It’s weird to think that it’s only been a week since we began PST (pre-service training) and a little over two weeks since I boarded the plane to Washington, DC. Two weeks from the life I’ve always known, and it already seems like a lifetime. It’s amazing to think how adaptable humans are… that three weeks ago I was packing up, preparing for a life I had no idea what to expect, and here I am today living it.
I started this post on day three in our community training sites near Assela… and now on day eight I’ve finally managed to post. My site specifically is about 15km south of Assela, a decent sized town of about 14,000 nestled high in the mountains of Oromia. There is no internet bet and often limited mobile service. We are constantly asking each other, “Did you get my text??” or getting a message from the phone company saying the person is unreachable when we call.
About once a week we all head into Assela for group training on topics like health, safety & security and culture, but otherwise we stay in our communities, in small groups of 8 or 9, intensively learning Amharic (for now) and soaking up as much culture as we can in the limited time we have here. I’ve written before on how absolutely normal my life feels right now… if you can call waking up to a rooster outside my window at 3:30 am, lying in bed during the early morning grey listening to the call to prayer from the nearby mosque and rushing outside in a morning air so cool I can see my breath “normal.” At least once a day since we took the long bus ride away from Addis Ababa, I’m struck by the thought that This is my life. I’m here in Ethiopia, learning a new alphabet and new language, meeting new people and learning new customs… and it feels so completely normal.
Ethiopia is amazing, by the way. I wish I could share the thousands of words I’ve written since I got here, but it’s too little and too much, all at the same time. The people here are incredibly kind and loving. They’re incredibly proud of their long, rich history. They’re diverse and accepting. It’s mind-boggling to think that in a country twice the size of Texas, there are over 80 different languages spoken. My five year old host brother speaks three languages—English, Amharic and Afan Oromo—and he knows both his Fidel and Latin alphabets.
On Saturday a group of us decided to go exploring, to see what lay outside the city we’ve seen so far. It’s hard to tell from standing within the city, but the area is really pretty. We met a lot of really kind people out on the road. Most people just want to talk for a bit, shake your hand and ask why you are here. A lot of people I’ve met are pleased to hear we will be here for over two years, instead of the few weeks or months most volunteers spend. They are happy to hear we are learning their language and their culture.