26 June 2012

catching my breath

Today is Saturday. It’s the third Saturday I’ve spent in Ethiopia. It could just as easily be my 103rd. I am sitting in my 6’ x 6’ room inside my host family’s house in Sagure. The sun is shining through my westward facing window. We just took our first in a series of weekly Amharic assessments. Two of my four host brothers, Yosef and Anteneh, are standing at the door of my room playing with the simple handheld arcade I brought along while I listen to Foster the People and take the first real opportunity I’ve had since leaving Addis to simply sit and reflect.

My daily routine for the next two months will consist primarily of two variations. On language and cultural training days, I exit the rear of the family compound, walk down a red dirt road, past roaming goats, dogs, cattle, donkeys, and horses, to another nearby compound. I enter through a branch-and-aluminum gate and join two other Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) and a Language & Cultural Facilitator (LCF) for a day of Amharic lessons. We take our lessons on a porch, amidst sunshine, cool breezes, and a livestock soundtrack. We break for “Shai-Buna” around 10 A.M. and again around 3:00 PM, and join the seven other Sagure PCTs at a nearby cafĂ© to enjoy tea, coffee, and conversation. The breaks aid in digesting the rigorous study sessions while simultaneously sprinkling in an important element of the Habesha way. We return to Amharic before lunch, during which we soak up Ethiopian food, culture, and tradition with our families. I have already been greeted with two variations of the coffee ceremony, one of which included visits from my host grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousins, dog, cat, and cow. We go at it for another round of glottal I’s and explosive T’s before another Shai-Buna around 3:00, and close the day off with informative and entertaining cross-cultural sessions before returning to our families for the evening.  

12 June 2012

we all see the same moon

Today marks one week since we set sail from Dulles in search of Ethiopia. We have since been on a Peace Corps crash course of the Ethiopian way. Many agree that our time spent here feels more like a month than it does a week; every day has felt more like three full days than one 24 hour cycle. In one of my first journal entries, I wrote that I felt like a newborn baby, cast about a world I barely understand, surrounded by people speaking in tongues that relay no meaning to my ears. As true as that statement was at the time, babies who will soon have to play a part in teaching English to Ethiopians must attain understanding about their surroundings at a substantially rapid pace.

In just one week’s time, I can tell you more about Ethiopia than I can about most cities in the United States. I have picked up some basic Amharic; enough so that my face doesn’t twist with confusion when the King’s Hotel staff offers a “Dehnah deh?” when our paths cross each morning. I helped teach a minimum of 30 Tygrinian children how to say “baseball” and thusly throw said sphere. I have learned that John Cena is beyond popular among Ethiopian boys (I learned this in Tigray, but apparently it’s true everywhere). I’ve figured out how to deflect barrages of “frenji!” from the many small children who own the streets of Wukro. I’ve even taken quickly to use of the shint bet, wherein I’ve realized my hidden talent of impeccable aim when directing my own waste toward a hole the size of a coffee can.