What the End Feels Like

Losing a battle or losing everything we thought we possessed will bring us moments of sadness. But when those moments pass, we will discover the hidden strength that exists in each of us, a strength that will surprise us and increase our self-respect.

We will look around and say to ourselves: ‘I survived.’ And we will be cheered by our words.

– Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

I’m heading the airport soon. In a matter of hours, I’m getting on an airplane and leaving Ethiopia for the last time. Maybe not the last time forever, but the last time for awhile. During one of the lowest points of my service, my good friend gave me a gift of a patchwork parachute with the words “I have woven a parachute out of everything broken” written on the basket.

What I can see from here, not quite yet landed after a two year skydive, is that Ethiopia broke me. It broke me, and somehow, from everything broken I’ve managed to weave a parachute and fall more gently to the ground. It may not have been pretty. I may not have thrived. But I did survive.

And that is what the end feels like. The feeling of clarity after I’ve just survived something so terrifyingly difficult and life-changing. Like things will never be the same again, nor should they be. That I, despite everything, have come out stronger. I’ve come out a better person and I am cheered by that thought.


Deep breath. This is my last Peace Corps update post. So many days I never thought I’d make it, but I did. And I am stronger for it.

I leave Bahir Dar Thursday morning and it is my time to go. After everything I have given Ethiopia, and it has given me in return, there is nothing better than knowing that it is enough, that I have given enough, and it is time.

When I was in Addis several weeks ago, all of my friends were leaving. All of G8 was in Addis preparing to COS (Close of Service) from this experience and leave. It was hard, sitting there listening to their excited chatter about how many shoes they managed to get rid of and how many bags of stuff they had, while I knew I still was here for another month. But now it’s my time. I am ready.


Several weeks ago I celebrated my THIRD Thanksgiving in country. The first year we had a lovely G8 Thanksgiving at our training hub and last year I went with about 8 other PCVs to the house of a US Embassy employee. This year, I got to have Thanksgiving dinner at the house of another US Embassy employee and Returned Peace Corps volunteer couple, and best of all, I got to have it with Ryan!

When we arrived at the house Thanksgiving afternoon, a fire was crackling and we could smell the dinner being prepared in the kitchen. It was a lovely day filled with family and good food and I’m so thankful I was able to be a part of it!

Lora Kathleen Thanksgivingthanksgiving2014

COS Trip


I am so thrilled to be heading off on the great adventure with Ryan starting NEXT WEEK! We are spending Christmas and New Year in India, then charting off on the course already planned. We have almost everything logistically figured out, now it’s just filling in the experience of being IN a place. I’m really excited for this adventure and hope you all come along for the ride!

Furthermore, I want to give a huge shoutout to Qatar Airways for their stopover and transit program. I have a 14+ hour layover in Doha and they are giving me a hotel for my layover! After all the trouble we had with Emirates, I wasn’t expecting much but the employees here in Ethiopia have been amazing. So thanks Qatar Airways, I’m really looking forward to my first flight with you!

Ethiopia, by the Numbers

Ethiopia by the numbers
Here is a summary of my service, by the numbers:

  • 27 months of service
  • 7 pairs of shoes destroyed by harsh conditions
  • 2 summer camps directed
  • 2 times I (seriously) considered going home early
  • 5 rocks thrown at me (and hit me)
  • 1 broken toe
  • 0 confirmed cases of giardia, parasite, etc
  • 6 other names I went by: Loiya, Flora, Liya (Leah), Lori, Abeba (flower in Amharic), Loraye (my Lora in Amharic)
  • 3 holiday seasons away from home
  • 72 phone and Skype calls with my parents
  • 35 days spent outside of Ethiopia
  • 0 projects still in effect
  • 26 visits to Addis Ababa
  • 2 animals killed by a vehicle I was riding in
  • 4 times moved houses
  • 190 hours on Ethiopian public transport
  • 120 books read
  • 23 people stuffed into a 12 person van
  • 4 American visitors
  • 2 broken down buses
  • 1 cow in my house
  • 138,275 total birr I lived on for 2 years ($6,914 USD)
  • 2 compound kittens I loved
  • 41 days of in-service trainings
  • 3 times I saw “Lucy”
  • 2 cameras stolen
  • 980 cups of coffee consumed
  • 0 gorshas received
  • 47 complete television series watched off my hard drive
  • 23 nights I was awake late enough to hear the church service start at 3:30am
  • 1 love of my life
  • 814 days of Ethiopia.

Hints of Autumn

It’s December! Often that conjures up scents like evergreen trees and mulling spices, images of snow and the feeling of warmth and happiness. For the past two years, I’ve been living in a season-less country and there is no “feeling” of December. It’s a bit surreal at times, especially when holidays sneak up on you because you don’t have the changing weather to tell you what’s coming next. I’ve forgotten more holidays than I can count, mostly because I just don’t REALIZE it’s coming.

Thanksgiving felt particularly non-Thanksgiving-ey this year… at first. I woke up that morning, walked out of my compound and everyone was going about their business like it was just another day, because here in Ethiopia, it WAS just another day. It wasn’t until we arrived at our Thanksgiving hosts’ house and saw the tables were festively set, a fire was crackling in the fireplace and smelled the roasting turkey that it finally hit. Feeling that sense of community and family that American holidays give me is something I haven’t ever been able to find here.

Over the past few weeks, every once in a while if I was walking to work at just right the time, there was a hint of autumn, of crispness in the air, that reminded me of home. Even the tiniest reminder of home is welcomed and cherished, especially when the days get so hot and the bulk of Ethiopians in my city are fasting (meaning eating a vegan diet) through Genna on January 7. I miss seasons, especially autumn, but I know as soon as we head out, I’ll miss Ethiopia too.

5 Gifts for Peace Corps Volunteers

Photo By Caroline

Do you know a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving somewhere overseas? Unsure of what to put in their next package for Christmas? Here are 5 small gifts you can add to a package that will help make your PCV’s day!

Kicking Horse Coffee
1. Coffee

Even in the birthplace of coffee, the average cup is really not that great. Receiving a pound from a coffee shop in the States and freshly brewing it in my home beats a cup out any day!


2. Journal

It is possible to get stationary and paper-products in country, but only if you don’t want them to last longer than a month. My poor journals have had to sustain water damage, mildew, extreme sun and all sort of random creepy crawlies. As an added bonus, it can be eco-friendly, allowing us to feel somewhat less bad about using all those trees.

3. Silicone Baking Cups

This only really applies to PCVs who love to bake, but I got some of these silicone baking cups from a friend who left and they have been LIVESAVERS for my baking. I bake vegetables, bread, cakes, eggs and other miscellaneous things in them. Sometimes they really help save my sanity when it comes to cleaning.

4. Hot sauce & other spices

I’ve learned that even in a country with “amazing” food (because after all, amazing is relative), there is a definite need for some additional spices in your life. I love Cholula sauce and balsamic vinegar so made sure those were in a package.

5. Candy

Sure, I can get the crappy EMEA versions of some particular candy bars (Snickers and knock off Kit Kats namely) but sometimes it’s just really great to have the American version on a bad day.