joy.

Happy Christmas everyone!

1 IMG 7867 21 Melkam Genna

My Ethiopian Home

Currently I’m sitting on the floor in my main room, lit by a single flickering light bulb, listening to the rain pound on the metal rooftop and the compound kitten crying at my window because she doesn’t like the rain. I just finished making a farengi-fied tagabino (what happens when the spice shop is out of berbere? Use taco seasoning!). As the first meal I’ve cooked in country all on my own, I have to say, it’s pretty darn good. My ceiling leaks in two places, but I just repurposed a couple buckets to catch the water.

My home is a cinderblock two room with concrete floors. Everything is gray. Until yesterday, I had no furniture. My foam mattress sat on a mat on the floor… now it has a simple frame. I now have four small (beautiful) stools which alternate between seats, desk and couch. Everything else just sits on the concrete. I have my electric stove and electric kettle set up in one corner of the main room and all of my kitchen utensils are either stacked on a box or on the floor. Currently I have four sini (small coffee cups), two glasses, a mug, a French press, a couple nice knives, a spatula, a corkscrew, a peeler and a wooden utensil set…. plus two plastic plates, a pot and a pan. I also currently have four eggs sitting in the pan and a bag full of vegetables sitting next to my stove. My boxed American food is stacked up next to my empty water bottles, waiting to be filled with milk or oil. My water filter is perched precariously on an empty USPS box that looks ready to collapse at any moment.

My small books are stacked up on one of the window sills and the larger books and magazines are in a corner, just begging to be put up on a shelf. This week at the market in my town, I purchased two natalas—traditional Ethiopian wraps—in a nice greyish-blue color that currently act as my window coverings. My landlady laughed and told me that natalas are for wearing, not curtains. All three windows in my house are humongous, over two meters wide, and curtains are a hopefully not-too-distant future purchase. Until Wednesday, the only place for me to sit was either on the concrete floor or on my mattress. I did both indiscriminately.

And as I sit here, I feel so completely happy, at home and at peace.

I really couldn’t have asked for a a better place to be right now than here in Ethiopia, in this town full of amazingly kind people. Between the habesha who have adopted me as a friend, to the nearby PCVs who make up my Peace Corps family, this really is my home now.